So long, Rick Santorum. I already miss you. You were the closest embodiment of the “true conservatives,” around whom they seemed to be starting to rally. Now, as loyalty is paramount to the Republicans, and they seem to have a near fanatic desire to defeat our incumbent president, they must reluctantly fall into line around Mr. “I’m-Whomever-You-Want-Me-To-Be” Romney. Poor true conservatives, they must be kind of crestfallen; days before, Mitt was The Enemy. But it seems to be generally agreed, Mitt is a weak nominee, and now they are stuck with him, after a parade of other weak candidates have passed. The numbers have demonstrated the Tea Party and True Conservatives’ cause is a minority cause, not enough to overhaul the world as they had hoped.
Their cause remains, and their alternate media reality remains, which will somehow perpetuate their mission. What really concerns me is that they have been forced to do something which, for many of them, is anathema: compromise. If I were vindictive, I would say, “Take that, it’s what you deserve!” And, well, it is what they deserve. Another part of me respects their commitment to principles. Well, only in certain ways.
This is their period of mourning, and I will respect their right to grieve. Perhaps they will go through stages: denial, anger, reconsideration, search for alternatives, and acceptance. (Or whatever the stages really are…). Some of these folks will move right away to Romney’s wagon in order to beat Obama. Others will pout, re-group and make that alternative reality even more substantial. Eventually, most will say, Romney is better than Obama, though Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin are still favored in their heart of hearts.
I mean, these guys wanted a major change in government. They wanted to slash the size of the government – 25 to 50% would be wonderful from their point of view. Entire federal departments would be nixed. They harbor a major distrust of the safety net, honestly believing most people on welfare are freeloaders. They believe most regulations are simply barriers to the work of industry. They believe there are environmentalists who made up global warming in order to gain money. Many of them believe that a secular government is better labeled Godless, and is taking us to hell and/or the rapture. Their disenfranchisement with the mainstream is self-inflicted, augmented by the right media all of which inflames, twists and lies enough to truly create an alternative reality, though partly based on facts.
Is there any validity to their ideas? In my empathy for those I mostly disagree with, I do see some glimmers of sense. There are some who misuse their government benefits. There are onerous and un-needed regulations. There are market solutions that will (perhaps only eventually) work better than programs. And some people are alarmists, who have a poor understanding of what science has to say about climate change. And I do not trust amoral officeholders.
There are two good things about this election, and they are the primary and the general election. The republican primary has done what it is supposed to do, filter out oddballs and radicals. To their dismay, a circus parade of oddballs and radicals have offered themselves up and were nearly taken seriously. This is the process, necessary and proper, that a party must go through in our time in order to find its identity. The second good is the result of the search these Republicans made. A party in disarray has offered up a weak leader. So, we are likely to see a second term for the incumbent.
I do believe that as the Right Wing nurses its wounds and re-organizes, they must admit partial defeat. They will need themselves to reform. I hope the radicals learn some things from this.
First, choose your principles carefully. You must not force the world to abide by principles that simply contradict reality. Second, listen and empathize. We should have concern for the less fortunate; we should reform with care, and consider that other people might not be ignorant bozos. Extremism smack of idolatry of ideology. The Right can be reined in through this loss, and many of them – except the most diehard – will open their minds beyond what Limbaugh, Hannity and O’Riley preach. Perhaps a media that is not so selective in its broadcasts, and people can hold rallies with less simplistic slogan signs are in our future. And I am doing my best to practice what I preach.