A conservative, a moderate and a liberal walk into a bar. The bartender turns, looks up and says “Hello Mitt What will you have today.”
Watching the Republicans struggling to agree on a presidential candidate, one wonders whether the GOP shouldn’t just sit this election out – just give 2012 a pass.
You know how in Scrabble sometimes you look at your seven letters and you’ve got only vowels that spell nothing? What do you do? You go back to the pile. You throw your letters back and hope to pick up better ones to work with. That’s what Republican primary voters seem to be doing. They just keep going back to the pile but still coming up with only vowels that spell nothing.
There’s a reason for that: Their pile is out of date. The party has let itself become the captive of conflicting ideological bases: anti-abortion advocates, anti-immigration activists, social conservatives worried about the sanctity of marriage, libertarians who want to shrink government, and anti-tax advocates who want to drown government in a bathtub.
Sorry, but you can’t address the great challenges America faces today with that incoherent mix of hardened positions. I’ve argued that maybe we need a third party to break open our political system. But that’s a long shot. What we definitely and urgently need is a second party – a coherent Republican opposition that is offering constructive conservative proposals on the key issues and is ready for strategic compromises to advance its interests and those of the country.
Without that, the best of the Democrats – who have been willing to compromise – have no partners and the worst have a free pass for their own magical thinking. Since such a transformed Republican Party is highly unlikely, maybe the best thing would be for it to get crushed in this election and forced into a fundamental rethink.
Because when I look at America’s three greatest challenges today, I don’t see the Republican candidates offering realistic answers to any of them.
The first is responding to the challenges and opportunities of an era in which globalization and the information technology revolution have dramatically intensified, creating a hyperconnected world.
This is a world in which education, innovation and talent will be rewarded more than ever. This is a world in which there will be no more “developed” and “developing countries,” but only HIEs (high-imagination-enabling countries) and LIEs (low-imagination-enabling countries).
The second of our great long-term challenges are our huge debt and entitlement obligations. They can’t be fixed without raising and reforming taxes and trimming entitlements and defense. We absolutely cannot just cut entitlements and defense. That would imperil the personal security and national security of every American. We must also reform taxes to raise more revenues.
But when all the Republican candidates last year said they would not accept a deal with Democrats that involved even in tax increases in return for in spending cuts, the GOP cut itself off from reality. It became a radical party, not a conservative one. And for the candidates to wrap themselves in a cartoon version of Ronald Reagan is fraudulent.
Our third great challenge is how we power our future – without dangerously polluting and warming the earth – as the global population grows from 7 billion to 9 billion people by 2050, and more and more of them want to drive, eat and live like Americans.
Two billion more people who want to live like us? We can’t drill our way out of that challenge, which is why energy efficiency and clean power will be the next great global industry. Real conservatives – like Richard Nixon, the father of the Environmental Protection Agency, and George H.W. Bush, the author of the first cap-and-trade deal to curb acid rain – believe in conserving. The current Republican candidates are so captured by the oil and coal lobbies that they can’t think seriously about this huge opportunity for energy innovation.
Until the GOP stops being radical and returns to being conservative, it won’t provide what the country needs most now – competition – competition with Democrats on the issues that will determine whether we thrive in the 21st century. We need to hear conservative fiscal policies, energy policies, immigration policies and public-private partnership concepts – not radical ones. Would somebody please restore our second party? The country is starved for a grown-up debate.
Friedman is a columnist for the New York Times and a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner.
Once upon a time, in a land far away, a right wing republican happened upon a frog sitting and contemplating ecological issues on the shores of an unpolluted pond in a verdant meadow near a pristine castle. The frog hopped into the republicans lap and said ” I was once a great leader who presided over a land of plenty. All my subjects were employed and our standard of living was the best in the world and we had cured almost all diseases. Our educational system was second to none and home ownership was the norm. If you will save me and take me home I will give to you all the secrets of creating a virtual garden of eden here on earth.” That night, the republican dined sumptuously on a repast of lightly sautéed frog legs seasoned in a white wine and shallot cream sauce.
What do you call a Republican who makes their money honestly?
You might be a Republican if…
You’ll spend billion guarding a bridge against the possibility of a terrorist attack, but won’t spend 20 cents to keep it from falling down on its own.
Where can you find a Republican politician who’s not currently taking bribes?
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Rush Limbaugh was riding down a country road in his limo, when his driver accidentally hit and killed a pig. Limbaugh told the chauffeur to drive up to the farm and apologize to the farmer. They drove up to the farm, and the chauffeur got out. He knocked on the front door and was let in, but remained inside for a surprisingly long time. When the chauffeur returned, Limbaugh asked what had taken so long.
“Well,” the driver explained, “when I went in, the farmer shook my hand and offered me a beer. Then his wife brought me some cookies, and his daughter showered me with kisses.”
“What did you tell the farmer?” Limbaugh asked. The chauffeur replied, “I told him that I was Rush Limbaugh’s driver and I’d just killed the pig.”
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