Columnist John Sheirer: It’s time for a functional Republican Party

  • John Sheirer FILE PHOTO

Published: 9/10/2023 1:52:26 PM

Some people say that political parties hurt America. I disagree. When people work together, we accomplish more than when we operate individually.

I also believe in airing healthy disagreements to understand various viewpoints and develop productive policies. So, even though I’m a Democrat, I’d like to see a functional Republican Party to help make this country the best it can be.

Unfortunately, we haven’t had a consistently functional Republican Party for decades. And today’s Republican Party is getting worse by the minute. Now more than ever, we need to envision what a functional Republican Party would look like.

Most importantly, a functional Republican Party wouldn’t follow an indicted demagogue. Like many sane Americans, I hoped Republicans would dump Trump when he tried to overthrow the 2020 election. Some Republicans spoke out, but Trump is currently outpolling all his rivals combined for the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump certainly wasn’t worth Republican support even before his election lies and insurrection. He was always unqualified, unless sexual assault, reality TV, and multiple bankruptcies can be called qualifications. He had no coherent domestic or foreign policy agenda beyond corporate toadyism, regressive social policies, alienating allies, and coddling adversaries.

There’s no clearer sign of Republican dysfunction than their fealty to the defendant-in-chief. But that’s just the red-hatted tip of the baggy-suited iceberg.

A functional Republican Party would have basic respect for democracy. For decades, Republicans have been trying to make it harder for Americans to vote. They’ve redistricted themselves into fake governing majorities despite electoral minorities. Their ridiculous cries of “voter fraud!” and “rigged elections!” show that they like to pretend their policies haven’t been rejected by a majority of Americans. And the Republican embrace of authoritarianism at home and abroad is deeply anti-democratic.

A functional Republican Party would stand for sensible policies instead of extremist positions. Republicans talk about supporting business, but their actions are fanatically pro-corporation while ignoring the devastating harm that corporate greed does to most citizens, including those who operate small businesses.

Republicans are fond of misquoting Northampton’s own Calvin Coolidge by saying, “The business of America is business.” But if they really believed that, then they would support businesses by regulating the worst effects of corporatism, keeping the “free market” free from obvious abuse. Instead, Republicans tilt the playing field in favor of whichever megaliths dispense the most campaign cash.

A functional Republican Party wouldn’t lie so much. Trickle-down economics has never worked, yet Republicans clutch to the lie that tax cuts for the wealthy help everyone. Republican lies about climate change literally poison the planet. Democrats have never supported “open borders,” but that lie gets automatic applause at every Republican campaign speech while Republicans actually block sensible immigration reform.

Republicans lie about Democratic positions on every important issue, from guns to abortion to taxes. Republicans even have their own propaganda bubble on basic cable, the radio airwaves, and social media to ensure that dishonesty becomes unquestioned party doctrine. “We have always been at war with Eastasia.”

A functional Republican Party wouldn’t try to appeal to the worst elements of the American electorate. Racism has been at the core of the modern Republican Party for nearly a century, when Democrats embraced workers’ rights, causing racists to flee to the Republican Party out of fear that Black workers might share those rights.

Misogyny pervades the Republican abortion position, ethnocentrism guides their immigration policy, religious authoritarianism undergirds their false “free speech” litigation, and homophobia infects their reactionary policies on issues from marriage equity to education. In short, when there’s insecurity in any corner of the nation, the Republican Party tries to weaponize it into bigotry.

A functional Republican Party wouldn’t treat anyone who disagrees as an enemy of the United States. Ronald Reagan called the American government “the enemy.” Newt Gingrich then created a vocabulary list of insults Republicans should call Democrats (including “traitor”). Republican political candidates now routinely dehumanize and anti-Americanize Democrats. Instead of discussing the issues and working with Democrats for the good of the country, Republicans echo Trump with name-calling and fearmongering that rivals McCarthyism.

A functional Republican Party wouldn’t provide daily examples of hypocrisy. Republicans claim not to support cutting Social Security and Medicare while proposing cuts. The Republican Party denied President Obama a Supreme Court seat on the facetious grounds that seven months was too soon before the election, but they rushed through Trump’s pick just weeks before the election.

Republicans railed against Biden’s student loan remediation plans while ignoring millions in forgiven PPP loans, many to actual Republican officeholders. Republicans have made evidence-free corruption claims against Biden a major talking point while they ignore Trump and his family’s obvious wrongdoing.

Unlike economic benefits, political dysfunction trickles down. The way Republicans gum up the workings of government hurts everyone, including the everyday Americans who vote for Republican candidates. The United States can’t continue to grow into the “more perfect union” envisioned by our Founders if one party works to build a functional government while the other remains enthralled by a horrible leader and practices intentional authoritarianism, dysfunction, dishonesty, bigotry, dehumanization, and hypocrisy.

There’s an old saying that a bird needs a left and right wing to fly. This nation can’t fly with a broken right wing.

John Sheirer is an author and teacher from Florence. His next book is “For Now: One Hundred 100-Word Stories.” Find him at


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