Even as we pass through the end-of-year holidays, a time when we’re supposed to be disbursing good will to all, this country remains plagued by right-wing anger.
I was amazed when, before Christmas, GOP conservatives torpedoed House speaker John Boehner’s budget plan, a plan designed solely to score political points off President Obama. But because it included a tax increase for people making over $1,000,000 a year, conservative ideologues refused to support it.
That kind of dogmatic purism is bad for the country, I think; we have too many challenges not to compromise with those we don’t agree with.
But what really fascinated me was its implications for Boehner. Some years back, I wrote a long profile of House speaker Tom Foley, and as part of my research on the power of the speakership, I had a long talk with former speaker Jim Wright of Texas. Wright spent about two hours on the phone with me discussing the powers, both formal and informal, of the job.
And one thing I learned from that fantastic tutorial is that, if the Speaker puts his power behind something, and his caucus publicly and decisively rejects it, stick a fork in him, that Speaker is done.
Now, Boehner will likely retain the position, because no one else is crazy enough to want it; nobody can lead this pack of reckless brats. But he is effectively emasculated; the GOP is a leaderless party.
Here’s another example of GOP craziness.
A couple days ago, the White Plains (New York) Journal News published a map on which it showed the names and addresses of all the registered gun holders in surrounding Westchester and Rockland counties.
That’s public information, of course, and also in my opinion a public service; as a father, I’d want to know which of my neighbors—i.e., potential hosts of playdates—had guns. And if I had a neighbor who was acting a little crazy and I knew he was a gun owner….
Such lists have been published before, and conservatives have welcomed them because they show, in gun owner-theory, which houses are rob-able and which are not. (Burglars go to the houses without guns, right?)
But this time, the right-wingers went nuts. The Washington Post reports that right-wing blogs took up the story and responded by publishing the names and addresses of the paper’s publisher, editors and reporters, even down to the person who authors the crossword puzzle. Which of course has led to lots of death threats from anonymous commenters, such as…
“Nice house. Wooded lot, too. Lots of places to hide.”
I’ve written often on this blog about the possibility of violence from paranoid right-wingers who feel threatened by the positive course of change in this country, and I worry about that threat more than ever as Obama takes up the issue of gun control.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading William Manchester’s classic, The Death of a President—November 1963. Manchester writes eloquently and incisively about the mood of paranoia and hate in Dallas before John Kennedy’s arrival there on November 22nd of that year. I plan to blog more about this when I’ve finished the book, but much of what Manchester writes could be transposed onto the modern-day Tea Party/right wing without changing a word. The big difference: Now, it’s all too easy for hate to go national….