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Where have you gone, Butch and Sundance?

Original post made by Tom Cushing on Sep 7, 2011


One of the commenters in the Religion and Politics series calls himself "Normal mainstream republican," a title that might as well have read "Endangered Species." He got me pondering about the odd trajectory of the Republican Party, which has e-or-devolved so far from the Party of my father as to be barely recognizable.

To my recollection, mid-century Republicans were the party of the middle and professional classes – pro-defense and Management, thoughtfully conservative, and science and conservation-oriented. Let us not forget that the EPA and OSHA were Republican inventions. The "elites" were country club Republicans; the Democrats were, and are, "Everybody Else" – a roiling big-tent coalition of Labor, recent immigrants and The Poor: the Unrepublicans.

The GOP didn't care much for taxes, at least when the marginal rate max'd out at the 90% mark, and they were led more by Eisenhower, Nixon and Rockefeller than by Barry Goldwater. William F. Buckley was their patrician prophet, but was as much a gadfly caricature as a serious font of policy guidance. The likes of Wallace and Thurmond were not Republicans, and the Party's brief flirtation with McCarthyism was blessedly so. In short, the Grand Old Party's centrist base was, well, normal mainstream republicans. It was always ideologically more homogenous than the Dems, but never litmus-perfect.

Fast-forward to 2011, where now two of the three current Presidential frontrunners (and one prominent lurker) are openly evangelical, creationism is an article of Faith, climate change is derided as a hoax and chest-thumping foreign policy is the order of the day. Actual experts are derided as elites (when did that become a bad word?). No-tax pledges abound and are taken seriously – at a time when rates are a minor fraction of their former scale. The days of read-my-lip service are apparently over. And this new GOP (the Party of Lincoln) passionately embraces the Solid South, if-you-know-what-I-mean, and –I-think-that-you-do. Its Tea Party faction is anything but thoughtful, to the ironically hilarious point of championing policies that that are utterly contrary to their own self-interests (let alone those of the country).

Granted, there were numerous issues that gained prominence since my long-departed youth that may have nudged the GOP rightward: abortion abetted the rise of the Righteous Right, environmentalism spread far beyond the creation of national parks to the point of suggesting that sustainability in concert with the earth might be a wiser approach than the traditional plunder and profit (Drill baby, Drill!). Civil Rights in several forms transformed the political landscape of Dixie, and beyond. And terrorism has recently fed fear, leading some to conclude that relinquishing personal freedoms in exchange for greater sense of personal security (real or imagined) is somehow a good trade.

A child of the 1960s, I admit to some misty nostalgia when I contemplate the metamorphosis of the Grand Old Party. To borrow a catch phrase from the now-classic western movie of that day: "Who ARE those guys?" Further: where are they headed?

As the 2012 campaigns move into higher gears, I wonder about folks like Normal mainstream republican. Will the danger that he identified – that the capture of the primaries by the ideological zealots will drive the Great American Middle into the Obama camp – be realized? Is it 1964 all over again? Will "mainstreamers" like Normal be able to hold their noses tight enough to pull the GOP lever? Are there even places called "Normal," moderate or "mainstream" in the Republican orthodoxy anymore? Stay tuned.

Comments (7)

Posted by Dirk, a resident of Alamo
on Sep 7, 2011 at 7:50 am

Interestingly Presidential Candidate Jon Huntsman has said "I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." In today's GOP Huntsman is crazy for being sane! Well, maybe he is crazy, for having joined this pack of loonies. What on earth is he doing in the GOP?


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Sep 7, 2011 at 10:22 am

Huntsman is certainly an intriguing candidate, at least to this member of the general electorate. I think he will have a very tough "go" of it within his Party, however, as a second Mormon in a race where a quarter of the eligible primary voters apparently believe they're both the wrong kind of Christians.

Huntsman may be the candidate who could get elected, but for the fact that he can't get nominated.


