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joanr16

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet.... Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Wow. And I thought the Tillmans' military service was brave. What an amazing, courageous public statement. Absolutely Kevin Tillman should run for public office.

Raenelle

I read a book in college a few decades ago (by Lipsett and Raab) that had the thesis that the conservative party in this country (Federalist, Whig or Republican) always winds up with the knuckle-draggers dominating the party. The conservative party's problem is that it represents the economic elite. So, if people vote their pocket book, the conservative party loses--every time. They are therefore forced to run on cultural prejudices.

At the start of the cycle, the elites are in control of the party, giving lip service to the cultural wedge issue du jour. As time goes on, of course, the demand for more than lip service grows, and the party is given over more and more in service to the wedge issues rather than just to the economic interests of the elite.

As the party is linked more and more to cultural bigotries, it increasingly attracts that ilk and then slowly begins to alienate the more thoughtful and responsible among the economic elite. Some of these "moderates" actually leave the party; some just lose their zest for it. Either way, the party has begun its death spiral as it increasingly becomes an embarrassing joke.

Of course, the rich are always with us, and after the conservative party serves its well-earned time in the desert, the rich reassume their leadership roles and the cycle starts over.

Bill Altreuter

I agree that the coming collapse of the Republican Party can be blamed on one man, but it's not Nixon. Do the numbers: after Ford finished the last half of Nixon's term we saw four years of Carter, eight of Reagan, four of Bush pere, eight of Clinton, and now two terms of W. That works out to 12 years of Democrats in the White House and 20 years of Republicans. You'd expect the numbers to be different if Nixon was The One.

No, I think responsibility can be placed at the sandaled foot of Mr. Christ. Jesus H. Christ, to be specific. The Republican Party found that it could win big if it played to the Religious Right to call the shots, and although you could argue that the Republican presidents have mostly just paid lip service to its agenda, I would put it to you that it goes deeper than that. The Religious Right supported Bush-- this Bush-- because he is one of their own. As a Christian nutcase George W. believes a whole lot of things-- chief among them the magical notion that belief makes things true.

As a result, the Bush Administration has made an utter hash of every single thing it has undertaken-- because it undertakes everything on faith, rather than on the evidence. Since this is likewise a guiding principle in the lives of the majority of Americans, he was quite popular for a while-- until it became apparent that the policies of the Bush Administration were failing spectacularly. Because he was popular, back when he was popular, everybody on the Republican side of the aisle signed on to his agenda, and now they are stuck with it.

Maybe the best example is John McCain. Personally, I have always found him to be despicable, but there are, or were, many that thought him principled. How anyone can think that today, after watching McCain kiss up to Bush and the Religious Right for the past seven years is beyond me-- it would turn the stomach of a principled man to say the things that McCain has said, but he felt that he had to say them so that the folks who liked Bush and Jesus both would like him too.

When you think about it, religion has probably been at least as destructive a force in human history as it has been a force for good. The destruction of the Republican Party is pretty small stuff compared to the Spanish Inquisition, or the genocide of the American Indian. Nevertheless, I am thankful for this small thing, and if I believed in Him, I would thank Jesus for it.

AZrider

Lance, you asked for a book. That book is written and it's "Conservatives Without Conscience," written by John Dean. Dean started the book with Barry Goldwater, who wrote "Conscience of a Conservative," and was disappointed to see where the conservatives had gone. Dean's book outlines Digby's point, that the current crop are neither truly conservative --or have any real philosophy other than to grab and maintain power by whatever means necessary.

Dean's book is based upon some very good research done by Robert Altemeyer, who explains some of the psychology of authoritarians, especially the people who are attracted to strong authoritarian leaders.

The point that the modern so-called "conservative" movement is demonstrably corrupt and devoid of any ethics is well presented by both Dean and Altermeyer.

Kevin Wolf

I would echo the above, that the demise of the Repulican party is to be welcomed but that the rich will find some other way, some new party, to enrich themselves and maintain power. Far more fundamental change would be needed in order to change direction.

I read Kevin Tillman's piece last year and can't read it again because it's too heartbreaking. (Same with the excellent Sports Illustrated profile of Pat that was published around the same time.) We can hope that more people are waking up to the truth, and Kevin's televised remarks will only help in that regard.

Ken Muldrew

Nixon_Agonistes by Garry Wills covers the Nixon transformation of the Republican Party very well. Written in '69 it seems amazingly prescient in light of how things turned out. Nixon's proteges simply went underground with Reagan and let the likeable, grinning idiot be the pacifier that allowed them to subvert democratic rule. The Rovians found that they could come back out in the open with the religious nutcases that populate America. They were so taken with the idea that "reality" could be denied through religious indoctrination that they seized upon this population of malleable fools and created a new market. With truth now a commodity, subject to market rules rather than empirical verification, they were free to engage in the most reprehensible attacks on the American democratic and constitutional tradition in the history of the nation. It will end badly. The loss of the Republican Party will surely be one of the lesser tragedies that lies in wait.

burritoboy


Ok, here come the books:

Jonathan Rieder's Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism.
Rieder shows the complex knot of events and environment that drove urban white ethnics from their long connection to the Democratic Party into becoming Reagan Democrats.

Lisa McGirr's Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right.

