Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Pit Bull in the China Shop

Frank Rich
Op-Ed Columnist
The New York Times
November 22, 2009

AT last the American right and left have one issue they unequivocally agree on: You don’t actually have to read Sarah Palin’s book to have an opinion about it. Last Sunday Liz Cheney praised “Going Rogue” as “well-written” on Fox News even though, by her own account, she had sampled only “parts” of it. On Tuesday, Ana Marie Cox, a correspondent for Air America, belittled the book in The Washington Post while confessing that she couldn’t claim to have “completely” read it.

“Going Rogue” will hardly be the first best seller embraced by millions for talismanic rather than literary ends. And I am not recommending that others follow my example and slog through its 400-plus pages, especially since its supposed revelations have been picked through 24/7 for a week. But sometimes I wonder if anyone has read all of what Palin would call the “dang” thing. Some of the book’s most illuminating tics have been mentioned barely — if at all — by either its fans or foes. Palin is far and away the most important brand in American politics after Barack Obama, and attention must be paid. Those who wishfully think her 15 minutes are up are deluding themselves.

The book’s biggest surprise is Palin’s wide-eyed infatuation with show-business celebrities. You get nearly as much face time with Tina Fey and the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in “Going Rogue” as you do with John McCain. We learn how happy Palin was to receive calls from Bono and Warren Beatty “to share ideas and insights.” We wade through star-struck lists of campaign cameos by Robert Duvall, Jon Voight (who “blew us away”), Naomi Judd, Gary Sinise and Kelsey Grammer, among many others. Then there are the acknowledgments at the book’s end, where Palin reveals that her intimacy with media stars is such that she can air-kiss them on a first-name basis, from Greta to Laura to Rush.

Equally revealing is the one boldfaced name conspicuously left unmentioned in the book: Levi Johnston, the father of Palin’s grandchild. Though Palin and McCain milked him for photo ops at the Republican convention, he is persona non grata now that he’s taking off his campaign wardrobe. Is Johnston’s fledgling porn career the problem, or is it his public threats to strip bare Palin family secrets as well? “She knows what I got on her” is how he put it. In Palin’s interview with Oprah last week, it was questioning about Johnston, not Katie Couric, that made her nervous.

The book’s most frequently dropped names, predictably enough, are the Lord and Ronald Reagan (though not necessarily in that order). Easily the most startling passage in “Going Rogue,” running more than two pages, collates extended excerpts from a prayerful letter Palin wrote to mark the birth of Trig, her child with Down syndrome. This missive’s understandable goal was to reassert Palin’s faith and trust in God. But Palin did not write her letter to God; she wrote the letter from God, assuming His role and voice herself and signing it “Trig’s Creator, Your Heavenly Father.” If I may say so — Oy!

Even by the standard of politicians, this is a woman with an outsized ego. Combine that with her performance skills and an insatiable hunger for the limelight, and you can see why she will not stay in Wasilla now that she’s seen 30 Rock. The question journalists repeatedly asked last week — What are Palin’s plans for 2012? — is a red herring. Palin has no obligation to answer it. She is the pit bull in the china shop of American politics, and she can do what she wants, on her own timeline, all the while raking in the big bucks she couldn’t as a sitting governor. No one, least of all her own political party, can control her.

The fact-checking siege of “Going Rogue” — by the media, Democrats and aggrieved McCain campaign operatives alike — is another fruitless sideshow. Palin’s political appeal has never had anything to do with facts — or coherent policy positions. The more she is attacked for not being in possession of pointy-headed erudition, the more powerful she becomes as an avatar of the anti-elite cause. As Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, has correctly observed, “She represents less a philosophical strain on the right than an affect and a demographic.”

That demographic is white and non-urban: Just look at the stops and the faces on her carefully calibrated book tour. The affect is emotional — the angry air of grievance that emerged first at her campaign rallies in 2008, with their shrieked threats to Obama, and that has since resurfaced in the Hitler-fixated “tea party” movement (which she endorses in her book). It’s a politics of victimization and sloganeering with no policy solutions required beyond the conservative mantra of No Taxes. Its standard-bearer can make stuff up with impunity: “Thanks, but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere”; Obama’s “palling around with terrorists”; health care “death panels.”

