Tuesday, July 08, 2014

When The Monsters Get Out of the Lab...

The brilliant  blog  The Daily Kos,  features a great  op-ed piece  this week, by Jesse La Greca .. The article entitled "An open letter to the people who hate Obama more than they love America", is an outstanding take on the current state of not just the Republican Party but the entire conservative movement in the United States.

It prompted me to revisit a blog entry I wrote in August of 2010 on the rise of the American "Tea Party" as a force in GOP politics. Updated here and offered as  a retrospective on how the Republican Party found itself in the state it is currently in....

Fear & Fundamentalism: How the GOP & FOX Made, then Lost Control of the Tea Party.

Back in the mid 1980's  there was a political cartoon that came out that depicted a map of  "The World According to Ronald Reagan".   I am not sure who the artist was, but  it was a delightful  tongue-in-cheek satire  of  the  conservative Republican world view in the late  20th Century.

Some thirty years or so later,  it  all seems  so sweetly naive in  its simplistic  humor.   The over the top nature of the joke is what made it funny.   Now,  if you were to  erase Reagan's name and substitute say....  Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz  or  Rand Paul,  then  the cartoon is not so much funny as it  would be a frighteningly accurate summary of  how the American conservative movement of the early 21rst Century  really does see the world .

I have written about how the Republican Party has lost its way. How it has abandoned its core principles and ideals in exchange for campaign cash from religious social conservatives. The GOP platform could be summed up in three words; God, Guns and Gays.

It was strategy that served the GOP well in 1994, 2000 and 2004. Yet in 2006 and 2008 the strategy fell apart as the impact of the Republican Party's disastrous choices became clear. And in 2008 it didn't just fail but it actually backfired and drove millions of independent voters away from the McCain Palin ticket and straight to the Democrats. Creating blue states in Colorado, Nevada , Iowa, Virginia and North Carolina.. Places where once such a thing would have been unthinkable Like many people I was curious to see what the Republican Party would do in the wake of back to back electoral wipe outs.

There was a real sense that  the GOP needed to  retool,  rethink and  adapt to a new political landscape.   And  early on, it seemed the Republicans  had figured that out too.   They appointed  Michael Steele  their new  National Chairman.  There was now, an African American at the helm of the Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln, and emancipation for the first time in its history.

Regardless of  your politics  you had to admit  that  in  principle  at least,  that was pretty amazing. Republicans talked of the need for  a "big tent". and  used words like  "inclusion" and  "diversity".   For the first time since 1994,  it looked like the GOP was going break out beyond it's  base.   But interestingly enough.   something quite different happened.   Instead of learning  from  past mistakes,  the GOP  doubled down.   They became the rabid right wing party of  "Hell No!"   But what is significant  is WHY that happened.

The base of the GOP, which has, for the last two decades, dutifully sent checks to the Republican Party, is not intellectually conservative. It is socially conservative. These folks are not reading the American Spectator or National Review Online. They are older, overwhelmingly white evangelicals who in every election since 1992 have met in church basements and were told they needed to help fight the "Liberal attack" on America and her families.

At first social conservatives were riled up to show their indignation at the moral and marital failings of Bill Clinton. Then in 2000 they were told told to dig deep to counter the threat posed to our system of free market capitalism by that tree-hugging hippie Al Gore. Who was said to be plotting to turn our nations very sovereignty over the United Nations. (gasp!)

And,  truth be told, in 2000 it worked. but just barely.   It took a helping hand from  the U.S. Supreme Court to win the Presidency.  But starting in  2000,  that same  GOP Base began asking what  were they going to get in return for their time, effort and money?   The holy grail to  the social conservatives  was and still remains,  the  overturn of  Roe v. Wade.    The GOP,  knowing that this  was really not "doable"  at least in a first  GW Bush Term, struggled in early 2001 with  how to  placate a now very active and  riled up GOP base.

Then of course, in September of 2001, everything changed. Like the Germans and Japanese in the 1940's , like the communist in the 1950's through the 1980's. Fundamentalist Islam provided a new enemy to fight, and (more importantly for the GOP), 911 gave America something to fear. In 2004, the Republican Party went into full -throttle "be afraid" mode.

In 2004 the GOP successfully waged a campaign based almost entirely on fear of the Middle East. A campaign that was able to convince a majority of Americans that a former college cheerleader who went AWOL from the Texas National Guard loved America more than a decorated war hero. But, also that they needed vote against their own economic self interest and give massive tax breaks to the top 2% of Americans, and massive deregulation to Wall Street and the Energy Sector.
And it worked, for the most part. But the  Republican base, while sufficiently afraid of "Islamo-facists". Was still restless and cranky, and the economy was starting to tank. As it became clear that even a giving Bush a second term wasn't going to deliver on eliminating a woman's right to choose, GOP needed a bone to throw to this now very scared, very angry, and increasingly unemployed group of Americans it had worked so hard to rile up. The answer? Give them the Gays.

Then in 2008 the Democrats nominated Barack Hussein Obama. and the GOP base went berserk . The McCain-Palin Campaign played the fear card as hard as they could. with catch phrases like; "He Pals around with terrorists", he has "suspicious associations". "He doesn't love America!". The results were as disturbing as they were predictable.

Towards the end of the 2008 Presidential Campaign even John McCain had to step in and correct his own supporters in the GOP base. People who were now convinced. that the Democratic Nominee for President was nothing less than a Muslim Manchurian Candidate. Planted here over 40 years ago to eventually bring about the total destruction of America and our way of life.

