From the Editor

          When I heard Obama’s speech on healthcare, I thought he hit it out of the park. I guess I come from a liberal family.
          My Aunt Carol thought the same and so did my sister, yet the overall reaction among the press was muted, focused more on the congressman from South Carolina, Joe Wilson Jr.
          I looked at the picture of the guy in Congress during Obama’s address, and, without preconception, was struck by the snide club of white men sitting in his Republican section.
          Just that one image told me, as if an incessant stream of political analysis had not, that the Republican party of today is a throwback to another time in American history, when the face of politics was white.
          All that has changed.
          Emerging Hispanic and Asian voters, and a near-monolithic black vote, propelled the Democratic rout of their opponents in the last election. And women emerged long ago as equals to men in the professional callings and in politics, especially in the more populous states, such as California with Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi among the most powerful politicians in Congress.
          What had struck me well before Jimmy Carter — who has a good track record of calling it like it is — made his comments on race and the right was that the right had coalesced into a small, radical group of true believers.
          It used to be coalition of ideologically related groups, the Christian right, the chamber of commerce types, the anti-abortion crowd and the gun nuts. And here I have to give credit to Fox because the network has brought the many groups into one, with one voice.
          The Republicans are all Fox all the time. The network crafts the message, delivers it as only a nationwide string of television stations can, plays the results at townhall protests and small demonstrations as confirmation of its message, and throws the parties.
          I am not saying Fox is dangerous. They operate with some, albeit minimal, factual constraint on their propaganda. And in the end, they are in it for the buck. But the followers are dangerous, as a right-wing populist movement has historically been.
          It is difficult to define what it is exactly about the harshness and single tone of the Republicans that is scary. But I think it is just that, its bitterness and lack of give, without reliance on reason or consideration of other viewpoints. It is from the gut, one gut with a set of pre-selected beliefs, and a commitment that flows into fanaticism and from there into physical confrontation and from there, potentially, into violence.
          I have read the commentary that says the Republicans can’t win national elections that way. But that’s not the problem, so much. There remains in our nation a deep, almost limitless well of distrust of social organization, with an ideal that says you should go it alone and then a fundamental helplessness when you become poor or mortally sick
          It is the backdrop against which radicals wreak their destruction. My fear is that the true believers who thrive on confrontation will keep taking one more step down the road, pushing against the norms of civil speech and civil action. They seek failure in government and instability in the nation, because somewhere in their one-track minds, they understand that they can’t prevail otherwise.
          Although many might consider the comparison highly unfair, I remember reading a long piece a long time ago on the German neo-Nazis and the rise of a countervailing punk left — think Mohawks and jean jackets — that loved street fighting as much as the skinheads. As the right pushes towards confrontation and violence, so it provokes a radical response. And that is when civil society starts to unhinge.
          We are still far from such a political nightmare, thankfully. But old white Joe took us one little step down that road and older white Jimmy was right in calling him on it.

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