A Must Read

A friend who knew me many years ago when I was an active Republican recently sent me a link to an open letter written by political novelist Richard Patterson, to friends he identified as “mainstream Republicans whose mainstream has run dry.”

The letter is not one of those tiresome partisan screeds that we see–and will undoubtedly continue to see– throughout this (interminable) election season. He begins by acknowledging the reasons his friends disagree with both Clinton and Sanders, and the fact that the Democrats and their candidates are far from perfect.

But to compare the two parties at this time in our history is to indulge in false equivalency. For rationalizing the GOP’s pathology by responding with a partisan tit-for-tat is not adequate to the circumstances. The sins you perceive in Democrats are the usual ones — misguided policies, ill chosen means for dubious ends, and the normal complement of rhetorical dishonesty and political squalor. However mistaken you may find Clinton and Sanders on the issues, their debate is addressed to the world as it exists and therefore open to a sensible critique. The squalor to which the GOP has sunk, an alternate reality rooted in anger and mendacity, transcends mere differences in policy, threatening the country with profound, perhaps irreparable, damage.

This is not simply about Donald Trump. For Trump is not the result of forces which will come and go, but of a deterioration within the Republican Party that has been accelerating for years. The GOP has become a Frankenstein monster, assembled from dysfunction, demagoguery, myopia and myth, nurtured in a fever swamp where lies and hysteria kill off reason. Nothing better will arise until you help drive a stake through its heart.

In the remainder of the article, which really, really is worth reading in its entirety, Patterson traces the evolution (okay, devolution) of the GOP. He notes that his own Republican friends–like so many of my own– are not like the extremists who occupy that “fever swamp.”

Patterson documents the increasing rage of a GOP base that had been repeatedly promised an end to abortion, defeat of gay rights, and implicitly, the continued dominance of White Christian Males–only to see that none of it had been delivered. He then catalogues the response of the GOP establishment to that anger:

The GOP countenanced a race-based birtherism directed at our first black president, giving Donald Trump a political foothold. It nurtured xenophobia that targeted all Muslims at home and abroad. It pretended that illegal immigrants were poisoning our economy. It aped the mindless masters of talk radio and trafficked in conspiracy theories. It embraced Tea Party dead-enders who claimed that shutting down the government, at whatever cost, was the only answer.

In Congress, the party resolved to deny Obama reelection by grinding the legislative process to a halt, then blaming him for gridlock as if its tactics played no role. Political polarization polluted foreign-policy — as when all 300 Republicans in Congress turned the Iran deal into a political wedge issue, shunning the careful consideration it deserved in favor of shrill and simpleminded denunciations. In the world of the GOP, our many and complex problems had but one misbegotten cause: that Barack Obama was president.

So-called mainstream Republicans competed to fan the flames of outrage, poisoning political discourse. Typical was the establishment’s darling, Marco Rubio, who claimed that Obama was not simply wrong, but trying to destroy America as we know it. Republican politics became not faith-based, but hate-based.

There is much more. If you don’t read anything else today, click through and read Patterson’s letter in its entirety. Especially if–like me–you remember a much, much different, much more responsible, much saner GOP.

It’s Sunday. You have time.


  1. Patterson’s letter was terrific. A much needed history lesson and especially the warning about Ted Cruz. But still not “tough”enough to change the direction of the Republican Party. He hasn’t said anything that most of the Republicans don’t already know.

  2. I keep telling people that the political differences today are a far cry from past “differences of opinion”. Today these differences mean saving or losing our civil and human rights based on the purported religious beliefs of one party and forced on us in the form of enacted laws. Their “take” on Biblical beliefs and laws, both Old and New Testaments, have bastardized their view of OUR Constitution of the United States of America. The GOP “political discourse” today is the lowest form of mud-slinging; insulting one another’s wives, sexually suggestive comments about one’s own daughter, comparing penis size and personal assaults between members of their own party which could result in a buffoon and his former stripper 4th wife in OUR White House…or a man whose origins are actually questionable.

