THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

The worst part about living through 2010 was not the outcome of the election but the preferred media narrative of the Tea Party ushering in some kind of sea change in the GOP. In reality, their overwhelming losses in 2006 and 2008 gave the Republicans a good opportunity to re-brand their party, perhaps even to come up with a new idea or two. Instead they chose simply to double down on the same selective interpretation of Reaganism that they've pounded like a drum for the past thirty years. The Tea Party was tangential, just a bunch of inchoate anger and nonsensical demands that happened to benefit the GOP at the polls. Business as usual meets populist freakshow. The result is that the GOP of 2012, despite the major domestic crises of the past four years, is not different in any meaningful way from George W. Bush's Republican Party. Look no further that the Iowa Caucus results (and impending Romney blowout in New Hampshire) for proof: the prize in these primaries goes not to the daring, but to the one who does the best job of reciting the Commandments of the faith. The party can theoretically choose anyone, and in Iowa they chose two candidates who, although different, are essentially carbon copies of the most recent GOP president.

Rick Santorum, who is likely to disappear shortly after his 15 minutes of being Not Mitt Romney, takes Bush's unwavering social conservatism and combines it with a total lack of intellectual curiosity on domestic issues – where his policy position is essentially "Steer it as far to the right as possible, then go a little further" on any given issue – and hard neocon foreign policy (Israel! Israel! Israel! Also fuck Iran!) Like Bush, Santorum has the ability to hold totally insane, occasionally terrifying policy positions but look to primary voters and TV viewers to be a nice, sane fellow. Seriously, watch Rick Santorum on a talk show. He seems nice. He sounds normal. He isn't. Contrast him, for example, with the visibly deranged Michele Bachmann to see how important this quality is in the modern GOP. Be crazy, but look sane. Don't scare everyone.

Romney, on the other hand, is like Bush in that underneath the marketing (Remember "compassionate conservatism"?) he is nothing but the classic "pro-business" corporate shill brand of Republican. He appears to care about nothing much politically, hence his numerous flip-flops on social and foreign policy issues, except cutting taxes, starving the government, and making America safe again for the ludicrously rich. Other Republicans hate him not because of this political stance; indeed, he is in perfect concert with most of them on economic issues. They hate him because he is a Mormon, and an insincere glad-hander, and an opportunist, and a pretty boy, and generally an all-around sissy. He's not a Man's Man, not a Real Christian Jesus-fearing red-blooded American. Or, more accurately, not one who can or cares to fake it. GW Bush's ridiculous cowboy act was semi-believable, at least enough to fool the rubes. Romney looks like the white bread, prep school asswipe he is.

And these are the two candidates the process appears to have chosen to duke it out. If they could somehow combine Romney's staggering wealth, fundamentally elitist economic ideas, and non-threatening self presentation with Santorum's militant social conservatism and Real Guy authenticity, they'd have the perfect candidate. That is, they'd have George W. Bush again. They rejected the glib Perot-like straight talk of Cain, Bachmann's American jihad, Perry's frat boy insincerity, the reanimated corpse of 1994 in Gingrich, and the old school liberal New England Republicanism of Huntsman. Ron Paul, as ever, is just an old coot with a devoted but insufficiently large cult of true believers. They chose Santorum (who is fundamentally unelectable, being insane) and Romney (who no one actually likes and most actively loathe).

Hey, you know who's stupid? Tim Pawlenty. He dropped out on account of a meaningless straw poll won by Michele Bachmann almost a year ago. Were he running, he would be killing it right now. The primary voters are desperate for anyone who isn't Romney, but all of their existing alternatives are obviously flawed. T-Paw is as bland as they come, an empty vessel with the requisite devotion to Reaganomics. He wouldn't be much of a general election candidate, but I bet he'd be neck-and-neck with Romney right now.

So, the GOP staggered out of 2008 with an opportunity to take the party in a new direction. Instead they punted. Refusing to come up with a single new idea, they chose the path of least resistance, the sweet spot in their comfort zone. They chose the two candidates who reminded them the most of Dubya, who was the candidate who reminded them the most of Reagan, who was the candidate who reminded them the most of Barry Goldwater. It would be bad enough if they were nominating second rate Reagan clones, but this year this appears to be a competition between two pale imitations of George W. Bush. Rather than write anything new, they're covering a cover song. With the GOP so adamant in its refusal to change and the balless, corporate Democratic Party offering only the illusion of opposition, it is no mystery why everyone can see that our ship is heading straight for the rocks but we seem to be unable to change its course.

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64 Responses to “THE MORE THINGS CHANGE”

  1. Turok Says:

    That's not really fair to Romney. As a governor, he was way more liberal than Bush. Republicans don't hate him because of his image. They hate him because he's a RINO.

  2. bb in GA Says:

    @Amused

    It is not an analogy. I paraphrased what I heard Mr. Gorbachev say in an interview, I didn't make it up.

    //bb

  3. bb in GA Says:

    excuse me – read in an interview

    //bb

  4. Amused Says:

    @bb in GA:

    That very well may be, but you paraphrased what you heard Gorbachev say to compare it to what liberals in this country supposedly say — and I see it in the larger context of conservatives today saying that anyone who is even one micron to the left of the Far Right is a "communist".

