I have seen so many pundits on both the right and the left calling on the Republican congresspersons to put country before party. In fact, there is a fine article about it here. I can understand those on the left saying that. But those on the right should know, the phrase country before party makes no sense to Republicans. To them, country and party are one. What is good for the country is good for the party, and what is good for the party is good for the country.
We talk about the Republicans who put country ahead of party during the Watergate hearings. But that was a different generation. After World War II, regardless of the friction between Republicans and Democrats, we were fairly well united as a country. During the war, Republicans and Democrats fought side by side, and the German bullets and Japanese kamikaze pilots did not ask for party affiliation before killing or maiming. The person who saved your butt didn’t either. Many of those congresspersons had served in some capacity in WWII.
There are no more WWII veterans in Congress. There is little understanding of what it means to fight for the survival of your country. And much has changed. I don’t think it began with Ronald Reagan. I am not sure it began with Richard Nixon. It might have begun with Barry Goldwater. (Certainly the purging of the moderates began then, as Prescott Bush pushed out Nelson Rockefeller in favor of Goldwater using the Rockefeller divorce as an excuse.) But I know as I was becoming an activist in the Republican Party during and after college, I was hearing an odd refrain. It was odd to me, because my parents, Republican activists, would have never have said it or even thought it. But here it was, “The Republican Party represents the true America.” They were in the business of delegitimizing any ideas but those offered by the party.
I have told before of a conversation I had with the county chairwoman in the 90s. She said, “You always vote for the person with an R beside his name. Always.” I said to her, “but what if that person is a Hitler type person?” Not that I thought that could happen in America, but it would, in my mind, justify voting other than R. She said, “The party knows what it is doing. They would weed out any Hitler. You have to trust the wisdom of the party.” (I should state, this conversation occurred shortly after I expressed concern that we were more concerned with fundraising from corporate donors than ordinary people, but I digress.)
After that conversation, I began noticing things in campaign speeches and ordinary conversation. Things that marginalized non-republican ideas. Things like, “They don’t really belong here.” Or, “They just don’t understand these things.” (Implying an intellectual or a moral superiority.) I started hearing about “The Real America,” which we heard ad infinitum a decade later from the beloved half term governor from Alaska. The Real America. Rural America, Southern States America, Factory America, Gun slinging America. And, interesting enough, Corporate America, who are as removed from the other Real Americas as I can imagine being. Real America was not the city people, even though they now outnumbered the Real America. Nor our vibrant minority communities who were rapidly becoming the economic engines.
I also found it jarring that the policies put forth for Real America didn’t benefit Rural America, Southern States America, or Factory America. Their policies were real hard on them. Sure, they had farm bills, but those only seemed to benefit corporate farms, not the hard working family farmer. And how could gutting the unions benefit Factory America? It couldn’t. It was merely a lip service, a ploy, an appeal to the emotions without passing through the brain. We all know what they were offering Southern States America. The only Real America that their policies helped were Corporate America.
But here it was. The Republican Party was equated to The Real America. It was the country. Everybody else is either an interloper or an agitator or not very bright. Party and country were one. You can’t ask people to put party before country if, in their minds, they are the same thing. The Republican Congresspersons will think they are putting country first, because to them, the party is the country. We are so screwed!