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Opinion

Opinion

GOP is enemy of reason

April 8, 2012

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Meet Nathan Fletcher, candidate for mayor of San Diego.

He will lose, at least if the polls are right. But he has raised a minor stir through a video posted online a few days back. In it, he explains his decision to leave the Republican Party and identify henceforth as an independent. “I don’t believe we have to treat people we disagree with as an enemy,” he says. “I think we can just say sometimes we disagree. ... I’ve fought in a war,” adds Fletcher, a Marine who served in Iraq. “I have seen the enemy. We don’t have enemies in our political environment here.”

Fletcher’s decision has been scorned by observers from both parties as a desperate gamble by a guy trying to shake up a flagging campaign. Maybe it is. But that doesn’t denigrate the essential truth of what he said, and in particular, that word he used: enemies.

It is a telling term. After all, one might negotiate with an “opponent.” One only contends against an “adversary.” But one seeks to destroy an enemy.

And it makes you wonder: Is that really the way we the people see ourselves? The evidence of recent years suggests that it is. The so-called culture wars — a battle of ideas and ideals concerning abortion, faith, gay rights, gun rights, Muslim rights, global warming, health care, immigration — are fought with splenetic bile that would have been unthinkable not too very long ago.

But that was before a congressman heckled a president, before guns were brought to presidential appearances, before a radio host called a college woman a “slut,” before someone set a fire at the construction site of a Tennessee mosque, before “I want my country back” became a rallying cry. It was before there grew this gnawing sense that we do not know each other anymore, that the extremes are pulling the center apart.

Nor is Fletcher the only one to notice. Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican moderate, announced her retirement a little over a month ago, blaming the dysfunction and polarization of American politics.

One is tempted, in the spirit of moral equivalence, to ascribe blame for this polarization to both parties, but that is simply untrue. For all their sins of ineptitude, infighting, cynicism, and even occasional name calling, it is not the Democrats who have gone off the ideological deep end.

The party has not championed same-sex marriage or gun confiscation, much as some of its constituents might want it to. It compromised on health care and the Bush-era tax cuts, much as some of its constituents wish it had not.

No, it is the GOP that has abandoned the center and embraced ideological extremism as a virtue. It is telling to hear its candidates use “moderate” as an epithet and argue over who is the most “conservative,” as if the word contained some pixie dust of common sense and moral rectitude. It is sobering to realize that Ronald Reagan, patron saint of modern conservatism, would be unelectable by the standards thereof: he raised taxes and was known to compromise with political opponents — not “enemies” — to get things done. 

That was then. His party has since engaged in a 30-year flight from the center that reaches its nadir — at least, let us hope it’s the nadir — in this era of tea party incoherence, faith-based policy, fear mongering and tax pledge tyranny. This era when compromise is both lost art and dirty word and some Americans see other Americans as enemies — an era in which there is something lonely and foregone about pleading with an angry nation that this is not how it is supposed to be.

As one Republican once put it, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.”

For the record, Nathan Fletcher did not say that. Abraham Lincoln did, 39 days before the beginning of the Civil War.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.

Comments

tbaker 2 years ago

The “…splenetic bile that would have been unthinkable not too very long ago” Mr. Pitts claims characterizes the political discourse these days is not emblematic of just the Republican Party; far from it. Politicians in both major parties are equally guilty of displaying this behavior. They both embrace ideological extremism, but this is a ruse. The two major parties go to great lengths to divide us and make us think there is a stark difference between democrats and republicans. Listen to what they say, but watch what they do folks. There is not a shred of difference between these two when you look at how they vote/what they do. It takes both parties to spend $4 billion dollars of borrowed money every day. Both parties are quickly ruining our country.

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Paul R Getto 2 years ago

"We don’t have enemies in our political environment here..." === Excellent point. We forget in the electoral disputes we are all Americans. Pitts could have titled this "Republicans and Democrats are the Enemy of Reason" and it would have also been accurate. Both parties are in denial about significant issues and they play the Sheeple like cheap guitars when they campaign for office.

