Time for GOP to dump the crazies
In 1962, conservative William F. Buckley slammed the John Birch Society and founder Robert Welch as “idiotic,” “paranoid” and “removed from common sense” for their views that President Dwight Eisenhower was a communist agent, that communism lurked around every corner and that fluoride in the water was a communist mind control plot.
Buckley knew that for the fledgling conservative moment to survive, it had to disassociate itself from the crazies and people he thought were committing political suicide.
Unfortunately, when Buckley died in 2008, I guess he took the balls to stand up to arch-conservatism with him. Today’s Tea Party, at first seen as adding new life to the conservative movement, has proved to be an ultra-right albatross.
While the anti-Obama Tea Party fueled the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 2010, it destroyed the Republicans’ chance to take back the Senate. Winning elections in gerrymandered districts of rabid, anti-Obama ideologues was one thing. Selling the crazy to whole states was quite a different matter.
Now after the disastrous Republican government shutdown and flirtation with sailing the ship of state into an economic iceberg, the Teapublicans lead a battered, broken, dysfunctional party. The kind of crazy, conspiracy theory laden, extremist party Bill Buckley tried to avoid.
In a Washington Post/ABC poll, 80% of Americans disapprove of the shutdown. Americans blame the Republicans more than President Obama by 53% to 29%, respectively. And 63% disapprove of the Republican Party compared to 49% for Democrats.
The Teapublicans have mounted a purge of moderates and conservatives who aren’t sufficiently anti-Obama. Moderates like former Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar have been primaried by Teapublicans. (Lugar’s seat went to a Democrat when the Teapublican who beat Lugar, Richard Mourdock, couldn’t win the seat. Mourdock famously said bipartisanship means Democrats accepting the Republican point of view.) Folks like former South Carolina representative Bob Inglis,; a man with a 93% lifetime conservative rating from the American Conservative Union, was primaried for refusing to call President Obama a socialist and telling his constituents to turn off Glenn Beck. It’s a party that sees conservative Utah Senator Orrin Hatch as a capitulating moderate.
Even now, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Lindsay Graham, Sen. Lamar Alexander all face the wrath of the Tea Party for not being conservative enough. This constant threat has pushed Republicans even further to the right. Right out of the mainstream.
But even with the disastrous government shutdown, the voices of insanity persist. Right wing banshee Ann Coulter recently told conservative blowhard Sean Hannity, “The shutdown was so magnificent, run beautifully. I’m so proud of these Republicans, and that is because they have branded the Republican Party as the anti-Obamacare party.” She had to be kidding.
And conservative huckster Rush Limbaugh practically cried on air saying the Republicans were “throwing away the Tea Party” and “seeking to get rid of their conservative base.”
The path to relevancy means throwing out the crazies, not conservatism. Somehow the party of limited government and low taxes became the party of no government and no taxes. The GOP made a big mistake when they bent over backwards (and forwards) for the Tea Party. They should’ve coopted their ideas about spending and deficit reduction and left the Birtherism, the anti-Obamism, and other isms that scare independents away.
Now, the Democrats are no model of party cohesion. They’ve always been a coalition of interest groups and in the past have let some of those interests drive them too far left for the sensible middle to stomach them. But ever since Bill Clinton’s arrival, they’ve done much better about preventing the party from being driven out of the mainstream. When the 9/11 Truthers appeared blaming the terrorist attacks on President Bush, the U.S. government or Israel, Democratic politicians stayed far from them. They didn’t parrot the nonsense like so many Republican politicians have with Birtherism.
When the Occupy Movement was sweeping America, Democratic politicians spoke about income inequality and the 1%, issues important to those in the streets without inviting Occupy members to run for office and take over the party. Democrats were smart enough to see they could reach those people by championing their concerns, not letting a guy who lives in his mom’s basement wearing a Guy Fawkes mask run for Congress.
Of course it’s irrelevant for progressives and independents to slam the Tea Party or chide Republicans. Sure, I’m sick enough of them to want to start my own TEA Party. Threatened Enough Already! But this is a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. This has to be pachyderm on pachyderm. It’s time for those Republicans to drive the nihilism, anarchism, racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia out of their party and actually govern for a change.
In a country that is as polarized and as split as this one, we need two legitimate parties. (We actually need no parties but that’s another column.) One party rule almost always leads to hubris and ruin. We need the marketplace of good ideas. We need people reaching across the aisle and crafting legislation together. The only way we’re going to get back to sanity again is for Republicans to handle their internal business.
Or am I better off waiting to hit the bunny slopes in hell?