Dan Drezner, a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine, has a great blog post up explaining why he calls himself a “RINO,” or “Republican-In-Name-Only,” that epithet usually utilized by such sagacious and distinguished intellects as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Ann Coulter. While it does lean towards foreign policy (naturally), the whole thing is a good read. Here’s the snippet I want to focus on, though, his three reasons for being a RINO:
In my case, at this point in time, I believe that last appellation to be entirely fair and accurate. I’m not a Democrat, and I don’t think I’ve become more liberal over time. That said, three things have affected my political loyalties over the past few years. First, I’ve become more uncertain about various dimensions of GOP ideology over time. It’s simply impossible for me to look at the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis and not ponder the myriad ways in which my party has made some categorical errors in judgment. So I’m a bigger fan of the politics of doubt during an era when doubt has been banished in political discourse.
Second, the GOP has undeniably shifted further to the right over the past few years, and while I’m sympathetic to some of these shifts, most of it looks like a mutated version of “cargo cult science” directed at either Ludwig Von Mises or the U.S. Constitution (which, of course, is sacred and inviolate, unless conservatives want to amend it). Sorry, I’m not embracing outdated concepts like the gold standard or repealing the 16th Amendment. Not happening.
Third, David Frum wrote something in New York Magazine that touches on the issues I just discussed, but also articlates something that has been nagging at me for a few years now:
The conservative shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology has ominous real-world consequences for American society. The American system of government can’t work if the two sides wage all-out war upon each other: House, Senate, president, each has the power to thwart the others. In prior generations, the system evolved norms and habits to prevent this kind of stonewalling. For example: Theoretically, the party that holds the Senate could refuse to confirm any Cabinet nominees of a president of the other party. Yet until recently, this just “wasn’t done.” In fact, quite a lot of things that theoretically could be done just “weren’t done.” Now old inhibitions have given way. Things that weren’t done suddenly are done.
Also, things that weren’t said are now being said. Or, to be more precise, things that use to be said but ignored are now being taken seroiusly by the GOP’s leading lights. Newt Gingrich endorses the notion that Obama has a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. Mitt Romney claims Obama has been apologizing around the world and no longer believes in American exceptionalism. Herman Cain is [Remember your mercy rule!!—ed.]…. Herman Cain. There’s good, solid partisanship — a vital necessity in this country — and then there’s unadulterated horses**t. Too much of the GOP’s rhetoric on Obama reads like the latter to me.
(After posting that, I realize it’s the meat of his blog post, but oh well. If he gets angry, he can shoot me.)
I agree on all three points. First, the GOP has become less of an organization that has questioned government policy, and more of a…well to be frank, I think “cargo cult” describes it perfectly. You cannot challenge the basic assumptions of the Party, Mr. Smith. Sadly, the Christian Right has become almost completely intertwixted with the Republicans, not just on social policy, but by the mere fact that the Republican Party has become a sort of religion in-and-of-itself. (Note: The same thing could, in some instances, be applied to the Democrats as well, but it’s not as pervasive or widespread.)
Second is the most very obvious right-wing turn, which I interpret as a knee-jerk response to Obama’s almost religious support at the beginning of his term, but the poll numbers have pulled off a rather spectacular imitation of Icarus’ fall to Earth. Unfortunately, there was no Alan Shepard standing by to pull the Republicans’ approval ratings up into space, precisely because of this turn. The GOP is now way out of touch with most of the American population, catering only to a select few. This does not bode well for its future.
For the third point, you really need to read Frum’s piece. There’s a few things I quibble with, namely that one of the key points of the current GOP platform is “ultralibertarianism” (since when is anything about the GOP’s platform libertarian?) and that insistence on cutting spending is a bad thing, but overall, it is an excellent read on how the right has turned from a political philosophy to a prime-time entertainment program. I especially like how Frum brings up entitlements, and that one can’t take the GOP seriously because it refuses to seriously work on them; the “elephant in the room” as it were.
Most of us here realized the GOP destroyed itself during the last decade, eschewing fiscal conservatism for big budgets used to smash other countries. Unfortunately, while we hoped that it would “find itself” during its years in the wilderness, it didn’t; instead, it became a caricature of itself. Considering that Obama and the Democrats are still hell bent on regulating our economy to death and removing any illusion of individual choice, it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
But come it has. Nobody is really Republican anymore. We’ll need to look elsewhere for answers.