Friday, June 17, 2011

Punic War

Ceterum censeo GOP esse delendam.

Understand that, unlike Cato, I say this not in hate but in sorrow.

I WAS the GOP once. Like my father before me, I was a "social liberal and fiscal conservative", something that was later called an "Eisenhower" or "Rockefeller" Republican (and even later a "Republican In Name Only") but was then just called a "Republican".

Like my father, like those other "Republicans", I loved the myth of "traditional America", the fictional Rockwell America of front porches and small towns, of gritty cities and steel mills, of Boy Scouts marching on the Fourth, of the Four Freedoms, of the idea of a nation that offered itself not to a race, or a creed, or a language, or a "culture" but to an idea, the idea of "liberty and justice for all", of laws instead of men, of equality of opportunity for anyone who wanted it. An America whose strength was for protection, not conquest or intimidation. That looked at itself in terms of social and collective rights, and individual responsibilities.

An America that held onto the best of its past, but still looked forward in anticipation. That accepted its past, and all the wrongs and evils that it did, but still saw in itself the promise, the promise of a saner, more just, more rational, more united tomorrow. An America that didn't really yet exist, but lived in the hearts of those who wanted it to.

And I also loved the idea that this America let you alone to sit in the shade of your own fig tree. That allowed you to swing your fist each way free, so long as it didn't stray within arm's length of my nose. That let you love whom you pleased, work (or not) where and when you pleased (so long as you accepted the Grasshopper's Bargain and didn't whine if you froze that winter after lounging through the long summer days), that let - no, demanded - that you act the adult; gather your information, gain your wisdom, assess your options, make your choices, and live with the results. And that this America would either stand aside and let you make those choices, or actively support you in making them - against the meddling of those who would treat you like a fool or a child and try an either make them for you, or deny you even the choice.

Now, understand; I know that this America was a myth.

That the "real" America was often just a nation like any other, full of fools and knaves, founded on the extermination of the original residents of the continent with a healthy dose of chattel slavery. That the promises detailed above were as often ignored, and even willfully violated, as respected. That real American conservatism in it's Republican form was often no more than ignorance, prejudice, Know-Nothingism, small-town bigotry and Kiwanis insularity. That after its origins as the Party of Liberty just before the Civil War the Republican Party later became, and - especially after the Crash of 1929 - was often little more than, the Party of Privilege, demanding obedience to the notions of wealth, power, and the rule of the "rich, the well-born, and the able".

But like my father, I believed that there was these lies could be formed into a truth, and give virtue to the "conservative values"; caution, tradition, uncompromising honesty, civic virtue, personal integrity and responsibility. That compassion for others was founded on stern discipline for oneself. That being part of a social contract imposed duties, rather than rights. Indeed, that the rights sprang FROM the duties. That personal matters were personal and the business of the individual, but that every individual had the public duty, even the smallest and weakest of us were called upon to contribute our widow's mite. That to great power, and great wealth, came the greatest responsibilities.

This is what I thought were Republicans.


I can pinpoint almost to the year when I began to see this change; when the Southern Democrats, the old slavers, the race-baiters, the Jim Crow lovers of the Lost Cause became Republicans and brought their vile poison into the GOP.

And this was after the Party of Lincoln had fought an exhausting war against the small-town bigots of Taft, the lovers of fascism, the isolationists, the Rotarians who wanted to discard everything BUT the Rockwellian myths. When Ike refused to throw out the New Deal, when those of us on the Right who accepted that that cunning old aristocrat FDR had made the best Deal for our country in trading the wealth of a few for the betterment of the abandoning the Gilded Age John-D.-Rockefeller Republicanism of "the-public-be-damned"...we became what I saw as a genuine American conservative party.

But like all Americans, the Second Civil War - the Civil RIGHTS War - forced us to choose.

And we chose wrong.

We chose first the principled scoundrel Goldwater, who then gave way to the unprincipled scoundrel Nixon. The culmination was the idiot Reagan, whose utter cluelessness and preference for the myth over the truth helped knock down the doors that the New Deal had nailed shut; the doors that contained the malefactors of great wealth and the scum of inherited privilege. Reagan, whose intellectual heirs - if they may be dignified with the term - began frantically beavering away at returning the nation to October 23, 1929.

On the way the Party picked up even more loathsome baggage; the Christopathic bigots of the unreconstructed Great Awakening, the moral nannies looking for motes in others' eyes, the bullying morons demanding that everyone around them defer to their willful ignorance, the rapacious corporate remoras (who, admittedly, had always been ours but who went from gobbling up the scraps to directing the target of the shark's teeth), the hucksters and imperialist fools and grifters that remembered that you can fool some of the people all of the time.

And that's where we are today.

Look at the Republican presidential prospects for the coming year. Look at what the state of the Party has done to them, or, rather, what they have done to themselves to make themselves acceptable to the sort of people who are now considered "Republicans".

Consider this woman, who is now the ideal to which these "Republicans" are told to aspire, and the degree to which this requires adherents of the GOP to believe three incompatible things before breakfast.

