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G.O.P. in Exile?

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Rachel Maddow on her news show at MSNBC uses the lite expression "Republicans in Exile" to describe the fate of the G.O.P. here in the early days after a set of serious losses at the polls in November last year. Rachel has declared, fairly dogmatically, in words very much like these that she believes in a two party country where the party out of power stands as loyal opposition to the party in power and, one supposes she means, that the parties counteract and check one another's wretched excesses. Her presupposition has to be that to extend the system of checks and balances the parties must be substantively different in matters that make some fundamental sense to Americans,

which includes matters of governance like taking one's oath as a Senator or Representative seriously, dispensing wise justice from the bench, running a clean shop in the Department of Justice, the Department of State, the Department of Treasury, and a whole host of departments and agencies charged with regulating human affairs and business and recreation in the U.S. like the EPA, the FDA, the CDC, FCC, NPS, BLM, as well as in matters of social services like the DoEd, DHHS, DLabor, etc., not forgetting matters of national security as conducted by DoD, CIA, NSA, DHS, DEA, FBI, and so forth.
The other presupposition is that the rank and file and the leaders of the parties understand this function of loyal opposition and when to cooperate instead. Good lord, it does get complicated in a hurry! I used to believe in the same principle that Rachel does. In fact, the fundamental premise of our form of government is that people in government can become obstreperous, conniving, greedy, corrupt, power hungry, arrogant, mendacious, and frequently irrational. This very premise led back in 1787 to a set of founding solutions we call "checks and balances" and "separation of powers," but these solutions were imagined and established in a much simpler time, simpler even allowing for our own epoch hubris and self-importance. The Constitution was created in the first decade of useful steam engines and before these had migrated into transportation, before electricity was "discovered," before the germ theory of infections and disease was understood, before rapid communication, before mass education, before nuclear weapons, gas, gasoline, even before mass use of whale oil. Plimoth Plantation was founded before Harvey discovered that the heart was the organ for circulating blood, not the seat of emotions. Many were aware that brains were involved in reasoning, but many of that time were not. More importantly the Constitution was established before political parties were envisioned. Not before factions were experienced, however, for the Constitution itself was written to avoid running aground on the strongly held beliefs of several large and small factions. And of course the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments, were added to fill in the blanks on issues relating to the interface of citizens with their government. Madison and Hamilton, the principal authors of the Federalist Papers argued convincingly for a strong central government, especially in the face of the utter inadequacy of the central authority under the Articles of Confederation. They, too, did not foresee the consolidation of political ideologies into parties with lives of their own. It was a grievous error and omission. Parties do not make up the differences or correct the inadequacies of the Constitution. Most would say quite the opposite, me among them after watching the past twenty years of feckless nonsense from both parties in Washington. Fast forward to 2008 where the Republican Party platform and talking points were, with regard to governance, a hundred and eighty degrees different from the previous fourteen years of Republican sway in the Congress and eight years sway in the White House. Republicans preached fiscal conservatism and yet ran a budget surplus into the largest budget deficit ever ... not just ever in America, but ever in the universe (so far as we know). They argued for continuation of a war for petroleum resources disguised as a war for the hearts and minds of a people suppressed by a palpably insane dictator on the pretext that the dictator was building an atomic bomb, which was a lie. The Republicans repeated and embroidered and rested their case on that lie and those kleptocratic policies that left our government reeling. The Republicans ignored the Constitution and said at the outset that they were going to remake the world, that we observers should hold onto our hats, for soon nothing would be the same. They failed to make substantive improvements in anything at all, but did poison the intelligence community, poison the Department of Justice, poison the air with faith-based doubts and faith-based ignorance about the advances of science and, particularly, the responsibility of human for husbandry of our planet and its thin fragile atmosphere. They seem not to understand what the term "biosphere" means, nor whether Man or God should be responsible for whatever it is. But lately, in the aftermath of being drubbed at the polls, in the face of leaderlessness that would have been obviated by nominating a candidate who was young enough to be imagined as the next nominee (or at least the caretaker leader until ideas and personalities could be sorted out for the next attempt to rule), the Republicans have retreated into tantrums and fits of belicosity, something resembling the kind of hatred and fear mongering that the National Socialist Party of Germany employed before the Reichstag fire. The rhetoric from the Republicans is neither responsible loyal opposition, nor is it bipartisan concern for our nation and its economy in the hours of our extremity, created by their last attempt at administration and by their puerile ideology of reckless greed and self. It is not all coming from the pathetic "remainders" in Congress, the Republican troops trained by Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich to be hate mongers and despising vipers of American neo-fascism. It is coming in torrents from rant mechanics at Fox television network, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, and from Glen Beck, whose Nazi-like blathering seems to be tipping society's already mentally challenged members into acts of gruesome horror and to be forcing the merely fearful citizens into arming to the teeth-both sides of the aisle and both sides of town! There is no place for people like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh in civil American political discourse. Both are ranting egomaniacs and psychotic fools with a burning need to overturn something just to prove their existence. Freedom of speech does not include "incitement to riot or revolution." So, as Rachel asked the other night on her show, what to do about all this hatred and divisiveness and fear and loathing and vituperation and calumny emanating from the Republicans in America? Well, so far she and Keith Olbermann have responded all wrong, that's for sure. Keith mocks Rush and O'Reilly and the rest of the Red, Brown, and Black shirts over at Fox as clowns, but they just get louder. They feed on negative attention. Keith, you need to stop doing what you are doing and treat them as the real, vicious criminals that they really are. Rachel, the Republican Party you imagine does not exist, not as a loyal opposition at any rate. It is not your job to resuscitate them and train them to their duties. If they ever grow past their dance with racism and hatred and do anything adult, responsible, and truly newsworthy, report it, otherwise forget about them. Do not coddle them; do not give them air time they do not deserve. Fair political reporting is reporting the activities of responsible and rational and civic-minded people who may agree or disagree with one another, not the rants and orations of lunatics who are pretty obviously bent on destruction of our democracy in favor of a republic of hatred and paranoia. JB

 

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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)
 

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