Will Republicans Flee The Party As They Recognize It's Been Infected With A "Dangerous & Virulent Form Of Political Rabies?"
Wednesday I went downtown to meet a Democratic candidate, Lee Rogers. I was surprised when I walked into his office and met a Republican-- a Republican who had been running against Buck McKeon, the Republican Rogers is opposing in the general election. But the Republican told me he isn't a Republican any longer and that it was a long time coming but that he no longer counted himself as a member of the GOP. I'm not sure if he's an independent or a Democrat but he did endorse Lee Rogers against McKeon. In fact, there are more than a few Republicans up in Santa Clarita, the Simi Valley and the antelope Valley who are sick and tired of McKeon and who are boosting Rogers. All the ones I've met, however, are still Republicans... they just hate how corrupt McKeon is and how inattentive he's been to local problems, particularly the CEMEX mining disaster.
Other Republicans, however, are growing uncomfortable with the deranged direction the party has taken. Mainstream Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, particularly, are concerned that partisan GOP strategy against Obama has led to the party sabotaging the economy and the judiciary. Michael Stafford is a former Republican Party official in Delaware and author of the book An Upward Calling on the need for public policy and politics to advance the common good. Last year he was still hopeful he could be part of reforming the GOP, as you can see in this clip:
That was then. Yesterday he explained why he's finally decided to leave the Republican Party. Like the Republican I met in Lee Rogers' office, it wasn't easy for Stafford and it was a long time coming. He starts by reminding readers he's been a lifelong Republican. "My political affiliation has been woven intrinsically into the very fabric of my being. When I was young, Ronald Reagan bestrode the world like a colossus. I grew up watching the Cold War end-game play out as Reagan faced down the Soviet Union-- which really was evil-- and helped break the long night of communist repression in Eastern Europe. He was my hero." He's no longer a registered Republican.
I came to the decision to leave the GOP not with a heavy heart, but with a broken one.
I reached this point through a long series of awakenings and realizations-- a path marked by literally years of wrestling with, and finally accepting, the political implications of a number of difficult truths. It involved ever-increasing levels of cognitive dissonance, as I tried to square my experiences, concerns, and knowledge, with my continued loyalty to the GOP.
As a local GOP official after President Obama’s election, I had a front-row seat as it became infected by a dangerous and virulent form of political rabies.
In the grip of this contagion, the Republican Party has come unhinged. Its fevered hallucinations involve threats from imaginary communists and socialists who, seemingly, lurk around every corner. Climate change-- a reality recognized by every single significant scientific body and academy in the world-- is a liberal conspiracy conjured up by Al Gore and other leftists who want to destroy America. Large numbers of Republicans-- the notorious birthers-- believe that the President was not born in the United States. Even worse, few figures in the GOP have the courage to confront them.
Republican economic policies are also indefensible. The GOP constantly claims that its opponents are engaged in “class warfare,” but this is an exercise in projection. In Republican proposals, the wealthy win, and the rest of us lose-- one only has to look at Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget to see that.
As Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein have written, “the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier-- ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” Its reckless behavior helps drive the political dysfunction crippling our nation.
In the end, it offers a dystopian vision of our future-- a harsher, crueler and more merciless America starkly divided between the riders, and the ridden.
From the moment the Tea Party emerged on the scene, I had a premonition that I would eventually have to leave the GOP. But my mind conjured innumerable reasons for delay-- for putting off the day of reckoning in the desperate hope that some game-changing miracle would occur, such as a victory by Governor Jon Huntsman in the Republican presidential primary.
But no miracle happened. Among all the difficult truths I’ve had to face, perhaps none has been harder than the realization that I, and those dissidents like me, are unrepresentative outliers far removed from, and largely unable to influence, the main currents of opinion within the GOP.
Ultimately, leaving the GOP was necessary in order to maintain my own integrity. Leaving is also a public act of personal protest. I am under no illusions about its broader significance-- it will have no impact on the trajectory of the political narrative in this nation. But that does not make it futile. On the contrary, as the shadows lengthen, such minor individual acts of defiance and dissent are more critical now than ever before.
Perhaps, one day, a reformed and responsible Republican Party will reemerge.
But not while the party's agenda is set by sociopaths like Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint, Eric Cantor, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker and Buck McKeon-- and not when spiritual and intellectual weaklings like Mitt Romney, John McCain and John Boehner don't have courage or convictions to confront them. And not while the party has sold its soul to the highest bidders, like organized crime gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson. Of course, corruption and selling out is far from just a Republican problem, as we saw this week when a repulsively corrupt Senate banking Committee-- 16 of whose 22 members have taken bribes from JPMorgan-- welcomed criminal bankster Jamie Dimon like a triumphant hero. "This wasn't a hearing," pointed out Bill Moyers. "It was a reunion of the Gambino Family." It's worth watching this short video of Moyers and Thomas Frank discuss this: