When we’re kids we try out identities. Do we want to be viewed as tough or brave? Do we want to be seen as smart or thoughtful? Of course how we view ourselves is most impacted by how we want others to view us. This process is particularly prominent in high school. Who we choose to hang out with tells much about how we see ourself and want others to see us. The process of self-exploration and identity choice continues and usually solidifies in college. Naturally, there is the potential for a “life-altering” experience at any time in our lives. But for the most part, our identity is pretty well fixed by the time we reach our early 20s. By then we have reached a point of being comfortable with who we are and are willing to live with the consequences of that identity, both positive and negative. When one reaches this point, in our society, he is said to have matured. Unfortunately, the GOP is composed of a group of adults who have yet to reach maturity. They are still seeking an identity.
This wasn’t always the case. There was a time when the Republican Party consisted of a group of people who were clear and focused. As a Democrat I didn’t always agree with them, but I knew where they stood. I also knew that they were open to compromise if it would ultimately lead to a viable solution to a problem. While there have always been extremists in both parties, the majority have leaned in a more moderate direction, allowing for that compromise. The Republicans were comfortable enough with themselves then, to be flexible and deviate from “party orthodoxy”. They were willing to take the heat from some within their constituency who might disagree. Certainly, it wasn’t always easy, and courage sometimes came with a price, but some of our nation’s most important legislation was passed because of that courage.
Today the “art of compromise” has been discarded for the “art of distraction”. While at one time the goal in both the house and the senate was to identify problems, develop solutions and pass legislation to implement those solutions, the goals are quite different today. In today’s congress hearings have become the distraction to replace legislative action. I am aware that there are some who will claim that I am viewing the past through rose-colored glasses, but they are wrong. I have been closely watching the work of congress for nearly six decades, and I have never seen a more distasteful, self-serving and destructive group of legislators than the current GOP. They would rather switch than fight. That is, their identity is so weak that they would rather completely reverse their positions under pressure, than fight for what they believe. In fact, they are so afraid to offend those who do hold a strong position, that they would rather do nothing at all. They haven’t yet figured out what group they want to hang out with. The GOP today is a party seeking an identity, yet they are afraid to make the hard decisions we all make when we move towards maturity.
This past Tuesday Eric Cantor paid the price for his lack of maturity. The Tea Party has taken over much of the GOP because they are clear and focused. As I said in my last blog post, to think that the Tea Party is meeting its demise is missing the point. The fact is that the GOP has been so ideologically bankrupt, that the Tea Party is simply moving in and becoming the GOP. If that transition becomes complete, the chance for compromise on any issue will fade with the sunset.
Remember the kid in school who was a bit of a nebbish but suddenly became tough because he allowed himself to be co-opted by the “black leather jacket” group. We know he wasn’t really tough. But he had the cover of his new-found friends to protect him. Is that what the GOP really wants?