Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Just What the Hell Is a Moderate Anyway?

I've been thinking a lot about that question, along with the origins of the universe and whether the Mets will ever win another World Series in my lifetime. I've decided that the answer to the second question is way beyond my pay grade and, regarding the third, as long as the Wilpons continue to own the team, the answer is a resounding no.

But that first question continues to bug me. You hear the term moderate a lot among political pundits. Usually, it refers to Republicans who aren't part of the far Right, a particularly rare and endangered species these days. Among Democrats, the term most often used is centrist. Bill Clinton was a centrist Democrat.

Problem is I can't think of a single "moderate" Republican. For me, the term is an oxymoron. It's tempting to refer to Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford and George H.W. Bush as moderate Republicans. But they're really not. All right, maybe Eisenhower, but Nixon, Ford and Bush, no way. They're what my old man used to say were traditional, mainstream Republicans. They believed in low taxes, traditional family values and a strong military. In my book, that's a conservative. Now these same Republicans are called moderates. The far Right uses another term: RINO, Republican In Name Only. That's a laugh riot.

What happened? How did the Party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt go so far off the rails?

I'm not quite sure what happened or when, but, somehow, the traditional, old-guard, establishment conservative Republicans were replaced by a new wave of Tea Party, conservative Republicans. The latter wanted no part of the former; in fact they considered them sellouts. Words like tolerance and compromise were four-letter words. The new wave wasn't interested in peaceful coexistence; it wanted nothing less than total capitulation. It was their way or the highway.

The Republican Party has drifted so far to the right that Bob Dole, its 1996 presidential nominee, publicly doubted whether Ronald Reagan would be welcomed in it. On a Fox News' interview, he said the current GOP should be "closed for repairs" over its unwillingness to negotiate with Democrats.

Bruce Bartlett knows a thing or two about the Republican Party. The former supply-sider turned Keynesian served in both the Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses. He's been one of the fiercest critics of today's GOP.  In an interview on CNN, he called Texas governor Rick Perry an "idiot" for saying that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's decision to stimulate the economy through quantitative easing was "almost treasonous." Over the last four years, Bartlett has written numerous op-eds in which he has exposed the shenanigans of the Tea Party Republicans, whom he calls "wankers."

But while Bartlett's jabs might seem amusing, the threat this movement poses is very real.  A piece that appeared in RedState in July, 2010 should've serve as a harbinger of things to come. It was aptly titled, "Tolerance is the virtue of a man without conviction."

It starts off with a brief description of the difference between a democracy and a republic. "Democracy is mob rule. Republics have a constitution that restricts the whims of the majority and protects the rights of the minority." Okay, so far so good. If you paid any attention to your high school American history, you probably nodded your head in agreement.

But from there on the piece deteriorates into a self-serving, self-indulgent justification of a narrow and warped ideology whose aim isn't "protecting" the rights of the minority, but rather trumpeting them over the majority. The central theme can best be summed up thusly:

"How do we deal with our progressive countrymen? The answer is obvious: we fight them."

Those are not the words of freedom-loving patriots; they are the words of people who detest and fear freedom. Real freedom means accepting outcomes that don't always go your way. Sometimes, the other side wins. Like it or not, you have to live and work with other people, even those you don't agree with. Why? Because everyone has a right to their own convictions. You can't simply force yours onto them. That's not freedom; it's tyranny. Real tyranny, not the fake tyranny people like Mark Levin spew on about.

Tolerance is not a virtue of a man without conviction; it's an acknowledgement that no man's convictions are better than the other. The world is a lot bigger and more inclusive than some would have us believe. And no matter how hard they might try, time marches onward. Those who can't or won't keep up will be left behind.

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