A statue of Ronald Reagan in Covington, Louisiana. (Photo: Peter Clark)
I know I should be immune to this by now, but I still find myself awestruck by the incredibly detailed, insulated fantasy world that the American conservative "movement" has created for themselves. No lie is too big to be told, no fact is too firm to be bent around ideology, no myth is too absurd to defend to the knife. The ability to spew deliberate nonsense into the credulous ears of Fox-watching right-bent voters - and to be utterly without shame while doing it - is the core of this "movement's" political muscle, and has been for a number of decades now.
Take, for example, this past weekend's festival of Reagan. The late president's 100th birthday opened the floodgates for an ocean of nonsense to be dumped on the American people. He was a great leader, the conservative's conservative, a small-government hero who deserves a place on Mt. Rushmore.
Ronald Reagan's "supply side" economic model was the gateway drug that led inexorably to the collapse of the American economy two years ago, and yet his conservative acolytes - as well as far too many Democrats who should know better - still cling to that economic model as if it were holy writ.
Ronald Reagan raised taxes massively, and grew the federal government enormously, while sending the country spiraling into a morass of debt we are nowhere near recovering from, and yet his worshippers continue to tout him as the perfect "small government" man.
Ronald Reagan and his people sold shiploads of weapons to Iran even as they supported Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in his war against the Islamic Republic. Ronald Reagan and his people basically created the Taliban, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan as a means of carrying on the Cold War fight against the Soviet Union, and yet today his conservative followers cling to a "War on Terror" as their sword and shield.
Didn't hear any of this during the weekend's Reaganapallooza, did you? No surprise. Why let facts - Reagan was a terrible president who bears a great deal of responsibility for today's national problems, a president who exploded the debt and the size of government, a president who supported known terrorists and rogue nations with money and materiel even as they were killing Americans - get in the way of a perfectly good story line.
That's the kind of comfort bubble these people live in, and it must be a nice place to be, because they refuse to be budged out of it one centimeter. The Reagan worship we just witnessed is merely this week's iteration of an ongoing phenomenon: the creation of a parallel story line - nay, a parallel universe - to satisfy the already-calcified opinions of the far-right GOP base.
A perfect example of this is the Tea Party "movement," which is nothing more or less than a creation of the "news" media. There is no Tea Party; the term is a re-branding of that same GOP base, and nothing more. By way of vast corporate cash infusions from entities like the Koch brothers, these Tea Party dupes were fooled into believing they are a force for the common man, for the worker, for truth and justice and the American way, and even managed to get some of their so-called representatives elected to Congress in 2010...but it didn't take long for the mythology to start unraveling.
"Earmarks are bad" was the 2010 campaign refrain, but the very breathing second these Tea Party House members hit their seats in Congress, earmarks suddenly became no big deal, and now they are hardly discussed outside of the cloak room. Job creation? Nah. The newly-minted GOP House majority instead went to work trying to redefine what rape is in order to attack abortion rights, before backing off amid a storm of outrage and protest. And, of course, there is the push to repeal the health care bill, which, like the attack on abortion, is about throwing red meat to the base instead of actually getting anything done.
Here in reality, the gulf between right-wing rhetoric and actual activity has not gone unnoticed:
The GOP majority is bringing only a handful of bills to the floor this week, and none would be characterized as major legislation. Four of the five measures will be considered under a procedure generally reserved for non-controversial legislation; the fifth is a resolution that merely instructs committees to review federal regulations for their impact on job growth.
Democratic leaders contend it doesn't amount to much.
"Members return Tuesday from a week and a half of recess for another light legislative agenda in the House of Representatives," Kristie Greco, spokeswoman for the assistant Democratic leader, Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), wrote in a note to reporters over the weekend. "Perhaps if House Republicans had a jobs agenda, the schedule would be more robust."
Greco scoffed at the resolution on federal regulations, saying the GOP planned to spend 10 hours debating a bill that "instruct[s] oversight committees to conduct oversight."
Adding to the criticism, a group of 10 Democratic committee leaders on Monday sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) denouncing the resolution as superfluous and a waste of time.
"The floor schedule that the Republican majority has pursued and intends to pursue this week will create no jobs," the Democrats wrote. "Indeed, spending two days, and taxpayer dollars, on a resolution calling on our committees to perform oversight functions that they are already authorized to conduct distracts from our efforts to create jobs."
Not everyone on the right is in love with the fiction that permeates and props up the "movement." Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, decided recently to abandon his re-election bid to keep his post. Why? "I have tired," he wrote in a memo to party officials, "of those who are obsessed with seeing conspiracies around every corner and who have terribly misguided notions of what the role of the state party is while saying 'uniting conservatives' is all that is needed to win competitive races across the state." He was even more blunt with the Washington Post: "I have loved being chairman, but I'm tired of the nuts who have no grasp of what the state party's role is."
Unfortunately for the rest of us, people like Mr. Wadhams are the exception that proves the rule. The rich fantasy life enjoyed by the right - Reagan was great, the Tea Party is a "movement" for the little guy, and the new GOP House majority will be a force for good - continues unabated.