    And Marv; regarding yesterday’s blog I am well aware that “baseball” was used as a metaphor but still view some of the comments as off the subject which often happens when “we really get going”. Those “boos” were NOT metaphors! Today’s blog refers directly and truthfully to the degrading spectacle of the GOP’s so-called campaign platforms and debates; none of which can be construed as metaphors and lowers the dignity of this entire country in our own eyes and the eyes of the world. I do remember that “much, much different, much more responsible, much saner GOP”…I worked with and for them locally for 20 years (as an Independent voter) and saw the rise of accomplishments in this city and most important, the much needed restructure of the makeup of city government employees at all levels. “A much, much different, much more responsible, much saner GOP.”

    I then watched the beginning of the total destruction locally; a microcosm of the Nixon administration which has now invaded and infected the entire GOP at all levels. It is a far cry and a deeply sad loss of the party President Abraham Lincoln led to preserve this nation. Before you begin jumping on this comment; I am aware it was not perfect. Nothing man-made can be expected to be perfect as “man” (in the general use of the word) is not perfect.

  3. JoAnn,

    “Those “boos” were NOT metaphors!”

    Please point out to me where I said the “boos” were a metaphor. You don’t like the fact that I implied that we need more than “boos” and, also along the same line, we need much more than Mr. Patterson’s letter. Don’t be afraid to say it. Just try to keep your facts straight.

  4. His letter explains the GOP issues better than anyone else has, so far. Thanks for sharing Sheila.

    Now, I am going to carefully select some of my GOP friends to forward this to. It will be sent to the very few that I think/hope have the intellectual capacity to read it with an open mind and hopefully understand a little about what has been going on in their chosen party.

  5. Patterson closes with a plea: “So what I profoundly hope is that, collectively, you will abandon the Republican Party until it becomes worthy of the country we love in common.” And he says he’s not asking anyone to become a Democrat. So how are people supposed to vote? Doesn’t his request require some kind of successor party to the GOP? His essay focuses on the national contest. The GOP may be imploding nationally but it seems to be doing just fine at state and local levels — in fact, a lot of what is infecting the party nationally has spread there from legislatures like ours in Indiana. We need to shift our gaze, and our efforts, away from the national spectacle and toward the local circuses that feed it.

  6. Marv; I did NOT say you referred to the “boos” as metaphor, only the term “baseball”. MY statement regarding those “boos” was simply my way of supporting that action. I certainly did NOT state I disliked your implication that more “boos” are needed; I agree with it…that is why I have a “Pence Must Go” yard sign. The only way I can actively “boo” him publicly except on line.

  7. Mann and Ornstein talk about this very thing in “It Really Is Worse Than It Looks.” EFK, you are right about the local and state politics being at the root of what is bad about the national politics.

    Follow the money. Those right wingers who want to strangle government realized that they could spend a fraction of what they spend on Presidential races on state and local races and win big. That guarantees them a majority in legislatures when it’s time to redistrict, thereby giving them a permanent majority in the House of Representatives.

  8. Mann and Ornstein talk about this very thing in “It Really Is Worse Than It Looks.” EFK, you are right about the local and state politics being at the root of what is bad about the national politics.

    Follow the money. Those right wingers who want to strangle government realized that they could spend a fraction of what they spend on Presidential races on state and local races and win big. That guarantees them a majority in legislatures when it’s time to redistrict, thereby giving them a permanent majority in the House of Representatives.

  9. The notion that the Republican Party has been so much nicer in bygone days is awash with holes. This was, after all, the party of McCarthyism! The type of rhetoric, a euphemism, that McCarthy exhorted was a paragon of insanity. He saw communism flooding through some hole in the American boat. He and his cadre of malfeasants hurt so many good people. Moreover, Vietnam and other slaughter emerged from Republican screams about communism overtaking the planet. “Communists were in everyone closet.” McCarthy was both a drunk fraught with serious mental impairment. He would work well with the current fear of labor unions in Wisconsin, the state that elected him. Now, what about “The Depression”? There are still republican pretend economists who think the depression was merely a correction that would have worked itself out had we let it run its “natural” course. To many republicans government by elected officials is an evil to be corrected by all those pure-blooded private business bosses like Bernie Made-off and Bill Saul Estes. The republican philosophy is always shammed by the idea that elected officials are inherently wicked; unless said officials elected by republicans carry out the divinely inspired will to nothing, so long as republican business leaders prevail and dominate while working people and the poor do as they are told. Meanwhile there are wise Republicans who understand the bigger picture and want to facilitate its health. They know that the Republican philosophy, like religious writing, are fraught with weaknesses to go along with its strengths.

