How The Right Shoots Down Political Discourse

Guns — their presence, and all it portends — are increasingly invading every corner of our every day lives. They have morphed into a form of symbolic speech that threatens to shoot down our political discourse.

It seemed almost too good to be true, when the National Rifle Association issued a press release criticizing the recent antics of “open carry” activists.  It was too good to be true. The NRA quickly reversed itself, and apologized.

“Open carry” activists are gun owners who insist upon the right to openly carry their firearms, everywhere. Open carry protests at restaurants like Chipotle, Sonic, Starbucks, and Chili’s have led those chains to prohibit firearms in their restaurants. Polling places may be next.

The NRA’s first press release was a reaction to alarming behavior by open carry activists:

The open carry movement dates back as far as 1967, when armed members of the Black Panther Party marched on the California State capitol in opposition to a law against carrying loaded firearms in public. The movement died down until  2000, when members of the New Black Panther party joined other groups in protesting the death sentence conviction of Gary Graham by openly carrying shotguns and rifles at the Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas.

In 2008, the open carry movement experienced a revival, and a transformation in look and tone, with Barack Obama election to the presidency. Patrick Blanchfield, writing in the New York Times, notes that guns have increasingly appeared in the public square since Obama’s 2008 election victory. Open carry activists began showing up at Obama’s campaign events, and later at events where President Obama was appearing or speaking, openly displaying handguns and assault weapons.

Guns carried at political rallies and open carry protests have morphed into a  kind of “symbolic speech” recognized by courts as protected by the First Amendment. Distressing, and outrageous speech — even calls to overthrow the government — is protected, unless intended to provoke illegal acts.

"We Came Unarmed (This Time)"?Injecting guns into our political discourse not only pits the First Amendment against the Second Amendment, but also transforms the nature of protest. The courage of one’s convictions is no longer enough. “The physical bravery to face down men with guns,” while armed with nothing more that your ideas, is now also necessary. This is how the right shoots down political discourse.

What guns “say, as symbolic speech, has everything to do with who wields them. Republicans are twice as likely to own a gun as Democrats. White Americans are twice as likely to own a gun as people of color. Southerners are 50 percent more likely to own guns, than anyone else. Half of men are gun owners, compared to 13 percent of women.  David Frum wrote, “[T]he core gun constituency looks a lot like the Tea Party on the firing range.” The same is true of the open carry protests.

Open carry protestors, the gun-toting “militia” on Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch, and conservative politicians brandishing guns and threatening a “Second Amendment solution,” are part of a trend of increasing willingness on the right to use implicit and explicit  threats of violence to intimidate opposition, and impose a political agenda that has proven unattainable at the ballot box. In each case, Blanchfield writes, the message is the same: “I feel so strongly about this issue, the gun says, that if I don’t get my way, I am willing to kill for it.”

Right-wing author and pundit Ann Coulter once wrote that conservatives need to “physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too.” In an era when mass shootings are so common that pundits tell us we just need to accept that “there will always be mass murder,” and almost all public spaces — schools, offices, shopping malls, restaurants, bars movie theaters, churches, and polling places — are potential shooting galleries, is it just a matter of time before what was once just right-wing eliminationist rhetoric becomes reality?

Wingnut Week In Review: It Couldn’t Happen To A Nicer Guy

This week saw a number of right-wingers being pulled up short, one way or another, including some of the biggest names in wingnuttia. For each wingnut up to his tinfoil hat in trouble of his own making, I can only say, “It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.” 

It’s hard to come up with a bigger name in wingnuttia than Dinesh D’Souza. This conveniently swarthy aider and abettor of the American aristocracy’s persecution complex, has been riding the right wing gravy train since the 1990s, after cutting his fangs at Dartmouth during the Reagan era (along with fellow right-wing ranter, Laura Ingraham). D’Souza’s career started with his founding of the right leaning Dartmouth Review, which created controversy — and perhaps launched D’Souza’s star — when it printed a passage from Mein Kampf under its masthead. On Yom Kippur, no less. 

Since then, D’Souza’s published more than a dozen books, and branched out into documentary filmmaking. Upon the election of Barack Obama, D’Souza morphed into the right’s melanin-enhanced spokesman for the “end of racism.” His greatest hits include moralizing against same-sex marriage (while violating his own marriage vows), suggesting that Muslim extremists might stop hating America for “our excesses” and our “gross depravity and immorality” if we became more like them, and inspiring Newt Gingrich to call President Obama a “Kenyan anti-colonialist.”

