Midnight in America: the Mainstreaming of the GOP's Lunatic Fringe

It has become impossible to tell where the Republican mainstream stops and the fanatical fringe begins. It can no longer be denied: the right wing lunatics are running the Republican asylum.
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The most significant takeover of the past decade isn't to be found among the telecoms, the big oil companies, or in Silicon Valley. The reconfigured entity is headquartered in Washington, but we can see and hear the results everyday on your television, radio, and computer screen. And America is much the worse for it. I'm talking about the takeover of the Republican Party by its lunatic fringe.

Reagan's GOP has been replaced by the dark, moldering, putrefied party of Bush, Cheney, Rove, Limbaugh, Coulter, and Malkin. Morning in America has given way to Midnight in America.

Of course, there the Republican Party has always had it Jesse Helmses, Spiro Agnews, and Lee Atwaters. But they were the minority, far removed from the mainstream of the Party -- Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, the first George Bush.

But these days it has become impossible to tell where the mainstream stops and the fanatical fringe begins. Just look at what the so-called "mainstream" of the party is endorsing

We have a mainstream on the right that supports torture, that is backing an Attorney General nominee who is agnostic on torture, and that rallies behind a president who refuses to define what the word "torture" means.

A mainstream that supports -- even applauds -- the behavior of Blackwater thugs.

A mainstream that continues to back the White House's delusions about Iraq at the expense of our military, our treasure, our safety, and our standing in the world.

A mainstream that supports the gutting of our civil liberties.

So, it can no longer be denied: the right wing lunatics are running the Republican asylum.

These days, the only thing that separates the RNC and Rush Limbaugh is a prescription for OxyContin.

The latest evidence: the ugly smear campaign mounted against 12-year-old brain injury survivor Graeme Frost and his family. This new-low-in-messenger-killing wasn't just the doing of the toxic talk radio, rabble-rousing right; it was Senator Mitch McConnell's office pulling together the talking points. And then lying about its involvement when exposed.

And notice the dearth of Republicans willing to distance themselves from the Swiftboating of a 12-year-old boy - a boy who has worked diligently to make a remarkable recovery from his devastating injuries, supported by a loving, hardworking, intact family. Aren't those some of the basic core values the GOP used to stand for?

Despite the fanatical right's takeover of the Republican Party, the traditional media -- with its obsession with "balance" and its pathological devotion to the idea that truth is always found in the middle -- has failed to properly document the metamorphosis. So much easier to see everything that's happening in American politics through the lens of right versus left.

Making matters worse, today's Democrats continue to tread lightly when it comes to holding accountable the fanatics running the GOP. Time and time again, the Democratic leadership allows itself to get played, run over, or distracted. Republicans want to deflect discussion of the war by arguing over newspaper ads and radio comments? Okay, Reid and Pelosi are game. Republicans want to avoid talking about children without healthcare by crying about Pete Stark's tough assessment of the president? Sure, here comes a Pelosi reprimand.

Democrats are in the majority today because their positions are in line with mainstream America. But if the lunatic fringe group now known as the Republican Party is to be stopped in its efforts to radically remake this country, the Democrats are going to have to step up and defend the mainstream that elected them.

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