It’s a chicken-and-egg paradigm: do politics drive rhetoric, or does rhetoric drive politics? Well, you guessed it: probably, it’s not a chicken-and-egg paradigm. It’s a both/and paradigm.
Nonetheless, if the GOP has been weakened lately, it’s arguably because of rhetoric. The bully Rush Limbaugh finally got punched in the nose by the only ones who could: advertisers. In attempting to “sound conservative,” Romney comes off as insincere–at best. In attempting to sound more conservative than Romney, Santorum comes off as 300 years behind the times and selectively pious, at best. What of the poor, Rick? What of the death penalty, Rick? What of judge not, lest ye be judged? In attempting to sound like his old self, Gingrich sounds like his old self: simply mean, transparently deceptive, racist, and bloated. In attempting to sound like anything, Sarah Palin cuts glass with her voice and credulity with every sentence. In attempting to sound libertarian, Ron Paul sounds like an old State Rights guy, a Dixiecrat in drag, a crank with a high-pitched voice talking about the gold standard: we can get that in any tavern in America, for heaven’s sake.
Of course, the predictions of the GOP’s demise, I predict, are premature. Romney could easily beat Obama. And even if Obama wins, what will the Congress look like?
Still, the GOP seems to define itself so narrowly now that one finds it easier to say what the Party is against than for. Against government programs except the military. Against regulation (except of women’s bodies). Against science. Against evolution. Against tax increases for the very wealthy that would not have even raised Eisenhower’s eyebrows. Against disaster-relieve (no, seriously). Against being educated. Against public education. Against anyone not White. Against, for lack of a better term, cultural currency; would you like to talk to any of the four remaining candidates about contemporary music, art, literature, dance, or cinema? The horror. Against the sanity of a comprehensive health-insurance plan. Against sensible cuts to the military budget. Against compromise. Against diplomacy.
In sum, the GOP might as well be a senile old White man yelling at his neighbors. The Democrats are no bargain, I realize, but by contrast, they seem within the realm of that which is reasonable. They’ve been dragged to the right something fierce; the current center is the old right.
In any event, what should be done about a Party that aspires only to be a monkey-wrench in any kind of policy-machinery, that is essentially against a federal government except for its military parts, its intelligence services, its prostitutional service to large corporations, and its determination to control women and assert (a narrow version of) Christianity?
Put it this way: What happened to Eisenhower’s Party? Or this way: Does “Conservatism” mean anything besides “No,” “White,” and “Fatuous”?
On just about every issue, Obama is more conservative than the GOP. “His” health-plan, cobbled together as it is, is pragmatic, it will get people who didn’t have health-care insurance health-care insurance (not a radical idea), and it will probably cut costs in the long run. He hasn’t even feigned interest in doing anything that might make Second Amendments folks sneeze. He’s as boringly family-oriented as Ward Cleaver. He wants to raise taxes on the very wealthy to increase the revenue-stream (not a radical idea). And so on. To make him appear to be “radical,” the GOP can’t afford to be subtle. They have to lie outright. He’s radical because he once spoke in favor of Derrick Bell. Really? That’s all they have?
The only suggestion I have is fantastical: The GOP should dismantle itself. It had a hell of a run, so to speak. The Dems should become the GOP, Eisenhower’s version, albeit with more women and persons of color. (Please remember that it was Ike who warned us against the excesses of the current military-industrial complex.) Then the Demo-Party should re-invent itself and become . . . wait for it . . . liberal again, whatever that means.
Otherwise we’re stuck with a one-Party system and a lot of screwballs at the edges. That’s no good. I want to go back to a time when politicians were merely corrupt, when they made deals, when they got shit done–you know, like filling pot-holes. Is that too much to ask?