Republicans can revel in their outrage
Only one out of five Americans is willing to describe himself or herself as a Republican these days, and frankly I am tempted to become one of them. For the variety, and because they need me and because when I heard former Vice President Dick Cheney talk about the meaning of Republicanism the other day — "We are what we are," he said — I felt drawn to the simplicity and dignity of that.
And I have never been a Republican, just as I've never been to South America, and that makes it tempting.
I look at pictures of Machu Picchu and think, "Why don't I get on a plane and go?" And I look at Dick Cheney and think, "This man needs friends." I voted for Obama, and will vote for him again in 2012, Lord willing, but in the meantime, it's a free country.
And it is just a whole lot more satisfying to be part of a militant righteous minority than to be in the anxiety-ridden confused majority — to be a nightrider and ambusher rather than one of the people in the long wagon train — to be free to juke around and say wild stuff and know that it doesn't make a dime's worth of difference.
I went to a party the other day and heard the word "torture" and said that I didn't think we should prosecute the Bush lawyers who wrote those torture memos, and people jumped all over me like I was an escaped Nazi. So as long as I was persona non grata, I said some more stuff — that America would be a better country if we took the vote away from people over 65 because they are selfish and greedy and the future of America is its young. People about dropped their drinks. And then I said that cat ownership is a sign of emotional immaturity and a good predictor of a tendency toward violent crime. I saw lifelong friends turn away in disgust. And you know something? I Don't Care. It felt good.
As Mr. Cheney said, "We are what we are. We're Republicans. We have certain things we believe in. And maintaining our loyalty and commitment to those principles is vital to our success." Many a president of the Elks, the Odd Fellows, the Moose, the Knights of Pythias, and the Ancient and Mystic Order of Hoot Owls has said something similar: We will not bend our principles to please people we didn't like in the first place.
As Proust said in his "Remembrance of Things Past" — "Nous sommes qui nous sommes": We are what we are, and that is the heart and soul of Republicanism today.
The Republican Party, once a bulwark of All We Hold Dear, it's now a statistical subgroup. Somewhere in an Elks club, men gather at a banquet at which the speaker rips into those who would tear down the greatest healthcare system in the world and introduce socialism to the land of the free. And then they all sing "This Is My Country" just like in my childhood days. I might go, if I have that night free.