In 1995, I still lived in Boise, Idaho, at the height of the militia movement. I listened, every day, to AM talk radio. Aside from the usual right-wing blowhards — many of whom are still with us — there were a couple local hosts who were big fans of the militias. One in particular could rail for hours about the coming threat of one-world government, black helicopters, the United Nations, and the quislings who supported this massive conspiracy.
For months, the talk grew angrier. Meaner. Any second, I thought, foam might actually start frothing from the speaker. Names like “Waco” or “Ruby Ridge” or “Clinton” were trigger words, guaranteed to ignite the call-in lines with voices quivering with rage, barely able to keep from shouting.
When I heard about the Oklahoma City bombing, I didn’t feel shock. I knew something like it was coming. The rage was too much to contain with mere words. Even in the first hours, before Timothy McVeigh was captured, I knew it was the militias. And I knew the bombing would break them. It was all just talk. Until it wasn’t. Once people got to see what that talk was all about, nobody could listen any more. Nobody sane, anyway.
But we’ve got short memories. I’ve been reading the right-wing blogs lately, and the chatter there reminds me of talk radio, right before Oklahoma City.
There are people subtly, and not-so-subtly, comparing Barack Obama to Hitler. Predictions of purges and race riots and mass arrests. You’ve got halfwits talking about the destruction of the entire country, and cheerleading the stockpiling of guns and ammo. (Not that anyone wants to be a racist, of course. Except when they’re being racist.)
9/11 and everything that came after rendered the militias almost quaint. They were afraid of Bill Clinton sending the Fish and Game wardens after them, while George W. Bush has set up the largest wiretapping operation in history, and imprisoned people without trial or charges.
But the thought of Barack Obama becoming president — that’s what really outrages these people. That’s the insult they can’t take. It’s enough to drive some of them over the edge.
And I’d swear I’m hearing echoes of 1995 all over again.
First it was Christopher Buckley. Then Christopher Hitchens. Now that Colin Powell and Scott McCellan have joined the Obama bandwagon, there’s a stampede of conservatives who want it known they’re endorsing the Democratic nominee for prez. Including one guy who was a McCain adviser and a former Reagan administration official.
This week, Fried announced that he has voted for Obama-Biden by absentee ballot. In his letter to Trevor Potter, the General Counsel to the McCain-Palin campaign, he asked that his name be removed from the several campaign-related committees on which he serves. In that letter, he said that chief among the reasons for his decision “is the choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis.”
That’s gotta hurt. Someone should put together a list of all these Republicans who are jumping ship… Oh wait. Someone did.
One thing to consider regarding McCain’s debate performance: he who blinks the most, loses.
For eight U.S. presidential elections during the period 1960–2004, the rapid blinker during debates received fewer overall votes than his opponent. In seven of these eight elections, the rapid blinker also lost the electoral vote and was defeated at the polls. Furthermore, in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, seven out of ten presidential aspirants have shown elevated EBRs (over 50 blinks per minute) and have been defeated in their candidacies.
Of course, McCain’s disastrous campaign might have an impact on his chances, as well.
UPDATE: Christopher Buckley has resigned from the magazine his father founded as a result of his heresy, accompanied by the pitchfork-wielding morons ready to burn him at the stake for it. His column explaining the move is here.
But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.
While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.
So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.
It’s not like Buckley said he spoke for the ghost of his father. Screaming “traitor” at him doesn’t exactly make the GOP look like a bastion of tolerance and civility, especially given the press it’s received in the past couple of weeks. Of course, the GOP voters even booed McCain at his own rally, so maybe there’s a little anger there.
Christopher Hitchens — former leftist, author, and Mother Teresa hater — endorses Barack Obama over John McCain in this piece on Slate.
A candidate may well change his or her position on, say, universal health care or Bosnia. But he or she cannot change the fact—if it happens to be a fact—that he or she is a pathological liar, or a dimwit, or a proud ignoramus. And even in the short run, this must and will tell.
First Christopher Buckley, now Hitchens. One more and the media will have to call it a trend.