For over 10 years, since the Republicans issued their Contract On America, we the people have been deluged with radical rightist rhetoric. They seemed to hit their stride during President Clinton's sex scandal, when philanderers and home-wreckers with at-best-questionable family histories themselves, started letting the spittle fly in supposedly sincere outrage over the president's own lapses. When the mainstream press enthusiastically fell into stride, the GOP leaders realized their time had come. Taking a page from propagandists of history, they pushed more and more outrageous claims, and the press reported them as facts.
When President Bush the lesser came into office, well, then the GOP machine, now driven with cold calculation by Karl Rove, really began to let the outrage fly. Distributing "anger points" (which the media more politely call "talking points") through their entitled networks, they worked the outrage game with more and more enthusiasm and venom.
And still the press played along, perhaps to the greatest consequence during the run-up to the Iraq war. Administration statements were reported as fact. GOP press releases were treated as evidence. The Republican leaders realized there was no refereeing of their game.
And we quickly reached the point where any criticism of Bush or his policies was labeled as anti-patriotic, if not outright traitorous.
The Democratic leaders noticed this, and played along, endorsing the war on Iraq with enthusiasm and as much would-be heroic posturing as the Republicans demonstrated.
Meanwhile, the GOP outrage machine built up steam, pushing outrage after outrage, tossing out lies as facts, building their own bubble of alternate reality. Fudging intelligence to fit war intentions, altering scientific studies to fit economic ambitions, painting a picture of lies making John Kerry, the decorated war veteran, into a lying coward and George W Bush, the draft-dodging partying trust-fund baby, into a war hero, gay couples destroying heterosexual couples' "sanctity," creationism as "scientifically proven," birth control causing pregnancy ... lies became truth, if you shouted it loud enough.
Maybe we caught a whiff of what was coming in the Terri Schiavo case. Never before did we see so much self-righteous posing at such high decibels. "Doctor" Bill Frist diagnosed her condition after watching a videotape, Tom DeLay advocated violence against judges, and when people didn't go along with it, they shouted louder and louder -- which has always worked in the past.
They were hurt by that, but it did not humble them. Since then they've kept up the outrageous claims and announced offensive policy objectives, one after the other, peppering us with a multi-front assault of "the conservative agenda."
And we ordinary citizens started to burn out.
It's hard to keep your energy up when the relentless outrage machine of Rove & Co. keeps assaulting you. How do you face it every day, when there's always something new? Tax cuts for the super-rich, dismantling Social Security, eliminating the founding American principle of bankruptcy protection.... When people like this are running the government, how does one hold out hope?
Katrina gets no respect
In a grand and vivid illustration of how context can change everything, suddenly we see the GOP political tactics for what they are. The outrage rhetoric doesn't work any more. The macho posing doesn't work any more. The hate card doesn't work any more.
Yes, people are burned out. But now it's not just progressives and liberals -- it's everyone. Bush's poll numbers are crashing, and the Republican leaders in Congress seem intent on digging holes for themselves, too.
Dennis Hastert says New Orleans isn't worth saving.
Rick Santorum says those who were stranded should be prosecuted for being left behind.
Richard Baker says Katrina "cleaned up public housing."
And when people called the Administration folks to task for falling down on the job, disrupting real rescue efforts for photo ops, lying about it, and demonstrating an overall callous and uncaring attitude, the GOP started up a new meme: "The blame game." What's transparent to most Americans now is that the Republicans' "blame game" game is really just away to avoid responsibility.
Now just about everybody is burned out on the Republican rhetoric of hate and complaint. Their gambit is failing. But they don't seem to realize it.
The political climate has changed. No longer does it make sense to have people running the government when they don't believe in government. No longer does it make sense to play sycophant to incompetence, insider politics, and indifference to the plight of ordinary Americans.