The examples are legion. Obama's election, a moment seen by many of us as a signal achievement, also brought out, well, the lunatics who saw their country falling away from them. From Joe "You Lie" Wilson to "Second Amendment solutions", we've had almost six years of increasingly unhinged rhetoric, rhetoric which was once confined to the purview of Aryan Nations—or Ron Paul—newsletters.
Imagine, if you will, if Bruce Springsteen had called George W. Bush "a subhuman cowboy". Even The Boss might not have been popular enough to withstand the torrent of opprobrium.
And yet, here we have belle of the right wing ball, Ted Nugent, calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel," with the man whom he was supporting, Republican candidate for governor of Texas Greg Abbott, not casting him aside with the morning's recycling. Nugent "apologized", not for the content of his remarks, but because it embarrassed his friend Abbott (who, again, showed no signs of being embarrassed).
When Barack Obama came out in favor of marriage equality, suddenly the cause gained a momentum which has only increased year on year. So, of course, it was only obvious that the Arizona state legislature just passed a law allowing business owners to refuse service to gay customers. (Really, unless a gay man walks in swishing in the most stereotypical manner, how could a good, God-fearing business owner be sure that he wasn't serving gays unwittingly? Is a sin of ignorance less awful in the eyes of the Lord than a willful transgression?) Because Arizona, faced with the myriad problems all our localities face, decided that this was a problem which needed urgent legislative attention. Why, if gays can eat openly in restaurants across the state, pretty soon they'd be coming out of the closet and playing on NFL and NBA teams! The horror!
Oh, we can laugh, but there's something serious to consider. And it's something which should both give us pause and ultimately encourage us.
We often speak of Barack Obama as being a transformational figure. I've written at length as to how he's transformed the political landscape. He's not just the first black president; he's also the first truly progressive president since Lyndon Johnson, but without the albatross of an unpopular war around his neck. (Yes, he's gotten us out of the Iraqi quagmire, to the gnashing of PNAC teeth, is getting out of Afghanistan, and is upending the entire notion of perpetual war. Not that dudebros care.)
However, it's culturally where he's gone under the radar.
He embodies the new America which gains ground every day. It is an America which is not fearful of the Stranger. It is an America comfortable in complexity. It is an America where hating someone because of his skin color, her sexuality, their religion is not only intolerable, but laughable. The coalition which has delivered the White House to Obama twice—the coalition which is the majority coalition for the foreseeable future—does not have the same fears which gnaw at Ted Nugent or Arizona legislators. By embodying this new culture, and speaking for it, Obama has given it a motive force which no amount of Koch money can undo.
And this is why the Right is reacting with such ferocity. Its old scare tactics don't work for the majority of Americans. It will still have a power base in the revanchist South, but even there it will be hard pressed to hold out for long. And a party with a solely regional base is not long for this world. Thus, Nugent emits verbal diarrhea. Thus, Arizona legislators feel the need to protect business owners from gay people wanting to spend money. Thus, a longshot candidate to unseat John Cornyn in the Texas primary for US Senate claims that ranchers should be allowed to "shoot wetbacks" who trespass their property as they come into the country.
What should give us pause is that desperate people can do desperate things. A lone wolf, or a militia cell, seeing that their world is changing irrevocably may strike to stop it, or to at least do some damage.
But, I think that's a minor worry. Remember, Ted Nugent averred that he would either be dead or in jail if Obama were re-elected. That he's neither is an indication of the general bravery of the right wing gum-flappers.
What we should see this as is as the last desperate rear-guard action trying to stem the inevitable. The country which Obama is ushering in is no longer Reagan Country. That country is dead or dying. It will cling on in parts with bony, gripping fingers, but will play less and less a role in anything which affects us.
To quote the poet, "Don't worry, be happy". And flood Arizona with gays; more Arizonans than one would think would be glad for it.