Thursday, August 20, 2015

RIP Republican Party 1856 - 2015

(Update: Hello to the Crooks and Liars readers!  Hope you enjoy reading my blog!  Check back in, I should have a Drinking Game rules for the September GOP Debate up this weekend...)

What we once called the Republican Party here in the United States is officially dead.

Oh, the dying has been going on for some time, and in public view for the world to see.  It's just nobody did anything to stop it, and indeed far too many people within the ranks of the party encouraged and hastened the demise.

The structure and body of the Republican Party still remains, of course: however, the soul and spirit that once animated this august body has now departed.  What we have left is a shambling ghoul, with enough brain power to endlessly loop the same one-liner bursts of outrage but unable to perform more recognizable human traits such as empathy, adaptability, and long-range planning.

The Republicans began in the mid-1850s to fill the vacuum of the dying Whig Party at the most tumultuous period in American history.  While the party took on many of the Whig traits - a federalized Union, pro-business merchant/industrial class which required increased education and improved transportation networks (aka massive construction projects) - it also rallied around a radical agenda opposed to chattel slavery.  This became the singular trait of the party as the threat of slavery - driven by the southern states led by the upper class Democratic Party slaveowners -  spread to all states including ones that had been Free states for generations.

The fights between the Democrats and the Republicans in the 1850s revolved around: whether slavery should spread into Western territories, whether Northern states should assist Southern states in detaining any Blacks that Southerners accused of being runaways, whether slavery should even exist as it violated various concepts of religious and social decency.  To the Democrats, led by rich Southern slaveowners who could not comprehend a world without cheap labor to fuel their cotton empires, the call to end slavery came across as a call to their destruction.  To the Republicans, led by religious and civil rights leaders who could not accept the evils of physical and spiritual abuse, the push to spread slavery was a horror akin to war.

Those opposing views - intractable, uncompromising - led to war, the bloodiest our nation had ever seen.  The results of that war solidified the Republicans as the political power of the nation well into the 20th Century and kept the Democrats as a secondary yet stabilizing political presence that held onto power at a regional level through populist efforts and reactionary (Jim Crow) fervor.  By 1900, we as a nation were stuck with a two-party system, which keeps the balance.

There's another thing to mention called the Iron Law of Oligarchy: that any organization in a democratic/republican form of government will evolve into a group that serves its "oligarchic tendencies" (that is, it serves the needs of the elites rather than the needs of the lower-rung members).  A variation on that Law is that any party or organization reaches a moment where that group must either compromise on its founding principles to survive as an organization, or else collapse upon itself.

In the American system of governance, compromise was built into the process in the first place: the entire system of checks and balances is supposed to ensure that the three branches work in harmony, and when the factions of party emerged the rules were tweaked and re-enforced to ensure the checks and balances would make the parties aim for bipartisanship.  It becomes an issue of which oligarchs hold sway over other oligarchs to maintain a balance, through which they keep the lower classes mollified with reasonable laws and policies.

Most of the times, this worked: whenever needed, a shift in the political paradigms allowed one party to gain favor and enact reforms.  The Progressive Era of the early 20th Century, for example, was when reformer factions in both parties were able to direct legislation that fixed most corrupt practices in business and politics and also led to serious reforms such as the women's vote.

But something changed.  A restructuring of the parties after the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s led to a realignment of party ideologies.  Where conservative and liberal values were split between Republican and Democratic as social, religious, and economic agendas - Republicans were economic conservative and social liberal, Democrats were social conservative and economic liberal - in 1968 the Republicans made the conscious decision to court all conservative thought into their own ranks.

It was called the Southern Strategy, because the Democrats had gone in on passing civil liberties laws that alienated their Southern factions left over from the Civil War.  Rather than let those Southern votes alienate themselves into a regional third-party element (the Dixiecrats of 1948), the Republicans realized they could count on those voters as a cohesive bloc that would secure state and legislative powers and even the occasional Presidential win.

As a result, the Republican Party became more conservative on ALL issues, and those issues began to intermingle to where economic policy blended into religious policy and overwhelmed social policy.  Where there were points of moderation, of seeking common ground between ideological poles, the Republicans shifted Hard Right on all gears and kept going Right.

The conservative media keeps calling the strategy a "myth" or a liberal lie - and like to point out that it used to be Democrats who relied on such a strategy during the New Deal era - but the evidence is pretty strong (Hi, Lee Atwater!) over the decades that the Republicans made the moves to court and hold such voters, and to pander to them to win elections.

The Republicans keep priding themselves on being "The Party of Lincoln" yet it's been the Republicans since the 1990s who have actively sought to suppress voting rights for Blacks.

The Republicans keep pushing their own goalposts, resetting the ideological purity for their party so far Right Wing that the party no longer respects the very concept of bipartisanship, no longer considers the need for checks and balances within government to promote compromise and acceptance of issue resolutions by the majority.

As a result, we're seeing the proof of that Iron Law of Oligarchy.  Where a party must choose between survival by compromise or else self-destruct by adhering to dogma.  Rather than survive by compromise as parties did before to continue onward, the Republicans are now choosing self-destruction much in the same way the Southern Democratic leadership did back in 1860 when they chose secession over dealing with a Lincoln-led Republican victory.

