Actually, "unpleasant" doesn't cut it, it's creepy journey and it threatens one's own self, as if spending too much time in the company of such stuff can be contaminating.
Anyway, we are not faced with the ultimate evil, but the political situation is evil enough...Digby has an excellent article that starts out "deconstructing" Jane Fonda but ends up doing it to Richard Nixon and the Republican Party he spawned. Actually it's based on an even more excellent article by Rick Perlstein (in turn a review of a book on Jane Fonda -- but enough climbing the citation tree).
It's remarkable how many things that we think of as permanent features of American culture can be traced back to specific political operations by the Nixon White House. We now take it as given, for example, that blue-collar voters have always been easy pickings for conservatives appealing to their cultural grievances. But Jefferson Cowie, among others, has shown the extent to which this was the result of a specific political strategy, worked out in response to a specific political problem. Without taking workers’ votes from the Democrats, Nixon would never have been able to achieve the "New Majority" he dreamed of. But to do so by means of economic concessions -- previously the only way politicians imagined working-class voters might be wooed -- would threaten his business constituency. So Nixon "stood the problem on its head", as Cowie says in Nixon's Class Struggle (2002), "by making workers' economic interests secondary to an appeal to their allegedly superior moral backbone and patriotic rectitude". It's not that the potential for that sort of behaviour wasn't always there. But Nixon had a gift for looking beneath social surfaces to see and exploit subterranean anxieties.
That is the nub of Republican success, whether it was exploiting the sexual anxieties of displaced insecure males in a newly feminized workplace, or convincing conservative evangelical voters that "liberals" were trying to repress their religion and force them to adopt lifestyles they found repugnant. Nixon wasn't the first dirty politician in American history, but he was the most successful at discerning the churning undercurrent of fear and anger in a rapidly changing society and using his personal brand of dark political arts to exploit it. The conservative movement of Barry Goldwater made a Faustian bargain with the Nixonian black operatives more than 35 years ago. The natural result of that soul selling deal is George W. Bush and Karl Rove.
Until we recognize that the modern Republican Party is the party of Richard Nixon and that the allegedly masterful Rovian vision of a permanent political majority is a rather simple outgrowth of Nixon's uncanny understanding of how to exploit the dark side of populist fear and loathing, we will continue to be stymied.
This is a nice glimpse of the dark underbelly of the current political situation, a start an answering the question, "why do people keep voting for these clowns?", or "what's the matter with Kansas and the other red states?".
We see here a kind of protofascism -- a mobilization of individual fear and resentment into poltical power. In this country it hasn't grown into real fascism. Could that happen? I'm guessing not, at least not at a national level, because we have a refreshingly diverse and skeptical population, compared to (say) Weimar Germany. If it happens, it will happen due to economic instability and hardship, as it was back then.
[[repeatedly edited to put back parts that blogger dropped on the floor]]