It has been a remarkable summer. Marriage equality was made the law of the land, healthcare reform was upheld for the 800th time, the Confederate flag came down and Donald Trump become a frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary.
What makes that last one so great? Because it epitomizes the far-right’s slide from America’s cultural mainstream.
Once nothing more than clans of angry white people who believe the president is a Kenyan Muslim, the scraggly remains of the tea party has morphed into a counter cultural movement that continues to tack toward a distant political horizon.
In one week, Trump stood by his comments that Mexicans are “rapists,” 20 conservatives in the South Carolina House voted to keep the Confederate flag even after a Senate colleague died in a racially motivated mass murder, and Mike Huckabee vowed to throw a blood-curdling man-tantrum unless marriage equality is invalidated.
Not only has the hard right been on the losing side of every major political issue this summer, it’s firmly placed itself on the wrong side of the American consciousness.
You know? The red, white and blue consciousness that understands the Confederate flag represents slavery, marriage equality is perfectly fine, calling an entire nationality of people “rapists” is wrong, the earth is 4.6 billion years old, evolution is real, global warming is caused by man, taxes are a necessary part of a sophisticated society, the president was born in Hawaii, Fox News isn’t news, public land is a good thing and poor people shouldn’t be vilified.
Instead, the far right has pitched its tent on an untenable piece of land that’s eroding from under its feet.
But it’s not just the arcane beliefs. It’s also the inability to govern. From government shutdowns to attempts to defund the Department of Homeland Security, the far right’s inability to govern has trickled down from Congress to the Gem State. Last legislative session, Idaho House members passed a bill urging the impeachment of judges before killing a child support bill on the fears of Sharia law or big government or whatever the hell their argument eventually became.
Fortunately, there are enough pragmatic conservatives in the state to prevent us from using “freedom” and “liberty” as covering fire for bad governance.
For instance, when our roads and bridges needed funding, pragmatic conservatives voted to increase gas taxes. They realized the price of road repairs was only going to go up, and the less we pay for now, the more expensive the fix will be later.
To the far right, it was a massive breach in the fortress of “liberty.” Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, lamented the new taxes. He said instead of raising taxes, lawmakers could have funded roads and bridges if they only slashed budgets in years past. It’s the Marty McFly School of public policy – the one that requires a time machine.
Reenter Donald Trump. Having him in the GOP primary is like having Elmer’s Glue sponsor the Kentucky Derby. It won’t ruin the brand, but we’ll never forget it.
Americans will never forget that the people in 2015 who call Mexicans “rapists,” who call gays “sinners,” and who claim the Confederate flag is a “symbol of heritage” all hail from one political persuasion – a persuasion that slips further from the American mainstream.
Meanwhile, the country moves forward on a quest for fairness, equity and respect. That figure in the rear view mirror is the far right. It’s getting smaller and smaller by the day.