Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, former Governor of New Jersey, and on-going excuser of gross elitism and run-amok capitalism, Christine Todd Whitman is an archetypical “let them eat cake” Republican of the type I was born and bred to hate.
When we heard her speak last week at the Commonwealth Club, the smugness in her voice matched the tailored perfection of her clothes. Her self-satisfied views on everything from arsenic on down the alphabet fanned a instinctive blood lust that made it difficult for me to sit in my chair without snarling.
Her kind of Republican didn’t understand that Federal government had a role:
- in setting up Social Security so elderly people didn’t have to eat cat food, no matter how “socialist” the concept;
- in guaranteeing basic civil rights, including the rights of racial minorities and women, no matter what an individual state thought;
- in establishing a Federal mandate for education through high school, no matter how intrusive on State’s Rights;
- and so on, and so on, as meaningful ways were discovered for the government to help individuals obtain a fair opportunity to share in the promise of America.
The lecture was part of Whitman’s crusade to rally her fellow country clubbers, would-be country-clubbers, and other shucking-and-jiving sycophants of the nation’s plutocrats. She is telling her fellow travelers that they need to take back the Republican party from the social ideologues who have successfully captured the party.
Whitman is unhappy because she and her ilk — the evil I know and hate — was replaced at the top of her party by a type of political operative who thinks that a 2.5% victory margin means that a narrowly-understood God has ordered the true believers to drive the infidels from government, from political power, and from participating fully in our society.
Whitman calls these folks “social fundamentalists”. They believe in a big or bigger government as any Ted Kennedy Liberal. But, their government:
- requires people to invest in corporations while denying or cutting base-level benefits (cat food sales should soar — another investment opportunity);
- promotes an Act of Congress (literally) to interfere in a spouse’s attempt to carry out his wife’s wishes on end-of-life medical care;
- requires detailed Federal standards in education, no matter what the local needs;
- and so on, and so on, as they discover ways to enforce their world/religious view on the rest of America and the globe.
Whitman wants to win back control of the Republican has party. She thinks it’s time that the “good Republicans” like her stop being polite and waiting for the zealots to burn themselves out.
She has a a good cause, I have to admit.
I grew up a definite Democrat. I knew Republican were the enemy, and would argue, walk precincts, and stand on the street corners to defeat those bastards. Bastards just like Christine Todd Whitman.
But, we there was agreement between Democrats and Republicans on the basic standards of political operation. A small electoral majority, for example, was taken as a sign that the country as a whole wanted a mixture of Democratic good and Republican hogwash. We all expected compromise and horse trading with the majority party getting more — but not all — of its programs through. The progress I wanted as a Democrat was slowed by this compromising, yet this gradualism felt right because Republicans and Democrats generally knew we were working together for what a large majority of citizens wanted.
The hard-right leaders now in control of the Republican party don’t play by those rules. They demand victory on every issue, individual differences and public opinion be damned.
Whether it’s the filibuster-busting nuclear option or Constitutional Amendments imposing a national marriage qualification, the Republican party now requires its politicians to toe the line on an entire agenda which very few voters want.
Whitman’s call to action to the country-club set is important attempt to return moderation and cooperation to politics. She has the family background and political history to speak with authority. Her crusade is just, too.
So, we bought It’s My Party, Too, Whitman’s book, for the traditional Nevada Republican birthday boy we took to the Commonwealth Club event. After all, it was written for him: he still thinks of himself as a mainstream Republican, although even he voted Democratic for President in 2004.
Glancing through the book, it seemed sprinkled with reasonable arguments and suggestions. And, that’s last positive comment I want to make about Whitman or her book.
I really want her and her friends to win their battle so I can go back to hating their wretched smugness. That’s the way the world is supposed to be.