|The Reign of Terror ends|
My father was a true-red, die-hard Republican. He almost didn't care who was on the ballot representing either party. All Republican contenders got his vote. Except in 1964. Barry Goldwater and his neo-Bircher and religious right supporters gave Dad pause. I don't know how he finally cast his ballot that year, but I do recall his complaint about the GOP going off the rails. He felt better after the grown-ups in the GOP took their party back following that disastrous election. Dad was a farm kid-turned-self-made small businessman who distrusted Big Government, Big Money and "big city sharpies" of whatever political persuasion. He was comfortable with Ike, Tricky Dick and the Gipper. JFK, LBJ, The Man from Plains and other "tax-and-spend" Democrats all gave him agita. He was typical of his class and region. Serious center-right Rotary Club members with a strong sense of fairness and tolerance. Were he alive today, I am convinced he would be asking himself where his Republican Party went.
“Anyone caught involved in voter fraud should be immediately deported and have his citizenship revoked.” - Dr. Ben Carson
"You know, it really doesn`t matter what [the media] write as long as you`ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass." – Donald Trump
“Regardless of how long I might serve in the United States Senate I hope one day to be granted a letter of marque and reprisal so that I could become a pirate as I longed to be as a child. And you’re all invited to join me when I get that letter of marque and reprisal.” - Sen. Ted Cruz
What happened to Ike's admonition:
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist."
"Unless we adopt and enforce strict gun control laws -- ones much tougher than the Brady Bill -- we will never succeed in stemming the violence."
Or Reagan on America as a beacon:
“America is, and always will be, a shining city on a hill.”
A leading contender for the U.S. presidency states that the "theory" of evolution was dictated to Darwin by Satan. Another, invoking the spirit of Adolf Eichmann, argues for a "deportation force" that would round up 11 million illegal aliens for resettlement outside The Homeland. Supply-side economics -- what George H.W. Bush aptly termed, "voodoo economics" -- dominates the platforms of Republican aspirants. We hear more on controlling women's bodies than on trade policy. In the last general election, there was debate among Republicans about "legitimate rape" while a witch and a pizza magnate with a penchant for sexual assault fulminated on equally outlandish topics.
Where are the Rotary Clubs? The Chambers of Commerce? The veterans organizations? All those bedrock institutions of traditional conservatism that folks like my father supported? All seem to be silent or cowed these days as one parvenu fraud after another hijacks the GOP while Jeb! et al. languish. If the Evil One has been playing mischief anywhere, it's with the Republican Party, not with Charles Darwin.
I heard a veteran CNN political reporter state recently that among her fellow journalists, some of whom were now on their tenth presidential election, none could recall anything like what we're witnessing today in Republican politics. Candidates without a lick of public service lead while so-called establishment candidates poll in the single digits. Candidates with apocryphal back stories and stream of conscience platforms surge in popularity in face of their exposed untruths and wacko-bird views on society and governance. Reasons posited for this turn to the hard right include gerrymandering, echo chamber news media outlets, Citizens United and an increasing class divide. A particularly disturbing recent study shows a surging mortality rate among under-educated working class whites. Nothing drives desperation and consequent extremism more than prospects of imminent death. Trump, Carson and Cruz pander to this group's fears. In an excellent essay on Republican drift to the hard right, Richard North Patterson notes "it is inescapable that an increasing number of Republican primary voters live in a hothouse of intellectual alienation where anger and disinformation thrive." Looking at American history, I would hearken back to the years just preceding the Civil War to find a comparable period of growing political dissonance and anger.
I am no fan of the French Revolution, which made our own late-18th century contretemps with the British seem tame. The Reign of Terror that scourged French society under the leadership of Robespierre and the powerful and euphemistically named Committee of Public Safety led to the massacre of tens of thousands of innocents. Following the overthrow of the monarchy, the French body politic plunged into the throes of revolutionary extremism. Finally, on 9 Thermidor (July 27, 1794), a group of counterrevolutionaries overthrew the radicals, sending some two dozen to the guillotine, and proceeded to restore some sense of normality to civic life.
Now, I don't favor beheadings -- at least not in the literal sense. But at least since 2008, I've been waiting for a counterrevolution within the Republican Party, GOP Thermidorians, if you will, a la 1964. But it hasn't happened - yet. Worse still, there is no glimmer of such a reaction taking place. If anything, that party continues to slide into a fever swamp of railings against immigrants, women, science, gun control, diplomacy, voter inclusion and sound economics -- positions guaranteed to lose yet another presidential election and build up yet more seething resentment in the conservative ranks. The Tea Party and Freedom Caucus have dispatched the moderates to the political guillotine. The Charles Percy's, Edward Brooks's, Jacob Javits's, Nelson Rockefellers, Alan Simpsons, Clifford Cases, Howard Bakers and Margaret Chase Smiths are truly history, not to be replaced. Would Lincoln, TR, Eisenhower, even Nixon and perhaps, who knows, Reagan feel at home in today's GOP? I don't think so. And neither would my Dad.