There’s a political tragedy unfolding in America, and I suspect it’s going to get a lot worse. If we’re lucky, our national troubles are the birth pangs of something much better, but such a notion is more likely a chimera; indeed, if human history is any indication, America’s political structure is in decline and will never, ever, recover from its current downward spiral.
It’s not just the War on Women such as the outrageous instances of women who miscarry pregnancies being charged with murder. Nor is it the oh so patriotic “War on [nonexistent] Voter Fraud”. It’s not even the passage of “Papers, please” laws in Arizona and Alabama or the proclamation by the most influential conservative in America, Rush Limbaugh, that teachers are parasites on society or the push to repeal the 14th Amendment which, among other things, negated the infamous Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court.
No, these are not the real tragedy; they’re just the symptoms, as were Iran-Contra, the invasion of Iraq, and the use of torture against prisoners of war. The real tragedy, the sickness that has infected America’s political right wing, is that none, not even their own leading lights, can gainsay them. No matter how ludicrous, no matter how downright silly are the notions of the right-wing extremists who now form the base of the Republican party, a Republican politician disagrees with dogma at his peril, as GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman found out when he had the bad manners to publicly choose science over creationism and anthropogenic global-warming denial.
Did the Republican Party listen to Jon Huntsman? No. Did the Republican party listen to George W. Bush’s speechwriter David Frum? No. Did they listen to John McCain about the evils and ineffectiveness of torture? No, they held their collective noses (as they will this year for Romney) and voted for him in 2008, but he changed very few Republican minds when it came to torture. Did they even listen to Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater? No. In fact, in 1996 he sadly noted to Bob Dole, “We’re the new liberals of the Republican party. Can you imagine that?”
Where did this political poison, this party-wide sociopathy come from? It comes from the man whom the Republican Party looks upon with deep, unquenchable pride: Ronald Reagan. He did it by popularizing the nine words that comprise The Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. How else could Republicans even consider looney tunes politicians like Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich? What else can explain the tectonic shift away from accepting (as they once did) the realities of evolution and anthropogenic global warming? Here’s a good article describing four things Republicans used to believe before the party left the mainstream of the American people, but no longer.
Now of course Reagan, who raised taxes repeatedly, instituted amnesty for illegal aliens, openly decried the income gap between CEOs and workers, bailed out Chrysler, and enthusiastically worked hand-in-hand for the good of the nation with the Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, would never have intended for the Republican Party to go where it is now. But then, he could not have foreseen that the aforementioned “Eleventh Commandment” would combine with the rise of the religious right, Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk radio, and the “I’m more conservative than you” game that has been played since the early 1990′s, all to equal the current insane asylum that we see passing bills like those in the first paragraph of this article, bills that I cannot believe Ronald Reagan would ever have willingly signed into law. In fact, one could with surprising ease make the case that Barack Obama’s administration has been significantly more conservative than Reagan’s!