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ThePilgrim 2 years ago

Why is the GOP always portrayed as evil (as said above - "They are full of hatred and fear"), while the Left are portrayed as open minded and reasonable? I think that both sides are extreme.
When you have to run extreme people to get the nomination of either party, it leaves no place for people who don't kotow to that system. And this is not just the Right's problem. Just remember, the moderate Dems (blue dogs) lost in the mid term elections to the crazy Left. The Democratic Party in Congress got more extremely Left.

Remember when news was the news? It is hard to remember, but Nightline created the modern day "news" of two ideologically extreme talking heads yelling ay each other in a split screen.

Political speeches and rhetoric are reported as news - "Obama call GOP bad names", etc.

It is time to take it back folks. Call people on the carpet - both Left and Right. It is not a war. This is not, as radio pundits say "the most important election in our lifetimes".

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its_just_math 2 years ago

Kool-Aid Drinker's Ball today on this award-winning forum. Wowie! Goes to show how committed the corrupt media is to The Anointed One's rhetoric and how committed the left is committed to believing The Anointed One AND the corrupt media.

WOW!

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camper 2 years ago

The Republicans resemble traitors unfortunately. They would rather see us fail for their own political purposes. I will never vote Republican ever again.

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its_just_math 2 years ago

"Considering that the "unhinged far left" is a teeny tiny percentage of the population..." -Kendall Simmons

Really? You'd never know that looking at the force they've successfully exerted on the Democratic Party of late and looking at some of their more high-profile figures that have been installed by this "teeny tiny percentage".

lol!

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Dan Blomgren 2 years ago

Re-elcting Obama is bad for America!

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Dan Blomgren 2 years ago

Re-elcting Obama is bad for America!

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JayhawkFan1985 2 years ago

Pitts is absolutely right about the people on the right. They won't listen to anyone else. They are full of hatred and fear. The comments above by some prove just that. It is sad because for democracy to survive there must be a free exchange of ideas...a back and forth debate. The extreme right won't listen to the near right, center or left. To them, it is there way or the highway. We saw that with the debt extension crisis and many other times. I hope the GOP implodes at both the national and state level. It is time for another political realignment.

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yourworstnightmare 2 years ago

"GOP is enemy of reason"

How does this title even hint at what Pitts is saying? Talk about fanning the flames.

The GOP's move to the right and refusal to argue and discuss in a civil manner is what Pitts is describing.

The only way we will ever solve our nation's problems is by discussing them in a civil manner using facts, reason, empathy, and mutual understanding.

We are a long way from this.

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Richard Heckler 2 years ago

Repubs aka RINO party:

  • Fear Improved Medicare Insurance for All = huge tax dollar savings to government,public schools,small business and all of us in general. Single Payer Medicare is the answer. http://www.healthcare-now.org/

  • Fear Clean Collar Industries which produce jobs that cannot be outsourced

  • Fear educated Americans because WE ask questions

  • Fear llosing of tax incentives/tax breaks for the wealthy that actually create tax increases for entire spectrum of the middleclass

  • Repubs should NOT fear a dramatically improved quality of life for all Americans but they keep saying NO

  • Repubs should NOT fear Clean air, clean water, clean energy and healthy green space scattered throughout America however they always vote NO

  • Repubs fear a dramatically improved quality of life for all WOULD keep them out of control for decades..... if Americans were smart.

BRING ON EMPLOYMENT = THE GREATEST REPUBLICAN FEAR ON EARTH!!!

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Richard Heckler 2 years ago

BRING ON EMPLOYMENT = THE GREATEST REPUBLICAN FEAR ON EARTH!!!

  • Repubs fear a dramatically improved quality of life for all WOULD keep them out of control for decades….. we would hope.

Keep in mind a prospering america can overcome repub fear mongering... it must.

What is the repub party afraid? Why do they ALWAYS say no?

Repubs:

  • Fear a dramatically improved quality of life for all americans

  • Fear Jobs Jobs Jobs for americans

  • Fear New USA industry thus new wealth for america

  • Fear new cleaner energy sources because it would create so many new jobs and reduce rates across the board

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geekin_topekan 2 years ago

That pesky civil rights movement really screwed things up didn't it? If only those uppity blacks would have been happy that they weren't slaves anymore and built their own separate society and left us whites to conduct our business without them constantly howlin' 'bout wantin' to be part of our country.