Consider the unhinged rantings of the people who speak for the Party, people who treat lies like currency, to spend whenever they desire something; Limbaugh, the "Majority Maker" himself; Beck, Coulter, Malkin, Savage, McArdle, Brooks, Krauthammer...has there ever in history been such a licensed pack of meretricious and shortsighted meeching fools, charlatans, buffoons, and scoundrels?

And as yet there is no voice from the ranks to call these unprincipled liars to book. No one to insist that reason trumps conviction, and that sense should rule sensibility. No one, in short, who represents me.

But there is worse.

Simply by existing, this congeries of stuffed barneys forces the entire political discussion away from sensible accommodation in pursuit of the ridiculous phantasms that constitute the modern GOP's "agenda". The oligarchs that in fact largely provide that agenda may be excused; they are rapacious and honest about it. It is the honest idiots that comprise most of the Party that are inexcusable, and their ignorance and credulity are combining to prevent even the simplest and most compassable of solutions to the problems the United States faces, and will face, in the 21st Century. Their impenetrable conjunction of pride, greed, stupidity, anger, and foolery is making this nation ungovernable; they cannot govern when they are elected, and when rejected, conspire to prevent others from governing.

There is no other solution.

The GOP must be destroyed.


Pluto said...

Well and interestingly stated, Chief. I like your choice of GFT over the Milpub. The Milpub crowd pretty much already agrees with you, the GFT crowd is more diverse.

While I fully support your position on the Republicans, I can't support the Democrats either. They are so badly fractured that the only thing they can agree on is that they aren't Republicans. They have neither the intelligence or the moral fortitude to run the country.

Oddly enough, I think you are going to get your wish for the death of the Republican party. I think the Tea Party now holds an advantage over the mainstream Republicans and they will choke the party to death in the next couple of years. I did not expect the loonies of the Tea Party to view the Republicans as bigger traitors to the country than the Democrats, but that appears to be the case.

As for the reason why the Republican slate of candidates is SO godawful this year, that's simple. Any halfwit with any connection to the real world can see that the next Presidential cycle is going to be incredibly bad, probably worse than the 2004-08 cycle. That means that only lackwits (Romney and Pawlenty), Tear Party loonies (Cain and Bachmann), and Libertarians (Paul) are willing to run.

Something that isn't so obvious, which category does Obama fall into?

FDChief said...

Pluto: I don't have any hope for the Dems, either; they're just less fully doubled down on the crazy.

But the GOP is such a massive brain-suck that they make the entire political conversation stupider just by being in the room. They show no interest or signs of interest in reality. They are unredeemable, and must just be torn up and the ground sowed with salt.

Hopefully a rational conservative organization will then be able to flourish somewhere once the poison tree has been uprooted.

FDChief said...

Pluto: Obama is actually very close to what would have been an Eisenhower-type Republican, a moderate Republican, pre-1965.

Ael said...

Long established political patterns are being broken. In Canada, our "natural ruling party" dropped down to third place.

In the USA you have a situation where a "landslide" congressional election is one where 5% of the seats change hands. This stability is extremely brittle.

Hold onto your hats, its going to be a hell of a ride.

FDChief said...

Ael: As I said in the essay, though, the problems are:

1. As you point out, the parties have managed to entrench themselves in D.C. to the point where the actual ideas, wants, and choices of the bulk of the U.S. public are of no matter, and

2. The GOP is so flat-out, bull-goose looney that it has the power to completely throw any sensible politics out the window.

You can think of government as a complex dance, where everyone needs to know the steps even while they may disagree on the tempo or the style. But if one nutjob gets out on the floor and just flings him/herself around spastically the whole thing breaks down. That's the current GOP.

Unless and until we put a bullet in the head of the whacko the whole dance becomes a farce, and a dangerous one at that.

Lisa said...

"Their impenetrable conjunction of pride, greed, stupidity, anger, and foolery is making this nation ungovernable; they cannot govern when they are elected, and when rejected, conspire to prevent others from governing."

That sums it up; Pluto is correct, too, that Democrats are fractured. Such enervation, and I'm not sure how vitality returns ... like you say, no one speaks for us.

The Talking Heads sang, "You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?", and I do wonder. I think you're right to pin the time frame of the precipitous descent to Reagan -- the beginning of the Right's iconography of image over substance.

Ael said...

There is another important technical innovation that Reagan/Thatcher brought to politics: winning with a permanent deliberate electoral minority.

Polling/marketing technology had developed to a stage where political analysts could reliably separate likely voters from not so likely ones and determine what factors drove those likely voters. Then by targeting a subset of those voters in such a fashion as to win an election (and ignore the rest of the population) they could be much more efficient in their winning efforts.

Before Reagan, politicians would either target the whole electorate and hope to convince enough voters or they would go for their base and hope that the base was big enough.

With Reagan/Thatcher they could *calculate* their message to a deliberate minority of voters who were most likely to vote for them, thus giving them the election. Of course, in the process of doing so, they would piss off the rest of the electorate *but it didn't matter*.

Lisa said...


Good point: Much more targeted electioneering aimed at the vested interests of the voting minorities.