This is a moment in which the bogusness of the Fox News Right's sham claims to consistency, moral authority and—most deliciously ironic of all—patriotism is exposed for all to see. And I mean exposed in a way that forces the old-fashioned Republican base—the suburban, upper-middle class—to confront the chaos, ugliness and violence in which all supporters of the current Republican Party have been complicit.
The wealthier households of the American suburban bourgeoisie, who have long served as the real political base of the Republican Party—and whose defection to Obama in 2008 helped cost McCain the presidency—basically only care about two things:
- physical security for themselves and their families at all costs, and
- low taxes (i.e.: financial security for themselves and their families at all costs).
Consider, for example, Joe Briefcase. Joe is a medium-level Big Shot in the [whatever] business and is a case study in the mentality of this socioeconomic stratum of American society. He typically—before the Iraq War, anyway—falls for, I'd say, at least 75% of neoconservative scare-mongering lies (i.e.: 'An attack on the USA is imminent if we don't do a, b, and c to stop it...') and is also especially easily flattered by Republican laissez-faire & square charm tactics (i.e.: 'You've pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and deserve to hold onto every precious penny you've earned...')... and has voted Republican ever since he graduated from [whatever] school and entered what is known colloquially as "The Real World."
Joe Briefcase doesn't give two shits about the "restoration of American values" or the "maligned legacy of state's rights" that the brainless, fat, racist, uneducated, neo-secessionist, Fox News-watching hordes seem to care so much about. The fact is that Joe Briefcase doesn't want trouble, and trouble is exactly what he has begun to see that he will get if the Republican Party manages to regain control of the country.
Three additional factors shall flesh out my hypothesis of a new electoral alignment that I believe may be a component of the Democratic Party's (and especially Obama's) electoral strategy, which I shall call the New Wedge Politics:
- All of the "tea party" shenanigans during the health care debate managed to poison the well of public discourse to such an extent that most Americans stopped caring about the content of the health care bill a long time ago and simply grew increasingly irritated by the shrill health care bill debate. And it was the Republicans who, after all, vowed over and over and over and over and over again to obstruct the passage of the bill. Thus—irrespective of most people's inclinations as regards the content of the bill (and irrespective of the likelihood that the Obama Administration shrewdly planned to allow the Republican demagogy to meander until it reached the pinnacle of outrageousness)—Obama gets all of the credit for putting the whole miserable display out of its misery with a stroke of his pen. Meet Obama, the restorer of 'law and order' from the clutches of tea-bagger-fueled chaos and anarchy.
- The Civil War. Don't forget the Civil War. It's very much on the minds—or in the hearts—of many among the tea-bagger faithful, whether they realize it or not. From incumbent Governor Rick Perry's Texas Secession Rallies to the new revelations of Far-Right paramilitary activities to the ugly racism of so much of the redneck sloganeering, the ghost of the Civil War has returned to the national subconscious in a big way. And it just so happens that Joe Briefcase's great-great grandfather fought in the Civil War. And guess whose side Great Great Grandpa Briefcase fought for? That's right, it wasn't for the Confederacy. Joe Briefcase has always taken pride in the fact that he belongs to the Party of Abraham Lincoln. He has no sympathy for protesters of any kind. He wants the secessionist rednecks to get off his TV already. He most certainly does not recognize the current Dixiecrat Shambles as His Republican Party. This 'Party of No' is not the Republican Party as he has known it.
- The Iraq War. Don't forget the impact of that war either. The minutia of the USA's continued presence in Iraq under the Obama Administration, of course, fail to capture anyone's interest. But the people of the United States have not forgotten the Iraq War, nor its costliness in lives and dollars, nor the sleazy lies that the Bush Administration told in order to sell it. This still stands as a significant betrayal of trust between the Republican Party and its erstwhile supporters.
Lastly, although I dislike the Republican Party something fierce, and although I'm not as critical of Obama as many others on the Left have been (not having expected him to act as a genuinely progressive president in the midst of our current political/economic conditions and ideological alignments), I'm not saying that it is necessarily a good thing that the Democratic Party might be preserving its spot at the Center by pushing the Republican Party ever-farther to the Right. I'd have much preferred it if the health care bill had been more aggressive and radical, etc., etc. And I'd certainly have preferred to see Obama actually take a firm legal position against torturers, liars and manipulators like Dick Cheney, et al.
Anyway, there you have it. If anyone's actually read this far down, I'd love for you to prove it to me by leaving a comment. Heh.
[N.B.: I updated this post (mostly grammar and formatting edits) on the morning of 3/31/10).]
* Note the distinction here, between Christians and Christianists, Christianity and Christianism, religion and Religionism. Each of these dyads comprises:
I am an atheist, but I consider the notion of the 'inherent evil of religion' to be both inherently childish and itself always a cloaked political gesture, every bit as much as Religionism. I suppose I could distinguish my brand of atheism from that of Sam Harris by calling him an 'atheismist,' but I won't. You get my point. (Up.)
- first, a phenomenon that is so heterogeneous and multifarious, and rooted so deeply in our history and society as to resist evaluation in one direction or another, in and of itself, and
- second, an extreme politics that enshrouds itself in a rhetoric that has been appropriated from the first, and then manhandled and distorted to accord with tactical or strategic ends.
** This is a not-insignificant component of the process to bear in mind. Perception, that is. Kind of a slippery concept, I know, but sometimes we forget that we're not talking about the unmediated, abstract truth of these things, but rather, the truth of people's perceptions, which—in addition to being very difficult to determine—is frequently unconscious (that is, people don't always perceive the content of their own perceptions). That's one of the reasons why polls are frequently pure garbage. (Up.)
*** Notice that the trick that the Republicans have pulled off over the decades—in concert with the enormous interest group it serves, namely the military-industrial complex—is to eliminate any and all cognitive dissonance between (1) and (2), despite the fact that the 'bloated government' and 'proliferating, unaccountable government bureaucracy' that the GOP claims to so oppose are nowhere more strongly in evidence than in unfunded military spending. Remember that the Bush Administration deliberately left the deficit-spending on the Iraq War off of the books! (Up.)