Matt Taibbi put last week’s Benghazi hearing into a broader context that I think is really important, Trey Gowdy Just Elected Hillary Clinton President. If you know Taibbi’s work, you know that he is no fan of Clinton. And he is none too happy that Trey Gowdy and company made even him sympathetic to her. In fact, this is exactly what I was thinking, “Actually many people would have lost it early on and grabbed Gowdy by his goofy silver fro-hawk somewhere in hour six or seven, a fact that made Hillary by contrast look patient and presidential, in ways her campaign had been unable to achieve all year.” I believe I wrote the same thing last week, although mine involved a knife.
But that’s just politics. That’s not the broader context. As much as Taibbi might have major problems with Clinton — far bigger than my policy disagreements — he doesn’t doubt her basic humanity. But that is the base assumption of the Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Taibbi put it perfectly, “Hillary has a lot of flaws, but we’re supposed to believe that she doesn’t have a problem with dead Americans? Seriously?” Well, yes: seriously. Of course Taibbi knows that. And it isn’t just Clinton.
Taibbi mentioned the fact that certain people had a tendency to dehumanize Bush when he was in office. “This is the same kind of abject stupidity we saw in the 9/11 Truth movement, which believed unquestioningly that a whole bund of Bush administration officials was willing to see Americans murdered en masse in order to further some convoluted world domination scheme.” But as Taibbi well knows, this was a very small group with no actual power. And of course, they weren’t liberals — conspiracy theorists tend to be in some incoherent realm that is both extreme right and extreme left.
Today, we live in a world where the Republican base — created largely by Fox News and hate radio — believes that liberals are at best naive in allowing the evil doers to take over the US, or actively evil and treasonous in trying to do that very thing themselves. This is not, of course, new. We saw it throughout the Clinton presidency and it was simply recycled for Obama. Some people claim that we shouldn’t elect Clinton because it will just create more scandal mongering from the Republicans. This is indeed a naive notion. Regardless of what Democrat becomes president, there will be more of this. That’s because Democrats are traitors by definition in the Republican mind.
So that is what was most horrifying to watch last week. It wasn’t an attack on Hillary Clinton but on all liberals — and even conservatives who are not of the crazy persuasion. We are not real citizens or even perhaps humans. And this is what allows the Republicans to continue to get elected despite only have policies that benefit the rich and powerful. Their voters believe that voting for that kind of thing is better than the alternative where they lose everything. And they would be right, if that were the actual choice. Of course, it isn’t.
What’s most interesting is that the Republican base ultimately acts the way the conspiracy theorists do. A couple of months ago, I wrote about this, Conspiracy Theories and the Yield to Real Power. By focusing on fake threats, these people allow real threats to have their way. And that is what the Republican base does: better to vote in favor of real threats to their livelihood and freedom rather than vote for Hillary Clinton who literally wants to kill ambassadors — and by extension, other regular Americans.