At the Republican National Convention in 1988, for example, the party's candidate for president promised to usher in a "kinder and gentler" nation. The man who had been president of that nation -- the nation that so desperately needed to be made "kinder and gentler" -- was one Ronald Reagan, Republican. Though his political adversaries thought Reagan was evil incarnate, Reagan-haters tend not to be a large constituency at Republican National Conventions.
Whatever you think of Reagan, Republicans liked him, and this was a Republican convention. In fact, Americans seemed to like him, too, electing Reagan president in two landslides and even voting in his boob of a vice president as one final tribute to Reagan. (Once in office, President George Bush made eminently clear that he had learned absolutely nothing from Reagan and was removed from office by the American people at their very next opportunity.)
It was people who hated Reagan whom George Bush Sr. was playing to when pledging to preside over a "kinder and gentler" nation after eight years of peace and prosperity under a Republican president.
Flash forward to the Republican National Convention four years later, and the next politically fainthearted Republican nominee for president. This is what he said to gin up a room full of Republicans:
"If there is anyone who has mistakenly attached himself to the party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you: Tonight this hall belongs to the party of Lincoln, and the exits, which are clearly marked, are for you to walk out of as I stand here and hold this ground -- without compromise."
Very brave, Bob -- that "without compromise" detail was an especially nice touch. Pardon me for asking the obvious, but does Bob Dole actually know one single Republican who believes the Republican Party should be open only to -- presumably -- white Christians? Has he ever in his entire life met such a Republican? Have you?
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