On election night 2008 the GOP Base was pretty much all The Republicans had left. People who in the middle of Senator McCain's graceful and eloquent concession speech,  couldn't hold back jeering at mention of the President Elects' name.   The Republican Party entered 2009 with an angry, and impatient base, convinced they had been victims of a global conspiracy to "steal their country from them".

As a diminished opposition party the GOP could do little more than just try to obstruct the new Administration at every turn, It was just a matter of time before this group of voters went looking for something new. Something that spoke to their world view, and affirmed their fears.

This was a job for FOX News.

Like all good Media organizations. FOX News knows who their viewers are. And where political parties have a goal of getting voters to the polls every two years, a T.V. network's goal is to get people to tune in every day. Rupert Murdoch and Company saw the door and ran through it. They would "Give the people what they want." They would throw the angry GOP base a party, and not just any party...

They would throw a Tea Party.

One of the first rules in marketing is not just that endorsements create sales, but also that sales create endorsements. Soon a whole flock of "B" and "C" list Conservatives like Sarah Palin, Representatives Joe Wilson, Michelle Bachman, and Tom Tancredo. Talk show hosts like Glen Beck and Michael Reagan were all hitching their wagons to the Tea Party Express. Soon even "A" Lister's like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hanity, and Bill O'Reilly hopped on not daring to risk being left behind.

In 2010 we had a midterm election  where the  Republican Party was desperate to harness the anger, energy and fear of the Tea Party  in hopes of  turning that into  numbers at the polls that  November.  Fox News helped to create  the  Tea Party out of  the GOP's own scared  angry  social conservative base.  But the Republican Party  quickly discovered this monster  has a mind of it's own,  and could turn just as quickly on Republicans  as well as  Democrats.  In a number of states,   incumbent  Republicans  have found them selves the target of  Tea Party  primary challengers.  Claiming the Republicans are  not conservative enough.

The Tea Party  says  they "want their country back".   The  vision of  America  they hold  as  "their country" is one where  an  ultra-conservative religious based social agenda  is enacted into Civil Law.  Abortion, Affirmative Action,  Gay and Lesbian Rights,  Separation of (their) Church and State, the social safety nets of  Medicare/ Social Security  and Public Education   are all  abolished.   Victory for  the Tea Party means  turning the  United States of America  into  Teabagistan.

The Tea Party is the American Taliban.   Granted, their methods are not same.  The American Taliban does not use  violence like  their Afghan equivalent.  (Though the family of  Dr. George Tiller might disagree with me on that.)  Yet the American Taliban with their  "don't tread on me" and  "watering the tree of liberty  with the blood of tyrants" rhetoric,   all while brandishing side arms at  rallies, certainly carries  the implied  threat of  violence.   The American and Afghan Talibans are alike in terms of their aims. Which is to take a narrow extremely conservative, even fundamentalist ideology, codify it into law and force it on everyone else.

The GOP is completely dependent upon and beholden to a bunch of lunatics, who hate the U.S.Constitution. To win the Tea Party back, the GOP has to promise things the Tea Party wants. Things like the overturning of Roe v. Wade. A constitutional Amendment banning same sex marriage. Repeal of the 14th and 17th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. That's just for starters, we haven't even scratched the surface in terms of the every man for himself- screw the poor - to pay the rich, economic ideas the Tea Party likes to toss around. Stuff like, completely deregulate Wall Street , THEN turn Social Security into Goldman-Sachs' personal stack of casino chips.

The Republicans and the Tea Party monsters they, and the Conservative media bubble,  have spawned are nothing less than completely and utterly anti-American. The Tea Party likes to wave around copies of the U.S, Constitution, but aside from a few selected lines from the 2nd Amendment, they don't actually believe in it. I know President Obama, as a former professor of Constitutional Law, has actually read the rest of it.

Then in 2012 we saw something really interesting. The GOP's conservative base, along with the Tea Party wrote the narrative that Republicans chose to believe. They collectively decided to believe that facts were wrong, that facts clearly had a liberal bias. All the polling data that clearly indicated re-election for President Obama simply HAD to be wrong.

Anyone who said different was a liberal plant who was trying to make conservatives "feel bad" and consequently suppress GOP/Conservative voter turnout. The "lame stream media" was clearly in the tank for the Obama campaign and was desperately trying to spin their denial of the inevitable GOP/Romney-Ryan landslide that was most certainly coming. It made cable news on the day after the 2012 election, must- see viewing..

Now as we head in to the the 2014 midterms and the half way point in Barack Obama's second term, we see the GOP desperate to tame the monster it, along with FOX news has created. Tea Party primary challenges to well known establishment Republicans are becoming the norm, not the exception. The GOP is now faced with the reality of demographics, and the fact that gerrymandered districts, and blatently racist voting restrictions enacted in ultra-conservative states will only help so much, and won't help at all when the insurgent political threat comes from the Right, instead of the Left.

We see a Congress where Republicans will literally allow the governing of the nation to grind to halt, lest any actions they take in any way help the President to do his job, and thus enrage the Tea Party faithful to label them all "RINOS" (Republicans In Name Only).   I was never a big fan of Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom", his follow up series to the brilliant "The West Wing", but in one episode he captures perfectly the cul-de-sac of hate fueled ignorance the GOP has been painted into by its own creation.

What started as a gimmick on FOX News, now may very well be the death knell of the Republican Party. Transforming the Party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan into a splintered, fragmented mob of ageing paranoids. With the only thing holding them together is the fact their hatred of other Americans, (be they Liberals or "not true" Conservatives), outweighs their love of their own country.

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