It wasn’t a pretty sight. Every single Republican in the House marching in lockstep against the stimulus package. I was tempted to say in goose-step, but I didn’t want to alienate the entire GOP and undercut my message.
This will be hard for my fellow liberals to hear, but not as tough as it is for me to say: We need a healthy, viable Republican party. Because a diseased, exhausted, ideologically bankrupt Republican party is a destructive force in America.
The GOP used to be the party of ideas. Some of them even good ideas. When a party has ideas it stands for something. It has a positive agenda, it wants to advance its ideas, convince the public, move the nation. When a party’s ideas are discredited, failed, tried-and-proven-wanting, it either learns and grows, or denies and dies.
So, where’s the bad news, you ask? Well, before you pop the cork on the Moet and start boot-scooting to the Dixie Chicks, consider this: The Republicans and their talk radio fraternity-of-flatulence have done nothing but nitpick, ridicule and oppose the first major legislation of our new President—a president who came into office on a tidal wave of fervent dreams and desperate hopes—and cut his approval ratings down 20 points in 10 days. A dying party is a dangerous thing.
There is no reason for the Republicans to do anything but oppose Obama. As long as they have no ideas and nothing to say, they have nothing they want to achieve but office, nothing to save but their seats. Helping Obama succeed only hurts their prospects.
But if they stood for something, they’d have something to strive for. Something to offer other than “Hell, no!” or, “Hey, now we got a black guy too!” They’d have a reason to help America get moving again, in their direction perhaps, but moving. Instead of spending all their time and energy tearing up the tracks and shooting at the conductor.
A mortally-wounded Republican party is capable of doing a lot of damage. It doesn’t take much to incite the corrosive cynicism of the American people. Our “best” public servants don’t think they need to pay their taxes. Our worst spent the last eight years running the American Dream into a ditch. We all have a bad case of shell shock; every pop gun of criticism sounds like 20 megatons to us. If the GOP keeps shouting “incoming!” we could abandon all hope and head for the fallout shelter.
That would be a tragedy, a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Republican party can help, by coming up with new ideas, by presenting genuine alternatives when they disagree with the Obama administration.
Once upon a time the GOP had ideas. The times have changed, the Republicans haven’t. All that’s left are tired old tropes like “No new taxes!” That’s not an idea, it’s a slogan. As dated and pointless as “Keep our canal!”
I once wrote that the worst thing about George Bush was that he made it impossible to agree with him, even when he was right. I could now say the same thing about the Republican party, but they’re not even trying to be right. They just want to convince you that the other guy is wrong.
It didn’t work during the recent election. The Republicans made a liar out of PT Barnum; you can go broke underestimating the American public. The GOP is flat-ass broke now.
Unfortunately, so are we. Too broke to afford the dead weight of forty senators and 180 odd congresspersons with nothing to do but hold us back. America can survive the demise of the Republican party, but it cannot survive as a one-party state.
And it won’t. If the GOP falls, another party will rise up to take its place. I implore you, my Republican brothers and sisters, get your act together. Stop carping and wrecking and start healing and helping. Because if you don’t, the party that replaces you might be the Trotskyists. And you wouldn’t like that any better than I would.