Following Orange County's political history from 1960 to 1970, McGirr shows how this critical community for the right moved much farther to the right over the decade and closely linked itself with Reagan and Goldwater's 1964 campaign.

James Patterson's Mr. Republican: A Biography of Robert A. Taft

This biography of Taft, published in 1972, is still surprisingly his only biography, who is precisely the figure whom Lance is searching for. Of course, Taft was the integral leader of the Republican party precisely from the Depression (Taft opposed the New Deal and worshiped Hoover), pre-WWII isolationism (Taft was a secret force behind America First), HUAC (Taft was intimately involved in pushing Nixon forward into the spotlight) - and, of course, Taft-Hartley. You want to know Republicans, you have to know Taft (besides the Taft clan being integral to the Republican party since the nineteenth century - did you know that the Bush clan were originally Ohio protege's of the Tafts?).

Thomas Sugrue's The Origin of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit

Again, shows how the Right rode race antagonism to electoral successes, here in Detroit in 1945-1970. How Reagan Democrats were created in the environment of Detroit.

Kit Stolz

Vic Gold, a Goldwater conservative, recently brought out a book on this subject called "Invasion of the Party Snatchers."

He is completely dismissive of the current regime, although from the interview I heard, he was more upset about the debt/foreign adventure aspect of the GOP today than their corruption or sense of entitlement.

Where does an honorable young conservative go in America today? That's a very good question. As far as I can tell, no one has an answer.

Warren Linam
The GOP nominated Nixon 3 times. 1960, 1968, and 1972.
mac macgillicuddy

Lance's theory here is based on an interesting, although unstated, premise. That there are TWO Republican parties (and I think the same could be said of the Democrats, too). There is the "Party," which includes anyone who has a ghost of a chance of getting nominated to run for, and then be elected to, any office; and then there's the "party"--the party signatories who don't do much other than add their names to voter registration forms and slog out in the rain on election days to back the candidates. The ranks of the Republican party (lowercase p) have actually grown, and continue to grow, while the ranks of the Democratic party (lowercase p) have diminished. If their leaders are such thugs (and they do seem to be), one has to wonder why that is? It certainly doesn't suggest the demise of the Republicans, so we'd better not get comfortable.


Meanwhile, check this out:

http://alternet.org/waroniraq/51150/

I think it's relevant.

By the way, Bill, none of this has a thing to do with religion, and it never has, never will. So put the Christian-bashing to rest. It's as tired and irrelevant as a Dan Brown plot.

scott

Rick Perlstein has written one book on the GOP's transformation (through the '64 Goldwater election) and he's publishing another next year called Nixonland and the American Beserk (from 65-72). The first one was a real page-turner, very illuminating, and the next promises to be the same.

Temple Stark

Not that it would be right or correct if it were too happen but when I saw Kevin Tillman up there I sadly wondered whether, instead of learning lessons from what was being said, he would be the next John Kerry who "turned traitor on his fellow soldiers."

My second thought was that I hope Kevin Tillman doesn't get into politics because becoming a politician would make him a lesser person. (I hope you read that in the best intent that I mean).

mds

By the way, Bill, none of this has a thing to do with religion, and it never has, never will.

Right. Abortion, stem cells, Terri Schiavo, gay marriage, "faith-based" government programs, abstinence-only sex "education", Justice Sunday events with Republican Congressional leaders prostrating themselves to James Dobson and his peeps, John "Maverick" McCain realizing he has to kiss Jerry Falwell's ass instead of kick it, etc, etc, etc. All of that has to do with quantum physics, not the hijacking of religion for political ends. Please. When part of the scandal with the Department of Justice is how many Bush appointees are graduates of Pat Robertson's university, excuse me for seeing at least a portion of Mr. Altreuer's point, despite your well-argued, carefully-documented refutation, mr. macgillicuddy.

mac macgillicuddy

"All of that has to do with quantum physics, not the hijacking of religion for political ends. Please."

For political ends--or power--WAS my point, mds. As I said, nothing to do with religion...in fact. Just ego, the quest for power, exploitation of the path of least resistance: All of your examples help make my point. Even worse, the perpetrators know it has nothing to do with relgion. If they could do it by harvesting grapefruit, they would use that tactic. But we shouldn't take over LM's blog to indulge our points of view further.

mds

If they could do it by harvesting grapefruit, they would use that tactic.

And yet, somehow, purely at random, they chose American fundamentalist Christianity, and it worked out for them like gangbusters. What an amazing coincidence. To assert that it's really about power is to ignore the simple possibility that it can be about both simultaneously. Religion has hardly ever remained outside the political fray, throughout history, and has in fact usually attempted to co-opt greater temporal power for itself. Where is this "actual" religion of which you speak?

You're right that this could veer off track really easily. But I don't think religion can be left completely out of it, either. We have a political party that has increasingly relied on a religious school of thought asserting that those doing "the Lord's work" are incapable of doing wrong, and it turns out that this selfsame party is full of people that believe that laws or the Constitution itself don't apply to them. Meanwhile, the DoJ, government internships, Congressional staffers, etc, are flooded with graduates of Regent University or Patrick Henry College. Again, that's a heck of a coincidence.

Ken Houghton

Why would I need a book? REM did it in 4:24 (though, in fairness, Stipe has always cited the song as one that could have used some further refinement).

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