This post first appeared on Booman Tribune.
I saw something happen in my state last night that beggars belief. And yet it was not a figment of my imagination, not some nightmare that evaporates in the sunshine of a new morning. My state went crazy last night.
Rick Lazio is an extremely conservative NY Republican politician. When he ran against Hillary for the Senate he accused her of every political sin you can think of, plus a few more you probably cannot. Yet somehow this nutcase
beat him like a drum for the GOP nomination for Governor.
Carl Paladino -- a millionaire developer who has acknowledged forwarding racist and sexist emails, who has proposed turning empty prisons into dormitory space for welfare recipients, and whose state party didn't even want him on the ballot -- has won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in New York. [...]In April, Paladino acknowledged forwarding emails including images of bestiality and derogatory characterizations of President Obama, including one offering a video clip of African tribesmen dancing that characterized the video as "Obama Inauguration Rehearsal."
The Tea-Party backed candidate reportedly sent an e-mail depicting a horse having sex with a woman and another that included a pornographic video and the headline "Miss France 2008 F[***]ing." He also reportedly sent out an e-mail depicting President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as a pimp and prostitute and one showing an airplane landing near black men with the caption "Holy Sh*t. run ni**ers, run!"
Paladino also made headlines for saying last month, as the Associated Press reported, that "he would transform some New York prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients, where they could work in state-sponsored jobs, get employment training and take lessons in 'personal hygiene.'" The program, he said, would be voluntary.
He waded into the debate over the proposed Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero, going even further than many other Republicans by suggesting he would invoke eminent domain laws to block what he calls a symbol of "conquest." He believes global warming is a "farce." He has what one New York tabloid called a "10-year-old love child." If the state budget is late, he promises to shut down the government. He defended a friend who called New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, an Orthodox Jew, "an Antichrist or a Hitler."
That's some nasty crapola on anyone's resume, much less a potential governor of one of the most populated states in the country. In normal times he would have gotten maybe 10% of the votes cast in the GOP primary at best. However, these are obviously not normal times.
At one point he trailed Lazio by 40 percentage points. Yet, Paladino's had 62% of the votes cast to Lazio's 38% last night. Here's the Grey Lady's take
on his victory:
Mr. Paladino’s platform calls for cutting taxes by 10 percent in six months, eliminating cherished public pensions for legislators, and using eminent domain to prevent the construction of a mosque and community center near ground zero. Those proposals could make Mr. Cuomo’s farthest-reaching reform ideas seem meek by comparison.The sweeping agenda caught fire with Republicans, especially those far from New York City and distrustful of the party’s moderate wing. [...]
A businessman who made millions in real estate in the Buffalo area, Mr. Paladino entered the race in April and mustered only 8 percent of the party’s support at its convention in May, after reports of his e-mails drew condemnation from Republican and Democratic leaders alike.
But with Roger J. Stone Jr., the flamboyant former Nixon operative, advising him, he circumvented the party leadership, petitioned his way onto the primary ballot by collecting 30,000 signatures and quietly cobbled together a coalition of disaffected groups. In Orchard Park, a Buffalo suburb, Darryl Radt, who described himself as a regular primary voter, said he had come to the American Legion post to vote for Mr. Paladino “because he’s mad as hell and so am I.”
Ron Wojcik, 67, a retiree, said he was frustrated with Albany and Washington and wanted someone different. “I want somebody who’s honest and hasn’t been sucked into the system already,” Mr. Wojcik said. “The system always seems to change people.”
Chris Matthews said last night on Rachel Maddow's show that Paladino has a chance to defeat the very popular NY Attorney General and democratic candidate, Andrew Cuomo on election night this November. I don't think that's possible, but then I never though Lazio would lose so easily to Paladino, either. My record on political forecasting is not good.
The mere fact that Paladino won at all is astonishing. But somehow he garnered 62% of the votes cast by Republicans voting in New York's GOP primary with the record he had as a bigot, racist and overall loose cannon, and despite the NY Republican party's official endorsement and support of Lazio. I find that result this morning unbelievable (and that's an understatement).
If Democrats and moderates stay home and don't vote this Fall, and only "angry as hell white" voters turn out at the polls, I can imagine a Paladino victory. I don't expect that to happen, but then I never expected Paladino had a snow ball's chance in hell of beating Lazio, either, especially after watching Paladino's campaign up close and personal here in Western NY.
And if progressives don't turn out across the country to support Democrats, we are likely to see a lot of crazy people walking the halls of Congress next year. I don't agree with Booman
on every issue but right now even a Blue Dog Democrat looks a lot better to me than the Sharron Angles, Rand Pauls and Christine O'Donnells of the Tea Party universe.
It's beginning to look like the Tea Party is
the Republican Party with Glenn Beck as its guiding spirit and Sarah Palin as its king-making Mama Bear. That's a very toxic combination. In effect, even very conservative Republicans like Lisa Murkowski are considered "too liberal" to the new GOP base, who likes their candidates raw and unfiltered.
When the GOP establishment and corporate lobbyists used Dick Armey's Freedomworks to begin manufacturing all this white rage against Obama last year
, I doubt the GOP leadership ever expected that the Hate Train they started rolling down would roll over them, too. However, as more and more "Tea Party Appproved" candidates defeat candidates chosen by the Republican establishment it would appear that their grip on power over their own party is tenuous at best.
Like the rest of us they are riding the whirlwind they created, that Fox News nurtured and that is now spreading wildfires of anger, bigottry and disruption throughout the American political landscape. I suspect the Republican Establishment already rues the day that they conceived of this "Monster of Irrational Ire" that now threatens to consume our politics in vitriol and mindless scapegoating of anyone who does not share their core beliefs.
The only question is who they hate the the most: Obama? Muslims? Blacks? Gays? Hispanics? Liberals? "Big Guvment" and its bureaucrats? Teachers? Scientists? The Republican Establishment? All of the above?
We are now far outside the bounds of any political movement this country has seen since the Know-Nothing Party
of the 1850's or the apex of the Klu Klux Klan's influence and power
in the 1920's. Those groups arose by appealing to racist and anti-immigrant sentiments and they are the only comparable movements to which I can compare the modern day Tea Party movement.
For at its heart, the Tea Party feeds on the anger and blind rage of its self-identified members against anyone who is not
like them. The beliefs they hold are often inconsistent and contradictory, but the hate they share for "people not like me" is what binds the movement together.
And hate is never a good basis for a political movement in any country. Hate defies reason and rejects the legitimacy of those who are despised and thus designated the enemy. For that is what hatred brings to the table: one's political opponents are not merely wrong they are evil. They are conspiring to do you and your family and friends harm. Hate thus justifies any tactic, any strategy, any rhetoric and any action which harms one's enemies. Hate ignores the rule of law and respect for the dignity of other human beings. Hate is literally blinding.
Hate after 9/11 led many during the Bush era to approve of torture and violations of our Constitutional rights. And today that same hatred feeds the growth and influence of the amoeba like Tea Party Movement.
In hard times radical movements thrive and may even gain control of entire nations. It happened in Russia in 1917, in Italy in the twenties, Germany and Spain in the thirties, China and Argentina in the late forties. It appears to be happening in America today. The only questions are how far will the "Tea Party" go, how much impact it will have on our politics and whether it is the precursor to something even worse in our future?
The Tea Party is the most radical major political movement I have seen in my lifetime. Considering the times in which we live and the economic condition in which we find ourselves, we ignore it and its extremist message of unmitigated rage against a rational and reasoned political discourse at our peril.