A couple of years ago, the redoubtable Peggy James persuaded me to attend my Republican precinct caucus. I had forgotten that I was a Republican. I'd moved back and forth between parties a dozen times, depending on which primary I wanted to vote in. Like many Americans, I saw political parties as largely irrelevant; catchall collections of true believers, ideologues and dismal hacks yearning for petty elective office.
The caucus was at least as entertaining as a Friends rerun. Fifteen or twenty folks from our downtown neighborhood gathered in Peggy's living room to choose precinct chairs and delegates to the County convention. To my surprise (and to the dismay of some of the attendees!), I was elected precinct co-chair.
One cheerful middle-aged woman, who apparently worked at Focus on the Family, was upset and baffled. "Well," she said, "I'm sure that you're a perfectly nice person, but I always thought you were a Democrat! You're much too liberal! What kind of a Republican are you, anyway?"
"A Marxist Republican," I replied gravely. "I believe in the historical inevitability of the election of Marcy Morrison." And in a room full of Marcy's supporters, that was enough.
So as a proud Marxist Republican, I've followed the trials and tribulations of my adopted party with interest. I've watched congressional Republicans mount a sordid little putsch, attempting to force a president out of office for ... well, who knows? I've watched most every Republican candidate for national office happily pander to the Republican fringe -- the gun nuts, the religious exclusionists (as in "The Lord does not hear a Jew's prayers"), the conspiracy theorists, the Confederate irredentists, the violent anti-abortionists -- it's a very long list.
It's almost enough to make you become a Democrat, except that I'm not interested in trading in one set of embarrassing in-laws for another. Trade Pat Robertson for Al Sharpton? No thanks.
And anyway, being a Republican these days is way too much fun. Who would want to leave a party that, as it selects its candidate for the presidency, is behaving with the loony irrationality that you'd expect of, say, Timothy Leary three hours after a 500 microgram hit of acid?
Let's review the events of the past year. Party bigwigs anoint Dubya as the once and future candidate, because he's personable, handsome, genial, appealing to minorities, independents, and democrats, and therefore electable. They choose not to emphasize that he's also (in Bill Maher's words), "a lazy, ignorant, do-nothing preppie." Dubya proceeds to veer sharply to the right, thereby infuriating all of those Dems, moderates and minorities that he supposedly appeals to.
Meanwhile, there's another candidate out there. He's an authentic American hero who has triggered a wave on enthusiasm among ordinary voters that we haven't seen since the Kennedy brothers. He's a rock-solid conservative who somehow appeals to lefties and moderates. All the polls show that he'd trounce Al Gore in November.
The same polls show Dubya getting his butt kicked all the way back to Austin.
So as a Republican voter, what do you do? Go with the war hero, the winner, the probable next president? Of course not!! See, the Dems don't really like McCain; they're just voting for him in open primaries cause they know he'll be easy to beat! And he's not really a conservative; don't be fooled by that sixteen-year voting record in the Senate; he was just pretending! This is Dubya's line, the establishment line, the religious right's line, and it looks like the majority of Republicans are gobbling it up, hook, line and sinker.
And that's too bad for Republicans, because it'll mean that the first great political battle of this century will be won by the Democratic party. Eight years ago, Bill Clinton tried to remake the Democrats as the inclusive, reasonable party of the moderate center. But for Monica, he might have succeeded, and marginalized the GOP for years to come.
Strangely enough, it looks like Governor Bush is going to finish the job that Governor Clinton started. If he's nominated, Dubya will be the beneficiary of an unholy alliance between special-interest moneybags and the Republican fringe. Plays well at Bob Jones U.; not quite so appealing to the rest of us.
So say hello to President Gore, and watch him shed the left fringe of the Democratic Party. Watch President Al maneuver the GOP into permanent minority status. And watch the GOP's reptilian right blame everybody else for their loss of power.
Too bad, guys; if you'd stuck with Marx, none of this would've happened.