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Originally published May 22, 2014 at 4:11 PM | Page modified May 23, 2014 at 10:20 AM

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The GOP gropes for relevance

The country is not better off with a stunted, incoherent Republican party that has no ideas or ability to compromise, negotiate or lead.

Times editorial columnist


Wading into the 2014 congressional primary season, Americans should have genuine concern for all those fragile, dysfunctional Republicans, and the laughable pretenders for their jobs.

They were hired to govern, and they do not. They are expected to hold Democrats accountable, and they fail. Stalling and whining are not governance.

Republicans complain about everything and propose nothing. This is all the more awkward with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., telling a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference that the GOP will be “the party of ideas.” Name one.

This was where Ryan said the liberal D’s only offered “a full stomach and an empty soul.” Apparently it is better for school kids to go hungry, than tamper with their self-esteem. Cheaper too.

Thankfully, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., ignores such blather. She has legislation to fight summer hunger. When school is not in session, one predictable meal goes away.

Karl Rove, GOP pontiff of polemics, made headlines when he wondered about Hillary Clinton’s health if she ran for president in 2016. Remind me, what did Rove have to say about Dick Cheney’s five heart attacks?

The number five sticks in my mind because it is the same number of draft deferments Cheney received to avoid any military service for himself. Ironic for a fellow who sent so many others into harm’s way.

Does the Republican party have discernible positions on immigration? Actual policies to be brought to a vote? Not yet.

Republicans pride themselves on being astute money managers. Yet they allow federal infrastructure to crumble, and resist adequate spending to maintain highways, bridges, airports, water systems, waste management, national parks and other fundamental investments. The cost of all this neglect is soaring into the trillions.

The GOP is willfully mindless about climate change. Want proof? Follow the reaction to President Obama’s pending plan for cleaning up coal-fired power plants.

Credit the U.S. military with addressing climate change as a national security issue. Violent weather around the globe fuels economic and political instability. Rising seas represent a looming threat to U.S. coastal installations.

Of course, Republicans hate the Affordable Care Act, but the party had no antidote to Obamacare. Meanwhile, millions of Americans now have access to health care beyond the emergency room.

Guns and gays are hardy perennials for Republicans. Have they noticed the public has passed them by on same-sex marriage? Keep opposing background checks for all gun sales, and numbers will further erode.

What else bothers Republicans? Oh yes, Benghazi. The 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, claimed four American lives. This has been a complicated topic for posse leader U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

He met with U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Libya two months before he was slain. McCain made no mention of security issues when he returned home, and has no memory of security being raised when the two met.

Still, I get the importance of Benghazi to Republicans. The party was humiliated by President Reagan’s 1983 debacle in Beirut, Lebanon. The murder of 241 marines and sailors by a terrorist truck bomb was a travesty.

The Reagan administration was clueless about local political dynamics, and a subsequent investigation revealed lax U.S. security. Reagan retreated instantly.

The GOP lacks coherence. Certainly the party is anti-abortion and some candidates even oppose access to birth control.

Oddly, the party’s outlook changes about the time a baby’s head starts to crown during delivery. Suddenly a newborn is viewed as a mewling bundle of potential government overhead.

The grousing begins about health care, child care, immunizations, and paying for schooling, special education needs and feeding the rug rats.

A functional democracy needs informed, credible tension between parties with ideas and values that connect with the broad population below the wealthiest percentiles.

Republicans, please do find and empower some practical ideas.

Lance Dickie's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is

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