Archconservative David Frum delivers a brutal, unflinching look at the contradictions between the Republican party's elites and kingmakers — who favor redistributive policies that suck money out of the middle class and deposit it in their own offshore tax-free accounts — and the rank-and-file voters, who want social programs and high wages, but not for brown people.
Frum traces the history of winning GOP strategy of welding the politics of working "family values" people to their bosses' interests, by promising bigoted social reform to be delivered alongside of tax-cuts and benefits cuts. Since most of pandering/bigoted policies don't pass Constitutional muster and/or can't get legislative traction, the result has been an increasingly frustrated (and broke) base refusing, over and over again, to support a succession of ever-richer GOP candidates who "remind them of the guy who laid them off, not the guy they work with."
Contemporary American — and Canadian, and UK — politics are largely a process in which 1% kingmakers ram through their favorite candidate — who is inevitably hostile to the interests of the majority of voters — and then try to terrify their base about the awfulness of the other party's candidate (to get their own voters to the polls) and remind the opponent's rank-and-file that if they turn out on election day, they'll be voting for someone they really can't stand.
Without a candidate that actually represents them, the rank-and-file end up throwing their support behind unelectable populists, like Trump, while the elites spend increasingly ineffective dark money to get populists out of the race altogether, replacing them with candidates that their useful idiots will hold their noses and vote for if only to stop the other side's feminazi/cryptomuslim/communist candidates from sneaking into office.
Frum's article ends with a set of possible futures for the GOP's elite: stay the course, but throw more money at the problem; stay the course while campaigning against immigration (elites favor immigration because of the downward pressure it exerts on wages in the absence of labor laws or trade unions); using its dominance in state legislatures to suppress Democrat voters, or become a party of small-c conservatism instead of crony-capitalism.
He doesn't rate the chances of that one coming to pass.
Yet even as the Republican Main Street protested Obamacare, it rejected the hardening ideological orthodoxy of Republican donors and elected officials. A substantial minority of Republicans—almost 30 percent—said they would welcome "heavy" taxes on the wealthy, according to Gallup. Within the party that made Paul Ryan's entitlement-slashing budget plan a centerpiece of policy, only 21 percent favored cuts in Medicare and only 17 percent wanted to see spending on Social Security reduced, according to Pew. Less than a third of ordinary Republicans supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants (again according to Pew); a majority, by contrast, favored stepped-up deportation.
As a class, big Republican donors could not see any of this, or would not. So neither did the politicians who depend upon them. Against all evidence, both groups interpreted the Tea Party as a mass movement in favor of the agenda of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. One of the more dangerous pleasures of great wealth is that you never have to hear anyone tell you that you are completely wrong.
The Great Republican Revolt
[David Frum/The Atlantic]
(via Mitch Wagner)
(Image: Tacos & Chill)