The current state of state of the GOP reminds me of nothing so much as the myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece.
Jason, you will remember, accompanied by his seagoing pals, the Argonauts, set off to steal the Golden Fleece (You’ve seen it often: think Brooks Brothers logo, the paintings of the Habsburg Emperors, and Air Force One).
A powerful and singularly annoying King named Aetes, the father of a beautiful daughter (more on THAT later) made it his task to set obstacles in the path of Jason and the boys: harness a brace of brass-footed, fire-breathing bulls; use them to plow a fertile field, and then sow the field with teeth from a dead but magic dragon.
Following the disaster of Barry Goldwater’s defeat at the hands of Lyndon Johnson in1964, the GOP set off on a long but ultimately successful quest for a slightly different “Golden Fleece.”
It first harnessed the brass-footed fire-breathing bulls that now constitute an overwhelmingly powerful segment of their “base.”
Exploiting the Democratic Party’s support of Civil Rights and both the style and substance of opposition to the war in Vietnam, Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy” appealed to angry white southerners and patriotic working class northerners alike, foremost among them disappointed supporters of George Wallace.
Overnight Dixiecrats like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms became . . . “Republicans.”
And there was much fertile ground to plow.
In Jason’s myth the dragon’s teeth grow into fully armed warriors, intent on his destruction.
In the myth Jason escapes by the skin of his own teeth, thanks to the advice of Medea, the kings daughter. He blindsides one of the warriors with a well-aimed stone; one warrior blames another and so on, until injuries cascade; and the warrior harvest of the dragon’s teeth kills itself off.
For the GOP, the candidates and crowds of 2016 are the harvest of the dragons’ teeth, sown by Goldwater, Wallace, Nixon, W, Cheney, and their successors.
They are seeds that grow in the fertile soil of anger and hate, racism and economic discontent, fed by religious self-righteousness, envy, hopelessness and overweening pride and misplaced patriotism.
No one from the outside needed to throw a well-aimed stone to set our crop of GOP hopefuls against each other. Trump did that and now there are only three of the original ten thousand left standing
In one version of the myth of the dragon’s five warriors survive and go on to found the city of Sparta.
Jason’s version was bloodier.
After stealing the Golden Fleece, Jason and the Argonauts set sail in the Argus hotly pursued by King Aetes.
Medea, never at a loss, killed her own brother, cut him into pieces, and dropped them in the sea.
She knew her father, proud and mean-spirited though he was, would be grief stricken, would stop, try to collect the pieces, and at the very least, give them an decent burial.
Sadly, after all this is over there may not be enough of the Grand Old Party to bury.
Let us hope that after the dust finally settles it only the GOP, and not something dearer to us all, in need of rites.