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I wrote Sen. Pat Toomey (R -- duh) to protest the way he keeps soliciting only negative stories about Obamacare as if nobody in Pennsylvania has actually been helped by it. I got a reply back from him (okay, from his office; same difference) that not only repeats his mendacious requests for negative stories only but adds a new lie: "To make matters worse, the newly uninsured - including many Pennsylvanians - are not able to obtain new coverage online because the ObamaCare website is not functioning properly."

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I live in Pennsylvania, so unfortunately one of my senators is Pat Toomey. Today I got an email from him requesting, "If you have lost your health care coverage, or have seen your rates rise because of the president's health care law, I encourage you to share your story with me." Not a mention of wanting to hear from people who have been helped by the Affordable Care Act, of course. Not even a hint that there could possibly be anyone actually helped by it as opposed to being harmed by it.

I can't believe how angry this makes me, this active rooting for the ACA to fail. But while I'm enraged by Toomey (and I wrote back to tell him), I'm sadly not at all surprised. I do wonder, however, if anyone else will pick up on this, including the press in Pennsylvania, and if anyone else other than me will object to it. Are Republican senators in other states pulling this nonsense, and are they getting any negative reaction to it?

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To be honest, I don't care how beatable Sarah Palin might be in 2012. I know some liberals hope the GOP nominates someone totally crazy (and therefore, presumably, unelectable), and I sometimes relish the thought of them shooting themselves in the foot again by putting up the national equivalent of Sharron Angle or Christine O'Donnell against Obama. The problem with that is, the crazier they get, the less rational our entire political system gets. You may have noticed that the GOP did not learn anything from 2008 - in fact, they learned entirely the wrong thing. The way the party is now, George W. Bush might not be acceptable to them in 2012!

Not that there's anyone currently being talked about as a GOP candidate who isn't basically nuts, but I really wish there were. Sure, if they nominated an actually sane person that might diminish Obama's chances, but at least it might start the certain to be long and difficult process of rebuilding the GOP as an actually sane political party instead of a collection of ignorant zanies and cynical exploiters. Winning isn't everything - as some once-respectable Vietnam vet once wrote, "Country first."

Obama can fight just as well against the equivalent of Arnie Vinick as he can against Sarah Palin. He can hold his own against a tough but rational conservative. He doesn't need a lunatic opponent to win - and neither do we. Sure, it just makes his re-election that much more likely (although if unemployment is down next year he'll probably win no matter who gets the GOP nod), but it also makes the continuing derangement of our political discourse equally much more likely.

And, in the long run, that's a terrible thing for our country. We need to encourage the GOP to step back towards reality, not keep running away from it as fast as they can. And every crazy who the GOP nominates takes them a step further away, not closer. It moves the discourse itself that much further away from reality, making it tougher in the long run for anyone to maintain a civil, sane debate.

Okay, that doesn't seem to be on the menu, not anytime soon. And, given that the GOP seems determined to fully embrace the crazy (and there's nothing we can do to stop them), it can fairly be argued that we might as well try to use their insanity to our maximum advantage. But we don't have to like it - and we especially don't have to wish for it.

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