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Posts Tagged ‘GOP’

There is a remarkable story floating around online that I haven’t seen posted in many places: how the Southern Baptist Convention has lined up against payday lenders. Christians have come around to the idea that this kind of behavior among financial specialists creates victims. When you see Evangelicals going after financial institutions, you’re watching a 50-year-old pact dissolving. Christians have found something in laissez-faire economics they can’t abide by, and they think the government has a role in stopping it.

I think this is huge news. At the very least, it bears closer scrutiny for those wanting to understand the current state of the Republican Party. Donald Trump’s rise shouldn’t be surprising given the huge schisms within intellectual conservatism, which is less a cohesive movement now than a group of unrelated tribes. Libertarianism, whose underlying argument is that less government and law equals more freedom (and that total freedom could somehow be self-correcting), can no longer be reconciled with Christian charity and evangelism, which sees in this idea selfishness and moral abdication. Political Christians have always seen a role of government acting as an agent for change (think blue laws). This is something they have in common with liberals, though they wouldn’t like the comparison. Meanwhile, neither Ayn Rand nor Jesus likely have much to do with neoconservatism, the idea that America’s military power can be used for the global good and stability. Nor with ethnic nationalism.

And you could separate libertarianism still from free market conservatism, which understands rampant capital formation to be the best model for engendering truly free living and thus is really fond of global free trade agreements and such.

Like all powerful movements, conservatism managed to find unity in these disparate ideas when they were embodied by a powerful historical figure: Ronald Reagan. Without the unifying and sunny idiom in which he put them (and an Evil Soviet Empire that seemed to symbolize everything he was not), there is not a lot left holding these ideas together and certainly not enough for a person who stakes his identity on his Republicanism.

Thus it’s not terribly surprising when the many virtues of these ideas succumb to the dark side of human nature, their high-mindedness superseded by the darker, baser aspects of the human character, who in his grasping for expression easily becomes easily wounded, narcissistic and chauvinistic. It’s not hard to fathom, then, how spiritualism becomes intolerance. Counterintuitiveness becomes anti-intellectualism. Loyalty to ideals becomes more important than curiosity (which might destroy them). Pride in culture and respect for tradition becomes open hostility to people who are different. Whenever a group of people are in such disarray, it makes sense they would turn to a strong man–a man of utter conviction in himself and willingness to take what he wants with bullying. These qualities are impressive enough by themselves in a leaderless vacuum to a battered conservative soul.

I am not a conservative, but I grew up with conservatives in their wolf den, and I’ve never found boastful conviction to be something they value. So I find their turn to Trump to be disheartening. It’s not that I think they actually like him–they simply want his mojo, his strong expressiveness and the idiom of confidence that used to be theirs. How else do you explain them turning to a man who has spent not one second of his life pursuing their goals, fighting for their beliefs?

Being skeptical that Obamacare did any good is one thing. But when all you have holding together your identity is your hatred for Barack Obama (and his heir presumptive, Hillary Clinton), then you really have no philosophy at all (and in many respects, you are likely defined by your low self-esteem, if some of your Facebook memes are any indication). Political ideals are something you speak for peer approval. (Or, let’s face it, your dad’s.)

Though I’m not a Republican, I’m a gestalt theorist, and I think America needs both its parties to be strong for its particular way of functioning. Both the Democrat and the Republican greatly need to speak each other’s heresies to stiffen their sinews and make their arguments more rigorous. I do not think the world would be a better place if far leftists were left alone to speak kant to one other (that certainly hasn’t been good for the arguing skills of Bernie Sanders’ fans, who are the most true-believing of anybody’s supporters and thus incredibly fragile when challenged on their candidate’s very real weaknesses).

So I am not heartened by the demise of the Republican Party. If it rises again, I would like it to do what it does best: offer sober assessments of the the very real problems perceived by liberals. I would like it to ask us: do we completely understand the nature of these problems and could our solutions make things worse? Instead, the GOP has become the party that insists government must be destroyed to be saved. It wound up destroying itself.

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Washington, D.C. (API) Some 14 months after the party was trounced by the 2008 elections and the landslide victory for President Barack Obama, the Grand Old Party has regained its sea legs once again, and a new party leader has emerged in the person of one Private Forrest Gump.

