One of the saddest and grossest things I saw as a child occurred after rushing to a nearby barnyard where a large white hog had just given birth to a huge litter of pigs.
As we kids gathered in awe, admiring the pinkish-colored piglets while they blindly jockeyed for positions at their mother's belly for that first taste of nourishment, the sow did something that repulsed us. We fiercely ran to tell some responsible adult what we had seen.
The mother was eating one of her babies.
I later would learn that many species — animals, birds and insects — eat their newborn offspring or, in some cases, consume eggs before they are hatched.
There are many theories as to why creatures eat their young: sheer hunger, population control when the environment can't sustain them all, or, in the case of some male animals, to establish dominance.
Recently, I've taken note of another species even rarer than those that destroy their young; this animal has decided to eat its old, its injured and its infirmed.
The generic name for this creature is Republican politics.
Based on recent party maneuvers and elections, it appears that GOP officeholders who have been around for a while are marked for extinction, no matter how effective they have been. They are targeted by a bold, angry, anti-establishment and ultraconservative political breed determined to become the leader of the pack.
We saw it in Florida last month when the man who once was on the short list for vice president on the Republican ticket was forced out of the party.
Gov. Charlie Crist, once a darling in the GOP, committed an unpardonable sin by supporting President Barack Obama's stimulus package. Then he had the nerve to embrace the president in public.
The governor dropped out of the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate and is now running as an independent.
This month, Utah Republicans turned on their effective three-term senator, Bob Bennett, after deciding the once-popular legislator was not conservative enough because he voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program to bail out large financial institutions. Delegates to the state's GOP convention denied the 76-year-old Bennett the opportunity to be on the ballot in the Republican primary.
In neighboring Arizona, the party's presidential nominee in 2008 is in the race of his political life as many conservative pundits and their minions have decided that he is out of touch with their values and does not deserve a fifth term in the Senate.
Sen. John McCain, although still leading in the polls as of this writing, has moved further to the right and even dropped his "maverick" label in an attempt to appeal to those embracing a new movement called "Tea Party."
McCain, 73, has a history of reaching across the aisle to bring bipartisan solutions to issues facing the nation, but Tea Partiers don't believe in bipartisanship or compromise.
I suppose that's why a man who once co-sponsored immigration legislation with Sen. Ted Kennedy is now seen in commercials walking along a border fence talking about being tough on illegal immigrants.
McCain, as much as anyone, should know how this new breed behaves. After all, he's been attacked by it before. He escaped the hungry jaws without being badly chewed.
Republican voters in Kentucky managed to take a bite out of Sen. Mitch McConnell, their most powerful representative on Capitol Hill, even though he wasn't even on the ballot.
McConnell hand-picked Trey Grayson, Kentucky's secretary of state, for the Republican primary race for Senate over Tea Party darling Rand Paul, a doctor and son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Voters rejected the "establishment's candidate" and elected Paul by a 24-point margin.
There can't be many people in this country more conservative than Paul, but it is hard to imagine his brand of libertarian conservatism winning over a majority of voters this fall.
But he may be just what his state and the country are looking for in candidates to challenge what they perceive is a Washington gone amok.
Still, when a party turns on its older, more experienced and, in many cases, wiser leaders in favor of those who only have one thing to offer -- their badge of loyal conservatism -- I have to wonder if the party is dooming itself.
Is it a species headed for extinction?
ABOUT THE WRITER
Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.