Among the more memorable things that President Ronald Reagan said is his Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." The irony is that he didn't need to say it because the GOP has long been loathe to air its laundry in public.
Their solidarity has not always served them well. George W. Bush received near unanimous party support as he cut taxes while waging a war of choice. Since then, many have regretted that more Republican voices weren't raised in challenge.
In the current debt-limit crisis, which most of us are thoroughly sick of, Republicans are again presenting a solid front. However, it's only a front. Behind the scenes, we are told, Speaker Boehner is warding off a challenge to his leadership by Congressman Cantor. His walking out of negotiations with the president makes us wonder if he isn't afraid that he can't deliver his caucus once a deal is reached.
Senior Republicans, especially in the Senate, are prepared to reach an accommodation with the Democrats over tax increases but are being shouted down by Tea Party members, mostly freshmen Congressmen, who are implacably opposed. And all the while, declared GOP presidential candidates are contributing no visible leadership on this issue. I suggest that the Republican party is not so much solidified as stalemated from within.
Is it a stretch to say that the Republicans are paying a price for cozying with the Religious Right? The party that should be the wellspring of economic wisdom and legislative prudence is now in the thrall of people whose economic convictions are as dogmatic as their ideas about abortion, creation, climate change, and the rights of gays.
I've often said that if America had a truly conservative party, I'd join it. But right now, I remain a social liberal/fiscal conservative without a home.
Perhaps the last generally admired Republican to occupy the oval office was Theodore Roosevelt. But as a trust-buster and an ardent conservationist, he might not have been a Republican today. Here is a campaign poster from 1900 that is marvellously detailed except that it neglects to identify the candidates. TR ran as the progressive William McKinley's new pick to be vice-president. McKinley was assassinated in 1901 by an anarchist. Click on the picture for a closer look and note the "bug" at the bottom of the page indicating that the poster was printed in a union shop.