Thursday, April 28

Forget It, Jake

David Weigel, "Birtherism Is Dead. Long Live Birtherism. : The history of a national embarrassment, and why it's not over yet." April 27

LEAVE us begin at the end: Birtherism isn't a national embarrassment. Waterboarding is a national embarrassment. Keeping innocent men in Guantánamo is a national embarrassment. Keeping guilty men in Guantánamo, without the benefit of trial, is a national embarrassment. Our two major political parties are a national embarrassment. The unseriousness of our mass-market media is a national embarrassment.

Birtherism, on the other hand, is a Republican embarrassment. And Republican embarrassment is fast becoming a redundancy.

As to "why it's not over yet" well, simple: because Birtherism is not some Snopesworthy email which caused a majority* of Republicans to accidentally believe the President is not an American. It's the fucking delusional soul of a party, and a "movement", based on being delusional. The Weigels of the world, and his occupation writ large, for the most part, may consider anything older than five years to be ancient history. The clearer view is that modern Right Wing Republicanism, a phenomenon which can be shortened to "Republicanism", certainly after 1964 at the latest, is a veritable museum of Fucking Crazy Shit People Insisted On, from Commies under every bed, fluoridating our drinking water, biasing our screenplays, and weakening our moral fiber so we'd be ripe for that Soviet invasion coming any day, to the Cult of Flag and Cross, which inserted "Under God" into a 19th Century Boy's Life homily before insisting that every public school student mouth the words uncomprehendingly each dawn, to the contention (from such marginal Republican outsiders as William Fuhbuckley) that the Negro, however well- intentioned and -mannered, could not be trusted to vote in any jurisdiction where the average annual temperature accentuated his natural indolence, to the various Stab in the Back/ We Weren't Allowed to Win/ We Really Did Win theories of Vietnam, to the entire Ronald Reagan mythos, or at least those parts touching on Economics, Defense, Culture, and the Mathematically Verifiable, "The Judeo-Christian Tradition", the confusion of modern-day Israelis with mythic Israelites, and the sacred tradition of Cecil B. DeMille's prop ten commandments on every courthouse lawn, to the Presidency of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Cambrian explosion of crazy--the point at which Right Wing America formerly merely gulled by PR and irritated by facts became, like the Simpsons, a family that didn't know any songs that weren't commercial jingles--about which we will just say "The Vince Foster hit" and let the reader to add his own fond memories. That brings us to the Presidency of the Prodigal Bush, and certainly to within shouting distance of when Weigel wants the clock to start moving.

Birtherism is not an aberration. Birtherism is the Republican party. It's too bad if it makes the Davids (Frum, Brooks, Weigel) uncomfortable. They should be uncomfortable. They should be especially uncomfortable with the number of times they've coverted for this sort of shit in exchange for lower marginal tax rates.

Here, by the way, is how much this sort of thing affects Weigel's perception of his own party:
Proto-birtherism: April 2008 to June 11, 2008

In March and April 2008, [Hillary] Clinton regained ground and looked to have some chance of beating Obama for the Democratic nomination. This was the time when some Clinton supporters started glomming on to any rumor that looked dangerous. A chain letter from American missionaries in Kenya did the trick: It claimed that Obama's real middle name was "Mohammed."

Birtherism, the Democratic tactic: March 2009 to January 2011

In March 2009, with very little fanfare, Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., introduced one of his first pieces of legislation.

"To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee's statement of organization a copy of the candidate's birth certificate, together with such other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution."

For the first time, an elected office-holder had indulged the birther theory. Before this point, there was no reason to ask a Republican if he bought into that stuff. Now there was. A dozen Republicans co-sponsored the Posey bill. Fringe-curious reporters (and here I'll raise my hand) and liberal blogs covered it all with amazement. A liberal videographer named Mike Stark tailed Republican members of Congress to get their takes on the story.

At the time, Democrats saw an advantage in making Republicans look crazy.