That enemy that lives in his camper by the park. He aint Amerkin. Real AMerkins live in houses.

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jafs 2 years ago

Pitts may not be historically accurate, but his point is well taken, at least by me.

We really need to stop demonizing those we disagree with, and start talking about issues calmly and with respect.

It's the only way to get anywhere near solving some of our problems, which are numerous.

Why exactly is this so hard for so many people to do?

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Mike Ford 2 years ago

gee with those comments I must've nailed it. you had nothing smart to refute with other than the nonsense you usually speak. can't refute speak nonsense... that's what you do right.

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its_just_math 2 years ago

It still really ticks off the left, namely the unhinged far left that the Tea Party upended Dems in the '10 mid-terms. Shows how hate-filled they are. Imagine if Obama and senate is defeated. They'll be impossible to deal with. The people spoke in '10-----not what the fringe said, but the mainstream----this enraged the "tolerant" left.

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RogersState80 2 years ago

I believe that its all Obama's fault. Especially that recent sewer problem at the trailer park in north Lawrence. If Obama doesnt fix the football program at KU then I may have to pack my bags and move to Manhattan.

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Mike Ford 2 years ago

the gop is a party of white people who seek out minorities that don't upset the apple cart of these particular people's prescribed view of minorities. there is a litmus test of homogenousness that all minorities in the gop must adhere to whether it's Denesh D'Souza, Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Allen West, or J.C. Watts. One sees what happened when the Vietnamese Republican congressman Cao from New Orleans voted for the healthcare bill. The gop litmus test people ran him out of the gop. It's telling that Michael Steele is going on msnbc and maher to call the gop litmus police out for their narrow mindedness. The litmus test situation is so bad that these people can't identify with their cultures because it would be in violation of the mythical colorblind post racial malarkey that the gop and right tries to sell. if anything people like math or tom shewmon have selective memory because they refuse to acknowledge the deal with the devil that took southern white males into the gop after george wallace, richard nixon, and ronald reagan recruited them for votes from the late 1960's to 1980. putting assimilation and evangelical religion together as has been done since my childhood is a recipe for no reasoning and basically facism. I have witnessed this in my 41 years leaving louisiana just as the televangelist/gop mess was starting. reading about g.h.w. bush wanting space from the godlicans back then is telling. an educated empirical moderate republican could not make it today just like President Obama said about Reagan. Where's the current Bob Dole or Nancy Kassebaum? tea party purity makes thinking impossible in the gop party. it's funny watching all of the nose holding going on right now with frankenromney amongst the godlicans and state's rights crazies. they're afraid he'll use them just like reagan did in the 1980's. what a circus!!!!

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its_just_math 2 years ago

Pitts 'selective memory' defines the phrase better than anything I've ever seen. What a hater. What a buffoon.

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its_just_math 2 years ago

I think what The Pitts really wants to say is: GOP is white. Poor, poor Pitts. Filled to his eyeballs with hatred for whites.

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booyalab 2 years ago

To maintain tradition and because the usual people must be taking a nap...."Looks like the racists are getting started early today!"

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booyalab 2 years ago

"It compromised on health care and the Bush-era tax cuts"

Does it count as a compromise if staunch refusal is political suicide?

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Fossick 2 years ago

"But that was before ... someone set a fire at the construction site of a Tennessee mosque"

(from a source) The September 15, 1963 racially motivated bombing of Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, which resulted in the death of four innocent black girls, was the nadir of the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham and perhaps one of the darkest days in Birmingham's history. City authorities, never sympathetic to blacks, did very little to bring the bombers to justice. Not until 1977 was one of the bombers convicted. Locally, the bombing brought the factional Civil Rights leaders together. Nationally, the bombing gave the movement not just a face, but four faces, four young, innocent faces. http://www.useekufind.com/peace/summary.htm

But Pitts does have one thing right. It appears that Rush calling whatsername a slut just might be the first time an unelected radio commentator has used that word on someone on the other side of the political isle. Or not:

