02/15/2009 02:51 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What a Party!

It's becoming increasingly clear from the news of the past week or so that the Republican Party is now the party of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber (!) and the radical right. It's frightening to see them cling to the old ideas that led them to so clear a rejection in the November, 2008 presidential election, repeating the tired old mantras about tax cuts and reduced government spending that brought us to the brink of economic catastrophe at which, as President Obama points out with painful eloquence, we stand today. It's frightening to see powerful Republican senators and congresspersons tremble at the feet of ignorant, rabble-rousing populist prophets whose ego-driven, inflexibly self-righteous agenda is so transparently wrong-headed and doomed to further failure.

Will these people succeed, at least, in perverting public opinion to the point of actually sabotaging efforts to get the American economy back on track? That's my fear. I watch them nightly as they gather around the media's audience-hungry microphones to voice their opposition to everything and anything the new Democratic administration proposes. They mimic the language of their patron, Saint Ron, whose fiscal policies started the downward slide that persists until this day. Based in a now-discredited ideology, their views are so far removed from the practical realities we face as to be laughable to those who choose to look forward with eyes open to a sustainable future that will support the lives of all Americans, not just the rich and privileged, not just the corporate elite.

I choose to believe that President Obama is timing things right, as he has done ever since emerging on the national scene. He has worked hard to fulfill his campaign promises for bipartisan cooperation. Some are saying that he has worked too hard, that he has bent over too far backwards. What I have been watching, though, is a well-timed shift from carrot to stick, from seduction to coercion, from persuasion to quiet but firm enforcement. I am choosing to trust that he and his team, with the support only of that tiny handful of Republican senators, if need be, will prevail. There have been compromises I myself would have preferred to have seen unmade, but which simple pragmatism may have necessitated. It may be, for example, as some have said, that the original ante on tax cuts was too high, leaving too little room for bargaining. I am no politician, and certainly no economist--but I do believe in the validity of what my Buddhist friends call the Middle Path. It is not so much a matter of who's right and who's wrong, but of what works.

The Republican party line has not worked. Not even the rants of a Rush Limbaugh or the coy panderings of a Sarah Palin will make it work. We progressives have long poured scorn on those who most nearly represent our views, for lacking the courage to match their deeds to our ideals. We now observe the spectacle of Republicans cowering before the ideological extremism of their own extremist flank, and the sight is certainly no prettier from a different angle. Talk about spineless--masquerading as spine!

I very much fear that, if these people succeed in watering down upcoming measures-beyond the stimulus-that are necessary to rebuilding our economy, we will soon be well on the road to self-destruction, on the horns of our own bloody righteousness.