Sunday, 4 November 2012

The strange world of the Republican Party

All parties are coalitions. The Republican Party, in its present form, is a particularly weird coalition of evangelical conservatives, tea-party libertarians, and rich people. All three groups exhibit their own form of fundamentalism. The evangelicals have the Bible, the libertarians have the American Constitution, and the rich people have a breathtaking sense of entitlement.

The acceptable face of what binds these three together is the belief in personal responsibility. As a libertarian, you want to defend your own piece of land with your own gun without help or interference from the Government. As a Christian, you’re answerable for your moral choices to Christ who is your personal saviour. And as a corporate leader, you’d like to hire, fire, drill, liquidate, pollute, foreclose, move offshore and accumulate without consulting Washington bureaucrats, while continuing to pay less tax than your secretary.

These freedoms constitute the Party’s super-ego.  Its id looks a lot like an ageing, angry white guy. As the demographics shift against it, the Party becomes more entrenched in its own prejudices. Fox News and the radio shock jocks help to shore up its support, but inadvertently disable its leaders by keeping them in the same bubble of misinformation. Losing hope of winning the public argument, it increasingly puts its faith in non-democratic strategies.   

In states where Republicans are in power and the results promise to be close, attempts at voter suppression are big right now. Requiring a voter to present a driving licence with a current address on it would certainly stop dead people from voting. It would also discourage the young, the old, the poor and the transient. Sending white volunteers to patrol polling centres in black neighbourhoods is another way of discouraging the wrong kind of voter, as is advertising the right date for the election in English and the wrong date in Spanish.

As well as purging the voter rolls, Republicans have been busy in recent years purging their own party, in some cases replacing experienced, moderate congressional candidates with callow ideologues. The unintended consequence of these purges is a purge of popular support. African Americans don't much like a party that habitually portrays the elected President as a sinister interloper, who only got into college through affirmative action, governs on behalf of welfare recipients and is too stupid and lazy to do the job. Latinos don’t want to have to carry documentation on the street to prove they’re not illegal immigrants. Women would like their health insurance to cover birth control without their employers being allowed to veto it on moral grounds. Young people just don’t get see why gay rights are such a problem.

It’s not easy being a Republican these days. If you’re running as a candidate, the list of what you’ve got to sign up to keeps growing. An unelected fiscal guru called Grover Norquist has you sign a pledge never to raise taxes. The National Rifle Association demands that you love guns and give the right answers on gun issues. Worried about gun violence? Get a gun. High school massacres? Arm the teachers. The evangelical wing holds you to increasingly intrusive policies on women’s healthcare. And of course you’ll be expected to denounce Darwin and to reject global warming as a liberal myth.

If you deviate in a primary election on any of these, you can expect to be demolished by fabulously expensive TV ads funded by anonymous  donors, thanks to a recent ruling by the Republican-leaning Supreme Court. And if you win the primary, just like Romney you’ll have to get good at dodging and obfuscating in the hope that the general voter never finds out what you actually stand for.

My money is on Obama to win. My biggest concern is that having won the argument, and won over the majority of voters, he might still lose the election.

No comments:

Post a Comment