“Well,” Ronald Reagan would say, before launching into an oration describing how far today’s Republican Party has strayed from his own brand of sun-drenched feudalism with a human face. His policies began a thirty year assault on the means and security of the middle-class, yet his public persona attempted to identify with the middle-class for the most part, bothering at least to seduce them before he royally screwed them.
Current Republicans take more the dominatrix approach, all whips, black leather and masks, excoriating you as a worthless piece of detritus, instructing you you better like it when they bend you over for abuse. Being Republicans, it tends to be a little blander than that in practice, but a kind of sulfuric blandness, certainly far from any sunny sort of “making love”.
Mitch Daniels, advertised as one of Republicans’ less psychiatrically interesting specimens and less villainous villains, played the doom card early in his response to the State of the Union, warning, “So 2012 is a year of true opportunity, maybe our last, to restore an America of hope and upward mobility and greater equality.” Frankly, with the Mayan doomsday talk surrounding 2012, here was another harbinger that made me a little nervous.
When Daniels averred, “But when President Obama claims that the state of our union is anything but grave, he must know in his heart that this is not true.” I began to worry for real whether I’ll even live to see the iphone 5. Grave? I thought the economy was getting a little better? Haven’t we killed whole posses of terrorists, including jihad’s Big Kahuna bin Laden in the last several years? Whatever is coming, Mitch, will you please save me from it, even if that requires a President Mitt or Newt?
Old Reagan would shake his head and say, “Oh, those silly Democrats are so doggone misguided” while marketing his vicious welfare queen stereotype or equating liberal altruism with pedophilia. Mitch Daniels accuses Obama of being “pro-poverty”. Hell, if you’re going to try to sell the idea Obama is actually in favor of poverty you might as well accuse him of being pro-death, pro-syphilis, pro-acne, pro-tooth ache, pro-pestilence and pro-malignant neoplasm. Good luck with that, guys.
Still, Daniels had more and better. He said, “No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others.” Yes, a Republican actually said that. I know he said it, because I saw it come right out of his mouth at the same time I heard the words. If he can successfully sell the notion that the Republican Party is the party that doesn’t castigate others he’s good enough to be the next L. Ron Hubbard. I wish him all the riches and peculiar adoration the position would afford him should he be successful.
By contrast, President Obama remains a profile in American optimism, and still an emphatic proponent of American togetherness, of united endeavors for the common good. Over and over last night the president recounted tales of Americans working together toward overarching American goals, of shared rather than partisan values, of Americans united despite differences they may have. You won’t hear anything remotely like that from today’s Republican Party.
In fact, you can’t get yourself nominated by the Republican base if you as much as whisper that Obama may be anything less than an existential threat to the future of the United States, or his Democratic Party other than a trespasser in the body politic and wholly illegitimate. This isn’t new. The glowering demeanor of Richard Cheney was the physical representation of the Era of Bush, all fear and dark foreboding all the time. Then, it was the unholy matrimony of Islamophobia and homophobia darkening our horizons, gays and Muslims crawling right into bed beside you at night if you weren’t alert, at all times vigilant, and voting Republican of course.
Though republican Machiavellianism and of late nihilism have afforded Republicans their share of success over the years, Americans are perceptibly wearying of it. It was evident in explicit reactions to and in polling regarding congressional Republican obstructionism and intransigence during their manufacture of the “debt ceiling crisis.” Little light can escape the Republicans’ nominating process with its suffocating negativity and consuming hostility, which instead of an argument against the opposing party or the current president is a blizzard of acid, epithet, ad-hominem and bilious rancor.
Republicans ask Americans to credit them with outsized love of country and with being the supreme embodiment of “American values,” yet afford the elected president of their own nation no ounce of dignity, respect or even legitimate right to office. Rather than Reagan, the face of the party today is the sallow gloom of Boehner, the grimace of Gingrich and the cold-blooded grin of Mitt. But one can feel Americans pulling away, sense them recoiling, increasingly unwilling to endorse, and certainly not wishing to inhabit Republicans’ bitter Manicheanism and gloom.
Next to Daniels, Republican presidential candidates and the Republican teapot marauders occupying congress it is Obama who is Reaganesque.