After Obama's Second Inaugural Address, I was struck by the overwhelming commentary that it was a liberal manifesto. I mean.... yes, there was the shout out to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. But leaving that aside, the speech was mainstream and touched on many themes and issues that the Republican party used to own.
It is true that Obama pounded the theme that "together" we have achieved great things and only "together" we will be able to achieve great things in the future. I am not sure when "working together" became a repulsive thought in the minds of so many Republicans. Perhaps, they just need to take a deep breath and realize that Ayn Rand is fiction. Coming together, forming organizations to help the greater community is deeply American. I always joke that in Italy, if you have three families living next to each other they are probably not on speaking terms. Move the same scenario to the United States and you have a neighborhood association.
In any case, Obama does clarify in his speech that despite working together,
"... we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society's ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.""Personal responsibility", " hard work", "initiative and enterprise", "skepticism of central authority" should all be applause lines for Republicans. Where is the liberalism?
Some point to Obama mentioning climate change. Taking care of the environment. To which I respond with one name: Theodore Roosevelt. Let me add another name: Richard Nixon. The EPA was established during his administration - and get this - by executive order. There are legitimate differences between conservative and liberal approaches to protecting the environment and - at the same time - harness our resources. However, that is not the same as ceding the issue to the liberals as, unfortunately, the current GOP has done.
Obama was widely praised for linking the great civil rights movements in our history by referring to "Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall;" Helloooo! The Republican Party was founded on the principles of equality and freedom. In the very first GOP party platform of 1856, the party ties its political agenda to the principles of that "all men are created equal" and endowed with certain "unalienable rights". At Gettysburg, Lincoln defined the Civil War as a re-founding of our nation on the principles of equality and freedom.
The Republican Party is the reason we have a 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Lincoln could have simply allowed the Confederate states to rejoin the Union with the institution of slavery left untouched. But he did not. He made sure that this country would have a new birth of freedom for all and that the evil institution perished.
The Republican Party is the reason we have the 14th Amendment establishing "equal protection" for all persons. The very clause used to challenge Proposition 8 before the Supreme Court. The Republican party cut its political teeth on civil rights. It is simply astonishing that the party of the 15th Amendment is now erecting barriers to the ballot box.
But it wasn't just the reaction to Obama's inaugural speech that made me think it is time to pull the plug on the GOP. I was watching the Senate hearings on gun legislation. Several law enforcement officials voiced their support for measures to limit the magazine capacity and types of weapons that are available to criminals. They testified that often they find themselves outgunned and not one Republican seem bothered by it.
I remember the time when the GOP was the law and order party. Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon won elections by having a firm response to the civil unrest of the late 1960s. The Democrats came to be seen as soft on crime and making excuses for criminal behavior. Rudy Giuliani made his political name fighting crime and standing shoulder to shoulder with policemen.
Now we have Ted Cruz who is openly hostile towards law enforcement officials during hearings. Lindsey Graham arguing with a police chief over background checks and other measure designed to keep weapons from criminals. The GOP has gone from the party that took on criminals to the party that throws its hands up and declares that criminals will always ignore laws.
Immigration is another issue that the GOP has ceded to the Democrats. During a primary debate, both Reagan and George HW Bush advocated a compassionate approach to illegal immigration. Fast forward and Mitt Romney is advocating self-deportation. After the shellacking the party received from Latino voters in 2012, some Republicans are pushing for immigration reform. But the nativists in the party are not going away quietly. In any case, it is too little, too late. Damage done.
Even on national security the GOP has lost its decades old edge. Despite criticizing Bush's war on terror, Obama has essentially adopted the same policies and approaches. The GOP should have congratulated Obama on recognizing the effectiveness of the tools developed under Bush. Instead, we have Rand Paul in the well of the Senate bringing up paranoid scenarios about drones killing Americans at a cafe for making telephone calls to family members in the Middle East.
I honestly cannot think of one issue where the GOP has an edge over the Democrats. I am not a fan of Obamacare but where is the GOP's solution to rising health care costs that are busting our federal budget and reducing people's paycheck? All I hear is that the GOP would allow individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines. Great! How does that solve the problem of pre-existing conditions?
The GOP economic plan is just a string of worn out slogans about free markets and lower taxes. I do not like paying taxes as much as the next American, but if lowering taxes was a magic bullet why did the economy crash after a decade of Bush tax cuts? And why is the Dow at record levels after taxes were raised in January? Weren't we told for decades that raising taxes would crush capital markets?
When not indulging paranoid fantasies about a tyrannical government taking people's guns away, the modern GOP is busy trying to turn our government into a Christian theocracy. This morning I read that in North Carolina, two Republicans are pushing a resolution to establish Christianity as the state's official religion. Most of the opposition to gay marriage among Republicans is based on what Bill O'Reilly termed "Bible thumping". And that's today's GOP. A religious party with a couple of strands of doomsday preppers trying to govern a secular country.
A couple of days ago, a fellow former Republican and I were discussing the state of the GOP and its future prospects. She said that the best thing to do is to expedite its demise so that a new party can rise. So, I will ask again, can a political party be euthanized?