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Branches of Republicanism

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There was an excellent article by Sidney Blumenthal about Gerald "Ford's Warning from the Grave" Wednesday in the Guardian Unlimited. Ford's remarks about Cheney and Rumsfeld reveal deep fissures within the Republican Party, and rarely do we see the larger picture of the inner workings of the Republican Party so clearly. One of the things that Republicans have that seems to stand them in good stead is their party discipline. It is not exactly Leninist "democratic centralism," but it has the same net effect. Republicans are much more certain of votes in Congress than are Democrats. Republicans are, to borrow a phrase, as thick as thieves when it comes to pronouncements from Republican leadership. Republicans dislike calling each other names, but as the article shows, they are capable of it.

The flip side of party discipline is a very interesting problem and Democrats need to take better advantage of it. The Republican problem is analogous to an individual always bottling up daily stresses. The unrelieved stress eventually finds a way out as a heart attack, stroke, or abrupt and perhaps violent behavior. Democrats need to be vocal about the differences among Republicans and to point out that their much vaunted party discipline is really a mask over a very angry face, a charade disguising the fact that Republicans are not monolithic and of one mind on any subject.

The Reagan branch of the Republicans are the old Dixiecrats linked with a smattering of Neocon Machiavellians and stage managers eager to exploit the evangelicals and their morbid fears of doomsday. The Reagan branch is the "daddy" branch, the penis-envy branch, the bully branch of Republicanism. The Ford branch has been smothered and silenced by party discipline as the Reagan barbarians now represented by the pugnacious Cheney and the dry drunk and his pudgy "brain."

The Ford branch is the legitimate heir to corporate Republicanism, to entrepreneurial Republicanism that uses government to provide a safety net of contracts for poorly run businesses. The Ford branch is the branch that does not really believe in constitutional government because the Ford branch believes instead in the rule of men ... and when men fail, government fails ... so you have to pardon them ... because government cannot repair itself.

The essential difference between Ford and Reagan is that Reaganistas believe in believing something so strongly that it will come true, while Ford's crowd really does not believe in anything greater than themselves.

Party discipline with these differences means that someone in the Party is going to be abused. The Ford branch will follow, but they ultimately do not believe in it; the Reaganite Bushite Cheneyite insurgents believe their own lies, among them these lies the half-cocked ideas of their lunatic fringe. Sometime in 2007 the Ford branch will stop going along. The Ford branch understands Party discipline for what it used to mean, and they willï "when the going gets really rough in Washingtonï "march down Pennsylvania Avenue and demand the resignation of Cheney, and if it does not come quickly, they will go back and demand the resignation of Bush as well. They, not Nancy Pelosi, will wave impeachment in front of Bush and Cheney.

It will get rough because Bush and Cheney are committed to their plan to refashion the middle east. It is a plan that calls for stirring the pot and bringing it to a boil. They want war with Iran and Syria. They want nuclear war. So great is their certitude that they will risk the Party over it. The Party, on the other hand, will not stand for it. The twenty-four hours before Bush resigns will be the most dangerous period in the life of this nation, but we will survive because the Ford branch knows what it must do ... and will do it, to stand and fight another day.


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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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