It was happening right under our noses; clearly we didn’t smell it. Nor did most of us see it. The Grand Old Party is no more. What is left smells fetid, feels plastic, and seems spineless. Maybe it is time to give up on two party politics, something we’ll look at in another writing.
“Hindsight is 20-20.” Regrettably none of us are blessed with it. Those who had some foresight were like prophets, not heard until it was too late, not realized right only in retrospect. Here’s an example. Absenting it’s occasional use in the health care debate, or debacle, the political usage of the term poor people has evaporated. The focus is the middle class. That says a lot. To be poor right now means you better be poor and healthy because if you are not the GOP seems not to care. But if you are young and healthy, Ted Cruz has a picture of you in his office.
The GOP used to stand for something. It was fiscally conservative and it had at times a broader, at times a narrower, streak of compassion that played into the conservatism. There were politicians like Rockefeller, Javitts, Brooks, Lodge, Lindsey to whom nastiness was a nasty word, no less policy that was nasty. Today putting 32 million people off the insurance roles is less important to the McConnell-ites than a legislative victory.
There used to be Republican titans like Bob Taft who were intelligent intellects. There were Presidents like Dwight David Eisenhower who knew the art and science of running complicated infrastructure machinery. And there was Ronald Reagan who, no matter what you thought of him, was at least likable. Tougher than he looked or sounded, he was never known to have a mean bone in his body when it came to working with people who worked for him. Nancy maybe not so much but Ronnie, for sure. Even the much reviled Richard Nixon was smart, too smart maybe, and faced with the levers of domestic and foreign policy levers knew which ones did what things. Today the GOP seems shackled with “Dumb and Dumber” when it comes to dealing with policy, and “mean and meaner” when it comes to dealing with implementing it.
Furthermore, the party resembles a bar of Bonamo’s Turkish Taffy, that untearable sweet, flat bar that when smacked flat on a surface mysteriously came apart into pieces, pieces that if chewed would pull out your fillings but if pushed together would never again look like the before version of the original Humpty-Dumpty. And that’s what America has as it’s ruling party, an ill-tempered, badly advised, inexperienced set of Humpty-Dumpties. Oh must Lincoln and Reagan be rolling their eyes and in unison sighing in exasperation.
Before Watergate there was another time when the Grand Ole Party was at its own throat. The Goldwater/Rockefeller factions were headed at top speed in opposite directions. Then someone, Joseph Alsop in fact, realized that there was a problem. It was the chain connecting the two factions called the GOP and when each got to the end of that chain a sickening snap would occur.
Then came what was an example of what is totally lacking today. It is called leadership. Alsop brought them together, under one roof, plied them with copious amounts of liquor (I know, I was a fly on at the window that night), and so to speak locked the doors until a path was settled on. It is notable that the person who pulled this off was not an elected official and not part of an administration. He was a concerned political citizen with a love from the history and tradition of his party who had power and respect.
Where is the avatar of that person now? Where are the well-respected also-rans like Romney and the Bushes? Where are the intellectually honest, moneyed elite (no, that is not an oxymoron)? Where are those who are architects and engineers of policy who seem to have been replaced by middle ranking demolition experts from a New York City construction crew?
Here is a warning. Ethics and democracy are only as strong as their weakest link. The United States has lived a charmed life like the Flying Wallendas, who were so practiced, so skilled that they seemed to defy the laws of physics, no less gravity, and made what they did look normal if not easy. They worked without a net and were able to do so because they both knew what they were doing and they trusted one another literally with their lives.
In today’s GOP life is cheap, trust is absent and most fearfully so is the net. Witness Sean Spicer. Like a Wallenda who falls, our democracy will look like that bar of Bonamo’s Turkish Taffy that couldn’t defy the laws of physics and came apart after too much stress was applied to it.
It’s always a good time for prayer. Right now it is a very good time.