The Republican Party of today is insane. More, that is, than usual.
The doctrine of “fiscal responsibility” preached by the wide-eyed fundamentalists is its own kind of crazy. How else would you characterise an ideological outlook so rigidly immoral that it insists that those on the economic margins of society—pummelled by bad fortune, plutocrats’ mismanagement of our economy, and the loss of their livelihoods—shoulder the burden of punishing austerity while the wealthy walk away from the wreck unscathed and raking in record profits?
But these economic crackpots are not even the worst of the GOP these days.
The Republican Party has opened its political tent up to the right, and strange things are crawling out of the woods, the suburbs, the cities, or wherever it is that people live who subsist on a diet of raw hatred, washed down by a tanker of bigotry and topped off with a heaping portion of ignorance.
The commentariat talks about Ted Cruz as though he’s the thinking man’s Republican senator, who brags about his Harvard degree in the same breath that he hammers “liberal elitists”. But in attacking the Affordable Care Act, Cruz refers to the market-oriented law—far more right-wing than versions proposed by a Republican president in the 1970s and backed by the party’s presidential candidate in 2012—as “socialized medicine”. There are two conclusions one can reach, given that the Affordable Care Act bears no resemblance whatsoever to socialized healthcare. That Ted Cruz is an idiot. Or that Ted Cruz is a manipulative liar preying on the fears of constituents. I’m assuming it’s not the former, and that the Senator from Texas knows exactly what he’s doing.
Goodness knows I’m no Hillary Clinton fan. Indeed, the neoconservative, neoliberal flip-flopping opportunist is closer to the GOP than to most progressives. But there is something unutterably nasty when the GOP hands out button sat its California convention reading “KFC Hillary Special: 2 Fat Thighs, 2Small Breasts...Left Wing”. It’s as though they wanted to remind us that they were the party whose Vice-Presidential candidate referred to rape as a “method of conception”, and who had Senatorial candidates talking about “legitimate rape” while their presidential candidate refused to talk about equal-pay-for-equal-work legislation and instead rambled on about how he wished women could stay at home and rear children.
When Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin marched in Washington to protest the Affordable Care Act, they marched alongside people carrying the Confederate Flag to the White House where our first black President lives. I’m no fan of the President—indeed, I belong to very few fan clubs—but the fact that instead of making a serious policy argument these people would resort to race-baiting and the brandishing of symbols of slavery and racial hatred is appalling. One conservative advocate marching alongside Palin and Cruz asked the assembled people to “demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, to figuratively come up with his hands out”.
These people are unhinged, and pile every symbol and dog-whistle they can into their efforts to attack the President. The flag reminds people that Obama is black in a nation which has clearly yet to come to terms with its sordid past. The references to the Quran simultaneously call his origins into question—these are the people who think the President was born in Kenya or Indonesia—and attack Muslims. And the “figurative” threat simply drives home the fact that to the Tea Party, the President whose law was upheld by the Supreme Court, who beat their candidate in the election, and whose party won more votes in both the Senate and the House than theirs will always be illegitimate.
But at the end of the day, that the Republican Party was able to take our economy to the brink is a testament to their sick genius.
Their entire ideology, after all, is based on the lie that “government” doesn’t work and that public institutions are bound to fail. This is a lie because if you call 911, there is someone who picks up at the other end. If you’re on social security, you get your check. If you pull up at a National Park, you will find protected areas and campgrounds. If a river catches on fire, someone will look into that. If people get sick from food, it will be checked and monitored. If someone dumps oil into the ocean, there is an agency to hold them to account. There is not only a school for every child in the country, but a teacher, a curriculum, and school buses. There are universities that subsidise the attendance of those who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend. There are traffic lights, stop signs, seatbelt laws, smoking restrictions, and building standards.
You might not agree that all of these things are necessary. But they “work” (or else the people who don’t like them wouldn’t be complaining about them).
Because the Republican Party’s very existence is based on a lie, and because eventually people will realise as much, their best bet is to bring that lie to life, and that is exactly what this shutdown—together with the effort to undermine the Affordable Care Act—is about. It is an act of sabotage, designed to ensure that government doesn’t work and that institutions fail people in their hour of need. Because neither government nor public institutions fail naturally, the GOP is working hard to engineer that failure, as a way of ushering in an era of deregulation and welfare for big capital.
That era will unleash the financial sector which has already repeatedly wrecked our economy. It will unshackle polluters who will trash our physical environment, as well as the water we drink, the food we eat, and the air we breathe. It will strip working people of their protections and allow large corporations to treat them as poorly as they like. It will usher in even greater inequality—almost unfathomable in a country where CEOs make hundreds of times what their employees take home.The GOP is an ugly, nasty party which is fast becoming a coalition of economic fundamentalists and people who thrive on hate. In California, they are an increasingly marginalised force, their hatefulness and abuse of their power having made serious political power a near-impossibility for the near future. We can only hope that as the country experiences firsthand what the Golden State suffered through for years—active sabotage and deliberately destructive misrule—they too will turn away from the Republican Party.