There was a time when, if someone told me he or she was a Republican, I didn’t have an immediate, negative visceral reaction. That time was before the Bush-Cheney regime and a couple of wars ago. After the trashing of the constitution and Tom DeLay, with his plans for a “permanent Republican majority,” I came to regard conservative Republicans as next kin to Nazis. They were not people I wanted to see in my neighborhood or around my children. As pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter became more popular, I came to think of conservative Republicans as lepers.
It wasn’t always this way. At one time, I saw being a Republican as a personal preference, rather than a profession of faith in the destruction of civilization. A person could be a Republican and still be a good person, just like one could be a woman or Irish and still be a good person. Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t a bad president or a bad person. Gerald Ford wasn’t particularly evil, either.
Then came Ronald Reagan. This man almost single-handedly turned the Republican Party into a gang of reverse Robin Hoods. His ideas about how to save money in government always involved the people with the fewest means anteing up the most and making the biggest sacrifices. By the time George W. Bush came to power, I was avoiding Republicans and hoping that whatever was wrong with them would not infect my family and friends. Now, however, it seems that some Republicans are coming to their senses.
Maybe it is simply that some Republicans have seen the hand writing on the wall. Perhaps they realize that rigid ideology loses elections. Some are trying to strike more reasonable positions, hoping to connect with real people who have real problems. Whatever has gotten into Republicans like Colin Powell and Governor Jon Huntsman of Utah, I hope it lasts. Sanity seems to be trying to return to the Republican Party.
To be sure, Republicans have allowed mouthpieces like Limbaugh and Coulter to paint them with a broad brush. They have come out looking like the party of rich, white, corporation-loving, diversity-hating ideologues. Fortunately, some Republicans are fighting back. Huntsman claims publically that the Republican Party must move toward the center if it wants to win national elections. Naturally, there are plenty of Utah Republicans who disagree and promise to move even further to the right.
These Republican extremists do not see any significance in the fact that they lost the last presidential election. The president’s popularity is in no small part due to his willingness to hear all sides of issues rather than only those he agrees with. If the Republican Party wants to continue to influence politics, it should consider distancing itself from its more strident members. After all, the vast number of Americans are not extremists of any sort.
Americans are growing tired of the kind of politician who claims that everyone who disagrees with him or her is an enemy of the American way of life. Many will be happy for the end of name-calling and all-or-nothing politics. Democratic ideals require the stake-holders to compromise. Compromise had a bad name for a long time, but times may be changing.
Then I can stop classing conservative Republicans with cannibals.