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Wednesday, 16 January 2013 10:10

The Demise of the GOP? Don't Get Your Hopes Up

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Morning Joe's Joe Scarborough is a self-described "small-government conservative," a GOP House stalwart during the Gingrich period, a supporter of every right-wing policy and process the Grinch of Georgia put forth, the now-admirer of Bill Clinton who was then right there with the impeachers, bemoaning "what has happened to the Republican Party." An absolute GOP-faithful, right there at the center of his party. But now he is talking about "Republican collapse." Right now, some Republicans are saying things like the way to deal with guns in schools is to arm teachers and any pregnancies resulting from rape are in fact the result of God's will and Obama should be impeached because he wants to use some of his Article II Constitutional powers to do something about controlling gun violence.

Scarborough is dealing with the Sara Palins and the Michelle Bachmanns and the Richard Mourdocks and the Todd Akins and the Steve Stockmans and the rest of the Teabaggers. And so, right there on Politico, he said: "Republicans will continue their dreadful collapse unless they adopt William F. Buckley's view that 'conservatism, except when it is expressed in pure idealism, takes into account reality.' For the GOP to win again, it must embrace Buckley's ruthless, pragmatic approach to primary elections and once again vote for candidates who can win sweeping majorities. That means they must also stop electing idiots in primaries who are little more than ideological indulgences that only advance the Democrats' cause." These are views that echo those of such folk as Mike Lofgren.

Is the GOP really going to sink into mist because of its rhetoric? And if that were to happen, it would have to be because of the rhetoric, because their economic policies have not really changed since they became the Corporatist Party in the 1880s, which promoted: power to the corporations, limit to the greatest degree possible the trade union movement, low income and corporate taxes, limited government spending on anything other than what benefits the corporations, as little government regulation for the economy and the environment as possible, no "social safety net" or if one is forced upon them, make it as limited as possible. Republicans have always had a political cover of one sort or another in order to get the votes they needed.

First it was anti-immigrant and pro-prohibition (and both the "Know-Nothing Nativists" and the Temperance Movement were important parts of the original Republican coalition from its founding in the 1850s). This worked well for decades (think Prohibition in 1920, the Anti-Immigration Act of 1924), until the Great Depression and the advent of the New Deal. But then came the rise of the powerful industrial unions in the 1930s, often communist-led. And so the GOP dusted off the "anti-socialist" hysteria of the "Red Scare" Palmer Raids (actually carried out under the "Great Democrat" Woodrow Wilson) and began the anti-communist hysteria that eventually led to McCarthyism in the 1950s.

The next cover was Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" of the 1970s and the racist "Drug War," following the passage of the Civil and Voting Rights by the Democrats in 1964-5. And again, the basic policies of the GOP did not change at all, except that Nixon thought that some regulation of the workplace and the environment was a good idea (because in his time there still some capitalists who realized that such regulations in the long run benefitted the corporate state). The next set of covers were Reagan's: re-enforcement of the racist theme, but now adding to it the issues that appealed to the religious right: the criminalization of abortion on religious grounds and rank homophobia. In addition, the National Rifle Association (NRA), formerly a sportsmen's club concerned with the maintenance of hunting rights and gun safety, in the 1970s was taken over by elements representing the gun industry (whose prime interest of course was selling guns and ammunition). They started raising lots of money and spent it politically, actually in both parties. But it was the GOP that put the misinterpretation of the Second Amendment to say that anyone could own any gun they wanted to (tanks anyone?), out front.

These covers over time have worked very well for the GOP. For example, in addition to cheating in Ohio, Karl Rove won the 2004 election for George W. Bush by putting anti-gay marriage initiatives on the ballot in 12 states, some of them swing states. And then came the Koch/Armey Teabaggers, some of whom have gotten folks like Scarborough all upset. But why? Are they really against basic GOP policies that have been GOP policies since the 19th century? Why no. They are all for them. The problem is that they just don't treat the cover issues in the "right way." They are in fact too honest. They are really right up-front in their racism, in their misogyny, in their religious authoritarianism, in their anti-trade unionism, in their denial of science and their concomitant promotion of creationism, in their "every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost" Randian social philosophy (that was actually strongly promoted by Reagan but with "polite" language). They are just plain embarrassing on the one hand and much too honest on the other.

So what's a "thinking" Republican to do? Leave the party like Colin Powell is doing in all but name? Join some third way outfit made up of "center-rightists," both Democrat and GOP? Or, try to make some accommodation to the demographic trends, which at least in part led to Obama's victory in 2012 (see the son of fake "Cuban Refugees" Marco Rubio)? Or should they go on bemoaning the veil that has been stripped from their party, like Scarborough and Steve Schmidt, McCain's remarkably honest former campaign manager, is doing and just say "we're done for"?

There is another way and the GOP has been well into it since before the 2010 election, which put numbers of tea-baggers in the Congress. Voter suppression and gerrymandering have become powerful political tools in the hands of the Republicans and will become even more powerful in the future. The true GOP that include Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, the Club for Growth (of the income/wealth gap), the Heritage Foundation, and the Le-vinitating O'Rhannibaugh/Fox"News" propaganda machine, is going absolutely nowhere. They are still very powerful. They have just had a temporary, partial, set-back.


This is Dr. Jonas' Commentary No. 228 for [email protected] Truthout. Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash at Truthout is the Managing Editor of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy.