Friday, November 30, 2007

Republicans Now

How could anyone actually watch more than a few minutes of the Republicans’ November 28 debate in Saint Petersburg without succumbing to nausea? I know I had to stop. But TV Land abounds with viewers with strange tastes, and I suppose the debate did have a certain Ripley’s Believe It or Not appeal. After all, who would have thought it possible to assemble eight men together in one room at one time who actually make George W. Bush look good! [In fairness, only seven of them do, since Ron Paul, the libertarian, isn’t quite that awful.] Could there be a clearer illustration of the rush to the bottom that our duopolistic electoral system encourages! The eight (or seven) are so pitiful that, no matter how many times one sees them together – the corrupt, incompetent mayor, the flip-flopping family values plutocrat, the war monger, the lazy actor, the likeable dieter, and the ones too unmemorable to name -- it always surprises. If even the worst of the Democrats – that would be Hillary, of course, though Joe Biden could give her a run for the money – can’t slaughter any one of them in a free and fair election (one no more rigged than usual), then Democrats now are even more inept than I can imagine. Of course, I’m not very imaginative, as recent polling data suggests. On the other hand, the stars do seem recently to be lining up just right.

What was most alarming Wednesday night, even more than the candidates themselves, were the You Tube videos that “grass roots” Republicans sent in. I’m assuming, of course, that the questions the CNN producers selected were typical. Who knows if that assumption is fair? If CNN is good at anything, it’s at dumbing down political discourse and eliciting mindless, “newsworthy” sound bites, embedded, ideally, in pointless, contrived quarrels -- witness Wolff Blitzer’s machinations at the Democrats’ Las Vegas debate or the Anderson Cooper character last Wednesday. Representative or not, what a gaggle of racist, nativist, gun toting, God and “Islamo-fascist” fearing, War on Terror loving “useful fools”! It was enough to make even the hardiest among us despair for the Home of the Brave. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising; after all, these people, succeeded twice in electing Cheney and Bush. [Well, maybe not exactly “electing”]. But the questions still amazed.

Since before the 2004 election, I have maintained, only somewhat facetiously, that the Republican Party would not survive to 2008; that it would fall victim to a culture clash, with its Fortune 500 plutocrats and their white shoe allies on one side, and the racist, nativist, gun toting, God and “Islamo-fascist” fearing, War on Terror loving know-nothings on the other. There just aren’t enough of the “cloth coat Republicans” of Richard Nixon’s Checkers speech left to serve, as it were, as a middle class that could hold the Grand Old Party together; especially when, with George Bush at the helm and straddling both sides of the Divide, the useful fools took over. How can the plutocrats stand it? How could they watch the debate? Could it be that their greed, their passion for tax cutting and deregulation, is powerful enough to keep them on board? No doubt it is for a while. But, if nothing else, class snobbery is bound eventually to defeat the base self-interest of the rich and greedy. Or so I believe, sort of. “No new taxes” used to be a winner or, as in the case of Poppy Bush, a loser. But by now, with the military and intelligence budgets untouchable (in an age of perpetual “war”), cutting taxes isn’t what it used to be. For one thing, it no longer serves one of its old purposes – undoing the remnants of the New Deal and Great Society. It isn’t just that the Clintonites have taken up the cause. It’s mainly that there aren’t very many useful social programs left to cut.

My prediction hasn’t quite come true yet; and it’s probably wishful thinking on my part that it ever will. But, after the last debate, my confidence in it is enhanced. There is, however, a factor of unknown potency pulling in the opposite direction. It’s the likelihood that the Democrats will come to the Republicans’ aid. The Republican candidates being who they are, and the failures of the Cheney/Bush administration being so blatant, it is now only the Democrats who can unite their “rival” or at least keep it together. If they were smart, which of course they aren’t, Mitt and Rudy and the rest would be stuffing Hillary’s coffers. They’d probably get caught though – maybe even by CNN – so it’s lucky for them, I suppose, that they are as dumb as they are. In any case, the only chance the GOP now has is that the foolishness of Democratic voters, the kind that turned the POP, the Party of Pusillanimity, from bad to worse in the Clinton and Bush years, may make Hillary boosting by Republican operatives unnecessary.

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