The Republican party is full of nitwits. Seriously. I believe this and I am a Republican. Not like the super-conservative Republicans who dominate the headlines these days, but a moderate who has been left behind by the move of the party to the extreme right wing of the Republican house. I am a pragmatist in a party run by idealists. I am a Republican because the Libertarian movement cannot–inexplicably, in my opinion–gain any traction in this country.
The theater of the absurd that is the Republican party took its standing ovation last week in Rowan County, Kentucky, where Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee stood side-by-side with religiously-confused County Clerk Kim Davis as she was freed after being jailed for refusing to fulfill the duties of her office. Never mind that Huckabee's claim of religious persecution was so lame as to be laughable, but the fact that he would even grandstand at this rally is an indication of his own questionable Presidential suitability. I guess when you are barely registering in the polls you can't be too picky about where you campaign. The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart wrote an excellent article on the circus that unfolded on the day of her release. He wrote:
Just when you thought that the rally for Kim Davis couldn't get any more surreal after her release from jail on Tuesday, it did. At moments, the absurdity filling the television screen looked like one of those clubs Stefan used to recommend on "Saturday Night Live." It had everything: angry people, crosses, placards, Bibles and cloying Republican politicians hanging on a violator of the law whose husband was dressed like a cast member from "Hee Haw" while "Eye of the Tiger" played in the background.
Kim Davis leaves the stage with her husband, Joe, after a rally in her honor on Sept. 8 in Grayson, KY. (Ty Wright/ Getty Images)
Whoops, my bad. Of course they were involved. This group is so whacked out that they can't even align themselves with a woman who believes, as they do, that homosexuality is a sin.
As I said, nitwits everywhere.
In trying to position itself as the party that stands in opposition to everything the Democratic party holds dear, Republicans have had to lay down with some unsavory bedfellows. Anyone remember David Duke, the white supremacist and one-time Louisiana state representative who ran for national office as a Republican? Most of the wacko zealots in this country don't want government nosing around in their lives, so they vote Republican since one of that party's tenets is smaller government. If a movement or group can be identified as conservative, chances are its adherents are Republican.
Democrats' call for social equality, bigger government and a bigger governmental safety net appeals to both the wide-eyed optimists and to the disenfranchised, the downtrodden and the unlucky. In a sad commentary on the state of the American Dream, this demographic seems to comprise a majority of the voting public. The Republicans, in order to have a chance in national elections, have to take whatever voters are left after the Democrats make all their promises and try to cobble together a platform that satisfies all of these disparate interests. The Republican party is the party of leftovers–survivalists, creationists, capitalists, evolutionists, elitists, non-conformists, individualists. It's messy and the result is FUBAR. For example:
Evangelical Christians, who many believe have hijacked the Republican party, oppose abortion because they believe that all life is sacred. Yet this same demographic is solid in its support of capital punishment. As a result we have fence-straddling political candidates who are both pro-life and pro capital punishment. Huh?
The party is populated with progressives who don't care to impose their own morality on others, but also by those who are only too happy to shame those who don't believe as they do. As a result we have fence-straddling political candidates who try to be both evangelical and socially progressive. Is that even possible?
Put all the contingencies together and you get a scene like the one described by Capehart in Rowan County the other day. Were it not for Republicans almost-universal belief in fiscal discipline, the Republican party would come apart like the universe at the moment of the Big Bang. Most of the time the party is dysfunctional. However, come election time the Republican candidate will offer up the one thing that all Republicans can agree on–lower taxes and smaller government–and that, miraculously, is enough to allow party members to put aside their differences long enough to go to the polls. Remember how everyone was nice to each other for a few months after the September 11 attacks? That's what it's like for Republicans at election time. The unity never lasts but it works well enough during elections to occasionally fend off the Democrats.
Really, it's no wonder that there are sixteen announced Republican Presidential candidates. With so many constituencies under the Republican tent, there almost has to be that many candidates because no one hopeful can straddle that many fences.