originally written for Daily Kos. Crossposted at Lowell’s request
The video you have just seen, at least the first minute thereof, is a campaign ad for Rick Barber for the Republican runoff for the opportunity to oppose 1st term Democrat Bobby Bright in AL-02 (Bright won in ’08 by 1,766 votes).
Ruth Marcus has this op ed in today’s Washington Post, which has the same title as this diary, and which caused me to go find the video of the ad to be sure people saw it.
Let me offer a few excerpts from her column, and a few words of my own.
Marcus says that many words come to mind upon viewing this ad, three of which are sacrilegious, unhinged, and emblematic.
Sacrilegious – hijacking the imagery of the Holocaust and of slavery. In the video, one sees’ Arbeit Macht Frei and pictures of cadaverous prisoners. And then there is the Lincoln figure solmenly intoning the one word. Marcus says using these
demeans the candidate and, worse, dishonors the victims. Decency demands that some comparisons be off-limits.
Unhinged – Barber is revolting over taxes passed by a majority of elected lawmakers produced by a democratic election. I would add that the rhetoric of taxes as slavery is far from new with this campaign, as many on the Right have taken the economic ideas of the likes of Hayek and turned them into political attack points.
Emblematic – Marcus finds the ad very much in keeping with the “white-hot” rhetoric one hears on talk radio, where
The concern and disagreement — over health-care legislation, over bank bailouts, over debt — are understandable; the slippery-slope fears of descent into socialism/totalitarianism are incomprehensible. Last I looked, our checks and balances seemed pretty firmly anchored.
Then comes a very important paragraph:
Yet it does not take much to imagine the leap from bellicose talk to action for those who sincerely believe that the country they love is being wrested from them. They are delusional but passionate, and they are whipped daily by the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Becks into a frenzy of fear.
I think Marcus is right to include these words. We have seen people moved to action by this kind of rhetoric. As the intensity of such rhetoric is increased, we are likely to a parallel increase in those choosing through their delusion to act, believing in their delusion that they are doing the right, even the patriotic, things.
Barber gets to speak for himself in the column, because before writing Marcus called him and got him on the record. It is not unusual to find conservatives who find the Departments of Education and Energy unconstitutional. It is not quite as common to find someone who outright calls Social Security unconstitutional because it is not among the enumerated powers.
But allow me to quote his justification for the video:
“We can’t be so naive to think that just because we live in America that can’t happen to us,” he said. “We are being fed a socialist agenda spoon by spoon, and we don’t see it coming. In Germany, when Hitler was first elected under the Socialist Party, no one would have thought in a million years it would have gone where it did.”
A couple of remarks. Perhaps Barber has never looked at the history of the New Deal. FDR was called a socialist and worse, considered a traitorto his class and Vanderbilt and his buddies attempted to get Smedley Butler to lead a military coup to overthrow him. For almost 70 years we have heard Social Security described by some as socialism, but Barber seems to forget that a fairly conservative Supreme Court found it Constitutional. And the vast majority of Americans support its continuation, which is why it is rare to see someone advocate for its outright abolition.
But Barber could well get elected – remember those 1766 votes in a presidential year. Imagine a House with a new member who makes Steve King look sane. On the other side of the Capitol, the equivalent might well be Sharron Angle somehow edging the likes of Tom Coburn towards the rational center.
The heart of the 2nd district is Montgomery. As in the bus boycott which made M. L.King Jr. a national civil rights fighter. As in the severe attacks on the Freedom Riders. As in George Wallace proclaiming his fealty to segregation. It was the Capital of the Confederacy for a while. It is the Capital of the state that gave us Jeff Sessions in the Senate.
Perhaps Barber will lose his primary runoff. But what if he does win?
Here are the final two sentences from Marcus:
I would not have thought in a million years that this kind of thinking would be inside the conservative mainstream. If it is not, it is time for rational conservatives to speak up.
Such speaking up is not unknown. Think of the “Vote for the crook. It’s important” bumper stickers on behalf of Edwin Edwards to prevent the election Klan/Nazi figure David Duke from becoming governor of LA in 1991.
We have, however, yet to see the irrational rhetoric of Angle called seriously into question by any major Republican figure. We will not see that of Sarah Palin challenged. And any political figure who has challenged Limbaugh or Beck has had to eat his or her words.
A body of 435, as is the House, will almost always include a few Members who seem to be playing bridge with a pinochle deck. The number of such candidates does, however, seem to be on the increase.
Is the entire right “unhinged?” That I do not know.
Will Barber be in the House come January? If he is, this nation will be indicating a far deeper problem than much of what consumes us on the blog.
Some things simply should not be acceptable in political discourse. Using the image of the Twin Towers still hurts too many. Yet occasionally we will see that footage used.
The Holocaust is beyond acceptable. This is Godwin cubed.
Watch that video again. These are the stakes, if I can quote from Lyndon Johnson’s “Daisy” ad of 1964.
Not a happy way to start the day. But one I believe is necessary. We must pay attention.
Only then can there be any hope for my usual final wish.