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Stanley Crouch: How the right lost its imagination

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There is always a lot of blather about intellectual diversity. People love the idea, which, at its best, is all about utilizing our fullest intellectual capacities and recognizing that our people are our greatest natural resource. But that is not the reality today — especially not in the Republican Party, where conformity of thought is the only thing that counts.

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That much has been acknowledged by Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and one of the leading voices of what’s left of the serious wing of the conservative movement, that part of the GOP that hasn’t kissed the ring of the tea party and still knows how to think for itself. No matter how seriously Kristol presently talks, we must remember that he was part of the crew that sold Sarah Palin to John McCain. Kristol went on to write glowingly in his New York Times column about the birdbrained governor as though he did not know her and was spontaneously impressed. Pure hustle.

Kristol recently wrote that today’s Republican Party reminds him of Eric Hoffer’s famous observation about how “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

Kristol went on as follows: “It may be that major parts of American conservatism have become such a racket that a kind of refounding of the movement as a cause is necessary. A reinvigoration of the Republican party also seems desirable, based on a new generation of leaders, perhaps coming — as did Ike and Reagan — from outside the normal channels.”

And that’s coming from as red an elephant as we have in the nation today.

Kristol is right, of course. Just take a look at the imbecility and cowardice that have surrounded the fiscal-cliff negotiations, with congressional Republicans doing everything they could to stifle President Barack Obama, going so far as to exasperate even House Speaker John Boehner. We have Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell spouting about how he won’t write the Democrats a “blank check” — as if that’s really the issue here. But they all got too much heat in the kitchen, too much blame for mucking everything up again.

Today’s GOP practices fiscal policy as conceived by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity: no new taxes, cut social programs, leave the rich alone and let the poor suffer in silence.

This is politics as kamikaze warfare, conceived by Tricky Dick Nixon, with his Southern strategy, and honed for the 21st-century redneck by the tea party. It is the politics of a small man named Grover Norquist, who essentially dominates the entire Republican Party with his anti-tax pledge. It is the politics of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who dreams of a small government run by and for rich white men who read Ayn Rand before falling asleep.

Not everyone has left the path of reason. After Superstorm Sandy blew through town, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — talked about quite seriously as a 2016 GOP contender — inspected the damage with Obama and agreed that his state needed help. People understood, too, that government is more than just a nuisance, that it helps people in need, and not only after natural disasters. He also took Congress apart for playing politics and delaying the disaster money intended for New Jersey and New York. But the truth is, Christie is an outlier in the GOP, one of those rare conservatives unafraid to think his own thoughts and say what he believes, not just what will poll well in South Carolina. Too many of the elephants are pulled along by dark money funneled into their coffers by billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers.

And so their kamikaze attacks on the American ship continue, whether the issue is taxes or abortion. Our decks are taking heavy blows — but I do not think this ship will sink. I think we are on the verge of a bipartisan Golden Age. Millionaire hecklers will continue to mislead a diminishing GOP presence. The end might be nearer than we think.

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Stanley Crouch can be reached by email at crouch.stanley@gmail.com.

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