Friday, July 10, 2015

Faultlines in the GOP

Here are some points on a line.

Point 1: The Flambush In The House

Democrats in the House have managed to twice "ambush" the GOP with the Confederate Flag (The Omnivore dubs this the 'Flambush'). In each case the GOP was forced to choose between their Southern caucus and a bill they wanted to pass that had an amendment to show or remove the Confederate flag from somewhere on federal land.
Leadership had to pull the underlying measure—the spending bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency—which also means that Republicans will not at the moment have a chance to vote on language that would block several Obama administration climate-change and environmental regulations, something GOP members have sought to do all year.
Pelosi's resolution would have forced Mississippi's state flag, which includes the Confederate flag, to be removed from the House side of the Capitol.

After Pelosi offered the resolution, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) immediately moved to refer the measure to the House Administration Committee for further review.
Democrats shouted their disapproval to drown out all other sound in the House chamber.

“Vote! Vote! Vote!” they chanted.
The House backed McCarthy, voting 238-176 to refer the measure in a largely party-line vote.
Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.) was the only Republican to side with Democrats on the Confederate flag. Rep. Mia Love (Utah), the only female black Republican in Congress, briefly voted "present" before changing her vote in favor of referral in the final moments of the roll call.

Point 2: A Class War In The Republican Party

Ace, at Ace of Spades HQ Blog, writes an insightful and important article about what he describes as a "Class war" in the GOP:
The war is between two groups. My terminology may not be perfect, and there is lots of give in these terms, but the war is between the Middle/Working Class (hereafter just the Middle Class) and Professional Class, which I sometimes call the "Comfortable Class." 
Both classes, frankly, disgust me, depending on the day of the week. 
The Middle Class is naked with class resentment and don't seem to mind if the world knows they are seething angry at the Professional Class (whom they feel, correctly, disrespect them). They tend to push a "politics" which is less about actual policy and more about asserting the cultural class supremacy of the Middle Class. 
The Professional Class is composed of both actual professionals, who are a fraction of the class, and the larger number of people who aspire to join the Upper Middle Class, but are actually Middle Class. 
The Professional Class loves denigrating the Middle Class. One of its proudest achievements is that it's not the Middle Class, but something more.
He describes, not unreasonably, Donald Trump as an outgrowth of this war.

Point 3: A New Nominating System (Rejected)

Back in 2013, looking at the mess that the 2012 nominating cycle had created, Jay Cost (RealClearPolitic's stats guy) and Jeffrey H. Anderson created and submitted a proposal for a new Republican Nomination Process. This, simply put, would be a large (3300 delegate) convention to pick 5 candidates who would then compete in the primary. It would reduce cost, uncertainty, and, well, the crazy:
This process would also give the GOP a real and productive opportunity for critical self-examination. That kind of benefit does not reliably exist when fringe candidates dominate the conversation. Winnowing the field would ensure that more serious candidates tossed their hats into the ring, producing a real debate

A Fault Line in the GOP

The question that should be asked for each of these is "Why don't the Democrats have these problems?" Of course they kind of do. After all, the Democratic party splits over things like Free Trade--and to an extent environmental protection. But on other fronts, such as Same-Sex-Marriage, they transitioned from being against it to being for it as smoothly as a high-quality transmission shifting gears. There wasn't a blood-bath. There weren't primaries. There weren't fringe candidates.

In the (epic) showdown between Hillary and Obama in 2008, there were more debates than the 2012 GOP debacle and yet it made Obama stronger--and the result was, mathematically, virtually a tie. There was a fracture--the PUMAS--who supported Hillary, felt dispossessed, and went to McCain. They were a point of late-night humor (the title originally stood for Party Unity My Ass) and they created the Birther Movement--but that was as far as they got.

There wasn't a PUMA insurgent in 2012 running 3rd Party or anything like that.

The Democrats had their electoral brush-with-death: after McGovern they created Super Delegates--basically elites who could vote however they wanted and weren't beholden to voters. This did make a difference in 2008--and was hotly debated (as was caucuses vs. primaries) but in the end, the Democrats held together without any serious difficulties.

What's different?

One possibility is that Democrats/Liberals all practice lock-step group-think so they don't have the same fragmentary base--but The Omnivore isn't especially impressed with that analysis. Firstly, public perception on, for example, gay marriage, shifted for everyone--not just Democrats. What happened was that Democrats didn't go nuts on Obama for having "changed his mind."

Partially this is because a lot of people assumed he didn't change his mind so much as just kind of lied originally and didn't feel strongly about SSM. But it's also because Democrats enjoy credibility on the issue of gay marriage that Republicans don't (this is kind of like how Republicans did--or used to--enjoy credibility on national defense so Nixon could go to China).

Secondly, there was absolutely no lockstep in the 2008 primary: it was a knock-down/drag-out tactical battle of the highest order. There were hurt-feelings, schisms, and apparently even fist-fights. The difference was that, at the end, Democrats came together once there was a chosen winner (mostly, the PUMAS still held out). In other words, Obama and Hillary were both good enough for most Democratic voters.

So the idea of there being some kind of mind-control or sheeple-effect doesn't seem all that strong (notably: the GOP Base came around to Romney who was the antithesis of a lot of their principles--a stronger case for group-think could be made on that. But it isn't true there either: They wanted to beat Obama . . . badly.).

So what's going on?

Weaponized/Monetized Fanaticism

What has happened over the past six to eight years is that the GOP Base has been whipped into a frenzy of literally apocalyptic proportions. That frenzy has been monetized (Buy Gold! Buy Freeze Dried Food! The Collapse of the Dollar is Coming! Obama-Fiends Will Assassinate Glenn Beck In The Night. Etc.). They have also been weaponized. The Base has been taught/told that their ability to hold the line during a primary-attempt is all that will save The Republic. District lines have been re-drawn to amplify that power.

The Right also ingested the American South which not the evil racist glob that the current Confederate Flag stuff makes it out to be--but it is a place that is, let's say, not progressive on issues like Same Sex Marriage and holds to some traditions (like the Lost Cause version of the Confederacy) way more than--and with more importance--than a lot of other American traditions.

The problem is not that the GOP Base is a racist/superstitious group of rednecks. The problem is that the GOP's method of managing their base involved flat out lying to them. They were told that they could repeal Obamacare (without winning the White House). That wasn't true. They have been told that Obama is a literal tyrant and flagrant law-breaker. They have been tantalized with dreams of impeachment. They have been told--by leaders--that Obama may be a Muslim sympathizer or is perhaps the result of a massive conspiracy around his birth and legitimate legacy to hold office.

When McCain tried to shout that down once at a rally, he discovered how dangerous that was. The GOP Base harbors resentment and distrust of Obama well beyond reasonable limits and that distrust has been ruthlessly exploited by conservative media and Republican leaders. Today, though, the tail is wagging the dog. The GOP can't shut down the reactor: if they pull the plug on Trump, for example, he could go rogue without them. A large portion of their base might well follow. Today the governor of Texas had to call out the National Guard to "keep an eye on" Special Forces training exercises (Jade Helm). Today the GOP can't respond to a public shift around gay marriage or the Confederate flag because their base has been told that doing so will destroy America.

And they believe it.

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