They came from all over the country. From every middlesex village and farm. In terms of diversity, they ran the gamut from pink to beige. They joined together with a single purpose and raised their patriotic voices in a single message; stop the House healthcare reform bill! And taxes are too high. And Glenn Beck is awesome. And Barack Obama is black.
These are the wingnuts, the teabaggers, the FOX-addled and the Limbaugh-confused. They're motivated, poorly informed, and -- let's face it -- pretty gullible. They're also dedicated to the cause -- whatever that might be. If you take a look at the signs they carried, what the cause was was a little unclear; no to healthcare reform, Obama's a commie, and hell no you can't take my guns. Shrill, angry, and a lot less than focused, they descended on on the Capitol to be shrill, angry, and a lot less than focused.
This was the sort of crowd you'd expect to answer a call put out by Rep. Michele Bachmann, who even fellow Republicans call crazy behind her back. It was the lunatics, the cranks, the people who hang on Glenn Beck's every word. And it has become the soul of the Republican Party.
This is something new for the GOP. The base used to be about 90% religious right, who were surprisingly content with empty promises of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and overturning Roe v. Wade. The right wing evangelical movement never seemed to notice that the GOP didn't actually get around to addressing their issues, focusing instead on serving the wealthy. But the teabaggers are different. They expect results. And, considering the relatively fact-free atmosphere that follows them everywhere they go, that's a little tough to deliver on. For example, how do you stop Obama from taking everyone's guns away, when he's so obviously not taking anyone's guns away? You can see the problem. The wingnuts want issues addressed that don't actually exist, because they believe all the BS that spills out of talk radio and FOX News. This is why you get incoherent and ignorant arguments from teabaggers, such as "Barack Obama's a Marxist, like Hitler." All they ever listen to or read is propaganda -- so they have no idea what the hell is really going on -- and their knowledge of history is practically nonexistent. When someone believes that fascism, communism, and socialism are all indistinguishable, you're not dealing with some who has a firm grasp on the facts. You can't make these people happy by addressing their issues, for the same reason that you can't fight the dragon that lives under the Lincoln Memorial.
This leaves Republicans in a pretty crappy place. They empowered these people over the summer, by sending them off to Democratic townhall meetings to have tantrums and shriek out their insane and totally unfounded fears. The party can't afford to be identified with these people, but they can't afford to lose them either. And the wingnuts demand attention, they've become used to it. As a result, the GOP is stuck doing a highwire act, walking a razor-thin line between not turning the cranks off and not being part of the angry mob (or, at least, not being seen as part of it) themselves.
"Early this morning The Politico got hold of a Republican Study Committee email asking staffers to send their members to the event but also to avoid words like 'rally' and 'protest' in favor of 'press conference' or 'press event,'" Josh Marshall wrote yesterday. "Clearly, there was an effort to sanitize the event and get away from Bachmann's high-strung rhetoric about a 'last stand' against health care reform. So on the one hand the House Republicans wanted to take over the event. But they also felt the need to get out in front of it, to be in front of the crowd. It was a perfect, real-time illustration of the current struggle within the GOP, with the party establishment trying to harness but also control and not be overrun by the grassroots mobilization on the right."
That'll be a good trick. For the wingnuts, the loss of the election is New York's 23rd congressional district was a victory. Sure, they wound up with a Democrat in a district that hasn't elected one in over one hundred years. But that's not the point. The point was that they knocked out a Republican they deemed insufficiently crazy. They even managed to convince themselves that the establishment candidate they forced out of the race, Dede Scozzafava, was funded by ACORN and, like Barack Obama himself, secretly a "radical leftist." They don't care that a Democrat won the seat -- not much, anyway -- all they care about is the fact that the candidate they convinced themselves to hate didn't win. And that's a victory -- one they seem more than willing to repeat.
So you can see the problem Republicans face with these people; 1) they're not very rational, 2) they're not very smart, 3) they don't give a damn about the Republican party, and 4) they're the Republican base.
Good luck with that, guys.
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