I’ve gotten some friendly pushback, outside of this website, from readers who question the appropriateness of my “crazy” characterization of the Republican Party.  After all, can a whole political party really be crazy? Besides, in calling people crazy, aren’t I copping out of a real effort to consider their views?  Isn’t “crazy” just too simple and dismissive?

Again, just to be clear: when I talk about “the Republicans” I’m  normally not  talking about all people who vote Republican or even all people who think of themselves as Republicans.  I’m talking about the Republican base–the people who normally vote in Republican primary elections—and the public office holders who respond to the base.  That would involve something less than 20% of the US adult population, heavily concentrated in the South. Unfortunately, our political system makes it possible for such a small minority to create chaos and paralysis in our government.

Of course, that’s still a lot of people, and I will concede that applying the label “crazy” to so many people involves some rhetorical overstatement.   But hey, this is a blog, not a scholarly journal.  Besides, it’s not that much of an overstatement.   Sure, probably only a minority of Republicans worry about the government sending them to concentration camps.  But other manifestations of paranoia and–what shall we say, cognitive impairment?—are much more widespread among Republicans.   An obsessive, irrational hatred and fear of President Obama is practically universal among the base.   (Among Republican politicians, it is reflected in a comically knee-jerk rejection of almost anything that Obama proposes.)  Only a bit less universal is the denial of the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and evolution, illustrating what Mann and Ornstein politely call the Republicans’ resistance to “conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science.”

I think I made a pretty good case in my posts of  9/24, 10/3 and 10/8, among others, that today’s Republican Party is truly unique in American history—a major party that is genuinely radical not only in its reactionary ideology, but in its routine employment of tactics that go far outside traditional ideas of legitimate partisan competition.  The Republicans have made extortion and sabotage of government operations standard tools in a war against what they absurdly perceive as the Obama administration’s determination to destroy America as we know it.   We need to go back to before the American Civil War to find comparable behavior by an American political party.

Of course, the most dramatic departure from the normal tactics of political opposition was the recent shutdown of the federal government and the threatened sabotage of the national and world economy.   These actions—which were supported by practically all Republicans in Congress—could be characterized as inappropriate, reckless or irresponsible.  But none of these pejoratives seems adequate to really conveying the full…uhm…craziness…of this behavior.   We need vocabulary to express the idea that this is not normal behavior by an American political party.   “Crazy” may seem over the top, but I do believe that in discussing today’s Republicans, understatement of their extremism is a far more serious and common mistake than overstatement.   Of course, other terms are possible.  Here is Mike Lofgren, a veteran Republican congressional staffer, who explained  why he was ending his career on the Hill after nearly three decades:

The Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe…

“Apocalyptic cult,” “crazy”—not much difference there.

So, I’m strongly inclined to continue calling the Republicans “crazy,” but I’d certainly be open to alternative suggestions from readers.



  1. Bill Anscher November 12, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    I’d call them mean, for their lack of concern about the poor (e.g. cutbacks on food stamps, unwillingness to raise the minimum wage to a liveable amount) and stupid, for their rejection of science (climate change and even more ridiculous evolution).

    • tonygreco November 13, 2013 at 10:14 pm


      I agree with “mean,” but “stupid,” I think, is more problematic. You don’t need to be stupid to be crazy. Ted Cruz, for example, is apparently quite brilliant. But he’s a fanatic. I think “crazy” is a better fit for him than “stupid.”

  2. Bill H November 13, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    I am reading a book ‘Those Angry Days’ by Lynne Olson which details the conflict among Americans from the onset of World War 2 in Europe in 1939 to Pearl Harbor. I think there are many parallels in what happened to Republicans then and what is happening now: Then it was respectable to be anti-war and pro-isolationist among all political parties and economic classes without being ‘crazy’. The key element in causing a big change was the blitzkrieg and fall of France, allowing a Romney-esque Willkie to be nominated. A consensus to help the desperate British was reached even if many still opposed war itself. After that it was only the hardcore Republican rightists who allowed themselves to be aligned with increasingly demagogic antiwar sentiments. Then these Republicans felt manipulated, frustrated,and angry over manipulation by the “elite” (including the Jews). Of course Pearl Harbor was the dramatic event that ended that conversation. Do you think it will take a political or economic Pearl Harbor to bring the modern’crazies’ into the fold? Or is there no other way to raise the level of political appeal to the majority who do not vote or care?

    • tonygreco November 13, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      Bill H,

      The Olson book sounds very interesting (I recall seeing at least one review) but the Republican Party back in the ’40s was a lot more diverse ideologically than it is today. I do think that the Republicans will have to adapt to demographic and political realities and will eventually de-radicalize. But “eventually” can be a pretty long time.

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