Has Jim DeMint utterly and completely lost it? Saying the president of the United States is trying “to sell socialism,” and that this country — “this country,” as Jack Nicholson kept saying in “The Departed,” not freaking Red China — is “teetering toward tyranny?”
Can it be that an actual sitting United States senator from our very own state has actually embraced, actually believes, Ruby-Ridge-style paranoid nonsense? Does he actually hear the black helicopters overhead? Are the jackboots kicking down the door of his mind as he speaks?
I mention Ruby Ridge deliberately, because it led to the Oklahoma City bombing. And on the same day a man got so fed up with the IRS that he flew a plane into a building, I believe it is the height of irreponsibility for another man who is in a position of great responsibility to be whipping up the already inflamed passions of the Tea Partiers.
It’s one thing to hear this sort of pooge from some poor lonely loser whose only social interaction is calling into late-night talk radio, but to hear it from a well-off, well-paid, secure man who’s got a pretty darned good life right here in the Land of the Free? That is profoundly disturbing.
Jim DeMint has for some time been noteworthy for saying outrageous things in that mild, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth way of his. If you hear him say it, it generally doesn’t sound as extreme as seeing it in black and white.
But now, he’s using these phrases in front of rallies, making the crowd roar. Now, he’s really gone too far.
Yet mark my words — to him right now, nothing has ever felt more right. I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen some really mild-mannered people find out that if they say certain things in front of an angry, beyond-reason crowd, he will be awarded by adulation. And he finds that he likes this. (Crowds are, almost by definition, beyond reason. They CAN be reasoned with, but it’s much easier, and in the short term more rewarding, to play to the crowd’s darker undercurrents, to stroke the lowest common denominator, to make the crowd say “Yeah!”)
I’ve even experienced it myself. Everyone who’s done a certain amount of public speaking can sense when the audience is with him. You have an immediate-feedback reinforcement loop going. I’ve noticed my tongue getting gradually a little sharper, in speaking of some recent political foolishness, because I sensed how much the audience was digging it.
How much more rewarding must the frisson, the rush, be when you just cast all common sense to the winds and go for the gut with abandon?
Jim DeMint is finding out. And apparently, he’s digging it.