I don’t want the Republican Party defeated next week.
This is written, just so you know, following an email exchange with a reader who suggested a recent column had been penned in consultation with the White House to soften the ground for a new presidential directive. It is written in the wake of a conservative talk show host telling his audience that the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape that damaged Donald Trump’s candidacy was a setup by CIA agent Billy Bush. It is written as the internet is in a state of mass arousal over a rumor that candidate Obama “flaunted his erection” to women reporters on his campaign plane in 2008.
It is written, in other words, on an average day in the pest-ridden, plague-infected swamp of rumor, rancor, conspiracy and flat-out bollocks that now counts as Republican political discourse. More to the point, it is written out of concern over what and how the country will be after next week’s election.
So yeah, I don’t want the GOP defeated.
I want it immolated.
I want it razed to the foundation, reduced to a moonscape, left unlivable even for cockroaches, much less newts. I want it treated like boot heels treat ants and furnaces treat ice cubes, treated like a middle-school basketball team playing the ’71-’72 Lakers.
Defeat is not enough. Let there be humiliation. Let there be pain.
This lavish disgust has nothing, absolutely zilch, to do with conservative ideology. It is not in opposition to Republican positions on taxes, regulation, LGBTQ rights, immigration or foreign policy. But it has everything to do with the party’s willing and expedient embrace of crazy.
Granted, Republicans did not invent paranoia, persecution complexes or reality estrangement. I remember as a child hearing the barbershop regulars spin elaborate theories of how the moon landing was a hoax and Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for a man” actually took place in a New Mexico desert.
It seemed pretty harmless at the time.
The GOP’s innovation was to harness and nurture that craziness for votes. It flattered and wooed the guy in the barbershop — and the woman in the beauty parlor — by taking them seriously. Through its media partners — Fox “News” and talk radio kingpins from Limbaugh on down — and with the timely arrival of the internet and social media, it gave them support and a megaphone.
In return, it reaped the nigh-nuclear energy of kooks, cranks, outcasts and iconoclasts whose take-no-prisoners anger invigorated a Grand Old Party. But they also pushed that party further and further to the right — past Nixon, past Reagan and the Bushes, past political and intellectual coherence. Past decorum.
Until finally, the party sold its soul to the Donald.
The damage to GOP credibility is profound. The damage to America is worse. We find ourselves a nation that cannot have meaningful discussion of its issues because some of us have pulled away from the center, from common cause and shared mission, choosing instead to dwell in a pestilential swamp where newspaper hacks collude with presidents and Billy Bush is Jason Bourne.
So the crazy must be rebuked emphatically, refuted in a way that leaves no doubt: We are better than this. That’s what’s best for the nation. It’s also what’s best for principled conservatives powerless against a virulent cancer that has metastasized through their party. Maybe they’ll be able to save that party — or build a new one. Either way, the mission statement here for thoughtful Americans could not be more clear. Do not defeat the GOP.
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, FL 33172. Readers may write to him via email at lpitts@ miamiherald.com.