Saturday, November 11, 2006

Relegating extremists to the fringes

I have written before about how the extremists like to characterize themselves as being in the majority and everyone else as being the fringe. Glenn Greenwald has written another good post, this time on the importance of exposing the extremists for what they are. Glenn advises that they "will do most of the work themselves -- they already have, and the more they feel weak and rejected, the more rabid they will get".
I think the country now has a real opportunity to re-define what is acceptable political dialogue and to raise the standard -- even if only a little bit -- for what is deemed to be respectable mainstream views and what is deemed to be extremist, moronic bile.

This election constitutes a rather resounding rejection of the mindless militarism, hysterical fear-mongering, un-American embrace of lawlessness, and adolescent hate-mongering which have fueled the Bush movement. These tactics have been the bread and butter of people like Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol, Marty Peretz, John Hinderarker, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Reynolds, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and the rest of those who have become intoxicated by neoconservative fantasies of Global, Endless, Glorious Epic War against an endless array of Enemies, real and imagined, foreign and domestic, out in the open and hiding under everyone's bed (or in the Democratic Party and at The New York Times).

There is a real opportunity to relegate that strain of Bush follower -- to quarantine them -- to the impotent fringes, where they belong. And ironically, they are seeking to isolate themselves, as they insist, with the belief-affirming self-delusion that has come to define everything they do, that the reason they lost the election is because they weren't extreme enough.

They believe Americans wanted them to be more militaristic and more ideologically pure. Let them do that. They will quickly become an even purer and more transparent version of what they have been -- the Party of James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol and Dick Cheney -- combining rabid, fantasy-based warmongering (both domestically and abroad) with religious and moralistic governmental control, all in one toxic, extremist mix.

It is both tempting and easy to mock all of these earnest appeals to "bipartisanship" that we're hearing. And coming from the likes of George Bush -- even a humbled and defeated George Bush -- such appeals understandably provoke great cynicism, even laughter. And they should. Certain individuals have demonstrated that they are irredeemable, and he is at the head of that line.

But it is also true that the country faces serious problems and to the extent that there are responsible, serious adults capable of working together despite political and ideological differences, all the better. That ought to be welcomed.

But that needs to be pursued in conjunction with consigning the most rabid and rotted elements of the Bush movement to the dustbin (and exposing what they have done is a necessary part of that). They will do most of the work themselves -- they already have, and the more they feel weak and rejected, the more rabid they will get. And they have stubborn allies, including in the national media which has long operated from the premise that they are to be taken seriously, although I think the odor of defeat will help to erode much of that perception.

What is worthwhile is to do everything possible to highlight the differences among them so that their isolation becomes more complete, more quickly. The strain of the Bush movement reflected in the above-excerpted comments has been posing as part of our political mainstream even though they are anything but that, and it's time that they return to the fringes where they belong.

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