I run lukewarm and cold over Thomas Friedman, but a recent column is absolutely right. As I've said many times, this country needs a thoughtful (if that's too much to ask, I'd settle for sane) conservative party. I really hate that, heading toward a really important election, we're forced to deal with the sickness that's become the Republican party. I hate that we can't have meaningful discussions of significant issues, arguing both sides earnestly, motivated by a shared commitment to finding solutions. Instead, we're putting up with a party taken over by its lunatic fringe. At a time when the issues facing us are as serious as they can be, one side of the equation refuses to engage.
Instead of honest consideration of ways forward from unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, failing education; instead of looking for balanced ways to solve debt, we're forced by teabaggRs to deal with voter suppression, science denial, and troglodyte views of women and their rights. We're having to deal with people to whom the whole idea of democracy and the compromises it entails is as foreign as that Kenyan Muslim in the White House. And it's killing us.
...But what’s even more troubling is that we need more than debates. That’s all we’ve been having. We need deals on all four issues as soon as this election is over, and I just don’t see that happening unless “conservatives” retake the Republican Party from the “radicals” — that is, the Tea Party base. America today desperately needs a serious, thoughtful, credible 21st-century “conservative” opposition to President Obama, and we don’t have that, even though the voices are out there.
Imagine if the G.O.P.’s position on debt was set by Senator Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who has challenged the no-tax lunacy of Grover Norquist and served on the Simpson-Bowles commission and voted for its final plan (unlike Ryan). That plan included both increased tax revenues and spending cuts as the only way to fix our long-term fiscal imbalances...
Imagine if the G.O.P.’s position on immigration followed the lead of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of the News Corporation. Bloomberg and Murdoch recently took to the road to make the economic case for immigration reform. ... Murdoch added, “give them a path to citizenship. They pay taxes; they are hard-working people. Why Mitt Romney doesn’t do it, I have no idea, because they are natural Republicans.”
Imagine if the G.O.P. position on energy and climate was set by Bob Inglis, a former South Carolina Republican congressman (who was defeated by the Tea Party in 2010). He now runs George Mason University’s Energy and Enterprise Initiative, which is based on the notion that climate change is real, and that the best way to deal with it and our broader energy challenge is with conservative “market-based solutions” that say to the fossil fuel and wind, solar and nuclear industries: “Be accountable for all of your costs,” including the carbon and pollution you put in the air..."
We are not going to make any progress on our biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and center-left. But, for that, we need the center-right conservatives, not the radicals, to be running the G.O.P., as well as the center-left in the Democratic Party. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed center-left solutions to all four of these challenges...
The point -- one I've been trying to make for a long time -- is that when one party has lost all interest in or ability to compromise, has based all its ideas on discredited or false premises, proudly refuses to accept science and expertise as any sort of basis for discussion, not even as a starting point, would rather lie about its opposition than speak truthfully about its own ideas, cares more about imposing its religious beliefs than talking shared concerns, there's no real discussion at all. The left gets to point out the stupidity of the right and gets to ignore any problems with its own positions; and the right... well, the right focuses on distracting and confusing its electorate over its own insanity. Having the aforementioned Murdoch on their side when it comes to the propaganda part eliminates the need to explain themselves, to tell us why their pigheadedness and theocracy won't take us down the road to ruination as it did last time.
The only way it will change is if their voters make it happen. Which means, as obvious as a heatwave, that it won't. Ever. Because by the time people wake up and demand it (assuming that they'd have retained some ability to push their way through the fog of ignorance they've been fed until it felt like knowledge to them), it'll be way too late. And I have a real bad feeling that November will be the beginning, the re-beginning only briefly interrupted, of the end.
I suppose there's irony to be appreciated, from above the 50,000 foot level. As transformative as the election of Barack Obama was thought to be, it, in fact, provided the perfect avenue for hatred to run unabated through the Republican party and to be harnessed cynically by people who couldn't care less about the long-term implications of choosing that path. Following the Foxorovian model that says no lie is too venal, no trick too cynical or deception too unethical when the goal is to regain power, the party of teabaggers took the opportunity to feed on their people's worst instincts, to exploit human frailty and neediness to its maximum and then beyond; and so, rather than signaling a new era of cooperation and rising above partisanship and the politics of hate, the election, exactly because of what it was, became its own opposite: the destruction of the hope it was thought to portend.
No other candidate could have generated so much hope; no other candidate could have fueled so much hate. No party other than today's Republicans could have been willing to exploit it so shamelessly.