The words from the mouths of Romney and Ryan, along with those of other leading Republicans have reached a low point in that party’s history and, as I see it, that of the nation. The sort of right wing extremists so prevalent today made a rag tag bid for the White House in 1964 with Barry Goldwater. But his campaign was unprepared and untimely, coming less than a year after Kennedy’s assassination. When Goldwater and his movement were so soundly thrashed, the Republican Party beat a strategic retreat to a facsimile of moderation, and settled for getting on base rather than hitting home runs.*
We’re hearing now of positions taken by Nixon, Reagan and even W. that are liberal by today’s standards. Nixon may have been severely ethically challenged, but he waged his war with stealth, none of this in your face stuff. Overtly he signed “liberal” environmental legislation which would be blasphemy in current Republican circles. Reagan, because of his general likability, could take bolder steps, dismantling of much of the Depression inspired New Deal financial precautions. But like other Republican presidents he was limited to what he could get away with at the time. W. didn’t have the organization of the Tea Party so he too made concessions from party orthodoxy that wouldn’t sit well with the current crop of bandits.
I see these three pioneers of the right in the same league as the current crop of malefactors. They started a national movement that continues unabated to this day. But I don’t believe the nation has gone as far in this direction as most people think, particularly the median, that diminishing numerical center of the electorate. The big difference is in the intensity and strength of the extremes, and here is where the left always loses. The radicals of the 1960s, the Weathermen and Black Panthers, behaved like clowns, leading to the election of Richard Nixon who promised to restore “law and order.” The other guys are pros by comparison. Look at what they did in the House. The Tea Party is still making news, but where has Occupy Wall Street been lately?
I believe most prominent Republicans would acknowledge that the party and platform are further to the right than at any time in recent history. They embody the spirit of Goldwater who praised extremism and condemned moderation in unspecified circumstances. Like thinkers are perilously close to taking over the administrative and legislative branches of government and already control the judicial.
“They all do it” or “they’re all crooks” are phrases in my opinion most often spoken by Republicans and why not? It saves them the trouble of reasoning. I hope those without political preferences realize the “wolf” that many have been crying, by calling every election “the most important in our history,” is at the door this time.
*I couldn’t resist this metaphor. It was cornetist Bobby Hackett’s advice to a rhythm section, of which I was a member that had just seriously rushed the tempo of the preceding song.