GOP Grand Illusions

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Schama

Republicans declare war on history.

Nice to know, isn't it, that the fate of the Republic might be in the hands of a nominee and his crackerjack team who thought it a great idea to crown the most serious night of their convention with the delusional, painfully lame, witless ramblings of a valetudinarian film star to an empty chair? Personally I would have preferred George Santayana, who famously warned that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

In Mitt Romney's breathtakingly edited version of the recent past, Republicans secretly rejoiced at Obama's election, while only reluctantly coming to the conclusion that his policies had wrecked the economy. Yet history tells us that four years ago the American financial system was hanging over the abyss by the thread of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that a Republican administration and secretary of the Treasury had put in place--and for which the hypocritical deficit chickenhawk Paul Ryan had voted, even as he strained every muscle to get his district's share of the stimulus package that he now denounces Obama for perpetrating. And recall also that the whole near-terminal calamity was caused by the unregulated derivative market whose freedom to destroy what's left of the American economy the likes of Ryan and Romney cannot wait to reinstate.

Then there were all those stirring stories of bootstrap self-improvement, the upward mobility of the hard-working immigrant, the opportunities seized by the disadvantaged--they were precisely a product of the New Deal America that Franklin Roosevelt instituted, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson consolidated, and the Republican administrations of Dwight Eisenhower (not a snowball's chance of winning a primary these days) and Richard Nixon never dreamed of repudiating. The America of the G.I. Bill, of a college education that didn't require an enslavement to debt, of a consensus that the poor might actually be entitled to some form of medical assistance from the Leviathan Government--the America, in short, that the Republicans cannot wait to abolish--was the social foundation on which the parents and grandparents of the Christies and Rubios and Haleys could rise up and prosper. …