According to almost all prognostications from the political cognoscenti, the 2010 midterm elections are going to be a dismal failure. For Democrats in particular, and progressive causes in general, November 2010 provides an opportunity for outraged Americans to express themselves, throw the bums out, and bring in a new band of "young gun" Republicans ready to lead the nation back to a pathway paved with "common sense" conservative principles. Or not.
The GOP unveiled its "Pledge to America" this week, and, amazingly, it contained not a single new idea or proposal. What it did contain was the same old playbook of conservative fantasies. A world in which tax cuts decrease deficits (for those of you who want to argue this point, I direct you to the CBO and to Alan Greenspan's recent comments on Meet the Press). A world in which making modest cuts to the discretionary budget somehow balances the overall budget with no meaningful changes made to entitlement programs. A world in which every law can be neatly and concisely written, and its legal basis cited in the Constitution (provided you ignore Article I, Section 8, because the elastic clause is clearly for losers and the framers didn't intend for it to mean what it says, even though they wrote it that way). A world in which the wealthy create jobs rather than outsource them, tax cuts for the rich "trickle down" to the rest of us, and emergency room care serves as a wonderful health care system for all. People, we've all lived this GOP dream already: it's a throwback to an era known as the Bush Administration.
Outside of Washington, D.C., conservative candidates and pundits offer similarly unserious contributions to the public discourse. But they go the GOP establishment one better, offering up conspiracy theories and invective in the place of reasonable discourse and solutions. Oh, and they also favor tax cuts for the rich.
First, there are the Obama conspiracies. He wasn't born here, he's a secret Muslim, he wants to redistribute the nation's wealth and turn America into a socialist country. These conspiracies culminate in the bizarre assertion by Newt Gingrich that Obama poses a unique threat to our nation because he is ultimately unknowable, and derives his political positions and philosophies from his dead Kenyan father. What that means, exactly, is anyone's guess, but it certainly sounds ominous.
Then, there are Tea Party darlings Christine O'Donnell, Sharon Angle and Rand Paul. O'Donnell believes scientists have created genetically altered mice with human brains (though she presents no evidence to support this claim). And Angle and Paul are both affiliated with a crackpot physicians' group who believe air pollutants are in the service of public health, abortion causes breast cancer, and Obama is a rogue witchdoctor who used hypnosis to get elected.
My personal favorite among the conspiracy theories is that espoused by Dan Maes, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Colorado. He believes a program encouraging Denver residents to ride bicycles to work is some kind U.N. conspiracy that would force Denver into compliance with climate change goals.
The common thread among all of these Republican fantasies and conspiracy theories is that they create frenzy and fear in the electorate. They gin people up about non-issues, imagined controversies and straight -up fallacies, while the real problems facing us remain unaddressed. The ultimate goal is clear: to distract people from legitimate economic concerns and serious fiscal policy debate with the bread and circuses of fantasies, conspiracy theories and tax cuts for the rich.