Saturday, September 20, 2008

The future of the Republican Party

To show that I have not been totally oblivious to some of the larger issues during my trip, I had another thought about the McCain selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. I have expressed puzzlement and concern about this pick before, and Governor Palin's remarkable media and popular attention has done little to dispel my misgivings.

I accepted long ago that I would rarely find absolutely perfect politicians to get behind. While it is clear that I lean toward Obama, I have doubts as to his ability to effect major change in Washington, and doubt that he even really means to. It's very hard for someone for whom the system has consistently worked to understand how badly it is failing for so many. When Obama did his community work, his "customers" were people who had fairly obvious problems, be it addiction or poor education or long-term poverty, and helping them, while frustrating at times, was a matter of gaining for them opportunities to get things they had never had - addiction counseling, training, and so forth.

But the problems that confront a growing number of people today are afflicting some who have done the right things, who have gone to the "right" schools and had good jobs, but are seeing opportunities to succeed taken away by those who would rather use overseas or immigrant labor. I don't believe the problems of income inequality and, worse, opportunity inequality are likely to be solved by legislative fiat; therefore, those problems, the result of complex social and economic transactions, will be harder to solve, and I don't think Obama has the answers to them (as I have written before, there is no reason to believe that New Energy will beget a New Economy, and Obama's inability or unwillingness to understand that is a major blind spot).

But let's look at McCain's choice of Palin, what that implies for the Republican Party in the future, and what that says about John McCain, the "original maverick."

Whatever happens in November, Sarah Palin is poised to become a major figure in the party for at least the next 30 years (ending around the time she becomes a great-great-grandmother). Her fame and popularity, which may actually be enhanced if her ticket loses this fall (the actual need to govern so often causes problems, darn it), will ensure that she will be a "name" for years to come. And that means the party will likely continue on its current path, its theocratic, anti-science, anti-logic, know-nothing path. And that means there will not be a place in it for people like me, well, probably as long as I'll be here.

I have written before that I am a lapsed Republican, and that is largely the result of the party moving away from me, beginning in the time of Ronald Reagan and continuing through the reign of G.W. Bush. All of the precepts that I grew up believing are no longer convenient for the party, not in the Atwater-Rove period of anything-for-a-win, and I cannot in all conscience call myself a Republican any longer. And there is nothing in the record or stated beliefs of Sarah Palin that could bring me back. If she is a dominant Republican force going forward, I, and I believe other moderate Republicans, will have no standing in a party made up of ignoramuses (no, not "ignorami," no matter how cute I might think it is). The chant of "Drill, baby, drill" at the Republican convention was chilling in its celebration of stupidity.

And what does this say about the judgment of John McCain? As a self-styled maverick, one who ostensibly takes issue with the policies of George W. Bush, he might be thought to want to move the party away from its bizarre and ahistorical orthodoxy of the past few years. His apparent desire to pick Joe Lieberman as his running mate, no matter how disastrous I would think that to be in specific, showed that kind of willingness. I wanted to believe that he desired taking the party in a new direction, one that might have a place for people like me.

But then he chose Palin, whose People magazine-ready personal narrative totally fails to compensate for her antediluvian stand on issues. Either McCain recognizes that he is casting the party into a direction antithetical to his previous stance, or he doesn't care, so desperate is he to appease the base and win the election. Whichever is true, that is simply not the kind of thinking we need in this country today, and I am content to cast my lot with the thoughtful candidate, the one who seeks out different viewpoints in formulating his decisions. And, no matter how it squares with my upbringing, that candidate is the Democrat.


Greg said...

I believe it was the latter: McCain chose Palin because she is an ideologue who can help mobilize the Republican base. QED.

Androcass said...


I believe you're right, but it runs so counter to the stated McCain message that I have serious trouble with it. I have to think that his loss to Bush in 2000 was so astounding to his world view that he is now going to do anything to win, which of course casts him as just another politician instead of "the maverick." Wouldn't it be nice to find just one politician who gets better as we know more about him/her - I've never seen it.

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