Without bedrock voters, the party’s all but over

GREG BEAN Coda

Afriend of mine, who’s also a newspaper columnist, lives in one of those red states, and is about as conservative as they come.

I’ve always figured I was fairly conservative, but this guy’s dedication to the core philosophy puts mine to shame. Even mention Ronald Reagan’s name in his presence and he gets all misty-eyed. He loved Bush, both of them. And he truly believed that Democrats – even the middle of-the-roaders who don’t hail from ultra-liberal bastions like Massachusetts – were a greater threat to this nation than run-of-the-mill GOP bugaboos like flag burners and same-sex marriage proponents.

For years, we’ve stayed friends, despite our philosophical differences, by following one simple rule. We never talk politics.

We talk work. We talk kids. We talk cars. He drives a beige minivan, even though his kids are no longer at home, so

tease him unmercifully about being a premature geezer. We talk trips to the mountains. We talk food. We talk fishing. But we never talk politics, because if we start down that rocky road, one of us is sure to get angry and start saying things we’ll quickly regret.

That’s how it is with friendships, marriages and families. In the interest of peace and the good of the kingdom, there are just some topics you don’t visit.

When I was a kid, for example, my grandpa and his brother, Harold, were as close as could be, except for politics. Grandpa was a Democrat, Harold was a Republican, and there were times when their “discussions” led to actual fisticuffs. Finally, their wives gave them an ultimatum.

“If either one of you ever brings up the subject of politics again at a family gathering, we’re going to divorce you both and find new husbands who aren’t so pigheaded,” they said.

That (and the threat of no rhubarb pie if they strayed) must have worked, because there were lots of family confabs after that, and none ended with either Grandpa or Uncle Harold sporting a black eye.

That’s how it is for my friend and me. But while we never talk politics, I always read his column online, because it’s my own personal bellwether on the national mood, at least when it comes to conservatives. I figure if he ever gets so disgusted with the GOP that he’s fed up with them, it’s all over but the shoutin’ for the Republicans.

And believe it or not, that’s what happened this week. In a column about politics this week, he wrote, “Truth is, while I used to enjoy a good discussion of politics, these days it’s just too hard to defend my own team. While I can still get a good head of steam up over free-spending Democrats frittering our money … I have no effective response to those who counter that the Republicans are even worse. On the one hand we have the Spendthrift Party, the Democrats, who never figure we’re spending enough on anything except the military. On the other hand, we have the Lying Spendthrift Party, the Republicans, who got into office claiming to be frugal, then turned out to be even bigger spenders than the Spendthrifts. After giving it a lot of thought, I figure the only thing worse than a Spendthrift is a Lying Spendthrift.”

I had to read that three or four times before I was convinced my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me.

I’ve suspected something for a while, but now I have the evidence (albeit anecdotal) from this column to say it out loud.

If they’ve lost rock-ribbed supporters like my good friend, the Republicans are finished in this country, and it’s time to stick a fork in the elephant’s well-barbecued carcass. They’ll lose any semblance of control of the Congress in the next elections. They’ll lose the presidency. And because of the dramatic demographic and philosophical shift going on in America right now, they may never win either of those governmental branches back again.

When that inevitably happens, all they’ll have left is their own bitterness and the people who feed on it. That, of course, suggests that people like Rush Limbaugh (bumper sticker: ‘I’ve been Limbaughtomized’), Ann Coulter (who recently questioned whether women should retain the right to vote, because too many of them vote for Democrats) and the spelling-challenged people who send me nasty e-mails every time I write something they perceive as liberal (“Enjoy your pitiful life of elitist nervana [sic] …”) aren’t going to be out of a job anytime soon.

We just won’t have to pay them any attention – at least no more than we’d pay crazy Aunt Ida, safely locked away in the upstairs bedroom, yelling out her window for the neighborhood kids to stay off the lawn. • • • There was a wonderful story recently in the Mail Tribune, which serves Ashland, Ore., about the City Council, which bickers so much that citizens of the community demanded that they pay $37,000 for counseling sessions. They’re bringing in an expert counselor named Rick Kirschner, who wrote a book called “Dealing With People You Can’t Stand – How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst” in an attempt to bring the warring council members together.

“It may seem like a lot of money,” City Administrator Martha Bennett told the paper, “but if the council doesn’t function the city doesn’t function.”

I don’t know about you, but that may be one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard. And if this guy is successful in Ashland, there are a number of communities in New Jersey that could use his services. Marlboro, Manalapan, Middletown and Millstone are good examples of communities where the politicians need counseling (and maybe psychotropic drugs), but there are certainly lots of others.

Around these parts, it would probably cost a lot more than $37,000 in counseling fees to set things right, because a lot of people elected to political positions in those communities are seriously ill. But even if Kirschner charged twice the price, it would be money well spent.

At least then, finally cured of their divisive psychological maladies, the politicians could get back to doing what’s right for the community, instead of sticking ice picks in each other’s backs.

Gregory Bean is executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.