No one exactly saw it coming, not then, not there anyway. And certainly not in the person of Clint Eastwood; who is widely viewed as a relatively down to earth and thoughtful man. .But it happened on prime time with the major networks watching – the Republican Party hit its crazy limit. Too many reckless charges made for far too long; Republicans finally maxed out on over the top, and the credit voters had given them is now overextended and in the process of being revoked.
The build up was slow, and steady. Rome wasn’t burnt down in a day, but the defining moment was precise and decisive; a uniform collective “WTF?” And though, in hindsight many could see it coming, the literal moment it happened was unsettling. That charge card had been used a hundred times before; often well beyond the normal limits. Why would it stop working now? That’s how it happens though. A clerk at a check out counter apologetically looks up one day and says, “I’m sorry sir but that account has been closed.”
The Republican Party is branded now as just a wee bit unhinged. A large segment of the American people had been doggedly resisting reaching that conclusion for several years; But the Republican Party finally breached those lingering doubts, with a spotlight focused on center stage during the climax to their National Convention.
A point comes when thin ice cracks and it cracked that night. Mitt Romney thought he could skate past the danger, but he really should have known better. There were very recent sightings of Republican crazy, most notably in the persona of “legitimate rape” Akin, who believed “good girls” could shut it down. The public was primed for a Republican defining moment at the Convention, and it came. Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, it didn't come during his speech
Republicans have an old Party with a proud tradition. Getting pegged for being loony wasn’t easily accomplished. Republicans used to be thought of as the relatively sober team in politics, to the point of seeming staid at times. Wild eyes were seen as a Democratic trait. That hasn’t been true for a long time actually but conventional wisdom resists new data. It took a lot of new data on the Republican Party to set up that empty chair defining moment.
It took Pat Robertson blaming Katrina on gays, and Sarah Palin quitting as Governor with less than half of one term served. It took a 2010 Republican Senatorial Candidate warning about “Second Amendment Remedies” while another assured us she wasn’t a witch. It took Newt Gingrich calling Barack Obama a greater threat to America than al-Qaeda and Mitt Romney resurrecting the Cold War. It took Rush Limbaugh denouncing a young law student as a slut for defending the use of Birth Control, and Donald Trump sending private investigators to Hawaii to look for the President’s fake birth certificate.
It took all that and so much more but the hits never stopped coming in today’s Republican Party. As odd as Clint Eastwood’s performance was on Friday night, the oddest part was that somehow it did not seem all that out of place there once the initial shock wore off. The delegates in fact seemed to love it. It was just another crazy moment from a Party that rather predictably excels at them. But it was one crazy too many for a lot of Americans who tuned in to see whether they can trust Mitt Romney with the Presidency. The image of his Party is now an empty chair.