The other day, I noted here that when trying to talk Democrats down from the ledge, nervous about the election, I ask how they'd feel if they were a Republican?
In truth, the question speaks louder in the wider, full view.
How would you feel if you were a Republican?
How would you feel if this is the Republican Party that represented who you were as a human being? Your goals, your values.
This isn't a question about what party you want to win the election. Or what party or individual you don't. This is about who you are.
At its core, the Republican Party has stood for two issues:
The first is small government. Yet under George Bush and six years of Republican rule in Congress, the government has exploded in size. The national debt has doubled. Increasing $5 trillion.
The second issue is fiscal responsibility. Yet under George Bush and that Republican Congress - indeed beginning with Ronald Reagan - removing oversight has brought the most devastating economic collapse since the Great Depression. Banks have in part been nationalized. A bailout of $700 billion. The budget surplus turned into a $400 billion deficit.
Is this the Republican Party of small government and fiscal responsibility that represents the soul of lifelong Republicans?
Indeed, it's hard to imagine serious, mainstream Republicans looking at their long-honored party today and seeing themselves proudly reflected in its actions.
It's not a question of just the Iraq War, which even The American Conservative magazine acknowledged the Bush Administration lied America into. Where 4,187 Americans have died, 30,182 Americans have been wounded, and $594 billion spent.
It's not even about torture. That the word has even been introduced into public discourse is ghastly. This is America, home of the brave, land of the free. We aren't supposed to torture. We lied our way into a war in Iraq to remove a dictator who tortured.
It's not just about spying on Americans, reading our emails, listening to the private sex talk between married couples.
It's also not about politicizing the Justice Department, where "liberty and justice for all" turned into firing U.S. Attorneys who wouldn't push a political agenda.
Nor is it about outing an undercover government agent or about ignoring a hurricane.
It's not about all this and more. It's not about a mere list of abuses. It's about an inner-culture that has hijacked the Republican Party and made it insular, hooked on feeding its voracious base, ignoring the full party it is supposed to represent, neglecting the nation it is sworn to protect.
What does the Republican Party stand for today? I'm not asking about the words one sees on a flyer, but the actions that support those words?
The actions of the Republican Party today don't support small government, fiscal responsibility, individual freedom, protecting the Constitution.
How would you feel if you were a Republican?
This isn't about defending the Republican Party because you're Republican. Or about how much you don't like the Democratic Party. We can talk about the strengths and weaknesses of Democrats another time. Right now, the only question on the table is -
How do you feel about the Republican Party, today, representing what you stand for?
Do you stand for adding $5 trillion to the national debt? Lying a nation into war? Do you stand for torture? Is spying on American privacy who you are about? Is turning "justice is blind" into a political agenda what you are at your core? Ignoring science?
This isn't about Republicans. Through its history, there have been remarkable Republican leaders who Americans of all beliefs have admired. Within only the past 50 years, it's an impressive honor roll that includes Jacob Javits, Margaret Chase Smith, Nelson Rockefeller, Charles Percy, Edward Brooke, John Chafee, Lincoln Chafee, Mark Hatfield, Richard Schweiker Lowell Weicker, Pete McCloskey, Gerald Ford.
That class is long gone. Many drummed out of the party, the rest finding little place for them.
The Republican Party has become a house of cards, built on a house of sand. It lost Congress two years ago because of this, and is going to worse defeat today. Because the Republican Party has abandoned who it was. And it started with the day Ronald Reagan demonized an entire philosophy - both Democratic and Republican - as "The 'L' Word." The far-right Republican base saw a wedge, successfully threw in smoke and mirrors, but eventually ended up gutting itself.
American government works best when there are two political parties vibrantly confronting each other over what is best for the nation. But the Republican Party, in its effort to solely win votes, rather than lead the nation, forgot the words of its first leader, Abraham Lincoln: "You can fool some of the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all the people all of the time."
The greatest indictment of the Republican Party today is the question being asked seriously whether it will be lead in 2012 by Sarah Palin. It won't be - the reasons are far too long to address here - but that question is all one needs to understand the empty fissure that the Grand Old Party has excavated for itself.
That a small-minded demagogue who 21 months ago was in a job initially elected by 616 people, whose foreign affairs experience encompasses being able to see Russia, who has attended a convention for seceding from the union, had a priest lay hands on her while he prayed against witches, who is ignorant of the responsibilities of the vice president, who can name just one Supreme Court decision and that only because she's virulently opposed to it, whose main claim is that because world oil prices boomed she was authorized to sign a rebate, - who -
- who when she finally got to make one policy speech, she ridiculed scientific research that has actually brought discoveries that could help children with autism. That she has a child herself with Down Syndrome did not make her haughty smear any more despicable and ignorant. It was fully despicable and ignorant on its own merits.
- That Sarah Palin, who 60% Americans think is unqualified to be president, is even mentioned as a possible leader of the Republican Party shows the shell that the Republican Party has become. A Republican Party that seemingly only has a base of far-right wing evangelicals, the rest be damned. Literally.
The Republican Party today has become less a political party than a ministry.
Is all this how a lifelong Republican wants his or her life to be represented?
Forget the election. Forget other political parties. Forget other candidates.
How would you feel - right now - if you were a Republican?
Republicans, please come back. We need you.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RobertElisberg