The party I love really needs some help
By Matt K. Lewis (The Week)
In the wake of Mitt Romney’s embarrassingly lopsided defeat, the RNC has commissioned a blue ribbon panel of Republican insiders to perform what some have dubbed an “autopsy.”
They might as well call it an intervention. And Republicans need it.
Like a loving brother (or an abused spouse), I’ve spent the last couple of years — in vain — trying to nudge the GOP in the right direction. It has gotten old. Sometimes people or parties exhibiting self-destructive behavior only listen once they hit rock bottom and realize they are powerless. And powerless is indeed an appropriate way of describing the state of the GOP as the party stares over the fiscal cliff into the abyss.
Rock bottom is a prerequisite to improvement. If Marco Rubio or Bobby Jindal — or whoever — is to lead the party into modernity, they will need to be empowered to make some changes. Will the party surrender to this? It depends how humbled the GOP is.
So how did it get to this point? Anyone who has dealt with a troubled friend or loved one is familiar with the story’s basic outlines.
As long as the party was “functional” — as long as it could keep up appearances, put on a clean suit, and act like everything was okay — the party could put off the hard work recovery demands.
But let’s face it: Today, the party is just too old for this shit.
At some point, the GOP became delusional. It lied to itself — and then to us. The party said unbelievable things like, “the polls are skewed.”
The party thought it had… tiger blood.
The party surrounded itself with too many hangers-on and charlatans. Anyone who tried to bring the problem to the party’s attention was quickly attacked and purged.
You only hurt the ones who love you, right?
Okay… So now, how does the party get back on its feet? Going cold turkey won’t work. The party needs a program.
But the people conducting this autopsy, err, intervention, will have to act quickly. There may not be time for 12 steps.
As such, I would like to suggest to the panel of experts assembled by the GOP look at The Four Absolutes. (These principles come from the Oxford Group Movement, a precursor to Alcoholics Anonymous, and are mostly derived from the “Sermon on the Mount.”)
What are The Four Absolutes?
1. Honesty. As The Four Absolutes tract (published by the Cleveland Central Committee of A.A.) advises: “We must ask ourselves, over and over, ‘Is it true or is it false?'”
Embracing honesty seems like a good place for the GOP to begin. Whether it’s skewed polls or believing that if they just stand their ground they can get everything they want when negotiating a fiscal cliff compromise, the GOP must put away the reality distortion field and first be honest with itself. That is a critical first step before the party can earn the trust of others.
2. Unselfishness. As The Four Absolutes advise: “[W]e suggest you ask yourself over and over again in judging what you are about to do, say think or decide, ‘How will this affect the other fellow?'”
This is good advice for all of us — and good advice for the GOP on many levels.
For one thing, Republicans should think about how their policies will impact diverse groups of Americans. For example, ask: “How will the hard-working, Catholic, Latina mom feel about this? How will it affect her?”
This principle also comes into play when negotiating across the aisle. For example, when compromising on the fiscal cliff, Republicans would do well to remember the other side has troubles, too — they also have a base to keep happy.
That doesn’t mean the party shouldn’t drive a hard bargain. But it does mean you understand what expectations are unrealistic (especially when you don’t control the Senate or the White House).
3. Love. This seems obvious. You might disagree with someone over the issue of gay marriage, but if you love that person, it will impact your rhetoric in a beneficial way.
You may disagree with someone over contraception, but if you love that person — if you believe they are also a child of God — you might think twice before calling them a “slut.”
4. Purity. We’re not talking about ideological purity (though that’s not a bad thing). Instead, purity is defined as “a simple case of answering the question, ‘Is right, or is it wrong?'”
We should always be asking ourselves this question — for obvious reasons. But too often, I hear Republicans saying, “The other side does it too,” or “They’d do it to us, so we need to do it to them.”
Let’s be on the side of the angels. The best question to ask when deciding on which policies to pursue is, “Is it right, or is it wrong.”
The Four Absolutes: “‘Is it true or false?’; “‘Is it right or wrong?’; ‘How will this affect the other fellow?’; and ‘Is it ugly or beautiful?'”
Hang this on your mirror.
There is little doubt the team conducting the Republican intervention will come back with several recommendations to get this once-proud party back on the straight and narrow. They will probably include things such as increasing Latino outreach, narrowing the gender gap, and maybe ramping up the GOP’s technological proficiency.
These are all good things, but I can’t help thinking it boils down to some fundamental absolutes.