I was at the gym early this morning and overheard a small group of men and women talking politics in between sets.
"A Hillary/Palin match-up...now that's what I want to see!," one woman excitedly declared, although I got the sense she was simply teasing the others.
"Yeah, she's the real deal," echoed a beefy man in his 50's, clearly quite serious.
Then I heard something that stopped me mid-chin-up.
"I was gonna vote for McCain last time, mainly because of Palin, but changed my mind because he's a liberal," a 40-something guy said.
"Really?," asked the woman. "McCain's a liberal?" Incredulous, I muttered the same question to myself.
"Yup, calls himself a Republican, but he's nothing but a liberal," he said with utter disdain.
And that, my friends, is why the Republican Party as we know it is dead. When its constituents start referring to Sen. John McCain as a liberal you know the GOP bus has officially careened off the cliff.
Let's just visit McCain's record for a second, because perspective and context here is critical. He's a fiscal and military hawk. He voted for the Iraq war, pushed for the surge, and currently seems to want to invade every rogue country in the world. He supports lower taxes for individuals and corporations. He's pro-gun, anti-Obamacare, against gay marriage, is anti-choice and against public funding of abortion-related programs. He's even fairly vague on the subject of immigration. While he supports a two-step process of beefed up border security and overall reforms, it's hard to tell where he truly stands on the actual fate of the nation's 13-million undocumented citizens. And let's not forget he's the Dr. Frankenstein to Sarah Palin's, well, Frankenstein.
Welcome to 2013 Republican politics, where Tea Party crazies rule the day and former conservative icons like Ronald Regan, Bob Dole and Jack Kemp couldn't get themselves elected if they offered to pay for votes. We now live in an age of rabid extremism; a political climate that allows for hard-core, longstanding conservatives like former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar to be tossed from office for not being conservative enough...and for hard-core conservatives like McCain to be labeled liberal. The GOP's no longer a political party. It's now a cabal led by the likes of Palin, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and other conservakooks.
Compromise has become a filthy, dirty, stinkin' word. Republicans who attempt to meet Democrats halfway, even a quarter way, are attacked for being caving sellouts of "real" conservative values. Gone is the first rule of negotiating: no one can get everything they want, all the time.
Yes, welcome to modern day Republicanism. A perfect storm of Tea Party furor, ignorance and intolerance. Where candidates can surely get themselves elected on ideological absolutism, rabble-rousing rhetoric and fire and brimstone...but fail to get anything accomplished legislatively because it takes compromise to pass bills in Washington.
To be sure, sanity has left the building. Monomania has taken over. What the party stands for today is a far cry from the days of Reagan, Kemp, Dole, Alan Simpson and other ardent right-wingers who somehow managed to do their jobs and pass bipartisan legislation. It's no longer the party of small government and low taxes. To be a Republican today, or more so a successful Republican, you have to preach to the lowest common denominator. You must be anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-poor, anti-minority, anti-women, anti-gun-control, anti-environment, anti-education, anti-science and anti-empathy...while, ironically and hypocritically, preaching the gospel of the good Lord.
With 'young turks' like Cruz, Rubio and Paul leading the GOP charge it all but ensures the party's further and deeper slide into irrelevance and ultimate oblivion.