After the Palin-McCain ticket lost, conservative pundits admonished her to start studying the issues. If “Going Rogue” and its promotional interviews are any indication, she has ignored their entreaties during her months at liberty. Last week, Greta Van Susteren chastised Oprah for not asking Palin “one policy question,” but when Barbara Walters did ask some, Palin either recycled Dick Cheney verbatim (Obama is “dithering”) or ran aground. Her argument for why “Jewish settlements” should be expanded on the West Bank was that “more and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.” It was unclear what she was talking about — unless it was the “rapture” theology that requires the mass return of Jews to settle the Holy Land as a precondition for the return of Christ.

The discredited neocon hacks who have latched on to Palin as a potential ticket back into power have their work cut out for them. But it’s better for Palin’s purposes to remain as blank a slate as possible anyway. Some of her most ardent supporters realize that she’ll drive still more independent voters away if she fills in too many details. And so Matthew Continetti, the author of the just-published “Persecution of Sarah Palin” and her most persistent cheerleader after William Kristol, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that her role model for 2012 should be Bob McDonnell, the new Republican governor-elect of Virginia, who won on “a bipartisan, center-right approach.”

What Continetti means is that Palin could still somehow fudge her history as McDonnell did; his campaign kept his career-long history as a political acolyte and financial beneficiary of Pat Robertson on the down-low. Even the far right has figured out that homophobia is a turnoff to swing voters, which is why Palin goes out of her way in “Going Rogue” to remind us she has her very own lesbian friend. (What’s left unsaid is that the book’s credited ghost writer, Lynn Vincent, labeled homosexuality as “deviance” in her own writings for World, the evangelical magazine.)

But no matter how much Palin tries to pass for “center-right,” she’s unlikely to fool that vast pool of voters left, right and center who have already written her off as unqualified for the White House. The G.O.P. establishment knows this, and is frightened. The demographic that Palin attracts is in decline; there’s no way the math of her fan base adds up to an Electoral College victory.

Yet among Republicans she still ties Mitt Romney in the latest USA Today/Gallup survey, with 65 percent giving her serious presidential consideration, just behind the 71 for her evangelical rival, Mike Huckabee. The crowds lining up in the cold for her book tour are likely to be the most motivated to line up at the polls in G.O.P. primaries. They don’t speak the same language as Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michael Steele, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner or, for that matter, McCain. They are more likely to heed Palin salesmen like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh than baffled Bush administration grandees like Peter Wehner, who last week called Palin “a cultural figure much more than a political one” on the Web site of the establishment conservative organ Commentary.

Culture is politics. Palin is at the red-hot center of age-old American resentments that have boiled up both from the ascent of our first black president and from the intractability of the Great Recession for those Americans who haven’t benefited from bailouts. As Palin thrives on the ire of the left, so she does from the disdain of Republican leaders who, with a condescension rivaling the sexism they decry in liberals, belittle her as a lightweight or instruct her to eat think-tank spinach.

The only person who can derail Palin is Palin herself. Should she not self-destruct, she will doom G.O.P. hopes of a 2012 comeback. But the rest of the country cannot rest easy. The rage out there is larger than Palin and defies partisan labeling. Her ever-present booster Continetti, writing in The Weekly Standard, suggested that she recast the century-old populist outrage of William Jennings Bryan by adopting the message “You shall not crucify mankind upon the cross of Goldman Sachs.” If Obama can’t tamp down that rage across the political map, Palin will at the very least pave the way for a demagogue with less baggage to pick up her torch.

© 2009 The New York Times Company

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Palin-Beck 2012? Sarah says maybe

She'll never be U.S. president, but her star power ought to scare the hell out of her charisma-free GOP rivals

Joan Walsh
Wednesday, Nov 18, 2009

First, let me apologize for telling you all I had Palin fatigue on Monday, and then following up by writing about Palin the next two days. I kept one promise; I've kept the term Palinpalooza out of our news coverage.

But the Palin assault keeps getting more surreal, and more intriguing. Wednesday night came the news that Palin wouldn't rule out the idea of Fox News host (and professional paranoid) Glenn Beck as a possible 2012 running mate.

Newsmax reporter David Patten says Palin "chuckled" when he broached the idea, but then gave Beck his props:
"I can envision a couple of different combinations, if ever I were to be in a position to really even seriously consider running for anything in the future, and I'm not there yet," Palin told Newsmax. "But Glenn Beck I have great respect for. He's a hoot. He gets his message across in such a clever way. And he's so bold — I have to respect that. He calls it like he sees it, and he's very, very, very effective."

