On Iraq war strategy, immigration, abortion rights, health care, trade, and English as the official US language, the ideological diversity on stage in Manchester last night was far broader than what the Democrats displayed two nights earlier.
Of course, toward the end, there was a different note to the editorial.
But the candidates also used that question, and another one later, to do some soul searching about why the Republican Party took such a beating in the 2006 elections. They lost credibility, they all said, by becoming more like the Democrats -- big spending, interventionist, corrupt. It was a mea culpa to the Republican Party's base, but strikingly, did not mention Iraq, and in that way missed the most important message of 2006.And in between was a John McCain love fest, because we all know how much of a maverick he is. He's such a great candidate because he addresses real people and everything. Okay, that's blatant BS, but the media is having a huge problem kicking this absurd McCain obsession. Rumor has it, it's worse than a coke addiction.
So what does it all mean, beside the fact that the media [hearts] McCain? Is the Republican Party really a "big tent" party? Are their candidates more interesting and diverse? Hardly. Sure, there are differences between the Republican candidates - but different shades of what... burn-in-hell red? Wrong-for-America Maroon? You have McCain, the opportunist. Then there's Giuliani, the opportunist... and Romney, the ultimate opportunist. McCain's constituency seems to be the media, Giuliani's the past (don't you all remember 9/11? Clearly, you need to vote for him!) and Romney's base seems to be rich, wealthy, corporate donors - because it sure is hell ain't anyone in Massachusetts.
Who exactly do these "big tent" Republicans pull together? That's what being "big tent" is all about - not about a diversity of opinion, but bringing all sorts of people together. Democrats were traditionally the "big tent party" because they brought together unions, liberals, minorities, progressives, the southern democratic bloc and all sorts of other people - be they FDR's converts and Democrats-for-Life or people in the academic world.
The Republican Party? They have their religious fundamentalist base and corporate funders - that's pretty much it. The whole Karl Rove strategy - one the entire party embraced for years now - is one of winning by the smallest margin possible, using hot-button issues to drive just enough support on election day to get 51% of the vote (or even 49% and a fixed Florida election). You can't have an actual majority, just a lot of extra pissed off people on election day, willing to vote against their interests. Otherwise, how could the Republican Party be so fracked up and get away with it?
Well, the people driven by the same-old hot button issues are wisening up. Better yet, most of those people pulled the Democratic lever last time; because, while our Presidential candidates and elective leaders may not have the larger diversity of ideas according to the Globe (though, I vehemently disagree with that), we have the right ones. We're the guys who care about issues ordinary people are facing every day, whether it's public education, health care, social security, or the war in Iraq. We're the "big tent party," drawing all sorts of people together.
The unison at the last Democratic Presidential Debate had more to do with conventional wisdom moving toward the right direction (ending the war, supporting civil rights, etc.) and almost nothing to do with a lack of ideas. Don't get me wrong, a lot of the Democrats can certainly be improved and the fact that they're shared by some makes it a whole lot easier for them to be shared by all. Yet, the day Republicans become the Big Tent Party is the day they actually care about everyone, throughout their entire lives - not just fetuses and wealthy corporate donors. It's a day I look forward to and know will come, but not by any of these neanderthals currently trying to carry the Elephant-in-the-room Flag.