Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Republican Party and the Struggle for the Conservative Soul

And maybe their voters are catching on to the scam
For the last few decades, the Republican party has walked a fine high-wire act between the Party as a political organization and the Movement conservatives that are considered its 'base' of voters. The problem is, as much as they need each other, they don't really like each other very much. The party has a single policy agenda, which it pursues with a laser like focus. It is strictly an economic policy goal - the upward transfer of wealth from the poor and minorities to the wealthy and the corporations - essentially the 1%.  This goal explains their perpetual demands for lower taxes on the wealthy and corporations, paid for by a reduction in social spending on the poor, and reduced regulatory limits on unfettered corporate profitability. Of course, the problem with the 1% as a political constituency is that it represents, well, 1% of the voters. It's hard to gain electoral power with such a small committed voting bloc, no matter how wealthy and powerful they are.

Movement conservatives don't really care about any of that. To whatever extent such a policy agenda affects them, it harms them. What they want is an activist government that will intervene to protect white privilege, working class jobs and an unusually religious definition of social and cultural constructs. With the advent of the 'abortion issue', and the resulting politicization of evangelical Christians, the Republican party found its army of voters. Time and  again, Republican political candidates promised vast, sweeping rollbacks of modern diversity and the cultural depravity they saw as an inevitable result, along with attempts to keep a strong white male patriarchy at the top of American society. And time and again, once elected, the Republican politicians promptly forgot all that in order to get along with the business of transferring American wealth to the wealthy.

The base noticed. They got angry, they railed against the Republicans that 'made deals' and 'sold out' the cause. But the party didn't care - after all, who were they going to vote for? Bill Clinton? John Kerry? Barack Obama? Hah. When the party needed them at the next election, they'd be there again, a reliable army out in the streets knocking on doors and manning phone banks. In 2008 the party establishment convinced them they needed John McCain, a politician who represented everything they loathed, at the head of the ticket due to his 'electability'. They said that Sarah Palin would be there to protect their interests. In 2012, movement conservatives were more up in arms than ever, sputtering bile in their hatred for Barack Obama and his Muslim loving socialism. But once again, the Party sold them on Mitt Romney's electability, and Paul Ryan as the conservative that would keep things on the 'right' track.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the White House. Neither McCain nor Romney were electable enough to actually, you know, win the election. Now, in 2016, it seems that movement conservatives have had enough. Early in the process they wrapped their arms around the incoherent but somehow charismatic Donald Trump and unlikable but dependable rigid ideologue Ted Cruz. Once the party establishment realized that Jeb Bush was nothing more than the Fred Thompson of the 2016 election cycle, and after a stronger-than-expected third place showing in the Iowa caucuses, they seem to be coalescing around the young, handsome stumblebum Marco Rubio.

So now the big question is simply this: Will the right-wing populist voting base of the Republican party once again allow themselves to be bamboozled into supporting someone who will tell them what they want to hear, use them throughout the campaign, and once again ignore them in the service to the 1% after the election? Or will they continue to thumb their nose at the party and eventually award enough delegates to Donald Trump (let's face it, despite his ideological reliability, Ted Cruz is just too appallingly arrogant and unpleasant to ever win a national election) to make him the nominee in spite of the party establishment? I think between the deeply flawed Rubio being the best the party can bring to bear, and the recent Republican electoral history, signs point to a Trump nomination.

1 comment:

  1. My crystal ball tells me N.H. & Ioway are such outliers we can't really tell a damn thing from their results & we won't know until it's over. Which certainly won't be before the "S.E.C." primary &/or Super Tuesday.

    Given Trump as N.H. winner (& why not?) we still don't know who numbers two & three will be there, which might shake things up.

    If Cruz & Rubio are the last two besides Trump, he may be able to stir up fear about Rubio's parents being immigrants themselves, after he birthers Cruz out. That the Honky Party might be represented by a Canuck of Spanish/Cuban-Irish descent & a Cuban-descent anchor baby (Whose parents took 30 yrs. to naturalize thenselves.) strikes me as pretty damn funny.