Once again, I agree with Palin: Beck is indeed a "hoot" and he's very, very, very effective, at lying about President Obama and whipping his paranoid base into a deluded frenzy. So what is she doing: trying to sell books to that same base -- a nice potential book market but a sliver of the electorate -- or genuinely charting her 2012 course?

Judging by Palin's erratic behavior on this book tour, and her erratic handle on the truth within the book, it's honestly hard to tell. I think, as I said Monday, she is first and foremost about Sarah Palin Inc., becoming rich and powerful, but that may well be a path to Sarah Palin 2012. I will say it again: She will never be our president. But I can't rule out her being the 2012 Republican nominee.

When you look at the charisma-free roster of likely GOP candidates -- from 2008 has-beens Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and "I was for trying terrorists in NYC before I was against it" Rudy Giuliani, to that hunka-hunka burning boredom Tim "T-Paw" Pawlenty -- it's easy to see Palin creaming them. On the other hand, they might spend a lot on opposition research and/or get whatever Levi Johnston claims to have. Either way, the only person I see derailing Palin from the GOP nomination in 2012 is Palin herself.

And that's still quite possible. Whether you seriously care about policy or politics, she's a train wreck. I doubt she's silly enough to seriously consider someone as deranged as Glenn Beck as her running mate; I give her enough credit to assume that was just chicken-fried red meat for her base. But just look at her soliloquy on why her hateful and false claims about "death panels" are just like Ronald Reagan's rhetoric about the Soviet Union as an "evil empire." Here's what she told ABC's Barbara Walters, in all its syntactical, self-deluding glory. She admitted there are no death panels in Obama's plans, but goes on:

"It's kind of like what Reagan used to do, though, when he talked about, say, the ‘evil empire.' You're never going to find the evil empire on a map of the world ... And yet he talked about that, in terms that people could understand -- kind of rationing down, not complicating the issue. [Just a question, does she mean "ratcheting down?" My head hurts.]
"But he, with the issue of the evil empire at the time, used those two words to get people to shake up, wake up, find out what's going on here. Now, had he been criticized and, and mocked, and, and condemned for ever using a term that wasn't actually there on a map, or in documents, we probably would never have succeeded in, in crushing the evil empire, and winning that."

Dear Baby Jesus, where should I start? First of all, let me defend Ronald Reagan (despite global warming, hell keeps freezing over!): He did not mean the Soviet Union was literally an "evil empire" you could find on a map. It was his opinion, a turn of phrase, and well within the bounds of political rhetoric; there were many evil things about the way Soviet leaders treated dissidents, Jews, minorities, anyone who dared to differ from their dreary party line. So Palin's wrong in the way she depicts Reagan's "evil empire" argument.
Of course she's also wrong about the way the political world greeted that argument. Reagan was, in fact, widely "criticized" and "condemned" and probably even mocked for using the term; many people felt it wasn't the best way to keep peace with the Soviet Union and win them over to our side -- especially since there was a lot of evidence the Communist giant was crumbling even before Reagan's rhetorical assault (at least partly because of its Afghanistan folly; Palin's advisors might want to mention that to her!). Sunny Ronald Reagan shrugged off such criticism; Sarah Palin laps up the bile and turns into a victim and of course a self-described "pit bull," albeit with lovely lip gloss.

Whatever! Palin's book tour will be a political success; her book will sell and make her the money she brags she's never had. And Palin may well be the 2012 GOP nominee. But as she cozies up to Glenn Beck and mangles even her own party's history, it's increasingly clear she will never be our president. But trust me: She and her know-little followers will cause trouble for President Obama and the Democrats for the foreseeable future.

Here's a great video of MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell trying to ask Palin supporters in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Wednesday what she believes in. They get her position on TARP wrong (she supported it) and two of them just lapse into paranoid right-wing ranting about how she'll defend the Constitution. Nice to see O'Donnell asking real questions; scary to see how they're answered:

Copyright ©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sarah Palin Rules the GOP -- And She Will Destroy It

Palin's influence on a party largely devoid of leadership is expanding. If she doesn't become the GOP's future queen, she may be its future king-maker -- and its destroyer.

Max Blumenthal
November 16, 2009

Sarah Palin's heavily publicized book tour begins in earnest this Monday, but weeks before, her ghostwritten memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, had already vaulted into the number one position at Amazon. Warming up for a tour that will take her across Middle America in a bus, Palin tested her lines in a November 7th speech before a crowd of 5,000 anti-abortion activists in Wisconsin. She promptly cited an urban legend as a "disturbing trend," claiming the Treasury Department had moved the phrase "In God We Trust" from presidential dollar coins. (The rumor most likely originated with a 2006 story on the far-right website WorldNetDaily.)

