I’ve said lots of times that far-right Republicans and Tea Party members likely don’t believe half the things they say. People who use the words “freedom” and “socialism” without clarification, qualification or even subject-verb agreement are merely doing it to stop a conversation, not to get points across. It allows them to stun opponents into mute stupidity, because being against freedom is like being against kittens or puppies or children. Why you could even cry “freedom” if you’re leading people to the gas chamber if you wanted to. Playing victim is a great tactic because it always works, even when you’re using it against uninsured children.
I’m sorry … I used sick children to force you to concede a point. How very Tea Party of me. How about special needs children? Cheryl Ladd in a bikini?
If you try to introduce universal health care policies, something more than two-thirds of the American public have long wanted, you will have to mind being bullied by cretins who insist that this is an “experiment against their liberties.” Never mind that under such a strict view of the Constitution, Medicare, Social Security and the CIA are also “experiments.” Social Security, in fact, is an experiment that provides half the income for 52% of elderly married couples and 72% of elderly unmarried people. That’s a lot of old people depending on government money. This experiment, this “innovation” against your freedom is also providing more than half of the money that your grandparents live on.
So when you see so many vigilante mob members animated about basic freedoms they aren’t losing, you might at least take comfort that they’ll step up for you when there’s an actual threat to the real Constitution, not an apocryphal James Madison quote (like the one about the experiments). You might hope they would defend Wikileaks cables, for example, as an archive of information that, for all its flaws, strengthens freedom of the press, curbs the power of centralized government to protect its own power first and illuminates the misdeeds of our foes and heroes both. It’s unfortunate that the founder has silly anarchist beliefs or hasn’t redacted information that could get people hurt, which is why I’m not a big fan. But his mission is actually an important one for people who claim they want to be politically enfranchised, who yell in the streets that their freedoms are being violated by centralized authority.
Where are these freedom defenders now? Gone huntin’. You’ve got Sarah Palin saying that Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange is comparable to an Al Qaeda and Taliban leader and his acts “treasonous.” (Never mind that treason applies only to U.S. citizens). Newt Gingrich calls Assange an “enemy combatant.” I pick on these two frauds a lot, but only because they are positioning themselves for the presidency in 2012, and neither has shown real courage to defend the teeth of the Constitution where it’s needed.
There has been a lot of debate about whether Gingrich and Palin are implicitly condoning Assange’s murder by the CIA, but even if they aren’t, other crackpots are. You must savor the irony when you have a loud chorus of so-called patriots and Constitution fundamentalists call for the death of a journalist. Their fundamentalism is suddenly gone, and what’s left is their slave morality.
Perhaps that’s harsh, extremist language to use? Consider that anybody trying to get health insurance to children for the last two years or even trying to get small business owners health insurance subsidies has been compared to Hitler.
Of course, there are some right wingers who see this contradiction in their arguments against Wikileaks, but not nearly enough of them given the way they go into temporal lobe seizure over, say, the public health option. One troubled Tea Party writer flirts with the contradiction with his stance this way: “I’m all for 1st amendment freedoms and the freedom of information act. I am protective and thrilled we are not a secretive and communist society, BUT, there is never an excuse for leaks between to top level officials or heads of state regarding sensitive national security issues.”
You mean, like the Pentagon Papers?
Are you surprised that right wingers show the white feather when it really comes to Constitutional protections? I’m not. I’ve said all along: These people have already shown during the previous administrations their ambivalence about Constitutional protections over and over. Habeas corpus was gutted during the Clinton administration, and there was no groundswell of right wingers coming forward to protect Constitutional freedom. Of course, that ambivalence was nothing compared to the way they let George Bush gut the Constitution. The Patriot Act allowed law enforcement officials to look at what we were taking out of the library. The Iraq War, fought with a huge disinformation campaign and tons of publicly issued debt, was the right wing’s patriotic rallying point. Where was the right wing when George Bush was running up record deficits? Or getting the NSA to spy on us without wiretaps? Even if the right has now been chastened on the war issue, how can they not at least admit that it is the American taxpayer’s bill to pay?
Or let’s talk about their interest in religious freedom. If they really supported it, they’d have to support it for everybody, even for Muslims building mosques in lower Manhattan. Right wingers also take a crap all over separation of powers, too, as Republican legislators did in Oklahoma recently. The Oklahoma legislators said judges could not consider Sharia law (or any other international law) in making decisions, even though it’s never been a threat to the Oklahoma legal system. They didn’t seem to notice how they’d made the mistake of telling the courts what they could and couldn’t do. Separation of powers didn’t cross their minds. The establishment clause of the First Amendment didn’t cross their minds. International business contracts (which Oklahoma dearly needs to diversify its heavily oil-dependent economy) also didn’t cross their minds. No, it was only the bigoted fear of Islam, whose system of religious law has never posed a threat to this heartiest of heartland states.
Of course, there are very consistent Republicans, like the reliable Ron Paul, who deserve much credit for their brave stances against the forces of right-wing conformity, bigotry and alarmism. I know there are moderate Republicans out there who negotiate the ethical problems of government with an open mind and without dogma, but such Republicans are running scared and with few happy exceptions will not confront the bigots, demagogues, culture warriors and superstitious yahoos in their ranks. The fact of the matter is that loud bullying Republican minorities get away with a lot in our public discourse because they can so ably bully the soft-bellied moderates in their own party and through this lever and fulcrum mechanism turn a tiny bit of hate into a lot of hateful action.
Constitutional fundamentalism is a show for these people. Any right thinking person would hold the Park 51 mosque against the right wing they cry about their gun rights. Would hold Wikileaks against the right wing when they shout about how income tax enslaves them. There is a real experiment against liberty going on–the Tea Party experiment. Its adherents want to see how many of you it can fool.