When Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., quit the (no longer) bipartisan deficit-reduction talks last week, it was not exactly a "Profiles in Courage" moment.
Serious deficit reduction can't be — and shouldn't be — accomplished without tax increases and broad elimination of tax expenditures, which would have the effect of raising taxes. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform last year acknowledged that.
But tax increases, in whatever guise, fail the current Republican purity laws. Mr. Cantor, who will be running for reelection next year, understands that very well. So does Mr. Kyl, who won't seek reelection in 2012 — though he's generously offered himself as a vice presidential nominee.
It's sad to see what has happened to the Party of Lincoln, and for that matter, the party of lesser mortals like George H.W. Bush of Texas, Bob Dole of Kansas and Jack Danforth of Missouri. No one ever would mistake them for liberals, but they were statesmen who put country before party.
Today we have the spectacle of smart, patriotic men and women putting their brains and integrity on ice to please a party dominated by anti-intellectual social Darwinists and the plutocrats who finance and mislead them.
Consider the mythology that makes up GOP orthodoxy today. Imagine the contortions that cramp the brains and souls of men and women of intelligence and compassion who seek state and national office under the Republican banner.
• They must believe, despite the evidence of the 2008 financial collapse, that unregulated — or at most, lightly regulated — financial markets are good for America and the world.
• They must believe in the brilliantly cast conceit known as the "pro-growth agenda," in which economic growth can be attained only by reducing corporate and individual tax rates, especially among the investor class, and by freeing business from environmental rules that have cleaned up America's air and water and labor regulations that helped create America's middle class.
• Though rising health care costs are pillaging the economy, and even though health care in America is now a matter of what you can afford, Republican candidates for office must deny that health care is a basic right and resist a real attempt to change and improve the system.
• GOP candidates must scoff at scientific consensus about global warming. Blame it on human activity? Bad. Cite Noah's Ark as evidence? Good. They must express at least some doubt about the science of evolution.
• They must insist, statistics and evidence to the contrary, that most of the nation's energy needs can be met safely with more domestic oil drilling, "clean-coal" technology and greater reliance on perfectly safe nuclear power plants.
• They must believe that all 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States can be rounded up, detained, tried, repatriated and kept from returning at a reasonable cost.
• Even though there are more than four unemployed persons for every available job, GOP candidates should at least hint that unemployment benefits keep people from seeking jobs.
• They must believe that the Founding Fathers wanted to guarantee individuals the absolute right to own high-capacity, rapid-fire weapons that did not exist in the late 18th century.
By no means is this list complete. It almost makes you feel sorry for the people who pretend to believe this stuff. Almost.