The next phase of his career may be different, now that D’Souza has pleaded guilty to campaign finance law violations — having failed to get the charges against him dismissed. The charges involve D’Souza using “straw donors” in 2012 to give contribute more money than legally allowed to Dartmouth pal Wendy Long’s US Senate campaign. D’Souza had two friends give $10,000 to Long’s campaign, with the understanding that he would pay them back. Long lost, anyway.

Not one to go down with dignity, D’Souza tried to “exploit” his criticism of Obama in order wriggle off the hook. D’Souza’s producer, Gerald Molen said D’Souza was being targeted by an Obama administration that wants to “lock up” opponents. Fortunately, the judge wasn’t buying it.

In his plea, D’Souza admitted that he knowingly broke the law

“I knew that causing a campaign contribution to be made in the name of another was wrong and something the law forbids. I deeply regret my conduct,” he said today.

D’Souza could face jail time. As a part of his plea, D’Souza agreed not to contest any prison sentence between 10 and 16 months, but could face up to two years. Like I said, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Here’s the rest of the best of worst in wingnuttia this week:

[fve]http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLV1nLI6ql05zSiE5msWvP4s3YBI1BDFe7[/fve]

Why The Lawlessness At Bundy’s Ranch Must Not Stand

Right-wing lawlessness continues apace at Cliven Bundy’s ranch, where supporters who were itching to shoot police officers and federal agents, nearly shot each other instead. Some citizens want the “militia” out. Can this thing end without bloodshed?

Standoff At The Ranch

It was inevitable that the “militiamen” who flocked to Cliven Bundy’s ranch would turn their guns on each other. It’s poetic that the people who rushed to defend Bundy’s mythological “ancestral rights” to flout federal law, would draw guns against one another over their own delusions.

Last week, the Oath Keepers circulated a rumor that the Obama administration had planned “drone strikes” against Bundy and his supporters. Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes advised his people to pull out. (The Oath Keepers later claimed the rumor was government “psy-ops” against Bundy’s supporters.)

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, this angered members of Mike Vanderbough’s so-called “III Percent Militia,” who voted to oust the Oath Keepers. Some even threatened to shoot Rhodes and his men in the back, as “deserters.”

Rhodes responded with a video in which he described an encampment of hot-headed “nut cases,” standing with weapons drawn, ready to kill each other.

Denied the Waco-like or Ruby Ridge-style incident they desired, Bundy’s backers seem to need to point their guns at someone.

Showdown With The Sherrif

In mid-April, Clark County Sheriff David Gillespie rode out to Cliven Bundy’s ranch, to tell Bundy about the deal with the Bureau of Land Management to suspend the roundup of Bundy’s cattle. Bundy would only speak with the sheriff on a stage surrounded by his armed supporters, whereupon Bundy started giving the sheriff orders to disarm federal park service officers, bulldoze entrances to federal parks, and “report back here in an hour,” with the arms Bundy ordered seized.

Thirty to forty police officers arrayed between BLM agents and 400 “militiamen” armed with AK-47s and AR-15s feared a bloodbath. Some “militia” members pointed their guns at officers, and seemed to want a violent outcome. One officer said a “militia” member asked him if he was “ready to die.”

8 News NOW

Armed “militiamen” also blocked local media 8 News NOW’s access to public roads. Some even poured lighter fluid around the Channel 8 news van, while others “got physical.” Bundy supporters have also posted photos and identifying information about BLM employees involved in the roundup on various social network pages.

Capitol Police  are investigating death threats against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has been sharply critical of Bundy and his supporters. Reid recently increased his security detail, after receiving death threats at his home from Bundy supporters — probably driven in part by a conspiracy theory that Reid engineered the fight with Bundy in order to “take people’s land in his state so he can re-sell it to the Chinese.”

Vanderboegh threatened Reid at a rally, saying, “Don’t poke the wolverine with a sharp stick, Harry, unless you want your balls ripped off.”

Lawlessness Must Not Stand

In a letter to Sheriff Gillespie, Rep. Steve Horsford wrote that Bundy’s supporters have assumed police powers and authority. Armed  “militia” members have set up checkpoints, requiring motorists to “prove they live in the area before being allowed to pass,” and established a “persistent presence” around highways, local schools, and churches.  Horsford wrote the letter after at an event near Mesquite, where he was approached by constituents who were concerned about the presence and activities of Bundy’s armed “militia.”

