A growing chorus

Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator from Nebraska, is the latest Republican to speak out against his party’s intolerance and suggest that Reagan himself “would not identify with the modern GOP.” This follows former Republican senator John Danforth from Missouri calling his party intolerant and increasingly inconsequential. And Richard Lugar speaking out against his party’s intransigence and inability to compromise (which in our system means to govern) in the wake of his primary defeat by a tea party candidate. I even heard Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn, who is retiring this year and not running for reelection, speak out about the lack of bipartisanship from his party. And there have been others.It’s great to see these Republicans speaking the truth, and looking at who is doing it does show a decided lack of courage. What they all have in common is that they are either former members of congress or soon to retire members of congress. If you are a current member who wants to win election again and remain a member of congress you aren’t allowed to speak such truth. You will be targeted by the tea party and its minions like Rush and Sean Hannity. It’s always easy to speak out when you are risking nothing.
Real change in the Republican party will not happen until someone with something to lose, a prominent sitting senator or house member, during a reelection campaign, dares to speak the truth that Hagel and the others have spoken. Only then will the party change, will it again participate in governance, will again be recognizable by those who have spoken out. I think when some brave soul does, they will find that it won’t be their death knell (and they all think it will be which is why they won’t speak out till they are retired from office). I think it would instead bring the masses of Republicans out of the woodwork, out to the polls (all those who stay home out of disgust by the tea party and the paucity of choice they have in the voting booth). I am clearly a liberal democrat, and I believe one thing the country truly needs right now are Republicans who will stand up to the bullies that have taken over their party. And to stand up when they still have something to lose, because only then does it matter.
Joseph McCarthy was not brought down by Democrats speaking out against his witch hunts. He was only stopped when his fellow Republicans finally found their courage and spoke out against his tactics (though tellingly even then not using his name directly). It started with Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican senator from Maine, issuing her Declaration of Conscience (worth a read). Joined by six other Republicans, they were denounced by McCarthy as Snow White and the six dwarfs. That was in 1950. Finally, in 1954, Ralph Flanders, a Republican senator from Vermont, spoke against McCarthy on the senate floor. That ultimately led to hearing and censure of McCarthy, who then drank himself to death and died at age 48 in 1957.
The difference today is that rather than one crazy senator there are dozens of tea party believers in the house and senate. Still, nothing will change until a modern Ralph Flanders, or many of them, step forward and speak truth to power.

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About JP

We're two guys who met in college, in 1980. We've stayed in touch, and like to talk politics, current events, music and religion. JP is nore liberal than Sid, but not in every way. We figure that dialogue stimulates ideas, moderates perspective, and is in general friendly. These are things we need badly in these dangerous times. The blog name is taken from a song by Bruce Cockburn.
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