What we have here, folks, is nothing new. The white South always has made its highest priority the preservation of whatever it can salvage of its privileged cultural position. Back before the Democratic Party remade itself as the party of civil rights, the political forebears of the Moore voters were called Yellow Dog Democrats, because they’d vote for a yellow dog before they’d vote for anybody from the party of Lincoln. Now that they’ve found a home in the modern GOP and turned it to their purposes, they might as well be called Yellow Dog Republicans, because they are poised to vote for a scoundrel rather than a decent Democrat, such is the overwhelming importance to them of keeping those Others at bay.
This is not something the GOP came up with yesterday or last year. This has been the grand strategy — the long con — of the party for decades and beyond: Cut taxes on the wealthy, ballooning the deficit. Then, when the bills come due, sound the siren that social programs for the middle class and the poor are to blame for the red ink and must be cut, cut, cut. The question is whether the jig finally will be up for this switcheroo in 2018, or whether enough of the electorate will be fed up with it to sweep the party from power and let the Democrats have a go.
The so-called Christians of Moore’s Alabama would have us believe that their dog-with-a-bone determination to have him take a seat in the Senate is rooted in a fanatical regard for fetuses. What really motivates them, I’d say — not that they’d concede it or necessarily recognize it in themselves — is a desperation to preserve what Moore really stands for: the preservation of white male privilege in southern culture.
The ideals embodied in the founding documents always have been at war with reality. I regard it as my responsibility as a citizen to do my part to move reality closer to the ideals. I’m prepared to break bread with center-right anti-Trump folks who feel that responsibility.
Ed Gillespie, routinely described by decent Republicans as one of their own who now has devolved through his campaign advertising into a nasty baiter of the fear-and-resentment vote in Virginia, is running a gubernatorial bid that should be recognized as the template for GOP candidacies in November 2018.
Democrats who think the most important fight now is between the Bernie and Hillary wings of their own party are dangerously mistaken. The most important fight now is the fight to rescue the republic from the domination of the GOP, because the GOP isn’t going to do anything to rid the country of Trump.
I’ve read tweets asserting that the Republicans are doomed in 2018 if they pass the tax cut bill, because the bill helps the billionaires of their donor class, but hurts ordinary Americans. This is naive. The GOP strategy for decades now has been to kowtow to the donor class, thereby opening the spigot for millions in campaign contributions then used to run low-road campaigns to get the fear-and-resentment vote to the polls to crush the party of the Others. I see no reason to conclude that this won’t work again, the Trump wildcard notwithstanding.
Plenty of pundits have raised questions today about the political judgment of the Hill GOP in embracing a tax bill that benefits the wealthy, balloons the deficit, and offers less-than-overwhelming benefits to the working class. I’m not persuaded, however, that passing the bill will hurt GOP chances that much in 2018. The modern GOP formula for electoral success has been to raise campaign money from high-rollers, then use the contributions to run gloves-off campaigns appealing to the party’s white identity base, the most recent example of this being Gillespie’s low-road gubernatorial campaign in Virginia. I don’t see why the formula can’t work again in 2018. The tax legislation opens the spigots of the Koch brothers and the others in the donor class. Then the candidates move right, going all in with Trump.
Republican officeholders are desperately eluding reporters, conforming to the maxim often attributed to Calvin Coolidge, “You don’t have to explain what you never said.”
— David Frum, Staying Silent May Backfire Spectacularly on Republican Lawmakers, The Atlantic, October 30, 2017.
Frum goes on to make an argument that in this crisis the strategy of zipped lips ill-serves members of Congress, because they risk being overtaken by events and painted into the losing corner, counted among those who failed to do what they could to oppose Trump.
If this appeal to self-interest works, great! I doubt it will. Silence still looks to me to be the least risky route between the Scylla of going down with the Trumptanic and the Charybdis of being primaried to death by the Know-Nothing base.
My appeal is not to the caucus members’ self-interest, but to their duty. Among the hundreds of millions of Americans, only a few possess the power to move effectively to rid the country of the boil infecting the Oval Office. For these stewards of the Republic to remain silent as a strategy is dereliction of duty. If we were talking about military officers here, we’d be about the business right now of relieving them of command. It is the distinctive province of their chosen work to speak out, to participate robustly in our national discourse, especially in times of crisis. Their radio silence is contemptible. Full stop.
I think that too many conservatives turned a blind eye to some of this because, bottom line, they wanted their votes. They were relying on people who had these attitudes. They could reject the attitudes, but they wanted those votes to continue to win elections. That was a calculation.
— Charlie Sykes in Isaac Chotiner, Conservative in the Wilderness, Slate, October 23, 2017.
For much of the GOP base, politics is no longer about specific ideas or programs, but has become a test of loyalty to Trump and all his ways.
— Charlie Sykes, Why Jeff Flake Is Going to Need a Good Dog, Politico, October 26, 2017.