The Grand Old Party



Caitlin, when this thing blows, there isn’t going to be a magazine anymore. If you want to make this about Mike, make it about Mike. I don’t give a shit. You can resent me, you can hate me, but come Monday morning, we’re all going to have to answer for what we let happen here. We’re all going to have an apology to make! Jesus Christ! Don’t you have any idea how much shit we’re about to eat? Every competitor we ever took a shot at, they’re going to pounce. And they should. Because we blew it, Caitlin. He handed us fiction after fiction and we printed them all as fact. Just because… we found him “entertaining.” It’s indefensible. Don’t you know that?

(Shattered Glass, 2003)

If you come here on a regular basis, you know the state I was born.  On the most extreme end of things, there’s the Westboro church, but on the whole it’s not that conservative.   But I don’t think I’m insulting anyone when I say it’s accurate to call Kansas ‘Bob Dole Country.’  Percentage wise, it’s overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly conservative, overwhelmingly Christian (you discount the college towns, KC, and Wichita, and diversity doesn’t really exist).  I’m also reminded now every time I go home, by and large people in Kansas are SUPER friendly and smile and speak to strangers and are generally nice. So don’t make the leap to me saying conservatives are inherently…anything.

I was on the forensics team in high school, and I recall on one of our overnight trips I got into a discussion with one of the guys who was running the Young Republicans (really, again, not an exaggeration).  It certainly wasn’t about recruitment; it wasn’t about tearing each other down either.  It was the debate team: talk me through the logic of your point of view, let me see where we agree and where we disagree, and then I’ll present my side and why I came to my point of view.  All these years later, I couldn’t tell you if we were in Lansing or Leavenworth, but I do remember something he said to me that night that still sticks with me: ‘The older you get, the more conservative you become.’

We were teenagers, I was in the apex of my militancy.  I laughed and laughed.  Never me.

But he was right.

It’s very dependent on where you start from and what values are passed down to you, of course.  But once you start owning property, when you’re not the child but the protector who has to look out for your own children’s best interest; when you get the first pay stub that says ‘Here is what you grossed, here’s all the money the government is taking that you likely will never see again, and here’s what you get to actually take home with you. I’ve seen people genuinely change .1%.  And I’ve seen people BECOME the 1%.  But every adult I know has felt at some point, on some issue, ‘the Government needs to mind their own business on this one.’

So, for those of us who lean in a certain way but who genuinely want to hear both sides make their argument, what’s happened to the Republican Party has been appalling.  Where it’s at now isn’t completely surprising; we’ve watched things gradually move farther away from ‘these are the detailed policies we’re fighting for,’ and more name calling and ‘let’s just shut everything down because we can’t get our way’ for 8 years now.  There was no one single incident, I believe, that changed things from ‘a political party’ to a ‘reality show’.  But it’s outrageous to me that with a four to six year window to plan ahead for the best possible candidate to run for the open Presidency in 2016, the candidate presented by the GOP is someone with no experience in government at any level, and either completely ignorant or arrogamt to the constitutional limitations that every President is bound to.  And yes, the fact that he has a realistic chance of winning is incredibly telling for what people think of the Democratic Party and their candidate.  I have to let them get through their convention before I start throwing daggers their way.

But as many others have expressed this week, I kind of don’t even want to critique her (right now).  Going back to my simpler, teenage train of thought, ‘why is the Republican candidate even running for President?’ Seriously?  Because Obama cracked some jokes on him at a Correspondent’s Dinner?  Or because he wants to make America ‘Great’ Again?  Hear me out.  Successful businessmen are heavily involved in politics all the time.  That’s how these campaigns get funded.  The majority of these people we don’t know by name unless you’re following very closely.  But you can point to Bill Gates or Warren Buffett as men who use their influence to express their politics in one way; you can look at (my fellow Kansans!) the Koch Brothers as men who, up to a few days ago, seemed to have their fingerprints heavily involved in more conservative pursuits. Being the President of the United States would probably be a step down for all these guys, honestly.  So again, why does this ‘successful businessman’ feel that being the leader of the free world is the best way he can use his influence?  Or is it just an ego thing?

Is it?

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