36 Years Down the Republican Rabbit Hole
In "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," Lewis Carroll tells the story of Alice, a more-or-less average curious, rational child, who, on a dreamy summer day, chases a waistcoat-wearing white rabbit down a rabbit hole into a bizarre land. In this, and in a later book ("Through the Looking-Glass"), we find many strange characters producing many puzzling and irrational quotes. For instance, we have the giant talking egg, Humpty Dumpty:
When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master—that's all.'
And we have the Queen of Hearts, who is quite quick to propose simple, brutal solutions:
[The King] called the Queen, who was passing at the moment, 'My dear! I wish you would have this cat removed!'
The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said, without even looking round.
... and, when the Dormouse spoke out of turn in court:
'Collar that Dormouse,' the Queen shrieked out. 'Behead that Dormouse! Turn that Dormouse out of court! Suppress him! Pinch him! Off with his whiskers!'
An observer of American politics since 1980 or so, might well picture oneself as, like Alice, having gone down the rabbit-hole to find many strange Republicans, who, like the characters in Wonderland, issue puzzling and irrational quotes. Over the decades, here are just a few of the characters we have met, as we went down, down, down ...
- The Teflon President (President Ronald Reagan), who wanted to roll-back clean air standards:
"Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do." (1981)
- The Doctor of Demagogy (Rush Limbaugh), who for his on-air propaganda work was made an honorary member of the Republican Congressional freshman class of 1994. No unsubstantiated Clinton scandal rumor seemed too vile for the Doctor of Demagogy:
[J]ournalists and others working on or involved in Whitewatergate have been mysteriously beaten and harassed in Little Rock; some have died."
... but he could at times muster sympathy:
I know families that make $180,000 a year and they don’t consider themselves rich. Why, it costs them $20,000 a year to send their kids to school. (Aug. 3, 1993)
... however, on the poverty line:
$14,400 for a family of four. That’s not so bad. (Nov. 9, 1993)
... apparently about food stamps:
We've been beat about the head. There are hungry people everywhere. ... [W]e have responded by letting our government literally feed these people to the point of obesity. ... Didn't teach them how to ... slaughter a cow to get the butter, we gave them the butter. (2006)
- Grover "Nastiness" Norquist, zealous anti-government Republican leader:
Bipartisanship is another name for date rape.
We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals - and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship.
- Darth Vader (Dick Cheney), vice president during the Shrub administration, after the 9-11 terror attacks:
We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. ... A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, ... it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal ... (Sept. 16, 2001)
... and standing firm on the Bushies policy of using torture, but not calling it that:
"I was a big supporter of waterboarding. I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques ... (2010)
- The Unknown Known (Donald Rumsfeld), Shrub's Secretary of Defense, dodging a question about evidence of Iraq trying to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists:
Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. (2002)
... and who, a year later, seemed to relish the coming quick and devastating attack on Iraq as he looked into the TV camera, and with a gleam in his eye spoke three words:
Shock and awe.(2003)
- Shrub (President George W. Bush), who falsely used the 9-11 terror attacks to sell and execute a war against Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the attacks. Later, the Shrub crew staged a grand photo op where Shrub was flown by jet to an aircraft carrier just off shore, and under a big "Mission Accomplished" banner gave a speech, where he, once again, falsely tied Iraq to the 9-11 attacks:
With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States, and war is what they got. (2003)
- A Bushie (member of the Shrub administration), as told by the journalist Ron Suskind:
“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ …
“‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality, judiciously, as you will, we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’” (2004)
- Grampy and Vampy (John McCain and Sarah Palin), the Republican ticket for 2008, who, with the world in the grip of global warming and in dire need of clean energy development, presided over a convention that frequently broke into chants of:
- Caribou Barbie (Sarah Palin), former governor of Alaska, whom an official investigator found in violation of Alaska's Executive Branch Ethics Act, speaking from Opposite Land:
Palin: Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.
Anchorage Daily News: Governor, finding No.1 on the report was that you abused your power by violating state law. Do you think you did anything wrong at all in this Troopergate case?
Palin: Not at all and I’ll tell you, it, I think that you’re always going to ruffle feathers as you do what you believe is in the best interest of the people whom you are serving. … So no, not having done anything wrong, and again very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all.
- Glenn "Lonesome Rhodes" Beck, whose on-air rhetoric likely encouraged a viewer that shot and wounded policemen during a traffic stop, while on his way to the Tides Foundation for a bout of mass murder. The Tides Foundation, which funds projects for "positive social change", had been a recurrent villain in Beck's imagined world of progressive conspiracy against capitalism, and thus against freedom itself:
"The Tides Foundation, they started laying the groundwork on this back during the Reagan administration. They have been assembling an army that we have laughed at and have dismissed as a bunch of community organizers. These people are bullies," Beck said. "These people are thugs." (Aug 12, 2009)
Well, they have the education system. They have the media. They have the capitalist system. What do you think the Tides Foundation was? They infiltrate and they saw under Ronald Reagan that capitalists were not for all of this nonsense, so they infiltrated. Now, they are using failing capitalism to destroy it. (July 13, 2010)
- The Republican Clown Car of 15 or so presidential candidates for 2016, who vied to stand out from the crowd. One way to do this was to be the toughest talking war hawk, as Lindsey Graham demonstrated, after Rand Paul suggested the NSA get a search warrant:
If I'm President of the United States and you're thinkin' about joining al-Qaeda or ISIL — anybody thinkin' about that? — I'm not going to call a judge, I'm going to call a drone and we will kill you.
Now, we have come to yet the deepest reach of the rabbit hole, and find The Donald (Donald Trump), a character bizarre as any, and the Republican candidate for president. Like the Queen of Hearts he is quite quick to propose simple, brutal solutions, and blurts out such sayings as these ...
- about the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who revealed massive illegal spying by the NSA:
“This guy is a bad guy,” Trump said. “You know there is still a thing called execution."
- at one of his rallies:
“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously,” Trump said. “Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.”
- at another of his rallies, about a protester:
I love the old days.You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks," Trump said to cheers. "... Here's a guy, ... nasty as hell, ... and he's walking out ..., like, big high fives, smiling, laughing -- I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you."
- on New Years Day 2015, after the second-warmest year on record:
This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.
- apparently speaking of desperate, thoroughly screened war refugees:
This is a war against people that are vicious, violent people, that we have no idea who they are, where they come from. We are allowing tens of thousands of them into our country now."
- on war:
I’ve had a lot of wars of my own. I’m really good at war. I love war, in a certain way, but only when we win.
Alice eventually woke from her dream world to find herself back in the real world. For us, it will not be so easy. We will have to work to defeat such bizarre characters at the water cooler, in the public forums and at the ballot box. And, under the banner of E Pluribus Unum, we must walk on past the rabbit hole and toward a society enabled to all for the pursuit of happiness.