State of the GOP, 2014

image of torn GOP Elephant
What Do We Want? We’re Not Sure!

After posting the last post about Jim Bridenstine’s shocking interaction with the angry old lady at his town hall meeting, I noticed some unusual reactions to it across the right wing web. Previously, I lamented the State of the Democrats in 2014. Now, the widely differing reactions on the right to the Bridenstine video bring the last two posts here together, causing me to want to post a counterbalancing State of the GOP, 2014. So here we go (seasickness bags optional)!

Rachel Maddow frequently mentions that she finds the most interesting political story in the wake of the disastrous George W. Bush Presidency to be the ongoing identity crisis of the Republican Party. I tend to agree.

For example, in regard to the previous post’s Bridenstine-and-constituent video, one out-of-the-way Christian-themed blog attempted forensic analysis on the video. “This Cultural Christian” blog, no doubt attempting their own version of either James O’Keefe’s “exposés” on the left or the older debunking-by-collaboration of Dan Rather’s story on George W. Bush’s National Guard service, actually claim that, because the mouth of the woman speaking isn’t visible…that portion of the audio is faked, that someone intentionally dubbed a different female voice onto the tape to say something much worse-sounding than what the woman at the town hall actually said.

If you’ve watched the video, the woman’s words are fairly audible and intelligible for the most part, even though only a portion of her body (not including her head) was visible. The woman’s voice also sounds properly distant in the recording, as voices recorded at a distance from the microphone typically sound. It’s pretty clear that TCC’s analysis is less the successful “investigative journalism” of even a Breitart in the Anthony Weiner case, and more the desperate, transparently false, inane braying of a Donald Trump regarding the President’s birth certificate.

What’s interesting is the impulse behind why the TCC poster felt compelled to deny what (s)he heard with her own ears. Because the only reason to jump to such intricate detail of debunking by a partisan like the TCC poster is deep-seated need to deny that such a thing could be true. Clearly, the TCC poster doesn’t like what that video tells anyone who watches it about either Rep. Bridenstine or about the state of the Republican party today. That’s not hard to understand: those few minutes of video make both look very bad indeed.

Yet, in the results of the same Google search that yielded the TCC post, a different conservative website called “GOP Briefing Room” was literally cheering the woman’s (and by extension, Bridenstine’s) words. Entitling their post “Fiesty little old ladies roar is small town America,” the tone is all congratulatory back-slapping and high-five agreement.

This is the State of the GOP, 2014: schizophrenic. Or rather: multiple personalities, often conflicting if not outright warring.

One other difference worth noting between the websites is that the TCC post comes from a blog much like this one, with posts written and edited (more or less) carefully before being published, while GOP Briefing Room is a conservative message board. Though both are officially public and viewable by anyone, to a degree, they represent the difference between what conservatives say for publication, versus what they say when they think they’re amongst friends or by themselves. In public, there’s at least the pretense of recognition that the crazy has gotten out of hand, that it sounds both deranged and deeply unpatriotic to call the President of the United States an “enemy combatant” and suggest he be killed — and certainly no Congressperson should sit idly by and either endorse or ignore such charges.

Even then, though, conservatives’ instinctive reaction is often – like in this instance with the TCC blog – not to denounce such language and the people who peddle it, but instead to simply attempt to deny that it ever happened, almost like a kid denying he took the candy from the dish…with a lollipop stick protruding from his mouth. Could this be because the public deniers like the TCC poster have been to enough meetings or on enough bulletin boards or comments sections of conservative websites that they know full well many if not most of their fellow travelers feel exactly the way the woman in the Bridenstine video and at GOP Briefing Room feel – that the President, despite having been elected soundly twice, is illegitimately in office, and deserves to be disobeyed?

It’s of course worth pointing out and wondering what these same conservatives would say if a Republican is elected President in 2016 and they happen to catch liberals using identically-inflammatory language, but as a hypothetical, that is somewhat beside the point. The much more interesting point remains: where does the GOP go from here? Now that they’ve let that bad crazy genie out of the bottle, the one that represents the worst impulses of the conservative id which are now being called “tea party” (but which have always been present in American politics), what do they do about it? Do they embrace it and go full-insurrectionist as the rank and file at GOP Briefing Room clearly have, retreating into an ever-shrinking pocket of scientific ignorance and generations-old prejudices? Or do they continue to publicly attempt to deny such a thing even exists? Nearly absent from any of this, of course, is any hint that perhaps what they need to do is abandon some of the worst of their historical grudges as lost causes and stop suggesting the President is a foreign-born, anti-American enemy combatant. Pursuing that course would bring about the best outcome of all…but it’s of course the least-discussed and least-likely one in the GOP today. And until that changes, the fracturing of GOP consensus remains, as Dr. Maddow observed, the most-interesting story in American politics, and the one driving much of the current political situation.