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CONNECTIONS: Bow Ties snarl; Big Tents fold

In a land far, far away, the two political parties skulked around the capital city calling each other names, playing dirty tricks, refraining from governing the nation in the name of party survival, and lying to the public about it. 

About Connections: Love it or hate it, history is a map. Those who hate history think it irrelevant; many who love history think it escapism. In truth, history is the clearest map to how we got here: America in the 21stcentury.

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there were two political parties. One was established with the Republic and the other about 100 years later. The first was called the Big Tent Party and the other the Bow Tie Party.

The parties could find perfect agreement on no single issue. However, they both loved their country and did agree to defend and protect their form of government. In the name of that mutual love and that single agreement, they found compromise and governed. The tension between them was a good thing; they sort of rocked back and forth into positions that found mutual support and public approbation. Thus the Republic rocked on until one day …

There came a time when the Bow Ties observed that the number of registered voters in their party was decreasing while registration in the Big Tent party was growing. Projections, based on the number crunchers, their questionnaires and calculators predicted: If the trend continued, the Bow Tie party wasn’t going to win another national election — ever. To survive, the good old boys with the bow ties needed a plan.

They met in a bar and grill in the capital city. Parenthetically, the bar and grill opened the same year the Bow Ties were founded. They met in a back booth to strategize just as their forefathers met in taverns to plot a revolution. This was no lesser matter: This was about survival. This, too, was important. This was a pivotal moment: They had to have a plan, and it had to work.

They sat together soberly and hatched a plan. It was simple, really. It was a two-stage plan based on the underlying belief that if more registered voters supported the other party, they would lose every election unless they could (a) convince members registered in the other party to vote for them and (b) win elections with fewer (not more) votes.

In the first stage, they created three wedge issues. A wedge issue was just what it sounded like: a single issue so important it could drive a wedge between a voter and his party. It could cause a Big Tent voter to pull the lever for a Bow Tie candidate. That voter was called a single-issue voter.

They carefully selected the three issues potent enough to swing votes: guns, abortion and immigration. The plan worked — worked so well that today’s men of girth and power, the old men in the capital, were then the young men in that booth.

Of course there was the all-important stage two: gerrymandering. The Bow Ties had to win state elections. Bow Ties had to sit in congresses and governors’ offices to redraw the electoral maps in as many states as possible. Gerrymandering assured that the smaller party named the greater number of U.S. Congressmen.

Then, sadly, the plan started to falter but their enthusiasm did not. It was a sound plan with initial success. For sustained success they only needed to clarify matters for the voters. No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more polite language: Draw the line; never compromise; go nuclear with black-line positions.

It was not the polite rhetoric of protecting the Second Amendment; it was the bold language that the “others” were trying to create a slippery slope and any regulation, however minimal or sensible, was a masquerade, a step toward the real goal of taking your guns. Abortion was not an option, in fact a legal option and private decision between potential parents and their doctor; it was murder in the eyes of God. The Republic’s laws had to mirror the minority’s morals and “lock her up” was a great closing line to more than one speech. The opposition was not a party with which to debate and compromise. The other party was the enemy — compromise was death to morals and ideals. The capital faltered; governance stuttered, but the smaller party got more and more elected seats. It was fulfillment of the plan, right? That’s a good thing, right?

The Big Tent party fell into the trap of being defined by the Bow Ties. The Big Tent was reduced to being the party opposed to guns, for abortion, and soft on immigration. There’s more to the story. When the wedge issues dovetailed with fiscal conservancy, a small group infiltrated the Bow Ties and pulled them apart. When the Big Tents stumbled into being the party that said no when the Bow Ties said yes, or vice versa, they were seen as a party concerned with social issues rather than a party concerned with governing. All legislators were distrusted.

In the land far, far away, a plan hatched in the name of survival of one party succeeded in permanently crippling the government. The Bow Ties and the Big Tents skulked around the capital city calling each other names, playing dirty tricks, refraining from governing the nation — all in the name of party survival — and lying to the public about it.

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, finally they ceased to protect that form of government won with the blood of their forefathers — conceived in the early taverns where men sat together and planned for the good of the many, not the survival of a few.

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