The Cult Called the Republican Party

by Libby Shaw –

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) autographs the chest of a woman at his campaign rally in Manassas, Virginia December 2, 2015. Republican presidential front-runner Trump said on Wednesday his plan for combating Islamic State militants involves targeting not just the group's fighters but also their families. REUTERS/Gary Cameron TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1WXC1

This should come as no surprise to those of us in Texas.  Ever since G.W. Bush replaced Ann Richards as the Governor the GOP has evolved into a cult comprised of crony capitalists, crooks, clowns and mean-spirited dumb bunnies. Just when we think we’ve seen the worse of the worst of Texas Republican politics, it gets even worse.  Greg Abbott is more cruel and cynical than Rick Perry because Abbott is completely bereft of human compassion and empathy.  A passive aggressively angry, insecure man he panders to conspiracy theorists and secessionists.  Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is a cut above a carnival huckster with his right wing hoaxes and hypocrisy. The Attorney General, Ken Paxton is an indicted felon.  The Agricultural Commissioner, Sid Miller, bills the state to pay for his “Jesus” shots (whatever those are) in Oklahoma.  The Land Commissioner, George P. Bush (son of Jeb), pays employees after he fires them so they won’t sue the Land office.  P. hired his friends when elected. Ken Paxton and others have done the same. So yes, indeed, the Texas GOP is little more than a crooked, self-serving and greedy cult of very entitled good old white boys. The few of us who vote in this state apparently do not care.  For Republican voters have so far refused to hold their elected officials accountable.

On a national level, however, the contrast between the two political parties has never been as stark as it is today, at least during my lifetime. The murder rampage in Orlando earlier this month highlights two completely different approaches as to how the country should deal with gun violence.  The Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives held a moment of silence on behalf of the 49 victims of the gun massacre.  And then the GOP intended to move on, putting the carnage behind us after expressing thoughts, prayers and condolences.

Democrats on the other hand, wanted to vote on a bill that would make it tougher for terrorists, sociopaths and domestic abusers to obtain assault weapons.  House Speaker Paul Ryan, clicking his heels to march to the orders of the National Rife Association, refused to bring a bill to the floor.  Democrats rebelled. They held a 26 hour  sit-in.  Democrats are very proud of our Party for this bold move. Facebook and Twitter lit up, needless to say.  As the historic event unfolded Democrats shared and tweeted as fast and as often as we could. The battle is far from over.

The Democrat’s dissent provided the glaring optics for the chasm that exists between two political parties.  Part of the void stems from the fact that the Republican Party is more like a religious cult anymore than it is a viable political organization. While Democrats demanded a vote on gun safety, an issue that an overwhelming majority of us support, Republicans voted to give millions to Wall Street from Americans’ retirement savings.  This is something few of us support, in fact, if it had passed, without a Presidential veto, brokers could bilk retiree’s life long savings accounts. The Republican Party obviously has the interests of very few in mind.

So, how did a powerful political party become a mere cult?  Some believe it started with Ronald Reagan and his trickle down economics which launched the steady and certain decline of a then robust middle class.  That and his administration’s culture wars with its welfare queens who are the take 24/7, supposedly robbing you and me blind.  Voters bought into Reagan’s alienating myths.  They are called Reagan “Democrats.”

And then we had the G.W. Bush/Cheney Administration that threw open the flaps of its tent to every religious fundamental extremist and right wing bigot in the U.S.  The old GOP, including Bush I, had kept these groups at arm’s length. But Karl Rove must have needed diverse factions for his scorched earth, divisive politics in which he fomented fear in order to pit one sector against another. Divide and conquer!  Distract the masses with social wedge issues so Jane and John Doe wouldn’t notice when  W/Cheney emptied their bank accounts and burned down their homes.  But W. and Cheney would save voters from Rove’s bogey men.  After two unfunded wars and a devastating economic collapse in 2007-8 voters had had enough of W., Cheney, Karl Rove, their neocons and bank robbers.

Others blame Donald Trump for the Republican Party’s collapse.  But Paul Krugman believes Donald Trump easily beat the GOP establishment because the Party had already been hollowed out.

The Republican establishment was easily overthrown because it was already hollow at the core. Donald Trump’s taunts about “low-energy” Jeb Bush and “little Marco” Rubio worked because they contained a large element of truth. When Mr. Bush and Mr. Rubio dutifully repeated the usual conservative clichés, you could see that there was no sense of conviction behind their recitations. All it took was the huffing and puffing of a loud-mouthed showman to blow their houses down.

And there are major differences between the two political parties.

As some political scientists are now acknowledging, America’s two major parties are not at all symmetric. The G.O.P. is, or was until Mr. Trump arrived, a top-down hierarchical structure enforcing a strict, ideologically pure party line. The Democrats, by contrast, are a “coalition of social groups,” from teachers’ unions to Planned Parenthood, seeking specific benefits from government action.

This would include the 47% of us (the takers) who Romney dissed in 2012.

Others believe the U.S. has a Republican Party problem more so than a Trump problem per se and the media is partly to blame

As incendiary and dangerous as he is — and he is very dangerous — and as much of a main event as he has been in this election season, Donald Trump is largely a distraction from what really ails our political discourse. Long after he is gone from the scene, the Republican Party that engendered him, facilitated him, and now supports him — despite a severe case of buyer’s remorse — will no doubt still thrive, booting up for a future candidacy of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan. And the media will still act as if Trump were an aberration, a departure from so-called “sensible” conservatism. If so, it will be yet another act of media dereliction.

