Of course they chose the latter...with a twist. They decided to play the power game of obstruction to anything President Obama proposed. This meant that as he offered an outstretched hand to them, they painted themselves into an ever more extremist corner and fanned the flames of hysteria amongst their base. And so we found ourselves dealing with everything from birth certificates to death panels to accusations of his socialist agenda and - most recently - the idea that the president is a tyrant.
Occasionally this hysteria has bubbled into potentially explosive confrontations (i.e., Bundy ranch). But mostly its been limited to rhetoric - like the talk about "second amendment remedies." Nevertheless, by refusing to compromise and actually govern, the Republicans have been playing a dangerous game that feeds on fear and hate.
Today when I read David Remnick's take on what Putin has been doing in Russia and Ukraine, I couldn't help but notice the parallels.
What’s far more certain is that Vladimir Putin, acting out of resentment and fury toward the West and the leaders in Kiev, has fanned a kind of prolonged political frenzy, both in Russia and among his confederates in Ukraine, that serves his immediate political needs but that he can no longer easily calibrate and control. Putin’s defiant annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of eastern Ukraine inflated his popularity at home. Despite a flaccid economy, his approval rating approaches levels rarely seen beyond North Korea. But the tactically clever and deeply cynical maneuvers of propaganda and military improvisation that have taken him this far, one of his former advisers told me in Moscow earlier this month, are bound to risk unanticipated disasters...Remnick discusses the likelihood that it was "messianic nationalists" inflamed by this political frenzy who are responsible for shooting down the Malaysian passenger plane yesterday over Ukraine. I see that today Putin is trying to tamp things down by calling for a ceasefire and negotiations in Eastern Ukraine. I certainly hope he can put this genie back in the bottle. We'll see.
Since returning to the Presidency, Pavlovsky said, Putin has “created an artificial situation in which a ‘pathological minority’—the protesters on Bolotnaya Square [two years ago], then Pussy Riot, then the liberal ‘pedophiles’—is held up in contrast to a ‘healthy majority.’ Every time this happens, his ratings go up.” The nightly television broadcasts from Ukraine, so full of wild exaggeration about Ukrainian “fascists” and mass carnage, are a Kremlin-produced “spectacle,” he said, expertly crafted by the heads of the main state networks.
“Now this has become a problem for Putin, because this system cannot be wholly managed,” Pavlovsky said. The news programs have “overheated” public opinion and the collective political imagination.
But Republicans could learn a lesson from all this. Their leaders need to stand up and calm down the escalating rhetoric they've been fueling before someone gets hurt.