The Lost Patrol
The Republican Party is a myth. That’s right, it doesn’t exist. For the last four years, we’ve been treated to countless references to it, have seen more of its so-called members and former standard-bearers on the Sunday talking head circuit and have been fed the lie that we have a two party system of government. But the plain fact is, the Republican Party doesn’t really exist and is the political equivalent of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.
By this, I’m not making oft-iterated and reiterated assertions that the GOP is merely irrelevant and as bankrupt of fresh ideas as they are of morals. I’m not talking about their ever-shrinking majority in Congress and at how they’ve lost their once iron-clad grip on all three branches of government.
What I’m talking about is the GOP betraying every single cause and virtually every grassroots constituent that used to define their party back when they were a legitimate alternative to liberal ideology. And the bald-faced fact is that the latter day Republican Party exists merely in two ways: In name only and in a common hatred for Barack Obama. They have been reduced to, in the words of Frank Rich in today’s op-ed, “…an anger that’s curdled into self-martyrdom since Inauguration Day.”
They have disappointed, or should have disappointed long before now, their every core belief, their every constituency from neocon national security warhawks to pork busters to smaller government fetishists all the way down to evangelical snake charmers. In the end, the only ones they’ve made happy are several special interest groups and a cadre of corporate executives who had waited eight long torturous years of relative peace and prosperity for a boob like George W. Bush to come along.
Evangelicals had taken a beating these last several years when David Kuo’s book made it known that Bush’s promises to fund faith-based initiatives turned out to be a pack of empty promises and Karl Rove (however rightly) called them “wackos” behind their backs. In the last couple of weeks alone, two Bible-thumping Republicans, SC Gov. Mark Sanford and Nevada Senator John Ensign, were both caught with their pants down (the latter being more egregious because he was still living with his wife while coveting the wife of another man). Even without the evangelical angle, the dalliances of Republican lawmakers such as Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Duke Cunningham, David Vitter and Lord knows how many Lotharios we’ve yet to learn about had chopped up their own family values and general morals mantras into so much cum-stained confetti.
On the national security front, one NIE and State Dept. terrorism report after another has informed us that due to bureaucratic mismanagement, restrictive secrecy and underfunding, our nation is still frighteningly vulnerable to terrorist attacks and the GOP is reduced to telling us that whatever luck we’ve had in not being attacked since 9/11 is due to torture thwarting terror plots that have never been proven to exist.
The smaller, less intrusive government mavens similarly have ignored the fact that the sheer size of the federal government ballooned well past the palmiest days of the Clinton administration and that the bailout plan first pushed by Bush in the waning hours of his squattage of the White House essentially co-opted through a top-heavy bailout plan virtually all of our major industries from banking and home lending to commodities traders.
But according to these self-same small government fetishists, the relatively smaller enfolding of the auto industry (GM emerged from bankruptcy after an astonishing 40 days) was an unforgivable evil and the 9.5% jobless rate and tanking economy is all the fault of Barack Obama less than six months into his administration.
And politics, when you get down to it, is a cyclical, never-ending saga that drives home one immutable point: That loyalty doesn’t exist when faced with the even more irresistible lure of well-buttered bread and common enemies. On both sides of the aisle, momentarily having a common bogey man is better than loyalty and friendship but this is especially true in Republican circles.
And what it comes down is no one wants to be the last of the Republicans. Yet, to foster the illusion that we have a workable two party democracy, the poster boys and girls of the political side show that is the GOP get trotted out more often than liberals and progressives because they’ve gotta talk to somebody to prove their relevance and who wants a one horse race, anyway?
But the God’s unflyblown truth is that the GOP doesn’t exist, never has existed over the past 8 ½ years except in a Phantom of the Opera sense. Sarah Palin is still the standard bearer for a “real America” that is also shrinking into irrelevance. Since giving her 23 days notice, a USA Today/Gallup poll shows that far from appealing to the embittered hard kernel 27 percenters, Palin would get 71% of Republican votes.
Because an aging but still pretty face, ossified sexuality and perkiness is still preferable to desperately-needed reform, competence and intelligence delivered by the Obama administration. Who cares that she’s contradicted herself and her so-called core conservative beliefs from fiscal conservatism to family values? Who cares that the woman is Dan Quayle in drag and a Dan Quayle on a perennial bad day, at that? Who cares that Newt Gingrich was a failed statesman whose Contract With America was a failure even with a Republican majority in the House and a philanderer? Who cares that Mitt Romney was a failed Governor and lacks the humor and charisma of a Ricoh printer or that Rudy Giuliani’s main claim to fame was being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Who cared that John McCain simply couldn't get even the most basic facts right even with Joe Lieberman at his hip playing Edgar Bergen to his Charlie McCarthy?
These people had all been considered (and, in Palin’s case, still being considered) legitimate and even leading contenders for the White House.
But, as Frank Rich warns us at the end of his op-ed, the very act of giving Palin so much ink and air time may give her just enough of the illusion of relevance to make her dangerous in three years. She may prove to be the Republican Party’s version of Walter Mondale minus the Midwestern blandness and dark circles under the eyes. But then again, maybe not. Her post-Alaskan political success for the moment seems to hinge on how much conservatives hate Obama regardless of his administration's efficacy. And gun sales did shoot up, pardon the phrase, after he was elected.
Just because the Republican Party no longer exists as a legitimate ideological and political entity doesn’t mean warhawks and snake charmers across the land can’t be fooled into thinking it still does. Don’t think for a minute that they wouldn’t be willing to risk forgoing affordable health care or their constitutional rights or national security for another generation. Yes, they are that stupid, they are that self-destructive, they are that misinformed, they are that hateful and they are that dangerous.