This morning three Democratic Party strategists, Ed Kilgore, James Vega and J. P. Green, sent out a "strategy memo" that was titled, rather clumsily: "Beyond 'Sabotage' -- The Central Issue About the Growing Political Extremism of the Republican Party Is That It's Undermining Fundamental American Standards of Ethical Political Conduct and Behavior." That's quite a charge; what evidence do the authors offer in support of it?
They begin by referring to a Washington Monthly article in which a blogger named Steve Benen "gave voice to a growing and profoundly disturbing concern among Democrats--that Republicans may actually plan to embrace policies designed to deny Obama not only political victories but also the maximum possible economic growth during his term in order weaken Democratic prospects in the 2012 elections." This is a remarkably silly theory. If Republicans really wanted to retard economic growth, they would join with the Obama administration in raising taxes, increasing regulations and proceeding with the government takeover of medicine and destruction of small business. But they aren't doing that. Instead, Republicans are advocating the same policies they do when a Republican administration is in power: lower taxes, less regulation, a strong national defense. Democrats and Republicans disagree, of course, as to how economic growth can best be promoted. The disagreement that is now playing out in Washington is a continuation of the same debate we have witnessed for the past forty to fifty years.
Beyond that easily-dismissed charge, what do the authors have to say? They allege that Republicans have adopted a "politics as warfare" philosophy that is unprecedented in American history and amounts, really, to sedition:
There is a deep apprehension that fundamental American standards of proper political conduct and ethical political behavior are increasingly being violated.
The key feature that distinguishes the increasingly extremist perspective of today's Republican Party from the standards of political behavior we have traditionally considered proper in America is the view that politics is--quite literally, and not metaphorically--a kind of warfare and political opponents are literally "enemies."
Um...who was referring to political foes as "enemies?" Let's go back to the pre election speechifying of the One:
If Latinos sit out the election instead of, "we're going to punish our enemies and we're going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us" -- if they don't see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it's going to be harder.
Gee, that isn't like warfare, punishing enemes and rewarding friends? Aren't we all Americans? Well, at least most of us. Who are the ones engaging in dirty tricks and turns of phrase now? But wait, they continue:
This "politics as warfare" perspective has historically been the hallmark of many extremist political parties of both the ideological left and ideological right--parties ranging from the American Communist Party to the French National Front.
In the politics as warfare perspective extralegal measures, up to and including violence, are tacitly endorsed as a legitimate means to achieve a party's political aims if democratic means are insufficient to obtain its objectives.
* In the politics as warfare perspective all major social problems are caused by the deliberate, malevolent acts of powerful elites with nefarious motives. An evil "them" is the cause of all society's ills.
* In the politics as warfare perspective the political party's philosophy and basic strategy is inerrant--it cannot be wrong. The result is the creation of a closed system of ideologically controlled "news" that creates an alternative reality.
* In the politics as warfare perspective standard norms of honesty are irrelevant. Lying and the use of false propaganda are considered necessary and acceptable. The "truth" is what serves to advance the party's objectives.
* In the politics as warfare perspective the creation of contrived "incidents" or deliberate provocations are acceptable. Because the adherent of this view "knows" that his or her opponents are fundamentally evil, even concocted or staged incidents are still morally and ethically "true." The distinction between facts and distortions disappears.
OK, so where is the evidence that the GOP and conservatives have done such a thing? Here goes the great leap from reality to Oliver Stone fiction:
It is easy to see examples of the various politics as warfare- based views and tactics listed above directly reflected in the statements and actions of the extreme wing of Republican coalition--they range from Michelle Bachmann and Sharon Angle's winking at violence with references to "second amendment remedies"...
...to Andrew Breitbart's deliberate editing of a video to smear Shirley Sherrod...
...Fox News' tolerating attacks on Obama as equivalent to Hitler...
...and airing repeated suggestions that the miniscule New Black Panthers present a real and genuine national threat of stolen elections...
...and Grover Norquist's endorsement of a government shutdown over extending the debt limit, despite the genuine dangers this poses to international financial stability.
OK, where to begin?
1. While Sharon Angle did say something about "second amendment remedies, Bachmann never has.
2. Andrew Breitbart did no editing of his video on Sherrod.
3. Every Fox News host villifies those who say Obama is Hitler. I have seen them condemn those who use the Obama/Hitler meme.
4. We have a bunch of thugs threatening harm against people and standing with clubs outside a polling place, and this is laughed off and seen as an exaggerated threat? Child please!
What we see here is a new narrative they are forming. They are going to try to frame everything the GOP does as hyperpartisanship or "Politics as warfare." They are going to try to paint the GOP as evil power brokers even as the Powergrabber in chief steals more power from the other branches and rules by executive unchecked fiat. Disgraceful!