We need Republicans.
We need people who will tell business's side of the story, who will make us stop and think about radical social initiatives, people who will balance our national checkbook. That's what we need, that's what the Republican Party used to be about, but it's not what we've been getting for a generation.
Dwight Eisenhower was a great example of a traditional Republican. He believed in strong national defense but looked suspiciously at military adventures: he campaigned against Communism and also against intervention in the Korean War.
He also campaigned against corruption in government. He pushed for government money to be spent on projects with a real return, creating the Interstate Highway System, but still fought to contain the deficit as the Cold War expanded.
Republicans used to fight for their country. Bob Dole has spent sixty years in pain from an arm maimed in World War II. The first George Bush flew patrol torpedo bombers in combat, the most dangerous job in the Navy. He won the Distinguished Flying Cross for completing a mission before ejecting from a shot-up airplane. Nixon, a Quaker, could have been a conscientious objector but served in the South Pacific.
Republicanism used to mean conservatism, and one of the things it conserved was our nation's land and water. The Environmental Protection Agency was an initiative of Republican President Nixon (yes, that Nixon).
Republicans of history knew that they governed for all Americans and worked for the general welfare. Eisenhower presided over an increase in the minimum wage. Nixon tried to pass legislation for a guaranteed annual income.
Republicans were friends of business, but never captives of it. Eisenhower's cabinet was mostly millionaire businessmen, but he warned the country that someday we might be threatened by the corrupting influence of a "military-industrial complex" . He'd never heard of Halliburton but saw the risk.
Republicans then respected the law and the judiciary. When Little Rock's schools defied a court order to desegregate, Eisenhower reluctantly but firmly ordered in the Army to compel them at gunpoint.
Republicans then honored the Constitution and resisted tampering with it. One major conservative group was called Americans for Constitutional Action. In 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater declared "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice" . Things have changed since then.
In 1999 Republican candidate George W. Bush said "There ought to be limits to freedom" . In 2001 his Attorney General told Congress that people who want to preserve liberty "only aid the terrorists".
Eisenhower would have led the charge to investigate Halliburton, but when a representative of the people questioned Halliburton's no-bid contracts in 2004 the Republican Vice President said, on the Senate floor, "Fuck yourself".
What happened to the Republican Party, and where are the real Republicans now that we need them?
Form has trampled and triumphed over substance since television entrenched itself in our lives during the 60s and 70s. That's hurt our politics. Before television, the Republicans ran a candidate who had led Allied forces to victory in World War II. In 1968 they could still field a man who was a Navy veteran and first in his high school class. By 1980 the Republican candidate was an actor.
Weakness attracts predators, and when a president is easy to manipulate then the manipulators flock in. Incurious minds are at the mercy of their inner circle of advisors. In the shadows, party bosses grow rich, and then make sure the party never endorses someone with the character to oppose them. A party containing brilliant and accomplished men pushes Dan Quayles to the top.
What happened to the real Republicans? They seem to be Democrats now. President Clinton's welfare reform bill was a lot like Nixon's, only stricter. Our last budget surplus was under a Democratic president. Returning Iraq vets who run for office almost always choose to run on the Democratic ticket.
Today's Republican Party, with its obsessive control and blatant corruption, has become more like Democratic Mayor Daley's Chicago of the 60s.
Maybe, though, the problem is simply that the Republican Party has had power for too long and only knows how to seek more power. Barry Goldwater warned about that, too. He said "Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed" .