  10. Human’s minimize use of their raison d’être, thinking. I don’t know why. Perhaps energy conservation. Whatever, it’s problematic.

    In order to function with minimum thinking we resort to culture – our observation and acceptance of how others, to whom we grant credibility because they seem as we are, or want to be, behave.

    That turns us from powerful in what we are capable of creating, into powerful by our number, like ants. An ant is an insignificant bug. A million ants are a force to be reckoned with.

    Marv reminds us frequently of how this artifact of humanness created “fascism” – here and now “conservatism”. Two human labels for similar and related cultures.

    Doesn’t seem like enough profundity for the amount of mischief caused by those cultures.

    People reckon that conservatism and liberalism have equal odds of being effective for any given threat or opportunity. Why on earth do they think that? Because of numbers. There were lots of fascists, there are lots of conservatives, there are lots of liberals, so they must all be functional worldviews.

    Not really. The evidence left in the wake of their application suggests otherwise.

    We all know all this. Yet being a member of the ant colony is so damn comfortable. Just look at all my friends!

    History is a series of revolutions aimed at evolving the species to what good we are capable of and yesterday amid much fussing I opined that that is measured by increasing empathy.

    Physics tells us that all physical processes involving energy must increase entropy in the universe. That’s how the universe works.

    Sociology must similarly recognize that, to repeat myself with MLK’s thoughts, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

    Humanity will continue to evolve as justice is served by empathy.

  11. “It is a far cry and a deeply sad loss of the party President Abraham Lincoln led to preserve this nation. Before you begin jumping on this comment; I am aware it was not perfect. Nothing man-made can be expected to be perfect as “man” (in the general use of the word) is not perfect.”

    Jim Stovall; above I have copied and pasted the last two sentences of my earlier comment as a reminder that we are aware of the Republican party’s imperfections.. No one on this blog has ever stated that the Republican party is or has ever been without fault or it’s darker side; you have chosen to concentrate on the “holes” while others of us are making comparisons between today’s members who claim to be the representation of the GOP and those we KNOW from our past. We also remember that the KKK was begun while under southern Democratic leadership but today they support that front-running Republican, Donald Trump. It appears to me that the Democratic party as evolved while the Republican party has devolved…this world is forever changing and we must keep up with it as best we can. As I said earlier; nothing man-made can be expected to be perfect. Support your chosen party…warts and all and work to bring about needed change.

  12. Read E.J. Dionne’s Why the Right Went Wrong. A good history of this disaster.

  13. Thanks for sharing this Sheila. Patterson voiced my concerns. It is no surprise that his letter would mention the political demise of a Republican statesman like Dick Lugar. We can all debate whether Dick Lugar should have retired, but when he lost I knew that I had instantly been transformed to an “Independent who leans Republican.” If the GOP nominates Trump, then the
    “leans Republican” will go too.

    I am still wrestling with the decision as whether to vote in the primary in May. If I do, I will be going there to vote against the likes of Trump, Cruz, and Stutzman, not to vote for anyone.

  14. Pete and JoAnn,

    The one thing we all have in common is that we are willing to collaborate. That’s the “magic” of SheilaKennedy.net. Eventually, the truth emerges.

  15. I have never been a Republican. I fluctuate between Democrat and Independant. However, my late husband was a strong Republican when we met in 1995. During the early years if our marriage we had some heatd political discussions. I attempted to convince him that the Republican party to which he professed loyalty was not the Republican party in power. It was a slow process, but he finally came to see that. I told him that he didn’t leave the Republican party; rather, the Republican party left him. When Paul Ryan, whose hometown of Janesville, WI was also Ned’s hometown, he cringed. He passed away in 2013, but he would be appalled at this year’s Republican campaign. I hope, as Mr. Patterson asks, that more old school Republicans will turn their backs on what is no longer the Grand Old Party.

