The miserable state of the Republican Party can perhaps be understood through its response to four simple truths. Each item on this list is measurable, provable and broadly regarded as obvious. Failure to acknowledge these four truths means being as clearly, empirically wrong as it’s possible to be in the otherwise mushy, gray realm of politics:
1) Climate change is real and it is caused primarily by human activity.
2) Human beings evolved from simpler life forms, and the same evolutionary process shapes all living systems.
3) Abortion is a complex issue because it involves two legitimate liberty interests in conflict with one another.
4) Race still skews economic outcomes in the United States.
It is possible, with great care and a willingness to avoid exposure to facts, for an adult to carry on a reasonably competent existence while living in denial of these four realities. However, no one incapable of recognizing these obvious truths is qualified to serve in a public leadership capacity of any significance. Like a poorly aimed weapon, any legislation or executive action crafted in defiance of these truths will, at best, yield unnecessary collateral damage. In many cases, it will reap calamity.
Unfortunately, there is almost no corner of America in which a Republican can survive a primary election while openly acknowledging all four of these truths. As a consequence, however mistaken a Democratic policy may be, it is likely to be less damaging at the national level than a Republican alternative for as long as this condition persists (it’s worth noting, however, that Democrats have their own issues with #3).
None of those four realities dictate a particular policy response. Acknowledging these irrefutable realities would not force Republicans to abandon market economics, embrace abortion or violate any of the party’s traditional tenets. Some of these truths might be politically uncomfortable, but it is possible to devise policy responses to each of them that are entirely in line with traditional Republican agendas. The Republican Party stubbornly refuses to acknowledge these realities because the party has developed over the past twenty years a purpose completely divorced from effective public administration.
A largely white, rural and Southern demographic bloc for whom the faster, freer world of global capitalism is a living nightmare has transformed the Republican Party into a bulwark against reality. Those who continue to look to religion not only to provide meaning, but to define their reality, are in a broad general state of panic that seems likely to continue until an older generation has seen their influence dissipate. They are determined to ensure that no government action of any kind, no matter how necessary for the protection of your interests or theirs, will in any way challenge the brittle, manufactured reality on which their mental security depends.
Republicans of a previous generation helped grant us this world. Republicans of this generation are determined to roll it back at all costs. If they must fail, they are content to see it all burn to the ground rather than confront a world of pluralism, accelerating change, and endless uncertainty.
Mediation begins by reaching some agreement on a defined, provable set of facts. The truth is slow, but relentless. Over time it becomes irresistible. Anyone who is looking for a first step, a template for building a newly relevant Republican establishment should look first to those four truths. If we can ever generate a core of Republican strategists, activists and officeholders willing to acknowledge these simple, demonstrable truths without evasion or flinching, we’ll be on our way to a far brighter future for the party, the country, and our world.