A basic tenet of folks on the right in this country is they can’t abide unity. It’s what they preach. It’s on their signs in the streets and is the major theme of their boisterous and usually crazy gatherings. But unity is a concept they can’t grasp. It happens again and again. And it always will.
The Achilles’ Heel of the extreme right is distrust coupled with anger. Why? Because the prime motivational forces of those most drawn to the lunatic fringe are – wait for it – distrust and anger. The passions that bring them together are most often distrust of – or anger with – government. Or some element of thereof. Read their literature. Listen to their preferred media. Hear their spokesmen. No words of peace. No talk of love. No promise of better times. No plans offered. Just the ever-present distrust and anger. Of someone or something. Always.
But, while these two traits draw them together, sooner or later they’re the same forces that create divisions of loyalty, splits in “philosophy” or give birth to factions which break off from the original group to form one or more new cells of the distrustful and the angered. This basic truth is what’s likely to make the Republican Party a minor national influence for years to come. And many elections to come. Evidence is everywhere.
Take the now-discredited Texan Dick Armey – around whom tea baggies gathered so faithfully a couple years back – that same Dick Armey had a “philosophical” falling-out with the big money guys in their faux “grassroots” club. He walked out the door with a “severance package” of $8 million plus. Stage far right of course. Seems he was seeing things differently from the billionaires who’ve been putting the big money in his pockets all this time. He was angry and distrustful. “Grass roots movement?” Oh, sure. Yeah. You betcha!
Then consider Jim DeMint quitting the U.S. Senate to run the Heritage Foundation, which began long ago as a respected conservative “think tank” but which has become a bastion of all things far, far to the right. His stated reason? He can “be more effective.” Sure. If you’d been reading his clippings recently you’d have known he was angry his far right minority views weren’t being adopted by the majority of his GOP colleagues – that he was feeling “stifled” and couldn’t carry out his “agenda.” He even put hundreds of thousands of dollars into 2012 primary campaigns against sitting senators. In his own party! Anger. Distrust. He also more than tripled is income!
Rep. Shelley Capito of West Virginia, says she’ll run for the U..S. Senate in 2014. Years of GOP membership and service. The ink wasn’t dry on the press release before three – count ‘em – three “republican” groups (small r) denounced her, saying they’d support someone else in the primary. Their joint “reasoning?” She occasionally voted for things they didn’t like and all said “she couldn’t be trusted.” Oh, yes. They were angry, too.
The Koch boys tried to take over the Cato Institute this year – another fortress of GOP “conservatism.” Not far enough right for the Koch’s and their phony “Americans For Prosperity” front. They lost in court. They were angry. From Pine Street in Meridian, Idaho, to “K” Street in Washington, DC, the far right is constantly in a state of amoeba-like throes of joining – then splitting. It was ever thus. It will ever be.
Faux news chief Roger Ailes was very angry when he took Karl Rove and political whore Dick Morris off the payroll this year. Temporarily for Rove. “Unprofessional behavior,” he said. “Angry and distrusted,” sez I.
Even John Boehner had to “fire” four members of his caucus from important committee spots so he could assure passage of whatever budget deal he and the White House might agree to. And they will. Naysayers who opposed him from within did so because he wasn’t “pure” enough – because he appeared willing to compromise. Purity rejects compromise.
Basic, child-like reasoning would say “put all your similarly inclined, disaffected into one organization – one club – one party – and you’d be a force to be reckoned with. Your numbers would be sizeable and your affect on elections could be greater.” It won’t happen.
What assures that is the one trait they all share – one which eventually also drives them apart. Ideological purity. DeMint, for one, has famously said he’d rather have a minority of 40 “ideologically united” senators than a 60 member majority of various beliefs. He preaches that at all those chicken dinners on the GOP campaign trail. In their own ways, each of these right wing splinter groups believes the same thing. Unity in theme. But each falls – or will fall – victim to disunity in practice. Distrust. Anger.
By the way, after nearly 25 years, representatives of DeMint’s crackpot Heritage Foundation are now barred from meetings of conservative House members on the Hill. A matter of purity I’d guess. Exiled. Even DeMint.
Contrast this evidence of the “unforgiving” with those who approach political decisions with more moderate beliefs. Rather than “purity,” those folks go for inclusion. The Republican Party used to do that. They did until 1964 when the Goldwater folks ran the Rockefeller folks out of the neighborhood. Put it on a graph and you can draw a straight line downward from 1964 to now if you’re measuring GOP tolerance of different ideas.
Remember Reagan’s 11th commandment ? “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican?” Remember those words? Look around you now only 25 years or so later. Now, it’s not only words they speak. The knives are out. Dare to be different from the ideology of the day and you’ll be dismissed as a heretic. And you’ll form another group. ‘Cause the other folk are angry with you. And they don’t trust you. Or you them.
I’m not pitching for the Democrat Party. But look no further than our most recent election for evidence that the Republican Party – as currently operated – is becoming irrelevant. Especially if you remember the televised crowd shots from the two national conventions. Democrats: black, brown and other skin colors – many, many women in leadership among the state delegations – younger folks – great inclusion. Republicans? Mostly older and mostly white. More men than women among the delegates. Read their platforms. Republican “inclusion?” You gotta be kidding!
Disaffected, more moderate Republicans? Yes, Virginia, still are some of those folk around. But they aren’t going to continue supporting candidates for anything while being shut out of party leadership. They’ll continue to be faced with incompetent – but “pure” – candidates on future Republican ballots. Walsh, King, Santorum, Gingrich, Cain, Brewer and more of their ilk in 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020 and beyond. They’ll be there. Guaranteed. “Ideological purity” and “exclusion” will make it so.
Far right elements – ideological or moneyed – have done more to minimize the Republican Party than any Democrat victory ever. They control ballot access, money and what’s left of the Party structure. Those who don’t agree face difficult choices. Moderates can try to retake control which will require major efforts over many years and many elections – starting at precinct levels. The disaffected can shut up and swallow hard as they try to remain faithful to a Party that no longer represents them. Or they can leave. That’s about it.
Meanwhile, the amoeba-like joining and splitting of the various minorities that make up the purist crowd will dominate all things Republican.
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