Agents of Destruction
I am, I suppose, a proud Republican. I don’t dodge the question of political affiliation when the topic of conversation turns to politics, I vote for the Republican candidates for state and county office, and I vote in Republican primaries. I think that the impulse which leads conservatives to believe that boycotting the GOP will lead to increased conservatism are, at best, misguided and unrealistic. Conservatives should be realistic.
But if one takes a “realistic” look at the last fifteen years, one conclusion is inescapable. For the last decade or so, the Republican party has done incalculably more harm to the country than have the Democrats.
In fairness, the Democrats haven’t had much of a chance—Bill Clinton was always on the defensive against the Gingrich Congress, and Bush has had a Republican congress for six of his eight years in office. So possibly, the Democrats would have ruined America if given half a chance—but they weren’t, and the Republicans were, and they did.
Hands down, the biggest challenge facing the country is the national debt. It’s massive—it’s over 75% of America’s GDP, and represents an amount more than three times the amount of the entire 2008 federal government budget. It’s almost impossible to see a way to pay this debt, and it’s not as if this was a problem that just snuck up on us. In 2000, when Bush took office, the national debt was about five trillion dollars, a daunting number, and one that clearly posed a difficult challenge. So, to fix this little difficulty, Bush went and doubled the national debt. Now, the national debt is a problem that may be wholly insolvable.
Another problem: energy. Ten years ago, it was obvious that oil wouldn’t last forever. (Actually, there is probably enough oil to keep us supplied for years—it’s the getting it out of the ground that’s the killer). We needed new energy sources, and fast. Fortunately, there was a clean, renewable, limitless source of energy, which wasnt being exploited due only to the fears of a small but influential group of people whose gullibility regarding the dangers of nuclear power would embarrass a student of phrenology.
Republicans did almost nothing to promote nuclear energy. (A few nuclear power plants will be opened in the future, but nothing near the scale required to make a meaningful difference). This omission is almost inexplicable—nuclear energy has massive potential, is cheap, and would, after its beneficial effects became apparent, be a wonderful issue for Republicans. But they didn’t take advantage of it, out of fear of hysterically inaccurate worries of a nuclear apocalypse. (Nuclear power plants are the only victims of anti-nuclear hysteria—MRIs are more accurately called NMRIs, but the “N” stands for nuclear, which forced hospitals to alter the abbreviation).
When Clinton was president, he brought the U.S. into a variety of ill-planned, destructive wars. However, these wars were mostly destructive to the innocent natives of the countries in which they were fought, while the U.S. army mostly escaped without harm. Bush changed that. Even if we accept that the Iraq War was a good idea (and it was regarded as such at the time), it is impossible to defend Bush’s handling of it. He turned in a dreadful performance—the war has come in inexcusably over budget, and the death rate (while historically modest—we call 4000 dead troops high; in World War II, they called that Tuesday) is higher than it should have been. Much of this can be traced to Bush’s inexplicable refusal to change course in Iraq, even after it was evident that things were not improving.
Few in the GOP criticized Bush’s performance. In fact, with the exception of a few eccentrics like Chuck Hagel and one Senator from Arizona, few spoke out against Bush’s poor strategy at all. And this unpardonable silence cost lives.
So why do I still support the Republicans? They are still superior to the Democrats. Also, they do have some good points. They have lowered taxes (although that’s not much good if spending isn’t lowered as well), have appointed good Supreme Court justices, and have done at least an acceptable job of fighting the War on Terror.
But the primary reason is potential. If fellow conservatives exert their influence on the party, the Republicans can do great things. (Remember, Sarah Palin is next in line for the GOP nomination). When I vote for a Republican, I am, in part, voting for that future. It worked in the seventies—after years of left-centrism, the GOP finally nominated Ronald Reagan. I believe that that given time, much the same thing will happen again.