Just two months ago, I talked with John McCain in Aspen. Since moving to Arizona seven years ago, I have voted for and supported McCain for Senate and always admired his independence and willingness to cross party lines to do the right thing. I asked him why he had suddenly aligned himself with the most Right Wing, scariest people in the Republican Party and had named the same people who smeared him so viciously in the 2000 primary to run his campaign.
"The Republican Party is a big tent." he told me. "There's room for everyone."
In recent weeks, that tent seems to have gotten much, much smaller as some people have gotten disgusted and left and others have been thrown out. And, as many Republicans and Conservatives have recently pointed out, it's a neighborhood that very few people want to live in any more.
The water carriers of the Right--particularly Fox News, bloggers on townhall.com, and the dozens of talk radio hosts who call themselves Conservative--have always been biased. But as McCain has fallen farther behind in the polls their shows and blogs have become cesspools of hatred, anger, lies, distortion and vitriol which are liberally spewed on Democrats, Obama, and anyone who would vote for either.
In their passionate determination to vilify Obama and the Left, they have ignored the fact that the most devastating critiques of McCain and Palin have come from their own ranks. Conservatives and Republicans such as Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, George Will, and Christopher Buckley have all expressed their disgust with McCain's selection of Palin, his gutter campaign tactics, and his lack of the temperament, judgment, and ability to be president.
The coup de grace came Sunday when General Colin Powell--a Republican--announced his endorsement of Obama for president. Powell cited a wide variety of reasons that he was excited about Obama, disappointed in McCain himself and disgusted with the way he has run his campaign. Powell was precise, logical, and objective. His criticism of McCain was well thought out and devastating.
After hearing Powell, I immediately switched over to Fox News in time to get their reaction which was entirely critical and dismissive of Powell. One "analyst" speculated this was Powell's way of getting even with McCain for not selecting Powell to be his running mate. Another focused on how unfair it is for anyone to criticize McCain or his campaign since McCain is honest and righteous and Obama is so much worse. No one mentioned the merit or accuracy of Powell's statements. Later on MSNBC, Republican Pat Buchanan speculated that Powell picked Obama because he was just anxious to endorse a fellow Black guy.
Meanwhile, the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager radio crowd has gone non-stop venal and ballistic over the airwaves this month. Their entire programs are filled with lies, distortions, and partial truths about Obama and his positions. He is freely and constantly called anti-American, a traitor, a socialist, a terrorist, a friend of terrorists, a liar, a thief, a criminal, and a "bloodsucker" who wants to take every hard-working citizen's money--all of it--and distribute it to his liberal, radical, good-for-nothing friends.
This is not just about politics or an election. This has become a Holy War with these guys. My longtime friend Dennis Prager told me last year that unless I had learned to loathe the Left, then I had learned nothing from him in the 20 years I have regarded him as a teacher. He recently wrote a column on townhall.com in which he explains the difference between people on the Left and people on the Right. Apparently being a pluralist or an independent--trying to learn from all people--is no longer an option.
This latest descent completes the utter destruction of the Republican party as a force for good in this country. Until eight years ago, Republicans had a deserved reputation for being more socially and fiscally conservative and responsible. When the party culture became infected with the Bush/Rove/Cheney virus, it began to morph into a divisive force that possessed none of those qualities.
Now the mass exodus is underway. Anyone who is fiscally conservative can't call himself a Republican anymore. Anyone who is a religious Christian can't honestly be part of this since Jesus preached about caring for the sick and the poor--not about eliminating reproductive choice or issues related to same-sex marriage. There's nothing Christian about the agenda of the Religious Right--it's a totally political movement focused on issues that Jesus never mentioned and they ignore the issues about which Jesus preached constantly.
Anyone who believes in honesty or competence in government wouldn't call themselves a Republican after Bush. And now, no one who is not a committed soldier in the Holy War against the Left is welcome either.
The only ones left inside the tent are people who don't want to vote for a Black person, those who mistakenly believe they have been better off financially over the last eight years than they'd be under Obama, or those who are driven by a complete and unwavering hatred of liberals, Democrats, and the Left. It doesn't take a lot of room to accommodate that crowd and who would want to be in that tent anyway?
I find all this frustrating and it makes me sad. I liked being an independent. More important--we need the old Republican party--the one that thought the only thing worse than taxing and spending was borrowing and spending which is what the Bush/DeLay crowd has done for years in the name of Conservatism.
I hope the recent meltdown will set the stage for a revival of something we all need now more than ever--a viable intelligent alternative to complete control by the Democrats. As much as I like Obama, the thought of either party having that much power still scares me. Reed and Pelosi scare me much more than Obama does. I think Obama is smart, presidential, and will surround himself with smart, good people.
It's time for a change.