A nearly year-old observation from conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is still as meaningful today as it was last summer:
Political parties don't exist because of political visions, and don't need them to survive. They exist because they represent interests, and they can represent those interests reasonably effectively -- especially in a system that empowers minority parties -- without an overarching vision of the common good....
But without a vision of the common good, a party is basically just a faction, seeking only the interests of its constituents, with no sense of its responsibilities to the country as a whole. And the Obama-era Republican Party's worst tendency has been toward just this sort of factionalism.
Practically any conception of the common good, libertarian or communitarian or anywhere in between, would produce better policy than a factionally-driven approach of further subsidizing the rich while cutting programs for the poor....
Reasonable people can disagree, in other words, about what kind of conservatism would best serve the common good. But everyone should agree that any alternative would be preferable to a Republican Party that doesn't seem to think about the common good at all.
In a post of mine last summer, I shared comments offered by another leading conservative writer, Rod Dreher, regarding the same egregious farm bill passed by the GOP as was discussed by Douthat.
This numbing demonstration of callous disregard for anyone not among the elite 1%-ers to which GOP pols bow down to at every turn should offend anyone with a conscience. Disagree if you will with the policy implementation or legislative particulars. That's where the nearly-lost art of compromise steps in.
But to ensure further financial protection for the corporations earning untold billions while telling the poorest and neediest among us that they must now fend for themselves is yet another indication that the far-right faction of the Republican Party has indeed, as I quoted Dreher in that prior post, "lost its mind."
About the same time as the two above-referenced articles appeared, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman added his voice to the nonsense that continues to pass for Republican Party governing. His topic was Obamacare.
Last week House Republicans voted for the 40th time to repeal Obamacare. Like the previous 39 votes, this action will have no effect whatsoever. But it was a stand-in for what Republicans really want to do: repeal reality, and the laws of arithmetic in particular. The sad truth is that the modern G.O.P. is lost in fantasy, unable to participate in actual governing.
Just to be clear, I'm not talking about policy substance. I may believe that Republicans have their priorities all wrong, but that's not the issue here. Instead, I'm talking about their apparent inability to accept very basic reality constraints, like the fact that you can't cut overall spending without cutting spending on particular programs, or the fact that voting to repeal legislation doesn't change the law when the other party controls the Senate and the White House.
Not much has changed in that intervening period of time. Benghazi, anyone? Marco Rubio and climate change? At what point do we start paying attention to the details and recognize how idiotic a segment of the Republican Party has become? (At what point do citizens make the decision to stop electing morons?)
If we've now abandoned the common good outright--no spin, no subterfuge, no buzz words to appease the masses--just a giant F*ck You to those unfortunates whose needs and interests don't jibe with an ideology now catering almost exclusively to the few wealthiest among us, then what's left of our sense of community, honor, and basic decency?
Is it possible for any honest, rational, reasonably-intelligent supporter to offer an explanation that would make sense to another honest, rational, reasonably-intelligent person? Blind support for ideological principles may be fine in the abstract. Who cares then?
But here in real life, the ongoing failure of that segment to extend any semblance of integrity into the legislative process (you know -- the one that's supposed to serve the best interests of the nation, assuming that still matters of course) is both an embarrassment and beyond contempt. And if it's possible for this situation to be any worse, they don't seem to care!
Why do we continue to elect individuals who seem incapable of anything approaching reasonable adult conduct? Why do we celebrate their intransigence and destructive approach to doing what they were elected to do?
Have their supporters lost the capacity to understand what happens when these efforts at democratic sabotage "succeed?"