The Grand Old Party, once stood staunchly for fiscal conservatism and the preservation of our liberties. But in the words of some of my Republican friends, they didn’t leave the Party, it left them.

In order to advance their agenda wealthy individuals and large corporations realized that they had to engage a wider army in their cause. To do so they redirected the GOP from being aspirational, appealing to our hopes, to pandering to our  fears and insecurities. It began with appeals to Evangelicals in the Nixon years and continued with the “Moral Majority” and with platforms that championed prayer in the schools and opposition to the right to an abortion. This began to attract a cadre of devout, sincere and well-meaning adherents to the GOP.

The effort to broaden their constituency by business interests did not end with the appeal to social and moral issues. GOP rhetoric, as opposed to substance, became wrapped in red, white and blue. These appeals to concepts of freedom, liberty and patriotism portrayed “the government” as the enemy by playing upon people’s fears of big government and government overreaching. All of this opposition was quite ironic in a democracy where the government is supposedly of and by the people.

Where social issues and fear of big government were not paramount, the subtle manipulators of the GOP appealed to “The American Dream;” the belief that anyone can be rich some day. As the Democrats stood idly by and abandoned their traditional base, Republicans began to convince many that their path to the good life was through advancing the interests of the already wealthy. To do that they put forth the idea that wealth would “trickle down” and that the focus of economic advancement should be on the supply side (producers) rather than on the demand side (consumption).

The GOP is now experiencing the unfortunate extension of these efforts to distort the ideals of the Party. It has become obstructionist, devoid of positive ideas, repeating failed economic pap and anathema to many women and many ethnic groups. The sorry spectacle of the Party’s present group of presidential candidates is an affront to the proud tradition of the GOP.

The sad state of the GOP is a loss for our country. They have ceased to be a broadly acceptable alternative for independents and are no longer a meaningful respository of new ideas in political debate with Democrats. If this is to change, traditional Republicans need to reclaim their party. They have to stop sitting on their hands while the GOP is subsumed by its most fringe elements. If they fail to do so the relevance of the Party will only wither even further.

4 Responses so far.

  1. Point well taken and eloquently stated to say the least. In my case I think I both left the party AND the party left me. I still believe Bob Dole would have been an excellent president, but clearly the party needs to be reclaimed by those who come to their senses. The allegiance to the doctrine of helping the very rich is hardly subtle anymore. I know so many evangelicals who vote to keep unborn children from being dismembered only to support big business interests (crimes?). When I have questioned them directly about this they seem doubtful of this aim at best and brainwashed at worst. I don’t think they feel they have any choice if they are to support their values.

  2. Larry R says:

    I have a number of friends, and my father-in-law, who agree about the GOP leaving them. Dole saw the bigger picture. Present day single issue ideologues of any stripe do themselves, and all of us, a disservice- a point I touch on in the book. Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. mercadee says:

    The Tea Party is an antigovernment, grass-roots political movement. It began in 2009 in protest of the bank bailout and economic stimulus package . Its supporters vowed to purge the Republican Party of officials they consider not sufficiently conservative and to block the Democratic agenda on the economy, the environment and health care. Tea Party supporters tend to unite around fiscal conservatism and a belief that the federal government has overstepped its constitutional powers.

  4. Larry R says:

    For its adherents the Tea Party may appear to be what you claim. In reality it is anything but a “grass roots political movement.” I recommend that you read the book to learn more about how well-meaning people are being manipulated into supporting actions that are not in their own best interests, nor those of the country as a whole.