Hunter S. Thompson used to say that when the going gets weird the weird turn pro. The Republican Party has gone pro. As the national party leaps further to the right, the few remaining moderates (most from the northeast) find less and less ground to occupy.
The letter to the Iranian leadership signed by forty-seven Republican senators is only the latest evidence but it is truly problematic. Yesterday Professor Ubertaccio called my attention to an excellent piece in the Washington Post by Professor Dan Drezner, Heckuva job you’re doing on foreign policy, Congress. Professor Drezner sees three “drivers” that have brought the senators to an historical blunder. The first is the simple fact that the executive branch has the upper hand in foreign policy. The second is that Congress ain’t what it used to be. I mean, a freshman senator comes up with a nutty idea and John McCain signs on? Third is that to get ahead in the GOP, you need to be a disruptor. Or, the nuttier the better.
I’m afraid it goes deeper though. The Republicans act as if they don’t believe that Barack Obama can legitimately serve as president. If you don’t think the president can serve as president, you send a childish letter to the ayatollahs. If you don’t think the president is legitimate, you get yourself on Fox and elsewhere by saying the president doesn’t love his country, and didn’t grow up in the same America as the rest of us. If the president isn’t legitimate, you try to hold up funding of the Department of Homeland Security, of all things, over his executive order on immigration. Then when you get beat on that, intervene in Iran. If you don’t think the president is legitimate, question his birth certificate. If you don’t think the president is legitimate, yell out “Liar” in the middle of the State of the Union Speech. If you don’t think the president is legitimate, your party leader announces job one is to deny him a second term – pushing two wars and an economic crisis down the priority list. If you don’t think the president is legitimate your party leader tells states to ignore federal environmental rules.
It would be one thing if these bizarre ideas were owned by Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, but most of them come from Congress. The Congress of the United States!
As Professor Drezner notes, what passes for the GOP intelligentsia is doubling down on the Cotton letter. Bill Kristol is all for it. Ah Kristol . . . John Bolton, Dick Cheney . . . how many neocon war heroes have I missed? As James Michael Curley once remarked, “Invincible in peace, invisible in war.”
Once upon a time, moderate Massachusetts Republican U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. actually resigned his seat because senators were barred from military service in World War II. He saw combat in Italy, France, and Germany, rose to brigadier general, and returned to win a senate seat in 1946. Lodge served in a serious time with serious people.
When President Obama spoke at Selma the other day he noted that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed with the support of Republicans and Democrats. Without the Republican Party there would be no Civil Rights Act of 1964 either. On those votes Lyndon Johnson went to Republican Senate Leader Everett Dirksen to get the votes he needed. In the House many moderate Republicans, stung by Barry Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act, pushed the Democrats to take up a voting rights bill. They wanted to be the party of Lincoln.
Now the former party of Lincoln erects barriers across the country designed to suppress the votes of people of color.
The better to guard against more illegitimate presidents, I suppose.