I'll be leaving my regular post here on the op-ed page in a few weeks and, in the last few columns, I want to take care of some leftover business.
Here's one of the things somebody needs to say.
Dear moderate Republicans, it's time to man up and take back your party.
Look, the real of job of conservatives in our democracy has always been to watch the money. It's what you do. You're typically in business, so your lives depend on it. That's why you're good at it. Back in the day, the rest of us relied on you to do exactly that -- to be the responsible partner in the relationship so that while those of us on the left worried over social justice, you carefully tracked the costs. It worked for everybody.
You've been marginalized lately on the political front because YOUR party -- the Republican Party -- has been rocked by a bunch of irresponsible yahoos. Your party leadership seemed to think it would be great to ride the demographic riptide left over from Mr. Reagan's Southern Strategy (now converted into followers of Palin and Beck) for as long as possible. They kept your party in power, but there's been a price. They began to test Republicans for ideological purity, purged moderates from the party, and pushed a social agenda rather than looking carefully after the money.
You should know, from your own market research, that a lot of those people fall into the category of so called "inner-directeds" -- a category in standard Values and Lifestyles analysis (VALs) that characterizes voters who describe themselves as looking for more "self-actualization." It was this group which, only somewhat counter-intuitively, voted for Reagan because he promised they could have whatever they wanted -- so long as they helped him "get government out of their way." It was brilliant, of course; starting with Reagan and culminating with Karl Rove and the Fox News demand-creation experts, those folks were the core swing votes who have kept lots of votes away from the Democrats.
Taking back your party will be great for everyone. Look what happened last time the Republican Party was able to dislodge its loony-fringe-social-engineering agenda: Newt and Bill balanced the budget and put America in the black. That worked pretty well until Karl Rove and Dick Cheney went back to those voters to squeak out an electoral victory over a Democrat who actually won the popular vote. And after 9/11 they deliberately went back to the inner-directeds in order to shore up power in the House and Senate -- and in state governments across the country. While they were unleveling the economic playing field and pillaging the US treasury for their favored corporate friends, they strayed well away from the kind of economic common sense most small businesses know is required for a healthy economy -- one in which competition, not no-bid monopolies, are encouraged and in which we don't balance the cost of our toys, or our wars, on the backs of our grandchildren.
Worst of all, sacrificing fiscal responsibility on the altar of ideological purity, as a kind of national Passion Play, has led Americans to think of themselves as consumers instead of citizens. That may be the most dangerous thing of all.
So look: America needs you. Get busy. Show up. Tell the yahoos to sit down and listen to reason. They won't listen to me, but they might listen to you. Make them learn about math. Make them read the Federalist Papers.
Don't forget that you're the real Republicans. The RINOs are those nut jobs who want the Republican Party to spend its political capital standing up for young earth creationism and Sarah Palin's understanding of geopolitics. Seriously, does that kind of Republican belong in the party of Lincoln?
It's up to you.
Sure sure, the Democrats have their own issues, but I promise those of us who can do math on the political left will exert ourselves, if you will -- and then maybe we can all have our country back.