The Republican party has been in a steady decline since 2008 like a junkie deeply in denial; flailing about looking for ways to keep the high going. The primary campaign is the embarrassing theatrical manifestation of the downward spiral of a party long out of touch but unable and unwilling to accept that the ways of the past are no longer going to work.
Not that they ever did. People once believed that Reaganomics sounded feasible and there are aspects that are still relevant. For example there is nothing wrong with the concept of smaller, leaner government as opposed to a bloated, lethargic, wasteful bureaucratic pile of red tape. But the trickle down theory has all but been disproved. Yet like Milton Friedman; ever the optimist, many conservatives believe that if you just keep trying the same old tax cuts for the rich strategy, it will eventually yield bountiful results.
And it does yield a bountiful harvest, just not for everyone. Conservatives have been crying that there is a redistribution of wealth going on in the economy. They’ve branded it ‘class warfare’. The implication of this accusation is that the unwashed, undeserving poor are beating at the gates of the ‘job creators’ who richly deserve every penny they’ve
inherited earned. There has, indeed, been a redistribution of wealth happening but it has been from the bottom up to the top 1%.
Conservatives also believe that environmental and financial regulations are designed and being wielded solely for the purpose of robbing them of the opportunity to generate wealth. Even though there is demonstrable proof that our environment is cleaner and regulation of markets usually ferrets out those who will abuse market rules as a result.
Something curious is happening as a result of Reagan’s thirty year old experiment: the American public has begun to realize that it’s been a big lie all along. And boy are they pissed.
How have the Republicans dealt with it?
First they did nothing. In fact, they went out of their way to make sure nothing was done at all hoping to paint the administration that the American people had overwhelmingly voted into office as ineffective.
Then, a faction of conservative voters split off and formed an angry group. They likened themselves to the original patriots who resisted British imperialism and staged a raid in Boston Harbour to protest taxation without representation. Today’s Tea Party is a group of disgruntled mostly older white people who are clinging to some archaic (and nostalgically inaccurate) version of the good ol’ days. Their efforts started out as well organized pseudo-grassroots events (some were funded by special interest PACs and promoted by FOX News). Many had jingoistic, xenophobic, and even racist overtones. A few people even brought their guns, presumably just in case the British tried to retake America.
The result of all this conservative outrage at the Obama administration; much of it just plain old sore loser hurt feelings, was the 2010 election of a super conservative Republican freshmen majority in the House of Representatives. This 112th Congress wasted no time taking crazy to a whole new level. Someone figured out how to abuse the time honoured filibuster rule and threats of filibuster by House Republicans and Senators more than quadrupled.
Meanwhile, apparently a memo went out to all the newly elected Republican Governors that the top priority was to emasculate the Democratic electorate by any means necessary and as quickly as possible before President Obama could be re-elected. These Governors proceeded to rush through all manner of laws (that none of them campaigned on) that cut off union rights, changed voter registration laws to disenfranchise certain demographic of voters who traditionally vote Democratic, and changed long standing voter ID laws that would cause voters to spend money in order to vote (otherwise known as a poll tax). Even now several states are embroiled in court battles over gerrymandering; the practice of redistricting in order to unfairly benefit a particular political party. When you can’t win democratically, win dirty.
The results of all of this mucking with the system have been revolt and backlash; particularly in Wisconsin where recalls have been staged and are underway for the Governor and Lt. Governor. Similar backlash is occurring in Ohio, Indiana, Florida, and Michigan where a form of financial martial law has been imposed disbanding entire elected governments of some towns altogether.
Not to be outdone, our Supreme Court narrowly passed Citizens United, the absurd ruling that declares that corporations are people and have the same rights that people are endowed with including freedom of speech. One interpretation of that means that corporations may donate unlimited funds to political campaigns. Even Republicans are beginning to see the folly of that decision as the candidates bloody each other with millions in negative ads funded by a few rich donors. Thanks to Citizens United, our elections are the best that money can buy.
