There is no idealist center to the Republican Party any more - it's been sold for power: for votes, for junkets, for golf, for bribes, for contributions. The GOP is best described these days as its most pathetic pork project, the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in the Alaska of Ted Stephens. These Republicans have not built a bridge to a finer, prosperous, free American future. Their bridge leads nowhere, will transport only the privileged few, and it costs us billions in treasure and hard-won freedom in principle.
Reckless spending is the hallmark of these Republicans in power (and I take pains to note, not all Republicans) - the spending of tax dollars, of opportunity, and of lives. The arrogance is most stunning when it ignores the truth to spin the yarn, to tell the lie, to link Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein and effective government to Republican-only lobby shops on K Street. Their motto is this: if we think it, it must be right. It is right. And when challenged? 9/11 covers most transgressions nicely.
A wise commentator on this blog once trotted out his (in his case, conservative) old-saw credo about big government: that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Well yes, even among the tax-cutters, the small government types, the free market patent medicine hawkers - quite possibly exceptionally so, for the distance traveled in political theory seems much farther. As often as the pundits tried to spin the Abramoff plea as "both sides do it," this is a Republican scandal - mainly because the lame-ass Democrats had no power. It's the GOP that sold itself. It's the GOP that peddled the formula of war and high spending for unattainable perfect security - like a drunk straggering down Pennsylvania Avenue doing a half-cocked imitation of the classic Music Man knock-off from the Simpsons.
"Monorail. Hic. Monorail!"
Still, it's the formerly holier-than-thou (quite literally claimed - no metaphor there) screed of the Republicans - the cross brandished by the likes of Delay and Frist - that rankles this lefty Catholic. It's self-satisifed, arrogant moral preening rooted in a falsity of the mythical Pharisees. It attaches hateful defense of marriage and tarted-up creationism, yellow dog patriotism and big corporation land grabs to the side of a grimy jalopy and calls it American Christianity.
It sniffs at anything that attacks its own version of convention, its own tale of safety. Like Josiah Bounderby, the self-made man in Dickens' brilliant Hard Times, this GOP machine pretends out of pure self-delusion, believes its own recent myth-making, till the grand lie is exposed. And then? Well then, the Bounderby facade crumbles, ruined by scandal.
The righteous, transparent voice of Bounderby in this post is played by the grand lady of the right Peggy Noonan, much-beloved Brain of Reagan and GOP wordsmith, who twists herself into elephantine knots in an argument about big government, temptation, and Republicanism from the WSJ. It says everything you need to know about the mindset of today's GOP, proving the prosecution's case in the very defense [link here, tip to John Cole]:
The problem with government is that it is run by people, and people are flawed. They are not virtue machines. We are all of us, even the best of us, vulnerable to the call of the low: to greed, conceit, insensitivity, ruthlessness, the desire to show you’re in control, in charge, in command. If the problem with government is that it is run by people and not, as James Madison put it, angels, the problem with big government is that it is run by a lot of people who are not angels. They can, together and in the aggregate, do much mischief. They can and inevitably will produce a great deal of injustice, corruption and heartlessness.
People in government—people in a huge, sprawling government—often get carried away. And they don’t always even mean to. But they are little tiny parts of a large and overwhelming thing. If government is a steamroller, and that is in good part how I see it, the individuals who work in it are the atoms in the steel. The force of forward motion carries them along. There is inevitably an unaccountability, and in time often an indifference about what the steamroller rolls over. All the busy little atoms are watching each other, competing with each other, winning one for their little cluster. And no one is looking out and being protective of what the steamroller is rolling over—traditions, shared beliefs, individual rights, old assumptions, whatever is being rolled over today.
This is essentially why conservatives of my generation and earlier generations don’t like big government.
UPDATE: Very spirited comments on this, thanks one and all. I particularly like the idea of the Bridge to Nowhere as the rallying cry against the GOP's current corrupt ruling class in the mid-terms.