“The Seeds of Sin Which Are in Them…”

I think it’s fascinating to follow the GOP debates. Romney, of course, is having trouble separating himself from the fact that he created “Obamacare” in Massachusetts, and Perry has voiced his support for in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants. Quoth Perry, to much heat:

“[I]f you say that we should not educate children who come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart.”

Not what people expect from the brand, for sure. It seems clear to me, though, that the pickle in which these top-tier GOP-ers find themselves is, at least in part, a direct result of the party’s habits in modern times. While politicians of all stripes will make selective and convenient use of facts, and will sometimes be caught in outright lies, I feel comfortable saying that some modern Republicans, amplified by Fox News and ancillary (and not-so-ancillary) pundits, have elevated manipulative, unreasonable tactics to a rare art, and at the expense of needed governance.

It’s pretty obvious to me, for example, that the GOP has fewer good ideas for saving the economy, or reforming health care, or building a sustainable energy plan than they have clever ways to make Obama look bad. (But perhaps, we’ve all become a bit numb to the egregiousness of the tactic as a result of its continual use.) Meanwhile the party has tended to demand a stringent kind of ideological purity, with the apparent justification that all the answers are known, and Republican, and that deviation from the party line not merely undesirable, but is actually sort of contamination begging serious intervention (including the new tonic, of booing).

All that can be very powerful — until you want to do something nuanced. As, it turns out, both Romney and Perry do — because, as it turns out, Truth is not purely Republican, the Democrats are not the Anti-Truth, and there is produce to be got from a vigorous dialectic between differing views. But Romney and Perry have to contend with the base their party has created, a group which has been trained to expect homogeny and also, after years of propaganda and manipulation, seems to have been filtered to a higher than average concentration of people deficient in critical thinking skills.

The backfire, and the irony, is that it’s exactly this rabble has been invited into the conversation, deliberately, by all the propaganda and manipulation. Seems to me that this is the lesson the GOP now stands to learn from its Tea Party faction in Congress, too. In fact, the Tea Party seems to be a way to reflect the GOP back to itself, to show the party what it’s been like for anyone who disagrees with them to try to work with them over the past decade or more.

I have to say find it darkly satisfying to finally see the long-standing habit of manipulation — which, in its recent extreme, I consider a clear moral wrong — can sow its own demise. Many of the problems that are keeping the GOP from identifying a single, shining champion are a direct result of the its own habitual bad choices.

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