From the Chicago Sun Times
August 30, 2011 2:06AM
If the Republican Party of Kendall County wanted to invite a mean little bigot like Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to speak at its weekend picnic, that certainly was the party’s prerogative.
Arpaio rallied the party’s base, which doesn’t say much for the base. And if in the process he drove away more compassionate and thoughtful conservatives — not to mention all those political independents who are crucial to winning national elections — well, heck, that seems to be the general plan of the Republican Party anyway.
We continue to marvel at the spectacle of a major American political party doing its darnedest to reduce itself to a club for kooks. Presented with a terrific opportunity, on economic issues alone, to win back the White House, the GOP continues to allow itself to be defined by the boobocracy — those who snort at the theory of evolution, who believe global warming is a hoax, who mock homosexuals, who demonize Muslims, who question the president’s patriotism, who believe the solution to illegal immigration is to ship 11 million people back to Mexico, and who would rather cut social services for the poor than raises taxes on billionaires.
So much for the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan.
On Saturday, it was Arpaio’s turn to stir up the GOP’s know-nothing faction, playing on their fears, resentments, animosities and prejudices during a speech at the Kendall County fund-raising picnic.
Arpaio is the Maricopa County sheriff who’s made a name for himself by forcing male inmates to wear pink underwear and feeding them for about half of what he spends to feed guard dogs. He likes to house prisoners in tents that reach 134 degrees in Arizona’s sun, and he conducts constant raids on fast food joints in search of illegal (though otherwise hard-working and law-abiding) immigrants.
Arpaio drew two standing ovations on Saturday, plus plenty of laughs. The crowd of about 375 people — perhaps not a one of them gay or related to a gay person or friends with a gay person — guffawed particularly hard when Arpaio joked that his inmates hated the pink underwear, but “I’m sure in San Francisco it would not be a problem.”
Nothing about Arpaio is new. The boobs shall always be with us. But the willingness of mainstream Republican leaders to sink to such depths is perplexing. Or is this the price one must pay nowadays to win a GOP primary race — become a knuckle-dragger who is virtually unelectable in a general election?
We hope not, but the latest poll gives us no confidence. A CNN poll released Monday puts Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the head of the GOP presidential pack, with 27 percent of the vote. Perhaps those who chose Perry were impressed by the big growth in jobs in Texas during his time as governor, and not by his pandering rejection of, say, basic science or his flip-flop on gay rights. Then again, the least pandering candidate, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, was the choice of just 1 percent of those polled. That’s what the man gets for saying “I believe in evolution.”
Republicans always run to the right in primary elections and then tack to the center in general elections, just as Democrats first run left and then to the center. But we can’t remember the last time almost an entire field of GOP presidential candidates ran so relentlessly and anti-intellectually to the right.
The winner of the Republican primary is going to have a hard time convincing anybody that he or she is any less of a monkey than the Joe Arpaios of the world. Evolution can be a tough sell.