News & Politics

The GOP Clings to Guns, Gays, God, and "Go-Home"

Whether conservative or moderate, Republicans are mired in outmoded myths about America.

Republicans, who continue to be rejected by the U.S. electorate at the polls, have decided that the party of Lincoln needs an extreme makeover. Yet Republicans seem to think that the GOP simply needs to change its image, as opposed to fundamentally changing the party itself.

Some Republicans believe that the GOP must broaden its tent, and change its mantra of "Guns, Gays and God." Others seem to think the party should strengthen its conservative base, and that the new message should include: "Go home!"

Enter the National Council for a New America (NCNA), a series of town hall meetings launched on May 2 in a suburb of Washington, D.C. Its primary objective seems to be to determine what direction the party should take -- and to question those in the party who would like to see it become a European-style anti-immigrant party. Leading the effort of this council are Jeb Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Eric Cantor.

This council appears to be cognizant that a shift in that ultra-nationalistic direction has the potential to change not simply the GOP's narrative, but the national narrative itself.

They are up against the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Dick Cheney and other extreme right-wing forces who fear that the nation -- not simply the GOP -- is in danger of losing its national narrative, the myths and legends that have been part of the national psyche and character since its founding.

Arguably, the more conservative wing of the American political spectrum is correct: the old America they cling to no longer exists. And yet, the narrative that the more moderate council longs for -- one that views America as the beacon of the world, as the land of truth, freedom and liberty and justice for all -- is also a myth.

That narrative has always downplayed genocide, land theft and removal, slavery, segregation and legalized discrimination. Nowadays, it downplays border walls, racial profiling and an ever-expanding racialized prison system. The narrative has also downplayed the notion of empire and militarism, instead converting these imperial projects with the notion of a God-given right to "civilize" or dominate the world. This is the idea of Manifest Destiny. It is what drove our recent president, George W. Bush in his war against the Arab and Islamic world; he was on a mission from God. This is why U.S. and international laws were easily ignored or discarded; he was answering to a higher authority.

In this sense, both wings of the Republican Party are similar; both want to promote great American mythologies. Ingrained into the national psyche is that this is a "nation of immigrants." With the browning of America, some within the GOP rightly fear that a Dobbs-immigration obsessed nation -- which clamors for 2,000 miles of militarized walls along the U.S.-Mexico border -- will drive moderates away from the Republican Party. This is where the struggle over image takes place, though it is difficult to discern a difference. The Dobbs wing is brazenly anti-immigrant, though it is always insistent that they are only anti-illegal immigrant -- not anti-immigrant.

Yet Romney's views are very similar to Dobbs. Even McCain, always touted as a moderate on immigration, buckled under extreme right-wing pressure during his 2008 presidential bid.

Whether they are conservative or moderate, Republicans seem to agree that the United States has the inherent right to wage war on the world. The only difference is that some believe that this right comes directly from God, whereas the others believe it is simply a cultural or even genetic right -- due to American exceptionalism.

The real question is whether Democrats present different views on this topic. Some observers are quick to note that on the issue of the national narrative, there is little or no difference between the parties. These same observers are quick to note that President Barack Obama is but the latest steward for the military-imperial interests that control the nation.

While it is true that change does not occur overnight, there is little doubt that whoever is at the helm does make a difference. Yet, we know that positive change generally comes from the bottom. Whether one president can change the national narrative is another matter.