I've found myself thinking lately about the tag-line for a 1974 horror movie: "If this doesn't make your skin crawl, it's on too tight."
What brought the saying to mind? Most recently, it was Nevada Sen. John Ensign. And before that it was South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig.
I am a former Republican and now an independent conservative, and what is going on with the GOP right now makes my skin crawl. What has happened to the party of morals, character and traditional beliefs?
Ensign, Sanford and Vitter should join Craig in the private sector and resign immediately. Not because they cheated on their wives but because of their hypocrisy and the sleazy things they've done in concert with their philandering.
Too many of my Republican friends offer excuses: "Democrats do the same thing," they say. But that won't play with the American people.
The Republican leadership -- especially any member of it who is thinking of running for president in 2012 -- needs to step back and acknowledge that the party is damaged, dysfunctional and coming across as hypocritical. There was a time when Republicans stood for something, but today it's no longer clear what the party's basic tenets are or who speaks for it.
The party doesn't even seem able to field a presidential candidate who understands why he or she is running. As one high-level Republican friend said to me of the 2008 race: "McCain was like an old dog chasing a car. He wasn't quite sure why he was chasing the car, and wouldn't know what to do with a car if he caught it, but at that stage of his life, he felt he had to chase the largest car going by."
Now that it's the party on the outside looking in, the GOP has to stop sending out the next candidate in line to chase the largest car going by and instead figure out what it stands for and how to connect with the changing complexion of our nation. That, or prepare for political extinction
So what can the party do? Two things. Reclaim the principles of honor, decency and morality, and connect with the extremely broad base of Americans who embrace those attributes.
Earlier this year, Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush -- supported by Haley Barbour, John McCain and others -- gathered at a pizza parlor in Arlington, Va., to announce something called the "National Council for a New America." But the true "new America" isn't one inhabited by older, wealthy, white politicians.
I'm a conservative who grew up in abject poverty and was homeless a number of times as a child. More often than not, as a white child, I found myself living -- until the next eviction -- in predominantly black neighborhoods. That's where I caught my first glimpse of true American heroes: the single black moms who worked two or three jobs and did everything in their power to protect and advance their children. Today, I'm married to a Hispanic American woman and have witnessed up front the true "family values" that American Latinos embrace.
To make itself relevant again, the GOP needs to shed the morally bankrupt leaders who have violated the trust of their families and their constituents and embrace a broader base, a broader definition of what it is to be a conservative.
For what it's worth -- and as one who comes from the unwashed masses -- I'd tell the Republican leaders to go silent, get off the screen and get out among the American people for a few months and simply listen. Just listen. By doing so, they just might rediscover their lost convictions.