Pin It
Favorite

Purity on the March 

Why it’s impossible to be a moderate Republican these days.

click to enlarge art16535.jpg

In a recent Washington Post op-ed column, Alan Simpson lamented the lack of Republican support for Democratic Senator Dick Durbin’s campaign finance bill. Simpson, the former Republican senator from Wyoming — known by both sides for his crusty, folksy and candid comments on all topics — takes on George Will, who dismissed the hearings because of the very absence of Republican involvement. Simpson, who did attend, and spoke in favor of the reforms, writes about his support: “I’m not alone. Former Senate colleagues who also support this long-overdue reform include Republicans Warren Rudman, Bill Cohen, Bill Brock and Frank Murkowski.” Campaign finance reform, he reminds his Republican friends, was first introduced by Theodore Roosevelt.

Notably, Simpson’s colleagues are from the past; the operative word is “former.” Today, not one of the above moderates would have a prayer of being elected.

Others could be added to the list of moderate GOP “formers” who today don’t fit: Dan Evans, arguably Washington state’s most popular governor ever — he wouldn’t have a chance. Bob Packwood in Oregon? A long shot at best. Chuck Percy in Illinois? Forget it. Edward Brook in Massachusetts? No way. Former Majority Leader Howard Baker would be in trouble. Lindsay Graham, often a moderating voice, is under siege and, unless his recent far-right spoutings gain traction, may be a goner. Orrin Hatch is finding his purity credentials questioned.

It will be interesting to watch how our two New England Republican Senators up for reelection, Olympia Snow and Scott Brown, handle the right wing soft-shoe dance in a region not taken by moralizing in any form.


Today's GOP seeks to turn James Madison on his head.
In Federalist No. 10, Madison argues that a federal republic will work best to “break and control the violence of faction.” Madison’s analysis assumes the need for government by compromise, which necessitates all interests moving towards the middle. But today, the GOP’s strategy — indeed, its ideology — is to exploit the margins. They seek to widen the religious right, narrow the secular left, all the while shrinking the middle. We call this polarization.

The GOP’s overriding concerns aren’t about the centrist issues — declining income and revenue, energy, health care. And surely no one any longer believes the party that twice doubled the size of the national debt is concerned about fiscal management. The truth is, today’s GOP is mostly about moralizing.

Madison’s world was rational and secular.

Today’s Republican Party has ridden moralism into purity. Recent polls indicate Sarah Palin still remains the religious right’s first choice. No matter that she’s been thoroughly discredited: obvious bad judgment, vindictiveness, ignorance (in American history, governance, world affairs, economic matters — you name it, she flunks). But all this is of no concern because she is presentable, and on the purity scale, she’s right on.

Kevin Phillips, in his book American Theocracy, saw purity’s emergence from the moment George W. Bush won in 2000. And after 9/11? Thank God our new president knew he had God’s ear — Onward Christian Soldiers, you know.

Phillips writes: “The potential interaction between the end-times electorate, clumsy pursuit of Persian Gulf oil, Washington’s multiple deceptions, and the credit and financial crisis that could follow a partial liquidation by foreigners of their U.S. debt and other dollar holdings is the stuff of nightmares.”

Winning in 2004 sealed the deal. End-times, viewed both literally and symbolically, had won out. The broader effects were devastating. Instead of seeking Madisonian common ground, the right has been performing a governmental death dance in front of an ideological backdrop. Consider: The GOP House has spent far more time trying to do in NPR and Planned Parenthood than on the serious issues of jobs, health reform and the budget. They voted unanimously to abolish health reform and did it, from soup to nuts, in just a few days. When the Ryan Budget came out, overnight they voted it up with only four dissenting votes.

Next up is the question of whether we should raise the debt ceiling. Will that debate be framed around the idea that perhaps America deserves to be punished for straying too far from their idea of purity?

Today the surrounding constellation of so-called “social issues” near and dear to the religious right are what the GOP has come to be about — it’s the common denominator. An assault on the secular — especially anything smacking of cosmopolitanism (the enemy of faith) — will drive the upcoming Republican presidential race and dictate the candidates’ lunges to the right.

American theocracy, writes Phillips, won’t look like Calvin’s Geneva nor Winthrop’s Massachusetts Bay Colony. It’ll be less obvious, but just as insidious: the vetting of Supreme Court nominees by religiously based private groups; generals invited to tour friendly churches (combining God with American exceptionalism); more and more books about end-times; efforts to influence TV programming; active opposition to contraception, except abstinence; active opposition to science, especially medical science and environmental science; continued opposition to gays; more direct attacks on women’s rights.

It’s all a perfect way to deflect attention away from the aforementioned secular problems: the effects of globalization on the American standard of living; the rising debt in the face of changing demographics; the continuing cost of military adventures; increasing inequality and more.

Which brings us back to Alan Simpson’s op-ed.

In hoping his party takes on the pragmatic conservatism of an earlier era, he really is alone.

  • Pin It

Speaking of Politics, election 2012

  • The Other Washington
  • The Other Washington

    Our local state representatives and senators gear up for another year of fights over education, taxes and crime
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • The Gem State's Agenda
  • The Gem State's Agenda

    What to watch for in the Idaho legislature's 2017 session
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Thanks, Obama
  • Thanks, Obama

    The legacy of the 44th President goes far beyond the election of the 45th
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • More »

Latest in Comment

  • Children Will Listen
  • Children Will Listen

    How art speaks to life in this particular moment
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • So Here We Are
  • So Here We Are

    Here's hoping the new president fills the office with the grace and sense of tradition it requires
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Get Big Money Out
  • Get Big Money Out

    Letters to the Editor
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Meet the Neighbors: Bethel AME

Meet the Neighbors: Bethel AME @ Bethel AME

Thu., Jan. 26, 6-8 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Robert Herold

  • So Here We Are
  • So Here We Are

    Here's hoping the new president fills the office with the grace and sense of tradition it requires
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • One Free Shave
  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • Migrant Industries
  • Migrant Industries

    John F. Kennedy predicted our current battles all the way back in 1954
    • Dec 15, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • The Landed and the White

    How Americans followed tradition when they voted for Trump
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Comment


Briefs


marijuana


green zone


Politics


Readers also liked…

  • To Kill the Black Snake
  • To Kill the Black Snake

    Historic all-tribes protest at Standing Rock is meant to stop the destruction of the earth for all
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • The Rachel We Knew
  • The Rachel We Knew

    EDITOR'S NOTE: How Rachel Dolezal came to write for the Inlander
    • Jun 18, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation