Republicans have become the party of whiners


As the new Democratic majority prepares to take power here in the U.S., Republicans have become, as Phil Gramm might put it, a party of whiners.

Some of the whining almost defies belief. Did Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general, really say, “I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror”? Did Rush Limbaugh really suggest that the financial crisis was the result of a conspiracy, masterminded by that evil genius Chuck Schumer?

The fault, however, lies not in Republicans’ stars but in themselves. Forty years ago the Republican Party decided, in effect, to make itself the party of racial backlash. And everything that has happened in recent years, from the choice of Bush as the party’s champion, to the Bush administration’s pervasive incompetence, to the party’s shrinking base, is a consequence of that decision.

If the Bush administration became a byword for policy bungles, for government by the unqualified, well, it was just following the advice of leading conservative think tanks: After the 2000 election the Heritage Foundation specifically urged the new team to “make appointments based on loyalty first and expertise second.”

Contempt for expertise, in turn, rested on contempt for government in general. “Government is not the solution to our problem,” declared Ronald Reagan. “Government is the problem.” So why worry about governing well?

Oh, and the racial element isn’t all that abstract, even now: Chip Saltsman, currently a candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, sent committee members a CD including a song titled “Barack the Magic Negro” – and according to some reports, the controversy over his action has actually helped his chances.

So the reign of George W. Bush, the first true Southern Republican president since Reconstruction, was the culmination of a long process…

That’s why the soon-to-be-gone administration’s failure is bigger than Bush himself: It represents the end of the line for a political strategy that dominated the scene for more than a generation…

Will the Republicans eventually stage a comeback? Yes, of course.

But barring some huge missteps by Obama, that will not happen until they stop whining and look at what really went wrong. And when they do, they will discover that they need to get in touch with the real “real America,” a country that is more diverse, more tolerant, and more demanding of effective government than is dreamt of in their political philosophy.

Americans love to hate other Americans almost as much as hating other nations. When we’re not hating people for the wrong color or the wrong accent, sex or sexual preference will suffice as an excuse to deny someone an opportunity to play with our tax dollars.

If Obama can convince “his” political hacks in Congress to cooperate with administering the nation with a little bit of reason and thoughtfulness he stands a good chance of eight years of progress. The Republicans will spend most of that time hoping for screwups so they might return to power – rather than reform themselves. I think that only a second term for Obama will initiate Krugman’s suggested reforms.

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