The Tea Party Republicans who mutinied against their own House Speaker rather than raise taxes on the wealthy even a little bit are cut from the very same cloth as the leadership of a National Rifle Association whose answer to gun violence is to give everyone a gun. Both are belligerents in a right wing rebellion against America. And I use the term "rebellion" intentionally.
In a recent Washington Post column, E.J. Dionne says America faces a crisis in our political system "because the Republican Party is no longer a normal, governing party."
Things have gotten so bad within the Tea Party wing of the GOP, says Dionne, that the only way to avoid what he calls "a constitutional crackup" is for sensible Republicans to form an alliance with House Democrats to retake control from those Radical Republicans "who would rather see the country fall into chaos than vote for anything that might offend their ideological sensibilities."
What Dionne describes is identical to the revolutionary mentality Eric Hoffer wrote about in his classic work on the right wing movements of the 20's and 30's, The True Believer.
For the ideological true believer, "crisis is his element," says Hoffer. Sensible politicians seek to avoid crisis at all costs. In contrast, when the old order begins to crack up, the revolutionary "wades in with all his might and recklessness to blow the whole hated present to high heaven. He glories in the sight of a world coming to a sudden end. To hell with reforms! All that already exists is rubbish and there is no sense in reforming rubbish."
A normal political party in a democratic system with separated powers, two houses of Congress, and divided government, "accepts that compromise is the only way to legislate," says Dionne. "A normal party takes into account election results. A normal party recognizes when the other side has made real concessions. A normal party takes responsibility."
And so by all of these measures, says Dionne, "the Republican majority that Speaker John Boehner purports to lead is abnormal."
Quoting congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, Dionne notes that today's Republicans constitute "an insurgent outlier in American politics," one that is "ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."
It should be noted that New York Times conservative David Brooks said exactly the same thing about the GOP when it took the nation to the brink of insolvancy in the summer of 2011. Today's "fiscal cliff" crisis is the direct result of the "debt ceiling" crisis Republicans created 18 months ago when they nearly forced the nation to default on its debts rather than surrender plans to dismantle federal programs under the guise of cutting deficits that Republicans exacerbated instead by further cutting taxes on the rich.
Dionne predicts that once this radical Tea Party wing is marginalized by the new moderate Republican/Democratic majority, Congress will be able to pass a deficit package that contains fewer cuts and more revenue than the solution President Obama earlier offered John Boehner but which the Speaker was forced to back away from once his caucus abandoned him.
Just like 1990 when conservatives rejected a budget deal President George H.W. Bush had negotiated with Democrats, Republicans will once again get stuck with a result even more favorable to Democrats in these fiscal cliff negotiations as the "price the right wing will have to pay for refusing to govern," says Dionne
Dionne mentions the recent attacks by assailants carrying assault weapons at the Sandy Hook school and Aurora movie theater as examples of the carnage Republicans cannot control because they are beholden to the "tone-deaf extremism" of the NRA.
But the better analogy is that the Republican Party's refusal to curtail the easy availability of assault weapons is evidence of the undeclared war against our democracy radical Republicans and their allies on the Right are already waging.
It is true that NRA President Wayne LaPierre is just a shameless shill for arms manufacturers who don't care who buys their machine guns just so long as they can make a profit.
But what does it say about an organization that would create a national registry to keep an eye on millions of the "mentally ill" the NRA says might someday become mass murderers but who refuse to close loopholes that today allow millions of weapons of mass destruction to be sold at gun shows without background checks being done on buyers? It says that, among its other functions, the NRA now provides political cover for survivalists, white supremacists, neo-confederate militiamen, seditionists and others who may want to make war against the government and so do not want paper trails created to let the FBI monitor their activities.
What does it say when the NRA refuses to support bans on military-style assault weapons that the vast majority of gun owners and hunters would gladly support? It says that the NRA is no longer a sportsmans' association but part of a shadowy paramilitary alliance uniting weapons manufacturers with right wing militias that are today doing basic training in their camos in preparation for the day when they will be engaged in armed conflict with our "tyrannical" government.
In LaPierre's appalling speech last week, as New Republic's Alec MacGillis points out, there was not a single gesture toward new regulations that might mitigate if not prevent future Newtowns.
"This was profoundly startling to those of us who have become used to lobbies and special interests adept at playing the game of public relations and tactical compromise," said MacGillis. "Heck, even Wall Street was willing to accept some new restraints on its behavior post-financial crash."
But the NRA is no more a "normal" special interest than are Tea Party Republicans a "normal" political party. Instead, both are foot soldiers in a right wing revolutionary movement.
Consider LaPierre's speech in which he opened fire indiscriminately at just about every aspect of modern American society, blasting away in rapid fire succession at the media and their corporate owners, the political class, video games, violent movies, the mentally ill - everyone, in short, but the NRA and the gun industry it represents.
Legitimate hunters do not need, or even want, military-style assault weapons with their high capacity ammo clips. And so, far more representative of the NRA's real constituency are those ex-military and law enforcement officers who join groups like the Oath Keepers, whose motto is "Not on Our Watch" and whose purpose is to forceably resist actions by our government they say overstep what they define as "Constitutional boundaries."
Oath Keepers was founded in early 2009 after President Obama took office by Stewart Rhodes, a former US Army paratrooper and staffer of Congressman Ron Paul.
Like their Confederate ancestors, the Oath Keepers portray themselves as patriots upholding the Constitution in the very act of taking up arms against it.
As florid as the group's language about freedom and liberty may be, its seditious intentions are even more obvious.
On its website, the Oath Keepers are forthright about their belief that the "right to bear arms" under the Second Amendment is not about protecting their families against street crime. Rather, stockpiling guns is about "preserving the military power of the people to defeat the standing army of a tyrant."
The Second Amendment "is not just about preserving a final, doomsday capability to fight oppressive government," say the Oath Keepers. "It is also about the people themselves, as the militia, being the domestic military security force."
In other words, to right wing groups like the Oath Keepers, the Second Amendment is not about the right to own guns. It is about the "right" to take up arms against a government they have defined as "tyrannical."
And if there is one thing we've learned from listening to Rush Limbaugh, or watching Fox News and observing the behavior of those who bring assault rifles to Tea Party rallies and their representatives threatening national insolvancy in Congress, it's that the radical right's definition of "tyranny" is rather spacious - and specious - indeed.
Long-time militia leader, and Oath Keeper member, Richard Mack, was even more blunt: "The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our federal government. "
Patrick Buchanan, before he was axed as an MSNBC political commentator for one too many offensive and outrageous comments, said the Oath Keepers were either defenders of liberty or dangerous peddlers of paranoia, depending on your point of view. But their existence was due to the alienation of many white Americans who believe America was once their country but is no longer. "And they are right" about that, said Buchanan.
It is encouraging that mainstream pundits like E.J, Dionne are willing to say openly that not only does the Tea Party GOP embrace extreme positions but that the conservative movement whose worldview it represents has become extreme itself - mutating into a revolutionary faction with an extreme mentality able to justify any means, however destructive, for achieving its righteous ends.
I don't know how many post mortems I've read of disasters in which a major cause of catastrophe is a failure of imagination. The crisis to American democracy, if and when it comes, will succeed only if those with the ability to do something about it lack the imagination to recognize the Republican Party and conservative movement for what they really are.