Back in March 2013, I wrote a column titled, "Why I am no longer a Republican." A more accurate (though admittedly more ponderous) title would have been, "One important reason among many that I am no longer a Republican."
That important reason was the Iraq War, which I never supported and which the Bush administration and its legion of defenders in Washington and around the country justified in terms that struck me at the time as highly ideological, fundamentally anti-empirical, and more than a little paranoid. Let's just say that nothing that happened after the initial invasion persuaded me that my original instincts were wrong.
If the Iraq War debacle had been an isolated incident — one that Republicans forthrightly acknowledged as a mistake and showed signs of learning from — it's possible that I wouldn't have bolted the party.
But it wasn't an isolated incident. It was the start of a whole new era for the GOP — an era in which the stridently ideological, anti-empirical, and paranoid tendencies that gained the upper hand in the run-up to the Iraq War (and which had always been present in certain factions of the conservative movement) infected the party from top to bottom, corrupting its thinking on foreign and domestic policy and inspiring its lockstep opposition to the Obama administration's governing agenda from day one.
Today, my voting record says I'm a Democrat. I voted for Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008 and 2012. I nearly always support Democrats in House, Senate, and gubernatorial elections. But I don't identify closely with or feel deep loyalty to the Democratic Party, its agenda, or its electoral coalition.
You could say that I'm less a Democrat than an anti-Republican. I vote the way I do because I want the GOP to lose, lose badly, and keep losing until it comes to its collective senses, which at this point seems a very long way off indeed.
There are so many reasons why I've come to this position that I almost don't know where to begin. So let's just start with recent headlines — which means the Benghazi Obsession.
Four people died in the September 2012 attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens. It was a tragedy. It was infuriating. It deserved to be investigated.
And it has been. Nine times.
Nine investigations. Nine reports. But that's not enough for House Republicans. Goaded by Fox News' nearly 24/7 obsessive-compulsive fixation on the story, the Republican caucus has finally persuaded House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to launch a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack. Again.
Fox promos from October 2013 (top) and May 2014.
Mark my words: If the GOP takes the Senate in November, giving Republicans unified control of Congress, Barack Obama will face impeachment proceedings over this issue. The party and its technologically amplified, rabidly right-wing base will demand nothing less.
As Michael Tomasky pointed out in an important Daily Beast column last Friday, Benghazi mania looks even more outrageous when contrasted with the Democratic response to the horrific events of October 23, 1983. That, of course, is when, on Ronald Reagan's watch, two truck bombs destroyed the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, killing 241 American servicemen — the largest single-day loss of life for the Marines since World War II.
And how did the Democrats who ran the House of Representatives respond? With a two-month-long investigation and some reprimands for the military. Then it was over. And Reagan went on to win re-election in a landslide less than a year later.
That was the behavior of a party that put the good of the nation ahead of its own ideological fervor and electoral ambitions. As Tomasky points out, the same could be said of the GOP's relatively restrained response to the 1993 Black Hawk Down episode in Somalia, which occurred just under a year into Bill Clinton's presidency.
Not even congressional Democratic oversight of the Iraq War — which was started to disarm a dictator of weapons he didn't possess, was badly run for years, and left 4,487 Americans dead and 32,223 wounded — compares to the severity of the House GOP's Benghazi obsession.
It is the behavior of a party that now routinely places its own partisan advantage, as well as its own unhinged hatred for its ideological opponents, ahead of the good of the country.
But my revulsion at the Republicans doesn't begin and end with Iraq and Benghazi. It's spread to many other issues over the years. Frankly, the GOP increasingly looks like a party in the grip of some form of hyperpartisan madness that takes self-destructive delight in alienating everyone who isn't a far-right ideologue. What else can explain the up-is-down, black-is-white, counterintuitive perversity of the stances Republicans increasingly take in response to national news and trends?
- A gun-toting maniac slaughters 20 children and 6 adults inside an elementary school. The GOP response? Loosen gun restrictions.
- Banks and the finance industry nearly topple the global economy. The GOP response? Oppose increased regulation of banks and the finance industry.
- Well over 90 percent of climate scientists present research in favor of anthropogenic climate change. The GOP response? Suggest that the scientists have joined forces with liberals in a big-government conspiracy.
- Economic inequality is increasing dramatically, especially at the very top of the income pyramid. The GOP response? Propose cutting taxes on the wealthy.
- The food stamp program has grown since the economic meltdown of 2008, which led to millions of Americans losing their jobs. The GOP response? Cut the food stamp program.
- Money is playing an ever-greater role in American politics. The GOP response? Cheer on the effort of the Supreme Court's Republican majority to increase the role of money in politics still further.
- Wages have been stagnant or falling for many years, and raising the federal minimum wage is a broadly popular way of addressing the problem. The GOP response? Oppose raising the minimum wage.
If any of this makes sense to you, maybe the GOP is where you belong. As for me, I'll stay where I am: Voting against the Republican Party every chance I get — and hoping it soon receives the incontestable rebuke at the ballot box it so richly deserves.