COLUMN: The sad state of zealots with microphones
America, you are an idiot.
You are a moocher, a zombie, soulless, mouth-breathing, ignorant, greedy, self-indulgent, envious, shallow and lazy.
The foregoing is a summation of “analysis” from conservative pundits and media figures – Cal Thomas, Ted Nugent, Bill O’Reilly and etcetera – seeking to explain Mitt Romney’s emphatic defeat. They seem to have settled on a strategy of blaming the voters for not being smart enough or good enough to vote as they should have. Because America wasn’t smart enough or good enough, say these conservatives, it shredded the constitution, bear hugged chaos, French kissed socialism, and died.
In other words, the apocalypse is coming.
Granted, such thinking does not represent the totality of conservative response to the election. The reliably sensible columnist Kathleen Parker offered a, well ... reliably sensible take on what’s wrong with the Republican Party. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal spoke thoughtfully to Politico about how conservatism must change to meet the challenges of the future.
Unfortunately, for every Parker or Jindal, there is a Donald Trump urging revolution or a petition drive advocating secession from the Union. And just when you think you’ve heard it all, just when you think you could not possibly be more astonished at how panic-stricken and estranged from reality much of the political right now is, there comes word of Henry Hamilton’s suicide.
He was the 64-year-old owner of a tanning salon in Key West, Fla. As recently reported in The Miami Herald, he was found dead two days after the election with empty prescription bottles next to him, one for a drug to treat anxiety, another for a drug to treat schizophrenia. Hamilton, according to his partner, Michael Cossey, was stressed about his business and had said that if President Obama were re-elected, “I’m not going to be around.” Police found his will, upon which was scrawled “F- - - - Obama.”
Sometimes, they act – the Hannitys, the O’Reillys, the Trumps, the Limbaughs, the whole conservative political infotainment complex – as if this were all a game, as if their nonstop litany of half truths, untruths and fear mongering, their echo chamber of studied outrage, practiced panic, intellectual incoherence and unadulterated equine feculence, had no human consequences. Sometimes, they behave as if it were morally permissible – indeed, morally required – to say whatever asinine, indefensible, coarse or outrageous thing comes to mind in the name of defeating or diminishing the dreaded left. And never mind that vulnerable people might hear this and shape their beliefs accordingly.
Did the conservative political infotainment complex kill Henry Hamilton? No.
But were they the water in which he swam, a Greek chorus echoing and magnifying the outsized panic that troubled his unwell mind? It seems quite likely.
One hopes, without any real expectation, that Hamilton’s death will give pause to the flame throwers on the right. One hopes, without any real expectation, that somebody will feel a twinge of conscience. Or shame.
But that will not happen.
Because, what you see here is not the behavior of calculating showmen who don’t believe half the garbage they say. If it were, we might have hope.
But these, I have come to believe, are not showmen. They are zealots. They do believe half the garbage they say, and they have microphones to say it with. That is infinitely more frightening.
So one can only hope, with slightly more expectation, that the GOP will finally disenthrall itself from this ongoing affront to decency and intelligence and thereby render it moot.
Until it does, we can only absorb the impact of these regularly scheduled meltdowns. And pity the likes of Henry Hamilton.
For him, the apocalypse already came.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a Pulitzer Prize winner and is a columnist for the Miami Herald.