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April 21, 2005
Tomasky on DeLay


On successive days in mid-November 2002, Tom DeLay was elected House majority leader, replacing the retired Dick Armey, and Nancy Pelosi was chosen as the House Democrats' leader, succeeding Dick Gephardt. One of those had amassed a capable but relatively quiet record of service in the House of Representatives, stirring controversy only once (by supporting the primary opponent of a longtime congressional incumbent from Michigan). The other had called the Environmental Protection Agency "the Gestapo of government"; had denounced the Nobel Chemistry Prize, after it was given to the discoverers of the link between chlorofluorocarbons and ozone depletion, as the "Nobel Appeasement Prize"; had called CNN the "Communist News Network"; had linked the Columbine High School shootings to birth control and day care; had avoided military service during the height of the Vietnam War in 1969 (reportedly explaining, in 1988, that so many minority youths were going after those well-paying military gigs that there was no room for good folk like himself); had led a fanatical crusade to force votes on articles of impeachment against a president with an approval rating above 70 percent; and had been rebuked (privately) by the House Ethics Committee for attacking a business trade group for daring to hire a former Democratic congressman as its president.

And guess which choice the media said was a calamity?


Tom DeLay, at the time [1974], was a young man with an exterminating business who had indeed won a student deferment (even after a Baylor University dean asked him to sit out one semester, according to Slate) and who was developing a hatred of government so concentrated that it could only be salved by joining it. He was elected to the statehouse in 1978, the first Republican to represent Fort Bend County in the 20th century. Six years later, when the 22nd Congressional District seat opened up, he took it easily. DeLay was badly outnumbered in 1984, when 21 of Texas' 27 members of Congress were Democrats. But he found comrades in Washington -- railing against tyrannical government, the liberal media, the activist judges; the railers were thought to be crazy then.

Well, they're the gummint now, and they have to be taken seriously. And in the obvious ways, of course, they are. But there's one important way in which, oddly, they're still not taken seriously enough: There remains an unwillingness to recognize just how reactionary their agenda is, and to call it what it is. It's a strange thing, because it's hardly as if those on the right have kept their agenda a secret. They've demonstrated many times that they have no patience for civic debate, and seek only to smash the opposition. They want virtually no government protection or regulation for regular people; they've passed virtually no major legislation that serves the public interest, and only legislation that serves corporate and far-right religious interests. In their desire to reintroduce the teaching of creationism in the schools, they want to go back to the 1920s; in their desire to merge state and church, their ideal America looks more like the 1720s.

American Prospect


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