Cliff Schecter, 9/22/2011 [Archive]

The Bachmannization of the GOP

The Bachmannization of the GOP

By Cliff Schecter

To fully comprehend the sad spectacle that has become American politics since the 1980s, you need not peruse the politics section of major periodicals. Or the opinion, news or business pages of illustrious publications.

No, lately you'd be best served by heading on over to the obituary section.

For example, this past week, a legislative giant from an earlier and more evolved Republican Party--that is to say, one in which dazzling audiences with tales of cantering saddleback on the family T-Rex was not considered "reaching out to the base"--former Senator Charles Percy, passed away. This sad news has come not long after the passing of another Republican legend, former Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield.

These men were both of the Rockefeller, or old Establishment wing of the Republican Party, a robust and scientifically literate group that followed in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Therefore, the importance and symbolism of their passing cannot be overstated.

It is the disappearance of their perspective and purpose that is one of the major reasons why our politics is where it is today--somewhere on the spectrum between corporate performance art and collective shame. Namely, the Bachmannization of the GOP, its influence in wrecking Washington culture and corrupting the current Republican establishment, and its overall deleterious effect on the American middle class since the early 1980s.

This history of accomplishment by these moderate to liberal Republicans and their now near-complete extinction also leads to complete naivete among some in the Democratic Party--see 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue--as they won't stop believing there are deals to be made with this current crop of Koch-infected androids--a group which considers George W. Bush to be a near-Maoist for having supported pro-business immigration reform and wanting to ban those on terror watch lists from buying assault weapons.

Dirty hippie!

Essentially, the face of the GOP has gone from Mark Hatfield and Charles Percy to David Vitter and Tom Coburn, which would explain why a once-respected profession has lately morphed into something more closely resembling the oldest one.

It may be hard for those who either were not alive or have not studied what the times were like to understand how different our legislating process and political culture was when men like Percy strode the halls of the Capitol.

Percy supported legislation to stimulate the production of low-cost housing for the poor. He joined Senator Hubert Humphrey in creating an "Alliance To Save Energy" because of the OPEC oil embargo.

Hatfield, meanwhile, one of the first military servicemen to enter Hiroshima after the dropping of the atomic bomb, opposed Vietnam and the first Gulf War and said, "Every president other than Eisenhower has been seduced by the military concept that that is our sole measurement of our national security and the more bombs we build, the more secure we are."

There is about as much chance of that coming out of the mouth of any current Republican legislator (and most Democrats) as the numerical value for pi--or even an understanding you can't eat it.

These Republicans of conscience, who held real sway in the party, as its congressional leaders and even presidential candidates played a pivotal role in deals made by Democratic presidents, such as Lyndon Johnson, who needed their numbers to pass The Civil Rights Act (over 80 percent of the Republican Senate Caucus ultimately sided with Johnson and civil rights).

In fact, their disappearance from our politics has led not only the Republican Party to resemble a Darth conference at the Hilton. But it has taken our entire political culture to a point just to the right of not working, such that President Obama is more conservative than was Percy, even if one were to compare their records as Senators from Illinois alone.

Perhaps our situation is best described by progressive polymath and top-rated talk radio host Thom Hartmann, in his analysis of 20-year old David Lewis' challenge to Speaker of the House John Boehner in a primary, because Boehner is a "socialist" who has failed to eliminate Social Security.

Yeah, I didn't make that up.

Hartmann reminded those who have forgotten that "Just like Jason Bourne doesn't remember his earlier life - David Lewis doesn't remember America's earlier life - under the New Deal years of the 1940s, fifties, sixties, seventies, and early eighties - when the middle class thrived - and our social safety nets allowed more and more Americans to pursue the American Dream. Without that memory - Lewis believes in a fantasy."

The Rockefeller Republicans made that "American Dream" happen, by working with Democrats on landmark legislation to move our country forward. But they are now gone, and we have been left with David Lewis and his brethren.

It almost makes me want to join Rick Perry in public prayer.

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©Copyright 2011 Cliff Schecter, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, and the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain. Follow Cliff on Twitter @CliffSchecter.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.




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