Meanwhile, back in Congress, conservatives; dragged ever further to the right by the Tea Party influence began putting forth all manner of obsolete and pointless social issues on the docket and trying to tack them onto routine bills like the debt ceiling bill. They demanded cuts to everything except the military. They engaged in games of chicken with the budget trying to undermine social safety net programs that even their own constituents and the Tea Party members benefit from all in an attempt to discredit the President. It’s like trying to kill the captain by sinking the ship. In their blind hatred for this administration they were willing to risk burning down the economy of the entire world.
Now that this strategy has failed, they’re back to trying to create a negative perception of the President again by perpetuating the mythos of the foreign secret Muslim Manchurian candidate who is as ineffective as Jimmy Carter. Mitt Romney continues to say that the economy has failed because of Obama (the economy is the strongest ever since it collapsed at the end of the Bush era). Newt Gingrich keeps comparing the President with some dead boogeyman named Saul Alinsky who no one has ever heard of (who turns out to be a fairly interesting guy).
The rest of the conservatives are furiously trying to turn this into some kind of religious crusade by trying to take down Planned Parenthood the backlash of which may the demise of the Susan Komen Foundation, the leading organization for breast cancer prevention. And Rick Santorum is even running on a platform of trying to outlaw birth control!
This whole conservative, knee-jerk bout of paranoia is simply a resistance to the change that President Obama was elected to bring about. It’s no different from the delusional paranoid wave of fear that swept the country when Joe McCarthy brought on the red spectre of communism in the fifties. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. In both cases personal ideology based upon fear is being abused to subvert democracy.
The same remedy for the McCarthy era must be applied today: those responsible for perpetuating the fear must be removed from power. The Republican party has lost its soul and needs to spend some time in the wilderness trying to break the fever until the madness subsides.
In the meantime, this country needs to look forward.
- Has the Right Gone Mad? (athomesense.wordpress.com)
- New Poll Finds Republicans in ‘State of Collapse’ (littlegreenfootballs.com)
- Republicans’ Reality TV Politics (mykeystrokes.com)
- James Peron: Do Republicans Have a Death Wish? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Poll: Republicans on Verge of Political Death (usnews.com)
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You start the decline as late as 2008? I’d wager that both parties have been in steady decline ever since 1972. You can thank Tricky Dick for diengaging the parking brakes.
Nixon represented an early iteration of what would later be seen in Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. Not yet entirely corrupt, he did advocate for universal single payer healthcare and started the EPA. But he did take those fatal first steps away from the inhibitions that had held American Presidents back from the edge for a century when he sent his cronies to break into his opponent’s campaign office, and when his “Southern Strategy” preyed upon the racism of former Dixiecrats like Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace. Nixon’s attacks on McGovern that year were the beginnings of the idea that principled ideas and core values were not ends in and of themselves. Electoral victory at any price, even the destruction of one’s opponent was perfectly justified and the issues were mere tools to that end.
Over the years this method became amplified as Carter put his religion at the front and center of his campaign. None of the earlier Presidents would have done that, as it violates the principles laid out in the Establishment Clause and the prohibition of a religious test for public office. Then Reagan expanded on the idea by openly courting the Religious Right (“I know you cannot endorse me, but I endorse you”), and merging them with free-market radicalism that had been discredited since 1929. His successor would make Willie Horton a household name while running on the idea that taxation was immoral rather than merely unpleasant. Clinton would carry this even further, gutting AFDC and ending Glass-Steagle, nominating as his Veep a guy whose wife was famous for attacking musicians who used four letter words in their lyrics. From there it fell off a cliff and we got the ultimate merger of evangelical Christianity and the free market, resulting in a system were money was God, and those who had a lot of it were by definition holier than those who didn’t. Along came an era were CEOs became famous and adored (Jack Welch and Donald Trump, e.g.) and whose artists produced works entitled “Get Rich or Die Trying”. What Carter had begun was cemented with an Office of Faith Based Programs- a federal agency that openly established state sponsored religion. In 2008, the main topic of the campaign had little to do with questions such as how do we get everyone back to work and was more focused on whether Obama was a Christian or a Muslim.
