Monday, March 09, 2009

Take Back the GOP

We need Republicans. We need sensible people to take that party back, and if they can't, we need to allow other political parties to debate, to talk on television, and to win legislative seats. This is a political crisis.

My mother was a Republican for a long time -- the kind of Republican who, like jaguars tip-toeing around the USA/Mexico wall in the southwest, may be extinct or simply out of view. I grew up in a state that leans Democratic yet produced some wonderful Republican politicians, like the late Senator John Chafee. They were men you might disagree with, but they were sensible and educated people who lived in reality and made decisions based on facts. They were partisan people around election time, but they got back to the people's business and took some pride in a job well-done, not just elections won.

They were certainly not the sort of politician who would publicly wish for a democratically-elected President to fail, just so they could be proved right. There once were Republicans who would consider that unpatriotic and bad for the country's welfare -- and they would have stood up and denounced it.

Politically, our experiment with republican democracy is still immature. We do not have quality political dialogue, in part, because for so long we have been needlessly attached to having two dominant political parties. The two-party system enforces a status quo and depresses meaningful political dialogue. It is often said that the two parties function as a sort of single "Washington DC" party. The party system has worked out, sadly, as Thomas Paine feared back in the 18th century.

We need good debate. Obama's ideas need to be challenged -- even the good ones, and certainly the bad ones. The Democratic majority's initiatives need to be debated with good arguments. If we do not have such debate, we have single-party rule. Our two-party system is bad enough, but now one of those two parties has gone so far off the rails that "Joe the Plumber" is taken seriously as a spokesman for the conservative movement, that George W. Bush and Sarah Palin were considered qualified for President and Vice-President, that scientific data should only be acknowledged when it conforms to a political position.

In short, there is no longer a single reason to take the Republican Party seriously. Instead of shaping good policy, they have pledged to play the role of an insurgent party determined only to thwart the majority party and the President. The head of the RNC spouts nonsense like "never in history has government created a job," and lawmakers feel free enough to admit that obstruction is their goal. It's not country first, it is politics first.

Should we roll our eyes? No, we should be deeply, deeply insulted.

Have a listen to Frank Schaeffer. Schaeffer is an evangelical Christian, a former leader of the Christian right movement, and a former Republican. He is passionate and angry about what happened to his party, and he is right on the money:

Schaeffer also wrote an open letter to the party, here.

If there are any older and wiser heads left in that party, it is time to seize the building. But there might not be much hope. I asked my mother where the Republican statesmen have gone, and she replied: "They're dead."

1 comment:

Hal Johnson said...

Look at the time-honored definition of what makes a conservative, and the "n" in "neocon" should more rightly stand for "non." In fact, in that light, Bill Clinton was a better conservative than George W., misadventures with his wienie notwithstanding. Interesting interview.