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[politics] A big thank you to Limbaugh, O’Reilly and their peers

Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, on conservative acceptance of a black man as president. Or more to the point, lack thereof.

I’ve despaired for years of the bizarre circus that is conservative discourse. The cognitive dissonance required to maintain that viewpoint with a straight face is uncanny. A very simple example: Ronald Reagan ran up the largest deficits in history (at the time), yet then and now is hailed as a hero by fiscal conservatives. Another very simple example: more recently, the same people who demanded absolute deference for George W. Bush as a wartime president seem to have no issues whatsoever with attacking and undermining Barack Obama as a wartime president.

Liberal-progressives at least aspire to intellectual consistency, whether or not we succeed. Given the prideful anti-intellectualism and anti-reality bias of conservatism, I suppose it’s too much to hope for the same from the other side. So we fail to communicate in part because people like me are looking for consistency in message and philosophy, and at least a notional link between the real-life facts and the positions taken.

All that is to say, I think I’m done despairing of conservative discourse. It was far more dangerous when Reagan was around — his genial warmth and inclusive rhetoric masked much of the strangeness that lay beneath the surface. Even George W. Bush, with his pre-election talk of “compassionate conservatism” and being “a uniter, not a divider”, was able to carry the Reaganite meme forward. Dog whistle political speech really was largely inaudible in the mainstream through the 1980s and 1990s. That drew a lot of moderates, centrists and independent voters toward the Republican ticket.

But now instead of genial warmth and inclusive rhetoric, we have Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. The lunacy is on parade, day in and day out, and drives the most public and overt expressions of the Republican agenda. And while that makes me crazy — the rancid incivility, blatant counterfactuals, constant claims of victimization, and profound hypocrisy just pile higher and deeper — what I’m finally realizing is that the GOP is showing its true colors in a most public way. This is the face of Republicanism that’s been obvious to me since the days of Ronald Reagan. Now it’s becoming obvious to the nation as a whole, or at least that majority of the nation that doesn’t drink the Republican bathwater as their morning coffee.

So I think it’s time to stop condemning Limbaugh, O’Reilly and the rest, and start thanking them. You guys may well be the best thing that’s happened to American politics in a generation, because finally through your mouths the truth is being told about the conservative movement, its goals and methods.

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