Paul Krugman’s right – it’s not that the Republican Party is more extreme now than in the past sixteen years, it’s that the national press is paying attention to how extreme the GOP has become. I’d take it a step further, though. The Republican Party now has a larger microphone for extremism, as the press is paying attention to it. Everything that was happening in marginal, Paulite circles is now happening in prime-time broadcasts on TV. It’s not just that the press and the country are paying attention to what the Republican extremes are saying, the extremes are saying it louder.
As far as the lack of sense to how the Republican extremists are reacting to the Obama administration (Krugman writes: “The right’s answer, of course, is that it’s about outrage over President Obama’s “socialist” policies — like his health care plan, which is, um, more or less identical to the plan Mitt Romney enacted in Massachusetts”), I think it’s hard to avoid a basic, underlying reality of the right being stricken by Obama Derangement Syndrome. In the absence of rational policy critiques or empirical evidence of Obama actually changing the country (let alone the Constitution), racism certainly arises as a contributing factor to the hatred and fear this president engenders. But racism is not a catch-all explanation (though at minimum a major factor). Throw in the fact that he is a Democrat, that he has a funny name, and is actually running the show now and you start to get a composite explanation for the hatred driving the Teabaggers. While I don’t want to diminish the role racism plays in the rise of the extremist Republican voice, there is also a common thread of Obama Derangement Syndrome.
The important thing to recognize is that Obama Derangement Syndrome does not explain Republican extremism. It speaks more to the volume we hear now. The Republican Party has long been home to extremism and regressivism. We just get to see more of it now.