Republicans searching for leadership at a time when their party is out of power have swarmed around this political upstart whose main claim to fame is that he is a developmentally disabled former athlete and entrepreneur who effortlessly comes up with bland, heartfelt aphorisms.

“Life is like a box of chocolates,” said Gump, thumping one of his favorite old saws for reporters at a press conference. “You never know what you’re going to get.”

“The G.O.P. has been looking for a new face for a long time,” said party consultant Jack Avers. “Bobby Jindal. Charlie Crist. Mitt Romney. Everybody hoped that one of those guys might come and pick up our fallen Republican party standard. But then along comes this poor fucker Gump. Nobody’s got these kinds of bona fides. He makes you feel good about yourself in a way that we haven’t felt since George Bush took office.”

Promising to pick up every American and bodily remove him from harm’s way, Gump launched his political career at a stump speech in Alabama last Thursday amid cheers from conservatives, angry about the direction of the country.

“I am not a smart man, Birmingham. But I know what love is,” Gump announced to rapturous applause from conservatives holding up signs such as “Obamanation” and “America for Americas” and “End the Fed.”

“We want no more tax increases!” yelled an angry member under the stump.

At that, Gump stood up bolt upright, “Well yes, drill sergeant!”

When asked later by a reporter if perhaps anger about tax increases might be misplaced, since middle-class federal tax margins have barely increased since the 1980s, he said, “Well I don’t know anything about that.” Once again, the audience responded with cheers and signs of “Drill, baby, drill” and gunfire into the Alabama night air.

Gump’s apotheosis as new G.O.P. star and conservative pace-setter has provoked a frantic scramble for response from embattled Democrats, whose large and expensive bills to overhaul health care and finance have been widely unpopular. The hostile atmosphere toward Democrats has led at least two senior Congressional Democrats to signal that they would be retiring at the end of their most recent terms, including Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who has made financial services reform one of his signature issues.

“Am I missing something,” said Dodd. “This Gump guy … I mean. He’s kind of not there. Am I smoking crack?”

“Stupid is as stupid does,” said Gump, a witty rejoinder that had Republican stalwarts in the crowd jumping up and down, lighting firecrackers and setting trash cans on fire.

When asked what he thought of possibly extending many of the benefits of Medicare and Medicaid to more American citizens, Gump offered, “Momma always said dying was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn’t.”

“Gump has the right profile,” said Republican analyst Mitch Michaelson.”He’s not your typical elitist East Coast political careerist. He’s of the people. He’s American through and through from the virtuous innocence to the simple piety to not having any idea how the government works. Whatever he’s got, they ought to bottle it. That sort of speaking in non sequiturs and his slack-jawed, sloe-eyed, jittery quality.”

“There’s a fight for the soul of the Republican Party going on,” said Michaelson. “It’s the moderates versus the hard-core conservatives. And just when you think we’re out of the game, here comes this cretin Mongoloid who just steals your heart and makes you believe.”

When asked how he might deal with runaway unemployment, interest rates, huge deficits and two wars being waged at once, Gump was thoughtful.

“Washington. It’s like a whole ‘nuther country.”

Grover Norquist, the famous anti-tax crusader, was confident that Gump could best Barack Obama in the 2012 election.

“Gump has the simple values of Ronald Reagan. The simple communication skills of Ronald Reagan. The simple view of government of Ronald Reagan. Gump and Reagan are both just simple. … We ought to drown the government in a bathtub. Leave me alone.”

Gump’s handlers, David Sheffield and Audra Banks, two Alabama political allies, plan to take Gump on a listening tour through the heartland states.

“People are angry,” said Banks. “They’ve lost their jobs. They think the government wants to get between them and their doctor. They can’t afford anything. They don’t know why this is happening to them. They don’t know who John Maynard Keynes was. They don’t know how stuff is paid for. They don’t know what infrastructure is. They don’t know who sets weights and standards or who builds roads. They’re angry.

“And then they look at Forrest and say, ‘Wow, that guy’s pants just fell down,’ and they feel better.”

“I don’t know if we each have a destiny,” said Gump, “or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”

When asked what he would do about recommending Supreme Court investigations into George Bush-era policies on torture, Gump ran away.

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