Michael Stafford is probably someone who I would vehemently disagree with on most things.
He was one of the soldiers of the Republican machine for most of his life — a member of the Federalist Society and an officer in a state Republican party — my ideological enemy.
In a piece on a website called The Cagle Post, however, he finally comes to terms with what the modern Republican Party is. And quits.
As a local GOP official after President Obama’s election, I had a front-row seat as it became infected by a dangerous and virulent form of political rabies.
In the grip of this contagion, the Republican Party has come unhinged. Its fevered hallucinations involve threats from imaginary communists and socialists who, seemingly, lurk around every corner. Climate change- a reality recognized by every single significant scientific body and academy in the world- is a liberal conspiracy conjured up by Al Gore and other leftists who want to destroy America. Large numbers of Republicans- the notorious birthers- believe that the President was not born in the United States. Even worse, few figures in the GOP have the courage to confront them.
Republican economic policies are also indefensible. The GOP constantly claims that its opponents are engaged in “class warfare,” but this is an exercise in projection. In Republican proposals, the wealthy win, and the rest of us lose- one only has to look at Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget to see that.
I still shake my head at the ideological blinders that allow someone like Stafford from seeing that this was a clear and inevitable progression from the policies and tactics of Reagan-era GOP foot soldiers.
Stafford’s piece does provide a small sense of relief that there are some people in the opposition who see the same things thoughtful citizens on all sides of the divide have been documenting and decrying for the last 30 years:
As Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein have written, “the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier—ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” Its reckless behavior helps drive the political dysfunction crippling our nation.
In the end, it offers a dystopian vision of our future- a harsher, crueler and more merciless America starkly divided between the riders, and the ridden.
As opposed as I am to his ideas, I give Stafford props. He had the guts and a sense of personal integrity to quit — not an easy decision to make in a time when the most radical voices of the extreme far right are ascendant. A good number of elected officials who did not meet the Tea Party Litmus test have been steamrollered out of their jobs.
As someone whose ideas have evolved over the decades of my adult life — often through grudging consideration of ideas from my partisan opponents — I see no way in which this country can continue when one side is controlled by a rabid cadre of ideologues who will not compromise, listen to any form of reason, or countenance dissent.
Stafford’s personal choice gives me a tiny spark of hope that things may change.
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