Thursday, March 29, 2007

Can the Republican Party survive Bush?

In 18 months the Republican Party seems headed for one of the most disastrous meltdowns in their history. Once trotted out as the party of a “permanent majority” it now appears headed for long-term minority status. And the question is: Can the Republicans do anything to minimize this disaster?

The answer quite simply is yes. Will they do it? Probably not. Let us first consider the gravity of the situation.

In the last election the party lost control of the Senate and the House of Representatives and lost several state houses as well. The former will haunt them for decades due to the practice of gerrymandering Congressional districts by the ruling party. If you only consider the long-term consequences then losing local state races is far more destructive to a party than losing Congressional races. You can lose a Congressman in one election and gain him back in the next. But if the districts are redrawn in a way making that impossible then you’ve lost that seat for at least a decade.

Next follow the money. Big money is deserting the Republicans. One reason is that big money follows popular will a lot of the time. Contrary to the conspiracy theories of the Left-lunatics big business will fund the winners no matter who the winners may be. What they want is favors and the losing party can’t dole out favors. Long before the results of the last election were in the bag corporate donors were quietly abandoning the Republicans and giving money to the Democrats. They already knew the writing was on the wall.

What can you expect between now and the election is an increase in the amount of money being channeled to the Democrats. Every special interest group and their brother will be buying a place at the table. And the Democrats love to dole out favors at the expense of working people. Expect the Democrats to be awash of funding come the next election.

And since big money follows the voters this indicates that the voters are far away from the Republican Party. And that is what the polls show. Half of all Americans claim to be Democrats now or are leaning that way. Just over one-third say the same for the Theopublicans. The rest consider themselves independent and the majority of them are leaning Democrat as well.

And the long term trends are worse. At one time the Republican Party was the party of the youth of America. And it was the old man Reagan who helped make that happen. His vision appealed to lots of people. It still does. But now the young are firmly in the Democrat camp. That bodes badly for the long-term prospects of the Republicans.

There are several reasons the Republicans are headed for the precipice. They are Bush, Iraq, Bush, fundamentalism and Bush.

Let’s start with Iraq. Bush lied. Everyone but the most extreme Know-Nothings in the GOP realize that. George Bush is dishonest to the core. He lied about the reasons for the war, he lied about the prospects for the war. And for good measure he’s lied about his lies. The American people want out. Bush doesn’t give a damn. Not only is he dishonest, and clearly moronic, but stupidly stubborn. He is so stupid he thinks that sticking to the wrong decision is called “principles”.

So the Republicans needs to stand up on the Iraq issue and not stand up for Bush. More Republican Senators and Congressmen need to get some backbone and publicly state the war was a mistake. If they want they can claim they were deceived by Bush. But they need to dump this war. The overwhelming majority of Americans want out of Iraq. The Democrats are playing the weak sister in opposition to the war. If some major Republicans jump ship now they can steal away some of the support the Democrats are receiving.

Next we need to look at the long-term virus that has been destroying the Republican Party -- the so-called Christian Right. Fundamentalism is a cancer that eats away at the social fabric. It is dangerous in Islam, deadly in fact, and it is dangerous in Christianity. Fundamentalists are extremists. They are inspired by hatred, endowed with an authoritarian mentality, and intolerant of fundamental freedoms.

The Christian Right is arrogant and power hungry. The more power they get the more intrusive and demanding they become. They are the Frankenstein monster of the Republican Party and now the villagers, with their torches, want to teach the good doctor a lesson for unleashing his monster on them.

Let us be clear about something. There are a lot of these people. The dumbing down of America has made a lot of people ripe for this sort of authoritarian movement. But I believe they reached their apex a couple of years ago and are in decline. Their glory days are in the past.

I know these people well and I can assure that they were always far worse than they portrayed themselves publicly. What they are really like is far more extreme than the way they present themselves in public. They are intentionally deceptive about their goals. This is why every time they seemed to get something they wanted they got more shrill and nasty. They threw hissy fits and threatened the Republicans. But with what?

They said they would withhold their votes. In reality most of them would still vote. Second, did anyone seriously think they would support “liberals” at the polls? The Republican Party didn’t want to upset them but in the end the tail wagged the dog.

Now is the time to purge the Republican Party of these fanatics. I mean kick them out. Barry Goldwater certainly would applaud that move. In the hopes of keeping these extremists happy the Republican Party sacrificed the support of the vast majority of voters.

Fundamentalism is a radical fringe and they scare away sane voters. The more control they got the more unhappy the typical Republican voter became. But like a crack junky the GOP got more dependent. As mainstream voters started leaving scum like Karl Rove were arguing that they needed to placate the Theopublicans even more. So they took another shot of religious intolerance and got even more crazed. More mainstream voters left the party got more desperate for the “base” to support them.

