What does the Republican Party stand for any more? If you had asked an old line GOPer, like Colin Powell 10 years ago, he might have said that it stands for 'free markets' and a 'strong defense.' Of course these are code words for tax cuts for the rich and corporate welfare across the board and aggressive foreign military interventions. But the platitudes would have been recognizable.
Today, the Republican Party seems to have openly adopted a new agenda that has little to do with those platitudes. Instead, hate-motivated conspiracies about race war, dictatorship and birth certificates abound.
For example, after President Obama chastised local police for wrongfully arresting Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates in his Cambridge home, Republican bloviator Rush Limbaugh essentially accused the president of conspiring to launch race war against white people.
'Last week, we saw white firefighters under assault by agents of Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor,' said Limbaugh. 'Now, white policemen are under assault from the East Room of the White House, by the President of the United States.'
In one of her last acts before quitting as Alaska governor, Sarah Palin signed a bill emphasizing the 'sovereignty' of her state. In this action, she followed in the footsteps of Texas Gov. Rick Perry and scandal-plagued South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Perry notoriously hinted that Texas secession was under his consideration, and all three of these Republican governors have accused Obama of conspiring to impose dictatorial power over their states.
Incidentally, Palin's action doesn't stray far from her own personal and political connection to the secessionist Alaska Independence Party at whose 2008 convention she spoke.
In addition to race war and secession, another key GOP platform plank seems to be linked to the conspiracy around President Obama's birth certificate. Despite the fact that numerous media outlets have produced official copies of the document, GOP hardliners seem unimpressed. When asked about their view of the issue, several key Republican figures, such as Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., have given non-answer answers that fuel the conspiracy.
'Well his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven't seen any birth certificate,' Shelby said. 'You have to be born in America to be president.'
Republican hatred of Obama extends into immediate policy questions, too. Intent on harming the president politically, Republican strategists have argued for obstructionism on health reform. When asked for his party's plan for reform, Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele said 'We don't do policy.' He implied that blocking the President's health reform plan is his party's best bet for scoring a political victory.
At the same time Republican South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint told a conservative group that blocking health care is needed to 'break' the Obama administration. Simply put, forget the 50 million people who go without health care and the tens of millions more each year who are left only partially covered by insurance. The Republicans are all about the game of politics and stopping the president.