Some Republicans want to transform their party into a pale image of the Democratic Party, reports Joseph Poprzeczny.
Leading African-American conservative commentator, Thomas Sowell, says the Republican Party is increasingly looking like an ideological spent force.
He says that the Republicans, having lost two congressional elections to the Democrats and a presidential contest, have begun “turning their guns on each other”.
Last month, new Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele publicly criticised high-profile radio commentator, Rush Limbaugh, a long-standing critic of big-taxing governments and an admirer of President Ronald Reagan.
“That is the kind of thing that is usually said by liberals who have never listened to the program,” says Sowell.
“Regular listeners to the Rush Limbaugh program or subscribers to the Limbaugh newsletter know that both contain far more factual information and in-depth analysis than in the programs or writings of pundits with more of a ponderous tone or intellectual airs.
“Why Steele found it necessary to say such a thing- except as a sop to the liberal intelligentsia – is one of the many mysteries of the Republican Party. Steele has since apologised to Rush but you cannot un-ring the bell.”
Sowell says such criticism reveals a mindset that was evident in certain Republican circles even before Steele emerged on to the scene.
Sowell says that the only time that John McCain led Barack Obama in the polls during the presidential campaign was when Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, a declared Christian and anti-abortionist, joined his ticket.
Had Wall Street’s financial meltdown not struck on the eve of November’s election, Palin’s emergence would have pulled McCain over the line.
“Yet many in the Republican Party seem to have felt as embarrassed by Governor Palin as they have been by others who articulated principles, instead of trying to be in step with the fashions of the time – fashions set by liberals,” says Sowell.
“Maybe those Republicans who put a high value on being accepted in elite circles should be embarrassed by the narrowness of their elite friends, who disdain or demonise people whose principles they disagree with, instead of answering their arguments.”
Such Republicans even want to transform their party into a pale image of the Democratic Party and no longer hold Reagan up as an ideal.
Sowell says that, instead of running away from ideals once held high by their party, members should broaden their appeal by explaining those ideals to all segments of American society.
He argues that African-Americans had suffered the worst deal from the Democrats, something Republicans seem completely oblivious to.
“The teachers’ unions, environmental fanatics and the American Civil Liberties Union are just some of the groups to whose interests blacks have been sacrificed wholesale,” he says.
“Lousy education and high crime rates in the ghettos, and unaffordable housing elsewhere with building restrictions, are devastating prices to pay for liberalism.
“Yet the Republicans have never articulated that argument, and their opportunism in trying to get black votes by becoming imitation Democrats has failed miserably for decades on end.”
Such lack of courage and fortitude in Republican ranks has had a long history, especially among those who put pragmatism ahead of highlighting conservative principles.
Sowell says that Republicans who saw themselves as intellectuals were particularly prone to such short-sightedness.
“The conservative intelligentsia who react against her [Governor Palin] have remarkably little to say that will stand up to scrutiny.
“People who actually dealt with her, before she became a national figure, have expressed how much they were impressed by her intelligence.
“Her ‘inexperience’ was a talking point that might have some plausibility if it were not for the fact that Obama had far less experience in actually making policies than Sarah Palin had.
“Joe Biden has had decades of experience in being both consistently wrong and consistently a source of asinine statements.
“Governor Palin’s candidacy for the vice-presidency was what galvanised grass-roots Republicans in a way that John McCain never did.
“But there was something about her that turned even some conservative intellectuals against her and provoked visceral anger and hatred from liberal intellectuals.”
That something was that people like Palin and her millions of backers were seen by so many rudderless Republicans as not being “one of them” – which is true.
– Joseph Poprzeczny is a Perth-based historian and freelance journalist.