I rejoice that Barack Obama has won re-election. It is terrifying that the Republican Party, as presently constituted, should control the White House.
I have stated many times that I believe that the United States needs two healthy political parties. There is plenty of room for disagreement about a host of important topics. This will always be so.
However, the Republican Party is in deep trouble. It would be better for America, and better for the Republican Party itself, to rid itself of the following diseases:
1. The Republican Party tolerates denialism. It somehow feels free to deny scientific fact whenever those facts conflict with the financial interests of its wealthiest members.
2. The Republican Party is based on religious conservatism. As a militant atheist, I regard any religious basis for political power as revolting opportunism, but basing a political agenda on the religious doctrines of a small minority of Americans is a recipe for permanent minority status.
3. The Republican Party is a party of fiscal and monetary chicken hawks. Its leaders talk about reducing the deficit, but are, in fact, in favor of budget-busting programs such as the prescriptions drug benefit and the F-35 fighter. John Mauldin, a prominent financial analyst, eloquently writes about the dangers of large deficits on the one hand, while on the other hand he counsels his rich clients about how to avoid taxes. How can he not see the contradiction?
4. The Republican Party somehow believes that the wealthiest people in the United States should be exempt from shared sacrifice, and that the rich should be specifically exempted from higher taxes. This is an absolute failure of political, economic and moral leadership.
5. The Republican Party embraces, rather than repudiates, the contemptible practices of Fox News. It has become a party of 24/7 propaganda and self deception. A healthy party would welcome real debate; the present diseased party tolerates the shouting down of all who would dare disagree with it.
To summarize, the Republican Party asks, "What can government do for me?" (less taxes, more contracts, more religious conformity), rather than, "What can government do for all its citizens?". The Republican Party seems unable to confront the world as it is: a world that is mostly poor, mostly non-white, and deeply in danger of ecological calamity. It is a party of the insulated and isolated privileged and of the religious fringes. It can, and must, do better.