The difficult thing about dealing with a frenzied totalitarian movement like today's Republican Party is not only do they not take "No" for an answer, they don't even really take "Yes." Whether they're sent packing by the electorate or accepted with open arms, their one and only response to all possible events is to further crystallize their beliefs, purify their ranks of dissent, and break all of their own records for violence, depravity, and madness. So we find ourselves confronting a bitter realization: Win or lose this election season, Republicans appear to be headed on a one-way path to organized political violence.
Perhaps it's not so obvious that a Republican victory would make them more violent than they already are: After all, most people are less likely to become violent when they feel vindicated. But try to imagine a US Congress under teabagger control - all the powers of the Congressional bully pulpit, the subpoena, budgetary authority, confirmation of nominees, naming of federal infrastructure, and a fully-owned media suddenly discovering an insatiable desire to give Congressional leadership maximum exposure. Try to imagine these instruments of governance in the hands of Glenn Beck devotees; of birthers and deathers; of that nut who screamed "liar!" at the President.
Before long, even a close election giving Republicans a single-seat edge in a single body would be represented as a "great uprising" against the "foreign interloper" Barack Obama to their base, and every moment that passed would ratchet up the rhetoric, the visibility of the people spewing it, and the boldness of the people who support it. Imagine Beck's psychotic vitriol magnified a hundredfold through the lens of a Congressional body (let alone both of them!) controlled by the very people responsible for spreading his message, and you have some idea of why I say this.
If you recall, Timothy McVeigh only had the encouragement of his own bitter little militia subculture when he decided that blowing up a federal building would launch a "revolution." So how emboldened will people like that become when the leadership of an elected government body, the media, and one of the two major political parties in this country all seem to be telling them in unison that (a)America is on their side, and (b)the nation is being invaded or oppressed by (insert demonic fantasy) with the aid of liberals and the Democratic Party?
Tell me that any of this is not a realistic scenario under such conditions: Democratic leaders physically afraid to associate with values that have prevailed in this country since its foundation; right-wing talk radio hosts cracking jokes about political murders and terrorist attacks, making excuses for their perpetrators, and ultimately all but volunteering their airtime for the groups responsible; attempted or successful assassinations of Republicans who speak against their party's radicalization; coordinated, staged riots in major American cities using bused-in wingnut thugs in response to prosecutions of Republicans; and so on.
And in the relatively benign case that the GOP loses this election or is disappointed, the rage of their base will be brought to a boil with the usual production of bigoted conspiracy theories kicked into overdrive: Their media (which is to say, THE media), having told them repeatedly that they were on the verge of crushing Democrats and "restoring" the WASP fantasy land of their imaginations, would naturally be shocked and aghast at being contradicted by the voters. It would be left to the fevered, schizophrenic speculations of the wingnut viewer - at least in "mainstream" media coverage - what exact combination of ACORN, the ACLU, the Muslim religion, and San Francisco homosexuals was involved in the "rigging" of the election, but every single one of the possible permutations would be brought up and believed 100%.
In this case, the violence would likely occur in spasms rather than spiraling upward to crescendo, but the poison would be almost as deep institutionally: The Republican minority, emboldened with greater numbers despite not having won control, would find the threats of their base against Democrats immensely useful and gratifying. Even without the majority, the media will still pretend they've won a crushing defeat against Democrats, and will still treat Republicans retaking R+15 districts after spending 20 times their opponents as some kind of political earthquake. In other words, the same things would probably happen, only front-loaded due to spasmodic anger, and less dramatic over time due to lack of official power on an ongoing basis.
The GOP has put itself on this course, because they are now exclusively focused on obtaining and keeping power over the American people at all costs: It is their only objective as a party, their only moral value, their only interest as a cultural phenomenon, and the only social mechanism they understand or are capable of wielding competently. They can't argue persuasively for their views, because their views are at best irrational, and more often than not shamelessly counter-factual. Even manipulating the public with propaganda has proven to have diminishing returns, as people become increasingly immune to their tactics - a fact they can't innovate their lies fast enough to overcome. In fact, the only tool they have not yet used to exhaustion is bald-faced terrorism, and I see nothing in their makeup as a party, as a cultural institution, or as a group of individual personalities that would cause them to shrink from crossing that final Rubicon.
