CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy,” the narrator is conveyed to the gates of hell, upon which he finds a sign: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
This city is not hell. But a case can be made, as the Democratic Party convenes here to nominate Barack Obama to a second term, that the same admonition applies. Abandon hope.
Hope and change, of course, were the promises by which Obama swept into office four years ago, heralding a “post partisan” era in which Republicans and Democrats would work together in solving the nation’s problems. We all know how that turned out. The GOP lurched further to the right, driven by a “tea party” that scorned compromise, the ordinary horse trading that defines politics, as traitorous and weak.
There was an element of fanaticism there that one watched with a kind of awestruck horror, unable to believe that what you were seeing was really real. But it was. They actually did take the economy hostage, actually did vote down their own major bill because the president supported it. They actually did declare war on objective fact, bow to a ludicrously rigid anti-tax pledge, abridge the religious freedoms of Muslims, commit acts of voter suppression, require Latinos to show their papers. The great Clint Eastwood actually did stumble through a dialogue with an empty chair that was supposed to represent the president. And yes, they actually did call that president “uppity,” a “boy,” and a “secret Muslim,” actually did question his birthplace and academic credentials, actually did accuse him of being a radical socialist out to destroy America.
They actually did.
Three years ago, a distraught woman at a health-care protest cried out, “I want my country back!” Better she should demand her party back. The party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan doesn’t seem like a party at all anymore, but a cult.
Yes, that’s just the sort of observation you’d expect from a liberal hack, Democratic Party shill and assorted other epithets by which GOP true believers routinely ward off questions about their true belief. But let them note that similar concerns are being voiced by GOP stalwarts like former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.