Friday, August 24, 2012

Dead Ideology

Smell that?  It's not pleasant, is it?  It's the rotten smell of a dead ideology, the stinking corpse of American conservativism, a failed movement.  We're in the last throws, if you will, of the right-wing insurgency.

Be assured, this is not mere partisan posturing. Think for a moment - what would it look like if an ideology were to fail?  How would you know?  First of all, to answer my own, not hypothetical question, there would be no viable leaders.  It's remaining adherents would rapidly become more and more rabid and fanatical, radicalized into a caricature of what they once were. Finally, it will define itself not by what it is - as it no longer stands for anything - but by what it is not.  This is what happens to most radicals, this is what happens to terrorist organizations, this is how the French Revolution devolved into the Jacobins, this is what happened to Communism.  

This is what happened to the Republican Party in America.

Not convinced?  Look at the evidence.  The Republican primaries pitted against one another some of the most pitiable, most un-electable elements of the far-right lunatic fringe, each of whom had their moment in the spotlight and who were quickly dismissed soon after the light revealed them for what they were.  I don't even believe that some of the so-called "candidates" were even serious about wanting to become President, but were using the campaigns and debates for publicity - Donald Trump for his television reality show and his own overblown ego, and Herman Cain for cred for his motivational speaker career.  Seen in this light, it makes sense that neither one of them ever made a lick of sense - Trump with his "private investigators" researching Obama's birth certificate and Cain with his "999" - if you don't really want the job, it doesn't matter what you put on the application.

All Mitt Romney had to do to be the presumptive candidate was to keep quiet and not say anything too extraordinary, and let all the other clowns on stage with him disqualify themselves one by one with their own asinine comments.  It worked, and it worked magnificently.  I'll excuse John Huntsman from this roster, as he seemed to have been a reasonably intelligent man whom I may disagree with on some fundamental issues, but he never appeared to be of a kind with the other lunatics and buffoons on the debate stage with him - and therefore probably never stood a chance of winning.

The trouble with Romney's strategy is that he never had to stand in the spotlight and endure close inspection under that bright illumination.  He's obviously intensely uncomfortable with discussing anything on the record, from his policy positions to his past income tax filings to his career at Bain Capital to his position on rape and abortion  - for the record, I'm against one and for the right to the other, although some on the right could make the statement while referring to different objects.  Romney's basic stump speech now consists mostly of "I'm not that other guy," meaning President Obama, without saying who he is, what he stands for, or what he would do if elected.

Of course, it wasn't always this way.  Back in the 1950s, the decade to which so many conservatives claim they'd like to return, the Republican Party Platform of President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for expansion of Social Security, broadened unemployment insurance, and better health protection for all people. It called for voting rights.  It called for expanding the minimum wage. It called for improved job safety for workers and equal pay for workers regardless of gender.  "Workers have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers. And a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society," Eisenhower said.  "Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of their right to join the union of their choice."

Regarding entitlements, Eisenhower went on to say, "Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things, but their number is negligible and they are stupid."

"Stupid."  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956.

That tiny splinter group has now taken over the Republican Party.  They've abandoned any ideals other than every man for himself, and claim God himself (and Ayn Rand) as their authority.

The right, now taken over by that splinter group of preachers and zealots, has taken their ideology to the very precipice of irrelevancy.  It's not that they don't still have numbers, it's that they've given up on even any pretense of governing.  They define themselves and their beliefs almost entirely in the negative - against "Obamacare," against the "welfare state" and the "nanny state," against women's rights, and against minorities, period.  They're not even for guns so much as against gun restrictions.  And don't remind them that in their advocacy of gun ownership, self-defense, and stand-your-ground rights, they're mimicking almost exactly the ideology of the Black Panthers of the 1960s, before that radical group dissolved into irrelevancy.  Even if they've now rejected the Eisenhower of the '50s and the Goldwater of the '60s, the first word alone in "Black Panthers" is enough to keep them forever out of favor with the right.

Republicans are now almost like a whole party of little Mitt Romney's, defining themselves as not being some "other," always on the attack, but knowing that they themselves won't hold up very long against a critical cross-examination.

Look, I know this won't change anyone's mind.  No one on the right will read this and reconsider their beliefs (no one on the right will even read this).  It might just be red meat for the lefties.  But it's nothing to gloat over.  This nation needs a multi-party political system, a two-party system at the very least (although I would like to see even more diversity if possible), and the death throws of one of the two parties, or at the very least its abandonment of a will to govern, is nothing to gloat over.

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