Belaboring the Obvious

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hmmm. Don't think I agree...

... with this assessment, or with the underlying post which prompted Atrios' remark.

There's a tendency--a generous one, to be sure--to think of "the right" in this country as the old-guard traditional Republican, sort of in the mold of Everett Dirksen. That view presumes that there's a broad center mostly defined by the Republican party of the wealthy, business and of narrow fiscal opinion and the Democratic party, of civil rights and fiscal excess.

This might have been true fifty years ago, but, it's hardly true today. What began as the Republican so-called "Southern Strategy" has caused the Republican Party to morph into something far more malicious and threatening than the benign view still held by many. What the "Southern Strategy" effectively did was to put the Republican Party on a path to pandering to a vast array of single-issue voters whose issue of choice could be branded, even vaguely, as "not liberal" and, therefore, "conservative."

As the Republicans roped in working-class Americans with displays of faux patriotism and in no small way sought to blame economic problems Republicans helped to create on the Democrats' demands for racial equality, thus encouraging the working class to identify their economic resentments as racial, calling their conquests, "Reagan Democrats," that dragged the Democratic Party even further rightward, encouraging Democrats to make alliances with Republicans on issues of tax cuts for the wealthy and other pro-big business demands. In this particular sense, traditional notions of "left" and "right" no longer apply.

In a marketing sense, the Republicans sought to cross-brand themselves with a long list of limited-issue voters who traditionally either didn't vote at all or would never think of themselves as bedrock WASPy, country-club Republicans, in order to bolster their traditionally lower percentage of party members. Tapping into Southern voters' racial resentments was successful, and the party expanded its efforts. The so-called "Christian Right" is a relatively new phenomenon, politically, because, beginning with Reagan, there was a determined branding effort on the part of the Republicans to align those new groups with "traditional conservative values," when "traditional conservative" values, looking back fifty or a hundred years, had a lot more to do with exclusivity and the accumulation of money, and a belief that government should be limited, to those ends, anyway.

Therefore, the Republican Party began to change perceptibly, not only because of its changing composition, but because of its willingness to embrace extremism in order to keep those single-issue voters. Most of the issues they took on as their own contained the seeds of extremism in them, and brought along extremist practitioners and believers. There were some complicated overlaps between those extremist beliefs. Racists responded to Republican cross-branding with the NRA's campaigns against gun control, since "keeping one's family safe" from the minorities made sense to them. Putting the minority poor in jail for victimless crimes (law `n order values) reduced their numbers on the streets and therefore reduced the implicit threat of minorities. It was inevitable that such policies would attract some on the extreme authoritarian right, including neo-Nazis. Embracing the hot-button issues of the Christian right (resistance to abortion law, excoriation of homosexuals and pressure to abandon church/state separation) meant that some Christian Identity types would find a home in the Republican Party, especially if their only other viable option was the hated "liberal" Democratic Party.

Race, guns, national security and white Christianity have become intimately woven into the fabric of the modern Republican Party (in addition to their more traditional aims), and one only need read the platforms coming out of their national conventions in recent years to understand the extent to which those basic themes have become integrated with their political philosophy.

Despite a strong preference of the nation for Democrats and Obama in the 2008 election, the Republican Party and its enabling gasbags on talk radio and tv have publicly pandered to the most extreme elements and issues in society today (remember that it was only recently that the RNC leadership seriously considered that it would only refer to the Democratic Party publicly as the "Democrat Socialist Party"). The Republican Party has sought to be not conciliatory in defeat, but, rather, increasingly inflammatory in its rhetoric and has been digging in its heels on all legislation that doesn't accommodate the extremist views of its base.

The Republican Party is now official and unofficial host to every right-wing nutball and crazy in the country, and anyone who's lived long enough to remember that half of the Republicans in the Senate voted to censure their own Joseph McCarthy knows this to be the case. How many Republicans has it been, lately, who've offered timid criticism of Gasbag-in-Chief Rush Limbaugh, only to kneel down to plant a wet one on his ass a day or two later?

Certainly, there are Republicans (and no small number of Democrats) in Congress that are closely aligned with the aims of the old Republican Party. But, the Republican Party itself has become a haven for any and all extremists on the right, and the party leadership has worked to make it so.

This is what comes of a "win at all costs" political strategy. The Republican cogniscenti in Washington, DC, can say whatever it likes about not endorsing the recent violence visited upon the extreme right-wing's hated objects, but, until they tell the Becks and the Hannitys and the Savages and O'Reillys and the Limbaughs of the country to put a cork in it--and mean it--and start, seriously, to prune the hate and bigotry and racism out of their policy platforms, then their protestations are just attempts to deflect blame from where it rightfully should accrue.

And, if there's any proof that the right wing in this country is doing its utmost to deny any responsibility and avoid any connection to the recent spate of right-wing violence, it's the almost immediate--and thoroughly lame--attempt to describe James W. von Brunn, the alleged killer of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, as a "leftist."

Well, after all, the far-right wing loves Israel and the Jews, so, they whine, "it can't be us" that caused a right-wing neo-Nazi with white Christian issues (hey, the guy's website was named "") to use a gun inside the Holocaust Museum to get Jews.

The Republican Party's mix-and-match approach to endorsing prejudice, bigotry and general hatred for anything progressive and humane, along with its deliberate courting of many wacko single-issue voters, allowed people to selectively endorse portions of its agenda. The Republicans happily sought out the favors of the Christian Right, which has embraced Israel as ground zero of Armageddon and Jerusalem as the seat of the new thousand-year reign of Jesus after the bloodletting is done. This is, of course, a view that the defenders of the Israeli state amongst the right-wing neo-conservatives were cynically happy to endorse, because they knew that it was all just raving Christian end-times nonsense, and a willingness to aid Israel, especially when they knew that support would never result in what the Rapture wackos most desired, was fine by them.

The fact that the right-wingers are now trying to distance themselves from the very people they sought out for support only a few years ago--and only because those same people are shown as gun-toting racist wackadoos--is proof that they have no principles left. They are entirely cynical.


Post a Comment

<< Home