“You can’t go home again…”

The great advantage of being a political moderate is having the safe vantage point from which to lampoon the excess and foibles of either end of the spectrum. I’m able to lambast the wild-eyed right-wing kooks and fuzzy-headed left-wing flakes with impunity.

Both parties (and their earnest followers) are still only sharpening their blades for the oncoming 2012 presidential election, and no party has had such keen or constant practice as the Republican Party. Indeed, it seems, the presidential candidates for the “Grand Ol’ Party” have been running against our incumbent Commander In Chief since before Beyoncé belted out “At Last” during the inauguration.

Even so, one has to wonder just how well that’s worked out for them so far.

Republicans have vacillated from the venerable and level-headed John McCain (2008’s losing candidate) to his unconventional veep choice in “Mama Grizzly” hockey mom extraordinaire Sarah Palin, who raised a ton of money and attention before bolting for the talking head circuit.

From there it was fellow “Tea Party” candidate Rick Perry, who was sure to capture the South en route to a battle royale of archetypes (white/conservative vs. multi-racial/liberal) before party loyalists realized that Perry has as much business running our country as he does the Great State of Texas. Herman Cain’s now laughable campaign had a lot to do with that, but a closer look at the pizza chain magnate shows he had little grounds to challenge anyone’s record. Newt Gingrich has generated as lot of heat on and off again but, in a party that champions the family and old-school values, Newt’s still a glory-hungry bully with two divorces.

Which brings us back to Mitt Romney, whose ongoing narrative has seemed to be one of steadiness. The former Massachusetts governor has one thing going for him: he seems about as controversial as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with an appeal that’s just as generic.

Sure he’s got the Mormon thing, which seems to cause some trepidation with my fellow Southern evangelicals. Of course, not enough trepidation to send them screaming to the Southern Baptist, Vietnam Era veteran, and Texas congressman by the name of Ron Paul… even though he’s got the most conservative voting record of any member of Congress since 1937. Oh, but that’s a rant for another day.

Romney wins the Republican nomination by default, because he’s the “anti-Obama” and because there’s no one more capable of challenging our current president than a fellow well-heeled Ivy League-educated caricature of ideology.

In what stands to be the most volatile election cycle for the GOP since the advent of polling, my impression of my Republican friends and relatives is that they want a restoration of the country. A return to the America of former days than these.

“We were once a nation of strong moral values but we’ve gone astray,” is a typical refrain. That we must return from whence we came, and restore this country to its former glory.

I agree with the sentiment, but it makes for an incredibly backward-looking approach to governing an empire as vast, diverse, and abundant as ours. I sometimes wonder if the Republican Party has become the receding roar of white America, as it pines for a way of life that can never, will never, and must never return.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a conservative evangelical myself, with a strong sense of wistfulness about the warm sepia-toned East Texas in which I grew up.

Just last week I took a drive to “the old neighborhood” and parked out front of a rambling vacant lot where I and my cohorts spent many a lazy afternoon playing baseball and building clubhouses.

Gone is the grassy field upon which I threw for countless touchdowns, as are the sheltering oaks whose thick branches held our clumsily-built fortifications. In their place, a gas station and rundown convenience store.

So no, you can’t go home again, but I guess you can shop there.

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About Matthew

Backwoods philosopher, itinerant journalist, and poet laureate of the pine curtain... my old writings can be found at A Place to Stand, but if you look for me again, I can be found under your boot-soles.
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