This week, we got a brief glimpse of what a reasonable Republican party would look like. Faced with unspeakable destruction brought by Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Romney surrogate and formerly as vicious of an attack dog on President Obama as any in his party, suddenly began bestowing lavish praise on the president. Where once he was claiming Obama “had never learned how to lead anything,” suddenly he was praising the president’s leadership skills. For several days, in interview after interview, Christie spoke of the tremendous cooperation and assistance he was receiving from the White House and the two spent Wednesday surveying the damage. It took disaster to get the facade of fake outrage at “big government” and the other unwarranted right wing attacks against Obama dropped but suddenly all Americans got to see how government should and could work when the goal is helping people and not merely dethroning the opposition party.
Such cooperation is not new but it is decidedly rare today. In fact, it’s hard to think of another instance of Republican cooperation throughout Obama’s entire term. Instead, what we have gotten for four years is a party that’s priorities are, in order, defeating the president and promoting an ever devolving list of social policies that seem determined to turn the clock back to the mid twentieth century.
A More Reasonable Republican Party
Previous generations of Republicans were different. When George McGovern passed away this week, Bob Dole reflected on how he, a conservative, and the late liberal had worked together in the 1970’s to fashion legislation dealing with food stamps and lunches for school kids. He talked about how they worked together to feed hungry children around the world. This is a conservative Republican and formerly the party’s standard-bearer talking. Rather than be bound by a political party’s immovable ideology, he and McGovern focused on their “shared values” and interest in bettering the lives of others.
Past Republican presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and, yes, even Richard Nixon, took the lead on protecting the environment, saving our wildlife, protecting the air and water, building infrastructure, growing and protecting Social Security and, yes, even building a relationship with former enemies like Communist China. It was Ronald Reagan, his bad old self, that extended a diplomatic hand to the former Soviet Union and, in so doing, helped to bring down the Iron Curtain.
The Republican Iron Curtain
But, today’s Republicans? They’ve spent four long years thwarting President Obama at every turn, refusing to help create jobs, to regulate bankers, to lower the debt, to help veterans. They sneer at diplomacy and embrace alienating allies and enemies alike. They didn’t want to to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and they started a new one on national health care. They deny global warming, sneer at evolution, reject science and think FEMA is over funded. They’ve thrown the American people under the bus to try and regain power. And, it has worked somewhat. In 2010, they took the House of Representatives back on a promise to create jobs. Since then, they passed not a single jobs bill but spent a lot of time trying to take away our health care and talking about the lighter side of rape.
On Rape And Race
Their policies regarding women have been the most mind numbing of all, with a long list of Republicans who’ve made bizarre statements about rape. There’s Senate candidates Richard Mourdock, who described rape as “something that God intended to happen,” and Todd Akin who stated that in a “legitimate rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” And there’s Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan who referred to rape as a “method of conception” and once authored legislation that coined the bizarre term “forcible rape.”
Meanwhile, presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, hasn’t taken a side on women’s issues. Well, that is to say, he’s taken every side. He’s endorsed Mourdock, backed away from Akin and chosen Ryan as his running mate. He’s also been for, against and in the middle on a woman’s right to choose. He’s run a campaign in which he’s either refused to take a stand on anything or, instead, taken multiple stands on everything.
On race, the party seems still challenged by the same old prejudices. When Republican Colin Powell, a retired four star general and former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endorsed President Barack Obama last week, the response from Romney campaign co-chairman John Sununu was that Powell endorsed Obama because they “are both African-American.” And there you have it, the modern Republican leadership, obsessed with race baiting and women hating; old white guys who are terrified that the world is changing; that women, minorities and gay people play an important part in our society, today and for the future.
A Party Gone Mad
When, exactly, did the GOP go so completely crazy? While the voodoo economics and careless social policy owes much of its origin to the Reagan years, and the race baiting can be traced even further back, the train didn’t run completely off the tracks until just a few years ago. After the 2008 defeat, the Republican party was desperate. Feeling endangered, they made a radical choice. Rather than head towards the middle, they went as far right as possible, pushing out many of the party’s moderates in favor of extreme ideologues like Mourdock, Akin and Ryan, who think women are second class citizens, not entitled to overseeing their own health care. Thus did they complete a makeover of the party to where now Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and Ann Coulter are the mainstream and even their lord Reagan would look out of place.
Now, they are in a neck and neck race for the White House behind a candidate who promises the same things the Tea Baggers promised in 2010 but lifted not a single finger to achieve. He says he will create 12 million new jobs, but doesn’t say how. He says he will cut taxes and balance the budget but doesn’t say how. He says he won’t push to overturn Roe V. Wade but promises to appoint more Scalias to the Supreme Court. And, he says he’ll work with Congress like Obama couldn’t. After all, he worked with Democrats to push through universal health care in Massachusetts (the same health care he now opposes).
Well, sure, working with Democrats to pass health care legislation in New England is easy. Just wait until he tries to work with these Republicans in this Congress to do anything that would help the rest of us.
Shaping The Future
We don’t need a new president. We need a new Republican party and by new Republican party, I mean the old Republican party. We need to get back the Dick Lugars and Bob Doles and Dwight David Eisenhowers, men who were ideologically different than Democrats but who were still reasonable, intelligent, well intentioned leaders who thought about America first. Today’s Tea Party dominated GOP is a real horror show and it needs to be replaced, immediately.
A victory on Election Day may give this do nothing, power over policy party a temporary victory. But, in the end, their harmful policies will lead us nowhere and, eventually, they will fall from grace. Their days are numbered. There may still be enough old fashioned, grumpy, woman, minority and gay hating followers to elevate them to national office. But their way is dying out. They will not block progress in the long run. And, for their benefit, and the nation’s, it’s best to force them to change now.
Show them this Election Day that America is looking forward, not back. Make the cooperation like we saw between Christie and Obama become a regular happening and not just when necessitated by an emergency. And within a few years, we’ll have a better Republican party and a better USA.
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