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The day a mouse trampled a state

Woe to the elephants and the atrophy of the moderate right. We’re all attending a funeral, long in coming, long in proceeding. And, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, Attorney General John Ashcroft drove another stake into the coffin of the traditional Republican (elephant) party.

The GOP, conventionally an advocate of moderate, states’ rights, small government and non-intrusive federal policy has been gutted and realigned over the last 30 years.

Traditional republicans, such as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, John McCain, Gerald Ford and others have been politically dismembered and relegated to the rank-and-file.

The mice have invaded.

The first evidence of conservative (mice, I call them) seizure of the party can be found in the 1964 nomination of Arizona conservative Barry Goldwater. The Goldwater campaign, which was originally conceived by a small band of stalwarts in a dark hotel room, lost severely to Texan Lyndon Johnson.

But after the route, major national changes took place that culminated in the gradual empowerment of mice in the party.

Such changes led to the election of Ronald Reagan, who was supported by growing evangelical extremist groups and hard-right conservatives in the party. With Reagan, conservatives seized the reigns, taking over top leadership positions, modifying the National party platform and eventually and effectively destroying Clinton’s presidency, the reputation of welfare, anti-trust policy, progressive taxation, environmental agendas, social welfare initiatives and Congress (as far as I am concerned). They also wrote the blueprints for what would be a conservative (neo-orthodox, it’s called) version of globalization.

Most of this took place over the course of 20 years, facilitated by a gradual and secretive conservative coup d’etat. Apparently elephants are afraid of mice.

Indeed, opinion polls and research have shown for years that the views held by rank-and-file republicans are at serious odds with views held by conservative party leaders.

Archconservative Republican House whip (the position created to “keep the party in line”) Tom Delay is a case in point. Delay’s fundamentalist bitterness is plainly visible. In a speech last March he stated, “the American people are trying to resist a cultural coup d’etat – a revolution launched by a privileged few who are determined to discredit and, ultimately, replace core American traditions.” Where are these evildoing conspirators? “Concentrated in the media, universities, tax-exempt foundations, the legal profession and the arts – wherever opinions are made and the terms of debate set,” he claimed.

Apparently, Mr. Delay and Mr. Ashcroft have been eating lunch in the same cafeteria.

Consider this: Attorney General and extremist John Ashcroft (who was appointed as an obvious reward for support from the fundamentalist U.S. right) mandates that Oregon physicians can no longer practice the publicly sanctioned assisted suicide option. Put another way, a state that popularly endorses a policy should not be allowed to follow it if it is opposed by the federal administration in power. Irrespective of one’s vision of assisted-suicide, such is the reality of Ashcroft’s latest resolution.

The attorney general’s act showed, by all measures, a flippant disregard for the fundamental traditional republican maxim – state’s rights. Such was one of the principal consensuses that held the party together for almost a century.

And this is not the first instance of a mouse’s disregard for elephantine ethos. On the contrary, the majority of social-regulatory issues find the conservative-republican aisle in ideological disharmony. Such a division inclines me to suggest that in reality the current regime rides atop not one party but a coalition-conservative and republican. The trouble is that conservatives are an iota-minority in this country but steer what is now the majority party. As such, they are able to capture powerful positions and hustle through a unrepresentative and self-interested agenda.

With separate powers and checks-and-balances, the courts have been able to counter some of this over representation. Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers is attempting to do so now. But while one hopes that judicious courts and courtroom integrity will overcome – I am not making any bets.