During the Republican primaries many of us grew frustrated by what we called Trump TV.  Every time one would turn on cable TV news, one would see or hear about Trump.  Worse, the cable news stations would break away from its  coverage to report on a Trump event.  The TV industry helped to make Trump. Trump also knows how to use the medium to his full advantage. Trump essentially received free air coverage without having to run ads about himself or his agenda.

In fact, worse than dereliction, because the Republican Party, with its history of dog-whistle racism, sexism, homophobia, nativism, and gun addiction, salted now by incipient fascism, has been legitimized by the mainstream media for years. One could say that the GOP and MSM have operated in collusion to the great detriment of this country. One could say that and not even be a liberal, just a commonsensical American.

It is hardly a stretch to suggest the GOP and MSM have operated in collusion.  Just take a look at the Sunday morning talk shows.  All are dominated by Republican guests.  The hosts ask soft ball questions and few follow-up when a guest tells a tall tale or stretches the truth.  The hosts rarely grill a Republican guest.  “We’re going to leave it right there” can follow a whopper and it is usually the wrap up. I stopped watching Meet the Press years ago because David Gregory and Chuck Todd turned the show into Meet the Republicans or Meet the Apologists for Republicans.

The MSM continue to treat the Republican Party as if it were just another constellation of ideology and policy — another way of governing the country, even though this campaign season, if not the last 30 years, should have disabused journalists of that notion. Today’s GOP is closer to a religious cult than a political institution. It operates on dogma, sees compromise as a moral failing, views enemies as pagans who must be vanquished, and considers every policy skirmish another Götterdämmerung.

The Tea Party faction certainly made compromise a deadly sin. And there is no doubt that many within the right wing literally lost their minds when President Obama won in 2008.  Every closeted racist in the country crawled out of their rat holes.

That isn’t politics; it’s a modern version of the medieval Crusades, and as the ancient Crusades did to Europe, it has inflicted untold damage on our country. Because it is deep in the bones of the Republicans, it won’t end with Trump, who is a non-believer himself when it comes to conservative orthodoxy. It can only end with the extinction of the party itself as presently constituted — Cruz, Ryan, Rubio, McConnell, et al. — and the rise of a new conservative party, not a cult.

The author suggests the MSM is reluctant to call the GOP for what it has become due to the requirement of “deadly balance” and tit for tat journalism.  “Both sides do it.”

No we don’t.

Part of this is laziness. Part is fear. The press knows that if it were to come right out and criticize the GOP for its denial of climate change, its campaign to deny the LGBT community its civil rights, its efforts to strip food stamps from children and health insurance from the poor, its systematic attempts to suppress minority voters, its recent howl to protect the Second-Amendment rights of suspected terrorists while at the same time calling for greater surveillance of us all, there would be hell to pay from the right wing, which would invoke the mythical and dreaded “liberal media.” The historian and columnist Eric Alterman calls this “working the refs,” and the MSM fall for it every time.

The author criticizes the MSM for its refusal to discuss “boring” policy values. It instead focuses on strategy, election horse races, who’s up in the polls, who’s winning, who’s losing, blah, blah, blah.

Avoiding talking about values is one of the reasons we find ourselves in our current political situation. Doing so might have stopped the threat of Donald Trump. Thirty years ago, it might even have stopped the march of the current Republican Party; its values could have been exposed as indefensible, which could have shamed them (and us) into changing. There is a reason the Republicans contrived the slogan “compassionate conservatism.” It was because even they knew their compassion was dubious. It would have been nice to have the MSM examine that, though, of course, it would have required both the courage to buck the right-wing, who would howl, and the seriousness to discuss just how important values are in our politics. In some measure, because we never got that discussion, for three decades the GOP has gotten off scot-free.

Now that a fascist is running as the GOP Presidential nominee the November election will be about whom we choose to be as a people.

This isn’t about whom we elect as president. It goes much deeper. This is about who we want to be as a people. For three decades, the MSM have been collaborators with the GOP, pretending the cult is a normal party with values just to the right of center. The result is the proto-fascist Donald Trump and an institution that continues to legitimize what is worst in us.

This is a chilling scenario that confronts all of us, our children and grandchildren’s futures.  If nothing has motivated us to vote in the past, this is the time to galvanize.

Fortunately  Democrats have a far, far more viable and accomplished candidate in Hillary Clinton. I know the Bernie Sanders’ supporters are not overjoyed by a Clinton candidacy. But wake up voters.  I can see Bernie joining the Clinton administration in a major role, just as Clinton joined Obama’s in 2008.  Democrats pull together.  We are a coalition of groups that care about our country and its future.  It’s not about me.  It’s about us.

This is the most important election of our life times.

It is up to make sure Trump never gets anywhere near the White House.

Meanwhile, here in Houston, Democratic activists gathered on Friday night to listen to an area Civil Right’s icon, the Reverend William Lawson, speak. He reminded us about the quiet desegregation of Houston in the 1960’s. The Reverend is 88 years old.  He has many stories to share about the battle against hatred and the segregation of people.  It is a cause well worth fighting. An aura of peaceful strength and dignity surrounds the Reverend.  He didn’t necessarily pick his battles but when the struggle for justice needed him, Rev. Lawson stepped up.

Reverend Lawson cautioned our group that ethics did not drive the fight to de-segregate Houston. Bottom line. Houston did not want to be depicted as another Birmingham, as in beating, killing and arresting African-Americans who fought against Southern segregation.

Economic opportunities at the time,  i.e. the Houston Ship Channel, Shell Oil Co. and the promise of NASA forced the city away from the Southern hate train.  Let’s pull together to put a stop to Donald Trump’s and his Party’s malignant bigotry.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos