This morning's NY Times editorial condemns the GOP for having "moved so far to the right that the extreme is now the mainstream," and for conjuring a witches'-brew platform that is "mean-spirited and intolerant" and "patronizing" and stands "on the most extreme fringes of American opinion" and "espouses the most extreme Republican views on taxation, national security, military spending and other issues."
A festering climax, one hopes, in which a sobered descent from the radicalized mountaintop is the only possible next move.
The GOP's weight in madness is rather easy to quantify but problematic when plotting its historical development. Was it the tea party that sparked this unsightly overindulgence? Hardly. Tea partiers are but the GOP's traditional far right, which has been around since the Birchers and Joe McCarthy and some of the more gruesome elements of prewar American Firsters. Was it Bush-Cheneyism? Doubtful. Its fiscal pixilation came from Reagan and its neocon delusions from Wilsonianism and its social conservatism from a Rovian hoax. Gingrichism? No. Pure power politics. Reaganism? Another socially conservative hoax, yet an ideology that was willing to suffer compromise under the strain of fiscal and international realities. Nixonism? No way; again, pure power politics, admixed with flashes of Metternichian ingenuity and Corleone-like evil.
The 1970s New Right and its precursor of Goldwaterism? Now we're getting somewhere, in that these were Frankenstein concoctions of fundamentalist religionism, harsh libertarianism, fawning militarism, severe simplicity in reaction to complex challenges, and a clinically rabid anti-liberalism. Sound familiar?
That, anyway, is one reasonable starting point when setting out to chart the GOP's morbidity. Jagged though its charted line of ascent has been, its outlying, right-wing dots of Bill Buckley's late-1950s and early-1960s' "fusionism"--libertarianism, social conservatism, militarism--connect rather nicely with what the NY Times calls the GOP's modern "mainstream" extremes.
For GOP pols of natural intelligence and irrepressible humanity, it's been one long and bumpy and alarmingly frightful ride. For GOP pols of opposing qualities, it's been a picnic. And then there's Mitt Romney, who has yet to demonstrate any human qualities at all; he's just a bobber in GOP waters, happy to go up, delighted to drop down, content to drift hither and yon in all the madness, as long as he makes it safely to the terra firma of personal success.
Let's just say that Mr. Romney avoids the helm. I think we can all agree on that. And that, in relation to the NY Times editorial wrap, is what puzzles me endlessly:
Mr. Romney has a chance to move back in the direction of the center by amending this extremist platform. It will be interesting to see if he seizes it.
They're joking, right?