I have consistently attacked the extreme right wing of the Republican Party because it is dominated by a certain strand of Southerners who have more than a little history behind them. As the Civil War proved, when extremists are allowed to get the better of the broader population, these people may prove ready to take up self-destructive arms rather than compromise and govern.
And though the South has come a long way since the 19th century, its progress toward the realities of American life has been put on hold. In their gerrymandered districts, a singular sickness continues to afflict GOP politicians and those who make a living trying to tell them what to do.
Elected sons and daughters of the South have chosen breathless hyperbole, obstructionism and filibuster as their dominant weapons. The right-wing entertainment complex, as former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum calls it, serves up fattening fast food for losers. Examples: Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and assorted voices on Fox News consistently shill for defeat, or the defeated.
Conservatism — believing in a small, humble and effective government, supporting traditional values — is a perfectly proud ideology. Many brilliant Americans have proven so through the years. And today’s conservatives need not accept the idea that their political ideals are doomed because of a leadership doomed to fail by its blindness and scorched-earth tactics.
In fact, they need another choice.
Long before the November election proved how wrong the smart money — or, at least, the David Koch and Karl Rove money — was, Joe Scarborough told his fellow conservatives that the GOP was in trouble. It was losing the women’s vote, which wound up going for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 11 points.
When he told the truth, elephant eyes rolled.
So, too, was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie castigated by GOP ideologues for admitting that President Obama used government effectively to help New York and New Jersey recover from Superstorm Sandy.
Now Christie has favorable numbers that near, and sometimes top, 70 percent. Yes, his state is dominated by Democrats, but that is still an extraordinary number in a cynical age.
This points it all in a new direction, and Christie’s own words suggest which way the GOP ought to head.
“Compromise: It’s not a dirty word,” the governor said last week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
That is a basic fact of any representative democracy. If one wants to govern, one must be mature enough to act like an adult when not getting everything one wants.
Or consider what Scarborough, a lifelong hunter, said in the wake of the carnage at Newtown. He spoke of being haunted and largely sleepless. Looking presidential, he made sobering sense.
“From this day forward, nothing can ever be the same again,” he said. “Let this be our true landmark … politicians can no longer be allowed to defend the status quo.” As an ex-congressman, Scarborough put the people of the country in front of gun lobbies and any forces that wish American life to be controlled by money.
Rachel Maddow proved with numbers how ineffective the once-thought “smart money” actually is. After spending almost a billion dollars, those rabid fat cats lost in all of the races or lost troops and watched Democrats increase.
This all adds up to the surprise the nation needs from the Republican Party and that the GOP needs from itself, as Peggy Noonan and others have written.
Democrats should not fear a Republican Party that snaps out of its cluelessness. They should welcome it.
Sensible gun control, a more inclusive approach on ethnic differences, on sexual orientation, on gender differences: These are all things that can redefine the party.
This may be too difficult for those presently in charge. So they might have to be left behind. A brand-new party is needed right now. A third party could be the charm.
It surely has a chance to fail; Theodore Roosevelt proved that with his Bull Moose Party. But it also has an opportunity to succeed. That was then; now is another time.
Stanley Crouch can be reached by email at email@example.com.