In fact, a suggested alteration in its position on the coin was shot down in 2007 after pressure from Democratic Senator Robert Byrd. Nonetheless, Palin did not hesitate to take up this "controversy," however false, since it conveniently pits a tyrannical, God-destroying, secular big government against humble God-fearing folk. In doing so, of course, she presented herself as this nation's leading defender of the faith.

In a Republican Party hoping to rebound in 2010 on the strength of a newly energized and ideologically aroused conservative grassroots, Palin's influence is now unparalleled. Through her Twitter account, she was the one who pushed the rumor of "death panels" into the national healthcare debate, prompting the White House to issue a series of defensive responses. Unfazed by its absurdity, she repeated the charge in her recent speech in Wisconsin. In a special congressional election in New York's 23rd congressional district, Palin's endorsement of Doug Hoffman, an unknown far-right third-party candidate, helped force a popular moderate Republican politician, Dede Scozzafava, from the race. In the end, Palin's ideological purge in upstate New York led to an improbable Democratic victory, the first in that GOP-heavy district in more than 100 years.

Though the ideological purge may have backfired, Palin's participation in it magnified her influence in the party. In a telling sign of this, Congressman Mark Kirk, a pro-choice Republican from the posh suburban North Shore of Chicago, running for the Senate in Illinois, issued an anxious call for Palin's support while she campaigned for Hoffman. According to a Kirk campaign memo, the candidate was terrified that Palin would be asked about his candidacy during her scheduled appearance on the Chicago-based Oprah Winfrey Show later this month -- the kick-off for her book tour -- and would not react enthusiastically. With $2.3 million in campaign cash and no viable primary challengers, Kirk was still desperate to avoid Palin-backed attacks from his right flank, however hypothetical they might be.

"She's gangbusters!" a leading conservative radio host exclaimed to me. "There is nobody in the Republican Party who can raise money like her or top her name recognition."

During the 2008 presidential race, some Republican Party elders warned of Palin's destructive influence. They insisted she was a polarizing figure whose extremism would accelerate the Party's slide toward the political and cultural margins. New York Times columnist David Brooks, a card-carrying neocon who had written glowingly of Senator McCain, claimed Palin represented "a fatal cancer to the Republican Party." Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for President Reagan and columnist for the Wall Street Journalblasted Palin as "a dope and unqualified from the start." Last June, Steve Schmidt, the former McCain campaign chief of staff, warned that Palin's nomination as the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee would be "catastrophic."
( more )
© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Bob Cesca
Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog

November 8, 2009

I've been thinking about how to peg yesterday's very historic reform victory in the House.
Clearly 220 House votes for healthcare reform with a level-playing field public option and a conservative anti-choice amendment is about as good as it gets with a very popular Democratic president and a wide majority in the House. In other words, with all of the momentum for reform, this is about as much reform (in terms of policy) as popularity and majorities can buy, given the level of opposition.
As much as I'd like to see single-payer, this ought to prove that such a thing would never have reached this point, and it would've derailed the broader reform effort for another generation. In fact, it appears as though reform with a robust Medicare-based public option and no Stupak amendment might not have passed either.
It illustrates how powerful the cartel and opponents of reform really are. It also shows how backwards, cowardly and ignorant some of the conservadems and Blue Dogs really are as well. (Despite their chickenshit fears, this reform bill is an easy sell. But some Democrats still fear the marginalized wingnut teabaggery.)
I've been thinking about what sort of realistic scenario would've passed single-payer or a fully robust public option in the "more liberal" House. How large would the Democratic majority have to be? How popular would the president have to be? How liberal would they all need to be in order for single-payer to pass? The answer: far beyond current thresholds, obviously. So we get an incremental solution that will help millions of people to afford healthcare, and we get a means to a single-payer end. Regardless of the obvious flaws in the bill, this is not a terrible deal.
America has mostly operated like this. Incrementally. Historical perspective shows that despite FDR's popularity and the collective desperation of the Great Depression, he was only able to pass a rudimentary framework for Social Security -- a law that didn't cover large groups of American workers, from railroad employees to the self-employed to farmers to government staff to clergy. There were no survivor or disability benefits, either. Hardly robust. Lydon Johnson's Medicaid, for all of Johnson's strong-arming tactics and landslide 1964 mandate, contained a dreaded state opt-out feature (to date, no state has opted out of Medicaid). Very popular presidents like Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and JFK weren't able to achieve any healthcare reform whatsoever, and not from a lack of trying.
So how do we peg reform at this point? There are still major hurdles ahead. And as I wrote above, it's not perfect and there are gaps to be filled, as there were with Social Security, Medicaid, SCHIP and other similar kinds of reform. But this is a major step towards an eventual single-payer system.
Without this reform, single-payer would be less likely. Put another way, this isn't a loss for single-payer, it's a victory in a battle on the road to winning the war.
Copyright 2009 Bob Cesca'a Awesome Blog

