Joe Klein: The GOP Has Become a Party of Nihilists

Joe Klien, in Time:

...How can you maintain the illusion of journalistic impartiality when one of the political parties has jumped the shark?

I'm not going to try. I've written countless "Democrats in Disarray" stories over the years and been critical of the left on numerous issues in the past.... There have been times when Democrats have run demagogic scare campaigns on issues like Social Security and Medicare. There are more than a few Democrats who believe, in practice, that government should be run for the benefit of government employees' unions. There are Democrats who are so solicitous of civil liberties that they would undermine legitimate covert intelligence collection. There are others who mistrust the use of military power under almost any circumstances. But these are policy differences, matters of substance. The most liberal members of the Democratic caucus — Senator Russ Feingold in the Senate, Representative Dennis Kucinich in the House, to name two — are honorable public servants who make their arguments based on facts. They don't retail outright lies. Hyperbole and distortion certainly exist on the left, but they are a minor chord in the Democratic Party.

It is a very different story among Republicans. To be sure, there are honorable conservatives, trying to do the right thing. There is a legitimate, if wildly improbable, fear that Obama's plan will start a process that will end with a health-care system entirely controlled by the government. There are conservatives — Senator Lamar Alexander, Representative Mike Pence, among many others — who make their arguments based on facts. But they have been overwhelmed by nihilists and hypocrites more interested in destroying the opposition and gaining power than in the public weal....There is no Republican health-care alternative in 2009. The same people who rail against a government takeover of health care tried to enforce a government takeover of Terri Schiavo's end-of-life decisions. And when Palin floated the "death panel" canard, the number of prominent Republicans who rose up to call her out could be counted on one hand.

I maintain some hope that out of the collapse of the GOP, some sort of rational party, dedicated to fiscal conservatism and limited but equitable government, might emerge from the wreckage. But then, I hoped for that after the GOP's defeat in 1992, and look what we got.

I'm starting to think that the anti-intellectualism that the Republican Party wed itself to in the late 1970s/early 1980s, when the monied interests saw how they could form a coalition with the Religious Right, may be the eventual death of the party -- and possibly the nation.

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