A monstrous politico-economic reality lurks beneath all the buffoonery currently disfiguring the Republican Party (the gang that couldnt lie straight.) Given the dependence of the US lifestyle on Chinese money, Arab oil and other issues beyond our short-term national control, they may be back if the economy fails to recover despite President Obamas best efforts. Those of us who want a few more years to repair the depredations they inflicted when they last held both houses of Congress and the presidency had best be fully alert.
If any political party renaming happens, truth in packaging would require the Republicans be called the Elderly White Rich Racist Sexist Christ-gunner Homophobic Anti-science Polluter War-monger Torturer Wiretapper Liar Party. Theyre just having a spot of trouble locating a new cloaking message to cover that reality. But there is no reason to imagine they will not eventually succeed in fabricating one. Going back to President U.S. Grant, they always have before.
In more recent times the Republicans have flagrantly used a miasmatic cocktail of war-mongering, anti-communism and racism to fuel anti-employee, anti-union, anti-civil-rights, anti-social-and-racial-minority, pro-corporate measures. They also fostered the rise of the national security state, in the erection of which far too many Democrats collaborated (and which nowadays far too few are interested in dismantling.) When Communism fell of its own weight the Republicans tried to give causative credit to Reagans senile bluster; being untrue, this effort was also ultimately unsuccessful. Most recently they gave us the most mendaciously-contrived war in US history under the Lying, Spying, Torture, Indifference and Incompetence Administration.
Their pro-war, anti-employee, anti-immigrant, anti-women-children-and-gays, anti-minority stances are killing them nowadays; but apparently a little thing like that isnt enough to make them let go of their blunted campaign weaponry. The one potentially sharp arrow left in their quiver is their patented toxic mimic of populism. This poison dart takes the form of saying to small businessmen and women, and their workers who identify with the boss because they hope to become one themselves someday, The government is your problem and we will lower your taxes and remove its stifling hand from regulating you. Of course, the tax cuts go to the corporate side, not to true small businesses, and the de-regulation never seems to help plumbers or beauticians, just banks and agribusiness. Funny thing about that.
Owing to the hollowness of this message, almost anyone can deliver it for the Republicans as their 2012 candidate. The more sitting governors from their bench that are disqualified by sex scandals, of course, the better the chances of the consensus frontrunners. These are former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former governors Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. Any one of them can rant against the federal government as well as George C. Wallace, loathe taxes as much as Timothy McVeigh, or imagine a libertarian-for-the-rich future as well as Alan Greenspan. Gingrich appeals to the theoreticians, Romney to the corporatists, Huckabee to the religious right. On early indicators, only Palin crosses enough lines to be a unifying figure across the Republican base.
To fully expose the mold she is cast in, she just needs to change her name to Sarah-Huey Palin Long. Far from being a novel, unique and surprising figure in American politics, Palin is resuscitating 80-year-old political roots. Louisiana Sen. Huey P. Long had FDR worried about 1936, but Hueys presidential ambitions died when he was accidentally shot by his own bodyguards during an otherwise-botched assassination attempt. Many say Palin shot herself by resigning. But there are other eerie similarities not limited to their surprising backwoods energy serving spectacularly irresponsible policy. Both were fake populists interested only in strutting self-aggrandizement. Both had rabid followings of true believers. Each was proudly ignorant and so far divorced from reality you couldnt see it from where they spoke. But, and heres the rub, both were formidable campaigners.
Palins utter contempt for the adult use of the mechanisms and practices of government also mirrors Huey Longs. Personally Huey was a thieving, womanizing, drinking, demagoguing, corrupt and lying disgrace to everyone who invested their hopes in him only to be cheated. Meanwhile Palins flexible morality allows her to exploit her family, rule like a petty tyrant and accept shady homebuilding help, all the while flaunting full victim mode whenever the media fails to fawn on her.
Even if indicted for embezzlement, Palin has a disgustingly good chance of getting off with an Alaska jury and would wear her martyrdom like a new, free Needless-Markups dress. So she is pretty fireproof against everything but an affair or a conviction, and even the latter may not be dispositive. (A trial ending in a hung jury would be fine publicity; an acquittal would be manna from heaven.)
As more and more moderates are driven out of the Republican party, the remaining ideological amalgam of Brooks-Brothers-wearing cross-burners becomes an even harder influence on who gets their nomination. Sure, its early; but nothing has happened to diminish Palins appeal to the rabid anti-taxers, or is likely to. She stays the most probable (though ostensibly underdog) winner out of sheer frustration and desperation. Shes a natural for them. The last guy they had couldnt even campaign, whereas its all she can do. That fighting-the-last-war syndrome alone could easily be enough for her to get nominated.
President Obama is more than capable of dealing with such a threat, since he has learned how to escape the conundrum where they talk about hot buttons and we talk about issues. We used to lose doing that. Hes changed our luck. But the historic trend is that theyre not going to give up until they give their base one last full-throated blast of bewilderment, fury and fear. Of all the horses the Republicans have, Palins the best one to impersonate that Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, with Huey Longs ghost riding beside her. Get your money down early. You can bet on that bob-tailed-nag with confidence. Shes not just a strong contender shes inevitable.
James McCarty Yeager of Washington, D.C., keeps trying to retire from political writing in order to work on his novel, but finds the succulent morsels that drop from the sky of circumstance to be irresistable.
From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2009
Subscribe to The Progressive Populist