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sarah Palin: Rogue Republican or Democratic Operative?

Shannyn Moore
Just a girl from Homer
The Huffington Post
November 2, 2009

"Why do you still talk about Sarah Palin? Maybe if you shut up she'd go away."

Sarah Palin isn't going anywhere. Look at her political history. When Sarah ran for mayor of Wasilla, she had to destroy her Republican opponent, John Stein. Once elected, she boasted she was "the first Christian mayor". Mr. Stein replied, "Really?"

Palin and Wasilla Republican and Alaska Senate President, Lyda Green, often clashed over politics in Green's district. On a local shock jock talk show, Palin giggled after the host called Lyda Green "a cancer". Green had just recovered from cancer. Plunk, there went the district.

When Palin filed to run for governor against first term incumbent Frank Murkowski, people took notice. Frank wasn't loved. His first act as governor was to nepotistically appoint his daughter to fill his vacated US Senate seat. Within the Alaska GOP, a war ensued, including fisticuffs at the Republican Party picnic between rabid Palin supporters and the GOP faithful. Oh, lookie, there went the state...

Many people regard Sarah Palin as a punch line. That's too easy. In fact, she's more of a threat. If the Republican Party had half a mind, they would look at Palin's history of party divisiveness, polarization and destruction and take heed. In fact, they'd be smart to take her at her word. She's a self-proclaimed rogue. According to, the first entry under their definition of rogue is:

rogue [rohg]  Show IPA noun, verb, rogued, ro⋅guing, adjective

-noun 1. dishonest, knavish person; a scoundrel.

Case in point: New York's congressional race in House District 23. Sarah Palin's meddling has a Republican, Dede Scozzafava, dropping out and throwing their support 
for Democrat Bill Owens! Palin's support went to a candidate from the party of Glenn Beck.

Today, Palin is interfering in the Virginia gubernatorial race and
 robocalling 300,000 Virginians:

PALIN: "Virginia, hello, this is Sarah Palin, calling to urge you to go to the polls Tuesday and vote to share our principles. The eyes of America will be on Virginia and make no mistake about it, every vote counts. So don't take anything for granted, vote your values on Tuesday, and urge your friends and family to vote, too. Thank you."

ANNOUNCER: "Paid for by the Virginia Faith and Freedom Coalition."

Republican candidate Bob McDonnell was leading Democrat Creigh Deeds by double digits last week.

Palin's imposition comes despite the fact that McDonnell's campaign claimed it didn't want the former governor of Alaska's help. And, with last week's 11 point lead, what could Sarah's robocall do except chase independent voters over to Deeds' camp? It will be interesting to see what, if any, effect the robocall has on the outcome of the race. If McDonnell wins, Palin will surely take credit.

Apparently, she can't stay out of the New Jersey governor's race either. Republican Chris Christie continues to hold a three-point advantage over incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine in New Jersey's down-to-the-wire race for governor. Independent Candidate, Chris Daggett, is pulling votes from both candidates.

Palin Facebooking this weekend:
"Despite what candidate Chris Daggett is claiming, I have never contacted him or his campaign. I have never asked him to drop out of the NJ Governor's race. Now, if a politician is going to play loose with facts like this, the electorate needs to know it.
So, to the good people of New Jersey, please know that Daggett's claims are false. I've never even suggested he should drop out of the race. But, come to think of it..."
- Sarah Palin

That's rich. Daggett may be a liar, but Sarah is no saint. So, Palin is doing exactly what she threatened to do when she quit:

"I WILL support others who seek to serve, in or out of office, for the RIGHT reasons, and I don't care what party they're in or no party at all. Inside Alaska - or Outside Alaska."
-Sarah Palin, July 3, 2009

Apparently, Palin will endorse and campaign for various candidates against their wishes; talk about going rogue. Perhaps Palin should have included in her "I'm Quitting" speech she would work for teabaggers who also happen to be carpetbaggers like Doulglas L. Hoffman who purportedly doesn't even live in New York District 23.

