Watching our system deal with the debt ceiling crisis — a wholly self-inflicted crisis, which may nonetheless have disastrous consequences — it’s increasingly obvious that what we’re looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.
And no, I don’t mean the fanaticism of the right. Well, OK, that too. But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.
No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.
Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.
So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.
The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Once again, health reform — his only major change to government — was modeled on Republican plans, indeed plans coming from the Heritage Foundation. And everything else — including the wrongheaded emphasis on austerity in the face of high unemployment — is according to the conservative playbook.
What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.
I’d agree with much of this, but I think it lets the other cult, the Tea Party wing of the GOP, off the hook. And make no bones about it, they are a cargo cult. Their entire belief structure seems designed to reject and deny empiricism and reality. Think about it:
Cutting taxes always increases revenue.
Government should stay out of medicare.
The heat index is a government scam.
The earth is 6000 years old.
ACORN and the New Black Panther Party are the biggest threat to America.
The Democrats are always wrong.
There is no recession.
There need be no regulations
Business is always right.
And on and on and on. Look at the conditions present in cults:
Studies performed by those who believe that some religious groups do practice mind control have identified a number of key steps in coercive persuasion:
People are put in physical or emotionally distressing situations;
Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized;
They receive unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group;
They get a new identity based on the group;
They are subject to entrapment (isolation from friends, relatives and the mainstream culture) and their access to information is severely controlled.
Tell me that does not describe your average wingnut. Democrats and Obama are to blame for everything, unfettered fluffing from Rush Limbaugh and Palin, sole identity as a tea partier/conservative, all news from wingnut sources (the various right-wing media, Fox, etc.). It’s right there in front of you. Make the connection. Any deviation from the cult’s beliefs leads to extreme pressure from the other members, or being thrown out of the group.
And the crazy thing is, both cults need each other to survive. In order for there to be Krugthulu’s cult of the center, you have to completely ignore the our modern day cargo cult, throw up your hands, and say “Both sides are bad” and then get pissed off about Cynthia McKinney or something Jesse Jackson did 20 years ago. It’s just crazy.