That fundamentalistic sheet-wearing theocrats were even called the “base” indicates how badly the Republicans were doing. I truly believe fundamentalism is now a losing proposition. It will take another 10 to 20 years before is obviously apparent. But they are in decline. Just consider the fact that a few years of Bush, with the Theopublicans pulling the strings, saw the number of young people who say they are atheists double. When the Imperial President had his coronation only 10% of young people said they were atheists. He so discredited religion that now 20% say they are atheists.

I suggest we are heading a post-religious America. Before the rule of the Theopublicans it would be unheard of to have books extolling atheism and secularism as best sellers in America. Most Americans had some form of religion and most were willing to live and let live. But when they saw the ugly, inhumane face of fundamentalism they got nervous and uneasy. And one result is that a lot more people started reconsidering their take on religion.

And that is a very dangerous thing for religion. Here is why? When a political candidate has 80% approval from the voters he does NOT want to debate his opponent who is languishing at 20%. The reason is simple: he has nothing to gain by the debate. He can only lose ground to his opponent since opponent has nothing to lose. The opponent, however, will scream and cry demanding a debate.

In America religion was the candidate that enjoyed the massive lead at the polls. Fundamentalism, and their puppet in the White House, pushed religion into a debate where all it could do was lose ground. George Bush and the Christian Right have done more for atheism than all the rationalist tracts, tomes and lectures could ever have done. In essence the Fundamentalists have discredited God, Church and the Bible.

Numerous analysts have already seen the Republican dilemma. Placating the fundamentalists has alienated moderates in other Republican stronghold, like the West. And the fundamentalist are never satisfied always demanding more extreme measures. This vicious cycle is what is killing the Republican Party so they need to stand up to the fundamentalists and tell them no.

The real short term dilemma is George Bush. This man has betrayed what the Republican Party stood for. He has latched onto every authoritarian idea that has come down the road. He’s broken the budget, trampled the Bill of Rights, expanded the size and powers of government, and centralized power especially in the presidency. The “small government” idea was murdered in exchange for power. George Bush is the Anti-Reagan, the antithesis of that wing of the Republican Party.

Considering that he is uniquely responsible for destroying the Republican majority Republicans need to change their view of Bush. He should not be seen as the party leader but as the greatest opponent the Republican Party has ever faced. He has done damage to the GOP that Hillary could never imagine doing. The Republicans need to abandon Bush.

A revived Republican Party needs a revived agenda. It needs to reach out to the mainstream and it needs to reaffirm the Reagan wing of the Party.

What are some positions the new GOP ought to take.

1. Admit Iraq was a mistake. Get over it. You know it was a mistake and so does everyone else. Just confess it was a mistake and join the effort to pull out.

2. Call for the repeal of measures that centralized power. Bush bamboozled you over the Patriot Act. Repeal it. Repeal the No Child Left Behind Act. In fact let the Democrats vote to keep these measures if they want. It will tie them to Bush’s agenda not you.

3. America is not a theocracy. Stop with the symbolic rubbish like prayer in schools. Stick with school choice. If parents want to send their kids to Christian schools let them but don’t try to turn public schools into Christian schools. Tell Americans that the state is NOT our Mother, our Father or our Church. Morality is primarily for families and the church not for government. The job of government is to protect liberty not foster morality. End the culture war. You’ll be heroes.

4. Stop bashing gays. They aren’t the great Satan. You don’t have to join the marriage campaign but don’t make it a major issue in order to scare fundamentalists to the polls. It does scare them to the polls while chasing away other decent voters from the GOP. You don’t need to embrace these issues but you can stop making these molehills into mountains.

5. Call for tax simplification. Fairer, flatter taxes make sense. They have a good record of working better than the progressive system. End the Income Tax as it exists.

6. Give up the Pork. You betrayed your fiscal principles hoping to buy votes. You buy votes badly. Start repealing spending measures and balance the damn budget. Stop making excuses. Bush was bad on the budget, admit it. Embrace your inner-Reagan. Vote no on the pork.

7. Begin floating Old Right ideas about foreign policy. Disentanglement is not a bad idea. Cut back on foreign military spending. Tell nations they have to solve their own problems. Read up on Robert Taft not Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

8. Emphasize the need for good government and explain that good government is that which stays within Constitutional boundaries. It is neither intrusive nor expensive.

9. Rediscover states rights. Make it known that the federal government should not override states when it comes to issues like medical marijuana or gay marriage.

These are measures which move the GOP back toward policies which they used to hold and away from the theocratic policies which have destroyed the party. If the Republicans do this they have a chance of regaining ground again. If they stay on the path they are on today they will be a permanent minority party with dwindling support.

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