Rush Limbaugh has belatedly apologized to Sandra Fluke
, the Georgetown university student he insulted in such a ludicrous fashion. His foolish handling of this incident mirrors the larger mistakes made by the Republican party.
Before Rush put her in a spotlight, Ms. Fluke was not famous. She would have remained an unknown had she been allowed to deliver her congressional testimony without verbal molestation from the right. Now, most of America finds her a sympathetic figure -- and the right-wingers look ghastly.
Limbaugh screwed up. He's a football player who went running for the wrong goal posts.
In fact, all of Team GOP has lost sight of the end zone.
Six months ago, I would have told you to bet the rent money on a Republican victory in the 2012 presidential race. Today, you should still wager on the GOP candidate -- but hold onto the rent money. Bet a donut.
The Democratic cause used to look hopeless. Obama has been a dispiriting, downright infuriating president who has managed to alienate both left and right. He treated his progressive base to an endless series of boot-meets-backside moments. Rebellion brewed.
Liberals wanted the wars ended immediately: Obama kept them going. We wanted single payer: He gave us Obamacare. We wanted NAFTA renegotiated: He flew around the world negotiating more
free trade agreements. We wanted protection from warrant-free police snoops: He gave us more government eavesdropping. We wanted an FDR-style jobs program and a plan to keep people in their homes: He gave us a continuation of the Wall Street bailouts. We wanted -- and still want -- peace with Iran: Obama is rattling sabers.
When this campaign season began, I could not imagine why any liberal would favor a second term for Obama. Even if I could not bring myself to vote Republican, there was always the option of simply staying home on election day. A non-vote would function as a message of protest to the Democratic leadership: "I'll support your party if and only if you give us a candidate who acts like a Democrat
For the Dems, this was the election that could not be won. Yet the Republicans found a way to lose it.
They have spent the past year frightening everyone in this country who does not favor theocracy. They keep allowing the Tea Partiers to set the agenda, even though that movement has lost its popularity. They have, in short, gone mad.
The GOP has become the party of rage addicts, Jesusmaniacs and conspiracy freaks. Meth has replaced the blood in their veins.
Take, for example, the strange case of Rick Santorum. He has introduced mainstream America to the ultra-reactionary crazyland sector of the Catholic church, where the topic of dinnertime conversation usually has something to do with either the Secrets of La Salette or the best way to flog oneself without getting bloodstains on one's crisp, white shirt. (I'll bet you a donut that's why Ricky wears those sweaters.)
In his wisdom, Santorum told the world that he wanted to vomit when he (rather late in the game) learned about JFK's famous speech on the separation of church and state. What a bizarre attitude! And what a bizarre choice of targets! That speech has always been popular, especially with Catholics -- at least, with normal
Catholics. What on earth made Santorum decide to locate himself on the fringe of the fringe?
And what on earth prompted the Republican candidates to come right out and say that this country should raise taxes on the working poor? From the birthers to Bachmann, from the Social Security scorners to the secession-flirters, the Republicans have hammered home one message repeatedly: We're scary
The presidential candidates saw what happened to Sharron Angle (who managed to lose an election widely considered the ultimate gimme), and they drew the wrong lesson. They concluded that Angle lost because she was too moderate.
This year should have been so damned easy for the Republicans.
They should have reconciled themselves to Romney early on. Then they should have encouraged him to play to the middle: Smile, Mitt. Wave. Say a few non-threatening things. Be -- or at least act -- conciliatory. Bipartisan. Willing to compromise on all but the largest issues.
That scenario would have insured a Republican sweep of the presidency and both houses of Congress.
So what went wrong? I think Jeb Bush identified the problem in the statement he issued a few days ago. The attack machine has gone out of control. There's no "off" switch.
FOX News and right-wing radio have become the ambulatory, water-carrying broomsticks we know from Dukas and Disney. Neither the apprentice nor the sorcerer know how to keep the automatons from flooding the castle.
If you'll forgive yet another shift in metaphor: Outrage is a drug like any other. By giving rage junkies their daily fix, conservative paranoia-pushers have alienated the un-addicted.