The Republicans are openly choosing to nuke from orbit any much-needed immigration reforms.  The drum-beats by Trump and now pretty much the whole Presidential primary field - which will dictate the entire party's platform going into 2016 - has been one of racist demagoguery of Hispanics.  The party is pretty much burning down every bridge to a voting bloc the party was desperate to win over after their losses in 2012 proved that ethnic group was needed for elections at the national level.

The Republicans are openly running against immigration reforms that a majority - or at least a plurality - of Americans want to make it easier for immigrants to come legally to the U.S. and apply for citizenship.  The only thing the Republicans take away from that polling is just the "enforcement" part of border security, which they want to implement by building Trump's Wall (and creating a black market on high ladders and tunnel diggers) as a costly boondoggle (and no, Mexico WILL NOT pay for your damn wall, Donald).

And now the Republicans are making a mockery of our Constitution by openly calling for repeals of the 14th Amendment and its citizenship clause.  They want to end "birthright citizenship" at the expense of alienating hundreds of thousands of existing citizens - four of whom are primary candidates! - and also threaten the very concept of citizenship for millions of Americans those conservatives would well seek to purge as "Un-American" if they ever got the chance.

And there's even spokespersons among the media conservatives openly calling for slavery (!) - effectively ignoring the 13th Amendment - imposed on illegals as though that would be a good thing.

What had been two of the signature achievements of the early Republican Party -back when the Republicans were those who championed civil rights - are now sitting targets for Republican ire and proposed destruction.

And I haven't even touched on how the Republicans are calling for an end to women's right to vote (among other things).

All because the Republican Party isn't the Republican Party anymore.

It's the Southern Slaveowner Party.  Back from the ashes of 1865 and hoping to tear the United States apart again.

This is what you are now, people.  You aren't the Party of Lincoln or Grant or Teddy Roosevelt.  You're the Party of John C. Calhoun.  You're openly calling for an end to voting rights for people not from your tribe, you're openly race-baiting anymore, you're openly calling for a return to slavery as a means of social and economic dominance.

The Republican Party is dead.  All that's running in its place now is an imposter force looking to con more voters.


dinthebeast said...

Comrade Misfit, a long-time political blogger I read, has been calling them "The party of the confederacy" for years. And then there is this quote from Driftglass:

But once purity itself becomes all you care about -- once it becomes a distillery race to see who can get to 100% -- the chicken farmers are never far behind:

The main Islamist group in Algeria, the GIA, ended up being led by a Mr. Zouabri, a chicken farmer, who killed everyone who disagreed with him. He issued a final communiqué, declaring that the whole of Algerian society should be killed, with the exception of his tiny remaining band of Islamists. They were the only ones who understood the truth.

The problem, of course, is that we need two functioning parties for our government to work. As flawed as the Democrats are, they are a functioning political party. As for the other party we need in order to run the country? As you so deftly point out, the Republicans ain't it. Please, please, oh FSM, don't let them win...

-Doug in Oakland

JHarper2 said...

The attack on 14th amendment citizenship is off course ultimately aimed at all non whites.
It has really now come down to Americans v Republicans

Professor Chaos said...

Sadly, though, they have a bottomless supply of money from the Kochs, Coorses, Walton's, etc. and a media infrastructure that endures that they will never really go away.

Green Eagle said...

dinthebeast, let us not forget another great ex-chicken farmer- the leader of the Nazi extermination program, Heinrich Himmler.

I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Ted Cruz has a few hens out back there too.

joy2beme said...

I enjoyed that you gave this some historical perspective. Back in the 80's, my dad and I were watching an interview with Pat Robertson on tv. My dad said, "They're going to regret this someday." I asked what he meant. He said, "This unholy alliance between the republican party and the southern christians...the party will live to regret it. They'll get pulled too far to the right and, someday, they might actually have to compromise with liberals. If there's one thing I know about these kind of Christians, it's that they don't believe in compromise. Every good Christian knows that God doesn't compromise." This is where they are now. Nobody except a right wing bible thumper can win the nom. While, nobody except a moderate can win the White House. The evangelical movement in this country is dying and taking their voting base along with it. Every single day, more old white conservatives die and more than one of two is replaced by a liberal. This trend has been coming for decades. The banksters saw that each new generation was more liberal than the one before. So, they set out to stop this liberalization by buying themselves the GOP. Now that its death is imminent, they have their sites set on the democratic party. Bernie Sanders is our only hope.

Paul said...

Thing is Joy, the slow passing of the older white conservative voters is mitigated by the reduced number of both registered voters and active voters overall. Turnout of actual voters keeps dropping, even for Presidential election cycles, and because of that only the more dedicated and driven voters - the extremists, the single-issue, the fearful and angry - show up. I wouldn't say that each disappearing conservative is replaced by a liberal, not yet.

I wouldn't say that Bernie is our only hope: right now he's merely a hope to keep the Far Right out of the White House. Our real hope is breaking the obstructionist conservative hold on Congress, which means increasing voter turnout for the Congressional and Senate elections as well as getting left-center Democratic challengers in ALL possible elections (something th Democratic Party refuses to do on a large enough scale).