Summary: Their racism, a key component of the Republicans coalition from the Southern Strategy begun with Goldwater, is the most obvious evil aspect of the new GOP. It’s a repudiation of the Party’s Grand origin, but only the most obvious of its ugly planks. Here we look at one example, then examine how this came to be. It’s a key chapter in the development of the New America.
This video shows what the Republicans have become (details at Buzzfeed), one of a thousand such moments during the past 8 years. Like Romney’s remarks about the 47%, these are moments of honesty — something rare in American campaigns — letting us see what lies behind the masks.
Ta-Nehisi Coates comments on the above video: “It’s Funny Because We’re White“, The Atlantic, 15 October 2012:
Jason Thompson, the son of former Governor and Wisconson Senate candidate Tommy Thompson, speaking this morning at a brunch attended RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said that “we have the opportunity to send President Obama back to Chicago — or Kenya.” A woman in attendance then chimed in “we are taking donations for that Kenya trip.”
There is this sense that birther jokes are the sideshow of the Republican Party, a nutty fringe that keeps conservatives from the serious task of separating those who are smart from those who are poor. But I would argue that birther jokes are the essence of the conservative movement: The involuntary spewings of a resentful class who know they should be better, and hate you for holding them to this.
That’s who they are.
How did the GOP become this? It did not just happen.
The major themes of the US history have been strong domestic investment in infrastructure, evolution of individual rights, and cautious involvement in foreign conflicts. Today’s GOP has abandoned all of these, adopting positions earlier generations considered extreme or even beyond the pale — and roughly half of the public supports them to some extent. As a result our politics have become unbalanced, perhaps dysfuctional.
How did this happen?
The GOP of today results from the patient and wise investment of vast sums over decades in politicians and journalists, think-tanks and new media — and, in general, centers of influence. They’ve molded both us and our political machinery, laying the foundation for the New America whose structure we see rising higher every day (described in the FabiusMaximus01 twitter feed). They’ve molded the Democratic Party as well, so that in many ways the parties agree on the direction they wish to take America — differing mostly in the speed and magnitude of the journey. Important differences, however.
To see one aspect of this project please read this brilliant and devastating account of “How the GOP Destroyed its Moderates” by Jonathan Chait in The New Republic, 5 October 2012. Here is an excerpt, skipping ahead to the end of the process — today’s GOP, after Obama’s election in 2008.
CONSERVATIVES exerted enormous pressure on their party to follow its new and more radical line, and the pressure quickly grew unbearable not only for Republicans in elected office but for many moderate intellectuals as well. The most high-profile of these figures was David Frum. In some ways he is also the most surprising.
… Patriots, his new self-published novel, expresses in fictional form a sharper criticism of conservatism than his policy tract had done. The story centers on Walter Schotzke, a ne’er-do-well heir who stumbles into a fictionalized version of the Republican Party. … the unremarkable story is mainly a vehicle for Frum’s well-informed Washington anthropology.) The self-interest of the right-wing donor base, the sensationalism of the right-wing media, and the careerism of the movement’s foot soldiers come together in Frum’s interesting narrative to create a Republican world the internal reality of which barely intersects with that of the real world, an apparatus more like the Comintern than a properly functioning party in a mature democracy.
The only sense of Republican loyalty one can find in Patriots is loyalty to a party that no longer exists and cannot exist without blowing up and reconstructing the current version.
Frum is not the only conservative who has found himself irreconcilably opposed to the GOP and the conservative movement. Bruce Bartlett, a fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, lost his post for his fierce criticisms of Republican budgeting in the Bush era. Josh Barro left the Manhattan Institute.
Frum has approached his dilemma in more patient (and perhaps more immodest) fashion, conceiving of himself as the curator of a kind of Republican Party in exile, one whose opportunity to exert influence will come only after the party suffers a sufficiently dire and prolonged setback. A colleague of his once compared Frum’s project to “monks preserving knowledge during the Dark Ages.” For the time being, his wing of estranged moderates has sutured themselves off from their former allies, persevering in their ability to re-think moderate Republicanism, but depriving themselves of any immediate chance to exert influence within the party.
IF FRUM AND HIS fellow exiles have maintained a coherent analysis but forfeited their chance to affect the Republicans, a larger and more influential coterie of moderate conservatives has done the opposite. Columnists such as David Brooks, Michael Gerson, and Ross Douthat have formulated a serious and often stinging critique of the GOP’s radical direction, and, with varying degrees of seriousness and specificity, laid out an alternative path.
What they have failed to do is to face up to the cold reality that the alternative they propose diverges wildly from the actually existing Republican Party. They have instead convinced themselves that their reform crusade has succeeded, or will soon succeed. They consign the massive impediments before them to a small corner of their mental space. They invoke the Republican Party that they hypothesize as though it were real, and the real Republican Party as though it were hypothetical.
… THE MODERATES, either in exile or in a state of permanent denial, believe that their day will eventually come. Ultimately, they are probably right about this. The GOP cannot keep moving rightward indefinitely. As the economist Herbert Stein put it, any trend that can’t go on forever, won’t. Stein himself was a paradigmatic Republican moderate, one of the sole figures in his party of any standing openly to oppose the GOP’s embrace of supply-side economics and other forms of magical thinking. He died in 1999 an almost totally marginal figure within the party, so his famous maxim may offer limited comfort.
And eventually is a very long time. By the time the rightward migration of the party has finally halted, the definition of Republican “moderate” will likely have corroded beyond all recognition.
Already the extremism of the party has advanced to such a point that its most fervent elements are identified less by their ideology — which is nearly impossible to distinguish any more from that of the mainstream — than by the degree to which their detachment from reality departs from paranoia as a mere figure of speech and approaches actual, clinical paranoia. “Radical” Republicans believe that Obama has created death panels, may have been secretly born overseas, and is plotting a United Nations invasion. The “mainstream” Republicans believe in goldbuggery and a massive plot by climate scientists, and deny the dramatic rise in income inequality in America.
For More Information
More about the Republican’s evolution from respectable partner in the Republic to what they’ve become:
- The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010
- R.I.P., G.O.P. – a well-deserved end, 7 November 2008 — A history of the New GOP, an ugly story.
- Ron Paul’s exotic past tells us much about him, the GOP, libertarians – and about us, 27 December 2011
- The articles and book by GOP insider Mike Lofgren
Compare the GOP’s present and past to see how much they’ve changed:
- Let’s play “Name that Liberal”
- Let’s play round 2 of “Name That Liberal”
- Let’s play round 3 of “Name That Liberal”
- Conservatives oppose the new START treaty, as they opposed even the earlier version negotiated by Ronald Reagan, 24 July 2010
Ron Paul speaking at a Southern Historical Conference in Schertz, TX, on 29-30 August 2003: