First, appearances are everything. To be a good Republican you have to look like a good Republican. Which is not so easy these days. It used to be that a good Republican looked like a small-town banker — an agreeable Kiwanian with a prosperous paunch, dressed in a dark gray suit, a white shirt and a red tie drawn at the neck into a carefully constructed knot. If he had an adventurous bent, the banker might essay a triangular Windsor knot. Winter or summer, he always wore a hat.
The Windsor knot, by the way, is said to have originated with the Duke of Windsor, whose only other contribution to the world was to demonstrate just how thin royal blood could get. Before the war started, the newly minted Duke and Duchess made nice with the Nazis on one of their endless trips to nowhere, and were eventually shuffled off to the Bahamas by an exasperated British government. The Duke spent the war years perfecting his knot and studying the tango. Had he been an American citizen, there is no doubt the Duke would have been a Republican.
Republican women used to look like the banker’s wife, who was considered a style trendsetter and a model of sensible, plump American womanhood. She subscribed to family values before the phrase was invented. She was chairwoman of the annual bake-off fund-raiser for the hospital and wore a silver fox stole in the winter. She also wore a hat with some sort of bird feather in it and thought New York City was the home of the Devil. She was an enthusiastic Republican because her husband was an enthusiastic Republican. That’s all there was to it. She would have thought the Tea Party was inhabited by dangerous lunatics with terrible manners, sort of like the Hell’s Angels.
But all that was a long time ago, before everything got so confusing. Now where does a good Republican look for inspiration and guidance? Where once there was Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater and Dwight Eisenhower, all earnest and boring and utterly unsurprising, now we have John McCain, Michelle Bachmann, John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich? Oh, what a rich choice! But first…
No matter how you knot your tie, as a good Republican you will want to keep your eye on the donut. You will want to embrace the essence of Republicanism, the spirit of conservatism; you must long for the way things used to be, or at least say you do, before Big Government came along and ruined everything. You will want to have at hand a few phrases about fiscal responsibility, self-reliance and the American Way, even if you don’t quite know what the American Way is. If you happen to have one of the old GOP handbooks, go through it and cross out Communism wherever you see it and substitute Terrorism with a capital T. Cross out Roosevelt and insert Obama. Cross out New Deal and replace it with Bad Deal. Make sure you’ve got the words of the “Pledge of Allegiance” and “God Bless America” down pat and memorize the First Amendment.
Now you’re ready to adopt the GOP style that suits you. Which do you like best? Boehner or Bachmann, Palin or Gingrich? And don’t forget the Old Pilot. Maybe the bolts have popped out of his wings but he’s still flying the plane, more or less. How about Orrin Hatch? Now there’s a guy knows how to knot a tie. He can do it one-handed while the other hand is busy wielding the scalpel. How about Mitch McConnell? Isn’t he cuddly cute? Nobody said this was going to be an easy choice.
Perhaps it would be easier to make a selection from a list of GOP adjectives and construct your very own Republican persona. Here are a few descriptive words to help you: smug, hypocritical, selfish, greedy, hawkish, myopic, negative, reckless, stupid.
And, finally, let’s not forget wrong.