You almost can't blame them for losing it. Conservatives spent three decades building, Bolero-like, towards their denouement: control of both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and the White House. And a permanent Republican majority.
Their efforts climaxed with the presidency of George W. Bush. They lost it all to Barack Obama.
Bush's presidency climaxed on a pile of rubble in New York just after 9/11.
A flood of post-September 11 articles asked how the attacks happened, what we would do next, and why terrorists hate us. One savvy pundit asked, Would America keep its head?
We invaded Iraq on trumped-up intelligence. We conducted illegal surveillance on our own citizens. We imprisoned people without charge, here and abroad. We rendered prisoners for torture and tortured others ourselves in violation of international law. All the while, millions of staunch, law-and-order conservatives supported and defended it, and still do. Vigorously.
Did America keep its head? Uh, no.
But with the election of its first bi-racial president, the electorate threw the movement conservative and neocon bums out. Had America's temporary insanity finally abated? Uh, no. It's worse.
Osama was one thing. But Obama?
People weren't this crazed over Jackie Robinson, were they? Father Coughlin was off the air by then. People's minds were not as marinated in the mind poison the right-wing has pumped out daily for the last twenty years.
Case in point. I once worked in an office where a guy recorded Rush Limbaugh every afternoon. Using a small FM transmitter, he rebroadcast the show the next morning to fellow dittoheads in the building so they would be primed for Limbaugh's live broadcast at noon.
In Appalachia, dentists call it "Mountain Dew mouth." Children carry around the acidic, heavily caffeinated soda, taking a sip every few minutes. It's "like bathing the teeth in it all day," according to one dentist. Children go from decayed to toothless.
Is the mind rot from listening to Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity or Savage every day any different? Or from passing on the sludge from Drudge or WorldNetDaily? Or from reading those chain e-mails forwarded by relatives and friends who spread them like Typhoid Mary? Inhaling mercury vapors might be less harmful.
Conservatives bathed in daily lies -- from WMDs to "death panels" -- have become so comfortable spreading them that they treat it like good, clean fun for the whole family. They spread them dutifully, no matter how extreme or outlandish (assuming they know the difference any longer).
The day of Obama's speech, Crooks and Liars' Dave Neiwert again insisted that "ideas, agendas, talking points, and memes in general regularly [migrate] from the extremist right in America into mainstream conservatism." This week we saw just how far up the infection goes.
Hours before South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson yelled "You lie!" at the president, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appeared on NPR's Morning Edition and rebuffed an invitation to condemn the "death panel" rhetoric. The GOP leadership won't quit the useful idiots who do their dirty work for them.
By Obama's address that evening, "the town hall freak show" had come to a joint session of Congress.
Responding to Birthers, Deathers, and a flood of right-wing paranoia from the likes of Glenn Beck, Open Left's Paul Rosenberg discusses the mental elasticity of linear thinkers like Beck. They build elaborate conspiracies like Frankenstein's monster, linking together random bits of their own chaotic fears. "They are put together, but can't be logically deconstructed," he writes, nor argued with "any more than you can reason with a nightmare."
Responding to his flood of hate mail filled with "spitting, incoherent rage," Paul Krugman commented, "Something is going very wrong in the head of a substantial number of Americans."
The poison has spread to the GOP's very soul.
Cross-posted from Huffington Post.