When I described the modern Republican Party as a coalition between “fiscal conservatives” who want to repeal the New Deal and “social conservatives” who want to repeal the Enlightenment, I thought I making a nasty wisecrack. But the Texas Board of Education just voted to delete any reference to the Enlightenment (and to Thomas Jefferson as an Enlightenment thinker) from its textbook standards.
The current leader of the loonytoon faction on the Board is a dentist named Don McLeroy. The good news is that McLeroy narrowly lost the primary this year (to the son of a former Lieutenant Governor) and won’t be back. The bad news is that Gov. Rick Perry, who stomped Kay Baily Hutchinson in the primary for Governor and is one of the current wingnut/Tea Party heroes, twice nominated McLeroy to the chairmanship. McLeroy was confirmed the first time, but the second time he was denied confirmation on a party-line vote (he needed two-thirds) in the Texas Senate. The big issue then was evolution versus “creation science;” McLeroy is a “Young Earther.”
It’s not an exaggeration, but the simple literal truth, to say that the contemporary Republican “base” hates the principles on which this country was founded. (Just imagine Karl Rove trying to tell George Washington or Abraham Lincoln about being “proud” of waterboarding.) And it’s not objective journalism, but ignorance or cowardice, to treat this profoundly un-American movement as if it were a normal participant in American politics.
It’s time – long past time, I’d say – for liberals and progressives, who since Cold War days have been wary about embracing patriotic symbols and slogans, to wrap themselves in the flag and defend “the Republic for which it stands” against Sarah Palin and her vertical barbarians.