  16. I thought this was a good quote from the article mentioned >> Not unreasonably, the base came to believe that our governmental and financial institutions — including the Republican Party — were controlled by an elite that was indifferent to their plight.

    So true, as long as economic prosperity existed during the 1950’s and up to the 1970’s, the Republican Hierarchy of Wall Street and expensive country clubs could make the case for conservatism. William Buckley was at the time the prominent face and voice of conservatism. The cowboy capitalism of Calvin Coolidge and the do nothing Herbert Hoover had receded into the past. Eight years of IKE had restored some confidence in the Republican Party.

    Even so the prosperity was limited, we had a caste system. Hispanics were exploited as they served as gardeners for us on a national scale. African-Americans were clearly second class citizens.

    I am reminded of Vince Lombardi’s famous statement – “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” The Republican Establishment took this statement to heart, to achieve their economic goals for the 1%, they amplified the cultural and social issues to high decibel noise and blinding lights. The Republican Base heard the noise and saw the lights, but failed to realize they were being sold out economically. Now they know something is wrong as their living standards decline. Trump has the answer for some of them Make America Great Again, although Trump fails the litmus test of evangelicalism hence, the need for Ted Cruz.

  17. Pete,

    I believe one of our big problems in the U.S. is the fear of being labled an anti-fascist. You would think after W.W.II that wouldn’t be a problem but, it still is. And it is especially so if you’re considered a PREMATURE anti-fascist.

    During W.W. II, premature anti-fascists were discriminated against by all the branches of our military. One reason, for the most part, was that most of them were either Socialist or Communists who sided against Franco’s fascist army in Spain, during the late 30’s, where the Catholic Church was on the side of the fascist. Many of them fought on the side of the Republic against Franco, the Catholic Church, and Nazi Germany. The Spanish Civil War was considered the prelude to W.W. II. (To be continued)

  18. While mulling over all of the attention focused on Republicans, pro and con/past and present, I had a thought (it does happen from time to time, spontaneously). Mayor Bill Hudnut is an excellent argument for speeding up cloning research. Too bad the Republicans only preach creationism and disbelieve/deny scientific research and evolution; they missed an opportunity for salvation of the once honorable GOP.

  19. The Republican Party is committing political suicide (a la its predecessor Whigs on the issue of slavery) with its manufactured social issues and demands that government act in areas where the government has no business acting. That, compounded with the “shut the government down” philosophy of about 30 tea partiers in the House, unsurprisingly, gives us gridlock. After all, who wants to talk compromise with Democrats? Who even wants to talk to those socialists?

    Patterson’s insights are spot on and true to a fault. He mentions the possibility of failure of the Republican Party and I think it is more likely than not. I have blogged to such effect on numerous occasions. I call it a “descent into Whigdom,” and I think the symptoms of such failure are there for all to see.
    They have lost control of their own election rules and other protocols having to do with delegates and are openly vilified by their leading candidate for president. The picture the party and its candidates have painted for the electorate to see (and there is more to come) assure (in my view) election of a Democrat for president. I am hopeful that the Democratic victory will be of landslide proportion so that Democrats on the down ticket can sweep out the tea partiers in the House and Democrats can regain control of both the House and the Senate. Perhaps then the legislative gridlock the Republicans have orchestrated can be broken and we can have some legislation that is responsive to the wants and needs of the people for a change.
    The Republicans misunderstand what we are about; their fundamental problem is that they came to rule and not to govern.

  20. State GOP parties are similarly infected with the problems noted and promoted by the Tea Party financiers – the Koch Brothers. That’s why Indiana’s state legislature has been PASSING increasingly extreme anti-abortion legislation, and the RFRA legislation, and cutting public schools more and more each year to finance private school vouchers and charter schools with less accountability and generally lower results than public schools. There’s more but you get the idea.

    The federal level sees gridlock. Our state level sees the Tea Party on steroids where skewed legislative district maps favor the GOP with the result that the GOP outnumbers Democrats 4 to 1 in the State Senate and by more than 2 to 1 in the Indiana House. I thought gridlock was the worst until I saw Indiana moving backward.