Ammon Bundy, Cliven’s son, denied that “militiamen” who accompany his father to news conferences and guard the family home have established an intimidating presence. “They have sidearms,” Ammon Bundy said, “not rifles.” Sidearms are still guns, though, and they make a statement.

Patrick Blanchfield, writing in the New York Times, interprets what the guns at Bundy’s ranch — and guns that have appeared more and more often in the public square — are saying. They may be “a vestige of Old West range-war mentality.” “But,” Blanchfield writes, “as a transaction between the state and citizens decided not by the rule of law, nor by vote or debate, but rather by the simple presence of arms, Bunkerville is deeply troubling.”

William Rivers Pitt is blunt: “…and note you well: here in America, you can point a high-powered rifle at federal officers and get off scot-free with your gun still in your hand.”

BLM agents had good reason not to give Bundy’s supporters the violent confrontation they wanted. The consequences could have been far worse than allowing them a momentary, symbolic victory.

Bundy and his supporters are part of the sovereign citizen movement, which believes the US government is illegitimate, that they are “free of legal constraints,” JJ MacNab, in Forbes magazine writes that “sovereigns” like Bundy and his supporters believe that the majority of Americans agree with their goals and objectives, and all that’s needed is a “shot heard round world” to rally Americans to their cause. They believe this fervently enough that they put women and children on the front line at Bundy’s ranch.

Bundy ally and former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack even suggested that the “shock value” of women and children being shot by “rogue federal officers” might lead more outraged Americans to join their cause.

The BLM’s decision to stand down probably saved dozens of lives, along with denying Bundy and his supporters greater media attention and a platform of martyrs to stand upon. But Clark County police say it’s not over.

8 News NOW

Nor should it be over. The lawlessness on display at Bundy’s ranch must not stand. The consequences are too great. The rule of law is essential ingredient of democracy. Without it, we risk devolving from “a government of laws, not men,” to government by the men with the most guns.

Bundy’s “Militia” Is Lawlessness of a Different Color

At what point do armed citizens consider themselves the law, based on little more than their numbers and their guns? The latest news from Bundy Ranch, raises this and many other questions.

The Bureau of Land Management called an end to its gather of Cliven Bundy’s cattle. Even though the agency was well within its rights to take action — considering that Bundy owes more than $1million in unpaid grazing fees, and the courts have repeatedly ruled against him for 20 years — it stood down after well-armed, self-appointed “militias” rush to defend Bundy’s freeloading, rather than give right right-wing another Waco or Ruby Ridge myth to rally around. 

The BLM is gone, now, but the militia is still hanging around and beginning to show its dark side. With nothing better to do, Bundy’s “militia” is reportedly setting up “checkpoints” and requiring locals to show proof of residence before being allowed to pass. In a letter to Clark County Sheriff David Gillespie, Rep. Steve Horsford (D, Nevada) describe the checkpoints and other intimidating behavior. 

My constituents have expressed concern that members of these armed militia groups:

1. Have set up checkpoints where residents are required to prove they live in the area before being allowed to pass;

2. Have established a persistent presence along federal highways and state and county roads; and

3. Have established an armed presence in or around community areas including local churches, school, and other community locations.

Horsord writes that his constituents have been forced to “live under the persistent watch of an armed militia,” that answers to no particular authority other than its own, and is accountable to no one. 

Let’s be clear. There is nothing that gives any of the so-called “militia” members the right to stop anyone and demand anything, let alone to establish armed patrols in the community. What’s happening around Bundy Ranch now is outright intimidation. 

Gun Bullying

The phrase used to describe it lately is, “gun bullying,” and it rose in the wake of anti-gun protest following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. It happens when gun-toting protestors flout open-carry laws at counter-demonstrations, to intimidate anti-gun protesters. It happened in Dallas, Texas, when 40 armed gun advocates gathered outside a restaurant where they knew Moms Demand Action For Gun Safety In America (MDA) was meeting, started getting guns out of their trucks, and waited for the group members to come out. MDA later issued a press release calling the group “gun bullies.” 

But the phenomena takes on an even more sinister tone when self-appointed “militias” used a show of arms to intimidate opponents, and the threat of violence to affect policy making and law enforcement. That’s what happened in GIlberton, Pennsylvania, where embattled police chief Mark Kessler — who was running for sherif — was put on suspension after disturbing videos surfaced of him shooting automatic assault rifles while ranting against “libtards” and other perceived political enemies, as well as videos of Kessler in uniform, repeatedly shooting at a target he called “Nancy Pelosi.”

