With groups as with individuals, real character shines through when they’re under pressure. Since it lost control of both Congress and the White House, today’s Republican Party has been under pressure, and the results have not been pretty.
GOP strategies for trying to discredit the president and any other Democrats with influence have ranged from petty lies and innuendo to stubborn, indiscriminate obstructionism on every issue. The radical right has set the tone for the whole party, as GOP leaders like John Boehner and Eric Cantor display the same strident, sarcastic attitudes as wing-nut commentators like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.
Those not enamored of Fox News have to wonder if there are any sane, rational people left on the right. There is at least one: Kathleen Parker, whose straight-forward and reasonable remarks on many subjects are worth considering.
While most conservatives have embraced the evangelical images of Palin and Beck as though they were real, Parker has been willing to tell the unvarnished truth: Palin may be cute, but she’s ignorant and Beck is messed up. Since they usurped the message and became standard bearers for right-wing radicalism, it’s been hard-to-impossible to have any public discussions in this country on matters of substance—from the economy to government oversight of industry to the posture of America in international relations. The strategy of the GOP is to create a lot of distracting white noise—a task the Palins and the Becks of this world are extremely good at doing—and prevent any meaningful dialogue until Republicans are in charge again.
Parker, however, just keeps talking reasonably about those things that really matter. Since she is a conservative and I’m a progressive, I disagree with much of what she has to say, of course. But then again, I often see her point. I respect her for her honesty, optimism, and thoughtful analysis of the issues.
Nobody really wants a one-party state. In a democracy, there’s a good case to be made for “loyal opposition.” Most of the GOP officials currently serving in Washington may be described as oppositional all right, but hardly “loyal.” And thanks to the Tea Party, some of those waiting in the wings to take their place are even worse: it’s hard to imagine that progress could be made or deep problem-solving could get done in a Congress that contains the likes of Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, and Joe Miller.
Today's problems require thoughtful and rational analysis and good-faith cooperation among people with differing views. While both the mainstream GOP and the right-wing Tea Party fringe seem to have little to offer, there is evidence that there are, in fact, rational conservatives among us. It is my fondest hope that a few of them will consider running for political office.