Norm Ornstein has a recent column in the Atlantic, in which he considers what has happened to his–and my–former political party. Ornstein, for those unfamiliar with him, is a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and a longtime and respected expert on Congress.
The most interesting, and important, dynamic in American politics today is the existential struggle going on in the Republican Party between the establishment and the insurgents—or to be more accurate, between the hard-line bedrock conservatives (there are only trace elements of the old-line center-right bloc, much less moderates) and the radicals…
As for the party leaders, consider some of the things that are now part of the official Texas Republican Party platform, as highlighted by The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg:
That the Texas Legislature should “ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify” federal laws it doesn’t like.
That when it comes to “unelected bureaucrats” (meaning, Hertzberg notes, almost the entire federal workforce), Congress should “defund and abolish these positions.”
That all federal “enforcement activities” in Texas “must be conducted under the auspices of the county sheriff with jurisdiction in that county.” (That would leave the FBI, air marshals, immigration officials, DEA personnel, and so on subordinate to the Texas versions of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.)
That “the Voting Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized.”
That the U.S. withdraw from the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank.
That governments at all levels should “ignore any plea for money to fund global climate change or ‘climate justice’ initiatives.”
That “all adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves, or their minor children, without penalty for refusing a vaccine.
That “no level of government shall regulate either the ownership or possession of firearms.” (Period, no exceptions.)
Texas, of course, may be an outlier. But the Maine Republican Party adopted a platform that called for the abolition of the Federal Reserve, called global warming a myth, and demanded an investigation of “collusion between government and industry” in perpetrating that myth. It also called for resistance to “efforts to create a one world government.” And the Benton County, Ark., Republican Party said in its newsletter, “The 2nd Amendment means nothing unless those in power believe you would have no problem simply walking up and shooting them if they got too far out of line and stopped responding as representatives.”
One might argue that these quotes are highly selective—but they are only a tiny sampling (not a single one from Michele Bachmann, only one from Gohmert!). Importantly, almost none were countered by party officials or legislative leaders, nor were the individuals quoted reprimanded in any way. What used to be widely seen as loony is now broadly accepted or tolerated.
There are all sorts of theories about why the Grand Old Party has lost its collective mind. I’ve offered a few on this blog. But whatever the reasons for the departure from reason and elementary common sense, the fact of that departure is beyond dispute.
And infinitely depressing.