OP-ED: I Miss The Grand Old Party
by John Maelan, Washington County Democrats Communications Committee Member
I know, right? These are words I never thought this Gen Xer would say, but I really, truly, and sincerely do miss those quaint old Republican guys.
Now, full disclosure, I’ve always been a Democrat. You see, my parents were very supportive of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and the Democrats were seen as the more supportive party of that by far. You add to that fact that we’re a family of Boston Irish and support for Kennedy was a given, and presto: I grow up Democrat.
But just because I’ve always identified as a Dem doesn’t mean I held any animosity for the GOP. On the contrary, I believed that most of the people I’ve met who’ve called themselves Republicans simply disagreed with me on what was the best way to solve problems that we both acknowledged existed. Homelessness for example was agreed to be a problem, but was it to be solved through social programs or free market methods? So, you see, any debates that I had with fellow citizens in years gone by tended to be about process and policy. And, I’m happy to note, in these conversations we often found common ground and in turn were inclined to vote for politicians that would be able to do the same.
But oh, how the times have changed… and not for the better!
Even before Trump hijacked the GOP and turned it into his own personal Manson Cult, I’d noticed the change. I watched as Rush Limbaugh, a college dropout with no political experience hammered cracks into the great glass elephant back in the 1990s. His brand of take-no-prisoners “infotainment” left no room for reasoned debate. Quips and pithy insults began to replace policy positions among the Republicans in my circles and the middle ground began to die a slow death.
And then came Fox ”News.”
Back in the mid 1990s, my impression was that Fox was a serious news organization with a right-wing bent. However, as competition for Rush’s audience became more and more obvious, Fox got handed over to the O’Reillys, the Becks, the Carlsons and the Hannitys—not serious news people, but opinion guys whose rants drove up ratings. Soon Newsmax, The Gateway Pundit, and The Drudge Report were jumping onto the band wagon, creating a highly profitable bubble that sucked in the typical American conservatives like a vacuum cleaner.
And the establishment of the Republican Party, simply sat back and enjoyed the show. Here was a readymade audience/constituency ripe for the exploiting. GOP politicians soon discovered they could save thousands in ad dollars by simply appearing on Fox, or Limbaugh, or whoever. Winning elections thus became a heck of a lot easier for them. And American conservatives became addicted to the crack-cocaine that was, and is, right-wing media. A media driven by panic, alarmism, and drama over policy or political philosophy. Politics, for them, became showbusiness and I watched in horror as the party of Lincon began to die from within.
Of course, when America elected it’s first African-American president, a match was thrown onto all that conservative gasoline. Remember how I mentioned that the Democratic Party was the one more aligned with the Civil Rights Movement? That’s because the more racist Democrats of that time jumped ship for the GOP after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. Add to that candidate Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” wherein Republican politicians began to speak in racist code language for the benefit of white racists. Terms like “States rights” (code for segregation), or “Illegals” (which never seems directed at undocumented European immigrants), became applause lines. So now you have a Republican “Tea Party” that’s predisposed to despise that Black man who had the nerve to get elected president.
This, of course, opened the door wide for one Donald J. Trump–a man who’d shown no real interest in politics prior to the “Birther” craze.
Not for love of country, but for naked self-promotion, Trump grafted his brand onto the Tea Party movement and turned it into MAGA. Gone now were the principled, small government, strong on defense, conservative Republicans of yesterday. One by one the Jeff Flakes, Rob Portmans, and other moderates who’d made a career of finding common ground to get things done, vanished. Now would be the time of the “culture warriors” who prized TV bombast over policy accomplishments. And suddenly lacking any principled foundation, for today’s GOP there is only Trump.
Face it, it’s impossible to hold a discussion about principles or policy with someone who just wants to jump up on the table and shout, “TRUMP!!” at the top of his lungs. These are not the Republicans I used to have reasonable discussions with in days gone by. These are cultists who view common ground as surrender and fealty to Trump as the only true patriotism. And the problem is… sigh, America still NEEDS a capable conservative party!
No kidding, you heard it from a Democrat. We need a strong, reasonable, and serious Republican Party to advocate the conservative point of view in order to balance the Democratic Party’s liberal point of view. In my humble opinion, we actually need it so that reasonable and balanced policies will prevail over anyone’s partisan dogmas. Unfortunately, we simply don’t have that Republican Party anymore. What we have instead is this fractious cult that lives for the drama and CANNOT GOVERN. Heck, when in the congressional majority, the modern GOP can’t even keep a speaker, or pass an annual budget, which has got to be the lowest of low bars for governing a country.
So, what do we do about it? Well, the only thing we can do, my Democratic friends, is win. We need to win every election great and small. We need to reward politicians who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work of governing this great country. And, we need to punish the grandstanding cultists with unemployment. And perhaps, just perhaps, once they’ve lost enough elections, they might realize the error of their ways and come back into the fold of reasonable minded, capable American politicians.
One can only hope.
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