As the election draws near, and it looks increasingly like the Republican Party is in a world of political trouble, I have read some analysis of what the Republicans might do to increase their political power.
Unfortunately, these analyses have all drawn upon the assumption that the only thing that matters is winning elections – being politically successful. I have read very few who have given consideration to the question of the price of that success.
On this standard, we can view Hitler’s campaign to blame all of Germany’s problems on the Jews and to rouse up an “us’ versus “them” hatred of anything not sufficiently ‘German’ would have counted as effective. Hitler, after all, was elected and was a very popular leader for a period of time, because Hitler figured out how to be effective in getting votes and winning popular support.
However, one of the lessons we hopefully have learned from that era is that “effective” (in securing votes) is not the same thing as “right”.
I wonder how many people are now turning up their noses to the Republican Party because they have discovered what type of people they have been hanging around with.
One of the relatively unique aspects of this campaign, or so it appears to me, is a new type of attack campaign that does not target the opposing candidate, but that targets the people who support the opposing candidate.
We have seen or heard:
(1) Audience members at McCain and Palin events shouting death threats or racial slurs at campaigns.
(2) A man who walked around with a stuffed monkey on which he had placed an “Obama” bumper sticker.
(3) Interviews with people who were walking up to attend a McCain or Palin rally – or simply video of them walking by Obama supporters..
(4) A McCain supporter falsely claiming to have been attacked by a big black man who forced her to the ground and carved the letter “B” on her cheek.
(5) A pair of white supremacists recently arrested for planning to kill dozens of black people, including Obama.
(6) The widespread popularity of emails making false claims that Obama is a Muslim and that he does not say the Pledge of Allegiance as well as other lies too readily believed merely because people want to believe them. (And what type of person is so eager to believe and to pass along such lies?)
I think that this is a good thing. I have argued from the first days of this blog that it is not enough to hold Bush morally responsible for his own failings. It is also necessary to hold the Bush supporters responsible for their decisions. When a candidate deprives the people of basic civil rights, he has done something immoral. However, the people who cheer and support him are at the very least accomplices to that immorality. They have shown themselves to be as much a threat to the freedoms whose destruction they cheer as are the candidates who actually implement that destruction.
Too often we condemn the symptom of some public prejudice or widespread evil without condemning the source itself – the political or social base that has given that prejudice and widespread evil political life.
So, I am very much pleased to see so much effort into recording images of Republican supporters and saying to other Republicans, “These are the types of people you associate with. These are the types of people you call ‘friends’ and allies’. Do you really want to be associated with these types of people?”
Those same good Republicans, while they look around and ask these questions, they should notice that the Party leadership – the people who are up on the stage, who are writing and delivering the speeches and creating the advertisements, do not seem to be on the side of decent Republicans who abhor these practices. Instead, the Republican leadership has tended to hover between silent acceptance of this type of behavior, to subtle encouragement through the careful use of selected rhetoric – rhetoric that seems to say, “You know, those people are right, but I can’t actually say that in so many words.”
It is time for the good Republicans to see what they can do to take control of the Republican party and drive out those who should not find a home in any political party, and to create a better moral culture within their own party. They need to make it a party that decent people can be proud to be a member of, where decent people do not have to be ashamed of the associations they are drawn into.