    This is indeed hilarious — but for the fact that it's so sad — because in Russia today, the communist faction is referred to as "conservatives" and placed on the Far Right of the political spectrum. They have much more in common with American conservatives than they do with liberals: the same yearning for authoritarianism, the same preoccupation with symbols, the same prioritizing of ideology over practical considerations, the same hostility towards civil liberties, the same obsession with people's private lives, especially their sex lives, the same "freedoms for me, but not for thee" attitude towards restrictions on private conduct, the same belief in Manifest Destiny, of sorts, for their country to lord over the entire world. The only difference is communists' attitude to private property, but considering all the ways in which Russian communists and American conservatives are nearly identical, it is a minor one.

  5. bb in GA Says:

    @Amused

    I committed kind of the symmetrical sin.

    Usually in a political conversation whoever mentions Hitler or Nazis and makes any analogical comparison creates a firestorm that completely obliterates both them and any point they made.

    Same here – I was not comparing Liberals to Commies.

    I was comparing two groups whose position is that that their ideas were not fairly given a shot at success and those ideas likely would succeed if correctly implemented. If you Google 'Gorbachev still believes' I think you get an ample supply of material to back up my original point.

    Stupid me – mentioning Commies and Liberals in the same paragraph causes the Hitler/Nazi reaction.

    Besides, other posters refute the analogy that Liberal/Progressive ideas have never had a successful run (the 'Forever' President FDR's regime)

    But that is a side issue to what I originally posted.

    You of course do the Liberal thing of never missing an opportunity to slobber knock Conservatives in new and inventive ways by equating the remaining Russian Commies w/ all us old farts in the USA.

    Hilarious indeed.

    //bb

  6. Nancy the math teacher Says:

    To BB, whose posts here I read with interest and respect: I should be a Republican. Both my parents were Republicans, my mother was politically active during my childhood, I still remember the Goldwater sign in the yard. I was raised with Republican ideals. These ideals included respect for knowledge and education, self-reliance to the greatest extent possible, the equality of all people, and the cultivation of our minds, bodies and environment for good. It was important to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and important to preserve and care for the good things we have been given to carry them on to our children, and important to help others become self-reliant and educated also. Waste and inefficiency were to be avoided.
    I don't know if the Republican party ever really espoused these ideals, but my pro-choice mother abandoned the party late in life and I've never seen any reason to join it.

  7. c u n d gulag Says:

    bb,
    Amused is completely correct.

    My parents are from Russia and Ukraine, and all of their friends are too, and believe me, most of them, thought not my parents, are HARD-CORE Conservatives.

    When I listen to them, I wonder wtf they ever left the USSR in the first place – except, of course, they had to because of the war.

    And when I visited Russia, what Amused said about the current Communists is 100% correct.
    They are virtually indistinguishable from American Conservatives.

  8. bb in GA Says:

    Some of y'all conflate (even in your kind remarks – Nancy and others not so..) R with conservative and/or libertarian.

    You know that's not true. Since I'm the token libertarian-conservative who posts here regularly I become ideologically responsible for every policy and personality from Nelson Rockefeller to Attila the Hun.

    That is just ridiculous, but it is the price of admission, I guess.

    I enjoy most of the answers, added education, and potential POV modifications.

    Thanks,

    //bb

  9. Dana Says:

    I'm pretty sure Ron Paul + thick-rimmed glasses = the living reincarnation of Barry Goldwater. Not Mitt Romney.

  10. eau Says:

    @Nancy the math teacher – That party sounds great! Sign me up!

  11. blinded by science Says:

    "Lack of political originality is really not such a terrible flaw. The Democrats have been trying to find an FDR clone since 1945."

    Yeah, and we thought we had one but he turned out to be Clinton.

  12. xynzee Says:

    @Nancy: The D's traditionally were a party of two parts. They were the Party for the working class in the industrial North and NE and for farmers. They were also the party of the Southern Slavers. Which is why until the mid-80s Southerners would *never* vote Republican. The working class sent their kids to university who then became the intelligencia who went on Freedom Rides.

    Somewhere along the line the R's, the same party who brought us Abolition, decided that it was politically expedient to get in bed with the unedumacated descendants of the traditional South who were cut loose when LBJ signed in Civil Rights. Thus they've been high-jacked ever since and trying to impress upon the country that MS education standards is good enough for all.

  13. bb in GA Says:

    @xynzee

    At the Presidential level the shift to predominately voting for Rs in the deep South started much earlier than in your narrative…way before any Civil Rights Laws.

    SC – last voted D in 1960 – exception Carter 1976 – Southern son.

    GA – last voted D in 1960 – exceptions 1976/80 – homeboy Carter, 1992 fellow Southron Bubba Clinton.

    AL – last voted D in 1956 – exception 1976 for Southern son – Jimmy Carter

    MS – last voted D in 1956 – Carter exception 1976

    LA – last voted D in 1960 – Carter exception 1976, Clinton 92/96

    TX – last voted D in 1968 – Carter exception in 1976

    So Texas seems to have missed the fact that the Civil Rights Laws were passed in '64 and the Slavers there didn't jump on the wagon til 1972 (or maybe they got a clue that McGovern was too Liberal for them?)

    Congressional and Senatorial shifts to R were lagging the law changes and probably support your thesis better.

    //bb (Former 'Slaver')

  14. Xynzee Says:

    @bb: thanks for the stats and educating me.

    Wonder how much that was due to running a Catholic?

    I was putting it in context of the Ds being the party of the Southern aristocracy, and power structures. Where the few held all the power (and slaves), and the poor majority became cannon fodder to support the "unique institution" of the South. Became victims of Sherman's advance through the Shenedoha and then having to pay for that wonderful symbol of Repuglican victory "Reconstruction".

    So yes the agrarian Southern experience of Democratic is different from the unionised Northern experience. Obviously, ppl are never that clear cut, but those would've been the general trends and influences.