At The American Prospect, Paul Waldman addresses a question one hears with increasing frequency these days, “Are Conservatives Getting Crazier?” Waldman quotes from Rick Perlstein’s Rolling Stone article on the topic that, “What’s changed is that loony conservatives are now the Republican mainstream, the dominant force in the GOP,” and adds:
You can still make the case that conservatives are crazier now, because the key factor isn’t the craziness of the craziest idea circulating among them–say, that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and successfully engineered a massive conspiracy to cover it up, as opposed to the idea that Dwight Eisenhower was a communist agent–it’s how widely those ideas are held, and by whom. The conspiracy theories and hate-driven beliefs find purchase not just on the fringe, but among elected lawmakers, influential media figures, and in many cases, a majority of Republican voters.
…Many conservatives never stopped believing that women who make their own sexual decisions are dirty sluts, but since so many Republicans won office in 2010, that belief translated into a torrent of legislation. In 2011, a record 92 pieces of state legislation restricting abortion rights were enacted, along with measures to restrict access to contraception and renew the failure that is abstinence-only sex education…in the Republican party of today, looniness practically operates on a ratchet, moving only in one direction…There are almost no moderates left in the party to push back.
Waldman is skeptical that even a humiliating defeat for the right in November will lead to the restoration of sanity and moderation in the GOP. “…Who is going to successfully argue that the party needs to turn its back on its nuttiest elements? All the moderates who have retired in disgust or been purged in primaries? They’re gone, and the Republicans who are left couldn’t care less what they have to say.”
When it comes to deciding whether the GOP has finally had its fill of self-destructive lunacy, the only prudent response is to spread your bets.