When Michele Bachmann accused an innocent woman of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood she was clearly trying to catapult herself into the limelight after a humiliating foray into presidential politics. Making like Joe McCarthy probably seemed like a good idea to an aspiring and ambitious – and not least, bigoted – fundamentalist Christian woman from Minnesota. She quickly found out she had misjudged the times. Rather than raising the Tea Party masses behind her, pitchforks and torches in hand to round up some witches, Bachmann found herself brushed off, and in some cases, castigated, by her own party.
But she did find one defender, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). Yesterday on CBS’s “This Morning” Charlie Rose was asking Cantor about Bachmann:
Rose set the stage by bringing up recent comments made by Cantor on July 19 in a Buzzfeed story about the importance of tolerance. Reminding Cantor of his comments there, that it is “absolutely wrong to stereotype or look badly at anyone because of their religion” and “It’s a bad thing to look at a Muslim and think bad things. Again, we’re all Americans here and we share beliefs in freedom and the ability to practice our faiths,” Rose asked:
“Do you think Rep. Bachmann was out of line? It does not square with this.”
“If you read some of the reports that have covered this story, I think that her concern was about the security of the country.” Cantor replied. “So that’s about all I know.”
“Beyond your own sense of diversity and tolerance, does this reflect on your own part some sense this may damage the party in the general election, if there is a perception that the party and its ideas do not reflect diversity and tolerance.”
You might wonder where Charlie Rose has been if he is just cluing into this now. Diversity and tolerance began to flee the Republican Party the moment Barry Goldwater lost in 1964 and the tent has been getting smaller and smaller ever since, to the point where it’s barely has room for the egos involved, let alone diverse viewpoints.
But Cantor’s response is, again, a real non-answer.
“You know, I feel very strongly about the fact that we’re a nation of inclusion, we were built on the waves of immigrants that have come to these shores. I myself am a member of a minority faith and have enjoyed the ability to pursue and practice that faith unlike I could anywhere else in the world and that is the point here. We all have the freedom that was given to us by our creator and was memorialized, if you will, in the documents that provide the legal framework for us to live.”
Somehow, Cantor didn’t think, or didn’t want the viewer to think, that Bachmann’s behavior was counter to what Cantor told Buzzfeed. Cantor said we have to respect each other’s viewpoints, including our religious differences, but Bachmann attacked Huma Abedin on account of her religion.
Cantor, refusing to actually answer the question posed by Rose, dismisses it by asserting that Bachmann was just being a patriotic American trying to protect her country.
That was also the essence of McCarthyism, to protect America from the Red Menace. The essence of the Witch Hunts was to protect Christian society from Satan. When Hitler exterminated the Jews he said he was protecting not only Germany, but Europe and the entire West from “Jewish” Bolshevism. In other words, though his methods were more extreme, he had the same goal in mind as McCarthy – and Bachmann.
But the ends do not justify the means, whatever Bush-era ideology might proclaim. We tried that even after refuting it at Nuremberg. It didn’t go over well, here or abroad. We elected Barack Obama and as a nation refuted that thinking again.
McCarthy can’t be excused because he was not as bad as Hitler. Bachmann cannot be excused because she is not as bad as McCarthy. We would likely all be shuddering had Bachmann struck at the right time, or found the right chord, or been a more charismatic leader. Close your eyes and imagine her as McCarthy, a megalomaniac who thinks God talks to her and tells her what to do. Compared to a self-proclaimed agent of the Lord, McCarthy might well be looking like a piker among demagogues to us now.
You would have the worst elements of McCarthyism and the Inquisition combined.
And Cantor may claim he is all about tolerance and diversity but his sense of fairness does not include women or the middle class. When Muse wrote here the other day that Cantor said it is time to “question whether it’s fair” that some Americans do not pay income tax and that “we should broaden the (tax) base in a way that we can lower the rates for everybody that pays taxes,” Cantor wasn’t talking about the rich. He was talking about the rest of us. He said it is unfair to “milk them (rich) more because government has a duty to preserve their ability to provide the growth engine.”
So the rest of us have a duty to pay taxes so the rich, who squirrel their money away in tax free shelters overseas and manifestly do not “provide the growth engine” can lead a comfortable existence at our expense, a new class of helots or serfs, an America of diverse plantation slaves for the rich white landowners and industrialists. The trouble is, Cantor’s vision smacks more of Tsarist Russia than the Founders’ vision for America.
Cantor comes across as very reasonable (as he did with Charlie Rose) when he wishes to be, but there is nothing reasonable at the heart of the ideology that drives him. I suppose coming from a mainstream media outlet we should be happy that even the suggestion that the Republican Party might be intolerant and lacks diversity is a victory of sorts, but that would take an interviewer who wants to do more than simply provide a platform for Republican talking points. Rose is not that interviewer and CBS is not that network.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.