WC is an unrepentant liberal. But a registered Independent. The Democrats have made mistakes; you can’t have lived through the Vietnam War without acknowledging that horrific example.
But what has happened over the last 15 years is that the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, has become so loathsome, so despicable that it has left WC. It isn’t that WC has moved away from the Republican Party; it’s that the Republican Party has moved away from WC.
WC could write a long time and not exhaust the reasons. But WC will try to limit himself to five specific examples. Some of WC’s readers doubtlessly have others.
1. Torture and the Defense of Torture. The nightmarish use of torture by the Bush-Cheney administration was horrific, a violation of multiple international treaties and a betrayals of core American values. The ongoing refusal of anyone on the right to admit to it or attempt any effort to make amends for it is a clear and present danger to our core decency. Calling it something other than torture is an embarrassing, sick denial of the reality. Bush and Cheney violated the sacred honor of the United States and a founding principle of Western civilization. They repudiated, in fact if not in law, the very treaties the United States helped to write. They embraced the barbarity of the Middle Ages. Because of their panic, they committed heinous crimes. The Republicans lack the moral courage, the honor and the honesty to cop to it. Until the Republicans own up to the crimes and face the consequences, WC will have nothing to so with the Republican Party.
2. Anti-Intellectualism. There was a time when the political right was bristling with new ideas and the left was pretty much exhausted. The quality and civility of the conservative intellectual discourse encouraged geeks like WC to believe in a conservative future that was intelligent, reasoned and nimble. That conservative beliefs could derive from reason, not religion, not willful ignorance. The Republicans have become the Know Nothings. Choose any body of science you want and you will find Republicans disavowing it. The party has sunk from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. The U.S. Senate Committee on science is controlled by a crowd of science-deniers. Skepticism is one thing; scorn for the entire intellectual and academic exercise is quite another. Yes, it’s partly the Republican decision to embrace the Christianists. But that’s a reason, not an excuse.
3. Political Brinksmanship. The conduct of the GOP during the whole Obama administration has been a nihilist disgrace. In 2009, Obama inherited crises on every front: an economy in terrifying free-fall, a bankrupted Treasury, a morally bankrupt foreign policy, and two failed wars. He deserved some measure of cooperation in that hour of extreme national peril and need. He got none. From the inauguration on, Republicans were willing to destroy the country if it also meant they could destroy President Obama. Andrew Sullivan may have put it best:
In fact, from that first stimulus vote on, Obama faced a unanimous and relentless nullification Congress. If he favored something, they opposed it. Despite Obama’s exemplary family life, public grace and composure, and willingness to compromise, they decided to cast him as a tyrant, a radical, a traitor and an incompetent. Their demonization of a decent, pragmatic man simply disgusts me to the core. And, sorry, if you do not smell any whiff of racism in all of this, you’re a better person than I am.
4. Willful Economic Blindness. Any political party that can respond to the reality of economic inequality in the 21st Century by blaming the 99 percent for “not working hard enough” has put ideology before reality. Any political party that even now thinks slashing taxes below their current historically low levels will cure our economic ills is completely delusional. Any party that is unconcerned with the social dangers of an economic system that increasingly rewards only the very very rich cannot be trusted with government. There has to be a pragmatism to any conservatism. An ability too adjust to new circumstances and new problems. Even the very recent, very slight lip service to income inequality offers no solutions. The tone of GOP discourse is absurdly doctrinaire. President Reagan, as pragmatic a politician as the Republicans have elected, is treated as some kind of god. Compromise is viewed as the ultimate evil. The GOP has become a church rather than a political party. It has dogma rather than policies. It engages in heresy-hunts rather than genuine debate.
5. Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation. WC is a straight, white male. The politics of race, gender and sexual orientation don’t directly touch him, and WC isn’t pretending otherwise. But even to WC the Republicans’ deep discomfort with racial and sexual minorities and many women is ridiculously disconnected from the realities of the modern world. The American people have largely moved on from racism, sexism and homophobia; the GOP is like some kind of beetle, trapped in the amber of Deep South segregation. Among many Republicans, there is a core of anger, fear and the frustration that the world has moved on and that American culture today is not some idealized version of the past. And the way in which women’s lives and sexuality are treated by Republicans – the tone of sneering condescension as much as the substance – repels WC.
Okay, that’s enough. Most of WC’s readers don’t need convincing and the folks who need to seriously think about these points don’t read this blog. WC would like to say he feels better for getting this off his chest. But it’s not so. If anything, it’s even more worrisome. Because there’s no obvious way forward.