Kessler also happened be the head of a private “militia” called the Constitutional Security Force (CSF). When the city/county council met to consider disciplinary action against Kessler, more than 100 armed members of his personal “militia” gathered outside the meeting. Some CFS “militia” members patrolled the meeting area, telling the media they were there to provide extra “security.” They also angrily confronted a member of Keystone Progress, who brought petition signatures from more than 20,000 who wanted Kessler fired. Rather than fire Kessler, the council decided to suspend him for 30 days without pay.

What’s unfolding in Nevada hasn’t become quite as extreme, yet. But give it time. 

Lawlessness of a Different Color

Let’s be clear. Clive Bundy is a criminal. After losing in court for over 20 years, Bundy employed the threat of violence to continue illegally grazing his cattle without paying the grazing fee that other ranchers pay. A simple review of county records proves Bundy’s claims on the land are  bogus. Whipped into a frenzy by Fox News, Bundy now has an armed “militia” supporting him in flouting the law.

If Bundy and his supporters were black or Latino, and wore hoodies instead of cowboy hands, they wouldn’t be called a “militia.” They would be called a gang of armed “thugs.” Instead of hailing them as heroic patriots, the talking heads at Fox News would be calling for them to be arrested, if not shot on sight. 

History bears this out. In May of 1967, Black Panthers invaded the California statehouse. Thirty well-armed young black men and women arrived on the west lawn of the state capitol, and climbed the capitol steps. Bobby Seal read a prepared statement:

“The American people in general and the black people in particular,” he announced, must take careful note of the racist California legislature aimed at keeping the black people disarmed and powerless Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated, and everything else to get the racist power structure of America to right the wrongs which have historically been perpetuated against black people The time has come for black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late. 

What drove the Black Panthers to the capitol was opposition to gun control.Then governor Ronald Reagan told reporters that afternoon that he “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons,” and called guns “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.”

But that was when the NRA supported gun control, and Republicans were still the “law and order” party.” What’s happening at Bundy Ranch may be lawlessness, but it’s lawlessness of a different color — and that makes all the difference. 

Wingnut Week In Review: When All Else Fails, Go Back To Benghazi

Here’s a basic rule of thumb for wingnut rhetoric. If right-wingers have returned to flogging that dead horse called Benghazi, they’re fresh out of ideas again. This week, wingnuts weren’t just beating a dead horse. They were almost making glue.

Maybe they got the idea from Fox News contributor Alan West, who assured America that the racism of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was indeed terrible, but not as terrible as Benghazi.

It got worse from there, once a White House email that revealed nothing new got things rolling

 That wasn’t quite enough to get everyone aboard. Even Fox News’ Ed Henry admitted that Benghazi “shouldn’t come up every day if there’s not new information.”

Unfortunately that’s not enough to put Henry on the same page as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D, Calif.), who asked the question on everyone else’s mind: “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. Why aren’t we talking about something else?”

Here’s the rest of the best of the worst in wingnuttia this week: 

Wingnut Week in Review: Meanwhile, Back At Bundy Ranch…

This week, they didn’t come any nuttier than Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, and the right-wing pundits and politicians who rushed to support his “range war” against the federal government. Revolution was almost nigh, until Bundy shot off his mouth.

It’s hard to blame right-wingers on this one.

Cliven Bundy spun quite a yarn

It was the perfect story. An aging cowboy stands against government bureaucrats kidnap his cattle and demand he didn’t pay them over $1 million. No wonder wingnuts  stampeded to Bundy’s ranch in Mesquite, Nevada.

Of course, none of it was trueKLAS-TV, the CBS affiliate in Las Vegas, Nevada, did something right wingers didn’t bother to: vet Bundy’s story. There was no lease with the county, going back 130 years. Bundy’s parents bought the land in 1948 — two years after the birth of both Cliven Bundy and the BLM, in 1946 — and didn’t start grazing cattle on the land until 1954.

None of that mattered. Then Bundy, in an interview with New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney, questioned whether African-Americans were “better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy.”

Suddenly, the wheels fell off. Conservatives on Twitter defended Bundy, demanded video proof, and they got it.

He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”Bundy claimed his comments were taken out of context, demanded the Times retract an apparently accurate quote, defended his views in a rambling press conference, and repeated his remarks.

Conservatives scrambled to condemn the man they’d just hailed as a hero.

It wasn’t exactly a shining moment for the right. Not to worry, though. There’s always a black conservative around to set things right. In this case, Alan Keyes told WorldNet Daily that Bundy’s remarks weren’t racist at all and that the real racists were (wait for it) on the left.

