Another angel loses its wings

ANOTHER ANGEL LOSES ITS WINGS…. Just three weeks ago, the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank had a perfectly reasonable column on the Republican Party’s shift to the hard-right. It was premised on Florida Gov. Charlie Crist “being drummed out” of the GOP, but it captured nicely the larger context of the party’s increasingly radical transition.

But Milbank couldn’t leave well enough alone. In a column devoted to highlighting Republican extremism, the Post writer just had to say, “Both parties have been undergoing ideological cleansing.” The observation was both wrong and superfluous.

Today, Milbank has an even more compelling column, which is just devastating for the GOP. It laments the “crackup of the Republican Party,” chronicling Bob Bennett’s purge in Utah, and the truly ridiculous new platform adopted by the Maine Republican Party. He proceeded to make note of the larger trend, which also includes the GOP gubernatorial candidate in Alabama who’s under fire for only being a partial Biblical literalist, and Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) literally laughable new anti-immigration campaign ad.

The Republican Party, Milbank observed, “is turning into this One-World-Government, Obama-worships-Satan, Jesus-opposes-climate-bill melange.”

It’s a really strong, persuasive, well-argued piece, raising an important point that many observers at major media outlets deliberately avoid.

But once again, Milbank just had to go there.

Democrats are having purity putsches, too, in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Colorado.

[bangs head against desk]

First, Democratic primaries are not necessarily evidence of “purity putsches.” We’ve been through this. Taking the Pennsylvania case, for example, we see Arlen Specter facing a Democratic challenger in large part because Specter was a Republican for the last three decades, and he endorsed Bush/Cheney and McCain/Palin. Subjecting him to a primary is hardly an example of the Democratic base imposing some kind of rigid ideological test, or moving too far to the hard-left.

Second, there’s really no comparison between a handful of Senate primaries and a Republican Party that, by Milbank’s own admission, appears to have gone stark raving mad.

And third, reporters at major outlets have to realize one of these days that there’s nothing wrong with publishing a piece critical of the GOP — and leaving it at that. I’m well aware of the unwritten rule — all criticism of Republicans has to include related criticism of Democrats, whether it makes sense or not — but it’s wildly unnecessary, and at a certain level, misleads the public into thinking “both sides” are equally guilty of the same transgressions. They’re not.

There’s no need to put a pox on both houses, when only one deserves it.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.