Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Republican Reform

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.


Burt Likko said...

I'm doing my part. I suspect that much -- not all -- of the odiousness you detect is juxtaposed with the religious element in the party. That's not to say that all religiously-motivated Republicans are bringing these bad elements to the table, but rather to say that the bad elements seem disproportionately to fall into the religious camp. Me, I think that wing of the party has too much power; others might argue that this wing of the party needs to recommit to a better understanding of the good portions of the ethics their religion teaches. But either way, the poison must be purged.

anton said...

As I have quoted before, "Evil triumphs when good men stay silent". Whether it is the church they belong to, their political party or their "profession", silence enables the bad guys to take control, use highly objectionable methods and claim "innocence". I know there are millions of good republicans, Christians, lawyers, teachers, doctors, bankers, etc. Unfortunately, they have been silenced because they still want to belong, so they suffer in silence holding on to their belief that membership demands loyalty. If loyalty had not overpowered common sense and truth, George Bush would never have been elected a second time. Your example of Hitler is a good one. Many forget that Hitler was democratically elected by a "religious" nation who had been rallied by a "common" hatred of a class and kind. Its called a formula. It has worked successfully for thousands of years.

Baconsbud said...

Anton I don't completely agree with you that they remain silent so they can belong. I think a good number of those that are silent, is from ignorance of what others are saying in their name then any other reason. How many of us actually keep up with those we elect or sit next to are doing in our names? I can say I am one of those that didn't keep a close eye on anyone or group that was in some way talking on my behalf. I had the internet but never used it to learn more about the people who are talking for us around the world. I think the best way to fight the self imposed ignorance is doing as bloggers are doing.

anton said...


Good men are responsible men. They don't let someone else act for them or represent them without knowing what they are doing and saying. There is no excuse for letting someone have that kind of unfettered power. Like I said, "Evil triumphs when good men stay silent!" If you are a "good man" you don't stay silent. You, yourself, may not be evil, but you are certainly letting the evil guys get their way. In fact, by staying silent you are endorsing their actions. If they can count on you to stay silent there is no holding them back as they persue their objectives . . . and by staying silent, you are endorsing everything they are doing in your name!