As we watch the Washington, D.C., merry-go-round of lobbying scandals, CIA outings, anti-gay-marriage pandering, anti-flag-burning hysteria, and mounting evidence of incompetence in all spheres of government, we are disposed to ask a serious question: Where did the real Republicans go?
We're talking about those solid, sober folks who personified the Grand Old Party until the 1990s. They believed in small government, states' rights, fiscal responsibility, science, and competence. They believed in God and country and honor and morality. They were more likely to be Episcopalians than Holy Rollers. They drank dry martinis and belonged to country clubs, but they had a sense of right and wrong, noblesse oblige. Democrats were the emotional do-gooders. Republicans were the realists who asked, "Just how are we going to pay for this?" and "Where's the research?" They were logical. Boring, but logical.
Not these days. These days, comparatively speaking, Republicans are the guys in tinfoil hats, suspending logic in favor of, well, we're not really sure. Magic beans, maybe.
Small government? Balderdash, say today's Republicans. The government should have the right to monitor all our phone calls and e-mails. Whistle-blowers who expose government malfeasance should be fired without recourse. The president has the right to ignore all bills signed into law if he feels like it.
Fiscal responsibility? Don't be silly. Balanced budgets are for sissies. Deficits are a good thing. All we need is another tax cut and things will work out just fine. So what if China owns us?
Science? Hogwash. Global warming is just a theory. Stem-cell research kills babies. Homosexuals make a conscious decision to become gay. Evolution is a crackpot theory. The Bible told me so.
Competence? How quaint. We appoint as department heads those who have raised the most money for the party or who are old cronies. It's worked really well for FEMA, Homeland Security, Interior, Education, and the CIA.
Separation of church and state? Only if it's your church, pal. My God is America's God, and don't you forget it.
Morality? That's for suckers. Just ask Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, Ralph Reed, Scooter Libby, or Karl Rove. (Space prohibits us from listing all those indicted or convicted so far.)
Honor? Sending undermanned and under-armored American troops into harm's way on a harebrained theory and a pack of lies? So what? We'll stand down when the Iraqis stand up. And they will eventually. Or they'll all kill each other. No matter. Stay the course. You gotta believe.
It's all too much. It's as though an invasion of the body-snatchers has spirited away the real Republicans and replaced them with badly wired imitations. And it's enough to make us ask one more question, just for nostalgia's sake: Who's going to pay for this?
We're afraid we know the answer to that one.