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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Republican death throes? « Previous | |Next »
October 29, 2008

Over at Gary Kamiya says that we can expect more smears, concealed race-baiting, overwrought accusations of "radicalism" and crude ad hominem attacks from the Republican Party. Nor should we be surprised by this tactic, since the modern US conservative movement came to power by playing on white racial fears. He adds that:

The founding success of the modern conservative movement was that it convinced large numbers of Americans to reject "liberalism" and "big government," even if they themselves benefited from both, because they were associated with social programs aimed at helping poor blacks. In one of the climactic political showdowns in American history, McCain and Palin are now using the GOP's time-tested tactics -- against a black man. The tactics always worked before, and one might think they would be foolproof now, with a black target.

He adds that the Republican Party under Nixon and Reagan succeeded because it was able to convince enough white Democrats and swing voters that it was the party of the "average American," oppressed by federal bureaucrats and do-gooder programs like busing and affirmative action. It was able to conceal the fact that it was the party of the rich---wealthy, elite interests---beneath a populist, race-tinged appeal to white resentment. No longer under Palin and McCain.

In a latter article in Kamiya argues that the Republican Party has gone from arrogant triumphalism to its death throes, that the modern conservative movement is dying in front of our eyes, and its death throes aren't pretty. He says of the GOP that:

the luxury liner hit an iceberg known as reality. The biggest damage was done by the Wall Street crisis, which happened just in time to tilt a close race toward Obama. But the economic meltdown was only one of the disasters for which the GOP is largely responsible. The war that was going to establish American hegemony forever turned out to be one of the worst foreign-policy blunders in our nation's history. The GOP's free-market idolatry led to the gravest financial crisis since the Depression. Its ideological insistence on cutting taxes for the richest Americans ran up a record deficit. Its embrace of torture and denial of due process assaulted the Constitution and eroded America's moral standing. Its doctrine of the "unitary executive" concentrated unprecedented power in the hands of the executive branch. Its anti-scientific denial of global warming endangered the entire planet.

It's a historic shipwreck, and the American people are diving off the foundering GOP hulk in droves.The hulk is in the hands of the "movement conservatives" who have dominated the GOP for decades: the demagogues of reaction and resentment, the Christian rightists, the "values" voters, the anti-tax, anti-government zealots, the nativists, anti-rationalists and anti-secularists.

What these movement conservative's refuse to do is move the GOP to the center, accept that progressive taxation is not just necessary to run a country but that it is a legitimate part of the social contract, accept that markets need some regulation, and try to reach out to all Americans, not just their base. As a result the 'straight talk express' is rapidly becoming the mealy-mouthed train wreck.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:34 AM | | Comments (14)


And so they should cos the Palin-style populism (and that of Joe the Plumber to which she appeals) is one based on ignorance not knowledge and emotion not reason. The interpretation of the Country First slogan by Palin-style conservatism is debased and intellectually bankrupt. All it is able to do is chant the mantra that an Obama victory would mean the death of "freedom," the triumph of socialistic "big government" and abject surrender to America's enemies.

It's not working so well this time around.

I find the race inferences in the first quote very disturbing. I'm reluctant to believe that it's been such a powerful factor in, say, the past 20 years, which is not to say it's not true.

If you think about the way Australian conservatives dumped everything they didn't like under the Left label - single mums, environmentalists, social workers, the tertiary educated, aggrieved Aborigines, people who go to cafes, the unemployed, the young, artists and all the rest of it, they open themselves up to the risk that one day ordinary people will come to share the concerns of at least one of those groups, as we saw in our own election with environmentalists and unions. The strategy is brilliant until one chink appears in their armour.

I occasionally visit a US site similar to this; maybe a bit more conservative.
You have no idea of the fear and loathing ramping up in certain sections of the white populace over there.
Am in recollection of the worst of Hansonism here.
It is true, unfortunately, that the issues that destabilise the lumpen proletariat (immigration, crime, community and civil autonomy; eg "identity"), as with Australia, were clumsily handled. Once again that organic conservative/neoliberal contradictional "rub" is at the heart of the breakdown.
The very Howardist politics of McCain and the ultra cautious politics of Obama, reminiscint of Rudd, seem to have created an opportunity for a space in which hystericalist politics can thrive.
But the science fiction level of ideas up and running in the USA just now is truly, still bewildering.

