The country is not better off because the Republican Party is firing on one cylinder now. A two party system is healthier in the end with responsible opposition to the majority. The Tea Party madness (and silliness) and the hysterical Republican response to a recent government report on extremism have proven that the GOP can no longer fill that adult role.
Tea parties protesting the tax policies of an Administration that just cut taxes for all but a few percent of Americans are sad and pathetic; there is really no other description. Certainly the idea is an insult to the participants in the original Boston event, which ultimately revolved around the question of taxation without representation. The modern crusaders can hardly make that claim. They simply lost the election, which is not equivalent to a distant power (rather than home-grown government) imposing a tax on goods. The GOP has become a buffoonish mockery of itself.
We could easily dismiss the smoldering remnants of the GOP yelling in their particularly nasty echo chamber as nothing but nut bags one scream away from involuntary commitment to a padded cell. They provide us with plenty of material.
• Protestors rage against tax hikes and government spending just as Obama cut taxes for 95% of American families. His "radical" proposal for capital gains taxes puts the level back to what we saw under Clinton, not exactly a time of apocalyptic economic failure. So the protest against taxes is disingenuous at best and bizarre at worst.
• Bush spent $1 trillion on an illegal war. The right was silent, with no outraged indignation anywhere in sight. Bush created the largest debts and deficits in history during his tenure; where were the tea parties over the past eight years? Where was the anger at big government? Defense Secretary Gates, first appointed by Bush, has identified over $300 billion in wasteful military spending. Where is the tea party outrage about that?
• The NSA under Bush spied illegally on American citizens. Americans were arrested, and deprived access to family and lawyers. We tortured people. Where were the tea parties to rally against government overreach?
• A reasonable report on a potential threat from extreme right-wing hate groups got nut-wing radio lathering about an Obama campaign to equate Republicans with terrorists. Ironically, by making that connection, one that Obama never made, the Limbaughs of the world are creating a linkage that otherwise would not have existed in the minds of the electorate. That would be shooting oneself in the foot, but fear not, because people shoot feet, not guns. Limbeckanity blathered on how the government never used the term "left-wing extremists" to identify threats, ignoring two major reports from Homeland Security that did just that. That is a typical ploy of the right: make a false claim, and then express indignation about the falsehood. Obama's popularity proves that such techniques are less effective than previously.
• The governor of Texas actually discussed seceding from the Union, apparently unaware of the war fought in the mid-1800s. I recommend he read Shelby Foote.
Every GOP protest rings hollow and reeks of insular, blind partisanship with no goal other than protest for the sake of protest. The GOP has become petty, spiraling down a narrowing vortex of ever-more extreme rhetoric, further isolating the party from mainstream America.
With this rich material, disparaging the Republicans makes for easy sport. Their ridiculous behavior is born of a fundamental problem: their basic philosophy of borrow and spend, and tax cuts for the upper 1% of the population, has failed, and spectacularly so. No voice has come forward to replace that tired mantra, which is becoming ever so isolated from the average American. Repeating something and expecting a different outcome is not the sign of a healthy mindset. The Republican Party needs serious medical care.
But I believe we should resist the initial urge to pile on, however satisfying that may feel at the moment. I personally hope that Republicans find a reasonable voice and a new message. For if not, the Democrats will fall inevitably into lazy thinking, a sense of power entitlement and corruption. We need a strong opposition to keep everybody on their toes and honest. With reasonable input from all sides we veer toward the center rather than to extremes.
Clearly the old guard needs to go. While nobody can quiet the bloated, self-loathing Rush from spewing his nonsense, he can be ignored, as can the other hate-mongers. Gingrich has no credibility as the Party's mainstream voice. None of the presidential candidates from the last election qualify for that role. But certainly there must exit in this country a reasonable Republican who can lead that Party back from the brink.
If a reasonable alternative should finally come center stage, the extremists of the party would naturally be isolated. Democrats should encourage that to the maximum extent possible; we ultimately do not benefit from this flight to the edge of reason by the other side.
In addition to a concern for the future health of Democrats in the absence of real opposition, we must also consider how much more difficult governing from the center will be if extremism is the only alternative. Social issues like health care, abortion, teaching evolution, stem cell research, renewable energy, environmentalism, and actions to address climate change will all be more challenging to address if we do not have a sane voice representing those across the aisle. Religion will surely have an inappropriately large role in the discussion if Republicans are represented mainly by Beck clones. (Now there is a reason to oppose cloning).
Republicans have nothing right now. A two party system needs two parties, and at the moment only one is sitting at the table. I hope our friends on the right get an idea about how to govern some time soon. We want the GOP to remain a minority, but one with some intelligence, and with the best interests of the country a central guiding force. That will only happen when Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck are considered by all but the hardest core to be unworthy of attention. And when Tea Parties are a distant and embarrassing memory.
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