In college and for 50 years thereafter I didn't have to go far to find a cogent argument against my political views: my roommate and lifelong friend, the late Jack Elliott, was always there with an articulate case from the Republican point of view, tinged with a healthy dose of Libertarianism.
Even when he pulled out the overcooked chestnuts like "tax and spend," "socialism" and "welfare state," he did so with wit or at least wry asperity; his arguments were always to the point and well-researched.
I became accustomed to ignoring voices from the Other Side that didn't meet or exceed Jack's standards of civility, integrity and intelligence. Republicans of the Dirksen, Eisenhower, Rockefeller, Warren ilk made the cut; so, earlier in his political career, did John McCain (one of Jack Elliott's favorites).
My old roommate is dead, McCain has bartered away his last shred of credibility, and one searches in vain for a Republican voice like Jack's. The party has been taken over by such infantile hate-spouters as Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, Boehner and McConnell. Their execrative spiels are sustained by so-called think tanks, richly funded by right-wing capitalists, whose job is to grind out plausible lies. The corporate media, their staffs decimated by greed-driven management, their ideologies dictated by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, gleefully render the right-wing think tanks' propaganda as "journalism." The political class of Republicans doesn't even care if the lies are plausible.
Nor, it seems, do the masses of Americans -- tea baggers, Christofascists, NRA wingnuts -- who buy the lies. For them, the more outlandish the lie, the greater the enthusiasm it generates.
It is an enthusiasm born of fear, loathing and racism. Forty-three per cent of Republicans, a recent poll asserted, believe that President Obama is not a native-born citizen. The vestigial fear of Nat Turner has not faded from the white American psyche and manifests itself in hatred of our first black president and his family -- which, whether coded (as in the case of Beck's despicable "Planet of the Apes" rant), or blatant (as is th case with MalevoFreedom.org, and other right-wing websites), shames the very notion of democratic discourse.
McConnell's latest contribution to blatant American racism is to attack the 14th Amendment, whose fundamental democratic ideal holds that anyone born on this soil qualifies for the rights and privileges constitutionally bestowed on all Americans. We were, after all, a nation of immigrants when we ordained that Constitution, and we remain so today.
Why, then, this hostility to immigrants? Why the new campaign against "birthright citizenship?" Why the right-wing vitriol against "invasion by birth canal"? Why the rants about women who illegally cross the border "for the sole purpose of dropping anchor babies"?
Fear, loathing and racism.
Dred Scott. Nat Turner. Huey Newton. Barack Obama. Caesar Chavez. Shirley Sherrod. The Black Panthers. Sonia Sotomayor. ACORN.
The relentless Dark Menace.
Fear, loathing and racism.
The political fuel of today's GOP.