By Brent Budowsky - 06/21/10 10:22 PM EDT
The word on the street is that if Republicans gain control of the House, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will hire dozens of lawyers and investigators to use the congressional committee he would chair to pursue a partisan vendetta against President Obama.
What does it tell us about the Republican Party that Issa’s projected path to power is to imitate the tactics of Richard Nixon in the 1950s, to pursue the practices of partisanship and personal destruction that most voters loathe about politics today?
Will taxpayers support hiring a new army of congressional Republican staffers to create a modern version of the House Un-American Activities Committee?
The Republican Party is now dominated by forces far outside the mainstream of American politics. They have learned nothing from previous Republican victories or defeats.
Republicans will gain some seats, but not nearly as many as they could. Their voices of venom, intolerance and extremism will rally the Democratic base and alienate moderate Republicans and independents.
Many Republican voices, from right-wing media to primary campaigns, speak of those they disagree with not as opponents, but as enemies. They speak of political adversaries not as patriots with differing views, but as un-American demons guilty of treason.
This dark-side wing of Republicanism treats political discourse not as a reasoned debate about the future of the nation, but as a forum for name-calling, invective and personal destruction, shouting down congressmen at town meetings and making excuses for those who wave placards that make our president look like Adolf Hitler and question his Americanism.
For the most visible wing of Republicans in 2010, opponents are not described as having wrong views. They are described as threatening America itself, by those who disrespect the diversity that America represents.
Far too often, when major Democrats are named at Republican events, the haters take center stage. They hate Jimmy Carter. They hate Bill Clinton. They hate Hillary Clinton. They hate Al Gore. They hate Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. Republican politics looks like a moveable feast about which Democrat they hate the most on a given day.
What happened to the Republican Party and the principled conservatism of Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley? Where is the big-tent conservatism of Ronald Reagan, who could battle and do business with Tip O’Neill with mutual respect and even affection?
Would Dick Morris write on this page that the great trustbuster Teddy Roosevelt was a socialist, as he recently wrote of Obama?
Mr. Issa can champion his taxpayer-financed inquisition. This is what Americans voted out in 2006 and 2008. It is not what Americans want in 2010 and 2012.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .