When Republican State Sen. (and former Cosmo centerfold) Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Teddy Kennedy, Republicans across the land were delirious with joy.
It was, they asserted, the death of health-care reform. It was the harbinger of a Republican landslide in the November midterms. It was, some even dared say, the end of Barack Obama’s effectiveness as president.
And, to be fair, there were a lot of liberals who were discouraged and demoralized by the Brown win. Until, that is, the Democrats finally woke up and realized that, even in the Senate, 41 out of 100 seats is not a majority. Health-care reform passed in an “up-or-down” majority vote in both houses. It was, as Sen. Jim DeMint famously claimed, Obama’s Waterloo ... except it was DeMint and the Republicans who played the role of Napoleon, with Obama as the Duke of Wellington.
Brown, however, didn’t mope around after the loss on health care. Since he was elected to fill out Sen. Kennedy’s remaining term, he immediately did what all politicians on both sides of the aisle do: He got busy raising funds for his re-election run.
And what’s Republican fundraising without a little fear-mongering? The GOP playbook requires a bogeyman, someone to scare the masses into coughing up their hard-earned cash for the only person who can save them. So who did Brown hold up as his big, scary villain? Osama bin Laden? Vladimir Putin?
Nope. MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow.
"Before I’ve even settled into my new job,” Brown warned in a fund-raising letter, “the political machine in Massachusetts is looking for someone to run against me. And you’re not going to believe who they are supposedly trying to recruit — liberal MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow.”
Massachusetts Democrats, Brown claimed, “want a rubber stamp who will vote for their plans to expand government, increase debt and raise taxes. Someone like Rachel Maddow.”
There was only one problem with this. While she does live in Massachusetts, Maddow isn’t running, has repeatedly announced that she isn’t running and, at one point, went so far as to take out a full page ad in The Boston Globe to say she isn’t running. The Massachusetts Democratic Party denies ever approaching her about running.
Brown’s response: “Bring her on.”
I don’t see why this should be surprising. Republicans these days seem to feel most comfortable railing against things that don’t exist.Which is why you’ve got Sarah Palin telling everyone she doesn’t want her Down syndrome baby appearing before “Obama death panels.” You’ve got Michelle Bachmann raving about the census being used to herd everyone into internment camps. You’ve got gun collectors wearing their weapons to Starbucks to protest anti-gun measures that no one has proposed. They’re all arguing passionately with the voices in their heads.
At first glance, Maddow seems like an odd target. Sure, she’s a woman, and she’s gay, but she’s not nearly as harsh, for example, as fellow MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. She actually seems downright reasonable most of the time. I suppose if you’re on after Olbermann, it’s easy to seem like the reasonable one.
But since when does reality have anything to do with Republican fundraising? Fear’s what counts. To paraphrase Master Yoda from “Star Wars”: “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to a gain of seats in the midterms.” Or so the theory goes.
Finally, though, even the usually courteous Maddow had had enough. “Sen. Brown, you’re lying,” she snapped. “Stop lying.”
Yeah, Rache, good luck with that. This is the GOP you’re talking about. They’ve given up on being a party of ideas in favor of being a party run by fear and paranoid fantasy, the party that could take as its fundraising guide a paraphrase of the old nonsense poem:
I saw today upon the stair
A candidate who wasn’t there.
She wasn’t there again today.
Let’s run against her anyway!