In 1867, Otto von Bismark penned the now-famous maxim, “politics is the art of the possible.” Almost exactly one century later, economist John Kenneth Galbraith noted that politics had degenerated from the art of the possible, and become nothing more than the practice of “choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” Now, in early 21st Century America, our two major political parties appear bent on proving Galbraith right.
The Democratic Party, under the leadership of an incumbent president, a colorless and humorless Senate leader, and a well-dressed but clueless Speaker of the House, is pursuing federal spending policies that make former, big-spending Republican President George W. Bush appear to have been a penny-pincher. Under the misnomers of “stimulating” the economy and “health care reform,” the current majority party is doing everything it can to ruin the country’s economic system and to degrade its health care system to one reflecting the lowest common denominator.
On the other side of the aisle, the Republican Party’s plan appears to be one of doing nothing and waiting for the citizenry to come running into its arms once the polity realizes how bad the Democratic Party’s plans really are. But it is a party with a sense of humor. One of its leaders, Republican National Committee member James Bopp, has proposed a pseudo-scientific “plan” by which the party might henceforth identify with an 80% degree of certainty who are “pure Republicans.”
Not content with simply evaluating Republican candidates and incumbents according to the party’s Platform, adopted each presidential-election cycle amid much debate and fanfare, Bopp has come up with what amounts to a “Top Ten List of Reasons Why Republicans Should Support Republicans.” While it is unlikely Bopp’s list – which other Republicans have coined a “purity test” — was intended to be as humorous as one of David Letterman’s “Top Ten” vignettes, it bears a striking similarity when considered in the context of recent actions by the GOP.
For example, resolution Number One dictates that the GOP will support only those who in turn support “smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and . . . opposing bills like Obama’s ’stimulus bill.’” The irony of proposing such a litmus test for a party whose immediate past president spent the first six years of his presidency working with a Republican-controlled Congress to rack up historically-high levels of government spending and power, apparently has been lost on Mr. Bopp and others who support his approach.
Resolution Number Two mandates Republican support only if the recipients ” . . . oppose Obama-style, government-run healthcare.” Forgotten in this new-style Republicanism is the fact that just a few years back, more than 200 Republican House members voted in favor of the massive, “Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act,” shortly before Republican President Bush signed it into law.
Cap-and-trade has become yet another criteria to be employed to assure that the GOP returns to its roots. Strangely, however, a number of stalwart Republicans, including Mary Bono Mack and fervent pro-lifer Chris Smith, are already on the cap-and-trade bandwagon. One wonders if they will be left by the wayside when the time comes to divvy up the party’s campaign loot in advance of next year’s elections.
Predictably, the Top Ten List includes an anti-immigration amnesty plank. Perhaps its author has forgotten that the immediate past Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, failed this test.
Military strategy and spending earns a place in The List, with unquestioning support for whatever troop levels our military leaders recommend. Apparently those who pledge to support this maxim do not recall — or care — that it is the President, as the civilian, elected leader of our nation, and not our military officers, who is charged by oath of office with making those decisions (based presumably on his own judgment).
While the List’s author avows allegiance to former President Reagan as his mentor in developing the litmus test (a term Reagan would never have used), others already have pointed out that the Gipper himself would have failed the “80 percent solution.” Like I said, who said the Republican Party doesn’t have a sense of humor.