Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What's Left of the Right?

Let's make a list of all the people today's Republican Party has tried its best to alienate.
Gays and lesbians.
Blacks. (What about Black Muslims? Probably a two-fer.)
Women. (Except for Mama Grizzlies, who are presumably traveling, pack-like to support Ms. Palin.)
Environmentalists. (A long time ago.)
People who are unemployed and wish they had a job, unemployment benefits until they can find a job, or both.
Anyone who feels any affinity for any of these groups.
Others I may have left out--feel free to add to the list.
Now, I don't care what your political persuasion, this is not a good state of affairs. A Republican Party that keeps practicing addition by subtraction only serves to polarize the national political debate, make every issue a black/white wedge issue, dampen down the capacity of elected officials who might want to get something, and drive more and more average Americans out of the political process.
If it is a conscious strategy, it is cynical beyond words.
If it is a death-wish, those of us who believe that politics and government are essential to our capacity to create and deliver a positive future can only hope that the process moves rapidly to its logical conclusion, and that at some point a more reasonable, moderate, and thoughtful Republican Party can be re-born.
Because it wasn't always like this.
Once upon a time, a long long time ago, there was a Republican Party that was populated by interesting, smart, capable people. You might now agree with them, but they were impressive. I remember listening to "Capitol Cloakroom" on the radio (I know that dates me, but there it is) and hearing Everett Dirksen's gravelly voice argue for his side of the aisle. Bill Scranton, Edward Brooke, Mark Hatfield, and more were staunch Republicans who had workable political philosophies they were committed to as Republicans.
Today, I doubt Mark Hatfield would be admitted to the Republican caucus.
The old joke about the Democrats was, when they formed a firing squad they lined up in a circle.
Today's Republican Party has formed a circle, and then given guns to an angry mob standing outside the circle, with orders to shoot to kill.
The truth is, we need two parties in this country--maybe more. Interestingly, we also need the parties to be able to work in a more bi-partisan fashion.
That can't happen as long as one of the two parties is committed to killing the political process en route to committing suicide.
What's even worse is, the Republicans may be rewarded for their strategy at the polls this November--which would only convince them to double-down on cynicism. What's beyond cynicism?
Nihilism, I guess.
As the nihilists say in The Big Lebowski, "We believe in nothing, Lebowski, nothing."
After November, that may be where the Republicans head.
It's an ugly thought, and a dangerous game.

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