Now, for the record, "Proto-birtherism" follows "Paleobirtherism", a period evidentally renowned for its being named for a phenomenon which did not then exist, making the ever-convenient PUMAs, all six or eight of 'em, counting Republican plants, the spark that lit the fuse that ignited the unsuspected barely-contained cloud of racist sewer gas under the houses of 51% of Republican voters. And then Democrats suddenly saw an advantage in making Republicans look crazy. Something which hadn't occurred to them in the previous forty-five years. And all because a mere dozen or so duly elected Republican representatives were insane enough to sponsor a harmless little bill.

So, then, Whatever are we to do about these Democrats? (And while we're at it, does anyone know the identity of any "liberal bloggers" who were "amazed" in 2009 by anything whatsoever a Republican, in or out of Congress, would do?)

Spirited attempt, really; the problem is it's about fifty years and a hundred-fifty cases of marrow-deep insanity too late. The "serious" policy positions of the Republican party belong on Snope's Crazy Email Chain page right alongside Birtherism, Palinism, and Larry Craig's wide-stance explanation. If you wanna claim it's all just a sideshow, kindly point us to where the real, sane, rational show has been going on.


* statistic courtesy Dave Weigel.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'd say you are correct in every respect, except I don't think I'd lump Weigel in with Frum and Brooks.

The latter two are Republican foot-soldiers (albeit, with far more pretension than a soldier would have). I don't think Weigel fits that bill.

Anonymous said...

How come YOU don't have a spot on the Op-Ed pages of a major newspaper? That is a serious question, and a situation which should be corrected soon. I think you have just encapsulated the sordid history of the last fifty years of the GOP and done it with style. I guess the Times might take issue with some of your "saltier" language, but as a wise man once said, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. Also, too, Dave Weigel has rapidly become yet another stenographer, masquerading as a reporter. Don't buy in to his bullshit.

Fiddlin Bill said...

The Koch Bros had a daddy. He helped found the John Birch Society. This was in the late 1950s I believe. Joe McCarthy was the Junior Senator from Wisconsin, and had a few years of national notoriety. That was in the early '50s as I recall. When the Republicans point to G.H.W. Bush as a "moderate, sane" Republican, let us recall that he gave us Clarence Thomas, in the "black Supreme Court chair," a nasty joke on the idea that black Americans should have some cultural representation on the Court if ever there was one. Oh, and fuck Dave Weigel.

Keifus said...

Fucking awesome. I agree with anonymous.

It wasn't quite Boy's Life, but it was obviously close enough. And Jesus, what a funny train of thought that post started rolling along. I used to go to the library and pore over that magazine skipping to the comic serializations of John Christopher's (almost certainly far shittier than I remember) tripod stories, and stayed for the boy's outdoor adventure porn. I never really caught on to the Hitler Youth vibe in those days, creepy recited vows and everything, and I'm proud to have been a part of the unloved L'il Bastards troop, but yeah, it'd've been hard to quite catch the 1800s, the scouting movement evolving as it did at some point following Lord Bobbo Baden-Powell's observations in the second Boer War at the close of the century (yep, the one in which the Brits figured out how to use pestilential concentration camps to their military advantage, not to mention finding faux-civilized ways to utilize child soldiers). BB-P may have been a suitably fatherly and an acceptably self-reliant and naturalist face on Britain's foul imperial reach, monarchical infestation, and heartless butchery of the dusky locals, and we're left to assume that his late-life admiration of the rising fascist movements was likewise charming and naive. (They'll judge us along with our times too.) That last part never made it to Boy's Life, for some reason.

Rolling on, I was amused to learn that the pledge was originated by Christian socialists (although, obviously, with similar creepy pious and patriotic tendencies as you get from our current right wing). For some reason Wikipedia felt it wise to list the authors appearing in the respective boy's publications. Boy's Life is remembered for the likes of Robert Heinlein, The Youth's Companion for Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. So I'm thinking it works as an epithet. (And how good it is to grow out of things.)

So, uh, yeah, the usual appreciation, and also thanks for leaning on the switch lever this time.