This is my last post for Bisbah for the foreseeable future. I'm spread out over too many things right now and I need to consolidate. And I have come to the conclusion, for now, that this site is something I have to put aside.
But before I do, I want to address something that has become apparent to everyone with half-a-brain; the implosion of the Republican Party.
I was a Republican for many, many years before leaving the party in late 2003. And while I mostly enjoy the widespread psychosis the GOP is suffering from, a small part of me is sad to see it happen. If only because a two-party system actually needs two functioning, logical parties to operate.
The question is, obviously, "Why?" Why has the GOP become the party of rudderless Teabag parties and crazed television pundits (take your pick, but I was refering to Glenn Beck)?
I think the answer can be found in how the two parties have developed over the past 10-20 years and the conditions they have found themselves in when out of power.
It's odd to say that the Democratic Party was out of power in the 90s, considering that Clinton was in the White House. But in a very real way, that was the case. Clinton was concerned with building his personal power, not the power of the party. And with the GOP controlling Congress for most of his two terms, the Democrats were even more disenfranchised as a party.
It's an old truism that when you put two Democrats in a room you'll get three opinions. And that can be a detriment at times to what the Democratic Party wants to achieve. But that fractiousness was actually a great benefit at that key moment in the 90s. With no leadership defining a clear vision for the Democrats, numerous party members began to form their own political visions for the party. Without talk radio to give orders (more on that later), multiple factions within the Democratic Party formulated their own platforms and policies.
And then the Internet came of age. No technology was better suited to the internal individualism inherent in the Democratic Party that the Internet. It allowed all these ideas and viewpoints to gain an equal hearing. It enabled unknowns to have a national platform and influence Democratic policy. Current bright lights in Congress like Senator Jon Tester and Congressman Larry Kissell would not be there without the party growth the Internet enabled to occur. Sites like Daily Kos created a clearinghouse for candidates, activists and regular people to interact, share ideas and most importantly, plan. Future party leaders and party ideals were formed here, independently of a party hierarchy whose main goal was to "be like the Republicans." That is why the Democratic Party today has all these leaders and ideas, and why there is a burgeoning groundswell pushing against the ossified remains of the old party control. That is why, when the opportunity to finally strike against the GOP came in the 2006 elections, the Democratic Party was able to cash in. They had competed amongst themselves in the "marketplace of ideas" and developed a coherent and resonant message that resounded with voters and still does today.
Which brings us to the Republicans.
It's the height of irony that, while the GOP talks about individualism and talks about the Democrats being wedded to collectivist ideas, the two parties act the opposite way internally. That tendency was cemented in the 90s in the GOP with the rise of talk radio and Rush Limbaugh. It provided an outlet for the conservative voters, the first voice on a truly national stage that agreed with them. And that continues today; no one has the ear and heart of the average Republican more than Rush Limbaugh.
Which is precisely the problem for the GOP. Talk radio reinforced the "top-down" model of control and dissemination in the GOP. It's not an interactive medium; one person talks and the others listen without any chance of real idea exchange (no, call-ins do not count). Deviation from what was considered orthodoxy was not tolerated. Party purity in thought and action was valued above all else; the actual ideas were, in fact, secondary to this.
Add to this the fact that the Republicans, to this day, labor under the idea of "Reagan". His presidency and policies have been appropriated by various GOP functionaries in and out of the party much in the way that the Russian Communists of the late 1920s and 30s used Lenin to their own ends. But whereas someone like Stalin came along to transcend Lenin and replace him, no one has been able to equal, let alone exceed, Reagan in the Republican Party. The result is that, 20+ years later after Reagan left office, the GOP still pushes the same ideas and policies that Reagan used in the 1980s. Every idea, every policy, is examined under that lens. And if it doesn't pass what they believe to be what they think Reagan would have thought of it, then that idea or policy is cast aside along with who proposed it.
Combine these two trends together, and it is no surprise that the GOP has gone off the rails. They have no policies to counter the Democratic plans for energy, healthcare and the economy because they haven't developed any new ideas since the 80s. They have no real rising stars with fresh ideas because there was never any catalyst for that kind of growth. It's a poorly-kept secret that Rush Limbaugh runs the GOP today. That stems directly from the way the party grew in the 90s. Whenever anyone crosses Rush, they pay a political price. It's an insane power structure but it's the one the GOP have built for themselves.
And that means when they find themselves out of power, as the GOP experienced in full in the last election, they have no logical way to respond. There is no "marketplace of ideas" because they squashed the market. There are no new leaders with new ideas because the contrarians have been run out or cut down. Eric Cantor is the closest thing to a rising star in the GOP. Does he have one new idea that hasn't been GOP orthodoxy since 1984?
And as I said before, the politicians and party heads pay fealty to the radio and television hosts. And their main concern isn't the party; it's ratings. Which means that Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity have their best interest at heart as opposed to the GOP's. And nothing drives ratings like bringing the crazy. So you have Rush mocking people with Parkinson's and Beck pretending to douse people in gasoline. And since these guys are the de facto leaders of the GOP, the actual politicians cannot distance themselves from these clowns for fear of alienating the voters who have grown up listening to this crap.
That, my friends, is how you have guys like Cantor and Boehner believing that saying "NO" as loud as possible and proposing more tax cuts for the wealthy passes as an actual opposition policy plan. It's a pathetic joke, and the rapidly-dawning truth is that they don't realize it's a pathetic joke. Which sucks for the country since one of the two parties is now officially bug-sh*t nuts.
How else can you explain a party where a sizable minority of their leadership now wants to call the Democratic Party the "Democrat Socialist Party"? That has elements believing the current president is a Muslim? Or not a citizen? How can you explain a party where a sizable minority believes that Muslims are about to take over America when they actually make up, at most, 2% of the population and are likely more around less than 1%? The GOP has become a party of charlatans and idiots, reduced to a rump status where they dominate in the South and barely exist anywhere else.
And that isn't going to change any time soon because the GOP cannot break free of their authoritarian, top-down method of organization. Hell, their biggest adaptation of modern technology is Twitter. The app where one person says what they think and millions read it. At it's essence, it isn't any different than talk radio.
The best thing for the GOP would be for them to listen to Meghan McCain and the guys who were running Culture 11, because they understand why the GOP is behind the 8-ball now and why it will only get worse. Hell, I didn't even get into demographics, which are completely against the Republicans. But you can bet your last dollar this will never happen. Instead, the GOP and their voters will listen to the increasingly secessionist, nativist and insane rantings of morons like Beck. And further drive themselves into irrelevance.
The real hope for honest conservatives, the kind represented in the media by people like Andrew Sullivan and Daniel Larison, would be to break free of the GOP and form their own party. But that, too, will never happen. Because that kind of independence has never been nurtured or tolerated in the Republican Party.
Anyway, take that for what it's worth. But please accept my genuine thanks for visiting my site over the past couple of years. Hopefully, I'll be able to one day come back to blogging here. Until then, thank you and good night.