A former roommate of mine and I were talking the other day about the election, and politics in general, and we got onto the topic of the future of the Republican party, which then in turn compelled me to write this entry, which only an infinitely small percentage of the world’s 6.something billion people will read.
At heart, I am in favor of a small national government. I believe very strongly in personal freedom and believe that the social issues like health care, welfare, food and water, etc. can best be handled by the Church. However, in recent months as I have become more and more frustrated with the Church I have realized that we are not handling those things. So in the more immediate recently, I have begun to lean towards a type of Christian socialism. All that to say, in a circuitous and probably confusing way, that I am in favor of a generally more conservative form of government, known in this country until the most recent election as “The Grand Old Party.”
I am scared for this G.O. Party. Beginning in the late 1980s, the Christian Coalition and people who thought as that group did began to take over the party. At the beginning, their focus on moral issues rather than the usual governmental issues seemed to fit in well with the Republican party, who were still the party of less spending, limited role of government, etc. This began to change during the Presidency of Bill Clinton, whose so-called moral outrages galvanized the Religious Right and gave them a larger voice as a group who could bring change to both Clinton’s style of governing and his supposed immorality.
The 2000 election only served to strengthen this Religious Right even more. As the bitter fight between Gore and Bush dragged on, those who supported Bush and felt that he was a strong Christian who could turn the country back to God began to see the fight for the Presidency as a very spiritual and morality-based thing. On one hand, you had Gore who would probably only continue the Clintonian morals, and on the other you had Bush who was supposedly the world’s strongest Christian and would outlaw abortion. When Bush was finally given the election, those who supported him so strongly saw it as a vindication of their morality. I remember seeing a PowerPoint slide in my church telling me to pray for President Bush every day, and I wondered if the same slide would have been made for Gore.
So we’re going along fine for a few months; we’ve got the Religious Right there as always, playing up their morality against the immorality of Democrats. And then September 11 happened. Then that happened. And all of a sudden the morality-focused Republicans had a new ally: the War on Terror. As the war went on and people calmed down from their post-9/11 euphoria of new people to attack, some people began to question motives and costs, both financial and human. This issue began to divide strongly by party lines–those who supported the war and were thus Republicans, and those who didn’t support the war and were thus anything but Republicans. Since here in America we can tend to hate nuance and thoughtfulness, the Religious Right also jumped on the backs of the pro-war Republicans and turned the party into a pro-war, anti-immorality party, and one who did not allow for any discussion on either of those issues. If you were against the war, you were against the troops and thus against America, and if you weren’t sure about overturning Roe v. Wade, then you hated babies and were thus immoral and also hated America.
And this has continued up to and into this election season. September 11 birthed this culture of fear of the unknown, the gray area, and the Muslim. It changed the course of the Republican party, started us on the road to economic breakdown, caused us to distrust our neighbors, and accomplished just what the terrorists wanted to accomplish. The Republican party is now one of fear and ignorance, of people shouting out words like “terrorist!” and “socialist” at rallies and those in power not rebutting them. This is not to say that all Republicans are this way, I have intelligent Republican friends whom I respect, but to a large part this is what the party has become. Never mind that no economist worth his salt would call Obama a socialist, if the Republican power-brokers call him one, and the base doesn’t know what socialism is except that it’s a bad word, then they become scared of the so-called socialist. Never mind that the current President has spent more than any President since FDR and recently pushed through a truly socialist bank plan, if the Republican party-brokers can claim that Obama will raise taxes and will invite terrorists onto our shores, then those who follow Bush blindly will become ignore true socialism and become scared of the so-called friend of terrorists.
And I am worried that this election, which Obama is almost sure to win, will not teach the Republicans anything. I am worried that the Bill Kristols, Rush Limbaughs, and James Dobsons, those who have some say over where the Republican party goes from here (because they will surely have to take a good look at themselves and figure out what to do if they lose badly in the Presidential and down-ballot elections), will make the party into strictly a group of people like Sarah Palin and those who support her. Those who suppress votes, muzzle the press, lie even after being proven wrong, use scare tactics to get votes, and draw black and white lines between themselves and those against them. I am worried that the Republican party will become the party not of smalled government, but of larger government while focusing on only three issues: war, abortion, and gay marriage. I am worried that the Republican party will turn into some terrifying version of the Constitution party, and will become an exclusive group of people who care only about “keeping America a Christian nation” and using scare tactics against anyone who disagrees with them.
This is what I am scared of, this is what I fear is already happening, and this is why I hope for an Obama landslide on Tuesday. The Republican party as it is right now needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt using the original plans.