The ripping and tearing of Republican political flesh doesn't keep me up at night. Sarah Palin is either a treasonous Republican...or a brilliant Democratic operative.


Copyright 2009, Inc.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The G.O.P. Stalinists Invade Upstate New York

Frank Rich
The New York Times
November 1, 2009

BARACK OBAMA’S most devilish political move since the 2008 campaign was to appoint a Republican congressman from upstate New York as secretary of the Army. This week’s election to fill that vacant seat has set off nothing less than a riotous and bloody national G.O.P. civil war. No matter what the results in that race on Tuesday, the Republicans are the sure losers. This could be a gift that keeps on giving to the Democrats through 2010, and perhaps beyond.

The governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia were once billed as the marquee events of Election Day 2009 — a referendum on the Obama presidency and a possible Republican “comeback.” But preposterous as it sounds, the real action migrated to New York’s 23rd, a rural Congressional district abutting Canada. That this pastoral setting could become a G.O.P. killing field, attracting an all-star cast of combatants led by Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, William Kristol and Newt Gingrich, is a premise out of a Depression-era screwball comedy. But such farces have become the norm for the conservative movement — whether the participants are dressing up in full “tea party” drag or not.

The battle for upstate New York confirms just how swiftly the right has devolved into a wacky, paranoid cult that is as eager to eat its own as it is to destroy Obama. The movement’s undisputed leaders, Palin and Beck, neither of whom has what Palin once called the “actual responsibilities” of public office, would gladly see the Republican Party die on the cross of right-wing ideological purity. Over the short term, at least, their wish could come true.

The New York fracas was ignited by the routine decision of11 local Republican county chairmen to anoint an assemblywoman, Dede Scozzafava, as their party’s nominee for the vacant seat. The 23rd is in safe Republican territory that hasn’t sent a Democrat to Congress in decades. And Scozzafava is a mainstream conservative by New York standards; one statistical measure found her voting record slightly to the right of her fellow Republicans in the Assembly. But she has occasionally strayed from orthodoxy on social issues (abortion, same-sex marriage) and endorsed the Obama stimulus package. To the right’s Jacobins, that’s cause to send her to the guillotine.

Sure enough, bloggers trashed her as a radical leftist and ditched her for a third-party candidate they deem a “true” conservative, an accountant and businessman named Doug Hoffman. When Gingrich dared endorse Scozzafava anyway — as did other party potentates like John Boehner and Michael Steele — he too was slimed. Mocking Newt’s presumed 2012 presidential ambitions, Michelle Malkin imagined him appointing Al Sharpton as secretary of education and Al Gore as “global warming czar.” She’s quite the wit.

The wrecking crew of KristolFred ThompsonDick ArmeyMichele BachmannThe Wall Street Journal editorial page and the government-bashing Club for Growth all joined the Hoffman putsch. Then came the big enchilada: a Hoffman endorsement from Palin on her Facebook page. Such is Palin’s clout that Steve ForbesRick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor (and presidential aspirant), promptly fell over one another in their Pavlovian rush to second her motion. They were joined by far-flung Republican congressmen from KansasGeorgiaOklahoma and California, not to mentiona gaggle of state legislators from Colorado. On Fox News, Beck took up the charge, insinuating that Hoffman’s Republican opponent might be a fan of Karl Marx. Some $3 million has now been dumped into this race by outside groups.

Who exactly is the third-party maverick arousing such ardor? Hoffman doesn’t even live in the district. When he appeared before the editorial board of The Watertown Daily Times 10 days ago, he “showed no grasp” of local issues, as the subsequent editorial put it. Hoffman complained that he should have received the questions in advance — blissfully unaware that they had been asked by the paper in an editorial on the morning of his visit.

Last week it turned out that Hoffman’s prime attribute to the radical right — as a take-no-prisoners fiscal conservative — was bogus. In fact he’s on the finance committee of a hospital that happily helped itself to a $479,000 federal earmark. Then again, without the federal government largess that the tea party crowd so deplores, New York’s 23rd would be a Siberia of joblessness. The biggest local employer is the pork-dependent military base, Fort Drum.

