08.22.08 The GOP’s 3-1/2 Legged Stool – Part II
In Part I, I introduced two of the GOP’s legs: an unholy alliance of the hyper greedy and the pompously pious.
Part II: Those Wobbly Other Legs
In fact, the GOP could not have dominated the American body politic for so long without a third leg of the stool: the national security hawks. And it is an examination of this unwieldy piece of political furniture that provides so much apparent hope for a better American future.
Know-nothing religious fanaticism has certainly not lost its attractiveness to the great unwashed of our backward land. And the wealthy haven’t lost their ability to buy all the politicians and propaganda they need to remain in power. Blind patriotism and unilateralism still engender crisp salutes from generals and July 4th-parade attendees alike. So why is the Republican stool so in danger of toppling over at this time?
- incompetence (national security and economic)
- the environment
- mutual distrust and dislike (“strange bedfellows”)
National Security Incompetence. At one time, Republican hawks (and their close pals in the always-eager-to-please-the-right Democratic party) were realists, in the international affairs meaning of the word. These folks scoured the world for military threats to American security, constructing and deploying forces geared toward combating those threats. They made huge mistakes in analysis and execution (e.g., the Domino Theory and Vietnam), but they maintained a clear-eyed view of the world, often incorporating new data into their planning.
American messianic zeal bubbled up to the surface occasionally, in the form of human-rights campaigns and humanitarian interventions. But the realist hawks viewed these occurrences as aberrations and invariably succeeded in guiding the country back to the solid ground of power calculus.
The Powell Doctrine (named for then-National Security Advisor Colin Powell) was the epitome of realist thinking: never intervene militarily abroad unless vital national security interests are at stake, and if intervention is necessary, only carry it out with enough overwhelming force to produce clear victory in the shortest possible time.
Then came the rise of the Neocons, the idiots (particularly, such “brilliant” minds as Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Feith, etc.) who not only believed that the US had to remake the entire Middle East in our image, but whose hubris led them to believe that Iraqis, Syrians and even Saudis truly wanted McDonalds on every corner and American movies in every cinema.
It was this latter delusion that led to their godawful planning: they truly believed we could colonize the entire region without any significant expenditure of blood, sweat, or tears. Their ideologically inspired blindness made it (and continues to make it) impossible for them to incorporate new data (“facts on the ground”) into their thinking and planning.
(Colin Powell ought to have been the determined adversary of messianic thinking and poor planning, but chose instead to sell his soul to a cause he never believed in. More on this in a future post.)
The rest, as they say, is history: the botched occupation, the civil war, the creation of a new and unnecessary front in the “war on terrorism,” the forgetting about Osama, the hollowing out of the military, the bankrupting of the treasury. And on and on and on.
In the meantime, realism all-but-disappeared from the GOP, represented by only a few lonely voices, like Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.
Needless to say, the bloom has come off the rose for the GOP’s claim to be uniquely qualified to protect America. Though persistently ignorant Americans still give McCain a plurality of support on national security, Democrats hardly need to run scared on this issue any longer.
Economic Incompetence. The examples: housing crisis, stock market volatility, out-of-control executive compensation, high-level corruption, declining standards of living for the middle and lower classes. American have been willing to tolerate the endless greed of the ultra-rich only so long as they could identify with them and hope to join them some day.
That trust has been shattered. And it gets shattered further every day, as idiots like former senator and McCain pal Phil Gramm tell the suffering masses that the pain is all in their whiny little heads.
I have no more expertise in economics than John McCain, which is why my analysis of this point is so much briefer than was my analysis of the neocon failure in national security (aren’t you glad I’m not running for president?). But the basic point is clear, the American people are ready to look considerably more askance at GOP economics than they have been in years, meaning that bums in power are going to get thrown out on their assess.
The Environment. Despite all the efforts of the ultra-wealthy (and the anti-science crowd in the wealthy’s very own purchased and paid-for administration) to suppress the reality of global warming, the ugly reality is finally beginning to be noticed in American living rooms, ranches, and (yes!) churches. It is this last venue that is most relevant to considering the GOP brand’s viability.
During the past couple of years, a small, but growing number of evangelical churches has decided that god doesn’t want us to destroy the planet after all. These folks are beginning to volunteer for local stream clean-ups, buy energy efficient light bulbs, and (yes!) notice which politicians share their newfound concern for our planet and our future.
There remains no question that the majority of evangelicals remain motivated to vote their fears of free thinking, gays, empowered women, and others who don’t share their particular religion. But the GOP has made itself the exclusive home of those who don’t give a shit about the environment. And it doesn’t take a whole lot of environmentally motivated churchgoers to make the Republican stool wobble.
Strange Bedfellows. As long as the GOP was promoting and protecting the interests all its coalition partners, the party remained a love-fest. (This kind of reminds me of the great love the Armenians and Azeris had for each other under the Kremlin, or the Croats and Serbs under Tito.)
Isn’t it funny how it takes only a little wobbling in these unnatural constructions to make the whole thing fly apart?
That’s what’s happening now for the GOP. We could see the phenomena on full display during the Republican primaries: for the first time in decades, no single candidate represented (or pacified) all three legs of the stool.
There was Rudy Giuliani, campaigning to be the Neocon of Neocons, whose marital infidelities and history of parading around in dresses made him unacceptable to the religious nuts.
There was John McCain who tried to marry old-school realism and new-style neoconomania, while pretending to love the preachers he said he hated only eight years ago. His heresies on campaign finance and the economy alienated the it’s-all-about-how-much-cash-is-in-my-pocket crowd and the newly coddled preachers still don’t trust him much.
There was Mitt Romney who certainly pleased Wall Street, but whose lack of apparent belief in anything other than money, not to mention his shameless commitment to pretending that he was with the preachers all along, made him anathema to everyone.
Of course, the mega-rich never had any use for the preachers except to the extent that the latter succeeded in keeping the ignorant masses docile.
They rich loved the defense hawks, as long as the latter kept the dollars flowing, but can’t stand them now that shear incompetence threatens the flow.
The only thing the Hawks had in common with their party brethren was shared contempt for the left.
The Half Leg. The final piece of the GOP’s ugly contraption is Ron Paul’s libertarian insurrection These folks could be considered a subset of the greedy, since the main drive of many of them is their opposition to taxes. But their utter contempt for government puts them at odds with the Wall Streeters, who love the government, as long as it is providing welfare to CEOs and giant corporations. One gets the idea that many in Paul’s legions would rather shoot a CEO than go hunting with one.
Of course true libertarians don’t belong in the GOP at all, because they don’t want the government intervening in the bedroom any more than in the marketplace. Paul, on the other hand, is anti-choice, putting him firmly in bed with the preachers.
It wasn’t so long ago that Karl Rove was crowing about a permanent Republican majority. Now it seems we stand on the edge of a permanent Republican minority.
There is but one potential obstacle to the complete and utter collapse of the Republican Party into a rump that exists only in the rural South, racist Appalachia, and the isolated plains of America where libertarians aren’t really.
Can you guess?
You got it: the Democratic Party. The party of utter spinelessness. The cradle of all-we-stand-for-is-proving-how-conservative-we-can-be-so-that-we-can-take-and-hold-power-while-accomplishing-nothing. If any party can help the Republicans bounce back, it is this party of the squishy center.
Here’s hoping they don’t!
©2008 Keith Berner