Thursday

Flashback: Whither the GOP and true conservatism

By the Editor-in-Chief

I was a young man those days when I was back in Lagos, Nigeria. Lived on the Island, good family upbringing, went to some of the best schools, had a healthy knowledge of current affairs and world politics at a young age and above all, grew up in a political family which gave me a vantage view of the nuances and intricacies of the oldest game in the world.

Yes, politics is a game upon which the dreams and aspirations of many hinge. It is because of the latter that it is incumbent upon us all as a nation, a people and a world to get it right.

This brings me then to the current state of American politics, particularly the GOP as it is presently constituted. As I would watch the NTA (Nigerian Televison Authority) World News @9 pm those days, I would reel off the names of the members of Ronald Reagan's team. These were essentially all Republican stalwarts. The likes of James Baker III, George Schultz, Casper Weinberger and many others. Many of the Reagan aides went on to serve in the administration of Bush 41 (Herbert Walker) and we also saw the advent of one Dick Cheney. Dick Cheney? Whatever happened to him an old friend of mine from back home asked the other day? Dick Cheney's "metamorphosis" into the abyss of political thuggery masked as altruistic patriotism is the one line that most perfectly describes the current state and decline of this once storied party.

I don't know if I have said it here before, but I have never been a Democrat, as the party was in fact the party of segregation, Jim Crow as well as the marginalization and abuse of African-Americans for decades and even centuries if I might add. It was not until the realization of reason and human decency, thanks to a "Texas red-neck", Lyndon Baines Johnson that blacks began to be treated with the decency deserving of humans and it was during this period that the "Dixiecrats" (Southern Democrats) left en-masse and it is unquestionable that they have now found a home over the years in the GOP.

I am also not a Republican, but I have always admired the party mainly because of Ronald Reagan and Bush 41. They were both decent men who respected their opponents and had a statesman-like disposition to them that was appealing to many across the political and other divide. I was brought up in a family where education, hard work and self-less sacrifice were imbibed into us and passed from generation to generation. We were told that we represented not only ourselves, but our family name and its ideals and believe in personal responsibility and dutiful citizenship.

While it is the duty of government to "correct" the wrongs of the past, I have NEVER believed that overtime, it was also the duty of government to teach fathers and mothers how to be responsible parents and conduct themselves with dignity and a strong sense of purpose.

The crux of the GOP's mantra on personal responsibility - a "small government" built on enduring and fiscally responsible policies, as well as a "strong defense", has always appealed to me. The problem though is that the GOP, Reagan included, has left the nation in debilitating debt each time they have been in power, thus betraying their own ideals and in the process eroding the confidence many had reposed in them. However, the difference between the Reagan/Bush 41 years and this current band of marauders masked as conservatives, has been how low they have sunk in their attempt to control the tone and direction of the national conversation.

While I would posit that the one component missing from the Reagan dynamic was that of a certain form of compassionate conservatism, Bush 41 addressed this during his tenure in office and it is no wonder he was never liked by the rabid-dog neo-cons that have now usurped the mantle of leadership in the GOP. Both Reagan and Bush 41, I will reiterate, were decent men and believed that the GOP had room for as many as possible without the party necessarily changing its core ideals and principles.

Reagan and Bush 41 were however both pragmatic men with great vision as Reagan reached out to democratic leaders consistently during his tenure, while Bush 41 had one singular act that showed how much wisdom he had as a leader by resisting every attempt by hard-core "conservatives" to lure the US into invading Iraq having ejected Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. His son, Bush 43 went against his father's sound judgment (and the US and indeed the world has been worse off for it) with the invasion of Iraq (the torture at Abu Ghraib in particular) being a solid rallying point and recruiting advertisement for radical Islam and its murderous proponents.

While I largely disagreed with the policies of both Reagan and Bush 41, with regard to their seeming indifference to the policies of the apartheid regime in the then racist enclave of South Africa as well as their "tepid" support for civil rights, they both still recognized the importance of a party where dissension was actually healthy as it helped shore up whatever "policy white spaces" there were in the political landscape. The current GOP, in the last two decades or so has become increasingly intolerant, xenophobic and downright unrelenting in its attempt to rid America of its most important source of strength and dynamism, its diversity.

That the leaders of today's GOP look to the likes of Sean Hannity (a Neo-Nazi sympathizer), Rush Limbaugh (an unabashed racist) and Joe "the plumber" is really quite telling. That the notion of someone being educated and going to some of the best schools in the US and indeed the world makes them an elite is also quite revealing. That the usurpers of the party of Lincoln see nothing wrong in America spearheading torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay while forceful defending the same tactics used by the Nazi and imperialistic Japanese soldiers shows just how much the GOP, as presently constituted, is not the party to lead this nation.

Indeed again, I must ask. Whither the GOP? The party of Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest leaders in the history of mankind, has been taken over by those who resent a culture that encourages a divergence of opinion and backgrounds within their ranks and through their rhetoric and seditious irredentism, these agents of intolerance and hatred have created an atmosphere where discord is the order of the day, and destructive violence, in the name of religion and "morality", has again been visited on the American consciousness.

This is not the party that gave us decent men like Bush 41, Ronald Reagan James Baker III and Brent Scowcroft I must say. Obviously Dick Cheney was always "a wolf in sheep's clothing" as his conduct has betrayed the dignity, integrity and decency of most of the men he served with under Reagan and Bush 41.

In a write-up by former New Jersey Governor, Christine Todd Whitman, she alluded to the convincing dynamic of the Obama candidacy and asserts his victory was a "personal" one steeped in the persona and vision of the candidate himself, much like Reagan and that it was not a victory based necessarily on ideology. She states, rather cogently, that the GOP's inability to figure out a way to hold together a coalition of economic conservatives, foreign policy conservatives as well as social moderates and conservatives while resisting the specter of a circular firing squad, has been to the party's detriment and will be so for a long time to come.

I am not one of those that wants the GOP to die away, on the contrary, like the true democrat that I and most Americans are, I very much want a vibrant two-party system like we've always had as I believe it is healthy for our democracy. The GOP as it currently stands, however makes that increasingly less likely.