  21. Nancy, I do not think the Koch Bros, really care that much about abortion, RFRA, or creationism. They need puppets in government to carry the water for their brand of steroid capitalism, that is no controls by the government, ohh and destroy the public schools in favor privatization of schools. The schools will become like our for profit health care system, if you can afford the Alpha Romeo or Lamborghini school or health care fine, if not you get the used Yugo that leaks oil. The Social and Cultural issues are good cover.

  22. The GOP has been dead for a long time; I am old enough to have seen well-meaning Republicans. They got taken over by the “man-made” libertarian Koch brothers who invented the tea party and convinced uneducated, faithful people to believe in republican causes like they adhered to a fundamentalist view of religion – the anti-abortion motivated right-wing of the party got taken over by the EPA abolishing team called the Koch Bros. Their dad built wealth by refining oil for Stalin and Hitler; they are essentially spending $900 million to defeat Hillary because they know she will enforce the EPA standards and regulations on oil refining.

    What we are witnessing is the demise of the oil industry gasping for its last breath when renewable energy has grown and become more promising that polluting our earth in a scorched earth policy, which is ignoring regulation of toxic companies. There is no clean business, but some still get sucked into the thought that men who run cutthroat companies can govern. Our government is for all of us, and there was a time when evoking the Reagan name meant something all GOP members could relate to. Business has become stealth wealth deniers, avoiders of conformity, and bullies who push their private interests to mold the public interest in their favor. They have given up trying to appear nice, and they are now getting into guerilla warfare against the American’s citizens and residents to manipulate them to vote for the one who will further the interests of big business.

    Some think Trump has made himself rich building and being a landlord. Well, he has declared bankruptcy four times and has shown that he is reckless with not only following laws that govern us, but he is popular among the lowest educated, bigoted voters; then Cruz is under the delusion he is the new messiah as his father told him he is, and his form of rabid evangelicism goes over well in Texas and other states where these people all take the bible literally.

    People in the country must realize this is a civil war; Bernie isn’t going to save us with his phoney revolution; there is not more GOP or honorable heroes in the republican party because it is owned by the Koch Bros; Rubio was the first tea party candidate for Senate, and the Koch Bros are working on having at least one tea party candidate in state elections to make sure they can control the Senate. When the average voter is “surprised” to see the dissappearance of the old heros of the grand old white party, they fail to see how their support of any republican has given us the tea party libertarian take-over of the GOP. I guess the leaders of the party like Boehner and McConnell, Ryan, Cruz, Rubio and all the other republicans have tolerated the quest to be the biggest bully to stop congress while it is not serving the private interests of the most wealthy. Few of the uber rich are honest; how did they get their? They look the other way. All of the ones who actually had honorable intentions got drown out by the nasty, mean thousand points of light that led us into wars in the Bush era, and we all know we are behind what we could have been if we didn’t have wars to profit oil interests.

    Don’t think I would want a republican to win at any cost; that is why Democrats have to reject the phoney Bernie (all talk and no action in 30 years) because he is supported by Carl Rove’s American Crossroads PAC and he denies it. Hillary is the only person qualified and the amount of opposition to her Presidency is obvious when all these old, angry white guys aren’t getting their way with the electorate. The hyperbolic rhetoric is playing with the differences between the parties and making them look like they are the same when they are not. Democrat presidents have cleaned up after two Bush wars and it was done by a Black President who actually got stuff done for the people despite the GOP shutting down the government and obstructed everything with endless scandals, lies and media support.

    We can discuss these things on a blog which I enjoy but we have to get people out to vote and exchange information with people on all sides to educate the people about the modern party politics that actually matter because the country reflects who we elect. Do we really need a nasty republican as president again? I say no. Men have messed it up big time for too many years and centuries, so it is time for a woman President, and Hillary is the likely choice, but then I have been watching she and her husband Bill since he came on the national scene. He is really smart and has gotten a bunch done for America, like making things fairer and balancing the budget which republicans talked about but never did under their reigns.

  23. The question has been for quite awhile what/when/who will replace the GOP? Up until about now there was recognized the possibility that they would reform and reinvent themselves. I believe that they are beyond that option now. So, what/when/who?

