Somewhere in America, a psychology graduate student is doubtless preparing the definitive thesis of the modern conservative mindset. After all, the Bush years produced a cottage industry of analyses on the roots of Dubya's "dead or alive, bring 'em on" macho talk. And now that Sarah Palin has added "impotent" and "limp" to a right-wing vernacular replete with over-sexualized and even homoerotic terms like "bend over" and "ram down our throats," it's clear that the leading lights of the Republican Party could use a little couch time with Dr. Freud.
As authors including Tom Frank (What's the Matter with Kansas?) and Rick Perlstein (Nixonland) among others have thoroughly documented, the conservative narrative of victimization, violation and persecution by coastal liberals and Ivy League elites - even when Republicans are in power - long predates the likes of Sarah Palin and even Richard Nixon. But in recent years, the not-too-thinly veiled innuendo of the new vulgarians on the right has descended to appalling new levels.
Even before the election of Barack Obama, right-wing radio host and Viagra enthusiast Rush Limbaugh debuted "bend over" as a Republican talking point. Before regularly using terms like "man-child" and "little boy" to describe the first African-American president, Limbaugh declared "Democrats will bend over, grab the ankles, and say, 'Have your way with me'" to black and progressive voters. (In case listeners had any lingering confusion about his metaphor, he later added "anal poisoning" to his repertoire.) After Obama's inauguration, Limbaugh announced ""We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward, whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first black president." And in August 2009, Limbaugh coughed up this metaphorical two-fer:
"You people are out calling us Nazis, saying we're running around with Swastikas. We get tarred and feathered as Nazis because we don't just bend over, grab the ankles and let you guys ram whatever down our throats you want."
As he made clear during the 2008 election, among the "we" was Sarah Palin. Her Troopergate scandal, Limbaugh insisted, was just "pure sexism in Alaska on the part of these old boys trying to get rid of Sarah Palin, and she didn't put up with it, and she didn't bend over and let them have their way."
By now, references to and imagery of Barack Obama "raping America" is standard fare for the GOP's amen corner. But for the political party obsessed with the biblical admonition that it is better to give than receive, another orifice has come to dominate conservative rhetoric. And it lies at, so to speak, the other end of the spectrum.
On virtually every issue from the stimulus to health care and so much more, Republicans claim that Democrats are "jamming" or "cramming it down our throats."
Before she introduced cojones, impotent and limp into political oratory, Sarah Palin was already one of the Republicans protesting that Democratic policies were tough to swallow. In January, Palin warned about "the big growth of government and health care takeover measures that it seems Capitol Hill wants to cram down our throats today." During a single March appearance with Sean Hannity, Palin three times used some variant of the "shoved down our throats" sound bite. In November, as Politico reported, the half-term Governor blasted President Obama's policies as "back assward":
Palin then criticized the president for "punishing [small businesses] by forcing health care reform down their throats, by forcing an energy policy down their throats that ultimately will tax them more and cost them more to stay in business."
Of course, Palin was just mouthing the party line amplified by her Fox News colleagues.
In January, Glenn Beck, too, cautioned Democrats about biting off more than they could chew, warning, "they see the response to health care and the debacle that they're jamming down our throats [and] they are becoming desperate." A month earlier, Sean Hannity lectured guest Lanny Davis about the health care reform bill "your Democratic friends keep ramming it down America's throat." And when his mind isn't on getting a nice loofah rub or writing soft core porn, Bill O'Reilly is also complaining about the members of the Democratic Party and the left:
"I, and many other white journalists, now don't do nearly as many reports on African Americans or their problems because we don't want to be put in a situation where our opinion is taken out of contest, rammed down our throat as Media Matters and all these other sleazeoids do."
And it's not just the media mouthpieces of the Republican Party. When they aren't fretting about President Obama wanting to "ram it through" Congress, the brain trust of the GOP is screaming about Democrats "jamming it down the throats of the American people."
"This was passed, this health care law was passed with people yelling and screaming, do not force this down our throats, we don't want this!"
Of course, Barrasso was just taking his cue from the Republican leadership in the Senate. Earlier this year, John Cornyn (R-TX) joins the ranks of Republicans choking on health care reform, claiming the American people "want their country back" and "don't want the elites here in Washington deciding what's best for them and then trying to jam it down their throat whether they like it or not.", Minority Leader Mitch McConnell mouthed his opposition on Fox News:
"But the American people who are already quite angry about the effort to jam this down their throats are going to be even angrier...But I think the fundamental point I want to make is the arrogance of all of this. You know, they [Democrats] are saying, 'Ignore the wishes of the American people. We know more about this than you do. And we're going to jam it down your throats no matter what.'"
And now, the Tea Party, too, is getting in on the hot, opposition action. And for a political movement founded on "tea bagging" as metaphor, they are very in your face about it.
Take, for example, Matt Kibbe of Freedomworks, the right-wing money machine helping fund the ersatz grassroots Tea Party movement. Democrats, Kibbe declared, "jammed the stimulus bill down our throats" and "this health care bill down our throats." As Huffington Post reported, Tea Party favorite Rand Paul wrapped his lips around the same expression when defending coal mine operators:
Paul claimed Obama "cares nothing about Kentucky and cares even less about Kentucky coal."
"We have a president who is forcing the EPA down our throats."
And so it goes.
In recent years, a growing number of studies have revealed the conservative mind to be uncomfortable with uncertainty and often immune to empirical evidence contradicting its most deeply held beliefs. In The Political Brain, Drew Westen suggests that this is due in part to the neurology and emotional processing of the brain. Given their sexually-laden rhetoric, today's Republicans clearly need help from Sigmund Freud's successors. Because if their words are any indication, conservatives have something besides politics on their minds.
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)