Let me finish tonight with this dramatic shift in Republican politics. Three years ago, the party ran John McCain for president. Next year, it looks like they may well run one of three candidates: Michele Bachman, Mitt Romney or Rick Perry.
So the odds increasingly favor the Republican Party shifting starkly rightward. I listen to Rick Perry and I wonder what we're about as a country.
He refuses to accept the role that fossil fuels play a role in climate change. He sees creationism as a serious academic subject. He wants to ditch the voting rights act, questions the constitutional basis of the civil rights bill, speaks of secession, his defenders say, as some sort of harmless rhetorical device. He believes so strongly in states' rights that he promises to make the federal government irrelevant.
These are not dog whistles; they are bugle calls to the days of William Jennings Bryan and even ante bellum days.
Is this the Republican Party formed by Abraham Lincoln and advanced by Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower and, yes, continued by Ronald Reagan? Is this a party that believes that "progress is our most important product" as Reagan once declared for General Electric or does it view progress with distrust, even loathing?
I don't think we need to get into name-calling in this emerging campaign season. What we need to get into are the beliefs, the doctrines and the deeply-held worldviews of the candidates.
Does Rick Perry believe government could use some tough, even radical reform or does he believe it essentially evil? Does he possess humility in the realm of science or does he reject the scientific method itself? Does he have a problem with the civil rights bill that goes beyond the judicial ruling that ruled it constitutional?
And what did he mean all those times he waved that threatening word secession around? Does he believe the confederate states were right to do what they did?
As we used to say in the sixties: "there's something happening here." Now, as the wild electoral season begins, it's a very important time to take notice and ring more than a few alarm bells.