Charles Koch commenced a recent meeting of GOP fundraising magnates by announcing that the 2012 election will be the “mother of all wars.” Why this election, as opposed to the last one, or the one in 2016?
One explanation is that the GOP elite believe that the best time to “renegotiate the social contract” —something some of them have long dreamed of doing — is when the coffers are low and government spending is high. That the economic downturn is particularly deep and follows multi-trillion tax cuts plus two long wars has caused red ink to flow like lava — nevermind that the policies that brought the fiscal crisis about, tax cuts in particular, were put in place by the GOP and that GOP/Tea Party obstructionism has made effective governing impossible for at least a year and a half. Former GOP staffer, Michael Lofgren, who recently lefty his party in disgust, explains:
A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.
The second explanation is, if possible, even more noxious. The GOP has become terrified by the pace of increasing ethnic diversity. They have built their success on a strategy of scapegoating people who are poor and/or nonwhite for political advantage, burning their bridges in the process. Reagan’s infamous comments about “welfare queens” driving cadillacs and “strapping young bucks” who use food stamps to buy steaks were clear enough. George H.W. Bush’s “Willy Horton” advertising campaign was similarly clear. Both worked. But time is running out on this approach. Paul Krugman:
Why does this history [of GOP race-baiting] matter now? Because it tells why the vision of a permanent conservative majority, so widely accepted a few years ago, is wrong. The point is that we have become a more diverse and less racist country over time. The “macaca” incident, in which Senator George Allen’s use of a racial insult led to his election defeat, epitomized the way in which America has changed for the better. And because conservative ascendancy has depended so crucially on the racial backlash — a close look at voting data shows that religion and “values” issues have been far less important — I believe that the declining power of that backlash changes everything.
But not that assumes the civil rights consensus of the past 40 years stays in place. That can no longer be taken for granted. In the current season the GOP has not only cued its hardcore base that it’s OK to pine for the 1950s when white protestants ran most everything, they are continuing to demonize undocumented immigrants. Many GOP candidates from southern states have supported building a fence to wall off our neighbor to the south.
Where the GOP now controls the machinery of governments, they are making it far more difficult for poor people and those with “foreign” sounding surnames to vote, as this Rolling Stone article describes in detail. So when “conservative” thinker Matthew Vader recently equated registering a poor person to vote with handing him tools for burglary, he was candidly describing the premise underlying GOP strategy in the “mother of all wars.” They do this while simultaneously accusing Democrats of engaging in “class warfare.”
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 has been the GOP’s biggest wake-up call. Viewed through the eyes of people like Rush Limbaugh and the Koch brothers, our racially mixed, well liked President is a clear sign that the GOP is quickly running out of time. 2012 may be their last, best chance to take down the programs of the New Deal and the Great Society. And it bothers them not at all that, in order to do so, they must first divide the country into teams as they put in place new rules for a zero-sum game: rich against poor; old against young, and white against black, yellow, and brown. How small these men are. Despite wealth beyond imagination, how pitiable.