At this writing, the saga of Foley’s perverted fooishness shows no sign of abatement. Each day gives us a new twist and turn to the unfolding story of corruption that has become Congress and yea, the Republican Party. Seven days into this tale, it has grown the legs of a marathon runner. It is quite possible that, short of a terrorist attack or some huge catastrophe, this story will be page one stuff for at least another couple of weeks — perhaps (though possibly unlikely unless we start seeing a domino-effect of high profile resignations from Congress, additional IM/Email exchanges being released or the discovery of other scandals involving members of Congress and congressional pages) it could continue right up to election day.
In what this observer considers a hail-mary effort at a cleansing theory, today people ranging from the Drudge Report to Rush Limbaugh are speculating that this is some sort of page-prank designed and intended to embarrass Republicans right before the election. To these folks, I wonder if you also believe in alien visits, CIA transmitters in fillings and that the resolution of the Mideast Conflict is just around the corner.
In the spirit of Monday morning quarterbacking, might I suggest that the Republicans have been laying the groundwork for this scandal and their subsequent loss of power for years. Let me forward my thoughts on the topic to you.
First, this is what you get when you let the camel in your tent. What is the camel in this case? The so-called economic conservatives but social “moderates”/liberals. The Republicans came to power when the real conservatives — both social and economic conservatives — elected Ronald W. Reagan to office in 1980 and a Republican majority to Congress in 1994. These grassroot had 3 of the 4 qualities that get people elected to office — numbers, networks and passion. They were mad as…. the dickens… and they weren’t going to take it any more. So this silent giant, many of the conservative Christian evangelicals and salt-of-the-earth Americans who had watched things that were important to them attacked (like prayer/Scripture in schools, traditional morality, the sanctity of life) — awakened with a roar. They networked in churches and 4-H clubs and neighborhood coffee klatches and begin learning the political ropes that changed the direction of American politics like few waves of discontent had ever donebefore. Their passion was as tireless as was their anger over the loss of what they believed was the “American way” and it’s corresponding values. The one thing that was missing — many of these folks were common, blue-collar, working class — was money. Thus, from Lee Atwater to George Bush the elder — the message of having a “Big Tent” for the Republican Party began to be a rallying cry to the rich and powerful Republicans that they were needed to come in and finance the machine that would become the new Republican party. So we had the Log Cabin Republicans (Gay wealthy business types) and the re-emergence of the Rockefellar Republicans who wrote the checks that make politics of this generation hum and counters the deep pockets of the George Soroses and Hollywood leftists who have more money than good sense. In exchange for their dough, the Republican party often sold-out the party base by giving lip service to many matters that mattered to the values-driven voters, but failing to pass most of the legislation that they championed. On the other hand,the values voterswere lectured by the old-line elites of the Republican party on a need for broader messages, less militancy and more “compassion, kindness and gentleness” which they knew would appeal to sincere people of faith but wouldn’t last twenty seconds in the battlegrounds of Washington, DC.
So, the Republicans have welcomed liberal Republicans like Lincoln Chaffee and Mark Foley into the fold rationalizing that it was the “best they could get” in their particular areas of the country. They watered down the values talk and made economic accomplishments their real success story delivering huge tax cuts to the middle class and up hoping to appeal the social conservatives with the pretty baubles of tax refunds and lower taxes. And for awhile it worked. This uncomfortable alliance, loathing eight years of Clintons in the White House, reawakened to put George the Younger in office twice. Like a tired old boxer, it was hardly a sweeping victory they won, but it was a victory nonetheless. Then came 9/11, the crash of the dot.coms, andtwo wars — one of which was based on a faulty premise and has produced a quagmire that is still unfolding.
The battle was now over the ubiquitous, yet nebulous threat of terrorisim. Gas prices soar. Supreme Court nominations seemed to be getting muffed by a distracted President. No progress was made on protecting the traditional definition of marriage. Abortions are as legal as ever. The base was growing restless when not apathetic. They swung between apathy and resignation. Anytime they grumbled too loudly, the President would deliver a few “values” speeches and they’d reintroduce yet another piece of “values” legislation that everyone knew would never pass so that there could be at least the illusion that something was being done.
