I remember this scene quite well – long ago as it was. As I recall, the year was 1978. I was watching a scene from a TV miniseries called “Holocaust”, a fictional telling of the atrocities visited upon the Jews of Europe during the thirties and forties.
Somewhere in there was a reenactment of the Warsaw Uprising of the summer of 1944. The Jewish citizens of this imprisoned ghetto revolted against their Nazi captors. At one point the Germans must have realized that their “message” needed a bit of reworking. At a high religious holiday they sent a truck with a loudspeaker attached to it prowling through the streets, cheerfully imploring the inhabitants to “come out so we can celebrate Passover with all of our Jewish friends”. The inhabitants proceeded to blow the truck – and everyone in it – to kingdom come.
The Republicans are engaged in a bit of long overdue soul searching this week. They’re asking themselves some hard, difficult questions. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad: For the most part, not to my surprise, they’ve come up with all of the wrong answers.
According to these geniuses they lost big during the campaign of 2012 – not because their ideas were beyond atrocious (Perish the thought) – but because those ideas weren’t “packaged” properly. You heard me right. All they need to do during the 2014 midterms is to market their message a little differently. Yeah, right. I can just hear them now:
“Now don’t you worry, folks! Next time ’round, we’re gonna make our message a li’l more bitch-friendly!”
Sure, that’s the same mistake the Nazis made seventy years ago. They didn’t market themselves in the right way. The “final solution” to the “Jewish problem” might have been presented to the public in more of “a kinder and gentler way”. Compassionate Conservatism, ya dig? They could have marketed it as a sort of “benevolent mass-euthanasia” that would have put all of those poor “Christ-killers” “to sleep”, like some beloved, family pet.
“It must be just an awful thing to live with such a horrible deed on their consciences. We’re just putting the poor buggers out of their miseries!”
Not that I am comparing the Nazis of yore to the GOP of today – not at all. Whenever I see some misguided liberal making such a comparison I usually shake my head in frustration. There’s not a Jew, Muslim or Hindu alive today (and only a handful of “Christians”) who would prefer the Germany of 1939 over the America of 2012. (You’ll notice I excluded the Buddhists from that equation. They can adapt to anything, God bless ’em!)
But there is something to be said of the Nazi analogy. The Republicans in recent years have been evolving into something perfectly hideous. The America of 2012, with all of its imperfection and dysfunction, is still not that bad a place to live in. I can’t guarantee the same about the America of 2022. If the right wing of this party continues on this nutty course, who the hell knows where they’ll be at in another decade or so?
Consider the fact that 50 years ago Arizona senator, Barry Goldwater, was the standard bearer of American conservatism. In his day he was known as “Mr. Conservative”. So far to the right was he perceived by most Americans, some questioned his mental stability. When he ran against Lyndon Johnson for the presidency in 1964, his slogan was “In your Heart you know he’s right”. The Democrats had a snappy comeback for that one: “In your guts you know he’s nuts”.
Fast forward 48 years. This country has moved so far to the right, Senator Goldwater’s brand of conservatism kinda looks more middle-of-the-road than it did way back then. In fact, at the end of his life he turned his back on the mindless extremism of the conservative movement. And to think that he didn’t even live to see the Tea party! Today “liberal” Barry Goldwater would have no place in the Republican party. He couldn’t get nominated to run as sewer inspector of Yuma, Arizona. In hindsight old Barry is starting to look pretty good. Really, it’s gotten that weird.
There have been some sightings of sanity this week. In an interview on Fox Noise a few days ago. Bill Kristol said that if the party is to remain relevant, it’s shouldn’t commit ideological suicide by defending a bunch of billionaires. Grover Norquist and Karl Rove have been relegated to the fringes. And I thought I was hallucinating when I read the first paragraph of this article by Evan McMorris-Santoro that appeared yesterday on the Talking Points Memo website:
“They are few, but they are vocal: the pro-same-sex marriage, pro-choice, pro-tax Republican activists. For years, these groups have labored off the radar, trying to convince a party unwilling to listen that it needs to moderate on issues from social to fiscal. But after the Democrats’ decisive victories on Nov. 6, the Republican Underground says its finally time to go mainstream.”
That knocked me out when I read it. I had no idea that these “underground Republicans” even existed. They’ve sure done a good job of hiding themselves all of these years. I knew about the “Log Cabin” wing of the party, but with the exception of gay rights, they march in lockstep with the GOP in every other area.
If that party is to survive, it needs to clean house. That’s not going to be as easy as it sounds. When a Democratic president signed the Voting and Civil Rights Acts into being back in the sixties, the racist Dixiecrats who had controlled the Democrats since the nineteenth century took vengeance on their party by fleeing – en masse – to the Republicans (where they were welcomed with open and loving arms). Today their ideological (and racist) heirs control the “Grand Old Party” (Why do they still call it that?). They like to tell us that race had nothing to do with their flight. “It was all about economics” they say with straight faces. Bullshit. It had everything to do with race. Stop the pretense.
It’s either going to be one thing or the other: This is the beginning of a new (ENLIGHTENED?) era for “the party of Abraham Lincoln” – or it’s the beginning of the end. The Republican party was formed in 1856 because the Whigs had become irrelevant to the political dialogue of the day. One wonders if history will be repeating itself. We shall see.
Published: Wednesday, 21 November 2012