And I thought Republicans were realists ...
The Republican party, I thought, was the party of practicality, a group that prided itself on seeing the world not as it would like it to be, but as it really is.
What did I know?
After last week's convention in Tampa, I see Republicans in a new light. These folks aren't realists. Republicans are idealists. They're not interested in politics. What they want is a whole new world. We should be calling them the new romantics.
I've come to this conclusion after reading the Republican National Committee's 55-page platform document. There was a lot of talk during the convention about the platform's unstinting support for extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, its rigidity concerning immigration law and its obsession with the unborn, not to mention its seeming lack of interest in women as anything other than delivery systems for the little urchins that will, presumably, one day become god-fearing Republicans themselves. It was none other than Ann Romney, wife of presidential candidate Mitt, who buttressed the Republican view of women, pridefully telling a cheering arena, "It's the moms who always had to work a little bit harder. ... You know it's true, don't you?"
Pundits speculated about the extent to which the party's nominees, Romney and Ryan, would represent the RNC's platform. It was pointed out that candidates often wink at the positions articulated therein, treating them as suggestions that might be cast aside along the campaign trail.
But this, I think, is a cynical view that, while historically true enough, fails to come to terms with what it is Republicans — or, at any rate, those who still call themselves Republicans — truly want.
They want utopia.
In its preamble, the platform states that the American people — that's us — "are the most generous people on earth, giving sacrificially of their time, talent, and treasure." It goes on to say: "This platform affirms that America has always been a place of grand dreams and even grander realities, and so it will be again ..."
It seems the country has lost its way since 2008, when none other than the American people made the benighted mistake of electing Barack Obama president. Apparently our vaunted generosity can make us a little loopy.
Anyway, the trouble with Obama, or perhaps the 69.3 million people who voted for him, is that they possess a misunderstanding of how America is supposed to work. If, as the platform states, "we return government to its proper role, making it smaller and smarter. If we restructure government's most important domestic programs to avoid their fiscal collapse. If we keep taxation, litigation, and regulation to a minimum.If we celebrate success, entrepreneurship, and innovation.If we lift up the middle class. If we hand over to the next generation a legacy of growth and prosperity, rather than entitlements and indebtedness," everything will be great!
Except insofar as it provides for national defense, Republicans really don't like a federal government. What really counts for them is the family: Dad, Mom and the Kids. That's why they're so keen on defending marriage, an institution, the platform says, "which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values."
After the family, Republicans value the states. The platform calls the states "laboratories of democracy." It's the states that should be coming up with immigration policies, healthcare reforms and new voter ID laws. If this means that a person who could vote in one state can't vote in another, or get the same kind of healthcare or be more likely to be arrested because of the way he or she looks, that's fine. If you don't like it in one state, move to another — that's called competition. But how this makes you an American, instead of a Hoosier or a Badger or a Buckeye, isn't clear.
According to the Republican platform, "The environment is getting cleaner and healthier." This proves that government regulations regarding such resources as land and water are unnecessary. "Experience has shown that, in caring for land and water, private ownership has been our best guarantee of conscientious stewardship," says the platform, "while the worst instances of environmental degradation have occurred under government control."
The platform states that the proper application of environmental laws and regulations should "always be in support of economic development, job creation, and American prosperity and leadership."
This captures Republican idealism in a nutshell. We the People don't need the federal government. You'd think it was the federal government that created pollution, burned through the ozone layer, and dumped hazardous waste. Or that the federal government forced bosses to employ children, made people work 12-hour days and six-day weeks. To hear Republicans tell it, the federal government must have perpetuated laws creating schools for white kids and another set of schools for black kids, segregated lunch counters and public buses, and made black and poor people pay to vote in some places while their neighbors voted for free.
Republicans are idealists. They ignore history and insist the federal government keeps us from being our true selves. They may be right about this. That's the trouble.
Next week: the Democrats.