Monday, September 1, 2008

Thoughts on the potential demise of the Republican Party

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So Arianna Huffington and Robert Borosage are doing some hand wringing over on Hufington Post about the potential end of the Republican party.

The blog posts - especially Borosage's - are definitely worth a read and I agree with a lot of the substance there. The failure of the Republican brand is something that all of humanity should be celebrating - if it turns out to be true.

Borosage's set up for engaging with the question of how to reinvent the Republican party is the following:

Democracy requires at least two parties to thrive. If the Republican Party disintegrates, it will only have to be reinvented.


Jeez, I hope not...

On the one hand I can see where Borosage is coming from with this. In Canada, the right-wing party (Coservatives or Tories) was so mired in corruption and general institutional atrophy a decade ago that the Liberal party of Jean Chr├ętien basically enjoyed a free reign - and many of its policies were a disaster. They needed questioning and there was no functioning opposition ask the questions. It wasn't until the Liberal party had a few corruption scandals of its own a few years ago that the Tories were able to gain some popular support again (they are now back in power).

But to me what the Canadian example shows is that it's actually necessary for progressives and visionaries to be building up power in places other than the two mainstream parties. Canada has its own left party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), a party which among its other achievements authored Canada's single payer healthcare of which we Yankees are so jealous. Unfortunately the NDP was unable to build its base, in part because center-left Canadians were so afraid of the Tories that they did not want to risk putting them into power by supporting a better party.

So getting back to the southern side of the Great Lakes... Perhaps it's the fact that I grew up in the age of Reagan, but I cannot remember a single Republican policy that's worth supporting. Their economic populism ("shrink the government!") has been exposed as the farce that it is ("let my corporations profit while your income goes down"). When that refrain failed in the late 1990s, they had no positive agenda at all, so chose to build their election strategies on attacking Bill Clinton's sexual morality.

Then along came 9-11 and it was pure Islamophobic hate-mongering right up until the next election. When that threatened to be a failure, they reached out to the "social conservatives" a group that should be taken off the electricity grid and denied use of the combustion engine, IMHO. I mean if you're not going to accept 19th century science, I see no reason why you should benefit from 21st century science... And then there's the outright racism in the Republican party, some of which stems from recently diseased Trent Lott and other "Dixiecrats" - those members of the Democratic party who did not want to get rid of Jim Crow Apartheid.

In fact it's difficult to think of any coherent principle - let alone an ideology - to which all Republicans adhere. Their agenda has been a purely self-serving one of "how do we get into power?" when they're not in power and "which of my friends shall I give the money to?" when they are in power. The fact that the U.S. public is finally beginning to see that should be a cause for celebration, not hand-wringing. Political parties do die every once in a while - the Federalists haven't been seen for over 150 years.

On the other hand, it is important to have a multi-party system which is why we should be looking into ways to support parties to the left of the Democratic party - which after all is the party that brought us workfare, bombings of sudan and afghanistan (for no apparent reason), a murderous regime of sanctions against the Iraqi people (from which the UN estimates that half a million children died) and is in general a party of the corporate special interests.

In order to prevent the position of institutional atrophy and corruption which could come if the Democrats control both houses of Congress and the Presidency, we need to be building up third parties such as the greens and the labor party now.

And as for the Republican party, it's far too early to be celebrating its demise, but when it happens, I hope we all have the dignity to let it rest in peace.



Here's Green Party VP Candidate Rosa Clemente... The task of all of us who would like to make this world a better place, who care about basic principles of equality and justice and who would like to ensure that future generations can enjoy all that this planet has to offer is to make her voice a mainstream voice. In ten years, if a "mainstream" politician looks and talks like this, we will have done something right.

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