It’s much easier to ignore an unpleasant truth than admit it.
One extremely distasteful truth is that the “Freedom Caucus,” formerly known as the Tea Party, isn’t just uninterested in governing. It wants to bring down our government.
Let’s just admit it.
If a foreign power crippled our government, forced it into debt default and destroyed our nation’s economy, we’d wage war against it.
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In the past, Americans who incited the destruction of our government because they didn’t like election results would’ve been accused of sedition or tried for treason. We fought the Civil War over this “rule-or-ruin” attitude so eloquently excoriated in Abraham Lincoln’s famous Cooper Union speech.
Today, the unpleasant truth is that rule-or-ruin Republicans are wrecking our government on many levels, rendering it listless, while some incite mobs and fertilize a malevolent, authoritarian-tinged malignancy on our democracy (i.e. Donald Trump’s campaign rally violence).
Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks laments that his party has “abandoned traditional conservatism for right-wing radicalism,” grieving that his now all-or-nothing party rejects as evil political compromise which is essential for our democracy to function.
Nihilist Freedom Caucusers say they want to “take our country back.” From what? Presumably that twice-elected black guy in the White House, since his election is what triggered the right’s most recent, precipitous spiral toward baseness.
Its radicalization has been decades in the making, fed by hyperpartisan, opportunistic media.
“Over the past 30 years,” Brooks says, “… or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced.”
The party’s Fox News-intoxicated acolytes can’t escape their own rhetoric. “Governing” runs counter to their narrative of government as enemy — that nothing good comes from it — so they abdicate the responsibility.
“These figures are masters at destruction …,” Brooks continues. “These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed.”
San Luis Obispo County isn’t immune, with prime examples being Freedom Caucus farm-leaguers-cum-county-supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton.
They’ve consistently blocked every effectual “government” solution to the increasingly dangerous groundwater crisis in the North County, with the full-throated backing of COLAB, a covertly funded cheerleading front for developers and right-wing ideologues.
Rather than doing their jobs by bringing public resources to bear on the problem, anti-government zealots Arnold and Compton have decamped to the sidelines, rejected compromise and supported legal efforts to derail solutions.
That’s not governing. That’s incompetence — driven by an ideology aggressively disinterest in the difference between dogma and capable public policy.
A radicalized unwillingness to draw a red line between fact and fiction has polluted even the lowest rungs of elected officialdom.
To wit: Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley recently posted right-wing conspiracies about President Barack Obama to his personal Facebook page.
Responding to The Tribune, O’Malley didn’t appear to understand what the big deal was. The mayor said his post was “in keeping with my tradition of offending folks at both ends of the political spectrum” — as if there is an equal legitimacy between truth and lies.
Mayor O’Malley’s “fair and balanced” treatment of conspiratorial claptrap is symptomatic of ideologues whose worldview doesn’t accommodate truth, but who want to appear levelheaded.
To the Freedom Caucus, truthing — as opposed to lying — is actually a gaffe.
When Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy enthused to Fox News that the House Benghazi committee was intentionally successful in driving down Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, he accidentally truthed.
McCarthy committed a “Kinsley gaffe” — defined by journalist Michael Kinsley as a slip of the tongue revealing an unpleasant truth a politician didn’t intend to admit — a Freudian slip.
Most mainstream news media remain mum about the unpleasant truth that a large swath of the Republican Party — including several running for president — is comprised of racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, history-challenged bigots, if we take what they say at face value.
“Most of the news media, and most pundits,” said New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (liberal bookend to Brooks), “still worship at the church of ‘balance.’ They are committed to portraying the two big parties as equally reasonable.”
Thus, much of the news coverage of the presidential debates ignored the obvious truth that Democrats sounded sane and substantive while Republicans didn’t.
Not stating the obvious — shrouding it in a patina of “balance” — serves to maintain the lie that both sides are equally rational.
Lies don’t deserve fairness. They’re neither equal to truth nor worthy of the same respect.
Worse yet, not challenging the lie is the same as accepting it as truth.
Tom Fulks is a former reporter and opinion writer whose three-decade career included positions with The Tribune, Five Cities Times-Press-Recorder and New Times. He has been a political campaign consultant for many local races. His column appears twice a month in The Tribune, in rotation with conservative columnist John Peschong.