Monday, February 22, 2010

Who Will Win The GOP Civil War-- Teabaggers Or Plutocrats?


Are teabaggers looking to bring back ole Cal Coolidge too?

South Carolina's radical right icon, Jim DeMint, very conspicuously declined to endorse John McCain for re-election to the U.S. Senate, just as he first declined to support mainstream conservative Charlie Crist and then helped fuel the extremist and teabagger momentum for fringe outsider Marco Rubio. J.D. Hayworth supporters are elated. It was one thing for even a fanatic firebrand like DeMint to oppose a Republican governor who had been recruited and endorsed by the NRSC, but quite something else to refuse to support a fellow sitting Republican, a longtime colleague and the party's most recent standard-bearer.

DeMint is counting on McCain losing his seat. This weekend he told the GOP's ideologues at their annual CPAC convention in DC, “I’d rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who believe in the principles of freedom than 60 who don’t believe in anything. I believe in holding incumbent Republican senators accountable.” The right wing base ate it up.

Right wing parties essentially exist for one reason and only one reason: to work toward maintaining the status quo. Other than counterrevolutionary change (i.e., abolishing freedom and liberty, limiting voter participation and franchise, dismantling popular social programs like Social Security, Medicare, public education, progressive taxation), right wing parties simply oppose change. Last year Mike Lux's brilliant book The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be laid out the dichotomy between forward-thinking progressives and reactionary conservatives in the context of American history.

From the very beginning, the same third of Americans who today are frightened, diehard-anti-change conservatives were opposed to the colonies breaking free from England. Assholes like Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Jim DeMint, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Miss McConnell, McCain, the two kook senators from Oklahoma, the Bushes, the Palins, the Cheneys... the whole rotten lot would have fled either to Canada or back to England, or would have fought against the revolutionaries. The conservatives opposed the Declaration of Independence and later opposed every attempt to broaden the franchise beyond wealthy, white male property owners.

Conservatives opposed every single attempt at progress in the history of our country, from the abolition of slavery to the granting of women the right to vote, and from regulations to protect consumers from poisoned meat and workers from dangerous factories to ending child labor, monopolies, and to reining in the overwhelming power of the monied classes over the rest of society. Republicans, the overtly conservative party, are still fighting the same battles today-- and always, as we have seen in Wall Street puppet Paul Ryan's roadmap to abolish Social Security and Medicare, hoping to turn back the clock so that the accumulated generational wealth of the very few will override all other social concerns.

But how is this kind of a platform going to work in a democracy? Sure, subverting the working-family party-- in our case, the Democrats-- has been very helpful, and indeed the Democrats as a political party are next to useless. And control of the mass media and weakening of the education system (including emphasis on memorization and a de-emphasis on critical thinking) have also helped the right. But even then, it would be hard to run their ridiculously reactionary program as a serious choice in democratic elections. So they've teamed up, over and over, with the forces of bigotry, xenophobia, jingoism and every kind of divisive hate under the sun.

It's worked for them, and the newest variety is the Tea Party cult. Today Jacob Heilbrunn wondered aloud in an L.A Times op-ed if the teabaggers would sink or save the conservatives, although I think he really meant to ask if it would sink or save the Republicans. The conservatives within the Democratic Party are doing quite well, thank you. (Hate Talk radio host Mark Levin says Glenn Beck is starting his own mini-Civil Way within the Civil War with his dangerous nihilistic tendencies.)

Heilbrunn focuses on the freshly minted "Mount Vernon statement," in which a small handful of reactionary and cynical powerbrokers-- he mentions Ed Meese III, Edwin Feulner Jr. and Alfred Regnery-- aims to, well (surprise, surprise!), turn back that old clock again.
[T]he establishment right is shivering-- not so much because of the unusually frosty Washington winter but because of the potential threat posed to the GOP by the insurgent "tea party" movement. As a result, conservatives are going into overdrive to attempt to co-opt it.

The Mount Vernon statement, as the Washington Post first reported, is the product of the Conservative Action Project, which is headed by Meese and emerged from the secretive conservative power-broker organization known as the Council for National Policy. The project's website explains that "just as FDR's soak-the-rich policies did not work in the 1930s to end the Great Depression, similar policies by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats will not work today in restoring to us a vibrant economy." It also features photos of Calvin Coolidge and his Treasury secretary, Andrew W. Mellon, who was an early exponent of supply-side economics, arguing that cutting taxes on the wealthy could directly lead to higher government revenues.

