(Edited to add: this article does a more clear and thorough job than I’ve done describing these issues.)
Liberals/progressives/moderates are all in a tizzy because the Republican candidates are comically awful in so may respects. It’s infuriating to see the feeding frenzy as photos of a wildly laughing Obama or the shamed Newt gifs fly all around cyberspace. It’s infuriating because while all the people who think Sarah Palin was an idiot, a fluke, a media spectacle and not much more, are going to be laughing and pointing over here —> the radical right will take their candidate of choice (whether it’s Gingrich or anyone else they select) right into the Oval Office.
The radical right loves a redemption story. Entire industries are built on it. The machinery in place that speaks to most Americans (most Americans, not just a few lunatic Tea Party-esque misspelling freaks), the one that has co-opted the language of freedom, rights, independence, and patriotism, just needs the perfect candidate and they will win. We liberals (progressives) will be so stunned that this group could select such a screwed up candidate that we’ll miss the point.
The point is, they want someone who has screwed up a lot. They want someone who has made serious errors. They want someone who will feed into their values: people screw up and they learn their lessons through hard knocks and make things right and we must forgive them (if they are one of our own). (Especially if they are leaders in our hierarchy.)
It’s even worse than when the liberals/progressives who I have considered like-minded people until the last few years glommed on to calling the Tea Party the “tea baggers.” Talk about feeding the fire that the liberal elite are laughing at the rest of us.
We’ll all be laughing our heads off (well, I won’t be) because the candidates are farcical and we won’t take them seriously (Obama’s got it in the bag!). Or, we’ll be terrified about the prospect that they might win so we’ll focus on their weak qualities in an effort to appeal to voters’ logic and reason. We’ll write editorials and op-eds and talk on Sunday morning news shows about how this candidate is weak in x, y, z areas and how they aren’t holding positions in the best interest of their constituents instead of speaking about our progressive values and… we will lose.
I’m tempted to say it won’t make that much of a difference if they win because obviously Obama’s no radical progressive. But, it will make a difference. The radical right, the fundamentalist extremists, the “Left Behind”-led core leadership that counseled and guided George W. Bush. These are the people who will have the power. Last year some significant polls found that 41% of Americans believe Jesus will be returning (before 2050). This is not a small number of people who believe in this, it is not something to take lightly or laugh off as ludicrous.
It’s deeply disturbing to see all of the energy being poured into mocking the Republican candidates when so few people seem to understand how people make choices because of their values, not because of “their best interest.” Visit Focus on the Family’s website. Check out the related industries cited in Ehrenreich’s Bright Sided. Talk to someone who gets glassy-eyed when they discuss “The Gift” with you. Recognize that the machine that started with Reagan, the framing, the understanding that people vote with their values not in “their best interest.” We left/liberal/progressive and even the moderates (those “social liberal/fiscal conservatives” in particular) are still stuck in the Enlightenment view of the mind. We are stuck looking at facts and figures thinking that is what matters. What matters to voters is their values. The radical right fundamentalist extremists are the only ones who understand this (save a small handful of academics like Drew Westen and George Lakoff). They are going to win because of it.