Younger Americans don’t understand–probably cannot understand–how far the political pendulum has swung since 1980.
1980 was the year Ronald Reagan ran for President, and I ran for Congress. We were both Republicans, both excoriated as “too conservative.”
Today, Reagan would be too liberal for the “Freedom Caucus” and other far rightwing activists who have taken over the GOP in the intervening years. As for me, I haven’t changed my basic political philosophy at all (although I have changed my position on some issues after learning more, or examining accumulating evidence), and I’m now considered a wild-eyed liberal. At best.
Every once in a while, an old-time Republican decides to violate Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment (Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican), and publicly bemoan what has happened to a once-sane and responsible political party. Most recently, that person was Bob Dole. (I have a soft spot for Dole for a number of reasons, not least because his political action committee financially supported my campaign “back in the day.”)
In a recent interview on MSNBC, Dole bemoaned the current state of the Republican party, which he said had become “an extreme group on the right.” Dole harshly criticized Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, calling Trump “over the top” and saying that he “couldn’t understand” how people supported him.
Dole also opined that Ted Cruz is far too extreme, and not at all a traditional conservative. He criticized Cruz’ so-called Senate “achievements” of shutting down the government twice and calling Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) a liar on the Senate floor.
Dole, like many traditional and Reagan-era Republicans, represent an era that modern conservatives constantly idealize but is seriously disillusioned with the current extremism and ignorance of the Republican Party, which he’s said is “out of ideas.” Dole also said that he doubted Ronald Reagan would win the nomination if he ran in the current extremist climate of the Republican Party.
In the ultimate heresy, Dole also praised President Obama, calling him a “very good man.”
While saying that he probably wouldn’t support Hillary Clinton in a potential general election matchup with Trump or Cruz, Dole suggested that he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to vote for either of those Republican demagogues, saying with a laugh that he “might oversleep” on election day.
A good number of the remaining reasonable, disheartened Republicans are likely to oversleep on election day–or even vote Democratic.
After all, you don’t have to be excited about Hillary Clinton to recognize the gulf between competent and crazy.