While I’ve been watching from afar with horror the increasing nastiness in the U.S. elections, I’m starting to see a ray of light shining from the end of the tunnel. And I’m not referring to November 4th, when I’m hoping that we’ll have a good, intelligent president in office who might have a chance of making the US into a place where I want to return. I’m talking about the future of the Republican party.
From watching the McCain/Palin rallies on YouTube, I had started to conclude that the Republican party had degenerated into a troublesome frat house party that deserved to be kicked out of the electoral college. From listening to the deeply embedded racism of “normal” Americans becoming once again overt and somehow publicly acceptable, I was starting to conclude that half the country would be perfectly happy to lynch my candidate as part of their commitment to “family values.”
And then I started hearing from some of the most senior members of the Republican party, rejecting McCain and Palin along with the disgusting attacks they’ve been orchestrating and encouraging. Christopher Buckley, Christopher Hitchens, George Will, Kathleen Parker and others have been writing fantastic pieces in which I begin to see a glimmer of what the Republican party used to be like.
Don’t worry – I’m not one of those Reagan fanatics who thinks the “good old days” were in the early 80′s. But I grew up in a town which is predominantly Republican, with history teachers who were predominantly Republican, and while I’ve never felt a desire to join them, through their teaching I got to know a very different Republican party than the one which we see now. Starting in 7th grade, I spent lots of time reading articles by George Will and William F. Buckley, I did three reports (three!) on Millicent Fenwick (who I absolutely loved), and I got to know a Republican party which valued education, a balanced budget, and preserving the environment. It was also a party which harbored racism, antisemitism, misogyny, and other delightful things, but as a naive, optimistic teenager I assumed that as time passed, those things would die out along with all the old WASPy guys who ran the place.
But it hasn’t happened. The Republican party ceased to be a “worthy adversary” long ago, and instead we’re faced in this election with the terror of seeing Sarah Palin on the ticket which is still holding onto more than 40% of the popular vote. Millicent Fenwick must be watching in horror.
But as much relief as I feel to see Obama’s numbers going up, I’m just as relieved to see that there remains a group of Republicans who see themselves the way I learned to see them. I’m happy to hear that some Republicans aren’t the monsters they appear to be on the nightly news. I’m thrilled to see that many thinking Republicans are voting for Obama next month, registering their disgust with their own candidate. And I’m looking forward to a day when the Republican party will again be a worthy adversary, so that the prospect of a Republican White House is more likely to annoy me than to make me consider moving to some country that isn’t too close to Alaska.