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So much for shedding the 'stupid party' label

Shortly after the 2012 elections, Louisiana Gov.
So much for shedding the 'stupid party' label
So much for shedding the 'stupid party' label

Shortly after the 2012 elections, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) urged Republicans to "stop being the stupid party" and move away from "dumbed-down conservatism." It seemed like reasonably good advice, which some in the GOP have apparently chosen to ignore.

Ted Nugent, the gun-loving, bow-hunting rocker whose staunch defense of Second Amendment rights and inflammatory insults of President Obama have made him a hero with many conservatives, will attend the president's State of the Union address on Tuesday night.Mr. Nugent, who is also a National Rifle Association board member, will be a guest of Representative Steve Stockman, a Texas Republican who recently made headlines by threatening to file articles of impeachment against Mr. Obama if the president issued executive orders that strengthened gun control laws.

For the record, I don't much care about Nugent's ridiculous antics. He's obviously a fringe extremist who uses vile language; he hasn't had a hit since the '70s; and he's generally better left ignored.

But Nugent has also gone after President Obama with rhetoric that was violent enough to get the attention of the Secret Service. Try to imagine the political world's reaction if a washed-up entertainer targeted a Republican president with violent rhetoric, and then a Democratic member of Congress invited him as a special guest to attend the State of the Union.

Of course, that's not happening. On the contrary, Nugent was invited by a House Republican as a way to counteract Democratic lawmakers welcoming victims of gun violence to the Capitol.

Regardless, there's a larger context to this that's worth keeping in mind as the day unfolds.

First, this is arguably an opportunity for Democrats and a problem for Republicans. Remember, Republicans had a very clear plan in mind for this evening -- allow their swing-state rising star to deliver a carefully-crafted speech, in English and Spanish, hitting the precise points GOP leaders want to emphasize at this critical point.

Instead, Republicans find themselves in the awkward position of having two GOP senators delivering post-SOTU speeches, and while they're speaking, a musician/right-wing clown will be hosting a press conference on Capitol Hill, which seems likely to become a distracting spectacle.

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Democratic offices spent the day issuing press statements, demanding to know what John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio think about Ted Nugent's record of ugly extremism, and whether they're comfortable with his presence in the chamber tonight.

Second, as Greg Sargent explained, let's also not overlook Steve Stockman's role in this burgeoning fiasco.

The problem lies in all the over-the-top stuff GOP lawmakers say regularly that isn't quite crazy enough to earn widespread condemnation, as Nugent's quotes have, but are still whacked out enough to encourage an atmosphere that helps keep millions of GOP base voters sealed off from reality. The problem is the perpetual winking and nodding to The Crazy that is deemed marginally acceptable -- the hints about creeping socialism, the claim that modest Obama executive actions amount to tyranny, the suggestions that Obama's values are vaguely un-American and that Obama is transforming the country and the economy into something no longer recognizably American, and so on -- more so than the glaringly awful stuff that gets the media refs to throw their flags. [...]The problem isn't so much Ted Nugent as it is the Steve Stockmans of the world telling their constituents that Obama's sensible gun reforms rise to the level of impeachment.

Quite right. We talked last week about the new Republican effort to "marginalize" the "cranks, haters, and bigots," but as we're reminded regularly, it's extremely difficult for a political party to ostracize such a significant chunk of its own membership.

As the Stockman/Nugent story reminds us, the problem isn't that Republicans have some "cranks, haters, and bigots"; the problem is that Republicans are a radicalized party in which "cranks, haters, and bigots" routinely dominate.

If the GOP intends to stop being, in Bobby Jindal's words, the "stupid party," they have a long way to go.