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Grieving the GOP

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 4/03/2016 Brian Whetten
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Over the last 15 years, the Republican Party has succumbed to the Politics of Fear. In their reactions to 9/11, two trillion dollar wars, the great recession and an Obama presidency, the Party of Lincoln became the Party of No -- and then kept right on going, down a dark and dangerous road.
The birther movement. Climate change denial. The tea party. Threatening to destroy America's credit rating if they didn't get their way. Refusing to even consider a Supreme Court nominee.

What do the Republican candidates actually stand for? Do you know? I don't. I've heard lots of talk about wanting to cut the deficit -- by reducing taxes -- but that's not a rational position. It's a ball of fear wrapped in denial. I do know that they care about America, religion, free markets and strong families. But I have yet to hear a real vision for the future.
In contrast, what are they against? That's a much easier list. They're against Obama. They're against abortion and gay marriage. They're against the Detroit Bailout. They're against illegal immigration. They're against Iran. They're against universal health care. They're against the deficit. They're against requiring Catholic hospitals to provide birth control to their employees.
And they're against each other.
Over the past four years, the Republican party has turned into The Party of No. Not because they're bad people, or because they want bad things. The problem isn't one of character, values, or beliefs.
The problem is that they've succumbed to The Politics of Fear. They've gotten trapped in a race to the bottom, to see who can use the lowest emotions to run for the highest offices.
And it's eating them alive.

When I wrote this four years ago, I had no idea how true it would turn out to be. I couldn't imagine that today's Republican front runners -- two men vying to become the leader of the free world -- would be an angry demagogue and a vicious clown.
And yet here we are. An appallingly un-presidential candidate is now the prohibitive favorite to win the Republican nomination. And if Hillary falters, come November we might experience the unthinkable -- a nuclear armed reality show.
In response, the GOP is displaying everything from desperation and panic to resignation and naked self-interest.
But what we're not seeing yet, is some much needed grief. Not just for this election, but for the way things used to be.
For the good of America, it's time to grieve the GOP.
This is not meant as a judgment. And it's certainly not meant to make light of anyone's pain. Grieving is excruciatingly hard work, and I have experienced too much of it myself to have anything left but compassion for those who are going through it.
One of our close friends has an 8-year-old son. A year ago, he was diagnosed with cancer. I have two young daughters, and my heart breaks when I imagine what this year has been like for her.
Thanks to grace and modern medicine, her courageous son is now in remission. The doctors expect him to live a long and healthy life. And our friend has used this trial to become a better person and leader. But this story could have turned out a very different way.
Our country is in a similar position.
The GOP has contracted a disease. Much of the media -- both on the right and on the left -- have contributed to this condition. And the Republican establishment, instead of treating the disease, has denied and enabled it instead.
Cruz and Trump are the symptoms, but what's causing this cancer is a fear of the future plus an unwillingness to grieve the past.
The culture wars are over. White privilege is dwindling. Trickle down economics is dead, and Reagan is history.
Most painfully, yesterday's economy is gone. It took tens of millions of reliable, well paid, middle class jobs with it. And they're not coming back.
Getting rid of immigrants won't bring them back. Getting rid of Obamacare won't bring them back. Getting rid of the Democrats won't bring them back.
Those jobs are gone. They're not coming back.
We can get mad at what's happened. We can try to bring back the past. We can argue over who's to blame for these lost jobs.
Or we can start working together to create new and even better ones.
But before we do so, there's some grieving we need to do. And grieving -- done well -- is hard, courageous, heart strengthening work.
The good news is we're making progress! FOX News is doing a great job with denial. Trump and Cruz have mastered anger. And the GOP establishment is currently working on bargaining.
Then the real work is in getting to depression and acceptance, where we stop pretending that giving more money to the 1 percent is going to make things better for everyone else.
Our country faces very real problems. These real problems have very little to do with immigration or redistribution. They have everything to do with addressing one question -- together, as one people, as the United States of America -- how are we going to build a better tomorrow?
As Thomas Friedman so brilliantly describes it: how are we going to take the three largest forces on the planet today -- technology, globalization and climate change -- and transform them from challenges into opportunities?
How do we embrace the future, and get ahead of the curve, instead of trying to turn back the clock?
I don't have the answers to this question. But I do know that our journey needs to start by addressing the real fears and real issues of real people, and being honest about the real costs that come with rapid change.
It starts by turning off the reality show and embracing reality instead.

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