New York novelist Dawn Powell wrote on the cusp of World War II, "Civilization stood on a ledge, and in the tension of waiting it was a relief to have one little man jump." Alas, these days the crazy ones don't jump off ledges, they get elected to Congress.
Our national politics increasingly resembles a party in which your crazy uncle got hold of the karaoke microphone and won't give it back until he finishes a paranoid rant. Maybe if you pour him another Manhattan, he'll pass out before all your guests leave.
The crazy uncles have taken over the Republican Party. You might be able to get rid of some of them if you could require runoffs in primary elections, but good luck getting that reform through the state legislature. The crazies have a devoted constituency, and Fox News is their microphone.
So we're stuck with the Louie Gohmerts and Michele Bachmanns for a while. Aside from fantasizing about the scene in Mars Attacks! in which a death ray wipes out a joint session of Congress, we have to do our best to keep things going while the crazies continue their rants.
Meet the new loon from Virginia, Republican lieutenant governor nominee Bishop E.W. Jackson, who accuses President Obama of having "a Muslim perspective," and who said in October that homosexuality "poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies, it brings the judgment of God." He'll be a font of hilarity for the next four years if the Democrat to be chosen in next month's primary doesn't defeat him. Virginia's gubernatorial race is an uninspiring choice between soulless Democratic hack Terry McAuliffe and Republican fanatic Ken Cuccinelli. Given those choices, I guess I'll go with the soulless hack.
The 2012 election brought no accountability moment for right-wing know-it-alls, whose reality-free punditry continues. As top number cruncher Nate Silver told Out last December about one solon who had breezily predicted victory for Mitt Romney, "Peggy Noonan is someone who is very, very skilled at making bullshit look like some elegant soufflé." Last week, after Noonan called the IRS auditing scandal the "worst Washington scandal since Watergate" and cited anecdotal evidence to invent a new charge that conservative Obama critics were being targeted for audits, Silver blasted her with a sharp schooling in statistics.
Not that facts matter. Tea partiers who smell blood won't even heed conservative establishment voices like Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Newt Gingrich and Reince Priebus, who urged them to drop the unhinged rhetoric and stick to the evidence. They might as well lecture a waterfall. The crazy-base problem is richly deserved by Republican leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who never dream of putting the nation's interests ahead of their own. Unfortunately, the entire country bears the consequences.
The aggressive obstructionism in Congress amounts to an attempted takeover by a determined minority that disenfranchises as many of its opponents as possible and keeps the rest divided, aided by a bottom-feeding media. The wild card is the social conservatives, who can no longer be controlled by the plutocrats who so long exploited them.
Overreaching and hyper-partisanship by the Obama haters are overshadowing legitimate concerns, such as those about Justice Department actions. For now I will content myself with the pleasure of watching Attorney General Eric Holder blast Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for his bullying tactics at a May 15 Judiciary Committee hearing: "That is inappropriate and is too consistent with the way in which you conduct yourself as a member of Congress. It is unacceptable and it's shameful."
Someone has to stand up to the malignant clowns who seem determined to push the country toward Armageddon. They are more scary than funny. We need to stop hiring them.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at email@example.com.