Does wingnuttia get better, or worse, than this?

Wingnut Week In Review: Return of the Late Night TV Wars

More than a decade after Leno and Letterman slugged it out to succeed Carson, and four years after the Leno/O’Brien feud, the late night TV wars are back. This time right-wingers are bringing the hostility and hilarity.

Late night television is experiencing a changing of the guards with a host of fresh, new (white, male) faces giving America a few laughs before bedtime. Jimmy Fallon took the helm of “The Tonight Show,” after Jay Leno’s retirement. Seth Meyers left “Saturday Night Live” to fill Fallon’s old spot on “Late Night.”

Everything was humming along nicely, until CBS announced that Stephen Colbert, of “The Colbert Report,” will host “The Late Show” following David Letterman’s retirement. Right-wingers promptly lost their minds.

Rush Limbaugh and Ben Shapiro weren’t the only ones. Naturally, Bill O’Reilly had to weigh in, since Colbert has spent years masterfully skewering O’Reilly’s television persona. True to form, O’Reilly lashed out, calling Colbert an “ideological fanatic” for mocking O’Reilly’s latest ridiculous pontificating on inequality.

Colbert responded with the kind of wit that shows whyhe got the “Late Night” job.

 

Progressives suffered giggling fits in 2006, when Colbert’s performance at the 2006 White House Correspondents dinner left conservatives scratching their heads, because it was clear that conservatives didn’t get the joke — that Colbert’s whole act was a satire of right-wing ideology. A 2011 survey showed that conservatives were more likely to think Colbert only pretended to be joking, and generally meant what he said.

It took them long enough, but right-wingers finally get the joke. Here’s the rest of the best of the worst in wingnuttia this week.

Wingnut Week In Review: The Obamacare Truthers

This was a make or break week for Obamacare, with the enrollment deadline looming and a major goal hanging in the balance. Obamacare made good on the goal of 7 million sign-ups, and broke right-wingers tenuous grip with reality.

There should be a new rule for political debate, along the lines of  Godwin’s Law and its corollaries. It should go something like this: The arrive of “truthers” effectively ends the debate, and the side that resorts to “trutherism” first loses.

Like a puss-filled boil, “truthers” exploded onto the scene in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. United by their rejection of the official version of the attacks, and the belief that 9/11 was an “inside job” covered up by the U.S. government, they were the cultural heirs of previous conspiracy theorists, who believed that the moon landings were filmed on a Hollywood backlot, and that water fluoridation was part of the New World Order’s plan for world domination.

The 9/11 truthers’ movement produced books and movies. The offshoots that grew from its spores include the “citizenship truthers” or “birthers,” and more conspiracy theories concerning Barack Obama than any other human being ever — with the possible exception of Elvis.

Now, finally, the “Obamacare truthers” have arrived. The passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding ACA, and Obama’s 2012 re-election, were bad enough. The news that over seven million Americans had signed up for Obamacare as of this week proved too much for right-wingers. They snapped.

Rather than face the reality of another success for Obamacare, conservatives fled to the warm embrace of unreality. But no one could top Glenn Beck’s full-body freakout, which began with Beck raging against “rat bastards” in the media and ended with a classic Beck meltdown.

http://youtu.be/kmGbR7SK8-Y

Apparently, the 7.1 million people who got covered, along with the 9.5 million already covered through Obamacare, get in the way of Glenn Beck’s pursuit of happiness.

The rest are included in the best of the worst in wingnuttery this week:

Wingnut Week In Review: Obamacare Derangement Syndrome

This week, they didn’t come any nuttier than Americans For Prosperity’s Jennifer Stefano, who clashed with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. There was more than enough good news for Obamacare to drive right-wingers around the bend. Stephano didn’t hold back.

After Hayes’ detailed description of “Obamacare derangement” syndrome, Stefano came out of the gate in full “Gish Gallop,”spewing more inaccuracies than even Hayes could hope to address during the interview. Fortunately, Ari Melber and NOW president  Jennifer O’Neil stepped in to fact check Stefano.

What could have driven Stefano off the deep end?

It’s anybody’s guess, really. Here’s the best of the worst from wingnuttia this week.

The Bully and the Brain: Paul Ryan and Christie Get Earfuls At Town Hall Meetings

It’s been a rough week for two of the GOP’s leading lights. Tumultuous town halls showed that two of conservatism’s biggest stars, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie, may be crashing to earth, and taking the GOP’s 2016 hopes down with them. 

