"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
So begins a magnum opus of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. You may have, as I did, read (all or) part of it in high school or college literature. It is, like most Dickensian works, a meandering tale with a heavy dose of woe, set against the national backdrop of the time, in this case the French Revolution. The two cities are London - where things are mostly good, and Paris - where things aren't.
Using a bit of blogospheric license, I've adapted that title to this entry concerning the present Republican Party. And using the preamble of the book above, it is clear that the GOP is encountering - or, perhaps, enduring, the best and worst of times. There is certainly some truth to the final phrase, "the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
The hyperbole from both sides of the aisle is flowing freely this week. As a Democrat, I'll choose to be critical of the Republicans at this time. I may take up some criticism of my own Party, which certainly has its own problems, at a later date. The operative word in the previous sentence is may. It is my blog; I may not.
Yesterday the Republicans formally nominated their favored son, Mitt Romney, as their nominee - how deep the favor runs is thought by many to be "not very." The truth is he isn't. The Republican Party, whose tent has grown in some degree and shrunk in another, now seems to have two favored sons, neither of whom is their nominee for president. One of them was, or perhaps still is, a candidate for president, while the other is presently seeking - at the same time - two federal offices, one of congressman, the other as Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate. The former celebrated his 77th birthday last week; the latter, if he is elected vice president, would turn 43 the week after his inauguration.
The irony is that the younger of the two has the strong support of the majority of the old line of the Party, thus ensuring his place on the ticket. The base for the older, however, is a mostly younger, more independent and libertarian crowd, and in a few other respects far out of lockstep with the national Party, something they learned last night isn't encouraged now or in the future as the convention approved rule changes making it harder for non-traditional candidates to amass delegates, something their hero did to the tune of 190 votes.
The question is this - as the national Republican Party recedes more deeply into the most conservative of corners of the political prism, it does seal the support of many across a broad spectrum of ideologies within the Party, pushing those with less conservative and more moderate views into a camp and creed where they may find comfort in this campaign against this particular Commander-In-Chief, but one wonders if they can keep them content for the next quadrennial contest.
Then there is the other camp. It is college-age in general and on board because of a personality, one which has been around since I was their age, capturing imaginations for the future, but also one which has pushed not necessarily to the right but toward the apolitical, or even the fringes, dare I say, of the anarchic. I know a few in this camp. I recently queried one, a recently married 24 year old with a degree in Economics and History, as to his identification with the Republican Party. His response was, in part, "I don't give two shits about the Republican Party . . . . " My belief is he isn't the only one in his current camp who feels this way. Another friend, who two years ago left the Democratic Party, has recently told me he may return.
It isn't that these young folks - people who will be running the Republic one day - are anymore comfortable in my Party than they are in their current one; it is rather my Party has a wide enough berth in its beliefs and its adherence or non-adherence to those beliefs that they may be more comfortable. (I will add here that I am very aware of some in my Party who are just as intolerant of the Republicans and other conservatives and they seem to be of us. That isn't part of the plan but it is a reality which must be admitted to.)
Thus, as the Republican nominee and his running mate make their way out of Tampa amid the pomp and circumstance of a national convention and into the nitty-gritty of the last seventy days of a campaign, it remains to be seen if theirs will be a tale of the two Pauls, or if one is jettisoned along the way, along with its cadre of young and enthusiastic supporters.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . . . ."