It’s truly frightening when the group that is not afraid of guns and touts “Second Amendment remedies” to get what they want, has achieved such an unreasonable command of the mainstream media. The radical right of the Republican leaning Tea Party has made it clear, in the last five days, especially, that they have no problem killing people, and watching them die, if that’s what it takes to get their country back.
For two debates in-a-row, Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for President of the United States have revealed a very dark and disturbing element of the psyche of the GOP primary voter. Last Thursday, during a debate at the Reagan Library, moderated by NBC News’ Brian Williams and Politico’s John Harris, cheers went up from the audience before Williams even finished asking the newest candidate, Gov. Rick Perry, of Texas, the following question:
“Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you – (Loud cheering, whistling and applause) Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”
Monday night, the crowd reacted again during the CNN/Tea Party Debates, in Tampa, Florida, when Wolf Blitzer followed a line of healthcare questioning about a hypothetical, uninsured, 30 year old man who suddenly finds himself in need of six months of life-saving intensive care. Rep. Ron Paul, also of Texas, remarked that it was the young man’s responsibility to get coverage.
“But Congressman,” Blitzer asked, “are you saying, society should just let him die?”
“Yes,” someone shouted from the audience, before Paul could respond. That was followed by more shouting, “Yes. Yes. Yeah,” and the tittering of nervous laughter from the crowd.
In neither case was the crowd admonished by any of the candidates on stage for their visceral reaction to the question of letting people die.
Regardless of one’s position on the death penalty and publicly funded healthcare, these reactions point to what some psychologists might call a narcissistic view what it means to be part of a functioning community and society. The Tea Party lacks empathy for fellow citizens who are not like themselves, are willing to exploit the weakness of impoverished, elderly and unhealthy Americans for personal gain, and have an inflated belief that they are the “real” Americans. For a movement that is said to be founded on Christian principles, they behave more like barbaric Romans, cheering for their gladiators to slaughter the meek. “If he can’t protect himself, to Hell with him,” they seem to be saying, as they prevail on Caesar to give the thumbs down and end a “worthless” life.
Rep. Paul gave a very Libertarian answer, saying that private institutions should take up the funding slack, so the 30 year old can live. Gov. Perry said, quite defiantly, that if you commit a capital crime, “You will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed,” which, of course, was followed, of course, by more hootin’ and hollerin’ of support.
The irony is, that Reagan himself only oversaw one death penalty in the eight years he was governor of California. “Reagan later said it [allowing the execution to go forward] was the worst decision he had to make,” according to the website, On the Issues. He even granted clemency to another murderer, something Rick Perry has only done once himself, an unimpressive ratio from a state executive who is described as “unfeeling and unemotional” by anti-death penalty groups.
“The moment that would have broken my father’s heart,” Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, wrote in Time Magazine, “was the moment when applause broke out at the mention of more than 200 executions ordered by Rick Perry in Texas. It was stunning and brought tears to my eyes. This is what we’ve come to? That we applaud at executions?”
Justice may be blind, but we go to the polls with eyes open. The Tea Party sees itself as the saviors of freedom, but salvation does not pay the hospital bills of the uninsured and uninsurable, and Jesus won’t rescue a saved soul from the governor’s needle.
The reason executions are considered the “ultimate” justice is not just so they can be an applause line for narcissists who can never see it touching their lives. They are the ultimate because there is nowhere else to go from there. You cannot pull back from death. It is the brink to which the Tea Party will gladly take the rest of the country, a place, from which, there is no return. They will march us there at gunpoint, if they have to. We have to lock arms and not let them.