Paul Ryan — “The Brain”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R, WI) has been one of the GOP’s best hopes for the future since he was named as one of Republican party’s “young guns,” along with Reps. Eric Cantor (R, VA) and Kevin McCarthy (R, CA). Together the 40-something “youngsters” represented a new generation of conservative leaders. Cantor was the “leader” of the pack, and McCarthy was the “strategist,” Ryan was cast as the “thinker” — the idea man who would make conservative policies palatable to the general public.

Conservatives saw their ideas ridiculed and rejected as backwards. Ryan made them feel smart. Conservative policies were criticized as heartless and cruel. Ryan gave them a thin veneer of compassion, with a message that conservatives were essentially being “cruel to be kind.”

Ryan was surprisingly successful at selling conservative “ideas,” considering the lack of substance and originality in his work. Ryan’s coronation in no less than the New York Times was a testament to how easily draconian budgets that all but eliminated programs like Social Security and Medicare, raised taxes for the middle-class, and gave even bigger tax breaks to the wealthy could be sold with little more than ill-fitting suits, dazzling blue eyes, and mid-western earnestness. Ryan’s rise culminated with his elevation to the no. 2 spot on the GOP’s 2012 presidential ticket, to shore up Mitt Romney’s conservative credentials. 

This month, Ryan was back in the spotlight with a survey of the war on poverty, that was roundly trashed by the very scholars whose work Ryan manipulated to make his point. In his speech at CPAC, Ryan used a bogus story about a schoolboy to suggest that low-income parents don’t care about their children.  Finally, last week Ryan made news again on Bill Bennett’s radio show, and tooted his dog whistle about “inner city culture” and poverty. Ryan even cited conservative researcher who claimed that blacks and Latinos have lower IQs than whites.

Naturally, all hell broke lose, and Ryan’s attempts to walk back his remarks didn’t fool anyone. 

The controversy followed Ryan back to his home district this week. where constituents at a town hall meeting confronted him on opposition to Obamacare. Things got even more heated when Alfonso Gardner, a black man from Mount Pleasant, blasted Ryan for his “inner city culture” remarks

Ryan repeated his claim that his comments were “not about race,” but Garner remained as unconvinced as everyone else — besides Republicans, that is. 

Chris Christie — “The Bully”

If Paul Ryan represented the “brains” of the conservative movement, then New Jersey governor Chris Christie embodied conservatism’s bullying spirit. Christie’s manner made him the ideal pitchman for the “bully economy” — the “hard sell” flip-side of Ryan’s “soft sell.” Christie’s willingness to use the authority and power of his office to silence, intimidate, and punish those who opposed him, made him the GOP’s celebrity bully, because Christie was not only willing to be a bully, but reveled in it. 

Christie cultivated his bully image. Staff members accompanied the governor to town hall meetings, armed with camcorders to capture Christie  shouting down and belittling citizens who dared criticize him. Christie’s staff then edited the videos, and posted them to Christie’s YouTube channel, and conservatives passed them around like tweens circulating the latest boy band video. At a time when conservatives were out of power, Christie made them feel powerful.  

Scandal continued to plague Christie this week.

  • Recently released emails related to the Bridgegate scandal showed that Christie’s ex-campaign manager Bill Stepien was kept in the loop by Christie’s top Port Authority appointee, even as lanes remained blocked on the George Washington Bridge, making it harder to believe that Christie remained completely out of the loop.
  • Campaign documents show that once elected to his first term as governor, Christie awarded big pension management contracts to his Wall Street donors — after the Christie campaign criticized Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine for making it “easier for his friends from Wall Street to manage New Jersey’s pension fund.” 
  • Complaints over disbursement of Hurricane Sandy relief — including delays, shoddy work from contractors, and shady dealings in how Christie’s administration doles out the funds — grew louder and more numerous. 

Christie got a taste of his own medicine at his most recent town hall

It’s only going to get worse. According to recent Bloomberg News Poll, 63 percent of Americans don’t believe Christie’s Bridgegate denials, and that includes 43 percent of Republicans. 

Christie may soon face the worst moment in any bully’s career — that moment when the people he used to bully aren’t afraid of him anymore, and the people who used to back him up don’t anymore. 

The Future?

With the bully and the brain of the conservative movement in trouble, and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker dealing with his own problems, what does that mean for right-wing hopes in 2016? Let’s put it this way. Republicans are taking a second look at Jeb Bush, Joe Scarborough is testing the waters, Mike Huckabee is slimming down again, and Bobby Jindal is making all the right noises. 

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