I’ve begun putting the Republican/Tea Party in my prayers at bedtime. I almost did a year ago but, at the time, thought, “Oh, they’ll get it together. Something good will happen and they’ll get through this mess.” It hasn’t. And they haven’t.

Fact is, looking back a year, things have gotten worse. A lot worse. To the point we may be in danger of losing the viability of one of our two main parties nationally. It looks that bad to me.

I know there are some good, thinking, responsible Republicans out there. Quite a few. But, for current party leadership, it’s “Whack-a-Mole” time. When a Dick Lugar or a Scott Brown takes one of those “good, thinking, responsible” positions on an issue, out comes the right wing club and “WHACK” in Indiana or Massachusetts. And a few other places.

Day after day, the beltway pundits bemoan the latest antics of the national GOP/TP – and legislatures in some states – while wondering aloud “How did this happen? Where did all these oddballs come from? How did they get control of an entire political party?”

At the risk of seeming immodest, I’m gonna tell ‘em.

Long, long ago – late 60’s and early 70’s – in a land far, far away – Utah, Idaho, Iowa, South Carolina, Alabama and a few others – local, state and national portions of the Republican party suffered a drought in the party worker corps. While Viet Nam opposition fired up Democrats, the protracted war seemed to demoralize a lot of GOP rank and file. They had the White House and sufficient numbers in Congress. Things were good. But not changing enough for some GOP’er’s. And the war dragged on.

Then Richard Nixon became a major Republican problem. With Nixon’s protracted, embarrassing downfall and the war dragging on, some mostly older Party folks became angry and disillusioned with the GOP. Many of the more moderate Republicans who had formerly been worker bees and believers turned away from the Party and put their volunteer labors elsewhere.

It got harder and harder to find precinct workers, party registrars, people to serve on committees, fold envelopes, run phone banks and do all the myriad chores it takes from Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue to run a political party. There was a vacuum. About the only folks around who had any real organizational experience at that time were those from the John Birch Society, Liberty Lobby and the other fringy groups that had been largely ignored by the mainstream. Fringy, yes. But the sort of folks driven by a dedication to their right-of-center causes, its leaders and what passed for a different Republican “philosophy.”

They flowed into this vacuum. They took over the worker bee jobs no one else wanted. They became block captains, precinct committeemen and women. They carried the signs, folded the envelopes, manned the phone banks and did all the other anonymous and often distasteful jobs those other party workers had done for years. And they moved the Republican party to the right. Without much – if any – opposition. Especially in the states already mentioned.

By the 90’s, these lower level functionaries had matriculated up the party chain and began to fill the national hierarchy. Over the span of a few national conventions, they moved into leadership. And people like Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, George Bush II and some others became the spokesmen and banner carriers of a much different party than the GOP was in the time of Bob Dole, Nelson Rockefeller, Gerald Ford and their more moderate compatriots.

So people who had been the outsiders or a mostly ignored element of GOP politics for years were now in control of the state and national nominating process and state and national Republican conventions. Anyone who wanted a place at the new table had to pass litmus tests further right. The smaller tail now wagged the larger dog.

I’ve got a few politically-savvy friends who pick a little at that four decade scenario but admit it’s probably close to what happened.

What we’re currently seeing playing out nationally is the fruit of ideological roots planted 30 years ago at the local level. The vines have produced a crop of ideologues rather than accomplished politicians. It’s in the breeding. Rand Paul, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Eric Cantor. All 40-60 years old. Republicans who learned their philosophies at the knees of people not in the old moderate political mainstream but who then controlled the nominating processes of the various states. They are products of the 70’s-80’s-90’s administrative takeover of the GOP. They wouldn’t be where they are today if not for the changing of the guard starting three or four decades back.

To move the Republican party to a more moderate stance in the next 10-20 years will be nearly impossible without those who want to make that move challenging the current structure from within. From the bottom up. But that will take a lot of dedication and a lot of work.

Which is why I believe it’s entirely possible for some who want a more philosophically moderate GOP to start another party. Might be less work and quicker. It’s going to take two things. People who want their party to grow by attracting more moderate members will have to admit the party they’ve belonged to for years no longer represents their thinking so they stop supporting it with votes and dollars. And someone – or several someone’s like Colin Powell or other respected gray hairs – will have to offer themselves as catalysts for change at the core.

“Fantasy,” you say. “Never happen,” you say. Maybe. Maybe not.

One Response to “Today’s Republican Party is only about 40 years old. Really.”

  1. Datherine Says:

    Keep on wrtiing and chugging away!