As most of you have heard by now, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has announced his intention to become Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA). This has had a predictable reaction among D.C. circles: Republicans hate him and Democrats love him. Sen. Specter clearly read the writing on the wall and saw that he was going to lose in the Republican primary because the modern Republican party has no room for moderates such as himself. In age when elected officials are kissing the ring of a radio talk show host, the Republican party is clearly in dire straits.
Sen. Mitch McConnell stated that this increasingly unipolar political landscape is bad for the country, and I would have to agree. However, it is Republican policies which have pushed the nation in this direction. The answer isn't for voters to throw the Republicans a bone and vote a few of them in to hold back the changes Democrats will bring -- changes which, by the way, the American people are voting for in large majorities -- but rather for the Republican party to go back to the drawing board and come up with some better ideas. As it stands, the Republicans have been absolutely pathetic since 2005. The marginalizing of the Republican party didn't begin with Hurricane Katrina -- that's just when it was solidified. It began with Terry Schiavo.
The nation watched national Republican officials all the way up to the President of the United States directly inject themselves into a decision which should have been a private family affair: whether or not to keep alive by artificial means a woman who had been in a permanent vegetative state for fifteen years. Prior to that, Republicans had held the nation in fear over terrorism and managed to manipulate a portion of the population over the issue of gay marriage. The gay marriage issue tied in with abortion on a broader "bedroom police" platform. Not wanting to dispense with a winning strategy, the next natural step was to inject themselves into life or death medical decisions other than abortion. Whether or not it was right to pull the feeding tube of Terry Schiavo is not, and never was the issue. The issue was whether this was a decision for her family or for Washington politicians. At that moment, all the fear-mongering about socialism with regard to universal health care lost its bite. The Republicans, not the Democrats, were the ones injecting themselves into private medical decisions. The Republicans, not the Democrats, were the ones telling people who they could and could not love. The Republicans, not the Democrats, were the ones telling women that if they had their way, they would have to carry all their children to term, regardless of their circumstances.
And now, as it turns out, the Republicans were the ones rounding people up and putting them in camps to be tortured. Not for intel purposes, but for propoganda purposes. They wanted somebody to tell them that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda in order to justify invading Iraq. The Republicans were the ones listening to our phone calls without warrants. It goes on and on: the Republicans became the party of Big Brother. They became the party of aggressive war. They became the party of torture. They became the party of homophobia, xenophobia, and Pax Americana. They became the party of a nationalist political philosophy which good manners dictate we not mention in civil debate. So I won't. Their actions speak for themselves, and we need not look to the past to find a label to which to attach these philosophies. We need only call them what they are: the Republican party platform. And these days, people understand well enough what that means in order to reject it out of hand. Republicans, when calling Democrats socialists, only serve to stir up their fringe base. The label doesn't have any affect on people's perceptions of the Democratic party platform. If anything, it only serves to soften the image of socialism in the minds of Americans. So when the Republicans loosely accuse the Obama administration of "tyranny" for the heinous act of governing as they promised to during a Presidential campaign they won by sweeping margins, it really does sound like a classic case of projection.
Republicans, if they wish to survive, need to denounce the policies of the Bush administration forcefully and declare a new day for the Republican party. As it stands, they seem to believe that the current political climate is simply a passing storm rather than the sea of change it actually represents. They need to do this for the good of America, because they're not entirely wrong: single party rule does make for bad government. Just not as bad as Republicans do right now. If they cannot change, then they need to dissolve and allow a new party to take their place. Right now they're in their last throes, and their choice is simple: evolve or die.
The 20th century is over. America is moving into a new day. Perhaps the Republican party has simply outlived its usefulness. But if a viable conservative party does not soon emerge to take its place, then a party which sits to the left of the Democratic party will. Then we really will begin moving toward socialism. It's incumbent upon conservatives to find ways to make capitalism continue to work in the 21st century, not to simply assert that it does. And they need to give up on their imperial ambitions. The future lies in global partnership, not world domination. It's not just the pragmatic way: it's the American way.
The future is leaving the Republican party behind.