The right’s embrace of Hoffman is a double-barreled suicide for the G.O.P. On Saturday, the battered Scozzafava suspended her campaign, further scrambling the race. It’s still conceivable that the Democratic candidate could capture a seat the Republicans should own. But it’s even better for Democrats if Hoffman wins. Punch-drunk with this triumph, the right will redouble its support of primary challengers to 2010 G.O.P. candidates they regard as impure. That’s bad news for even a Republican as conservative as Kay Bailey Hutchison, whose primary opponent in the Texas governor’s race, the incumbent Rick Perry, floated the possibility of secession at a teabagger rally in April and hastily endorsed Hoffman on Thursday.

The more rightists who win G.O.P. primaries, the greater the Democrats’ prospects next year. But the electoral math is less interesting than the pathology of this movement. Its antecedent can be found in the early 1960s, when radical-right hysteria carried some of the same traits we’re seeing now: seething rage, fear of minorities, maniacal contempt for government, and a Freudian tendency to mimic the excesses of political foes. Writing in 1964 of that era’s equivalent to today’s tea party cells, the historian Richard Hofstadter observed that the John Birch Society’s “ruthless prosecution” of its own ideological war often mimicked the tactics of its Communist enemies.

The same could be said of Beck, Palin and their acolytes. Though they constantly liken the president to various totalitarian dictators, it is they who are re-enacting Stalinism in full purge mode. They drove out Arlen Specter, and now want to “melt Snowe” (as the blog Red State put it). The same Republicans who once deplored Democrats for refusing to let an anti-abortion dissident, Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, speak at the 1992 Clinton convention now routinely banish any dissenters in their own camp.

These conservatives’ whiny cries of victimization also parrot a tic they once condemned in liberals. After Rush Limbaugh was booted from an ownership group bidding on the St. Louis Rams, he moaned about being done in by the “race card.” What actually did him in, of course, was the free-market American capitalism he claims to champion. Limbaugh didn’t understand that in an increasingly diverse nation, profit-seeking N.F.L. franchises actually want to court black ticket buyers, not drive them away.

This same note of self-martyrdom was sounded in a much-noticed recent column by the former Nixon hand Pat Buchanan. Ol’ Pat sounded like the dispossessed antebellum grandees in “Gone With the Wind” when lamenting the plight of white working-class voters. “America was once their country,” he wrote. “They sense they are losing it. And they are right.”

They are right. That America was lost years ago, and no national political party can thrive if it lives in denial of that truth. The right still may want to believe, as Palin said during the campaign, that Alaska, with its small black and Hispanic populations, is a “microcosm of America.” (New York’s 23rd also has few blacks or Hispanics.) But most Americans like their country’s 21st-century profile.

That changing complexion is part of why the McCain-Palin ticket lost every demographic group by large margins in 2008 except white senior citizens and the dwindling fifth of America that’s still rural. It’s also why the G.O.P. has been in a nosedive since the inauguration, whatever Obama’s ups and downs. In the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, only 17 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans (as opposed to 30 percent for the Democrats, and 44 for independents).

No wonder even the very conservative Republican contenders in the two big gubernatorial contests this week have frantically tried to disguise their own convictions. The candidate in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, is a graduate of Pat Robertson’s university whose career has been devoted to curbing abortion rights, gay civil rights and even birth control. But in this campaign he ditched those issues, disinvited Palin for a campaign appearancepraised Obama’s Nobel Prize, and ran a closing campaign ad trumpeting “Hope.” Chris Christie, McDonnell’s counterpart in New Jersey, posted a campaign video celebrating “Change” in which Obama’s face and most stirring campaign sound bites so dominate you’d think the president had endorsed the Republican over his Democratic opponent, Jon Corzine.

Only in the alternative universe of the far right is Obama a pariah and Palin the great white hope. It’s become a Beltway truism that the White House’s (mild) spat with Fox News is counterproductive because it drives up the network’s numbers. But if curious moderate and independent voters are now tempted to surf there and encounter Beck’s histrionics for the first time, the president’s numbers will benefit as well. To the uninitiated, the tea party crowd comes across like the barflies in “Star Wars.”

There is only one political opponent whom Obama really has to worry about at this moment: Hamid Karzai. It’s Afghanistan and joblessness, not the Stalinists of the right, that have the power to bring this president down.

This column has been updated from the version that appears in print to reflect the fact that Ms. Scozzafava dropped out of her campaign on Saturday morning.

Copright 2009 The New York Times Company