Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) speaks aloud what we all know: the tea party is the Republican Party and vice versa. After his primary defeat, he gave an interview to Mother Jones' David Corn where he spoke some plain truths. While there may be nothing in that interview we didn't really know on some level, it's pretty remarkable to have Inglis be the voice of reason.
By all measures, Inglis is a conservative's conservative. He was one of the most vocal and persistent voices in Bill Clinton's impeachment, and can be relied upon to vote against anything that supports abortion choice, or funding for government programs. A classic fiscal and issue conservative.
Yet, the tea party begs to differ.
When he returned to the House in 2005, Inglis, though still a conservative, was more focused on policy solutions than ideological battle. After Obama entered the White House, Inglis worked up a piece of campaign literature—in the form of a cardboard coaster that flipped open—that noted that Republicans should collaborate (not compromise) with Democrats to produce workable policies. "America's looking for solutions, not wedges," it read. He met with almost every member of the House Republican caucus to make his pitch: "What we needed to be is the adults who say absolutely we will work with [the new president]."
Instead, he remarks, his party turned toward demagoguery. Inglis lists the examples: falsely claiming Obama's health care overhaul included "death panels," raising questions about Obama's birthplace, calling the president a socialist, and maintaining that the Community Reinvestment Act was a major factor of the financial meltdown. "CRA," Inglis says, "has been around for decades. How could it suddenly create this problem? You see how that has other things worked into it?" Racism? "Yes," Inglis says.
Inglis, like Lindsey Graham, believes climate change is real and should be a conservative guidepost rather than denied altogether. Speaking this idea out loud is an invitation to censure by the party faithful, but Inglis does it anyway.
As an example of both the GOP pandering to right-wing voters and conservative talk show hosts undercutting sensible policymaking, Inglis points to climate change. Fossil fuels, he notes, get a free ride because they're "negative externalities"—that is, pollution and the effects of climate change—"are not recognized" in the market. Sitting in front of a wall-sized poster touting clean technology centers in South Carolina, Inglis says that conservatives "should be the ones screaming. This is a conservative concept: accountability. This is biblical law: you cannot do on your property what harms your neighbor's property." Which is why he supports placing a price on carbon—and forcing polluters to cover it.
Asked why conservatives and Republicans have demonized the issue of climate change and clean energy, Inglis replies, "I wish I knew; then maybe I wouldn't have lost my election." He points out that some conservatives believe that any issue affecting the Earth is "the province of God and will not be affected by human activity. If you talk about the challenge of sustainability of the Earth's systems, it's an affront to that theological view."
His opinion of Sarah Palin made me laugh aloud:
What about Sarah Palin? Inglis pauses for a moment: "I think that there are people who seem to think that ignorance is strength." And he says of her: "If I choose to remain ignorant and uninformed and encourage people to follow me while I celebrate my lack of information," that's not responsible.
Well said, for a conservative guy.
Inglis doesn't know where he will land after all of this, but I don't think John Boehner will be offering him a job any time soon:
The week after that meeting with his past funders—whom he failed to bring back into the fold—Inglis asked House Republican leader John Boehner what he would have told this group of Obama-bashers. Inglis recalls what happened:
[Boehner] said, "I would have told them that it's not quite that bad. We disagree with him on the issues." I said, "Hold on Boehner, that doesn't work. Let me tell you, I tried that and it did not work." I said [to Boehner], "If you're going to lead these people and the fearful stampede to the cliff that they're heading to, you have to turn around and say over your shoulder, 'Hey, you don't know the half of it.'"
In other words, feed and fuel the anger and paranoia of the right.
I thought his use of the words "the fearful stampede to the cliff..." was fascinating. It's the same image John Amato and Dave Neiwert used for the title of their book about the bizarro teabag world, post-Obama.
Go read the rest. He talks about how the party faithful wanted him to frame Obama as a socialist, and when he refused, they smacked him down. About how paranoid they've become. How out of touch they've become, not only with people's plight, but reality.