Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Party of White People”: How the Tea Party Took Over the GOP

I often bemoan what has become of today's Republican Party.   I continue to believe that the GOP's lurch toward lunacy traces back to the rise of the Christofascists in the party, the beginnings of which I witnessed near the end of my time as a GOP activist.  That cancer later morphed into the the so-called Tea Party movement, a movement that the mainstream media continues to fail to identify as largely the Christian Right hiding under a different label so as to not repel those not in lock step with the Christofascists' theocray agenda.  Regardless of the name applied to the two movements, both were at first cynically allowed to infiltrate the Republican Party by the so-called GOP establishment that thought it could control the extremists of the movement.  Time has shown that this conceit proved terribly incorrect.  A piece in Salon looks at the process that allowed extremists and outright lunatics to capture the party.  Here are highlights:
On the anti-intellectual fringe, the narrative about the Founders was taken up by absolutists and paranoids who supported citizen militias and the like. Yet even those not on the fringe supported the radical rhetoric. It was, in some sense, built into the movement. The logic of their argument—that conservatives were losing the country, that it had fatally departed from the Founders’ intentions, that the republican experiment required periodic revolutions to renew old values—suggested that extreme and uncompromising measures were necessary to restore the nation to the old ways.

The Republican leadership, by contrast, was made up of realists. Though establishment politicians had used similar revolutionary rhetoric often enough—since at least the time of Ronald Reagan—when it came to governing they recognized the limits of their power and the importance of incremental change. But with the Tea Party revolution, the rhetoric became harder to control. The conservative base had slipped its leash. 

As early as August 2009, David Frum, a speechwriter for George W. Bush, warned that conservatives were playing with fire. “All this hysterical and provocative talk invites, incites, and prepares a prefabricated justification for violence,” he wrote during the angry summer recess. “It’s not enough for conservatives to repudiate violence, as some are belatedly beginning to do. We have to tone down the militant and accusatory rhetoric.”

Some commentators wondered if perhaps the Republicans had foolishly tried to ride the Tea Party tiger. It had been clear for some time that the Tea Party combined legitimate outrage over Democratic policies with more disreputable elements that tended toward extreme directions, a dialectic that the conservative columnist Matthew Continetti called “the two faces of the Tea Party.” One side sought to repair various “deformities” in American politics. The other, according to Continetti, was “ready to scrap the whole thing and restore a lost Eden.” One side was reformist. The other was revolutionary. One was responsible. The other was dangerous.

Unfortunately for the Republican leadership, the Tea Party seemed barely interested in governance. Tea Partiers wanted, above all else, a confrontation with the president regardless of the wisdom of the conflict. And because the 2010 freshman class was so large, Speaker John Boehner did not have a functional majority to pass bills without Tea Party support. That dynamic made Republican attempts to convert the posture of rage into actual policy initiatives difficult if not impossible.

[W]hat the Tea Party–led Republicans demanded—a massive cut to spending that would increase over time, a balanced-budget amendment that would permanently limit spending in the future, and the promise that these aggressive cuts would somehow balance the budget rather than creating recession and larger budget deficits—was unprecedented. There was no way that Obama could give even half of what the Tea Party faction demanded. So what would otherwise have been a routine maneuver in public credit of the United States. The Tea Party threatened to burn down the house in order to “save” it.

They [the Tea Party] professed to want to shrink government to unleash the capitalist system and they argued that not raising the debt ceiling would be a first step. But a default would have plunged the nation’s economy back into recession, which would have lowered tax receipts and massively increased the debt. And the default would have further raised the cost of borrowing, which would then further increase the debt. So not raising the debt ceiling as a first step in stopping the debt cycle would have, in fact, massively increased the deficit, added enormously to the debt, and thrown the nation’s economy into chaos.

[A]s the [20102] election returns came in, it became apparent how out of touch Republicans had become. Obama won in decisive fashion, 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206. Even more disturb-ing—at least for Republicans—was the demographic composition of those who voted from Romney versus those who voted for Obama. Romney lost nearly every important demographic with one exception: 88 percent of Romney voters were white. In a nation that was turning increasingly brown, those numbers suggested crisis.

Watching the agony unfold, Sam Tanenhaus, one of the keenest of political observers, came to a disturbing conclusion: the Tea Party–led GOP was headed to the most extreme Jeffersonian position, that of John C. Calhoun prior to the Civil War. . . .  Calhoun’s views on federal power and the Tenth Amendment became central in the emergence of the newly conservative politics.

The Jeffersonian argument about maintaining founding principles had degenerated into a Calhounian vision of state-sponsored nullification and retrenchment. “Denial has always been the basis of a nullifying politics,” Tanenhaus believed, but after the election it was obvious that “modernity could not be nullified.”

How would Republicans now respond? They could either abandon their form of antigovernance—with its genuflections toward the Founders, its simplistic solutions to complex problems, and its general tendency toward obstruction. Or the party would remain, Tanenhaus predicted, “the party of white people.”
As stated above, I believe that the Christofascists have been key in this move to make the GOP the party of white people.  Look at all of the major "family values" organizations and you find two key things: (i) their leadership and rank and file members are lily white and only reach out to blacks and Hispanics when they want them (read black pastors in particular) to act as their trained circus dogs, and (ii) most are descended from the same roots as the segregationists of the 1950's and 1960's, who favored white "Christian academies" over allowing their children to mix with blacks in integrated public schools.   Here in Virginia, The Family Foundation traces to the folks who supported "Massive Resistance" and uses "family values" pronouncements to hide it racist, anti-minority agenda. 

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