Watching the Republican party on this Pearl Harbor Remembrance day brings thoughts to my mind of how close the modern Republican party has come to emulating many of the failed movements in American and world history. If we think back to the revolutionary war, we remember there were many colonists who took the side of the King's loyalists. They were known as Tories and fought long and hard for peace and repatriation with the English king. They weren't evil men, they were on the wrong side of history. They didn't see the rising tide of independence rising among their neighbors. Change was more important than the status quo.
We fast forward to the Civil War, or the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression. As divided as we were in this country during the Revolutionary War, we divided on more fundamental and core issues in 1861. This was a war of economics to many of the governing elite. Slavery was looked upon as an economic imperative for the success of the southern states. It was becoming an abomination of biblical proportions to many in the north. There was a movement afloat to view a person as a person without regard to the color of his or her skin. We thus had brother fighting against brother, father against son. We had mothers waiting for the sons they would never see again and wives who would raise children who would never know their fathers. And yet, none of these people were evil. They were on the wrong side of history. They couldn't understand that there was an inherent equality among all men. They killed and were killed to the tune of over 400,000 Americans. Yet they were not evil.
And we continued. Reconstruction and giving recently freed slaves the vote, suffrage and the eventual victory of women in getting equal voting rights. The elimination of poll taxes. In almost every case, the people who kept others from their rights weren't evil people, they were people who had views that were on the wrong side of history. We were moving toward inclusiveness and not away from that admirable goal. The road was slow, but those on the wrong side of history were beginning to be left behind.
We went through the great wars with Americans who sympathized with those who were aggressors against America and with those who supported the mass murder of entire groups of people. In many cases, these people thought that it was the will of their god. They were wrong. They were on the wrong side of history. Many of them have now fallen behind and will never catch up.
In the 1950s, the history of separate but equal education facilities was ended and almost two hundred years of government sponsored segregation came to an end. Throughout the 50s and the 1960s this nation divided on the issue of racial equality. Many marched, many died. Many defended what they believed was American tradition. Were these people evil? Most of them weren't. But they were all on the wrong side of history.
Even the end of the 1960s brought us anti-war movements which changed the nation. Not all believed the young people promoting a sense of international citizenship, but again, they were on the wrong side of history. Our world has gotten smaller.
Which brings us to December 7, 2012. There are indications that we are seeing the right side of history and the wrong side of history play out once again. We have seen a Republican party that has moved further and further to the right during the first decade of the 21st century. Whether it was a reaction to the attack on our nation by terrorist extremists on September 11, 2001, or an economic environment that encouraged greed rather than sharing, or a growth of an evangelical brand of religion that has become less accepting of those who don't believe the way they do, or a combination of all of these, the rightward drift became a shooting rapid.
By 2008, this conservatism was temporarily appeased by the nomination of Sarah Palin as Vice-President on the Republican ticket. After the Republicans badly lost the election for president, the house, and the senate, the rightward push became a tsunami. These people weren't evil, they were not ready for the demographic changes occurring in this country. Their movement became known as the "TEA Party" and the most conservative of Republican politicians quickly jumped on the bandwagon.
By 2010, it looked like the track of the country was moving strongly toward this conservative wave. The most conservative Republican house ever was sworn in and they almost won the senate. They won state house after state house. It looked like they were going to be an unstoppable force in the American political scene. Conservatives were sworn in everywhere. They weren't evil. They just had no idea how to govern.
The past two years have been a battle for the direction of America. It became obvious early on that the Republican and Democratic parties would be presenting two very different visions of America. Those visions would be so different that they would shape the direction of the country for the next half century. How would we move forward with health care? Would social security and Medicare be privatized? Would Medicaid continue? Would government be a factor in infrastructure development or would it be a totally private endeavor? What was the future of public education?
As the election got closer, the parties were farther apart. The results were astonishing. The president won the election easily. The democrats increased their senate majority and tightened the republican majority in the senate. The Republican party was left in shambles. Within a month there were at least three factions of a Republican party fighting for supremacy. A traditional republicanism that was attempting to spread a message of a larger tent party. An even farther right brand of republicanism who was claiming that the reason the republicans lost the last two national elections was because they were too liberal. And finally, a conservative group of legislators that weren't sure where to go, or what to believe. They saw the results of the election and realized that the nation is going a different direction.
This is a watershed moment. Just within the past week, Dick Armey quit his position as chairman of Freedom Works and Jim DeMint quit his senate seat to become the president of the Heritage Foundation. Many of the highest profile TEA party legislators were sent home by the electorate. Joe Walsh in Illinois, Allan West in Florida both failed to return to the house while Richard Mourdock of Indiana and Tom Akin of Missouri lost very winnable senate seats. Republicans are running like the wind from promises they made to Grover Norquist never to raise taxes.
We are a country of change. In almost 250 years of existence, we have moved inexorably forward. There is a belief that we are a center right country, but the facts belie that. We are progressives. We lead the world. We are leading the world in the guarantee of women's rights, LGBT rights, civil equality, etc. We are leading the world out of recession. Those who oppose these changes are not evil people. They are just on the wrong side of history. The TEA party is heading in the opposite direction as the rest of the country. They are good people looking for the wrong solutions. This Pearl Harbor Day just reminds me that history always has a right direction and a wrong direction. Our recent election was the right direction. The Republican party is headed in the wrong direction.