Praise be to Judge Antonin Scalia, for he sees what the rest of us do not. The man for whom nasty, brutish and short is not simply a political formulation, but a mirror image, can look at hundreds of years of slavery, 100 more of legalised segregation and another 50 of daily discrimination and see "racial entitlement" in the basic right to vote in America. I guess it's kind of like the right-wing clown entitlement enjoyed by our current Supreme Court.
Scalia, of course, was a modern Republican (in a robe) before it was even cool. I mean that in the sense that it's clear to anyone taking so much as a gander at what animates the GOP of 2013 -- as well as Scalia's immunity to legal reasoning -- that it's not any set of policy ideas, but simple emotion: all-consuming, blood-curdling, vein-bulging-out-of-the-forehead, Mel Gibson-watching-Fiddler-On-The-Roof ANGER.
Policy-wise, the GOP is an entity that literally lacks any new ideas, has no interest in governing and has rejected all of its own policy positions from as recently as early 2008 as "oh-my-God-we're-all-doomed!" creeping socialism (see: cap and trade, earned-income tax credit, individual healthcare mandate). Rejecting anything right wingers sneeringly see as created by them-there libruls is the secret handshake of modern conservatism.
You believe in global warming? Then they don't, dang it! You accept that human beings didn't ride saddleback on a brachiosaurus into the Battle of Little Bighorn? They have an App for that, the Creation Museum, where you can ride Noah's Ark with your friendly Triassic-period imperial walker. You offer them way-too-friendly a deal on the budget? Then as Cartman from South Park says, "screw you guys... I'm going home".
The most potent example is the rise and fall of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as conservative heartthrob. He was a Republican Superhero just a year ago, when he headlined what Republican consultant Steve Schmidt called "The Star Wars Bar" of conservative gatherings, the CPAC Conference. Yet, he was quite publicly not invited to this year's CPAC.
So what changed? Christie still opposes women's reproductive justice, doesn't like gay marriage and believes in cutting the social-safety net for the most vulnerable. But a year ago he was publicly screaming at teachers at town hall meetings, which is just about the sexiest thing to a conservative short of executing someone. Since then -- OMG! -- he said nice things about the President of the United States, who, as you know, is a Kenyan, communist interloper. That, my friends, is a non-birther bridge too far.
This is your explanation of why to your average Limbaugh the liberal tent seemingly includes the likes of Dick Lugar, Chuck Hagel and many other once-proud conservatives. They talked to Democrats, you see, and tried to solve stuff. The jerks.
Meanwhile, Antonin Scalia seems to size up any crowd he's in and think to himself, what would a Morlock do? And then does it. That the guy's an activist judge of the first order and his legal opinions on guns, campaign finance reform and the Commerce Clause imply he should be banned from operating heavy machinery, that's only a sweetener to the Right.
This is why that maverick-y maverick John McCain has been able to remain in relatively decent stead on the Right. The key to McCain, as I argued in my 2008 book The Real McCain (to the horror, the horror! of mainstream media back then... who these days have pretty much come to agree with this analysis) is that he legislates via anger. Grudges and perceived slights are what keep him going, like a much-less-talented and equally over-exposed Michael Jordan of politics, with the additional daydreams of carpet bombing large groups of people.
Whether calling his wife some really bad names, bum rushing fellow members of Congress or condescendingly and heartlessly lecturing a mother whose son was killed in the Aurora movie theatre massacre that he has "straight talk" for her, one thing you can count on is that McCain will bring the bitter with a healthy-helping of McNasty (his high school nickname). This is what allows him to survive his occasional maverick-ness on issues like immigration. Well, that and the fact he switches his positions every six years just in time for re-election.
Pre-pubescent angst fuelling vitriolic rage. Sure, it's not a legislative or legal strategy. But it sure feels good.
Follow me on Twitter: @CliffSchecter
This column was first published at Al Jazeera English