Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Long Con

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Two weeks ago, the right-wing faithful gathered for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). It’s an event where the princes and princesses of Wingnuttia appear to rally the troops, stir the fear, and crack open the wallets and pocketbooks of donors.
It’s kind of like a Burning Man Festival for right-wingers, except instead of weed and hallucinogens, the CPAC attendees are high on paranoia, resentment and belligerence, and the CPAC headliners are more than happy to give them their fix.
Soon-to-be-ex-Rep. Michele Bachmann, for instance, gave a radio interview from CPAC in which she claimed that the reason Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer recently vetoed Arizona’s “turn away the gays” bill was that gay people had “bullied” the American people.
Bachmann also suggested using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to arrest people who “intimidate” billionaire donors to the Republican Party.
Yeah, Michele, it’s totally the straight people and the billionaires in this country being bullied. Why, I heard that just yesterday, a couple of gay people took Gov. Brewer’s lunch money and stuffed her in her locker, and I heard someone pantsed the Koch brothers in the lunchroom.
We’re so fortunate that we have people like Rep. Bachmann to speak for the oppressed, if by “oppressed” you mean “straight, extremely rich white people.” And by the way, Michele, if I was under investigation by the FBI for money laundering and wire fraud, as you are, I wouldn’t be bringing up RICO. It might give them ideas.
When it comes to spreading the fear, however, there’s no one to match NRA President Wayne LaPierre. In a thunderous speech on March 6, LaPierre delivered the kind of doom-laden paranoid rant once restricted to unwashed men on street corners wearing sandwich boards proclaiming that the end is nigh.
We need all the guns we can get our hands on, LaPierre said, because “we know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and there are home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers and rapers, and haters and campus killers, and airport killers, shopping mall killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all.”
Wow. I’m sure glad I’m not him. Anyone who walks around this terrified all the time must be miserable. By the way, I’m not sure how a big stash of guns is supposed to help against “vicious waves of chemicals or disease,” but whatever.
No right-wing gathering would be complete, of course, without the appearance of the Quitta From Wassilla, half-term Gov. Sarah Palin.
And once again, Saint Sarah of the Snows did not disappoint. She delivered another parody of “Green Eggs and Ham” (“I do not like this kind of hope, and we won’t take it nope, nope, nope”) that was later revealed to be plagiarized from a chain email making the rounds two years ago.
She then proceeded to plagiarize from the NRA in suggesting a solution to the current crisis in Ukraine. “Mr. President,” she declaimed, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”
Wait, what? Did the Resigning Woman seriously just suggest using nukes to get Russia out of the Crimea?
Naaah, at least not by any real definition of “serious.” Palin knows she’s never going to get within a mile of the nuclear button, just as Wayne LaPierre knows his collection of gold-plated AR-15’s isn’t going to defend us against “chemicals and disease,” and Michele Bachmann knows that billionaires aren’t really being intimidated.
They, and the other headliners at CPAC, are all part of the most massive and successful Long Con in the history of this country: the modern conservative movement. It’s all about filling their coffers with contributions from people in the freest, richest country in the world whom they’ve convinced that a Stalinist gulag is right around the corner and that their stuff is about to be looted from them any moment by Those People.
And it works. Palin’s own “Sarah PAC,” for example, raised and spent more than $1.2 million last year — only $10,000 of which went to actual candidates. The rest went for “operations,” including “consultant costs” and “travel expenses,” according to FEC campaign filings. Nice work if you can get it.
Whatever their original purpose, far right fear-a-paloozas like CPAC, and the conservative movement itself, have devolved into serving two purposes: lining the pockets of grifters like Sarah Palin and Wayne LaPierre, and reminding us why they should never be let near the levers of power.
In both those respects, CPAC was a resounding success.

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