Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Taking Down the Big Tent

I've been thinking for a long time — I mean, a long time — that this country needs a real third party in its political system. A Moderate Party, a Centrist Party. A group of politically involved people who believe in their heart of hearts that truth and reason can go hand in hand, that if it's necessary to frighten the public, or lie to them, to gain support for a policy, then that policy probably isn't a good policy. That there is no monopoly on wisdom in any group. A party that will take good ideas from both extremities, re-work them with principled pragmatism, and produce real governance. Which might be a nice change, after sixty years of alternating excesses from both existing parties.

I've often wondered how one goes about starting a political party. I still don't know, but today it occurred to me that it's really not necessary to start a new one. We already have such a party: the Republican Party.

Oh, I know, you people who watch Fox News and MSNBC are scoffing and snorting, but you must understand that what I mean is the real Republican Party. Not these loud, angry Tea Party types, who are so pissed off at having been ignored (with good reason) that they are become the political equivalent of suicide bombers. It's a shame that they tend to label themselves Republicans, but that has its roots in history; in the history of the real Republican Party. The party of Lincoln and Eisenhower. The party that stands for fiscal conservatism — not spending money we don't have, not borrowing more than we can afford to pay back; the party that stands for limited government — not "small government": this country is way too big and powerful for a small government. The party that stands for fairness in the marketplace and in the courts — not for "free market" policy, which is unfair to small players, including consumers, and which is too lax in dealing with those who would wrap themselves in the flag of the free market to cheat others; not for "tort reform" or "industry liability," because those mantras conceal the evil of denying justice to one side or the other. The party that stands for traditional values but still tolerates, without adopting, other values, in things that should be a matter of personal choice, not public policy.

So I wonder: what would happen if those of us who are Republicans in the traditional sense were to tell the Tea Partiers and the Neo-Cons that they are no longer welcome? The rump Republican Party would be a minority in congress, as it has so often in the last 80 years, but it would be the Centrist Party, between the slathering left-wing Demagogic ... pardon me, Democratic Party, and the angry, chanting Radical Right. It would hold the balance of power in a Congress where there is no majority party, and would cast its votes where reason and wisdom take it, and it would use that balance of power to mitigate the excesses of the Left, just as it would the excesses of the Right when they become the more powerful bloc in Washington. (It'll take a while, but it'll happen.) And I predict that many who now are members of the Democratic Party would defect to the Real Republican Party, and we'd end up with a legislative branch divided roughly in thirds. Later on, when the anger of the far right subsides, as it will, many of its loudest supporters will see the error of their ways, and return to the Moderate fold. Praise be.

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