[This is a one of a four part series - click for Part 1Part 2 or Part 4]
Cochran's Mississippi Victory

Tea Party Confederate Flag

The Spirit of War.

These unhinged Tea Partiers. We see they are unhinged because they are denouncing the “RINO’s” these days, trying to get rid of every Republican that is ever willing to talk to a Democrat, who’s willing to give up when the battle has been lost (like on Obamacare), who is willing to make the necessary concession when outplayed and not drive the nation into default.

The unhingedness of the Tea Party — the great disconnect from reality — is also dark. It is the spirit of war. Conflict is all it will accept.

It moves things in the direction of death and destruction and an political order poisoned with enmity. It creates things like the American Civil War– this is that same spirit, come for a second time now to wield great (destructive) power in the American system.

Once again, it is doing great damage to the nation, and its prospects. The wounds of the Civil War are still not healed, and who knows what kind of damage this Republican Party will end up inflicting on the nation in this less bloody way of destroying.

We heard that same spirit — the one that drove the nation into Civil War — again last night in the angry non-concessions speech of righteous sore loser McDaniel. It’s a speech in the spirit of righteous anger, and a refusal to concede– despite the evident truth that the election had been fairly won by the rules.

The sore loser fails to honor a valuable tradition in the democracy. One accepts defeat, when it’s done by the rules.

Absolutists insist on war, because they do not recognize the value of anything to which they would have to submit. Including the traditions and norms that enable us to have a good functioning government and a state of peace and mutual respect in the nation as a whole.

But with this Tea Party group — who make such a big deal about how they are upholders of the one true Constitution — there’s no willingness to honor a value as higher than one’s own triumph in the peaceful democratic process of making our decisions.

“Traditions and norms be damned,” say these shut the government down and go over the default cliff. I just insist on what I want, and I will fight rather than accept less.

Bundy and his right-wing buddies– patriots for standing off the feds fully armed, the opposite of the spirit of the Constitution from how they posture.

It includes a big culture that is still fighting the Civil War, and that displays the Stars and Bars in an important expression of political identity. I’ve thought for a long time about what people are saying when they display the Stars and Bars on their trucks and their houses. This is the heart of it, I think: “This is the team, the army that I am on.” And it is the army that fought to drive the nation to war over slavery, the army that served a cause, a spirit, that later created Jim Crow and the culture of segregation, with its regime of racial terror.

I believe we saw that same spirit on display from McDaniel’s righteous willingness to trample on a valuable and important part of the American tradition that calls for losers in elections to admit defeat in good grace. “I called to congratulate my opponent…”

(It was not a call I was glad to make, believing that my opponent Mr. Goodlatte stood for the victory of the lie over the truth. But I knew that was the American way, and I made it.)

That’s how democracy stays at peace. We accept defeat, and the legitimacy of what and who the people choose through an election conducted by the rules.

(Compare war-loving McDaniels here with the noble, order-honoring Al Gore, after the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore. Though Gore misplayed his hand in that Recount crisis, It is still true that Gore got seriously screwed by the system. McDaniel’s seems to think he’s been screwed, but I’ve heard nothing to indicate that McDaniel has any legitimate move but losing in good grace in the American Way.

Gore might somewhat legitimately have started a war of sorts, by denouncing the Supreme Court decision and refusing to accept that the election had been legitimately decided. Legitimately because, as we eventually saw more clearly, Bush v. Gore was but one of the early signs of how the spirit that’s taken over the right has degraded our democracy.

But Gore acted like a man who understood the role he had to play in order to protect the American order. Gore respected the American value on the idea of the rule of law, which includes respecting the idea that when the Supreme Court has spoken on a law, we accept that and move on.

Same with elections. When the people have spoken, according to the rules, we accept the outcome and move on.

We battle in the arena, without shedding of blood, and then we accept the outcome and prepare for the next battle.

We move on.

This spirit pretends to be the true spirit of our democracy. But it is the very opposite. How else could we interpret the Tea Party’s refusal to accept that Obamacare got passed according to the rules, it was upheld by the Supreme Court according to the rules in a 5-4 decision– it’s the law.

And they want to keep repealing it, when it’s long been a done deal, or subverting it in every way they can? Does not submit to the respect for the democratic process. With a face of false righteousness, they make war by the positions they choose.

We fight to win. Accept defeat if necessary. Leave the victors to do their jobs, respecting their legitimacy, and then we move on to the next battle to become the winners in the next round.

But the Tea Partiers think this this, the American way, shows a lack of principle.

In their rigid insistence on dubious “principles,” they will not allow themselves to be represented by anyone who makes a few necessary compromises– like a Cochran.

How perverse. Those compromises are Cochran’s virtues as a Senator, not his great sin.

The Tea Partiers would have liked him to be more of a Ted Cruz, making trouble rather than trying to keep the trouble within limits.

The spirit we see in the wake of Cochran’s victory, from the right wing media and Tea Party places (shown by Maddow), sounding what sounds close to a declaration of war against the Republican Party (these Tea Partiers have seceded from the party, Maddow shows).

It’s the opposite of moral. The spirit of war cloaks itself in a kind of false righteousness, but there’s no real moral there, there. It’s a morality that is chiefly about what other people should do. It’s a morality that makes a virtue for them to get things their way..

Just what great value DOES McDaniel stand for, what value that stands up to scrutiny as anything positive for America? Yes, this nation has problems all right, but they are far from the ones that McDaniel and his followers think they are. McDaniel is glad to take sword in hand and get up on a high horse, but there is nothing really high about it, just the angry spirit of war.

This is a craziness that is aligned with the dark spirit of war. The dark spirit of sadistic domination. The dark spirit of the lie.

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Image: photo via David Frum on Twitter
Andy Schmookler

Andy Schmookler

Andy Schmookler -- who was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia's 6th District in 2012 -- is the author most recently of WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World-- and How We Can Defeat It.