Gerson on the GOP’s wave riding toward a rocky shore

Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post:

“Significant portions of the Republican coalition believe that it is a desirable strategy to talk of armed revolution, embrace libertarian purity and alienate Hispanic voters. With a major Republican victory in November, those who hold these views may well be elevated in profile and influence. And this could create durable, destructive perceptions of the Republican Party that would take decades to change. A party that is intimidated and silent in the face of its extremes is eventually defined by them.
This is the challenge of a political wave. It requires leaders who will turn its energy into a responsible, governing agenda. So far — in Congress, among conservative leaders, among prospective presidential candidates — that leadership has been lacking.

And so the Republican Party rides a massive wave toward a rocky shore.”

In the same column, he wrote:

“Libertarianism has a rigorous ideological coldness at its core”

I’m sure glad someone has called Libertarians what they are. Several decades ago, my wife and I investigated several political and religious institutions, attracted by their apparent tolerance of racial diversity, not a by-word at that time. One of the groups was the Libertarians. After a few initial “Yeah, cool…” type statements, the shallowness and self-centeredness came through loud and strong.

But to the comments on the Republican party: I’ve been feeling for over a year now that some forces in the GOP are gathering not to take back their country but to take back their party from the people who shout, “I want my country back.” The greybeards I am referring to are the Schultzes, the Phillipses, the Bakers, and many others who are roci-solid conservatives but of the country club variety. They are realistic, educated, experienced and work for the maintenance of the upper class in this country but base their appeal on the virtues of small government, strong defense, fiscal “responsibility” (to the upper class), and let the personal be personal. Religion is only a prop to these people. They have lots and lots of money and influence.

These people, to use Ross Perot’s label, allowed the party to be led by the likes of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove b/c they gained the Southern White vote and the Evangelical vote for the party. But at what cost?

The party is now represented by crazies, racists, religious fanatics, nativists, anti-Semites, and haters of all stripes. What happened to the mainstream Republicans? They got scuttled by the machine built by Gingrich, DeLay, Limbaugh, Fox News with Roger Ailes, Frist, Jack Abramoff, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and now Glenn Beck.

Which one of these people would be acceptable in the hallowed halls of the great financial, media, and political institutions of our country? Compare the dignity of a Colin Powell next to the goofy George W. Bush and the malevolent Dick Cheney. The party has been taken over by strivers full of resentment and hatreds.

We have to face something here: many pundits are saying the GOP is becoming a regional party. Which region? The South. No doubt about it. Other than some traditionally Republican areas of the upper Midwest and New England, the Republicans were a class party, but now they have become identified with the Southern Resistance. Resistance to what? Guess. Hint: Obama is Black.

While the core Republicans may have been willing to shore up racial barriers for the sake of appearing to be in solidarity with working-class Whites, their real racial bias was anti-Semitism. That they did practice. But the insanity of the reaction to Obama isn’t coming from them, it’s coming from those Whites who started companies and were raised to believe that a mark of gentility was to not associate with Blacks; that was for the Tobacco Road crowd they came from. This gentility went by an old term: quality folk.

By swelling the ranks of the GOP with this Southern based electorate, the party began riding a tiger. The excesses of the Old South have been brought right on into the New South: racism, religion, nativism, and a worship of ignorance. As the New Right has grown more vocal, feeling its power in the GOP, more and more Northern Whites, the so-called Regan Democrats, are dropping off, no longer frightened by Black advances. Their kids are voting now and while still demarcating themselves off from Blacks they put Blacks in the same category as other groups they don’t like; the Great American Racial Divide just isn’t what it used to be. No longer are television stations swamped with calls of protest when a Black face is seen on television.

As the recruits to the GOP of the 80s and 90s drop off – the Evangelicals going back to their churches, the working-classes consumed by economic decay, the GOP must tilt ever further to the right to glean votes from the fringe. That further alienates the Great Middle. It’s true that there are not a lot of stone Liberals like me, married to the party of FDR, nor many progressives, but the Great Middle is no more attracted to the gun and holy roller culture of the South than they are to the Socialism-tinged politics of the Northeast. They may not swoon over a French wine but vicious attacks on the families of illegal immigrants do not sit well with them either. They may tolerate the emprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Blacks but not the death-penalty mad lynch mobs of the South.

My take on all this is that we are seeing the Great Divide of our country: North and South, the Blue and the Grey (Red), the outward-oriented and the inward-turned. The West is a mix with California on the left and the inner, Rocky Mountain regions leaning right but definitely mixed. But the population still is with the East, divided between North and South. How about a two-state solution for us?

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