Monday, September 26, 2022
Sept. 26, 2022

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Jayne: GOP of today is not my father’s Republican Party

By , Columbian Opinion Page Editor

I think of my dad. Whenever I ponder the modern Republican Party, I think of my dad.

Because today’s Republicans haven’t just gone off the rails, they have gone off the rails and careened into cars and smashed into a building and landed in a toxic waste dump. And that makes me wonder what my dad would have thought.

Roger Alan Jayne was a Republican, the kind who liked to say, “I voted for Nixon three times and I would vote for him again if I could.” He was a Ronald Reagan supporter before it became fashionable, an advocate for small government, and a “family values” voter without the hypocrisy required to vote for a thrice-married adulterer. Nothing wrong with any of that — well, except for the supporting-Nixon-despite-Watergate thing.

But Nixon, in many ways, represents the divide between responsible Republicans and modern Republicans. It was under Nixon that the Environmental Protection Agency was created, and he once said during a State of the Union address: “The great question of the ’70s is, shall we surrender to our surroundings, or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, to our land, and to our water?”

Peace with nature? Today’s GOP prefers a scorched-earth policy. To which my father would probably say, “What a bunch of bunk!”

Anyway, the state of new-age Republicans has come to mind in the past couple days. The GOP-led Congress, you see, passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that was signed Friday by President Trump. This will increase the federal debt, which recently passed $21 trillion and will further be fed by tax cuts passed late last year. Republicans pretend to believe — wink, wink, nudge, nudge — that tax cuts benefiting the wealthy will actually reduce the deficit. To which my father likely would respond, “Poppycock!”

Meanwhile, President Trump replaced his national security adviser with John Bolton, who just 22 days before wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal under the headline “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” Bolton wrote: “The threat is imminent, and the case against pre-emption rests on the misinterpretation of a standard that derives from pre-nuclear, pre-ballistic-missile times. Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute.”

So, because we don’t know, we should strike. Yes, the new national security adviser believes that preemptive war is not war, but security. To which my dad would have said … OK, he would have thought that was a good idea. He would have been wrong.


Undoubtedly, there is no shortage of criticism that can be lobbed at the Democratic Party. But the GOP controls Congress and the White House, and therefore its shortcomings demand more urgent attention. As Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote in a prescient essay about the Republican Party: “It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” That was in 2012; nothing has changed.

In pondering the political divide, the Trump card — so to speak — can be found in evidence that a foreign adversary tried to influence the 2016 election. This is problematic, and Trump could have said: “These are serious allegations. In order to preserve our democracy, I will support a full investigation that will get to the bottom of this. Our country is too important.” After all, that would be the mature and presidential thing to do.

Instead, he has blamed the FBI, the CIA, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, and President Obama. He has further distanced the GOP from the pro-American Republicans of the past. He has denigrated the party of Eisenhower, Reagan, and even Nixon. And if my father were still around as Trump tried to ignore the facts, I can hear his response: “Balderdash!”

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