If I were to try to find a descriptive label for the political atmosphere in 2009, I would call it the year of the tantrum because of all the displays of thwarted fury that took place in the wake of the election of the first African-American president. Who can forget the right-wing tantrums that took place wherever Tea Party mobs hijacked congressional town halls or congregated to inflate the weight of their essentially minority demands. While the rage continued unabated in 2010, one might better characterize last year in terms of the bait used to snare those same angry Tea Partiers – any one of the numerous iterations of the big lie that has become the currency of the modern GOP.
That fringewingers have been boiling over isn’t really anything new as those of us know who can remember the McCarthyist “better dead than red” protests and the original John Birchers. What was worth remarking, though, was the degree to which the Teople were worked up over things that just weren’t true – nonexistent death panels, fictional FEMA detention camps, or the imaginary threat of the great Obama gun confiscation for example.
This year, as GOP pols and their corporate supporters doubled down in their efforts to retake the congress, they also doubled down in their willingness to exploit what has been revealed as the almost limitless gullibility of those over-Foxified and Limbaughed individuals who inhabit the fact-free zone of GOP propaganda. GOP politicians have been liberated; they are free to deny obvious facts at will and make any outlandish claim, secure in the knowledge that they will never be held accountable by their base.
Missouri, of course, saw its share of political lies during the past year, but to my mind, there are two GOP pols who excelled in the rarefied art of bilking the suckers. Ed Martin who lost his race against Russ Carnahan for the 3rd district House seat, and Roy Blunt who beat Robin Carnahan for retiring Senator Kit Bond’s Senate seat. (You, of course, may have other candidates, and I would welcome your arguments for them in the comments if you are so inclined.)
It’s hard to know where to start when describing the excesses of Ed Martin, who seems to have mislaid whatever capacity he possessed to tell the truth as soon as he started his campaign. He started out by pretending that Carnahan had defaulted on debates that, contrary to Martin’s claims, he never agreed to, and finished by fabricating absurd claims of election fraud. In between, his campaign featured a multitude of spurious claims about his rival, among the most creative of which was his contention that Carnahan, along with his pal, the Obama boogyman, would come between Missourians and their religious “salvation.” The trouble with Martin, though, is that so little that he said had any relationship to truth that, after awhile, most of us found his fantasy life a little boring.
As truth challenged as Martin proved to be, probably the most overwhelming triumph of big-lie politics in Missouri was the election of Roy Blunt to the Senate. In part, this is because Blunt, a scandal-tinged insider who, during the Bush years, presided over a a GOP dominated House that helped drive the deficit to astronomical heights while simultaneously trashing the economy, managed to coast to election with promises to “fight to restore accountability” to Washington.
A plaid-shirted Blunt, who in his long-time Washington incarnation plays the role of a glossy socialite, tooled around the state in a rented pick-up, kissing up to any and every rural prejudice. After disrespecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security like a good GOP pol really wants to do, he not only denied his own words, but ran ads falsely implying that Carnahan’s support for the Affordable Care Act, would translate into cuts in Medicare benefits. He lied about his votes against the minimum wage. He even sunk so low that in the course of bragging about his GOP boiler-plate “jobs plan” he lied about its length, adding a good 80 pages.
This partial list of Blunt’s transgressions against the truth, which offers just a few of our new Senator’s self-misrepresentations, is in itself a strong argument for giving Blunt the title of Missouri Liar of the Year. Martin seemed, most of the time at least, to lie about his opponent – and so outrageously as to be simply amusing – but Blunt created an entire false persona which he used to promote himself to the Senate. Besides, Martin lost and Blunt won, and by winning on the basis of so many lies, he debased our political discourse just a little bit more. He has contributed one more cog in the devaluation of truth that we have seen taking place in our political world over the past decade, each inch taken, leading to another mile of democracy lost.