October 8, 2007
Thurman “No Relation” Hart on why, even with the latest round of corruption charges against high-profile Democrats, New Jersey shows no serious signs of tipping over into red territory:
It can’t be that New Jerseyans don’t know what Republicans stand for. And I think that is exactly the problem. We know what they stand for, and we would, collectively, rather have a party that is afraid of confronting its own corrupt elements than one whose economic policies have failed. In a choice between a bit of corruption on the one hand and total rejection of reality on the other, corruption doesn’t look so bad.
Listen, I watched my home state of Texas rush to the bottom of nearly every social ranking – insurance, family income, schools – as Republicans gained control of the government. Bankrupting the treasury while refusing to provide even those services required by the Constitution just isn’t a platform most people want to see enacted.
It isn’t that Jersey and the rest of the “blue states” are doing such a great job with insurance, family income, schools (let’s throw “road and bridge maintenence” in the mix as well). But it’s pretty obvious at this point that one party keeps saying, “I want to address this issue by enacting programs targeted at these problems.” It’s also pretty obvious that the other party keeps saying, “I want to address this issue by cutting taxes and letting things just happen naturally.” Throwing money at problems doesn’t always make them go away, but just starving every program for money hasn’t seemed to improve a single thing.
Democrats have a second reason why they are a more stable coalition than the Republicans. It is still possible to find conservative Democrats. Some are socially conservative and some are simply fiscally conservative. There are Blue Dog Democrats and Pro-Life Democrats and Black and Hispanic Democrats and Stonewall Democrats. Not every Republican is a white male, but I can’t think of many Pro-Choice Republicans or any Republican who would proudly put the word “moderate” in front of his/her name. In fact, when Colin Powell made a comment about being a “Rockefeller Republican”, he was quickly told not to use that term (so the story goes — and it isn’t hard to believe).
This past summer, I went to hear Jeff Cohen, author of the recent and excellent book Cable News Confidential, speak in South Jersey. Someone in the audience asked him why any progressive should support the Democratic Party, given the utter incompetence and lack of initiative the party leadership has shown in dealing with King George II, and the party’s willingness to go along with funding for the squalid Iraq venture. Cohen replied that the Democrats have always had a progressive wing that needs and deserves electoral support so it may continue to influence and, with continued help, rise to dominate the party.
There is no equivalent progressive wing of the GOP — as recovering Republican John Cole points out, the GOP has nothing to offer anyone who isn’t a barking-mad Bible banger, a corporate crook or a neocon caught up in a Jack Bauer fantasy. Add to that the fact that while Garden Staters are frequently appalled at the corruption that often nestles within the state’s bosom, its presence is grounded in the nature of New Jersey’s governmental structure. Our antiquated collection of little county fiefdoms, each with its own set of poobahs and agencies geared to dispensing patronage, naturally lends itself to this kind of thing. Given the same opportunities, plenty of Republicans participate eagerly in the same money-grubbing sleaziness. As for creating a viable third party — well, I’ve seen at least three serious attempts at such a thing in my lifetime. And yet, here we are.
There are plenty of good, effective, progressive Democrats at work, and their party embraces a vocabulary and a philosophy that can allow them to do good things. The closest thing conservatives have to a progressive wing is the Libertarian party, which gets lots of little things right but consistently falls flat on the big things. The Republican sleaze now rampant in Washington D.C. isn’t an aberration — it’s the logical outcome of the “government doesn’t work” mantra that styles all government activity as a scam for mulcting the taxpayers. When you treat the very idea of stewardship and public service with contempt, there can be no dishonor in using government to loot the public treasury for the benefit of yourself and your cronies. And I have yet to see any “moderate” or “independent” Republican, whether in New Jersey or anywhere else, who has opposed any of this in any meaningful way.
I’ve voted for Republicans in the past and I sure hope I might be able to do so again in the future. But right now, I see support for the Democrats as the only way to go. At least we speak the same language. The grunts and hisses coming from the right side of the aisle are nothing that I or any other intelligent American should bother listening to.