There have been two disturbing moments of silence during recent Republican presidential candidate debates that are disconcerting in the least and potentially damaging for the Republican Party at the very worst. One took place during a debate when the question of whether or not a healthily individual who had the option to purchase health care and did not, should be allowed to die if he became severely injured. Before an candidate could utter a word, the crowd cheered the thought of letting the uninsured die. None of the candidates publicly took umbrage with this crass show of a lack of compassion.
More recently when a gay soldier serving overseas made a comment via satellite link into the last Republican debate, and identified himself as gay, he was roundly booed by the audience. Once again none of the candidates on the stage uttered a word in opposition to the lack of respect shown a member of our Armed Forces who was serving in harms way so that those in the audience could enjoy the freedoms that they currently do.
Thus four questions of the utmost gravity come immediately to the fore:
(1) Are the current crop of Republican contenders so cowed by radical right extremists within the G.O.P. that they can’t summon the courage to stand up to this sort of despicable behavior?
(2) Will the Republican presidential contenders of 2012 have to tack so far to the right in order to placate the party’s radicals during the primaries that it will make them so unattractive to moderates and independents as to make them unelectable, in spite of the fact that Barack Obama is clearly vulnerable?
(3) Will the tolerance of this radically incendiary behavior among the far right allow Barack Obama to frame the 2012 elections as our last chance to avoid America going completely off the rails, leaving behind any hope of comity and compromise, as we head into an abyss characterized by radically charged intolerance.
4) Will right wing extremism affect a change in Barack Obama’s message from one of hope to one of fear which will thereby deflect the attention that is needed to address chronic economic problems?
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