We find ourselves in an unusual situation, one in which our President’s sexual assaults, perjury, housing discrimination, mafia ties, fraud, unapologetic insults to combat veterans, his seemingly endless string of business failures, and his round the clock, effortless and even pointless lying all merge into a distracting static. What would be impeachable ethical lapses in any normal administration are reduced here to distractions. It is of paramount importance that we discover who owns this horrible troll in the White House and neutralize their influence over our government.
The problem is that Nixon’s Southern Strategy mostly flopped. By some measures he was less successful in the South than Goldwater had been and the Republicans made few inroads there farther down the ticket. The flight of the Dixiecrats didn’t materialize in serious numbers at the local level until the late ’80’s. Something else was at work here to turn the South red.
Poles of partisan alignment have been scrambled by a rare event, something unprecedented in our history. One of those three parties just completed a decades-long shift in its affiliation and it will take time for our system to establish a new equilibrium. This journey toward a redefinition of political parties has no certain endpoint, no roadmap, and no promise of a happy ending.
Scour the scriptures. Read them backward and forward, upside down and sideways. You will not find one prohibition on abortion, a practice as old as civilization, maybe older. Meanwhile, you can drop a Bible open to a random page and likely find a scathing passage condemning those who turn away refugees, strangers, the poor, the needy. Jesus was pretty explicit about the kind of matters that defined good and evil. Almost nothing in the present-day Republican Platform falls on Jesus’ good side.
How did sane Republicans acclimate themselves to a political environment constrained by insane demands? Through self-delusion and flight. In the decade after the takeover you could hear business Republicans, in private conversation, explain away the antics of anti-gay crusaders or bizarre abortion extremists as “harmless.” Religious fanatics welcomed into the party (and now occupying all major leadership positions) were “useful idiots” being manipulated toward the party’s wider business and commercial goals.
By the time that illusion became impossible to sustain, those who held it were either fully co-opted to the party’s new lunatic goals or had simply been pushed into irrelevance. As Orwell wrote in 1984, “We have always been at war with Eastasia.” When we abandon our attachment to empirical realities in pursuit of public calm, crazy takes over. Crazy, if tolerated, will in time create its own new normal, pushing reason to the margins before extinguishing it altogether.