Let's face up to the problem as it is: One of the two major political parties in this country has become openly and militantly totalitarian, and does not even try to cloak its fascism in something more palatable anymore: Its candidates openly endorse torture; openly call for the unprovoked invasion of other countries; openly demonize racial, religious, ethnic, and other minorities; lie without restraint on all matters at all times; and just barely stop short of openly calling for political murders of Americans - a scruple that seems increasingly frayed around the edges.
The Republican Party is now immune to the signals of civilization and the restraints of democratic society: As an organization, it is now built directly on the premise of power - the absolute, and unshakeable belief that "I am right because I win" - and at this point I see no mechanism for how it can be reconciled to the survival of the American republic. Its leaders had a chance to retreat from the abyss after 2008, but in every case where they were tested, they chose to damage their own country as part of a strategy to retake power. So not only are individual American lives meaningless to them against their desire to rule, but the very survival of the United States as a nation doesn't hold the slightest concern or even nostalgia for them: It's just a brand name to them - a beautiful pelt they want to hang on their wall at the cost of killing the life that made it.
But as for the rank-and-file Republican, what is to be said of them? What is to be said of people so far gone into unreasoning ignorance, bigotry, paranoia, and solipsism as to believe the things they believe; say the things they say; and support the kind of people they put in office? What can we say about people so mindless; so irresponsible; so idiotic that even if they disagree with everything else a Republican says and does, they will vote for them because they're promised a tax cut?
How do you talk to someone so frivolous and despicable they would - and, in fact, already have - endorsed mass-murder, torture, and treason in exchange for a $500 tax rebate check? Where does one begin to reintroduce civilization when the corruption goes that deep? Quite honestly, I don't think we can: I think millions of people are completely lost to democracy, and they are (a)heavily armed, (b)utterly impervious to reality, and (c)under the direct psychological control of the people described above - people who lie without limit, who have virtually unlimited funding, and whose sole agenda is power. This is more than dangerous - it's inevitable.
So now the question becomes what we do about it. Well, for one thing, we can stop being surprised: An honest surprise is invaluable to learning, but surprise born of cultivated amnesia is the sign of a derelict citizen. Your surprise at the evil of Republicans does not shame them; your shock at whatever new depths they've sunk to does not make them reconsider their descent; and your disappointment in the people you had lazily assumed to be your countrymen does not affect them in any way, nor does it impress the masses either.
Express these feelings to an individual Republican who has some reason to care what you think, but we all know plainly from simple observation what the Republican Party is and what it does. So either we are prepared for what it does, or we have been lazy - because there can be no real surprises out of totally ruthless people. Their behavior is as predictable and unvarying as gravity, so we know what they're going to do even before they know: To be caught off guard by anything these people will ever do is as crazy as being dismayed that water runs downhill. You don't rail at gravity, argue with the rain, scold wild animals, or become appalled because the Sun sets - you just deal with these facts as they are, and the degeneracy of the people behind the Republican Party is one such fact of our society at present.
This is not to say "become cynical" - cynicism is just another cloak for the same surrender of dignity: Rather than being prepared and responding dynamically, the cynic dismisses as a fact of life whatever he is too comfortable to fix or too afraid to confront. If you are prone to cynicism, ask yourself who benefits from assuming the worst of people and setting the lowest expectations?
Those who live in the lowest moral pit of humanity find it very useful to be treated like they're normal: It's quite liberating for them, to be their repugnant selves without pretense and be excused with the glib recognition that the world is imperfect. Republicans love to hear comments implying moral equivalency between their party and Democrats - love to hear their cultivated, purified twistedness elevated to the status of mere human imperfection. This is how casual corruption and brutality flourish; how the everyday degradations that destroy everything great about mankind are permitted to fester and undermine our freedom as a people. Be intolerant of things that are intolerable: You will find that evil people are, by and large, cowards afraid to stand alone in the light of honest reflection.
