To drive a weasel like Specter from their ranks, the Republican Party must be seriously off the rails. Last week, members of the conservative wing of the Republican National Committee drafted a resolution to officially change the way they refer to the opposing party. It states:
RESOLVED, that we the members of the Republican National Committee call on the Democratic Party to be truthful and honest with the American people by acknowledging that they have evolved from a party of tax and spend to a party of tax and nationalize and, therefore, should agree to rename themselves the Democrat Socialist Party.This week, a new initiative called The National Council for a New America hit the road with such fresh faces as Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush holding town meetings to "re-brand" the Republican party. The architect of the Council is Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor, who has been called the GOP's "rising star" and undoubtedly has ambitions of his own. Cantor hopes that trotting out John McCain to talk about the future, or Rep. Michelle Bachman telling Chairman Michael Steele that, "You be the man," will energise the teaparty-goers and give a focus to their anger. But re-branding this Republican party is about as useful as changing the wrapping on a can of Spam.
I think we should no longer deny the dead elephant in the room, and that the real name change should be considered by the Republicans. GOP makes a nice acronym for "Greedy Old Pigs," but they all got washed out in the banking collapse and are now on the government teat, and not in a position to complain too loudly. All that's left of the old party are the religious conservatives, gun zealots, and Old Dixie: the remnants of Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy." After Lyndon Johnson signed civil rights legislation in 1964, he said to an aide that the Democrats had probably lost the South for a generation, but not even LBJ would have thought a Southern governor would suggest secession. And all along, when I heard the term "neo-con," I thought they meant neo-conservatives. Now, I understand that the term actually means neo-Confederates: the party of states' rights, only with a few constitutional amendments prohibiting certain behaviors they deem offensive. So why not just re-name the Republican Party the "New Confederacy?" It sounds a little better than Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrats in 1948, or George Wallace's American Independent Party in 1968, but it appeals to the same group; the red-faced mob screaming about taxes when, most likely, they just got a refund.
The lack of historical reference is palpable among the current batch of Republican legislators. If they had any sense, they'd reverse course now, but because they don't, they are doomed to repeat the past. In this case, the example is the Democrats. At the Chicago convention of 1968, the Democrats tore themselves apart over the issues of war abroad and equality at home. Beaten and bloodied by the overeager Chicago police, the chaos in the streets shocked the nation and helped elect the law-and-order candidate, Nixon. Rather than lick their wounds and take a centrist approach, the party lurched to the left, into the doomed candidacy of George McGovern, and became known as the party of political correctness rather than the party of inclusion. Now that the roles are reversed and the Republicans have had their heads handed to them in the last two elections, they will instinctively follow their gun-toting, frustrated, base on a march to the far right, and into the arms of Governor Sarah Palin, or someone like her, who will lead them to crushing defeat.
The GOP has become the party of the angry Southern white man, led by talk radio into ugly sloganeering against the current government, without offering any solutions other than tax cuts and torture. The Boehner obstructionists need to either adjust or start learning the lyrics to James Taylor's "Steamroller Blues." Senators Arlen Specter and Al Franken will give the Democrats their filibuster-proof majority, and the Republicans, like the old Confederacy, become the defenders of yet another "Lost Cause." With no moderates remaining in the party, I only hope there is someone left who can discourage the Palin voters and the hysterical cultural crusaders from armed rebellion.