I know this will be heresy to many Republicans, but it’s time — long overdue, in fact — for the GOP to abandon Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment.
“Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” Reagan wrote. “It’s a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.”
But that was in a different time, a different era.
These days, there are so many outright, full-bore crazies in the conservative movement that Republican leaders need to do some serious trash talking.
Even more, they need to do some gate-keeping.
How bad is it? After Tuesday’s election, long-time Republican front-man Ted Nugent dispatched a series of tweets calling American voters “soulless fools.”
“What subhuman varmint believes others must pay for their obesity booze cellphones birthcontrol abortions & lives?” Nugent asked.
Donald Trump, meanwhile — one of Mitt Romney’s most visible surrogates during the election — called for “revolution” as the results were coming in.
“We can’t let this happen,” Trump insisted. “We should march on Washington and stop this travesty.”
And then there was Bill O’Reilly, blaming the outcome of the election on brown-skinned people who “want stuff.”
“It’s a changing country,” O’Reilly said, his voice breaking. “It’s not a traditional country any more.” He went on to clarify that “the white establishment is now the minority.”
And then there was popular conservative talk radio host Neil Boortz, who responded angrily to the idea of congratulating President Obama on his victory.
“I would like to congratulate Ted Bundy on sneaking into yet another sorority house and killing another coed. I would like to congratulate Adolf Hitler on his invasion of Poland. I would like to congratulate the — Al Qaeda for their successful attack on New York City. I would like to congratulate the Ansar al-Sharia crowd over there in Benghazi for their successful assault on our consulate. Congratulate Barack Obama? I’m sorry.”
This stuff isn’t “conservative” and it’s not “principled” and it’s not the “real” America. It is, to bend a phrase, crazier than an outhouse rat. It’s bonkers.
When you have top-tier Republican candidates talking about “legitimate” rape and pregnancies resulting from rape being “God’s will,” it’s vicious and it’s unhinged.
When you have leading Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain calling for construction of a fence along the Mexican border that is “electrified, with a sign on the other side that says it can kill you” it’s ugly and nuts.
When you have top conservative voices calling the President of the United States “a retard” (Ann Coulter) or “Barack the Magic Negro” (Rush Limbaugh), it’s grotesque and lunatic.
When conservative allies blame hurricanes on gay people or earthquakes on abortion, they aren’t devout or fundamental or churched. They are creepy and weird.
So here’s the 12th commandment for the Republican Party. If you say crazy things — about “diseased” immigrants, say, or about women advocating for contraception being “sluts” — you are out.
O-U-T. Persona non grata. Done. Finished. If you babble on about the President’s birth certificate, or his secret Muslim faith, you are banished.
The GOP has a steep enough hill to climb, rebuilding its damaged brand, without being hoisted again and again on the petard of the lunatic fringe.
Taking this kind of hard-line on nuttery will be frightening for party leaders because they’ve let so many kooks into the big tent.
It’s also true, as David Frumm has pointed out, that a lot of carnival barkers are making kajillions of dollars by co-opting the Republican brand, joining what he calls the “conservative entertainment complex.”
It’s good business — damn good business — for Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Michael Savage to bounce off the walls and tell people to go out and buy gold and survival kits in advance of the coming apocalypse.
But it’s not good for the Republican Party. Not by a country mile.
So where does the GOP start? How about saying good-bye to Trump? Or Nugent? Surely, the GOP is capable of that kind of baby step toward sanity and self-policing.
If not, then we will certainly continue to see legitimate conservative causes — and smart, sane conservative voices — eclipsed and deligitimised by the kind of people you wouldn’t trust to baby-sit your dog, let alone run your country.