(Note: A guest commentary today from Gene Lyons, who is a columnist for the Arkansas Times, a RED STATE at that, in a column titled 'Today's GOP: You can't reason with crazy' ... here are some words of wisdom on the political times in our country.)
In a presidential election year, the evidence is everywhere. Two weeks ago, Florida GOP Rep. Allen West told a gathering of constituents that he knew of "78 to 81" congressional Democrats who are members of the Communist Party. Almost needless to say, West failed to name even one. Hardly anybody noticed, and certainly not the "severely conservative" presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.
Crackpot pronouncements from GOP stalwarts have grown almost too commonplace to remark upon. Just the other day, Romney pretended not to hear a woman in Ohio accuse President Barack Obama of governing outside the constitution. She wanted him tried for treason. Handed an opportunity to appear "presidential," Romney reacted with the manic unease of a used car salesman fearful of losing a customer.
Meanwhile, speaking of conspiracy theories, a Chicago-based right wing "think tank" called the Heartland Institute erected a billboard along the Eisenhower Expy. featuring a portrait of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.
"I still believe in Global Warming," it read. "Do you?"
The Heartland Institute, funded by oil and coal interests, must have thought millions of American voters are gullible enough to be swayed by such nakedly demagogic appeals.
Writing in the Washington Post, longtime congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein cautiously analyze what has been obvious to some of us for a long time: The main cause of the dysfunction in American politics has become the ideological extremism of the Republican Party.
In their new book, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How The American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, they flirt with the idea that both parties are equally responsible for Washington gridlock but ultimately conclude that the GOP has become "an insurgent outlier- ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by understanding of conventional facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition ... all but declaring war on the government."
No kidding. Sometimes it seems that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 enabled paranoid thinkers to concentrate all their energies on the internal enemy. Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" and the bombastic stylings of Rush Limbaugh began depicting Democrats as "sick," "treasonous" and enemies of "normal Americans" under Bill Clinton.
But it took the economic catastrophe caused by George W. Bush's policies followed by the election of Obama - not merely a black man, but a black Democrat with a foreign-sounding name - to bring that paranoia to epidemic proportions.
Longtime GOP congressional aide Mike Lofgren wrote last year in explaining his resignation, "the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe."
For Obama to succeed where Bush had failed also had the potential to reduce the GOP to a powerless bloc of neo-Confederate whiners for a generation. So Obama had to fail at all costs.
Crazy can't be reasoned with.