Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. Previously, he served as Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
It’s become the summer of the wingnut. Unhinged eruptions at town halls are becoming standard operating procedure, as forces from the right face off against forces deployed by the left. Politics, it turns out, follows the line of physics: every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.
This week’s wingnuts are stirring the crazy pot with accusations and associations – on the right, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin makes her debut appearance on the wingnut list with a fanatical Facebook rant and on the left all time wingnut Lyndon LaRouche resurfaces with an ugly new poster of the president as Adolf Hitler that is appearing at town halls.
It's hard to remember that Sarah Palin was unknown one year ago, before being nominated to serve as McCain’s VP in late August 08. Now no longer the Governor of Alaska, she remains a powerful political presence on the right and is considered a likely contender for president in 2012. There have been times when she’s been unfairly attacked in the past, but this past week she jumped the shark in my book, cementing her reputation as one of the most polarizing political figures in America with this fear-fueled outburst on Facebook to her friends and followers:
“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”
For sheer fear-mongering that aims at the heart of familial emotions this statement is perhaps unprecedented at the major league level of recent American politics. It should be needless to say that none of the various bills circulating through congress contains a "death panel." The outcry over her statements was so widespread that even partisan Republicans distanced themselves from her comments (in a refreshing bit of candor, Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson said Palin’s statement was “nuts.”) Soon Sarah Palin followed suit offering an apology and calling for more civility in our politics, but that only added insult to this injury.
Just as you can’t retreat to move forward or quit to fight even harder, you can’t wade into a policy debate by saying the president is going to kill your baby at the hands of a death panel and then call for civility.
Yesterday, Palin doubled down on her comments and tried to save some face – though this time avoiding the words “evil” or “death camps” and pointing instead to provisions of a House bill that she says would ration care to what she calls “unproductive” members of society. Her sidestep of those terms is its own commentary, but for those who want additional back-up, you can refer to our friends at PolitiFact.com, who rated her comments the coveted “Pants-On-Fire” rating. Sarah Palin, you’ve earned your membership in the Wingnut Hall of Fame.
On the left, old-time crazytown conspiracy theorist and quasi-cult leader, Lyndon LaRouche, made a surprise reappearance on the national political scene, earning him entry into the Wingnut Hall of Fame.
Wingnuttery at this summer's town halls has hit epic proportions, with unhinged attacks on President Obama ranging from accusations that he is everything from a communist to a fascist. But when posters began appearing showing President Obama with a Hitler-mustache, bearing the slogan “I’ve Changed,” the outrage was obvious. The source of the posters was not.
Lyndon LaRouche, himself a former communist and several-time fringe presidential candidate exists far off the political grid, but he's been most routinely associated with the left. When his self-styled followers have run for office in the past they have generally run in Democratic primaries. (Although they're probably best known – if at all – as people handing out conspiracy theory pamphlets on street corners and airports.)
The recent uptick in comparisons of the President of the United States to either communist or fascist dictators is just unacceptable. This is not political theater; it demeans our country to associate our democratically elected president with dictators who murdered millions in their names. Lyndon LaRouche is a crank who manages to dupe a few lost individuals every decade. This newest hate-fueled "addition" to American politics is just the latest and hopefully last reason to name Lyndon LaRouche a wingnut: a certified card carrying member of crazy town.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.