No, 2008 was not the beginning of the decline of American Politics. It was the logical end of 36 years of electoral decline. Prior to 2008, we saw a 28 year stretch were a Bush or a Clinton was in the White House or VP Mansion. Dynasty politics in a country that was founded on hatred of monarchy and primogeniture? Prior to 1998, we saw the deaths of over 100,000 American citizens to a disease that could have been stopped dead in it’s tracks had the President funded research into developing a test for HIV seropositivity sooner and an effective survey of how to prevent it. Why? Because of religious influence in the White House, an idea that would have made Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower vomit at it’s mere suggestion. Prior to 1978, we had our first President to never have run for office on either side of a Presidential ticket, who would then hand a pardon to the predecessor who had appointed him to the post as he resigned in disgrace.
The car began rolling down the hill in 1972 when the brakes provided by the McGovern campaign were greased by G Gordon Liddy and his compatriots. By 2008, it caught your attention because we almost fell off the cliff. I hope it didn’t scare you too badly, but this is what we get when the electorate falls asleep at the wheel.
Statler! My fine crawdad friend, it’s been too long. I’ve missed your witty and biting repartee, particularly halfway through that box of Merlot.
I actually cite the declaration of war as Reagan’s innauguration in January of 1981 but for the sake of this argument I narrowed the window to this cycle. Your premise that Nixon helped lay the foundation is not without merit. Nixon was around when the Republicans were voted into an extended minority in 1948. I’m certain they were planning a comeback for quite some time. It took LBJ groundbreaking changes in civil rights that altered the make-up of the party (and an unpopular war) to give Nixon, and eventually Reagan, the opportunity.
I actually consider 2008 the ‘Hail Mary’ play; the nothing to lose strategy, the kamikaze tactic, the last stand of a party clinging to a dying mythology.
Agree that all your points are contributory threads in a larger tapestry.
Good to see you still engaged.
Hey hey, I missed you too old buddy. Forgive me if I am mistaken, but that background image resembles the Budd Inlet of the Puget Sound. To preserve your anonymity, i won’t go any further than that, but it does indicate which school you’re doing your professorship at. A fine institution it is, my friend, the best in the country. I find it worthy of a brilliant mind such as yourself.
Dear god, the internet has immortalized my collegiate drinking binges.
I’ll say that Reagan accelerated the process quite a bit. A declaration of war is a fitting way to describe it, although first blood had been drawn many years before.
I see the problem as being much broader in scope than just the GOP. They’ve been the more ostentatious of the two major parties along with several of the Third and lesser parties such as the Constitution, Reform, and Libertarian Parties. But we cannot let the Democrats off the hook on this one either. If it were as simple as a Manichean struggle between the Republicans and the Dems for the soul of America, then the 60-seat majority the Democrats won in 2008 would have brought us Universal Single Payer, the repeal of DOMA and the PATRIOT Act, and a WPA style direct hire program. But we didn’t get a New Deal, did we? That’s because the Democratic Party of today is not the same party that FDR led so many years ago.
We can see symptoms of the problem in voter’s guides across the country. The Senate race in Mississippi in ’08 was between two homophobic bigots trying to out-hate one another. So was the Senate run in Louisiana in ’10. Joe Manchin calls himself a Democrat, but look at what this man stands for and ask yourself if he’s anything at all like Franken, Murray, or Baldwin. Can we call Max Baucus a Democrat after he ruined our one shot at real health care reform? In what way does Mary Landrieu count as a Democrat?
And I see the Democrats as having played a role in this decline. It began after they chased McGovern and his supporters out of the party and started pandering to the Republicans.
“I know my enemies hate me, and I welcome their hate”. That was FDR during his acceptance speech for his first nomination as Democratic Party candidate for President. Can you imagine those same words coming out of any Democrat’s lips today?
It’s bad enough the GOP is actively seeking our destruction. Grover Norquist wants to shrink government and kill it in a bathtub. Karl Rove wants to keep one or two Democrats around as museum pieces. Sarah Palin paints pistol targets over our faces and refuses to apolgize when some lunatic takes her seriously and fires a round at poor Gabby Giffords. Yes,l it’s bad enough that our opponents by and large are crazy psychopaths that have no intention on dealing fair with us.
But do we have to participate in our own destruction? Why do we make it so easy for them to hurt us?
When supping with devils, use a long spoon. Makes it harder for them to drown you in your own soup.
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