Scaring the Voters

Michael Tomasky of The Guardian comments on the negative tone of the race, and how it is hurting John McCain. He makes the same comment I have made about Sarah Palin considering only parts of the country to be pro-America and explains it in terms of the right wing mind set:

This was especially interesting coming from a woman whose husband, Todd Palin, was until just six years ago an enrolled member of a rightwing fringe political party that wanted the state of Alaska to secede from the US. But if you understand rightwing logic, then you’d know that Mr Palin had no choice but to join the Alaska Independence party in 1995, because by that time the America he thought he knew and loved had been brought to ruin by the liberals and socialists and America-haters. See?

Tomasky, writing for a British audience, points out that they don’t have anything like the extremism of our right wing, using Michele Bachmann as an example:

This point was proved most dramatically by a woman named Michele Bachmann, a member of Congress from Minnesota. In an interview last Friday on Hardball, a leading US cable talk show, host Chris Matthews asked Bachmann whether Obama worried her. “Absolutely. I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views,” she said. He asked her what she thought distinguished liberal from hard left from anti-American. If she maintains such distinctions in her mind, she refused to acknowledge them. Then, finally, Matthews – who deftly fed her the rope to hang herself – asked her how many members of the US Congress held, in her view, anti-American views.

It’s been almost a two-year campaign. There have been moments we’ve thought of as memorable, only to see the tide of events erase their mark from the sand. Bachmann’s answer, however, will live imperishably: “What I would say – what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating exposé and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an exposé like that.”

Before we go any further – who is this Bachmann? She’s a first-term backbencher from exurban Minneapolis who says the Lord told her to run for Congress. She declared herself “a fool for Christ” in 2006 when she announced her candidacy. By all accounts she’s down with the whole rightwing Christian package: immigrants bring disease and pestilence, homosexuals want to indoctrinate straight children, and so on. Republican leadership undoubtedly pushed her out on to television because she is, as you Brits say, a looker – at least by the standards of Congress.

The call for an investigation into the beliefs of every federal lawmaker, and an exposé of those found wanting in their patriotism, certainly takes us into deeply creepy territory. I would not call Bachmann herself a fascist. Odd as it sounds, to do so would be to grant her far too much credit. For one to embrace an -ism, even a repugnant one, one needs to have read a certain amount of history and political philosophy. Bachmann is just an idiot. She wouldn’t know Edmund Burke from Billie Burke (she played the good witch in the Wizard of Oz), and she obviously has no idea that, in her rejection of the two bedrock American principles of separation of church and state and freedom of thought, she is the one who is as anti-American as they come.

But friends, all is not darkness. Bachmann’s appearance caused a national uproar. Colin Powell, in endorsing Obama yesterday, said of Bachmann’s comments that “we have got to stop this kind of nonsense and pull ourselves together”. Her Democratic opponent raised nearly half a million dollars from around the country in just 24 hours, and he now has a chance of beating her.

That would be nice. But let’s go back to the big contest. With Bachmann, the lid came off the rightwing id. It will happen many more times over these next two weeks. McCain, now openly using the word “socialist” to describe Obama’s proposals (the week after his friend George W Bush took federal control of nine major banks!), and especially Palin have shown every sign of encouraging it. Their goal is to scare Americans about Obama, but moderate, independent voters might well decide that Obama looks a lot less scary than they do.

As I have been pointing out recently, the current right wing mind set is a resurrection of McCarthyism. The good news is that, after being scared into voting Republican by such tactics since Richard Nixon won in 1968, American voters are rejecting such right wing smears this year. Finally they are realizing that it is the right wing that they should have been scared of all along.

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