I only caught the end of the debate, but that was enough. It was enough to remind me that the Republican Party boils down to three things: tax cuts, “What Would Reagan Do?” and violence. For every problem there is a tax cut that will fix it. For every dodged question, the ghost of Reagan looms like a smiling, beneficent prophet. All you need to do is rub his tummy and Republican boilerplate comes dribbling out to fill in whatever gaping crevice is left unfilled by any actual ideas. And when Perry is asked about the two-hundred and thirty some people he’s executed on death row during his governorship, the audience bursts into applause. Torture, war, and death, and this is the “pro-life” party.
I submit to you that this moment is perhaps the most telling since George W. Bush left office; that the modern Republican party is not only intellectually bankrupt, but morally bankrupt as well. The conservative movement and the Fox News and talk radio media empire it has built up around itself is not only ethically decrepit but morally atrophied. As Andrew Sullivan noted, “any crowd that instantly cheers the execution of 234 individuals is a crowd I want to flee, not join. This is the crowd that believes in torture and executions.” Say what you will about Democrats, but no crowd of Democrats would cheer the execution of over two hundred of their fellow citizens, even if stories like that of Cameron Todd Willingham did not further blemish the record.
The evasive, bullshit answers, the invocations of Reagan, the silly attacks on the lack of leadership from president Obama – this is all to be expected. This is the humdrum stuff of political debates. Yes, I get a bit sick to my stomach having to hear first Bachmann, then Santorum, then Romney toss Reagan around like that, twisting his every word and deed to fit the current political climate, but I felt a real chill when I heard that audience applaud. It takes balls to execute an innocent man alright. It takes something anyways. And it takes the same sort of thing to applaud.
USA! USA! USA!