(Palin likes Ted. Says a lot doesn’t it? (Public Domain)
Sometimes in politics, it isn’t who wins the vote but who loses. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri brilliantly saw this by funding the most extreme candidate in her opposition Republican primary field to square-off with her in the general election. She successfully chose Todd Akin, of “legitimate rape” fame, to be her opponent.
Wendy Davis has been similarly blessed with equally confounding behavior from an ally of her adversary, Greg Abbott, in their gubernatorial campaign in Texas. Davis didn’t provide funds to anyone as McCaskill did, nor is it a given that she will win, but she has been greatly helped in her gubernatorial campaign with Ted Nugent’s presence on behalf of Greg Abbott. Nugent said, “I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame, enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago Communist-raised, Communist-educated, Communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.”
Shock jocks learned long ago that offensiveness sells. Prior to Nugent’s appearance, Greg Abbott’s campaign rally attendance averaged less than 100 people. Immediately after Nugent arrived on the scene, attendance tripled. Nugent is not merely a rock star, but an NRA board member and a fierce Second Amendment advocate, which attracts the hard-right conservative element to rallies.
Of guns, Ted Nugent, who avoided fighting in the Vietnam War, bragged during the Romney presidential campaign in April 2012, “”If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
The quip not only attracted 2nd Amendment voters, but garnered well-deserved scrutiny from the Secret Service.
As long as Ted Nugent achieved popularity in rock and roll trafficking in offensive lyrics, he was merely a disgusting cultural footnote in the scheme of things. The 1st Amendment protects deeply offensive speech, unless it leads to actual deeds or violence. So Nugent’s lyrics for Jailbait, bragging about having sex with a 13-year-old girl is not illegal unless it leads to actual sex with children.
While Jailbait glorifies pedophilia, it doesn’t depict an actual sex scene, as child pornography does. The problem for conservatives is when they parlay Nugent’s popularity toward their own electoral ends. We know that Nugent’s attendance at conservative rallies led to significant attendance increases, but his “conservative values” ought be distinctly contradictory to “family values” conservatives claim to embrace. Apparently they are not.
Although Nugent famously called Hillary Clinton a “c*nt”, Sarah Palin swooned ecstatic over Ted Nugent at a recent Abbott rally saying, “If he [Abbott] is good enough for Ted Nugent, he is good enough for me.” Ted Nugent is the gold standard of envy for Palin: if Nugent approves of Abbott, then so does she. If Palin has any principles, she set them all aside for electioneering, unless she supports misogyny, pedophilia, racism, homophobia and otherwise. Apparently she does.
More importantly, Nugent represents a deeper strain of division in far-right Republican politics of hollow patriotism. To them, it is OK to launch invectives of hate toward minorities, gays, women, the poor and the vulnerable. It is OK to threaten violence against our President and it OK to brag about sex with children, all this as long as Nugent gets out the vote for conservatives on election day.
Republican congressman Steve Stockman provided Ted Nugent the high honor of inviting him to attend the President’s State of the Union Address. Stockman did so to boost his own electability in his upcoming Senate race because Nugent represents “true” conservative values. Nugent was riding a conservative adoration wave until he heard he may have damaged Abbott’s electoral prospects with his hateful and divisive speech.
So Nugent apologized with, “I apologize for using the term [“subhuman mongrel’] I will try to elevate my vernacular to the level of those great men that I’m learning from in the world of politics.”
He didn’t apologize for intimating that Barak Obama is an illegitimate President when he said Obama, “weasel[ed] his way into the top office,” but rather just using a Nazi term against Jews, “subhuman mongrel” or untermenschen.
In a larger scale, this story isn’t about Ted Nugent, Greg Abbott, Wendy Davis or Barack Obama; it is about the fracturing of a once-great political party into irreconcilable pieces. Republicans invited Nugent to their events, not because they want to use him to boost votes against Democrats, but because fratricide and infighting and their innate fear of the far-right wing of their party.
Each Republican candidate wants to demonstrate that he or she is more conservative than his opponent, or in Greg Abbott’s case, he wants to juice his popularity with the fanatical wing in the general election. Either way, it is tragedy for the Republican Party and the United States in general. A viable democracy needs credible debate from two reliable parties who bring substantive ideas to the table. Hate, violence and misogyny isn’t a formula for success, but in the short term Ted Nugent’s hate speech could be good for Wendy Davis’s prospects and she could benefit from his continued presence in Texas.