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It was encouraged through judicial appointments and a Justice Department that coddled anti-abortion radicals. Overall, though, GOP governing coalitions were dominated by economic and foreign-policy conservatives with moderate social views, leaving religious conservatives frustrated and grumbling.
As for gunboat diplomacy, it’s mainly a product of the George W. Bush administration. The Reagan administration talked tough, but its actual record was a mixture of diplomatic realism, covert action and hedged bets. The goals were audacious, but a certain deference was maintained to the rules of the game. Relations with allies were never allowed to fray. It wasn’t until Dubya that Washington decided rules were for sissies.
It’s conceivable that a Romney administration would restore some of the propriety of earlier Republican administrations. It could keep the religious right on a short leash. It could learn some of the lessons of the disastrous Reagan-Bush economic record and the Bush diplomatic fiasco. But there’s no reason to believe it will.
Just look at Romney’s leadership field. In the GOP-led House of Representatives, Space, Science and Technology Committee Chair Ralph Hall of Texas believes human activity can’t impact the global climate because “I don’t think we can control what God controls.” Science investigations and oversight subcommittee chair Paul Broun of Georgia said in a September 27 speech that he believes “the earth is about 9,000 years old” and “was created in six days as we know them,” and that “evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.”
The farm team is even weirder. In Arkansas, the GOP-led legislature has a pair of members, Jon Hubbard and Loy Mauch, who are openly nostalgic for African-American slavery (you read that right), and a former member running for his old seat, Charles Fuqua, who favors enacting the biblical law of executing “rebellious” children by stoning.
This, then, is the crux of the choice this November: Whether to entrust our government to a party that believes in sensible governance or one that doesn’t. It would be better if we had two parties with two rational approaches to governing, rather than one that’s for it and one that’s against it. Competition is a good thing. But that’s not on offer.
Contact J.J. Goldberg at firstname.lastname@example.org