The Republican Party in the United States has for some time now abandoned any connection with reality. It was a Bush aide who told Ron Susskind that they were establishing their own reality, in order to pass their domestic and foreign policy agenda.
This has come at the cost of so many things, the first of which is the ability to engage them in any debate that is fact and reality based. It is why moderates, liberals, Democrats, and Social Justice Christians have had so much trouble with them.
Second, their office holders and candidates for office up to the highest level have appealed to a party base that is dominated by fear, hate, and ignorance. The more moderate Republicans have largely been either defeated or silenced by those who are immoderate and angry.
Third, the GOP now features a collective amnesia to the past. Historians are increasingly worried that much of our national discourse is dominated by the strictly ahistorical, and outright ignorance of our own history. We all know the dictum that those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it. Republicans who ought to know better deliberately abandon what history can tell us, and make new history that is supremely flawed, and that feeds upon racial animus, fear of the other, and puts the Christian Bible ahead of the Rule of Law and Constitution of the United States.
There is an intentional will to misunderstand just how our Constitution is ordered, and what it does to knit the Nation more tightly together—where Federal authority is supreme when it conflicts with State authority or mandates via State law. It is a Southern white man’s misunderstanding of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, Supreme Court rulings upholding that secession from the Union is treason and rebellion, and unconstitutional. We even had a horrific civil war killing a now estimated almost three quarters of a million Americans, where 150 years ago the proposition was defeated on the battlefield, and accepted by those who fought that war whether in celebration or bitter defeat. Confederates publicly acknowledged they had not prevailed.
The news media carries a considerable amount of the blame for our extremely rancorous politics and dysfunctional gridlock in Congress. They have failed to point out that the center of gravity of today’s Republican Party is in the deep South of the Old Confederacy, and that the children and grandchildren of those who maintained Jim Crow segregation, and racial hatreds are now running the party, and have for some time. The Party of Lincoln, Emancipation, and equal treatment under the law died a long time ago.
The GOP was sick in 1968 when there came Nixon’s execution of the Southern Strategy. The man who came up with it, Roger Ailes, has for a long time headed Fox News. That is not a coincidence. It was dead after 1980, when Ronald Reagan went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three Civil Rights workers were murdered, and deftly signaled to white supporters around the Nation that his Administration would lend credence to the racial denial white Americans remain under to this very day.
Good journalism challenges those who lead us to tell the truth. When it does not, and deliberate distortions and utter falsehoods are uttered and present themselves, our media have too often treated the liars and ignorant leaders and opinion makers as equal to those who are not.
The treatment of those who deny, even now, that the dangerous climate change we have experienced and will experience in even greater disasters are given equal weight just because they are the other side in the public debate, and political infighting in Congress. It is a “we can’t tell you what Science and reality and facts tell us because we must be fair to those who ignore these things to show our paper, or news network, or political blog is practicing a middle- of- the road journalism that denies reality and knowledge along with the deniers in order to permit them to have an equal voice in their propagation of falsehoods and distinct and dangerous racial, ethnic, and religious hatreds and biases.”
Shame on them. Good journalism fully employs what history, science, reality, and factual truths are available. And, when those who deny the efficacy of these things, every good media outlet must condemn them for their fear, hatreds and ignorance. The GOP Emperor is wearing no clothes and most of our media are too afraid to say so.
Of the greatest importance are the reality, fact, and history of Republicans who were firmly based in a conservatism that was distinctly more moderate, itself fact and reality based, who held and highlighted real policies that supported the GOP from the party’s roots to the accession of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency.
Reagan himself could not even try to run if he were present today as a hypothetical. Are you listening Scott Walker? He was too moderate, he worked with Tip O’Neil and congressional Democrats too effectively to do the Nation’s business, however the parties felt about Reaganomics, and other policies adopted during his Presidency. Respect for America’s Civil Rights revolutions of 1865 and 1952 until 1965 and beyond were prevalent in the Party well into the 1970’s where Northern Republicans like Howard Baker and Jack Kemp could sway opinion on both sides of the aisle to do the right thing tutored by reality based things, on issues all our leaders had to address.
The naked, and furious appeals to racial, ethnic, and religious prejudices and hatreds so felt in the South of the Old Confederacy, and now a majority of the Republican Party, has resulted in a new respectability in doctrines and beliefs that were and are racist, sexist, and far from a compassionate humanity. Racial tensions have been fed and nurtured so that we are again experiencing the strife of earlier periods in our Nation’s history, where an informed and more enlightened public would not feed off them. These attendant vitriolic hatreds, ignorance, and fears actually cause the deaths and abuse of our citizens of color and those ethnic and religious minorities at a frightening level not seen in two generations.
Liberal Democrats and the Left in American politics, for all their outrage and fallibility on some issues of the day, notably do not feed these fears, hatreds, they are far from ignorant, uplifting education, the proper use of knowledge, science, history, and a compassionate humanity. NO, President Obama has not fed racial tensions as the political right posits. He has acted to stand up for the oppressed, the poor, the vulnerable, and the victims of violence. If that causes others to react violently or with hatred, then those things mark them in telling fashion.
We are in an era, that when converted to history, will tell us, if we consult it, that the United States had become and will become much more diverse in all the ways Republicans, and by extension right-wing extremists, fundamentally reject. This despite a significant sliver of ignored and silenced more educated, and tolerant Republicans, who vote for Republican candidates, but must know in their hearts, the GOP brings out such evil emotions, hatreds, and the rejection of learning.
This unreal, and damaging behavior prevents those few more moderate Republicans from advancing policies that reflect where the party has been historically, and ought to be now. Mitch McConnell’s famous vow not to cooperate with Obama in 2009 at all was a selfish and un-American policy that too many of his congressional colleagues brought forward. We are still paying for this willful misconduct of leadership.
Just as this essay is put into print, we learn of the resignation of John Boehner, who for all his faults was a respecter of true and reality based, more accepting Republicanism. His leaving as Speaker of the House, and as a Congressman from Ohio, reflects his frustration and exhaustion from fighting the extremist minority within his caucus, that along with all I have expressed here denies our history, science, learning, compassion, empathy, and just plain common sense.
Until the GOP gives full voice to reality, learning instead of celebration of willful ignorance, and instead support for a compassionate and diverse humanity, not of fear, racial and ethnic hatred and violence, it will continue to distort what America has stood for however imperfectly in the past, but more so as we moved to modern history.
Abraham Lincoln correctly pointed to the pen of Jefferson in our country’s founding document:
“that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Lincoln’s dictum on this passage is as follows regarding our founders:
“They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all: constantly looked to, constantly labored for and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere.”
This, coming from the founder of the GOP as far back as 1858.
Too much today, the GOP is the Party of Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun, two deeply flawed Americans that should be historically remembered, and respected not for their support of slavery and an improper understanding of our Constitution, turning away from the drive to a more perfect Union, as part of a fractured humanity, yet nevertheless deniers of this great human principle for a democracy held within a functioning republic.
We must condemn slavery, racial hatreds, discrimination, and not the GOP’s hard movement not only to the far right, but into a dangerous and damaging retrograde set of beliefs that is a full retreat from the principles of Jefferson, and the greatest GOP member, Lincoln, and what he so nobly stood for. Shame on the GOP.