And then there was the age-old arrogance and rationalization that comes with power. James Dobson and Ralph Reed get caught up in the Abramoff scandal. Tom Delay left office under an ethical cloud. Powerplays like mid-decade redistricting infuriated Democratic partisons. Pork, pork and more pork — now being delivered by Republican legislators balloned the deficit and reminded those who are old enough to remember of the worst days of Democratic control. Robert Byrd is now matched by Ted Stevenson. Deals were cut. A spirit of untouchable invincibility began to pervade Republican corridors across Capital Hill. The Republicans lost touch with their base while fighting to win re-election for liberal incumbents while their base wanted more conservative voices. “Big Tent” was shouted when Arnold took the Governorship of California. “Big Tent” invited the Gays into the party. “Big Tent” made Rudolph Guilianni a likely front-runner among the social liberal voters in the Republican Party. John McCain castigates publicly people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson — who, in spite of their frequent oratorical oversteps (and I’m being kind there) — have delivered more voters to the Republicans in the last quarter century than any other religious right leaders. (And something to note here: McCain’s campaign sunk like a rock shortly thereafter as one of the dumbest political moves in history unfolded.)
So combine an arrogance of office and power, with a restless base and the inclusion of people with whom ANY kind of bed-sharing is not only illogical but offensive and you have the ingredients for a perfect storm that is about to sweep the Republicans out of power in one month’s time.
I don’t know if the Republicans have any inkling of how ticked off many in the religious right are right now. A good friend of mine, a principled conservative with a bit of a libertarian streak in him AND a former Bush administration official in Washington told me today that he’s going to vote straight Democratic this year just to get rid of the sorry excuses for leadership the Republicans have in place now. Was he being hyperbolic and just venting, perhaps, but I don’t think so. Even if he settles down quite a bit, I don’t think he’ll vote Republican….he’s just likely not to vote at all. (But I wouldn’t be surprised if he does hit the Dem button just for the relief he’d feel in making a statement.) His story is one that I hear over and over again.
In fact, I hear it in three ways — One type of values voter tells me that they’re mad and going to vote anti-incumbent. One type of voter says that they are just going to sit this election out as they are just repulsed by what politics has become and they are confused by the leadership. The third type is saying nothing at all. Nothing positive, nothing that would rally others, nothing that defends the Republicans — just nothing….a deadly, stagnant silence.
Anyway you slice it, the news is bad for Republicans.
As this commentator sees it, there are now two primary options. One is that the values-motivated voters either sit this election out or vote against the incumbents and dismantle the Republican party as it is known. Get rid of Hastert and all his committee chairmen by either throwing them out of office or letting Nancy Polosi consign them to oblivion for a couple of years. Let new, principled leaders emerge. Let them rework what the Republican party really stands for and what they will deliver by the time of the next election — which will be a big one and if Hillary is running, has the potential to bring out legions of voters with VERY strong opinions. There needs to be the re-emergence of someone with Newt Gingrich’s intellect and passion, but without his moral baggage and abrasive reputation.
OR….maybe it’s time to see a new third party formed. Let’s face it, the Democrats — even with the gifts they’ve been given by inept Republicans — have been largely reduced to a party of extremists and whackos characterized by the likes of Cindy Sheehan and Bill Mahr and Al Franken and Barbra Streisand. The Republicans are imploding before our very eyes. There has to be a solid 40% of the population who doesn’t want to be identified with either party. Let’s kick the homosexual, liberal, leave-your-wife-of-20-years-for-a-newer-model Hollywood types out or not invite them in the tent at all and see what happens.
You can’t expect to bring people like Mark Foley — a “moderate/liberal” who did a horrible job of closeting his gayness — into the same tent as family-oriented voters and expect them to get along with people who see him as the antithesis of what they believe. So when homosexual men, do what homosexual men do — look for sharp-looking, attractive young men and try to bed them,— we ought not be surprised. They never belonged in a partythat has a base of religious-oriented conservatives. When hypocritical conservative-speaking politicians get exposed as immoral hypocrites — dump them right out of office and do it fast. Let’s not become a rewarmed Democratic party that looks the other way (or eventually venerates) while people like Barney Frank and Gerry Studds and Bill Clintonact out their sexual orientations. Let’s find a party that actually stands without apology for what is decent and when fallen people do stupid things, then deal with it with integrity — don’t cover it up for a couple of years or hope that it will go away, like Dennis Hastert and friends apparently did.
It’s time to either shrink the tent or pitch a new one — but no more, ya’ll come in and mess up our party just because you’ll wear the right name badge.
And my NEW prediction. Republicans will lose control of the House by a shift of as many as 30 seats. (Fifteenis allthat is required). Republicans may be looking at 50/50 split in the Senate or a 51/49 split which could go either way. It’s going to be tight.
But there’s worse things that can happen than have a Democratic majority for a couple of years while the Republicans decide who they want to be or a new party gets organized. One of those “worse things” would be to let things continue as they are.