A republic requires at least two political parties to remain functionally democratic.* Even when they have little power, as is the case in the United Kingdom, for example, the opposition proves to be a vital check on the ambitions of the ruling majority. This is a good thing, because it ensures that if one party does something insane, their opponents will screech about it and presumably win the next election. Political parties go a long way in addressing Lord Acton’s adage on the corrupting nature of power. In a republic where other people covet your job, you’re less likely to do something illegal – or at least you’ll have to do a better job of hiding it – because you risk losing the power you already have.
This, of course, only works if everyone is more or less playing by the same rules.
Up until recently, I had assumed that with the notable exception of some reactionary and unhinged nutjobs, many – I’ll be generous – most Republicans who claimed to love their country were in fact not lying. Sure, they wrapped themselves in the flag and were so terribly misguided as to condone torture: all in the name of defending America and her values – the ultimate irony. Yes, they fear immigrants despite the United States being a nation of immigrants and they hate government ‘handouts’ even though Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare are the most popular government programs out there. Yes, they appear to value corporations over people. Yes, there is plenty of cognitive dissonance. Still, I could believe that there were in fact plenty of Republicans out there who loved their country (e.g. John McCain).
When I read about birthers, my faith was shaken. Still, I recognize that the majority of Republicans are not morons.
But when I saw multiple reports of conspiracy to commit sedition and treason, I had reached the end of my patience and understanding.
Last week, John Perry, a former senior editor at the reactionary Newsmax, wrote – I shit you not – that the president “is inviting” a military coup, which he shamelessly advocates: “Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars.” Newsmax subsequently removed the article and said they believe in the principles of constitutional government. Sure.
A few days earlier, when Thomas Friedman wrote about legitimate safety concerns for the president, pointing to a Facebook poll asking if President Obama should be killed and citing a similar right-wing build up of hate prior to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, RNC Chairman Michael Steele called him a nut job.
Earlier this year, Chuck Norris showed his propensity for sedition by writing on WingNutDaily that he “may run for president of Texas,” referencing a comment he made earlier speaking with Glenn Beck. He calls the comment a quip before he deadpans and says that, the “need may be a reality sooner than we think.” In August, resident nutter Michael Savage said there will be “a revolution in this country if this keeps up” because “the white male … has nothing to lose.”
Clear Channel’s Jim Quinn said on his radio show, “The only reason you put military anywhere is to win and win as quickly as you can, as ruthlessly as you can, because mercifully it will be over quick, instead of turning it into a meat grinder. I’m looking at — guys, look, I love you all who go over there and serve, but I gotta tell you right now, run for your life, get out, this guy is gonna get you killed. Man, these people are scary.”
To top it off, a neo-Nazi named “Jim” Jim from Oklahoma called into Michelangelo Signorile’s radio show, “claiming he and 200 other Oklahomans were meeting weekly to stage a coup and that they had their ‘right to bear arms’ and that he wants to bring the country back to where it was 400 years ago, before slavery was abolished.”
It is time we call these people what they are. They are reactionary, racist, unpatriotic and seditious, and they make up an all too big and all too vocal part of the right wing in the United States. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone on the left who advocated killing President Bush or organizing a coup to overthrow him, but that’s exactly what these people are proposing. The ‘patriotism’ these people espouse is actually mindless nationalism, and has no place in a rational society. With protestors bringing guns to rallies and the government recognizing that the threat of right wing extremism is growing, this is a very real issue. Rather than stoke the flames of hatred, those in the Republican Party who love the United States, its Constitution and the ideals of freedom and liberty it represent should forcefully rebuke this type of disgusting and dangerous speech.
* – Having more than two would do a better job of representing the various political views in the United States, but once we go down that road, we have to talk about presidential versus parliamentarian democracy and all of a sudden we’re debating the relative value of fairer representation and legislative expediency.
Chris Frommann is the director of public relations for the Cornell Democrats.