Ode To The Old Grand Old Party

This article is more than 8 years old.

More than a half century ago, in the waning days of Jim Crow, Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was a leading voice for the notion that if the South lost segregation, the apocalypse would be upon us.

The brilliant Washington Post cartoonist Herbert Block, a.k.a. Herblock, dashed off a drawing of "Thurmondland," a dark place filled with goblins, lightning flashes and all sorts of other phantasms.

If Herblock were alive today, he could draw a similar cartoon of “Republicanland.”

I remember a time when birth control was not the province of “sluts” ... when the party faithful would have been appalled to see its primary candidates raise their hands to signal they did not believe in evolution.

It would be peopled by President Barack Obama holding a Marxist hammer and sickle while wearing the Mau Mau garb of violent African anti-colonialists, by government bureaucrats with huge vampire teeth designing “death panels” to kill off granny, and by women who had been “legitimately raped” churning out magic hormones to keep them from getting pregnant.

As author and former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum so tellingly put it in a recent appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, a "conservative entertainment complex” has "fleeced and exploited and lied to" Republicans. Frum went on:

The real locus of the problem is the Republican activist base and the Republican donor base. They went apocalyptic over the past four years and that was exploited by a lot of people in the conservative world... What happened to Mitt Romney was he was twisted into pretzels. The people who put cement shoes on his feet are now blaming him for sinking.

Last Sunday on NBC’s Meet The Press, former John McCain strategist Steve Schmidt said he worries that now, when people think of conservatives, they will think of “loons and wackos.”

People who have only been focusing on politics for the last four years may not know that a different GOP once existed. I do.

I remember a time when birth control was not the province of “sluts” (thank you Rush Limbaugh), but rather it was a responsible Republican answer to such issues as poverty and family stability. Sen. Prescott Bush, father of President George H.W. Bush, was an early supporter of Planned Parenthood.

I remember when President Richard Nixon signed Title Nine into law, giving girls equal resources in athletics. That law produced an entire generation of female Olympic medal winners. Nixon also put into place a broad environmental program that became the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

I remember a time when many Republicans would have been appalled by the fact that primary candidates raised their hands to signal they did not believe in evolution, that Senate candidate Todd Akin evoked the aforementioned magic hormones theory of biology in his comments about “legitimate rape,” and that at this year’s Republican National Convention presidential candidate Mitt Romney made light of global warming — suggesting that while President Obama wanted to slow the rise of oceans, he was going to get people back to work.

Republicans were once champions of the federal support of science, not its opponents. The 1960 Republican platform reads:

Our continuing and great national need is for basic research—a wellspring of knowledge and progress. Government must continue to take a responsible role in science to assure that worth-while endeavors of national significance are not retarded by practical limitations of private and local support.

I remember a time when paranoid fantasies were more the domain of pamphleteers on street corners than of discussions on national television. Admittedly, part of this is due to the omnipresent 24-hour media, which produces what I call “information debris.” But, even still, how could anyone take Donald Trump’s “birther” nonsense seriously? Why did anyone give air time to Dinesh D'Souza when he claimed that President Obama hated white people? Why wasn’t Michele Bachmann laughed off the airwaves when she claimed that panels of doctors set up to advise elders with end-of-life decisions were in fact “death squads”?


Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex...

David Frum, author and former George W. Bush speechwriter

For the good of the country this GOP fantasyland must be dismantled. Our Founding Fathers, familiar with the monarchies of Europe, created a government that relies on two rational parties coming together and reaching compromise. Our system makes it hard to gain absolute power – but the trade-off is that if we are unable to come together in the middle, we’re doomed to a state of perpetual gridlock.

White, Christian, male, anti-science, anti-Hispanic, anti-gay is really what Republicanland, America is all about. And if that platform persists, GOP will come to mean Grand Obsolete Party.

What do we do then?

Maybe we could bring back the Whigs.


This program aired on November 16, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.