Paranoia Strikes Deep

As I have pointed out to my friends at Lucianne.com many many times, modern Republicanism has become essentially a rightist phenomenon in American politics. Rightist as in fascist that is.

Many Americans continue to believe the Republican Party is just a political Party like the Democratic Party. This, unfortunately, is no longer so. I would challenge anyone to simply go on You Tube and take a look at speeches by General Dwight D. Eisenhower and compare what that fine Republican was saying compared to the Republican rhetoric today. In fact, to find a closer parallel to modern Republicanism, one really has to look at videos and read the words of individuals like Strom Thurmond during the Civil Rights movement. Oh yes. "Conservatism" of the rightist brand is not new. Strom and the Dixiecrats are the roots of the modern Republican Party. Those who know history know they defected from the Democratic Party when it began to back civil rights for Black people in America.

I've pointed out in earlier posts my belief that modern Republicanism is (maybe was) centered on rich powerful people who didn't want to pay their taxes. These people are too few to win elections, so they focused on southern white males (the "southern strategy") who felt disenfranchised after civil rights gains in the 60's and 70's, and more importantly the Party exploited what are euphemistically called "social conservatives", who are essentially single-issue voters easily captured in a net of wedge issues that in themselves produce no effective public policy, but around which those who felt "left behind" by progress could rally and cast their votes.

Of course the so called "social issues" were throw-away..... they really didn't matter to the Party bosses. Who really thinks that a rich person is not going to get an abortion if she wants one just because there are laws against it? The single issue voters were essentially chumps including the Libertarians who thought Republicans would deliver "smaller government" however misguided that basic concept was to begin with..... a sad joke.

However an interesting thing may be transpiring in a kind of "wag-the-dog" sort of way. My favorite economist and political commentator Paul Krugman has written an article that highlights, in my opinion, the ironic answer to the question;  "Who controls the Republican Party?", and more importantly just how dangerous the Republican Party has become to the health of this great Nation.

Paranoia Strikes Deep
Published: November 9, 2009
New York Times
Last Thursday there was a rally outside the U.S. Capitol to protest pending health care legislation, featuring the kinds of things we’ve grown accustomed to, including large signs showing piles of bodies at Dachau with the caption “National Socialist Healthcare.” It was grotesque — and it was also ominous. For what we may be seeing is America starting to be Californiafied.The key thing to understand about that rally is that it wasn’t a fringe event. It was sponsored by the House Republican leadership — in fact, it was officially billed as a G.O.P. press conference. Senior lawmakers were in attendance, and apparently had no problem with the tone of the proceedings.

True, Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, offered some mild criticism after the fact. But the operative word is “mild.” The signs were “inappropriate,” said his spokesman, and the use of Hitler comparisons by such people as Rush Limbaugh, said Mr. Cantor, “conjures up images that frankly are not, I think, very helpful.”

What all this shows is that the G.O.P. has been taken over by the people it used to exploit.

The state of mind visible at recent right-wing demonstrations is nothing new. Back in 1964 the historian Richard Hofstadter published an essay titled, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” which reads as if it were based on today’s headlines: Americans on the far right, he wrote, feel that “America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion.” Sound familiar?

But while the paranoid style isn’t new, its role within the G.O.P. is.

When Hofstadter wrote, the right wing felt dispossessed because it was rejected by both major parties. That changed with the rise of Ronald Reagan: Republican politicians began to win elections in part by catering to the passions of the angry right.

Until recently, however, that catering mostly took the form of empty symbolism. Once elections were won, the issues that fired up the base almost always took a back seat to the economic concerns of the elite. Thus in 2004 George W. Bush ran on antiterrorism and “values,” only to announce, as soon as the election was behind him, that his first priority was changing Social Security.

But something snapped last year. Conservatives had long believed that history was on their side, so the G.O.P. establishment could, in effect, urge hard-right activists to wait just a little longer: once the party consolidated its hold on power, they’d get what they wanted. After the Democratic sweep, however, extremists could no longer be fobbed off with promises of future glory.

Furthermore, the loss of both Congress and the White House left a power vacuum in a party accustomed to top-down management. At this point Newt Gingrich is what passes for a sober, reasonable elder statesman of the G.O.P. And he has no authority: Republican voters ignored his call to support a relatively moderate, electable candidate in New York’s special Congressional election.

Real power in the party rests, instead, with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin (who at this point is more a media figure than a conventional politician). Because these people aren’t interested in actually governing, they feed the base’s frenzy instead of trying to curb or channel it. So all the old restraints are gone.

In the short run, this may help Democrats, as it did in that New York race. But maybe not: elections aren’t necessarily won by the candidate with the most rational argument. They’re often determined, instead, by events and economic conditions.

In fact, the party of Limbaugh and Beck could well make major gains in the midterm elections. The Obama administration’s job-creation efforts have fallen short, so that unemployment is likely to stay disastrously high through next year and beyond. The banker-friendly bailout of Wall Street has angered voters, and might even let Republicans claim the mantle of economic populism. Conservatives may not have better ideas, but voters might support them out of sheer frustration.

And if Tea Party Republicans do win big next year, what has already happened in California could happen at the national level. In California, the G.O.P. has essentially shrunk down to a rump party with no interest in actually governing — but that rump remains big enough to prevent anyone else from dealing with the state’s fiscal crisis. If this happens to America as a whole, as it all too easily could, the country could become effectively ungovernable in the midst of an ongoing economic disaster.

The point is that the takeover of the Republican Party by the irrational right is no laughing matter. Something unprecedented is happening here — and it’s very bad for America.