Friday, March 22, 2013

A Republican Split? Don't Hold Your Breath

By Manifesto Joe

There's been much ado in the MSM lately about change in the Republican Party. Last month, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, became the first major Republican politician to come out in favor of gay marriage, and said his son is gay. On immigration overhauls, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has endorsed a path to citizenship for legal immigrants, and his son, the very Latino-looking George P. Bush, is launching a statewide political career in Texas and appears to be making some inroads with Hispanic voters in this state. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, touted as another GOP rising star, has specific ideas for immigration overhauls that sound strikingly like what the Obama administration proposes.

These developments are anathema to the GOP's hard-core Tea Party types, who generally projectile-vomit at the mention of gay marriage and are often hard-line opponents of even legal immigration. Their reaction to these changes has primarily been bilious disgust.

This has some unsympathetic observers speculating that the Republican Party is about to break into two factions: (1) the economic royalists it has always represented, but those whose "social" views are moderate, and (2) the die-hard right wing.

Don't hold your breath. The Republicans have fought all these battles before. Phyllis Schlafly's 1964 screed A Choice Not an Echo illustrates how old this battle is. In those days, it was mainly being fought over economic issues (Barry Goldwater referred to the Eisenhower administration as "the dimestore New Deal") and general sanity about avoiding nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Gay marriage and immigration have merely taken the place of those Cold War and New Deal issues.

The Kool-Aid that both factions have drunk, and with gusto, is supply-side economics. That's different from the GOP infighting that was going on 50 years ago. They are very, very united on that crucial point, and that's the glue that will hold them together no matter what.

Dwight Eisenhower, a conservative in the more pragmatic sense of the word, realized the value of New Deal economic reforms such as Social Security and unemployment insurance. He at least privately regarded these changes as more or less permanent. Now, even the alleged "reform" faction of the Republican Party seems united on gutting Social Security and perhaps even considers benefits for the jobless to be wasteful welfare that just makes the unemployed into paunchy bums.

The Democrats have even more rifts under their tent than the Republicans have, especially now with a quasi-pragmatic centrist like Barack Obama as president. This faction, the pragmatic center, has pretty much controlled the Democratic Party since the McGovern debacle of 1972, but many on the far left remain idealists. Despite the failures of the past, they sincerely believe that "real Democrats," i.e. hard-core lefties, are what the party needs.

I'd be among the first to concede that Obama has been all-too-accommodating. He still doesn't seem to realize that the Republican concept of bipartisanship is to do everything entirely and absolutely THEIR way. But neither do the Democrats need their own version of Tea Party extremists.

The Democrats need to stay as united as possible, because they can't expect any less from the Republicans. The GOP is just doing what its rank-and-file thinks it needs to do to be electable, in reaction to losing the last two presidential races rather badly. They did the same thing starting with Alf Landon in 1936, when the moderate Republican governor of Kansas didn't flatly oppose some parts of the New Deal, he just said it was being poorly administered.

Landon lost badly, but the Republicans kept inching toward the perceived political center, until they finally came up with a winner with Eisenhower in 1952. They'll do that again, this time with gay marriage, immigration and similar "social" issues. The thing that will hold them together this time is that they all remain social Darwinists. They all agree that the poor should be punished for being that way.

Don't expect the GOP to deviate from the formula of the past. When they experience national defeats (the 1930s and '40s, and to a lesser extent now), they will move toward the center. When they start winning again, they'll move back to the far right (the 1980s and '90s, and briefly in 2010-11). They'll stay together -- and if the Democrats are to continue to win, the Democrats must, too.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Infidel753 said...

The Republican situation today is somewhat different than before because one faction is explicitly driven by religion, which is much less amenable to compromise. As the party gradually modernizes on gay issues, the Christian Right fumes that not only they, but God himself, are being betrayed.

A real split into two parties is too much to hope for, but fundies casting protest votes for third parties, or just refusing to vote in disgust at the party's compromises with sanity, may swing a few elections.

Anonymous said...

>>"but many on the far left remain idealists."

Frankly, there IS no "far left" in America today. Who, exactly, would be "far left"? Bernie Sanders? Yeah, he gives good interviews. But he is one man and he has about as much power to get things done in Washington as I do.
As Bill Hicks once said, there is really only one party in America: the Business Party.
I voted for Obama because I wanted an end to the Iraq War. But I knew from the start that he was no Liberal. Corporate profits are at an all-time high and workers' wages, as a share of GDP, are at an all-time low.
There is no "Far Left" in America. In fact, there is really no Left, period.

Manifesto Joe said...

Look again. There are so few of them that they're pretty irrelevant, but they do exist. Check out the news source called Truthout. There aren't many of them, but they do exist. And right now, they do represent a bit of a problem. The Democratic Party is pretty lame, but at the moment they are the only real alternative to the kooks who are ruling the Republican Party. Unity of center and left is the only hope.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I just don't see Truthout as a "Far Left" entity. That brands them as some kind of extremists. They're really just an independent news resource that presents a lot of valuable stories that the corporate media outlets ignore. I suppose to a Rush Limbaugh type, Truthout is "Far Left." But I just don't see it. To me, "Far Left" would be something like the Yippies' "Overthrow" newspaper. I don't think Truthout is "Far Left." The Far Left in this country died decades ago, along with the likes of the Yippies and the Black Panthers.

Manifesto Joe said...

Truthout is openly socialist. In America, that pretty much defines one as "far left." Granted, our spectrum is more limited than what one finds in Europe, or even in Japan. But here, that pretty much defines "far left." Look at the articles on Truthout. The mainstream of the Democratic Party, certainly in the past 40 years, has been for the New Deal "mixed system" of economics. Socialism has been, since that time, pretty much the domain of a far left fringe in U.S. politics. Perhaps it should be that way. But that's reality.

Manifesto Joe said...

Sorry, meant "shouldn't be that way" in preceding comment.

Manifesto Joe said...

While we're on this subject, let's do a little reality check. Even back in their heyday, exactly how many ELECTIONS do you figure the Yippies and the Black Panthers could have won? Even at that time, these were extreme fringe groups that could not have carried a popular vote anywhere in the U.S. Oh, perhaps a Panther could have won an alderman seat deep in inner-city Oakland, Calif.

Granted, I understand that the Communist Party is actually the main, or at least a main, opposition party in Japan. The U.S. has a very different spectrum, and unfortunately, it's skewed pretty far to the right. But things don't get done by fringe groups. They get done by people who actually get elected to office and pass legislation. LBJ, as big a square as he was, did more for ordinary schmucks than Huey Newton did. I can admire Huey's courage, but the reality check lies in the RESULTS.

Anonymous said...

>>"Truthout is openly socialist."

If they are "openly socialist," then they don't seem to be very open about it. I'm on Truthout's "About Us" page right now and I don't see anything about socialism.
I think too often in America, people brand something as "socialist" when they disagree with it. "Socialist" in this country is just a handy catch-all phrase for attacking a point of view one disagrees with. We saw this with Obamacare, which was laughably attacked as "socialist" when in fact it was nothing more than a warmed-up retread of the GOP/Heritage Foundation private sector health care proposal from the 1990s.

Manifesto Joe said...

Run a Google search on "Truthout" and see what you get. I found a number of articles in defense of socialism. Not that this is a bad thing in my book -- but nobody in this country except Bernie Sanders has won an election running on that for decades.

We agree to the extent that right-wingers calling Obama, or anything about him, "socialist" is ludicrous. The real socialists, or what's left of them, found that idea quite laughable back in 2008, during the first Obama campaign. They certainly don't claim him.