There is an old story–a fable, actually–about the most effective way to kill a frog. You just put that little creature in a pot of water and slowly but steadily increase the temperature of the water. Eventually, the frog is boiled to death, but because of the slow, incremental elevation of the heat, it doesn’t realize the danger until it’s too late.
I think that story is an uncomfortable analogy to contemporary America’s political situation.
Yesterday, several news outlets and blogs carried this story:
Republicans want to limit the number of bullets federal agencies can purchase so American gun owners can buy more. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe and Rep. Frank Lucas have introduced a bill that would prohibit every government agency — except the military — from buying more ammunition each month, than the monthly average it purchased from 2001 to 2009.
The purpose of this bill, according to the reports, is to prevent President Obama from making good on his plan to have government agencies buy up all the bullets so that patriotic gun-owning Americans won’t be able to buy them.
Think about that for a minute. And then think about that frog.
When I ran for Congress in 1980, I was pro-choice and pro-gay-rights, and I not only won a Republican primary in very Red Indiana, I was accused on several occasions of being far too conservative. In the years since, the GOP has moved steadily–to the Right, then to the far Right ,and then to the far far Right–and finally to paranoid conspiracy fantasy-land. The party of Bill Hudnut and Dick Lugar is now the party of James Inhofe and Ted Cruz.
In 1980, if any political figure had made the sorts of statements that our elected officials–mostly but not exclusively Republican–routinely issue these days, the media would have called for the men in the white coats. But the progression into delusion has been relatively incremental. Lawmakers have slowly but steadily progressed through the stages from ideological rigidity, to extremism, to bat-shit crazy.
The media and the electorate are the frogs who haven’t noticed that the water has gone from warm, to uncomfortably hot, to boiling.