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.