When Maureen Dowd is on her game, she’s one of the best writers on American politics around. Today is one of those days, with her Sunday New York Times column, Ghastly Outdated Party. I strongly recommend you read Dowd’s column, either before or after you read The Lost Party (“The strangest primary season in memory reveals a GOP that’s tearing itself apart.”) by John Heilemann in New York magazine. But since this is, after all, a Virginia-centric political blog, here are the last few paragraphs from Dowd’s column, in which she turns her withering gaze to the Old Dominion and the “Ghastly Outdated Party” currently (but hopefully not for much longer!) in charge here:
The barking-mad Republicans of Virginia are helping to make the party look foolish and creepy. A video went viral on Friday in which Delegate Dave Albo comically regaled his fellow lawmakers on the floor of the Statehouse with his own Old Dominion version of “Lysistrata”: he suggested that he was denied sex with his wife because of a Republican-sponsored bill that would have made ultrasounds, often with a vaginal probe, mandatory for women seeking abortions.
With music, red wine and a big-screen TV, he made a move on his wife, Rita, while she was watching a news report about the bill. “And she looks at me and goes, ‘I’ve got to go to bed,’ ” Albo said as his colleagues guffawed.
The Republicans, with their crazed Reagan fixation, are a last-gasp party, living posthumously, fighting battles on sex, race, immigration and public education long ago won by the other side.
They’re trying to roll back the clock, but time is passing them by.
The question is, what on earth happened to a Virginia long known for “business-friendly” moderation? Part of it, I’m sure, is what John Heilemann points out, that the Republican Party “has grown whiter, less well schooled, more blue-collar, and more hair-curlingly populist.”
That latter phrase, of course, refers to the rise of the teahadists, a classic, right-wing reactionary movement, that (as it so often is) fears modernity, finds itself increasingly panic-stricken at the decline in their relative economic and political power at the hands of (pick any number of the following): 1) increased acceptance of homosexuality and other “alternative lifestyles” (as they would call them); 2) the growing absolute and relative power of women in our society; 3) the burgeoning population of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans, as America moves inexorably towards “majority minority” status; 4) the fact that the Obama coalition foolishly turned out in lower proportions than the right-wing crazies in 2009, 2010, and 2011; 5) the brain-dead Supreme Court ruling that made unlimited financing from Exxon Mobil, not to mention John Birchers like the the cartoon-character-evil Koch brothers, legal; 6) the insidious effects of 24/7 foaming-at-the-mouth, far-right-wing cable TV and talk radio; and 7) a black (actually mixed-race) president in the White House.
Today, with the “extremism…is no vice; moderation…is no virtue” teahadists fired up to a frothy fever pitch, and with the old Dwight Eisenhower/Gerald Ford/George HW Bush Republican Party sane, moderate, pro-business (even “compassionate” at times) Republican Party deader than an attempted Willard Romney “joke,” Republican candidates today must cater to the nuttiest of the nuts, the kookiest of the Kookinellis.
As Maureen Dowd puts it:
The contenders in the Hester Prynne primaries are tripping over one another trying to be the most radical, unreasonable and insane candidate they can be. They pounce on any traces of sanity in the other candidates – be it humanity toward women, compassion toward immigrants or the willingness to make the rich pay a nickel more in taxes – and try to destroy them with it.
President Obama has deranged conservatives just as W. deranged liberals. The right’s image of Obama, though, is more a figment of its imagination than the left’s image of W. was.
Thus, here in Virginia, we seriously just had a debate (actually, it’s not over yet) on whether the government should force women and their doctors, even against their will, to undergo a medically unnecessary, highly invasive, costly procedure performed, simply because the “barking-mad Republicans of Virginia” have morphed into a nightmarish, “Handmaid’s Tail” hybrid of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, “Sideshow Bob” Marshall, and Kooky Ken Kookinelli. Sure, Bob McDonnell was able to fool a majority of Virginia voters in 2009 – the voters who showed up, anyway – that he was really, honestly, truly a “moderate.” The fact is, of course, that only a shamelessly dishonest, “say anything to get elected” Republican like McDonnell, running against a historically inept Democratic opponent, in a “wave” year of teahadist extremism and Obama Derangement Syndrome, could ever have convinced anyone of THAT howler!
Sure, McDonnell has now (partly) backed off his support for trans-vaginal ultrasounds (albeit not a less-invasive version of the test), he did so only because he’s a smart enough politician to understand what a political disaster passage of that bill would have been (and may still be) for his national ambitions.
Dave Albo, for his part, doesn’t seem to think that regaling the world with tales of his (lack of a) sex life – supposedly due to his wife’s disgust with his extremist social views – will hurt him politically in his district. Let’s hope he’s wrong on that score (a strong female candidate against him in 2013 might be just the trick to finally end Albo’s reign of smarminess). Nor does Albo seem to understand why many Virginians fail to view this all as a big joke (as, apparently, do most members of the House of Delegates, including some Democrats, who laughed along with Albo’s pitiful “joke”).
Outside the General Assembly bubble and back in the world of normal people, of course, Albo quickly became a national laughingstock, while also furthering the growing image of Virginia as anything BUT a moderate, “business-friendly,” hospitable place to live and work. Which raises the big question at this point: how much longer will Virginia voters allow the “barking-made Republicans of Virginia” to tarnish our good image, harm our economic prospects for many years to come, and send us lurching backwards to the
1950s 1850s – a time when wealthy, white, heterosexual men ruled the roost, when women and minorities knew their “place,” and when swaggering, pompous cads like Dave Albo could have regaled the good ol’ boys at the country club with tales of his “exploits” with the “Little Lady” (or whatever derogatory, misogynistic terms they used to use back then), without someone videotaping, popping it up on YouTube, and disseminating his “foolish and creepy” ramblings far and wide. Ah, the good old days back in ol’ Virginny…