After the victories of many of the insurgent
primary candidates she's sponsored, Sarah Palin is off to Iowa today
(Friday) for a high-profile series of political events. Is it possible
she's looking to make a run in 2012? Do birds fly?
Republicans are being fueled by a so-called "enthusiasm gap" but
their biggest worry leading up to the midterms should be the "crackpot
In Delaware, Palin-endorsed tea partier Christine O'Donnell is so far
right she's called "delusional" by Delaware's GOP leader. In Kentucky,
Palin-favored Rand Paul says the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shouldn't
apply to businesses. In Colorado, tea partier Ken Buck talks of getting
rid of the 17th amendment, which provides for the direct election of
senators. In Arizona, Palin-favored Sharon Angle has called for "2nd
Amendment remedies" if Congress doesn't change hands.
Many Americans these days don't like Congress and are cynical about
government. The lousy economy has made almost all incumbents targets of
the public's anger and anxiety.
But if there's one thing Americans like even less it's people
pretending to be legitimate politicians whose views are so far removed
from those of ordinary Americans that they pose a danger to our system
In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, a third of undecided
voters had a negative view of the tea party movement. 13 percent of
those who said they prefer Republicans to win control of Congress this
fall also reported a negative view of the tea-partiers.
The latest CBS poll shows that 40 percent of voters viewed Sarah Palin negatively in August; today, 46 percent do.
When Newt Gingrich, who has all but declared his candidacy for
president in 2012, says President Obama exhibits "Kenyan anti-colonial"
behavior, and that allowing an Islamic center near New York's Ground
Zero is tantamount to permitting Nazi's near the Holocost Museum, he
doesn't sound like an ordinary American. He sounds like a hate-mongering
We're not dealing with "extremism in defense of liberty," as Barry
Goldwater put it in 1964 (and even then, a large majority of Americans
decided against him). We're dealing with extremism that defies the
principles undergirding our Constitution.
Some Democrats think all this is wonderful because it boosts the odds
of Democratic wins, not only in the midterms but also in 2012 when the
Republicans put up Palin, Gingrich, or someone equally bizarre. Even
voters who are are unenthusiastic about Democrats will be motivated to
turn out if they fear that crackpots will otherwise take over our
I'm not as sanguine about what's happening. Political discourse in
America is important. What candidates say can legitimize hateful or
divisive views that would otherwise never see the light of day.
We're in the midst of an ongoing economic emergency that requires
clear thinking, intense work, and practical ideas. It also requires that
we join together rather than be pushed apart. The loonies who are
taking over the GOP pose a real and present danger.