Thoughts on the GOP,
by P.J. BYRNES

 

In the Partisan Letters sections of this issue, Southern Partisan prints a letter from a reader who complains that we were too Republican. I'm inclined to agree — with qualifications.

First, the qualifications. As the result of a 35-year trend, the South is now a predominantly Republican region, and becoming more Republican with each passing day. As a consequence of this longterm drift toward the GOP, Southern politics have become Republican politics. Hence the Partisan's inevitable preoccupation with the Republican Party. (Forty years ago the magazine would probably have focused on the Democratic Party.) Having said that much, I agree that we've tended to be less critical of the GOP than we should have been. In order to correct that imbalance, let me offer a few observations.

1. The Republican Party is more to blame than the Democratic Party for what's wrong with the country.

In every society, you have those who are happy with the status quo and those who want to change everything. The tension between these two groups usually produces good public policy because a society can consider innovation without losing its sense of identity. In recent decades, the Democratic Party has become the Party of Change. Its leaders want to scrap the old federal system and center all power in Washington. They want to exchange a relatively free market for a highly controlled economy. They want to use government to alter the traditional roles of men and women. And they want to bring official pressure on religious Americans to surrender their biblical values. In other words, the Democratic Party is pushing for radical change. In a sense, that's what one party always does. But the system only works if the other party resists irresponsible change with sufficient strength and conviction to hold society together. Is the GOP the Party of Tradition? Clearly not. For example, the GOP leadership on Capitol Hill has been quietly cooperating with the Democrats on a whole gaggle of bills designed to undermine the traditional values of the nation.

 

 

 

2. The Republican Party is controlled by a bunch of rich moderates, who have no intention of allowing the conservative wing of the party to govern. Though the Religious Right and other hardline conservatives provide the GOP with its grassroots organization, the fat cats bankroll campaigns; and they have no intention of letting conservatives gain control. Every time a charismatic conservative leader rises to national prominence, liberal Republicans slander him in the primaries; and if he wins the nomination, they often run their own candidate on a third-party ticket. The big money crowd — which is just as adamantly liberal on social issues as Jerry Falwell is conservative — simply won't compromise on these matters, so political valets like Gingrich, Dole, and Lott work behind the scenes with the liberals.

3. The Christian Coalition under Ralph Reed effectively ruined any chance for conservatives to have a real voice in the GOP. The behavior of Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition over the four-year period following Bush's defeat may have been the most cynical subversion of a political movement in the nation's history. Supporting liberals over conservatives in statewide elections (e.g., the Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign), Reed's army of True Believers unwittingly followed their leaders, who scrapped the social issues that brought them together and supported the GOP vision of a New World Order. Ralph Reed's "social contract," published in time for the presidential primaries, was a negotiated surrender of Christian forces to Corporate America — and a sly validation of Bob Dole, who had done everything in his power to promote the liberal social agenda. Reed is the Benedict Arnold of the Christian Right. He may have destroyed forever the opporttmity to transform the GOP into the Party of Tradition. Instead, it is the Party of Equivocation.

 

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Copyright 1997, Southern Partisan

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