Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Great Republican Purge of 2009

By Michael J.W. Stickings

And the self-immolation of the Republican Party, much of it at the hands of Dear Leader Rush himself, continues.

Earlier in the week, Colin Powell, long a loyal Republican (even with so many of us wondering why) criticized the nastiness of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and those like them. They are, simply, polarizing figures who engage in the politics of polarization, and, as a result, the Republican Party is in "deep trouble."

In response -- and the response was nothing if not predictable -- Limbaugh called Powell "just another liberal" and told him, pretty much, to get the hell out: "What Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat instead of claiming to be a Republican interested in reforming the Republican party."

Like so many Communist, Fascist, and otherwise ideologically extremist and absolutist parties, the Republican Party of Dear Leader Rush, which is to say, the Republican Party as it is right now (with some exceptions, but not many), is purging its ranks of those who don't toe the extremist, absolutist party line. Part of it is a response, post-2006 and -2008, to electoral defeat. Out of power, Republicans are dealing with crisis (insofar as being out of power amounts to a crisis, which it does for them, so enamored are they with power) not by opening up, not by seeking to expand their appeal, and hence their electability, but by closing down, by closing in on themselves, by narrowing themselves to ideological rigidity and intolerance, by suppressing (and eliminating) difference of all kind. Some of those who are different and who find themselves on the outside leave of their own volition -- like Arlen Specter. Some are openly ridiculed but remain -- like Meghan McCain. And some, just a few, stand firm, remaining in the party even as they are pushed and pushed out the door -- like Colin Powell.

With the party in shambles, struggling to rebrand itself, and almost completely bankrupt, we can expect much more of this going forward. What of those two moderates from Maine, for example, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe? How long will they remain in the fold? With secure seats in the Senate, they may just stay, but the purges will continue, and efforts to eliminate those like them, anyone and everyone who doesn't toe the line, will continue to define the Republican Party of our time.

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