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Thursday, February 16, 2012
Republicans and the "Duh" Question
Once and future Speaker Nancy Pelosi makes the obvious points here, but I think it pays to dwell for a moment not only on the fact that what she says is right but that what she says really is obvious. Let us call it the "Duh" Question, in honor of Pelosi's perfectly apt and rather lethal locution.
Part of what is happening in this contraception fight that the President has already won and looks to win more and more the longer it goes on is that Republicans are going beyond their usual advocacy of stupid and/or evil policies, but are actually doing so in a way that is more than usually oblivious to what is obvious and what is obviously happening. One expects Republicans to advocate awful things, but one doesn't expect them to be quite so bad on what are euphemized as "the politics" or "the optics" in play. Come to think of it, there has been much perplexity in this vein about the weird extremity of the Republicans especially in the aftermath of their 2010 mid-term wave victories (you know, when it was all jobs jobs jobs before and union busting and slut shaming after?), in voting unanimously to privatize and couponize Medicare even though this had no chance of passing the Senate (and didn't), in their repeatedly declared intention to lower taxes on the already rich in an era of terrible and avoidable economic suffering for all but the very rich, in threatening to shoot the hostage (their own country) over the debt ceiling, in championing the continuation of pointless ruinous unpopular wars (barking about the "weakness" of a President who frankly continues Bush era policies and prosecutes undeclared drone wars and gloats about shooting pirates and other bad guys in the eye rather more eagerly than this pinko queer hippy is comfortable with I must say), in their hysterical and ever more ugly resistance to a tide of acceptance of gay families and gays in public life, and now in their fight against contraception used and accepted for generations by almost everybody in the whole country whatever their race, class, geographical location or party affiliation, Republicans seem to be even more surreally out of touch than ever before, to be "doubling down" (one hears the phrase over and over again) on their most unpopular positions in the face of looming defeats and even after they are resoundingly defeated.
I have often remarked on the paradoxical way that the actual diversity and secularity of American culture often mobilizes the desperate discipline of the reactionary right while lulling the liberal left into complacency in ways that yield political advantages precisely for those forces that are out of touch with living American realities, assumptions, and aspirations.
Also, no doubt, as many have already noted a coterie of home-schooled mega-churched Fox-News indoctrinated True Believers and utterly unscrupulous opportunistic fourth-tier hacks who couldn't succeed in the real Academy but gratefully accept employment as pseudo-intellectuals in the wingnut welfare archipelago of "think-tanks" and "institutes" have come to populate the administrative and organizational tiers of the private-public fundraising multi-media and official Party apparatus of the GOP many more of whom have actually "drunk the kool-aid" of Randian-Friedmandian-Pentecostal pieties in the service of the religious-fundamentalist and market-fundamentalist corporate-military incumbent-elites than used to be deployed with conscious cynicism by reactionary intellectuals whomping up white racism and culture wars simply to divide and so conquer people who work for a living, mobilizing just enough and demoralizing/disenfranchising just enough of the majority to win elections in the service of the small minority of rich elites and religious incumbents who are the actual constituency of the Republican Party. Even as wholesomely secularizing and diversifying demographic trends radically alienated majorities of Americans from the Southern Strategy and anti-gay politics that worked for the GOP for so long, ever greater majority of the organizational and agitational ground-troops of "Movement Republicanism" believed in the substance of these ideological causes precisely when they are ceasing to work, even though when they worked they were more likely to be embraced by party professionals themselves not in their substance but only because they worked.
Further, I think few actually recognize that there are pragmatic consequences to organizations and movements when they attract members through profoundly false, irrational, alienated appeals: to an unprecedented degree the actual people on whom the Republican Party counts to do the daily business of organizing events and caucuses, approving messaging strategies, coping with fundraising exigencies, mastering complex policy questions are now more than usually stupid, unprincipled, opportunistic, ideologically blinkered, often unhinged people. It is no surprise to find unprecedented levels of disorder and confused results in so many GOP state nominating contests this year, to find so many patent grifters making such intense short-lived splashes on the GOP campaign trail. More than obvious zealotry, there is simply quite a lot of obvious incompetence and conspicuous graft on display in the GOP right about now, as the Party reaps a generational harvest of malefaction and misinformation.
I have long expected a sort of tide-turning to disable Movement Republicanism and re-enable the emergence of a sort of Eisenhower incumbent-elite Republicanism functioning as a loyal opposition nibbling at the edges of a diverse, secular, sustainable, social democratic multiculture dominated by Democrats (I think this is more or less what David Frum and his colleagues are arguing for as a best case scenario), but the current dysfunction looks to be setting the scene less for a tide-turning than a tipping-point yielding instead a shattering of the GOP into an utterly marginalized neo-confederate rump all too likely to turn from politics altogether in favor of "second amendment remedies."
Now, I fear, unless campaign finance reform, instant-runoff voting, re-organization of partisan apportionment of Congressional committees change to end the current party duopoly -- which simply cannot work, you know, when one of the only two parties is insane -- and enable viable multi-party politics (all of which is even less likely than it does now to seem an attractive prospect for reform if one party, even the Democratic one, gains strong prevalence), that I personally think the splintering of the always unwieldy GOP coalition of mega-rich and mega-church will be as bad for the country in many ways as it also obviously would also be good for it in others ways. This is true, among other reasons, because without an opening for viable organized politics reflecting "traditional" patriarchal religionists and moneyed elites -- and also, no doubt, anarcho-capitalists, Greens, socialists, and world parliamentarians, among others -- I think it likely many of the religionists will turn to terror and many more of the moneyed elites will continue to subvert Democratic priorities from within, neither of them with sure or even strong prospects of victory, but with lots of ugly otherwise avoidable mischief in store.
I would personally prefer the emergence of a Frum-esque GOP to domesticate these dangers (although I have to admit I cannot much see what the appeal to actual Republicans would be, since the prospect it seems to offer them of a cynical permanent marginalization qua "loyal opposition" rather than zealous permanent marginalization qua "neo-confederate rump" hardly seems a pitch well-crafted to cater to the current crop of Republicans actually on offer), but am now worried that there may no longer be enough time for this development to happen as I observe the crazily accelerating Republican skid to oblivion in their obliviousness to Pelosi's "Duh."