Our government has functioned fairly well with the two major parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, coming at issues from different sides and reaching solutions based on compromise and a desire to do what’s best for the country. In these times of tremendous problems and issues that will decide whether we remain the major power in the world in the coming decades, we need that kind of cooperation, and even that set of diverse viewpoints, in order to come to solutions that will best solve the problems we face.

The problem is we no longer have a conservative party to be the counterpoint to the Democrats. The Obama administration has shown the willingness to compromise, and to move toward the center on just about every issue that they have faced. Yet there is no longer a conservative party on the other side to reach an agreement with. The Republican Party that we’ve known no longer exists.

This new Republican Party is not conservative, no matter what leaders such as Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich choose to call it. The party is now led by a bunch of fanatics. They no longer espouse traditional Republican values. They are religious and ideological zealots, who are more interested in their own personal beliefs, which they think come from God, and in bringing down the opposition, no matter what the consequences.

And the problem is that this hard line is forcing out many good, long-time Republican leaders, and pushing those who want to stay so far to the right in their stances that they become ineffective.

Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey Governor and Cabinet Secretary under President George W. Bush, saw this coming, and wrote a book called It’s My Party Too. In it she examined how intolerant “social fundamentalists” had seized control of the GOP, and was going to cause it to “move so far to the right that it ends up alienating centrist voters and marginalizing itself.”

Mitt Romney was a moderate Republican that was able to win in the heavily Democratic leaning state of Massachusetts, where he worked with Democrats and even formulated a health care plan that worked so well much of the Obama plan was based on it. Yet, in order to try and win the Republican nomination, he has had to change his positions, denounce that health care plan, and move so far to the right on all his stances that he is barely recognizable. His main challenger is Rick Santorum, who is a religious right candidate who has questioned the use of prenatal testing and even the use contraception.

This takeover of the Republicans was initiated by the TEA Party, who started out as a group calling for limited government, and has ended up as mouthpiece for extreme right-wing viewpoints on every issue under the sun.

Even seemingly innocuous actions that in the past were applauded as signs of our government working together are now grounds for being kicked out of the party. The formerly effective and respected Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, once hugged President Obama after working with him on a job creation initiative. This infuriated the far right so much that he lost all his backing and they supported ultra-conservative Marco Rubio against him. Crist left the Republican Party and became an independent.

Senator Warren Rudman from New Hampshire was a respected congressman, but he got so frustrated by all this he left Congress and wrote a book in which he wrote that the “frugal, practical, businesslike GOP of his youth” had been taken over by zealots. “If someone had told me in the 1960s that one day I would serve in a Republican Party that… advocated prayer in the schools, and talked about government-inspired ‘family values,’ I would have thought he was crazy… yet I could see the Republican Party gradually being taken over by ‘movement’ conservatives and self-commissioned Christian soldiers whose social agenda I found repugnant.”

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary Of State Colin Powell under President Bush, made these comments: “The only way I can explain it is their hatred of President Obama… they want to defeat this man. They want to bring this man out of the White House. They want to embarrass this man… they will take almost any stand, even, and this is what really grates on me as a Republican, even if it is not in the interest of this country, they will take a stand and have repeatedly taken stands that oppose the president simply because they oppose the president… that is political opportunism and political blindness of the first order. And it may cause me to leave this party eventually, I must say that.”

David Frum, a Bush speechwriter and noted conservative writer, put it this way: “I’ve been a Republican all my adult life… I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government. I voted for John ­McCain in 2008, and I have strongly criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration. But as I contemplate my party and my movement… I see things I simply cannot support.”

One man best explained what we need in this country. With the nation recovering from a recession that sent unemployment above nine percent, he called for a hostile Congress to end wasteful tax breaks for the rich. “We’re going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share,” he said to a crowd in Georgia. These tax loopholes, he adds, “sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary, and that’s crazy.”

A Democrat decrying the Republican refusal to allow any loophole to be closed or tax to be raised? No. That was President Reagan in 1985. We need a new party to take over what the Republicans used to be. They are no longer a viable political party. They are now a bunch religious and anti-tax fanatics who care more about their personal cause than about the country.

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