Furthermore, stop playing their games. Stop arguing with people who are not arguing with you - stop "answering" people who are not talking to you, for the benefit of audiences who are not listening to you. Glenn Beck and his ilk are not purveyors of information, true or false, they are simply pullers of strings and pushers of buttons - rhetorical mechanisms hooked up right into the atrophied brains of the Republican base through long years of emotionally-manipulative programming. Nobody who listens to these people or believes the lies they spread is going to be persuaded by facts, rational arguments, or appeals to ethics - at least nobody in sufficient numbers, often enough, and reliably enough to seriously impact what they're doing. And while you're berating the wind and punching water, arguing with what are more or less fictional characters, their own efforts attack the substance of our society and accumulate real power.
Fuck your fantasies and pretensions at liberal principles - you will know who you are when being who you claim to be becomes dangerous. When some wingnut has just massacred a bunch of people for the crime of being too intelligent, caring about their country, upholding human dignity, or voting contrary to the dictates of talk-radio Goebbles homunculi, and you overhear a pack of Glenn Beck disciples laughing, cracking jokes about killing libruls, and cheering on the carnage...you do not let it slide.
You do not give them your best peeved-librarian scowl and say nothing. You do not say "Excuse me" and then politely discuss why the things they're saying are inappropriate and irresponsible. You get off your ass, walk up to them, stare in their faces with your eyes set like a lion gazing at his prey and your voice calm - no matter how many of them there are - and you say "Hey, fuckos. You think that's funny? You want to kill liberals? Start with me. My father/uncle/grandfather/whatever died protecting the freedom of this country, and if you want to end that, start ending it right here, right now."
People's lives are already at stake once things get that far - because the violence has reached saturation and become politically tolerated - so you are on the spot, and it's your duty as a citizen to get your ass kicked if that's what it takes. Of course, never throw the first punch, don't get close enough for them to reasonably feel or plausibly claim that you were threatening them, and always keep in mind that there are uninvolved people around who might not appreciate a brawl, but don't try to defuse things either: Social harmony is not the point. The things they are saying are implicitly threatening your life and your freedom - they are contributing to a dangerous state of affairs, and you are confronting them on it - so give them every opportunity to either display the courage of their convictions and attack you or re-characterize their views in a civilized, socially acceptable manner.
But whatever you do, do not let it slide: Make the scene grind to a halt until the matter is settled. Make a scene, period. Polite discussion is what happens after the dust clears from the one-on-one interplay of otherwise apolitical individuals who are serious. Standing up like that is the merest shadow of what previous generations of Americans did for their country, either on its own soil or on foreign battlefields - the slimmest, barest echo of the real strength behind a democratic republic. You are civil when civility is involved, but when some people are clearly throwing that away and endangering the most basic of freedoms, you stand up and recognize it - you don't pretend it isn't happening and act as though smug predators are just rowdy kids who are being a tad impolite.
These are just some thoughts and observations on things I hope will not come to pass, but whose elements are already plainly laid out on the table. It is becoming apparent that we cannot argue or elect out way out of half or more of the country living under the shadow of an epistemically-closed totalitarian psychosis, and that means the nation as a whole - if not the world, given the size of our military - may ultimately be forced to confront it on less than civil terms. How do you argue with people who are totally mendacious and deliberately ignorant? How do you practice democracy with people who do not respect the outcome of elections? How do you comprise a country with people who have no sense of loyalty to anyone but themselves?
These questions will all have to be answered in due course, but first thing's first: Let's make a joke out of their preemptive triumphalism this election season, and then deal with their unsurprising reactions afterward. If we lose, so be it: As free citizens, we can lose elections and not respond as though the sky has fallen. Should that happen, the next move would be theirs - but something tells me it would be no more surprising than any other they've made.
Update: It seems I've hit the Rec List and drawn a few HRs in the mix. I love the smell of democracy in the morning.