A great James Garner movie from the late sixties titled “Support Your Local Sheriff” contains within it a clear parable for today’s Republicans. Garner’s character is passing through a lawless gold rush town in the west, ostensibly on his way to Australia. Up to this point, anyone who has taken the job of sheriff has been scared away or shot. Garner is a crack shot from the east and needs money to continue his trip, so he takes the job on a temporary basis after watching a young, dumb member of “the Danby gang” gun a guy down in the saloon.
As sheriff, he arrests young Danby (Bruce Dern if I remember correctly) and throws him in jail. Unfortunately the jail hasn’t been completed yet, so there are no bars or walls to keep young Danby in. Garner draws a chalk line about where he thinks the edges of the cell would be and bullies Danby into staying within the limits of that line, even when Garner’s not there to stand watch. When Danby’s father, played by Walter Brennan, rides in and sees his son confined by nothing but a chalk line and air, well, let’s just say it’s not his proudest moment.
And herein lies the parable. I hear over and over how moderate, intelligent Republicans are being “held hostage” by the Tea Party. If they don’t march to it’s one-drumstick, broken-skin, missing-snare drumbeat they will be voted out of office. The Tea Party has come to take the government back (way back) and are willing to use scorched-earth policy on the rest of the Republican party to further their quest.
People, listen, there are no bars. You’re standing inside a jail made of a chalk line and thin air. Step the fuck out.
If you stay you will not only be viewed as on the wrong side of history, you’ll be viewed as on the idiot side of history. You’ll be remembered as a timid group who allowed themselves to give up social and human progress that Republicans of the sixties and seventies were willing to die for, because you were unwilling to confront a group of people whose philosophy and actions were clearly racist and sexist, who didn’t believe in science and who railed for freedoms that aren’t even freedoms. See, the James Garner character in your movie isn’t played by James Garner. That part is interchangeably played by Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist, any number of Cheneys and (please just shoot me) Sarah Palin.
Just step over the chalk line and walk away. Turn the fiscal cliff into a physical cliff and push them over as you leave. Yeah, it will take a while to get your ship righted; it took a long time to tip it this far over. But now conversation starts. There are plenty of folks who voted against you, conservative enough to join you once you get back to your roots, which include giving as many Americans as possible a shot at the real American Dream, which by the way is not simply accumulation.
So here it is: Step over the line. Turn a one-eighty and offer your middle finger as a stir stick for their wretched tea. Start walking back home.