Thursday, February 28, 2013

Politics By Any Other Names

“How’s all that Conservatism workin’ out for ya?” (A paraphrase of Sarah Palin’s jibe at Obamacare: “How’s that hopey changy stuff workin’ out for ya?)

The Republican Party is repeating the mistakes of the Democratic Party of the 1970s; playing to its most extreme wing while forgetting the basic tenants of its political philosophy. The sad aspect of such mistakes is that it usually spells political defeat for the party practicing extreme partisanship which consequentially allows the opposition party to seize power so firmly that it too plays to its most extreme elements. The Democratic love affair with lightheaded Liberalism in the 1970s gave us a decade of Ronald Reagan; several decades if one wishes to see the current Tea Partyism as the logical extension of the “Reagan Revolution”.

It is hazardous to attempt any assessment of the future; certainly hazardous to predict the political future. But it appears that Tea Party Republicanism has the potential of severely damaging the Republican Party for the near future and potentially for decades to come. We have, after all, seen political parties come and go throughout the history of our nation. There is no reason that could not happen again. In fact there are those within the Republican Party who are saying that it should; that it is time for a new political expression of conservatism in this country.

Humans love to demonize their opponents. Extreme rhetoric and harsh actions are much easier to justify when they are directed at a well-known demon. Both “Liberal” and “Conservative” are spoken today as contemptuous bywords more often than with respect. Liberals are linked, in Conservative rhetoric with “Socialist” or “Communist”; Conservatives are accused by Liberals of “Fascism” or “McCarthyism”. And thus, two formerly useful descriptors of human philosophies are rendered almost useless in our day; incapable of conveying the meaning their etymologies would suggest.

In a well adjusted individual both conservatism and liberalism exist in a healthy balance that allows that person to value (and conserve) certain proven assets while judging other aspects of his life to be in need of change. The healthy individual neither seeks change for the sake of change nor hoards useless relics of the past. A sign of pathological disorder in the individual is his or her inability to balance the conservative and liberal impulses. We easily allow for a range of deviance from true equilibrium between conservatism and liberalism but at a certain point we begin to think of the “deviant” as eccentric or even dangerous.

It is natural for those who tend toward one end of the conservative-liberal spectrum or the other to group together, socially, religiously, economically, AND politically. Misery isn’t the only thing that loves company. So does eccentricity. Usually, even in those gatherings of eccentrics that we call Political Parties, there is enough homogeneity to keep them from running over the cliff and destroying themselves. But sometimes there is not, and then we get an Anarchist Party or a Tea Party; gatherings of extreme eccentrics who would rather destroy the structure of society than budge one inch on their principles.

It would appear that the Republican Party is now dangerously close to such a situation. Due to the insistence of Mitch McConnell, and aided by the incompetence of John Boehner; cheered on by the rhetoric of Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, Bachmann, Santorum, and others, the Republican Party has wasted four years in a stubborn and futile resistance to all that President Obama has been working to achieve, for the avowed purpose of seeing to it that he was “a one term President.” Rush Limbaugh’s honest confession, made the day after President Obama was declared the winner in the 2008 election, that he wanted the President to fail, is proof positive that he and those who follow him are willing (or say they are) to see everything destroyed rather than endure an idea contrary to theirs.

I suppose such intransigence can be called Conservatism. I would call it eccentricism of the most radical and destructive kind. It is equal to its opposite – Anarchism – in its impracticality for the human race. We need a balance of liberalism and conservatism in our lives. It is never easy to find the appropriate balance between the two. We have chosen, in the United States of American, to use political parties as the expression of these two philosophies. When both Parties have had a viable minority opinion operating within their ranks we have seen them function at their ideal best. That is not where we are at the present. But it is where we should be working to arrive at, and soon; before we all go over the edge of the cliff.

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