Column for 11 February, 2007
“’You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.’”
I miss the Republican Party. No, seriously. I remember back in the eighties there was a political television ad featuring some actor pretending to be real live homespun Texas voter saying, “The way I figure it, I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; they left me” or words to that effect. The same thing seems to have happened to the GOP; somewhere along the way, the Party I remember, the party of grownups, the “Daddy” Party, disappeared and was replaced by a political clown car packed to overflowing with a variety of subtle and unsubtle racists, closet monarchists, religious hucksters and tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorists. It’s hard to say when the change happened. Maybe it was right after the Oklahoma City bombing, when the primary concern of the Republican Congress was that the general public might assume that all paranoid overweight losers in home-made camo were somehow psychotic, so they actually invited these “militia” idiots to testify about secret weather-altering satellites and CIA mind-control experiments. Maybe it was later in the Clinton Years when Republicans like Sam Johnson could stand on the House Floor and claim that the President was a Soviet agent, and not be immediately carted off in a sport-jacket with no sleeves for an extended stay in a padded room. Maybe it has been the influx of tele-Pharisees, blasphemers and outright frauds like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who have anointed the Republicans as “God’s Own Party” and can pretend that Jesus really wants a cut in the capital gains tax. These, of course, are the same zealots who are complaining that Governor Rick Perry has mandated HPV vaccines for young girls, since under their hideous theology, God would prefer women to die in agony from cervical cancer as punishment for having sex. Thank goodness Perry appears to be motivated solely by Merck’s campaign contributions; otherwise I might be forced to concede he has a conscience. At least I can still rely on Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson to spew his half-baked, ignoramus revisionist history about the Civil War having “nothing to do with slavery,” a view that has only been debunked since the 1870’s. Maybe it has been more recently, as the Republicans abandoned all pretence of having any sort of governing philosophy more sophisticated than “It’s MINE!!!” A balanced budget, lowering the Federal deficit, restricting the reach of the government; all these ideas have been tossed out the window, treating like quaint relics from a bygone era you might encounter in some dingy roadside museum. Nowadays, the only definition of “Republican” that counts is how quickly you can kiss the hem of George W. Bush’s robe and pledge absolute, unwavering loyalty to anything and everything he and his pack of Nixon Era rejects happen to stand for that particular week. It’s frankly embarrassing to watch parades of politicians parrot the line that the President is all-knowing and all-powerful. Everything he says or does is always right. Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. Anyone who says otherwise is a traitor. Which brings up another cringe-inducing trait of the current warmed-over Falangists who constitute the GOP; their pathetic tendency to sling words like “treason” at anyone who dares to question any utterance of a leader they are about one giant statue away from worshipping like the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il. Precisely the same Republicans who did everything short of endorsing Slobodan Milosevic for President when Bill Clinton finally intervened in Bosnia, now screech that anyone who has any doubts about the bloody fiasco in Iraq is in cahoots with Al Qaeda. Under this twisted logic, embodied in Dinesh D’Souza’s latest book, the same liberals who are usually denounced as anti-religious secular humanists nevertheless secretly long for the iron hand of Sharia law. This willful denial of reality is just another example of how the Republican Party has systematically abandoned everything it ever stood for in a blind rush to deify George W. Bush. Now that the Bush Presidency has collapsed, the party is collapsing with him.
Franklin D. Roosevelt used to say that he thought America should have two political parties, one liberal and one conservative. He said that in a time when the Democratic Party was anchored by the “Solid South,” a terrorist state ruled like a dictatorship by brutal racists, and the Republicans still could count on remnants of the Progressive movement. Even though liberal Republicans died with Nelson Rockefeller, FDR had a point that is valid even today. America needs a conservative party, because not every idea is a good one just because it’s new. And not everything that is old is automatically bad. America needs a conservative party to, in the immortal words of William F. Buckley, stand athwart the tide of history and shout “Stop!” America needs a conservative party to cast a skeptical look at the wild-eyed plans of liberals and ask hard questions like “Is this really a good idea?” and “How much is this going to cost?” In the post-Cold War Era, America needs a conservative party to restrain the natural tendency of some people to make America the world’s policeman and primary caregiver. America needs a conservative party fundamentally dedicated to the rule of law and absolutely unwilling to see it bent, circumvented or ignored by anyone for any reason. America needs a conservative party, but all we have now is this tottering ideologically bankrupt sham. Some Republicans have taken their loss of Congress as a good opportunity to stand back and have a serious debate over just what “conservative” means. More power to them. I miss the Republican Party.