A Canadian observer recently wrote that Americans have a tendency to sell themselves short, he knew, he said, as soon as the Iowa Caucuses had ended that Barack Obama was destined to be President of the United States. Politics and ideology aside, I agree with historian Simon Schama that, while it’s been a long time coming, the election of an African American President is the culmination of where we have been headed for two centuries. That fact itself confirms our ability to overcome our painful past, and like grown ups, sieze the better angels of our nature.

I do not believe for a minute that most of those who oppose Barack Obama’s policy agenda are necessarily racist. Unfortunately there are those voices in the Republican Party, whether they are “birthers” who clutch their birth certificate in a zip-lock bag and sob, “I want my country back,” or shock-jock Rush Limbaugh who tells us he wants “resegregated busses,” or Congressman Joe Wilson, whose membership in the racist CCC and support and membership in various neo-confederate operations speak for themselves. These voices are racist and worse.

Unfortunately, these toxic tendencies seem to have a death grip on the Republican Party.

I am old enough to remember when Illinois and California were “red” states, Ronald Reagan was a multi-term Governor of California after all; old enough to remember when conservative ideas had an honored place in the academy and university. Conservatism, at least any conservatism that Edmund Burke would recognize, has been suffocated by these fringe voices of reaction.

It isn’t particularly a good thing that California and Illinois have become one party states, or that so many other states are following the same trend. With only one approach to governing and government, the public ultimately loses.

There was a time when I cast votes for good-government Republicans who I trusted to provide honest and effective public services, as well as be a brake on the excesses of the other party. Those days, I regret to say, are behind me. Republicans, so long as they are puppets of the fringe, simply can’t be trusted to hold public office.

I hope that this situation will change. I believe ultimately it will, but until then I will be a straight party voter, something I once considered anathema!