Things that go boom! Good-bye to the Grand Old Party

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Rich Broderick, June 28, 2008 • It took several seconds after the explosion for it to begin falling, slowly at first, as if it were simply tired from all those decades of towering over Xcel’s old power plant, then with increasing speed as the 200-foot tall smokestack pitched toward earth like a giant redwood – a wedge-shaped chunk had been gouged from its northeast quadrant to make sure it came down in the right direction – or some ancient beast felled by Ice Age hunters.

Finally it shattered in a great heap, and with a whoosh sent forth billowing clouds of dark dust, spectators lining St. Clair Avenue and the High Bridge instinctively turning away and covering their mouths as soot and ash and God knows what else overtook them. The festive atmosphere that had prevailed only a few minutes earlier – one group had even set up a portable grill and folding tables and was enjoying sausages and orange juice when my son and I arrived on the scene – now gave way to a virtually silent flight as everyone began to wonder what they might be breathing in along with the morning air.

And now as we made our way back to a friend’s house, I found myself wondering what the dramatic demolition reminded me of. Let me see. Something old and very imposing collapsing in full view of a huge crowd right in the middle of Saint Paul.

Oh, yeah! The Republican Party!

With new polls showing Barack Obama leading John McCain in Minnesota by close to 20 points, surely the RNC is ruing the decision to hold its 2008 convention in St Paul, a choice predicated on the vanished hope of turning ours from a swing into a red state this year. But at the very least, given the apparently insatiable human appetite for watching big things blow up, it is fitting that tens of thousands of delegates, reporters, protestors, and assorted camp followers will be assembled in St. Paul this September to witness yet another stage of the GOP’s slow-motion self-implosion. Because make no mistake – the Republican Party is on its way to becoming a purely regional, rather than national party, anchored in the states of the Old Confederacy, with dwindling outliers in the Rocky Mountain West and…and – well, it’s difficult to foresee where else an all-white, anti-immigrant party obsessed with Guns, God, and Gays might prosper in the years to come.

As if the very fact of the Bush Administration weren’t enough to sink the GOP, it is also saddled with John McCain as its Presidential candidate. Poor John McCain. What can you say about him? It’s not just that he’s a fumbling and nearly inarticulate campaigner who seems to be phoning it in most days, or that he’s sold out every principle he ever claimed to stand by faster than you can say “Dr. Faustus.” Consider two of the centerpieces of his candidacy. One is the claim that since the “surge” is working and we are “winning” we need to stay in Iraq until “victory” is achieved. The second is McCain’s proposal that, in order to address our energy crisis, the United States should build up to 200 new nuclear power plants over the next couple of decades.

Dear God, I challenge you to come up with two more politically toxic proposals right now. As to Iraq, Americans turned their back on this fiasco some four years ago, and the only thing we want to hear at this stage is how soon we are getting the hell out of there. As for nuclear power – well, there hasn’t been a single new plant built in this country since the 1970s. Since then we’ve had Three-Mile Island and then Chernobyl. Yes, I know the French rely heavily on nuclear power, but since when has an American politician gotten anywhere by arguing that we should imitate the French? Until and unless somebody comes up with a way of ensuring the safety of these plants – which cannot be done – and of recycling the backlog of radioactive waste we already have on hand, not to mention the untold tons of the stuff that would be created by 200 news plants, a comeback for nuclear energy in this country stands about as much chance as I do of directing and starring in the “Iron Man” sequel.

Next up: the long overdue demolition of the Democratic Party, an antiquated, structurally unsound organization that, despite having controlled one or both Houses of Congress for four of the past eight years, has been bold only in displaying a shameless impotence, failing to stop or even slow almost any of George Bush’s most disastrous policies or to hold him and his co-conspirators responsible for their high crimes and misdemeanors, thus giving his wrecking crew ample time to blow up the Constitution.

Don’t get me started!