Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The GOP's Multiple Personality Disorder

Whatever happened to the oh so resolute Republicans? THEY'RE the ones accusing Kerry of not knowing where he stands on issues? In advance of the Republican convention, the GOP is having a major identity crisis.

After arguably sabotaging the GOP's presidential ambitions during the 1990s, the factions of the Republican Party that we formerly would have called fringe did an excellent job of shutting the hell up in 2000 so that Bush could credibly run as a moderate and win, which sucked for Gore since he was trying to do the same. But after more than 3 years of a Bush presidency, it is quite clear that his policies ranging from the "partial birth abortion ban", the proposed federal amendment banning gay marriage, the restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and his slew of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, have been designed to shore up the far right "base" of the Republican Party, a large chunk of which apparently did not vote at all in 2000 for fear that Bush would be too moderate.

The proposed party platform released today, a final draft of which will be ratified by delegates at the convention next week, confirms in black and white this party's far right wing stances on issues by asserting support for federal constitutional amendments banning both gay marriage and abortion as well as Bush's stem cell research stance. As The Washington Post reports:

Republicans who back gay rights and abortion rights had little chance of shaping those planks more to their liking. But they hoped, at least, to have the party offer a strong statement declaring its openness to opposing views on those subjects.

The gay-rights group Log Cabin Republicans, abortion-rights group Republicans for Choice and the Republican Youth Majority have proposed a much more expansive "unity" plank that promised to be a hard sell in the hearings.

The platform draft, "refusing to unite our party and refusing to recognize that people of good faith can disagree over contentious social issues, sends the wrong message to fair-minded voters," said Patrick Guerriero, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. Ann Stone, national chair of Republicans for Choice, said: "It was their chance to show George Bush as a uniter not a divider, but clearly they have failed."
On the other hand, the Republicans ARE trying to put a more moderate and fair-minded face on the party by giving the most prominent (read: prime time) convention speech slots to popular high profile moderates such as Arnold Schwarzenneger, Rudy Giuliani and New York Governor George Pataki, gay rights and abortion rights supporters all. In addition, Dick Cheney, in a campaign speech yesterday, broke with his boss on the Federal Marriage Amendment:

Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue our family is very familiar with. With the respect to the question of relationships, my general view is freedom means freedom for everyone. ... People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to. The question that comes up with the issue of marriage is what kind of official sanction or approval is going to be granted by government? Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that fundamental decision of what constitutes a marriage...At this point, say, my own preference is as I've stated, but the president makes policy for the administration. He's made it clear that he does, in fact, support a constitutional amendment on this issue.
We wonder where warm and fuzzy Dick was when the amendment was actually going up for a vote.

The idea that this party is anything but right wing is a farce. Of course it makes sense for them to try appeal to moderate voters, whom they seem just now to be realizing they need in November, but they do so with zero credibility. Yes the conventions are scripted produced affairs, so perhaps I should know better than to be outraged when the party goes into hair and makeup for its prime time debut. But one thing the Democrats had going for them in Boston was consistency. On the subject of the war, Kerry's standing by his vote of support for the war resolution was reflected in the party platform as well as in the prime time schedule. The largest concession Kucinich could get out of the platform was that "reasonable people have differences" on the issue, and the fiery anti-Iraq war rhetoric of Howard Dean, Al Sharpton and even Jimmy Carter was kept out of prime time, opting for a more moderate voice. We may not be thrilled with the moderate tone struck by the Dems in Boston but it reflected real unity that was palpable outside the artifice of the convention. The Republicans had it in 2000 and they won. This time it's our turn.


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