CN Column 04/09/10: Republicans should recognize that “change” can be a buzzword for their party, too

“Change.” It was the clarion call of Barack Obama’s transformative presidential campaign. It was the rationale that summoned Congressional Democrats’ harried last-ditch push for a comprehensive health care overhaul—which ended up being less than comprehensive and only nominally change-ey (not to mention opposed by a consistent majority of Americans in most polls). And it was the very prospect of said “change” that got conservative leaders spitting venomous, hyperbolic rhetoric and drumming up all kinds of anti-Obama, anti-entitlement and anti-establishment sentiment.

But hey, this is how two-party politics works. Those in power push their agenda, and the opposition tries everything in its power to grind the machine to a halt. It’s really nothing new. Right?

Well, to a certain extent that’s the truth. But it’s reached a new level.

Far more concerning than polls which show Obamacare may never win broad voter support is a new poll that reveals the extent to which black-hearted hatred, poisonous fear and wing-nut extremism have infected the modern Republican party.

According to the study, 67 percent of self-avowed Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe Obama is a socialist. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe Obama is a Muslim; 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) believe Obama was “not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president”; 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did.”

Perhaps the most ominous finding: 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say Obama “may be the Antichrist.”

Pretty stunning, no?

But it should come as no surprise that this pathological hatred of the nation’s top elected official—which, ironically, masquerades as patriotism and good American citizenship—has taken root, and even verged on threats of violence toward Democrats in Washington.

Leaders of America’s right have stoked the fire of dissent into the inferno we are now witnessing. And they did so with little to no regard for the consequences.

Take, for example, House Minority Leader John Boehner’s comments on the eve of the historic health care vote: The bill’s passage will result in “Armageddon,” he said, and “ruin the country.” Holy crap! Armageddon?? The End of Days?! Grab the kids, fire up the gas generator and get into the fallout shelter; it’s going to be raining ash soon enough!

“For most of the 20th century, people fled the ghosts of communist dictators and … with passage of this bill, they will haunt Americans for generations,” said Devin Nunes, the California Republican, on the House floor that day. “Your multitrillion-dollar health care bill continues the failed Soviet socialist experiment. It gives the federal government absolute control over health care in America … Today Democrats in this House will finally lay the cornerstone of their socialist utopia on the backs of the American people.”

Yes, because the elected leader of our free republic has so many things in common with a former Soviet dictator. Get a grip.

Then there’s Sarah Palin, who, while not a bona fide Republican leader—seeing as she has shirked her governance responsibilities in Alaska to pursue a career pandering feel-good patriotic platitudes on Fox News—still holds the largely extreme right-wing Tea Party protestors under her sway. After the health care vote, she posted a militant propaganda piece on her Facebook page: a map of the U.S. with health care yea-voters’ locations identified by cross-hair gun sights. She implored her fellow patriots not to “retreat,” but to “RELOAD!”  Now that’s what I call responsible leadership. (EDIT: Palin appears to have since changed the wording of her appeal to “Don’t get demoralized. Get organized!”)

Conservatives who object to the president’s agenda for reasons not steeped in misinformation, hatred bordering on violence or latent (or explicit) racism should disassociate themselves from the Glenn Beck acolytes, the costumed crazies who contribute nothing to intelligent discourse and, most importantly, from their party’s national leadership, many of whom have chosen to adopt the ludicrous apocalyptic tone propagated by protestors and, often, the conservative media.

Change absolutely must become a GOP selling point if the party truly wishes to repeat the 1994 Republican Revolution in 2010’s midterm elections.

Conservative constituents and activists can institute that much-needed change by excising the bad apples from the Republican Party—by removing the Boehners, Nuneses and Michael Steeles from positions of prestige and influence. They can disinfect their partisan rhetoric and focus on the values that make conservatism—and, by association, conservative candidates—appealing to independent voters and moderate thinkers.

Their national committee can stop spending its money faster than it can solicit donations—and stop patronizing bondage-themed Hollywood strip clubs.

As an aside, I must point out that the Republican National Convention can spend a million bucks a day on strippers and booze, for all I care. That’s why I don’t donate.

But nothing says family values like blowing a couple G’s at a strip club, right? That just can’t ring true for social conservatives or the religious right, who comprise a sizable chunk of the GOP’s voting base.

Anyway, it’s becoming increasingly clear that conservatives need to change their message—and their manner of delivering it—if they want to change Washington. And they can start by leaving Palin to the wing-nuts (that means you, John McCain), getting rid of Steele and finding some smart leadership. Maybe in the process the GOP can forge a new identity that makes sense to moderates and independents. I sure hope that proves to be the case.


2 Responses to “CN Column 04/09/10: Republicans should recognize that “change” can be a buzzword for their party, too”

  1. 1 CJ
    April 7, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    According to what study?

  2. April 8, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I posted this in a hurry yesterday and didn’t get a chance to properly substantiate my claims. I’ve since sourced this post.

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