  24. Louie, it seems to me that oligarchy, as a form of government most convenient for the wealthy, like the Koch Bros, is diluted slavery. It sees the world as masters and workers compensated with as little of the wealth that they create as possible. Slavery was extreme in that slaves owned nothing, not even freedom, and were paid with minimal housing and food. Oligarchy is the minimum that masters can get away with today as compensation for the laborers who create the wealth.

    It’s easy to see why those who don’t ever earn wealth would love oligarchy.

    It’s impossible to see why voters in democracies ever tolerate it.

  25. Pete, “not even freedom”. I would say that women in Republican controlled states have lost a large part of their freedom. Indiana may well be the worse state in the union on this matter.

    To my eyes the Republican Party is nothing but greed. Greed for money, greed for power, greed for control. And where we all are today did not happen by accident.

    Worried that the Republican Party will fall apart? Not me! I’ll be dancing on its grave.

  26. Are control freaks born that way or do they learn to be that way? I think that one cause in old, white, wealthy men is the authoritarian structure of the military and business. It rewards those who establish control.

    A question is that as women achieve workplace equivalence will they become equally authoritarian?

    Or are they without that?

    I’m not sure what data exists to answer that question.

  27. As a life long Republican, funder , worked hard on several campaigns starting with Lugar for Mayor, precinct committeeman, voter registration leader, volinteer on countless political appointed committees, get out the vote drives, yard sign campaigns, candidate for office and office holder. I was a Big Tent Republican believing everyone should have a seat at the Great GOP Table, that efficient government was the best government, that small business drove the American Economy and deserved help and protection from Mega Corp, and Banking Industry rule, Americas roll in the world was to promote peace, avoid war, be prepared for the worst and work hard for the best from everyone, that Science , Technology, and Education should be our leadership roll in the world, that an strong Educational footing for both Academic or Technical was a birthright along with health and well being were a requirement for success in . That was the Party I once was a member of , I DIDNT LEAVE IT, IT LEFT ME , when it chose hate over hope, vengeance over forgiveness, killing over kindness, money over people, . TI.

  28. Ray R Irvin; thank you! Your statement tells it all; I can’t imagine what a disappointment the current GOP is to and for you. As a FORMER Independent voter I found it challenging to track all candidates; past performance and current campaign foundations, to make my personal decisions every election day. My disappointment runs deep but cannot equal your feeling of betrayal by your party.

  29. I started out my analysis of this post and the recommended article intent on exploring the assertions and offering my perspective. That is, until I got to the revisionist history that said Romney was forced so far right that he could not win in 2012. Please note: If Romney had gotten votes from the 4.5 million conservatives who voted for McCain four years earlier, who stayed home in 2012, he would have won handily.

  30. Ken, what is your evidence that conservatives stayed home rather than Republican moderates as a reaction to Romney’s turn to the right?

    IMO the single thing that killed Romney’s chances was the speech where he said that he wouldn’t be President of the 47% of Americans receiving government benefits like Social Security and Medicare that they had paid for while they were working, a hard right stance if I’ve ever heard one.

  31. Thank you for the article, Sheila and great commenters. I am Kentucky born and bred, a Kennedy Democrat who (among others) worked hard to get Reagan elected his first term, and fought as hard as I could to make sure he didn’t get a second. (Same with Clinton, by the way.)

    I remember Ike. Today, I am a Progressive / Liberal (as close to affiliation as I currently dare. Even here, I see unkindness toward one or another candidate. Patterson’s point is missed by some, I would dare say.

    More than anything else, I am Citizen. What I say, think, feel and do begins there. In my young life, it seemed as though the Republicans had “citizen” down to a fine art status, and Democrats were doing all they could to catch up. Now, who even cares enough to think about what the term means?

    If we don’t, somehow, figure out that the power of democracy lies in her citizens, that electeds work for us, and that nobody can purchase this land, our freedom is but vapor. I’ve never seen a perfect candidate, and would love to have a conversation with anyone who has. But, given the option between one serving self and one daring to engage citizen with an urgent plea for citizen to stand up, step out and do what only citizen can do, I have no problem choosing.

    Perhaps that’s one thing we have simply forgotten to do: choose, and actively defend our choice with truth. Now, wouldn’t THAT be a switch!

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