(from a source) Nationally syndicated U.S. radio host Neal Boortz last year said a black congresswoman who has since failed in a bid for re-election, Cynthia McKinney, "looks like a ghetto slut." http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/04/12/industry-usa-race-broadcasters-dc-idUSN1237895620070412

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Fossick 2 years ago

"But that was before ... guns were brought to presidential appearances"

(from a source) On September 5th 1901, [President William] McKinley held an open-air speech and then went to hold ‘an audience’ with the public for ten minutes. As the crowd formed into a line and the President prepared to shake hands with the various people who’d come out to see him, [Leon] Czolgosz wrapped a .32 calibre pistol in a handkerchief. Fifty guards were stationed around McKinley that day – federal, state and city – and were supposed to be keeping watch. However, as the President moved through the crowd, no one noticed Czolgosz, who had positioned himself at the front.

McKinley eventually came to Czolgosz. He smiled and extended his hand. Czolgosz never took it, but instead flung the President’s hand to one side and fired twice, hitting him in the chest and abdomen. http://libcom.org/history/articles/assassination-mckinley

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Fossick 2 years ago

"But that was before a congressman heckled a president..."

I wonder if Pitts realizes that Senator Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina earned the nickname "Pitchfork Ben" by promising, in an 1896 speech on the Senate floor, to stab President Grover Cleveland in the in the butt with a pitchfork.

Maybe I'm taking the "congressman" part too literally?

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Fossick 2 years ago

"The so-called culture wars ... are fought with splenetic bile that would have been unthinkable not too very long ago."

(from a source) Late that afternoon (22 May 1856), after both houses had recessed for the day, a young South Carolina congressman named Preston Brooks strode forcefully into the Senate chamber looking for Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. The Senate floor was nearly deserted, but Brooks saw Sumner sitting alone at his desk, preparing a stack of pamphlets for mailing.

Without warning, Brooks rushed forward and began beating the unsuspecting Sumner savagely with a gold-tipped wooden cane. Even after knocking the older man to the ground, Brooks continued raining down blows upon Sumner's bleeding head and defenseless body, only stopping when his cane shattered into pieces. Finally, after perhaps the most shocking few minutes in the history of Congress, Brooks turned and walked calmly out of the chamber, leaving Sumner bloodied and unconscious. http://www.shmoop.com/legislative-branch/sumner-brooks-affair.html

Brooks spent the summer speaking about the incident all over South Carolina. Everywhere he went, his constituents bestowed upon him replacement canes.

When John Boehner walks into the Senate and beats Harry Reid unconscious with a cane over a social issue, then Pitts can talk about unprecedented bile. Until then it just goes to prove how short Pitts' memory is.

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years ago

Pitts is trying.

I'm sure his next "complex" article will be about Marion Barry's "racist" attack on Asians

Marion Barry, D.C. councilman, apologizes for ‘We got to do something about these Asians’ remark.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/marion-barry-councilman-apologizes-asians-remark-article-1.1057268#ixzz1rJa5jK00

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Flap Doodle 2 years ago

"..The country needs a bad guy to blame for its problems, so day in and day out Obama is providing them with a smorgasbord of villains from which to choose: Wall Street, Big Oil, the Tea Party, Paul Ryan, Rush Limbaugh, the Supreme Court, the Catholic Church, and so on. In fact, virtually everything that comes out of this president’s mouth is about redirecting blame onto some straw man. This is why Obama does not care if his attacks are unfair, untrue, unoriginal, unseemly, or whatever. He has only one goal: The state of the union stinks right now, and I must keep that stench off me. So were you outraged by Obama’s smarmy remarks about the Supreme Court? Too bad, he does not care. He is not after your vote. He is after the vote of the fellow in the middle of the electorate, who may never have even heard of Marbury v. Madison, but certainly knows about $4 gas. If Obama can get that guy to direct his anger at somebody else for the next seven months, then he wins reelection. This week the fall guy was the Supreme Court. Next week it will be John Boehner or Big Oil or whomever. Really, it does not matter so long as it is not the president..." http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/morning-jay-our-pathetic-president_635461.html?nopager=1 Das lennypitts is doing his best to follow the Mope's marching orders, bless his little heart.

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