While I'm proud to call myself a "progressive" -and continue to maintain that most positive reforms in this nation's history have been the result of "progressive" actions - every so often I find it necessary to disagree with the views of some fellow-progressives about the motives and actions of their counterparts on the right. Most "progressives" (even most "liberals") are rational beings, and therefore attribute rational motives to their opponent's actions. As an observer of political discourse during the past 50 years, I can assure readers that there is absolutely nothing "rational" about the actions of today's far-right activists!
Absolute proof of this can be found in watching (even as I write) the actions of a pompous, self-absorbed, self-righteous junior Senator named Ted Cruz (R-TX) holding forth in an endless (and obviously futile) "filibuster" in the Senate chamber, and saying absolutely nothing that is relevant to the needs of the nation and its citizens (he just finished reciting from "Green Eggs and Ham").
Over the years, I have known many honorable and rational Republicans and conservatives who don't behave like Senators Cruz, Mike Lee (UT), and Rand Paul (KY), or House members like Louie Gohmert (TX), Michele Bachmann (MN), Eric Cantor (VA), Trent Franks (AZ), Darrell Issa (CA), Phil Gingrey (GA), Paul Broun (GA), Bill Johnson (OH), Paul Ryan (WS), Steve Womack (AR), Scott Perry (PA), Marsha Blackburn (TN), and about forty others who rant daily about how much they hate the government that they are part of. What makes these folks tick?
"Beltway" liberal pundits and the young lefty brainiacs at "30-Rock" in NYC opine that these folks' actions (or lack thereof) are "politically motivated," a result of "Republican infighting", or mere "pandering to the base" on the part of individuals jockeying for position in 2016 ... I disagree! I believe that all (or at least most) of the above-mentioned folks are dead serious ideologues who believe (almost) every word they say.
Exactly 50 years ago, when I began taking classes at Marshall University, I took part in a debate in my freshman political-science class. In those days, I was pretty non-political. Although I liked President Kennedy, I still felt some loyalty to my parents' Republican affiliations. The class exercise was about debating skills, not core beliefs, so I was given the task of supporting Kennedy over the presumed Republican contender, Barry Goldwater. The supporter of the Goldwater position was a chubby, crew-cut member of the Young Republicans who looked (I kid you not) like a junior-version of Karl Rove. The Goldwater kid lost the debate (which was decided by class vote), but not because I beat him. He beat himself by calling Kennedy a "communist" and by saying stuff like "Vietnam should be bombed into the stone age." A few months later, I began receiving bills for "National Review" and other unsolicited rightwing magazines that "Karl" had ordered using my name. With righties, it's all about "payback." About the same time, I took a class in early childhood education that explained how 4- and 5-year-old children always want their way, and are inclined to "act out" if they don't get it. A couple of years later, I began taking courses in anthropology (the science of why humans behave the way they do). The combination of these three experiences gave me insight into the past and present behavior of denizens of the far right.
What rational "liberals" don't always appreciate is that people like Ted Cruz really are "true believers" in the sense that "longshoreman philosopher" Eric Hoffer meant in books like "The True Believer" (1951) and "The Passionate State of Mind" (1955). Folks like Cruz, Paul Ryan and Rand Paul might be ambitious politicos, but their "vision" is larger than mere politics.Their ultimate goal is nothing less than the total destruction ("dismantling" via "defunding") of all federal programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, HUD, SNAP, "Head Start", EPA, and of course "Obamacare") initiated during or since the "New Deal" - plus earlier programs like Teddy Roosevelt's Pure Food and Drug Act and Woodrow Wilson's IRS that they say have "interfered" with their Ayn Randian fantasy-ideal of "pure free enterprise." While most rational people know that the "enterprise" these folks are touting is neither "free" nor "pure" (check out the requests for "donations" on their websites) the Ted Cruzes and the Rand Pauls continue to pursue their quest whatever the cost to the nation - and (in their fantasies) they regard themselves as "heroes" for doing it. Even though more rational Republicans are beginning to realize that fighting against progress is a lost cause, many among their loyal "base" remain too brainwashed to figure out that, by supporting the Congressional ideologues, they are really going against their own best interests (there has been a marked drop in insurance premiums since the implementation of the early stages of the Affordable Healthcare Act, and other noticeable benefits - i.e. 80 percent of premium costs must be used exclusively for health care instead of CEO salaries - will kick in after October, 2013). At the present time, the ideologues are doing what they do because they have lost all contact with reality. Having no real solutions to the real problems of the nation (i.e. unemployment, automation, global competition, rampant violence) they are determined to lead one last desperate charge into total oblivion.
While American progressives look to role models like Lincoln, FDR, and Martin Luther King to effect positive change for the future of all Americans, the role-model of the regressive ideologues who are holding the lawmaking process hostage to appease profit-hungry fanatics like the Koch Brothers might be someone like George Armstrong Custer. ... Whatever happened to that guy?
Fred O'Neill lives in Marietta.