It's possible to be too extreme, after all

July 31, 2011
  • Rowland

Unless you are an actual member of the Tea Party, your answer is probably in the affirmative. Of course if you are an actual member of the Tea Party, you’re just getting warmed up, blasting away purple-faced at every discouraging word being tossed your way, particularly those being lobbed by fellow Republicans.

Leave it to John McCain (who must hate himself every morning for his role in hooking up the electric nodes that brought Sarah Palin to life) to call failed senatorial candidates Sharron Angle and Christine “I Am Not a Witch” O’Donnell out from under their respective rocks to rebut some criticism that came not from the left, but from the right.

In fact, McCain was merely quoting from that liberal rag the Wall Street Journal, which derisively spoke of “Tea Party hobbits” on a mission from Middle Earth.

This came on the heels of a blow-up in the right-wing Republican Study Committee caused by some of its true-believer staff members who sent a memo to conservative groups asking them to attack the RSC’s own members — at least the ones who might be unwilling to blow up the world economy by voting for a debt compromise.

By Wednesday, RSC members were chanting “Fire him!” in reference to the group’s executive director, Paul Teller.

And this is not to even get into the whole debt crisis itself, in which House Republicans have spent the entire summer debating whether or not to destroy the economy. Or House Speaker John Boehner’s recent admonishment that the loose screws in the party need to get their #!* in line.

Wiser Republicans are trying to explain one little fact of life to the Tea Party: Contrary to their hopes and dreams, wrecking America’s financial infrastructure is going to be blamed on them, not on the president. They will be like the Commie sub in “The Hunt for Red October” that blows itself up with its own torpedo.

The good news for all of us in this, is that there now does seem to be such a thing as a “wiser Republican.” That was in doubt there for a while, as more mainstream conservatives egged on Tea Partiers to do their dirty work. But now that they are waking up with fleas, the peril of that course has become all too clear.

So we can conclude that, yes, it is possible to be  “too conservative.”

That’s a peg that up until now didn’t exist. Actual books and newspaper columns had been written by the far right trying to reassign fascism (which has that difficult Hitler association) from the right wing to the left. Eliminate fascism as the last stop on the line, and all of a sudden you are free to go as far to the right as you want.

The revisionism didn’t work of course, but it fed the Tea Party penchant for rewriting history.

And the lawmakers who used to be considered right wing, but now are accused of being soft, pseudo-Republicans, are starting to understand that extreme rightism can be just as deadly as extreme leftism.

This whole shebang has a very French Revolution feel to it, with the Tea Party playing the role of Robespierre and St. Just.

Some good ideas become lost in the lust for power. Inflexibility is hailed as a hallmark of purity. The virtue of everyone can be called into question, and those deemed impure are guillotined. Those who once cried loudest for blood discover they have been leapfrogged by events, and now it is their blood that is being called for.

Of course we all know what happened to Robespierre and St. Just. Well, the Tea Party might not, but since it prefers to write its own history anyway, there’s no sense spoiling if for them.

If the mainstream Republicans can’t rein in the Tea Party at this point, no matter, the voters will do it for them.

We are now being treated to a classic example of why the Founders only desired two-year terms for House members. The Tea Party will fail because in the end it only had one response to, well, anything: Anger. That anger felt good to voters during the depths of a recession, when everyone seemed to be benefiting from a bailout but them.

In keeping, the House of Representatives serves as a steam vent — we can voice our anger over an issue of the day, and then after we see the results, we can change course with only two years of damage being done.

The Tea Party, like Robespierre, will have done some good if it demonstrates that there is such a thing as too extreme, and if the extremism makes centrism fashionable again. The pity is that so much blood has to be spilled to get the point across.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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