Jon Huntsman’s short-lived candidacy for the Republican party’s presidential nomination was brief but appears to have made him understand what has happened to his party. Doomed from the start by his penchant for accepting the truth of well-established scientific theories like evolution and global warming that contradict conservative orthodoxy, Huntsman seems to have had a run-from-Jesus moment:
His sharpest words were directed not to the future of the GOP but at the not-so-distant past. Huntsman described the Republican primary process as corrosive, producing pledge-signing, cookie-cutter candidates more interested in money and publicity than policy. Recalling one particular debate, Huntsman described the sensation he felt observing his fellow White House aspirants.
“Some do it professionally. Some were entertainers,” he said of the Republican presidential field. “I looked down the debate stage, and half of them were probably on Fox contracts at one point in their career. You do that. You write some books. You go out and you sell some more. You get a radio gig or a TV gig out of it or something. And it’s like, you say to yourself, the barriers of entry to this game are pretty damn low.”
He chuckled a bit when reminded that a pizza conglomerate, in the person of Herman Cain, had led the Iowa caucus polls at one point. “It wasn’t a period where rational thinking or any kind of commitment to reality or truth or optimism necessarily prevailed,” Huntsman said. “It was how can you eviscerate the opposition.”…“In my party, compromise cannot be seen as analogous to treason, which it has been recently,” he said.
This is what extremists do to a party. For the extremists, purity is the only goal and must be pursued no matter what the practical cost to the party or to the country. He continued:
“We used to be the party that put out wars: Eisenhower, Korea; Nixon, Vietnam; Reagan, the Cold War. And here we talk about starting wars. That’s all Republicans on the defense side seem to want to talk about — not negotiating a way forward diplomatically, as we had under earlier Republican administrations, but always falling back on the war option as if we haven’t had enough over the past 12 years.”
Tonally as well, Huntsman insisted his party has to evolve. The cultivation of knee-jerk conflict, he argued, has produced remarkably little fruit. For four years, the goal was to “thwart the opposition, stymie the opposition, obfuscate, be a flamethrower, go out there and destroy the system, and here we are,” he said. “We have seen the results of that mentality.”
Welcome to reality, Jon. It took you too long to get here, but that’s still a hell of a lot better than most of your partisan colleagues.