David Brooks is horrified at the prospect of Republicans putting survival over principle and eating their own.
Politicians do what they must to get re-elected. So it’s not unexpected that Republican senators like Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch would swing sharply to the right to fend off primary challengers.
As Jonathan Weisman reported in The Times on Sunday, Hatch has a lifetime rating of 78 percent from the ultra-free market Club for Growth, but, in the past two years, he has miraculously jumped to 100 percent and 99 percent, respectively. Lugar has earned widespread respect for his thoughtful manner and independent ways. Now he’s more of a reliable Republican foot soldier.
Still, it is worth pointing out that this behavior is not entirely honorable. It’s not honorable to adjust your true nature in order to win re-election. It’s not honorable to kowtow to the extremes so you can preserve your political career.
Oh, really? He’s worried about honor in a party that re-elected a felon in 1972, sold weapons to a sworn enemy and used the proceeds to back Central American terrorists, impeached a Democratic president for getting an adulterous blowjob while at the same time the chief accuser was getting his own horn honked by a woman not yet his wife, elected a president by constitutional legerdemain that doesn’t pass the laugh test, outed a CIA operative for political revenge, and cheered on a racially-tinged rabble of white patriarchal know-nothing moochers whose mantra of ignorance became a frothy mix of blind hatred and xenophobia against a centrist Democratic president who happened to be black. It’s going to take five years for the light from Honor to catch up with this gang.
All across the nation, there are mainstream Republicans lamenting how the party has grown more and more insular, more and more rigid. This year, they have an excellent chance to defeat President Obama, yet the wingers have trashed the party’s reputation by swinging from one embarrassing and unelectable option to the next: Bachmann, Trump, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, Santorum.
But where have these party leaders been over the past five years, when all the forces that distort the G.O.P. were metastasizing? Where were they during the rise of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck? Where were they when Arizona passed its beyond-the-fringe immigration law? Where were they in the summer of 2011 when the House Republicans rejected even the possibility of budget compromise? They were lying low, hoping the unpleasantness would pass.
The wingers call their Republican opponents RINOs, or Republican In Name Only. But that’s an insult to the rhino, which is a tough, noble beast. If RINOs were like rhinos, they’d stand up to those who seek to destroy them. Actually, what the country needs is some real Rhino Republicans. But the professional Republicans never do that. They’re not rhinos. They’re Opossum Republicans. They tremble for a few seconds then slip into an involuntary coma every time they’re challenged aggressively from the right.
Oh, so now Mr. Brooks finally decides to stand up for the mainstream. It’s a little late, don’t you think? Like perhaps three years? Or thirty? He’s a mite young to have been shocked and saddened by the McCarthy era or Nixon’s Southern Strategy, and he might have dismissed the gentle condescension and fluffy bigotry of Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queens” as just the pendulum swinging back against the dirty hippies, but he might have gotten a clue that the rot was setting in when Larry Nichols went after the Clintons with the tales of drug-running and Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) was shooting at a melon in his backyard to prove that Hillary Clinton murdered Vince Foster. So now he’s telling Orrin Hatch and Richard Lugar to get in there and stand up to the bullies? Oh, yes, there’s a winning strategy: “you and him fight and I’ll watch.”
Leaders of a party are supposed to educate the party, to police against its worst indulgences, to guard against insular information loops. They’re supposed to define a creed and establish boundaries. Republican leaders haven’t done that. Now the old pious cliché applies:
First they went after the Rockefeller Republicans, but I was not a Rockefeller Republican. Then they went after the compassionate conservatives, but I was not a compassionate conservative. Then they went after the mainstream conservatives, and there was no one left to speak for me.
So you’re finally worried about the RINOs, eh? BTYFO (‘Bout Time You Found Out), Bobo.