JP your last post lamenting the Republican Party is certainly accurate. Let me elaborate on that a little with my own thoughts.
First, the GOP is an amalgamation of interests, like its counterpart. The recent rise of the Tea Party has filled a leadership void. Those with definite things to say grab the attention of both the press and voters. Michele Bachmann, Rand Paul and in turn, Ted Cruz have each captured the national debate in the same way that any shock jockey does. The difference, of course, is that these people are elected officials, not just crazy people on the radio. And the current state of affairs is not new; many of the comments you reference, JP, are years old. The reactionary and “shock” wing of that party has been a while in the making.
What has really changed in politics that allowed the people I usually refer to as the Crazies on the Right? The moderate leaders – the rational ones – in the GOP have not been vocal or loud enough in countering the extremists. Nor have the voters been willing to listen to them. I see two trends that lead to the shift.
First, several agile and manipulative people whose goals were for power more than any vision of good government – I would call them fiends – have managed to get their foot in the door and change several things about how the Party and the entire political system work. I don’t mind a little name dropping: Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, Dick Cheney, Henry Hyde, Karl Rove and Darrell Issa for starters. These are the guys at the helm of the K Street project, re-districting, and talking points that include, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” The second trend is that the Republican relativists have lost sway to the Republican absolutists. To these people a better way is not good enough, there is only the right way. These two trends have reinforced each other and made for a dysfunctional party and country.
Here is a typical quote from Henry Hyde as long ago as 1998: “What we are telling you today are not the ravings of some vast right-wing conspiracy, but a reaffirmation of a set of values that are tarnished and dim these days, but it is given to us to restore them so our Founding Fathers would be proud. It’s your country – the President is our flag bearer, out in front of our people. The flag is falling, my friends – I ask you to catch the falling flag as we keep our appointment with history.” Note Hyde’s patriotic guilt tripping, and the use of hypocritical double-talking superlatives (from 1965 to 1969, Hyde conducted an extramarital sexual affair with Cherie Snodgrass).
If politics is the art of the possible, then there is little room for absolutes in government. It hardly takes any imagination to say that our current Democratic President is adept at compromise, and shows an ability to see issues and stances as they relate to each other. This aspect of his leadership is a major factor in his rise to power, twice. There simply are more people who prefer whatever is better than the ones who insist on their absolute ideal version of, well, anything. Here are some examples.
· Government is not the enemy; it just needs to be transparent, reformed, able to do its job.
· Abortion is not wrong; it is undesirable, a sad choice, but legal.
· We can say the same about Canada’s Tar Sands and the keystone pipeline. Not evil or wrong, just undesirable.
We sometime talk about false dichotomies, JP, and here is one: If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Wisdom involves deliberation, comparative consideration, and preferences. David Hume says, “In our reasonings concerning matter of fact, there are all imaginable degrees of assurance, from the highest certainty to the lowest species of moral evidence. A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence.” I’m with Hume on this one.