Published on TheHill.com
Republicans are repeating history—all over again, as Yogi Berra might have said, and that raises the question: Why be the best friend the Democrats ever had?
In H.W. Brands’ 2012 book on US Grant, an insight into the founding years of the Republican Party shouldn’t go unnoted as we slog through the selection process for 2016. The party’s wings have defined it for 150 years, and before it now is a rare opportunity, were the GOP only to seize it.
Abraham Lincoln may have been the first Republican president, but what was to become the historic divide in the party did not become fully manifest until US Grant wore the mantle. Contrary to history’s usual shelf spot for Grant—purportedly weak and in thrall to his cronies—he was the only chief executive until Eisenhower to send federal troops southward for the protection of the freedmen. Because he’d spent much blood to secure the Union’s cause, he was loathe to let its principles unravel from the benign neglect espoused by Democrats and some of his own partisans.
Some might say that Grant hewed to the conscience wing of the party while the others were the capitalists. That divide haunts us still as some Republicans understand—as did the first Roosevelt—that if the needs of the have-nots aren’t addressed, the haves might lose it all. In the capitalist wing, there’s the “everyman for himself” crowd, the rugged individualists who cling to the notion that responsibilities end where one’s fingers cannot reach.
Republicans have struggled with identity for too long and now face a certain reality: Doing nothing is not an option. Not too big to fail, Republicans must present equitable, even if partial, solutions for health care, immigration and border security, job creation, and national defense, or not govern at all. Otherwise, Democrats win, along with their solution for nearly every issue: wealth re-distribution dressed in happy nostrums delivering only more power—and wealth—to their own elite.
Is this not the opportunity, then, for the conscience and capitalist wings of the GOP to unite on those issues that matter to the electorate—not to the party philosophers—and make good faith efforts to get the right things done? Of course, they can.
Once again, however, the GOP’s hyper partisans are drawing lines, many of them, pandering to their own niche-claques, somehow hoping to draw a larger crowd. The consummate egos now joining the futile scramble to find their place in the big tent may serve only to collapse the bigtop on all our heads with their jostling, kicking, and biting. Make no mistake: The Huckabees, Carsons, Patakis, and Santorums—just to name a few of the growing throng—are good and decent people, and they have something important to say. Not as barkers at a sideshow, however. Better that they enlist their better angels to help the party finds its common, winning voice before the oxygen is sucked out of the race by one Democrat and her friends in State Media.
We are one election away from the utter disintegration of a party that seeks man’s nobility through education, hard work, and ingenuity, all wrapped around personal and community responsibility. In our world of customized, personalized, and splintered political views, the electable candidate must lift us from the fray’s minutiae and lead us on the broad ideas that can draw in most, if not all, segments of our society. Will the party wait until perched at the abyss before enticing African-Americans and Latinos with respect and understanding? Like Teddy, Franklin, Jack, and Ron, our candidate must find and pull on that thread that binds us all.
When all is said and done, the only question to matter is: Why give 2016 to the Democrats?