Monday, August 31, 2009

Insanity runs in the GOP family: From Nixon/Reagan to today's Republican Party

Trying to make sense of U.S. politics today is a real mind bender. If the Republicans were sane, the current situation would be very hard to understand. But sanity and the post-Nixon/Reagan Republican Party are not two things that flow easily together. You would think that there would be some selectivity as to which of the President's proposals they want to go up against and which they could support. But that's not the case. The Republicans are behaving like children who have been refused candy at the store. They tend to kick and scream irrationally at almost any suggestion. From the past 30 years it has become clear that - when in power - they cannot govern. When the American people wake up to this situation and elect a Democrat to the presidency and back him/her up with a mandate and large majorities in Congress, the Republicans simply scream, "if we can't govern, we will not let anyone else do so." In other words, the Republicans these days are willing to destroy everything they touch no matter what the cost to the rest of us. Last November 8th they were told no at the store, and now not only are they against every proposal the Obama administration puts forward, but they are even bitching and moaning about the President taking a vacation. (That's right. Even after eight years of a Republican president who was on vacation more than he was on duty). And they claim they're pro-family. Paul Krugman wrote in last Monday's (8/24) New York Times:
Washington, it seems, is still ruled by Reaganism — by an ideology that says government intervention is always bad, and leaving the private sector to its own devices is always good.

Call me naive, but I actually hoped that the failure of Reaganism in practice would kill it. It turns out, however, to be a zombie doctrine: even though it should be dead, it keeps on coming.
I would put it slightly differently. Washington (ie. mostly the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats) are ideologically still hung up on Reaganism, but they are strategically followers of Nixon - the Southern Strategy, enemies lists and lies, lies and more lies. But remember what Marx taught us:
Hegel observes somewhere that all great incidents and individuals of world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.
But don't underestimate the danger of the farceurs. In addition to the American people, the true victim of the Republican party is - democracy. The deeply anti-democratic disruptive behavior of Republican sycophants at recent attempts by Democrats to hold town meetings to discuss the health care reform proposals does nothing but undermine democratic discussion. This is a result of the Republican realization that in any rational debate they would lose badly.

To go back to where I began, to understand why the health care reform proposals currently on the Congressional table may be in trouble there is certainly plenty of blame to go around and it doesn't all fall in the Republican lap. (I do think I should say that I don't think it's in as much trouble outside the beltway or among people who elected Obama as the corporate-owned media would have us believe. But unfortunately the final decisions will be made in Washington not by the country-at-large.)

It's clear that the Republicans are the primary culprits in trashing the health-care reform proposals. But they have plenty of help from the Blue Dog Democrats. These Democratic followers of Reaganism don't consider supporting their president as important as securing their campaign finances from the health insurance industry. According to Krugman (NYT, 8/31),
a once minor player has become a political behemoth, one that is currently spending $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress.
That they are able to spend that kind of money is outrageous; but think, what must they have at stake to be willing to spend it. The administration also comes in for its share of the blame because not only did they not expect the blow back from the right wing (how they didn't anticipate it may be the political wonder of our time), but they still talk about bi-partisanship with the Republicans. How delusional can you be? One other note: abandoning single payer before the struggle even began, gave them almost nothing to bargain with.But don't think the blame game stops there. We are the other component in this struggle - the progressive forces, we've done almost nothing to light a fire under the wavering Democrats. There have been no pro-health care reform demonstrations or other kinds of organizing. It's been very quiet on the Left. No significant change has ever occurred in this country without massive pressure from outside the political process - and it hasn't been there. And let's not forget perhaps the most serious culprits in all this (besides the Republicans) - the corporate-owned media. Any possible educational responsibility has long been abandoned in lieu of entertainment. With people like Sarah Palin running around dropping nuggets of mis-information. One thing the Republicans have become expert at is scaring the hell out of the most vulnerable of us. In this case that's older people and now veterans have been thrown into the Palin stew. But the news media have done very little to help people better understand what's really at stake. In fact, many corporate media outlets, particularly TV, have done all they can to enable Republican lies to be taken seriously.

But I think it would be a mistake to follow the corporate media lead and think that the anti-health care reform contingent amounts to more than the people who voted for McCain/Palin last November. That is the anti-health care reform contingent outside of Congress. And that's what we have to make clear.

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