I devote this column to thanking four very special people: Rep. Peter King (R–N.Y.), Gov. Scott Walker (R–Wisc.), Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R–Minn.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Our nation owes these people a lot. We owe to them the survival of the core of American greatness — the vitality of our democracy. We should never forget what these special people did for our country in its time of need. Let me explain.

America is great. Yes, the recession was bad, but even at its deepest, 90 percent of us still had jobs. Yeah, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have been bloody and costly, but odds are that most of us were not personally affected enough to continually care. Even with all that going on, it’s easy for the average American to just go home, turn on the game, grab a beer and forget everything.

Let that apathy continue long enough, and this country would lose the last remaining tinges of democratic activism and dialogue that its founding was rooted in. But fear not because four heroes have saved us from that awful fate.

Thank you, King, for reminding America of what we cannot afford to become. It had been too long since we had a good, old-fashioned witch-hunt around here, and your congressional hearings on “the radicalization of American Muslims” really hit the spot. After years of subtly questioning the loyalty of every American Muslim and the place of Islam in the pool of possible life choices a freedom-loving American may make, the Right finally had the chance to spread its wings at those hearings.

Turns out that giving Republicans control of the House (which made King chair of the Committee on Homeland Security) was just what we needed to do. The lunacy of the extreme Right’s position on social issues will continue to be brought to the fore for the next few months. Thank you for letting us voters take a good long look at what we cannot let this country become.

Thank you, Walker, for being the first of the Tea Party fundamentalists to succeed at implementing the ludicrous agenda the crazies have been barking about for a couple years. You accepted no compromise from cowering Democrats, no matter how much they caved. You showed no mercy, and you won.

Whereas your fellow Republicans only subtly blamed unions for every problem this country has had since the dawn of time, you are a man of action. Thank you for reinvigorating the working class and for waking up the sleeping giant that is labor vote — in Wisconsin, but also across the country and especially here in Michigan. Come election time, they’ll be sure to pay you Tea Party folks back.

My thank you to Bachmann could be for any number of things; no one has a more decorated record of obliviously invigorating the progressive cause than the woman who never met an issue she couldn’t misunderstand and misconstrue. This particular thank you, however, goes to Bachmann for introducing the “Lightbulb Freedom of Choice Act.”

Back in 2007, Congress implemented new standards for light bulbs; they had to meet a base level of efficiency, or they’d be phased out. But, as Bachmann pointed out, “The government has no business telling an individual what kind of light bulb to buy.” Never mind that the government isn’t actually doing that. Never mind that using an efficient light bulb is a nearly effortless way to save money and the environment. Never mind that Bachmann is adding to the bureaucracy she claims to hate by proposing a useless bill.

And finally, Huckabee. You lovable teddy bear with the venomous fangs of a viper. Your contribution is the most direct to the immediate future of our democracy. By ignorantly questioning and deriding President Barack Obama’s multicultural background, you have made him — the most powerful man in the world — look like a victim. The Obama political machine didn’t need any help, but thank you, Mike Huckabee, for reminding voters how much you and your party hate anyone who is a little different.

These four individuals, and the hundreds of others in government, cable news and talk radio who spew similar evil, have saved this country. The electorate might have been lulled into a blissful nap, but they have shaken us awake — just in time for the 2012 election.

We owe them everything.

Imran Syed can be reached at galad@umich.edu.

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