The Problem with the Republican Party

Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station said it best.

This post is a bit late…it should have been written and posted at least a week ago when we were still pumped up by post-election euphoria or misery. But I don’t want to skip the topic — it needs to be addressed in this blog so I have a record of it in years to come.

Although I might be considered a fiscal conservative, I cannot wear a “conservative” label. I lean more to the left in social policies and I’m libertarian as far as government involvement in our private lives goes. Without going into detail about my specific beliefs — because they just don’t matter as far as this post is concerned — it’s pretty safe to say that I identify more with the Democrats than the Republicans in this country.

As a thinking person who values true freedom and wants very badly to love her country, I have a serious problem with the way this country has become divided along party lines. To be fair, there’s always been a certain split, but it’s only recently — perhaps since Clinton’s presidency? — that the split has become wide with a lot of hate on both sides. The result: a governing body that spends more time obstructing the other side than getting anything done for the country as a whole.

“Freedom,” by the way, isn’t some idealistic concept that means flag waving and invokes images of Revolutionary War battles and heroes. Freedom means the ability to do as you please, within certain widely accepted social limitations. You might be free to stand on a street corner and lecture passers by about your religious beliefs, but you can’t grab people and take them, against their will, to church with you. You might be free to carry a gun, but you’re not free to shoot your next door neighbor with it because his dog barked all night. You might be free to have sex with a consenting adult, but you can’t have sex with a child (consenting or otherwise). Silly that we need laws to limit our freedoms, but some people don’t quite understand what’s socially or morally acceptable.

No matter which side you’re on, it’s easy to find fault with the other side. Maybe because I lean left, I find a lot of problems with the right. They claim they want small government, yet they want laws to prohibit many too many things that affect our private lives — abortion and same-sex marriage come to mind. And although this country was founded by deists who were in favor of religious freedom, the right wing has somehow twisted that to mean that Christians should have preferential treatment and be able to push their beliefs on the rest of us. They’re pushing hard to include non-scientific, faith-based information — such as creationism (often poorly disguised as something called “intelligent design”) in public school curriculums.

And to me, some of the things elected Republican politicians are saying in public are just plain batshit crazy. Want some examples? Try these from just the past few months:

And that’s what really hits home with me. These people don’t just have a different point of view. I think they’re off-the-wall crazy, showing an amazing amount of ignorance or simple denial of what science has already told us. And for what reason? Do they really believe this stuff or are they pandering to an ultra-conservative base?

And what has happened to the Republican Party? They weren’t always this crazy, were they?

Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station blogs regularly about politics. His November 7, 2012 post titled “Hemlock With A Small Side of Schadenfreude” is typically long and rambling, but he brings my point home near the end. I’ve gotten his permission to reproduce the key paragraphs here:

Once upon a time the faces of the Republican Party were Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, and, hell, Ronald Reagan. 

Today the public face of the GOP is Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, the Koch Brothers, Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and a silly old man shouting at an empty chair. 

Once upon a time, the Republican Party stood for freedom, the end of slavery, the extension of rights to all Americans, the reasonable  regulation of business and monopolies and the protection of the little man from the same.  The first president to call for pluralism, i.e. multiculturalism, was a Republican, William McKinley.  The republican who followed, one of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen, Teddy Roosevelt, believed in science, in reason, in the conservation of nature and the husbanding of our natural resources, the protection of our lands, in equality for all, and in peace. Republicans once upon a time believed In freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

Today the GOP would make businesses into citizens and make citizens into property. They squint suspiciously at any non-Christian and seem hell bent on denying others their just and due rights as Americans based on those self-same religious beliefs. Science, natural resources, and the environment seem to share equal contempt among conservatives nowadays. They are the party of drill, Baby, drill and legitimate rape. They’ve got abortion on the brain and are obsessively concerned with what other people might be doing in the privacy of their own bedrooms. The GOP has become the very military-industrial complex  another great Republican once warned us about. The GOP has given up science and become the party of Birthers and creationists and conspiracy nuts – and rather than distance themselves from such crazies, the modern Republican Party embraced them. One has only to look at the 2012 GOP Platform to see just how far they’ve drifted from the once great party of Lincoln.

Once upon a time, there was room in the Republican party. Room for competing ideas, room for reasoned debate and differences of opinion, room for all Americans.

Today, the Republican Party has grown very small – small in mind, small in ideas, small in tolerance.  They’ve become the party of loyalty oaths, purity balls, and secret handshakes.

Once upon a time, the Grand Old Party faced the world with the courage of Roosevelt, of Eisenhower, of Lincoln.

Today, this morning, these last four years, the Republican Party is shrouded in the rank stench of hysteria and fear. They face the future with the false bravado of the coward and the blustering shallow patriotism epitomized by the likes of Ted Nugent.  They cower under their beds, clutching their guns and their bibles, deathly afraid of the future.

And this is exactly what I see.

Jim finishes up by adding:

The GOP is dying a slow death, poisoned by their own bitter tea. They are now firmly on the wrong side of history and unless something changes, they’ll wear that confused expression into oblivion without ever understanding why.

I don’t hate Republicans. I think they’re misguided. I think they’re missing the point. I think they’re not being open-minded and understanding enough to realize that not everyone thinks exactly the way they do.

If they want to move forward into the 21st century with the rest of us, the party needs to change. It needs to get smart and get real. Its pundits need to stop pushing hatred of anything different. It needs to become a bigger party, embracing a wider range of beliefs.

And it needs to remember that we’re all in the same boat — we need to work together to stay afloat, plot a course, move in a direction that’ll help all of us.

June 30, 2014 Update
I’ve finally gotten around to writing up the site comment policy on a regular page (rather than post) on this site. You can find it here: Comment Policy.

I’ll leave comments open on this post — at least for a while. Remember our comment policy — no personal attacks on me or other commenters will be tolerated. If moderation becomes a chore for this post, I’ll simply shut the comments down.

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