The politics of identity, as Paul said(which I do not understand) is clearly part of the electoral politics at play in the US and in recent times in Australia.

Before 2000, I would not have thought it possible to get the electoral college votes without a major state such as NY or California. It is extraordinary to me that despite the financial and economic crisis that playbook is still working in such states as Texas.

John McCain has run a standard Republican identity politics campaign, but accounts in the US media indicate that economic reality is now in conflict with the politics of identity amongst the centre of the electorate who are more worried about the McCain and Republican handling of the economy in the light of the widening income inequality and income stagnation crisis.

If the squeeze on the middle class nationwide which is held to be America’s most troubling long-term economic problem, then the centre is where the election will be decided.

"The very Howardist politics of McCain and the ultra cautious politics of Obama, reminiscint of Rudd, seem to have created an opportunity for a space in which hystericalist politics can thrive.
But the science fiction level of ideas up and running in the USA just now is truly, still bewildering."

Good point Paul. It's impossible to know whether the vox pop we've seen "Obama wants to take our guns, kill our babies, make bin Laden VP" stuff is normal, or a raised level of hysteria from frightened people faced with the very real prospect of an Obama win. Assuming the latter, the GOPs campaign strategy is about as socially irresponsible as it could get.

Those people may be the worst kind of wingnuts, but they are scared of Obama and scared people tend to do scary things.

McCain's problem is that he was so politically obsessed with worrying about what social conservatives or Republican base thought of him that he neglected the centre.

Karl Rove's prediction of permanent Republican majority by firing up the base because it was a slim majority of the electorate looks to be in trouble.

the widespread panic is amongst the religious right. They fear that that if Obama wins next week, the world will come to an end and those who voted for him will go to hell.

I thought the religious right looked forward to the end of the word as that was when God returns.

yeah Obama will take away white people's property and give it to black people. Zimbabwe tried having a black leader, and white people were deprived of their property, so it's only natural to assume the same thing would happen if Obama was elected.

They are serious about this interpretation of spreading the wealth around. It is nurturing an white backlash driven by an economic message that speaks of socialism but dog whistles racial redistribution.

while conservative Christians may be a formidable force in American politics, they can't elect a president by themselves.

The right-wing evangelicals won in previous years because they joined a Republican coalition that also included hawkish neocons, working-class "Reagan Democrats," libertarians, and old-fashioned fiscal conservatives. Some of those groups have clearly had enough. They are departing the flock in disgust with the Republican Party, which could leave the GOP ever more dependent on the Christian right

"McCain's problem is that he was so politically obsessed with worrying about what social conservatives or Republican base thought of him that he neglected the centre."

That's the story I've heard, but it hardly makes sense when he had Palin to keep the social conservatives happy. It hardly seems believable that a campaign could be so badly run with all the research they do. Still, they've got the last remaining hope of those whacky voting machines and Florida judges to go yet.

One answer from Reason Online. The financial crisis hit after the Palin spectacle and it deepened the economic downturn that had been already happening----Clinton and Edwards had given voice to the effects of this downturn during the Democrat primaries on the white working class. The Republicans were deemed responsible and they had little by way of a viable policy response to the financial crisis on Wall Street. The Libertarians were not much help.

The Republican policy wonks had to think differently and McCain couldn't move beyond their standard prescriptions--tax cuts, cuts in federal spending and reducing government. The latter policies are likely to contract the economy when it is in recession. McCain's pledge to return the federal budget to surplus in his first term, when his tax policies would increase the budget deficit, which last came in at $US455 billion and could tip $US1 trillion this fiscal year - the equivalent of 7 per cent of GDP -- is fanciful. The Republicans current cliched charge of socialism against Obama makes little sense when a Republican administration has partly nationalized the banks.

What has gone missing in movement conservatism gathered around the Republican Party is a rigorous, philosophically based conservatism that valued the classics.

Why worry,
there is no doubt about the result of next Tuesday's Presidential election. The only question is one about the size of Obama's victory. Republican strategists would know that victory is now not possible. Can they prevent a filibuster-proof senate?

the socialist charge has a racial undertone----the insinuation that white people would be taxed to pay for welfare for Latinos and blacks.