Posted by Dirk, a resident of Alamo
on Sep 7, 2011 at 10:33 am

What's worse than being the wrong kind of Christian for Huntsman is that he has said that he is not very religious. While I admire him for that, it surely disqualifies him for the Republican nomination.


Posted by Mitch Rapp, a resident of John Baldwin Elementary School
on Sep 8, 2011 at 7:39 am

You neglected to mention that the GOP at least knows how to control costs, did a lot for civil rights, did not wear a white hood like Al Gore's Daddy, and tried to stop the Loans to Losers program which busted the Fannie and Freddie Bank.

WE now have Obama, Champion of Chicago thuggery, corruption, payola and patronage leading us into bankruptcy. We have a President, that is proud to not have a budget for some 900 days. Obama speaks through a teleprompter and we never know who we are listening to.

Our "new elites", the media and academia think the world of someone they cannot believe, is providing us with debt and can't seem to do anything right. Unemployment is wonderful, $4.00 gas is fine and skyrocketing PG&E Bills are great because we use inefficient wind and solar.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville
on Sep 8, 2011 at 8:46 am

Sometimes I feel like Dear Abby, when she had to decide whether a letter was real or a parody penned by some mischievous Yale undergrad (or in this case, an undergraduate at John Baldwin?).

Since you left-out the part about Mr. Obama beating his children and kicking his dog, I may eventually have to conclude that you're serious about stringing together a stream of invective that would be the envy of Mr. Creosote.

But not yet -- please tell me that you're kidding.


Posted by C. R. Mudgeon, a resident of Danville
on Sep 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm

It's always humorous to read how liberals and some Democrats view conservatives and Republicans. The misconceptions and misperceptions are really pretty funny. As is the assumption that liberals always like to make, namely that if you don't agree with them, then you must not be intelligent. Perhaps that is reassuring for folks who continue to back Obama, despite the fact that he has been completely wrong on fiscal and economic issues since the day he took office. Conservatives just don't understand, I guess, and apparently the economy doesn't either...


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville
on Sep 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm

The Republican party turned me off when they spent all that time impeaching Clinton and passing meaningless legislation (remember flag burning?), and other nonsense rather than doing their jobs.

When Republicans had control of the White House and both houses of Congress, instead of reforming entitlement spending and getting our house in order, they decided to go on a spending spree with a new prescription drug entitlement that they passed in the middle of the night using fake cost estimates after just two days of deliberation. It was 600 pages long and practically no one had read it. Sound familiar? Back then, the CATO Institute called them the "Mother of all Spenders." This was before Obama, of course.

Republicans cheered when Bush started those immoral, unnecessary and unfunded wars. Bush refused to allow reporters at Dover Air Force Base so no one could see all the coffins of dead soldiers coming back from Iraq. (Nowadays, the media is allowed to go, but they don't because "our guy Obama" is in the White House and they don't want to make him look bad.)

Instead of fixing the tax code, Republicans passed major tax overhauls that added incredible complexity to the code. I'm all for tax cuts. But do it smart. Make it simple. And for God's sake, don't let them expire 10 years after enactment.

And let's not forget how Republicans helped pass Sarbanes Oxley, which greatly burdens U.S. businesses, with little benefit to investors, and which has a chilling effect on IPOs and which gives foreign companies an advantage over US companies.

Republicans cheered when Bush tortured U.S. citizens, engaged in warrantless wiretaps, detained U.S. citizens indefinitely, denying them the right to speak to counsel or even see their loved ones. Talk about trampling the constitution.

Remember when Bush and Republicans helped pass "No Child Left Behind"? Horrible legislation. Why is the Federal Government trying to micromanage school districts? A true conservative would let the states handle that.

I could go on and on, but my lunch hour is over.

I voted for Clinton and Kerry. And you might be tempted to think I would vote Democratic this time. But ironically, I will likely vote Republican this time, not because they're good, but just because they're not as bad as our current crop of Democrats.


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