Has the Republican Party Become the Steer Party?


In his novel The Sun Also Rises, the writer Ernest Hemingway relates how Jake Barnes and Bill Gorton take a train to Pamplona, Spain, to watch a bull-fight. During the trip, Jake explains how workers load the bulls into a truck to take them to the bull-ring. The bulls don't like the workers messing with them and enter the truck ready to butt heads with anyone or anything.

The workers also load "steers," castrated bulls, into the truck to placate the bulls and act as flak-catchers for the bulls' paranoia and machismo. Sometimes the bulls enter the truck and right away gore a steer to death.

Bill asks Jake, "Can't the steers do anything?"
"No," Jake replies, "They're trying to make friends."
Bill replies, "Must be swell being a steer."

This scene fixed the image of "steers" in my mind, as castrated losers who work as appeasement-oriented peace-makers, leaving themselves vulnerable to a truck-load of angry bulls. The bulls are full of machismo and attitude, charge about, and gore the steers. The steers have to stand there and take it. The bulls injure them grievously and even kill them.

This deterministic victim-status does not appeal to me. Can't anyone but me see the parallel in the Republican relationship to the Democrats? As in any toxic relationship, the circumstances complicate the sense of victim-status. The Republicans as the in-party--the Establishment, the wealthy WASPs, and so on--antagonize the out-party Democrats-- disenfranchised because of sex-gender, race, economic status, or religion. The Republican in-party would like to shoo the Democrats away, tell them to create their own country, and to leave the Republicans alone. Good luck, succeeding at that!

An existential angst, expressed in so many words as "I hate you! Don't leave me!" undermines the Democrats' faith in themselves. When the Republicans ask the Democrat coalition to leave them alone, the Democrats explain that they can't leave, but ask sarcastically "Where will we go? To Hell? Another planet?" Underneath their sarcasm is an abject kind of dependence on the Republican value-system, its wealth and orderliness. Truthfully, the Democrats want to stick with the Republicans.

If I could address a caucus of Republican congressmen, I would tell them, "You've let the Democrats turn American citizens into steers, gored daily by left-wing blogger bulls. Many of us venture into the World with a silent prayer in our timid hearts: 'Please don't hurt me!' It's been like this for so long, we don't even think about it. You've worked hard to get where you are. Dividing the country would naturally diminish the status of your position. Like our own nation in the late 18th century, a division will give us independence but also require a lot of fine-tuning. Are you up for a division? If you're not, we need to find people who are. Otherwise, we're sunk."