Is Creeping Authoritarianism the Republican Party’s Problem?

Conservative David Frum has started a new website:

It appears to be an honest, self-reflective site devoted to thinking (seriously) about how to get the Republican Party out of the political wilderness.

I have long respected Frum, and his new site raises a question: Could a newly reconstituted Republican Party win the vote of a person like me?

I am somebody who considers myself a political moderate. I voted for Barack Obama, and I read Andrew Sullivan’s blog. I am a religious agnostic, and a liberal on most social issues, including gay marriage.

Having said that, the Republican party could win my vote IF the Democrats mismanage the economy or foreign policy AND moderate their social conservatism.

I realize that this is a tall order. 

This means, for example, that the Republican Party treats gays, Hispanics, urban working women, and black people with basic civility and respect, and that they treat science and intellectuals seriously. No more, in other words, BARACK THE MAGIC NEGRO juvenalia, and no more YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISM and GREENHOUSE EFFECT denialism (as if science is some huge joke).

But here is the problem. The Republican party is being taken over by religious authoritarians. I don’t know a more accurate way of describing them, and I don’t know how Frum, and other reasonable conservatives, moderate them.

Republicanism seems to have moved from a Romantic-era Reagan phase to an intellectually decadent phase.

And the center of gravity in the Republican Party seems to have moved from William F. Buckley and George Will (both intellectually nuanced and serious men) to “know-nothing” politicians like Sarah Palin and political Machiavellians like Hugh Hewitt.

And many of the people who holler loudest for Palin and Hewitt are religiously, politically, and temperamentally authoritarian—and come across as such.

Torture, for example, is okay with them, and the Bible says gays are evil “Sodomites,” and don’t deserve to live, and for them that is the final word on the matter. Period.

I recently heard Mike Huckabee use the word “sodomy” to describe the behavior of gay people, and I thought: “How does his party expect to win a reasonable 21st century person’s vote when its prospective leaders talk like that?”

I wish well, and hope that people like Frum represent the future of the Republican party. But creeping authoritarianism among its leaders and enthusiasts is the real ‘elephant’ in the room that needs to be talked about among Republicans.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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