The Mount Vernon statement thus aims to relegate the free-spending George W. Bush era and President Obama to the sidelines and to reinvent the conservative movement in its original small-government image.

At the same time, it tries to paper over the differences between social conservatives, libertarian conservatives and neoconservatives by reminding "economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America's safety and leadership role in the world." In papering over those differences, however, it lacks the fire and energy of the original Sharon statement.

While the stuffy, elitist David Brooks-type conservatives look down their noses at the unruly, racist mobs of teabaggers-- the way the German aristocracy looked down on the fascist movement of the late '20s and early '30s-- many less picky plutocrats, like German industrialists during Weimar, are happy to make common cause with the teabaggers and assorted other right-wing populists.

Cynical GOP operatives and propagandists Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O'Beirne have nothing but contempt for Republicans like Brooks. Says Heilbrunn, Ponnuru and O'Beirne, writing in the Feb. 22 National Review, "liken taking the tea partyers onboard to the debates that surrounded allying the GOP with the Christian right during the 1970s. They define the problem out of existence: Some of the tea partyers may be 'rough around the edges' but 'are not unpopular and their views are not extreme.'" They feel that the teabaggers' energy and passions can be harnessed in the service of the wealthy and powerful interests that finance the Right. Heilbrunn again:
The job of the GOP is to form coalitions with the tea partyers, they say, or go out of business. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele has been playing footsie with the tea partyers, discussing the November election with about 30 of their leaders Tuesday.

Whether the GOP can permanently harness the energies of the tea party, however, is another matter. The insurgent party may well drive the GOP so far to the right that it proves something of an albatross in November. It's also hard to see how the GOP could deliver on the tea party's demand for cutting federal entitlement programs, which is political suicide. Indeed, Republicans might well prove as ineffectual as Democrats in attacking the deficit, which they compiled in the first place during the Bush presidency.

No doubt third parties such as the Know-Nothings have historically enjoyed a short life span in America. Historian Richard Hofstadter famously observed, "Third parties are like bees: Once they have stung, they die." But the tea party may wield a very potent stinger. Its fortunes likely will be bolstered by the towering federal budget deficits that the administration is accruing.

According to conservative firebrand Patrick Buchanan: "Tea partiers now play the role of Red Army commissars who sat at machine guns behind their own troops to shoot down any soldier who retreated or ran. Republicans who sign on to tax hikes cannot go home again."

As conservative veterans urge the GOP to reclaim the small-government mantle, then, the question hovering over them is whether they will successfully harness the volatile insurgency led by the tea party, or will they themselves be swept aside as part of regime change? It would be no small irony if they were displaced by the very kind of insurrectionist spirit they embodied 50 years ago in Connecticut.

Keep in mind, when Bush took office, Clinton left a $128 billion surplus. By the time Bush left, not only had he squandered the entire surplus, the annual deficit he left Obama was over $1 trillion. During the time the GOP held power in Congress in the Bush era, the number of earmarks tripled to 12,852 from 4,126. The GOP talks a good game, but it's all about getting into power, self-serving power.

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At 3:05 PM, Blogger PoliShifter said...

My opinion is the GOP will swallow the Tea Baggers whether they like it or not.

Republicans are just co-opting Tea Bagger language. They are also being fully exploited by the likes of Dick Armey, the Koch Brothers, Freedom Works, etc.

Mr. "Deficits Don't Matter" got big applause at does that fit with the Tea Bagger deficit hawks?

I just think the real Tea Bagger message has been muted and co=opted by the corporatists. I don't know if the grass roots tea baggers have what it takes to overcome it.

They need to redefine their message and platform for one. If they are going to stick with the birther, tenther, free market, and "socialism" scare tactics then they might as well be Republicans

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous me said...

"Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O'Beirne have nothing but contempt for Republicans like Brooks"

Well whaddaya know - I have something in common with the teabaggers after all.

But I will say, the baggers are showing a lack of respect for those who spawned them.

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

The baggers have no idea what's happening. They do what they do because they are ditto heads.


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