Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation with Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson.
Bagley: I was looking for a guest commentator who would defend the proposition that Obama is a Muslim-Kenyan-gun-grabbing socialist, but visitors to Bedlam are discouraged from riling up the inmates. So I pose the question to you: Is the GOP a normal party, or is it manifesting symptoms common to a mental illness? You know, delusions, paranoia ...
Lambson: Not being a Republican or a Democrat, I don't really have a dog in this fight. I will point out that the GOP is not a living, breathing individual but a collection of complex human beings. So it cannot really be diagnosed as having delusions or paranoia. Perhaps with its combination of the religious right, libertarians, neoconservatives, and so on, it might be thought of as exhibiting multiple personality disorder. Not unlike the Democrats, with their collection of socialists, environmentalists, blue dogs and the occasional KKK grand dragon. I am reminded of Will Rogers' remark that he didn't belong to an organized political party because he was a Democrat.
Bagley: KKK? Really? There's that vacation from reality that I'm talking about.
Lambson: It has been a while since Democrat George Wallace stood with ax handle in hand barring the entrance of black students to a whites-only school. It has been a while since young Democrat Robert Byrd associated with the KKK. I am not arguing that the Klan is an important force in American politics (thankfully), only that the Democratic Party is a large tent. Treating either party as a monolith is simplistic and misleading.
Bagley: The GOP used to be a large tent. Back in the day, one could be an anti-war, pro-gun-control, feminist, progressive, pro-choice Republican and march arm-in-arm with the leaders of the Black community in support of civil rights. But the days when a George Romney (father of the current GOP nominee and supporter of all the above-named causes) was part of a vibrant wing of the party are long gone. Today, deviation from standard Republican ideology gets one branded a RINO (Republican in Name Only) and purged from the right-wing temples of orthodoxy. Conservative columnist Christopher Buckley (son of National Review founder William F. Buckley) once strayed too far off the reservation,
"... the only thing the Right can't quite decide is whether I should be boiled in oil or just put up against the wall and shot. Lethal injection would be too painless."
Here's a recent column from a former Reagan official and another contributor to National Review on why he finds today's right wing narrow, rigid and intolerant: "My break with the extreme right" Salon.com
Lambson: In the sixties there was enough room for Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon. Now there seems to be enough room for Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. There are always intraparty struggles, but that doesn't imply that one faction of the party walks.
Bagley: The Democrats are showing all the usual dysfunctions common to political parties, but what we see with the GOP is unusual to American politics. Unusual in a bad way. Nixon and Goldwater would be drummed out for being too liberal.
Lambson: One purpose of a political party is to advance an ideology. Sometime we will have to discuss what standard Republican ideology is. I suspect we will find it depends on which Republicans are defining it, which would support my assertion that the GOP is not monolithic.
SuperEllipsoid had the best comment and interesting accompanying remarks. I liked both the tone and the conciseness. "CRA-qualifying loans are tracked by both the lending banks and by HUD for compliance purposes. Has anyone actually looked at the numbers to determine whether CRA-qualified loans may have defaulted at a significantly higher rate than non-CRA loans?"