While I’m generally on the other side of the issue, Josh Marshall is one of several left-of-center bloggers I read because he’s interesting, thoughtful, and generally fair. But even he falls for a rather common trope: The belief that your opponents are crazy.
As our team has reported on at some length already, there appears to be a reasonably well-orchestrated national effort to mobilize teabaggers to go and shutdown these townhall events with raucous demonstrations and generally making it impossible for the members of Congress to talk. But that’s not the most interesting part of watching this drama unfold.
The truth is that there’s actually quite a lot of authenticity packed into these events, often a bit more, sometimes quite a bit more than the partisans helping put this stuff together end up being comfortable with. Maybe the best example was back last year when the dying McCain-Palin campaign was toying with that proto-birther ‘Obama’s a scary Arab terrorist’ craziness and then had those awkward moments like the time McCain had to snatch the mic away from that woman who started commiserating with him about how Obama was an Arab.
That’s the thing about where the GOP is right now. I don’t question that they’ve gotten some traction on a range of issues over the last month or so. But they’re still relying on some pretty far-out, alienated and often just generally whacked out folks to puts the gusts of wind into their sails.
Now, none of that is wrong. There are a lot of angry nuts on my side of the aisle. They simply can’t believe that Barack Obama somehow got elected president and they feel powerless right now.
But here’s the thing: There’s plenty of crazy to go around. Remember Bush Derangement Syndrome? The 9/11 conspiracy theorists who thought Bush and Cheney were in on the whole thing? The Diebold plot to steal the 2004 election? Should we judge the Left by the whackos that show up at the anti-trade rallies? PETA? Greenpeace? Of course not. Almost by definition, the people motivated and available enough to show up in the middle of the day to express their outrage about something are not like you and me.
Professional intellectuals surround themselves with likeminded folks and get the idea that they and their cohorts are the norm for their group whereas the crazies on TV are the norm for the opposition. It just ain’t so.
Photo by Flickr user california cowgirl1 under Creative Commons license.