Political Animal


June 14, 2011 4:45 PM We shouldn’t grow inured to madness

By Steve Benen

John Cole shared a great story this afternoon.

[T]oday in my post office box (another government service that I absolutely cherish) there was a piece of mail from the local public service department, where I get my water. It was an annual EPA required report, detailing in clear English, where my water comes from. Half of it is treated surface water from the Ohio River, the rest is from deep wells along the banks of the river. The report outlined backup plans should the Ohio become contaminated (more and more likely as Pennsylvania allows drillers to simply dump whatever the fuck they want in the water), and then went on and provided the annual data on the level of contaminants in my drinking water.

I like this. I think it is valuable for a number of reasons, beyond simply keeping me informed. It also verifies that the folks who provide me my water are keeping an eye on things, and providing a safe, clean product that I and my neighbors can consume. It’s the very model of good government. This is why we band together to form government- to do things that would be impossible to do otherwise.

To Republicans, though, this is an evil thing.

This is important for several reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t want John drinking contaminated water. The first is that reports like the one John receives are a fairly modern development. As Atrios explained, “Water (and air) in much of the country used to be dirty. Really really dirty. A lot of those really dirty waterways are now somewhat less dirty, if not places you want to actually swim in or fish, and a lot more of the places that were somewhat dirty are now places people swim and fish in.”

The EPA, in other words, made things better.

The second is that Republicans are eager, almost desperate, to roll back the clock. Indeed, John’s anecdote comes the day after Michele Bachmann — widely regarded as the “winner” of last night’s debate for Republican presidential candidates — explained her belief that the Environmental Protection Agency shouldn’t exist. That report that John receives about the safety of his water? It apparently shouldn’t exist, either.

E.J. Dionne Jr. added, “It’s a sign of how far to the right the Republican Party has moved that she didn’t stand out for her extreme views. On this stage, suggesting we should just rid ourselves of the Environmental Protection Agency seemed par for the course.”

Some of us have become so accustomed to the radicalism of today’s Republican Party that a candidate can call for the elimination of the EPA, and it seems somehow normal and uninteresting. Too few of us even blink an eye at this garbage anymore.

But being desensitized to madness isn’t healthy. Jacob Weisburg made the case that the GOP field “appears far less outlandish than one might have predicted,” but his standards appear far too generous. As Ed Kilgore responded, “When the political center of a party, or a country, is in the process of shifting, there’s a lot of noise and conflict. When it settles in its new place, however, it gets very quiet. To a very great extent, that’s what has happened in the GOP. It is not a sign of ‘sanity’ or ‘moderation’; simply one of consensus.”

That this consensus leaves us with a radicalized party is a tragedy. That we’re getting used to this radicalism seems nearly as bad.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Chris on June 14, 2011 4:56 PM:

    I can't say whether or not the center of the country is shifting to the right. I hope not.

    But if and to the extent that it is, this is happening as a direct result of a deliberate media strategy.

    For example, this morning, I watched a so-called journalist on CNN interviewed Michelle Bachmann on their "Morning Express" show. He allowed her to repeat her lies with impunity (e.g., "ObamaCare costs the country 800,000 jobs"), and referred to her as one of the foremost Congressional experts in tax policy. This wasn't Fox News; it was CNN.

    The right always has and continues to complain about the "liberal" media. They succeeded in moving the media to the right. When are we going to see some push back from Democratic leaders? When is a Democrat who is sitting in front of David Gregory on MTP, while taping, going to call him on his guest and pundit lineup...with factual support in hand? What about all the other Sunday shows? What about Fox News? When are Democratic leaders and pundits going to give the media hell for allowing lies to be spewed to their viewers?

    Get in front of the camera and shame the Republicans who tell lies, and shame the media who let them! What's the problem?

  • MikeBoyScout on June 14, 2011 5:02 PM:

    For those who don't know, the EPA was established in 1970 under Richard M. Nixon by executive order.
    As you may remember from your history tablets, Richard Nixon was a dictator put in place by the CniComs when they invaded and took over in 1968.

    Subsequently Ronaldus Magnus liberated the USA, but ChiComs have continued to insist on drinkable water for US citizens from their stronghold in the EPA.

  • T2 on June 14, 2011 5:09 PM:

    when the Commanches raided white settlements, they performed horrible mutilations, rapes and tortures. The purpose was to convince the whites to stay out. And whites were horrified at the atrocities. But the whites came anyway, and were soon performing the same atrocities on the Commanches. Because that's the way it worked. The horror had become the normal.

  • phillygirl on June 14, 2011 5:09 PM:

    I searched this post in vain for the word "Democrats." That says something, eh? We wouldn't be collapsing under the rule of complete lunatics if there was anything or anybody to stop them. But there isn't. On the other hand, the Democrats, when last seen, were united and eloquent on one matter: getting rid of one of their own, so that nobody in America would ever again have to see a dick pic. I think when he's gone they can crawl under their desks again.

  • Holmes on June 14, 2011 5:16 PM:

    The Dems very effectively pushed back on the Ryan plan, and had the upper hand. Leadership is trying to force Weiner out because his stupidity has taken the attention away from that debate(a debate they were winning) and allowed the Right to regroup.

  • whichwitch on June 14, 2011 5:21 PM:

    phillygirl - you are on the mark. I haven't seen or heard a Dem make such a ruckus until the Weiner debacle. They are falling all over themselves asking for his resignation, condemnation. Why can't they be so vocal about...hey, running the country before turning it over to the Rep. "new norm"?

