Liberals, as the tired conservative slander goes, hate America. This, of course, is nonsense. Liberals simply want to deliver on the national promise of a more perfect union, to shorten the distance, as Bruce Springsteen aptly put it, "between American ideals and American reality."
But if the past three Republican presidential debates are any indicator, it would appear that conservatives hate Americans. Or more precisely, some Americans. As audiences of the faithful booed an active duty U.S. soldier because he is gay and cheered the deaths of executed prisoners and the uninsured alike, the GOP White House hopefuls on stage remained silent. All because, it seems, they had to. Sadly, that complicity is apparently now a requirement to lead a Republican Party in which demonizing gays, minorities, immigrants and Muslims - that is, hating Americans - is increasingly a centerpiece of its politics.
Reading the reactions of thoughtful commentators after the stage emptied, talking with conservative policy types and GOP political operatives later last evening and this morning, we know we're not alone. Most won't express publicly just how horrified--or at least how demoralized--they are...
The e-mails flooding into our inbox during the evening were less guarded. Early on, we received this missive from a bright young conservative: "I'm watching my first GOP debate...and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!" As the evening went on, the craziness receded, and the demoralized comments we received stressed the mediocrity of the field rather than its wackiness.
But Kristol's discomfort was with his party's messengers, not its message. And for years, that message has been unchanged. On this Republican Animal Farm, some Americans are more equal than others.
That was clear during the 2008 election. Before Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC) said - and then denied saying - "liberals hate real Americans," the sound bite was firmly established as a GOP talking point. A few days before, McCain spokeswoman Nancy Pfotenhauer explained that northern Virginia was not the "real Virginia." GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin amplified on the point during an event in North Carolina:
"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation."
To be sure, the Republicans' real Americans aren't Muslims. Long before Mitt Romney and Herman Cain first announced they would not appoint Muslim Americans to their cabinet, Republican leaders and their amen corner were calling for their profiling, internment and worse.