  • John DIllinger on June 14, 2011 5:31 PM:

    Bachmann has a few kids of her own plus all those foster kids, so she projects out big time as a grandmother. Someone needs to ask her what price she would pay in number of grandchildren with arms growing out of their heads to get rid of the EPA. 1, 2, or more?

  • walt on June 14, 2011 5:36 PM:

    I tend to be one of those who's cranky about Obama's leadership but I will admit a few qualms. The shift to the right happened because the Democratic Party no longer represents the working class. Thank union-busting, deindustrialization, bad trade treaties, offshoring of jobs, and the breakdown of the post-war consensus on the social contract. The problem, particularly for the proles, is that absent social pressure to vote for labor, they'll vote for "values" instead. And the Republicans have deftly commandeered the "values agenda" for their own Randian ends.

    Those of us here - self-consciously identified lefties - have a difficult task. It's to keep the structure of society intact so the right doesn't simply pillage the weak and defenseless. We're not getting much help from Obama or the "centrists" but we have no choice. If this means voting for Obama again despite his weak leadership, so be it. I'm not sure how the left will rise again but I'm pretty sure it won't happen by playing the it's-all-about-me card. It's about us, and some of us will die prematurely or suffer needlessly if we give into the vanity of despair.

  • phillygirl on June 14, 2011 5:42 PM:

    Holmes, it's true that Dems criticize Repubs from time to time. But why was there a Ryan plan in the first place? Because, and I'm seconding Steve's point here, it is now OK to propose impoverishing old and sick people. Funny how many Dems (item: Gang of Five) are negotiating away their own advantage. We're just lucky that voters, like those in NY-26, tend to reject proposals that are completely insane.

  • c u n d gulag on June 14, 2011 5:56 PM:

    I think today's Republicans took the great Hunter S. Thompson too seriously when he said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

  • DaY on June 14, 2011 7:18 PM:

    The R's don't care, because they all drink bottled water.

    Too bad they don't know that most "bottled water" comes straight out of the municipal tap.

    The nation with most stringent food and drink regulations is Germany.

    Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

  • nk007 on June 14, 2011 7:59 PM:

    You know what sickens me, It's is the constant barrage from so called Democrats against their fellow Democrats! Instead of pinching in and attacking extreme right wing Republicans, all they do is attack Obama and Democrats, non-stop, thereby giving permission to MSM to elevate Republicans.

    I am sorry, but President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Reid and the majority of Democrats in the 110 Congress did more for advancing the progressive agenda than any of their loudmouth critics who mistake bravado for policy! And please don't give the b.s about the bully pulpit. The bully pulpit never produced any meaningful changes. Changes require hard work and compromise, especially when you have a deeply divided country.

  • zandru on June 14, 2011 9:29 PM:

    The EPA

    Okay, while Mr. Benen and the like are gladly receiving their water quality reports, often in booklet form and printed on glossy paper with high production values, other Americans are cursing the waste of gummint resources to print that danged thing which goes directly to the round file, frequently with extreme violence.

    As far as "appreciating" what the EPA is doing for them, that was long lost in the Shamestream Media's constant invocation of how EPA stops new business projects, adds more paperwork, causes them to be fired, prevents them from getting cheap electricity and gasoline, and yada yada.

    Short-sighted? Probably. But lefties ought to recognize this attitude and figure out how to counteract it. Hint: probably best not to start by calling them short-sighted and stupid...

  • Stephen Wend on June 14, 2011 10:12 PM:

    I do not believe the country is genuinely shifting to the right. That perspective or perception is a result of manipulation. The imbroglio over health care reform is an apt illustration. While polling indicated a lack of support for the legislation as a whole, deeper, more targeted polling showed a majority of respondents supported many of the proposed changes. The primary problem is a lack of clear understanding-on many issues-by a significant portion of the electorate. The MSM bears a great deal of responsibility for this. The electorate also bears responsibility for remaining willfully ignorant and apathetic.
    As for radical, never mind dumping the EPA. That's small potatoes compared to Pawlenty-supposedly one of the "adults" running for the Republican nomination-proposing 11 trillion dollars in budget cuts. That is sheer insanity.
    As for Fox, they should have had their license pulled years ago. Commentary is one thing, facilitating the dissemination of false stories, manipulating film stock (palm trees in Wisconsin?)and partisan editing to mislead viewers is quite another. They have violated their duty and responsibility for
    using their broadcasting franchise.
    Walt's comment on giving "into the vanity of despair," should have added giving into the vanity of our personal principles. Eleven years ago, liberals equated Bush and Gore to the tune of some 90,000 votes for Nader in FLA and handed the W.H. to Bush. Walt is correct saying "It's about us," all of us. And yes, "some of us will die prematurely or suffer needlessly" if we do not hold together and vote for the good of the nation as a whole. While the President has disappointed many of us in various ways, he has made substantial progress in staunching some of the damage done. The health care bill was a significant victory for the country.

  • Kathryn on June 15, 2011 9:41 AM:

    Amen, Mr. Wend. Any election of a Republican for president in 2012 will be a disaster for this county. Romney who has held (or pretended to) moderate views in the past has no character and will be easily intimidated by Norquist, DeMint and company. Should they regain the Senate and hold the House, they will make Wisconsin's Walker look moderate.

  • Gov't Mule on June 15, 2011 10:26 AM:

    My wife happens to come from Woburn, Mass. where A Civil Action took place. Her cousin was one of the six kids that got cancer and died from drinking from the polluted town Wells G and H.

    Republicans think the idea that we should prevent our kids from dying in a similar fashion because we demand clean water to drink, to wash with, and to grow the food we eat is somehow not just a bad thing but it is a frontal assault on our "freedom."