STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Ever since the results of the 2012 elections came in, the GOP has been engaged in a combination of mourning and infighting. Apparently, the Romney folks actually believed the bulk of the polls (the bulk of which were on a GOP-tilt) actually thought they were going to win. After all, they had raised a gazillion dollars from the likes of the Koch Brothers (Inc.) and Sheldon AIPAC Adleson. And after all, Romney had been a successful business executive, at least on the Bain sense of the term. And after all, they were running against the (at least semi-) black guy in the White House and the GOP Congress had been monstrously successful in A) preventing him from doing virtually anything that could get the economy back on track while B) blaming him for the outcomes. But despite all of this, they lost. And so, they ask, why did what happened happen?
It’s Romney’s fault. And it’s the fault of shifting demographics. For Romney (yes, he does have core values, those of a truly rich White guy) tells us that that meant that Obama could simply buy votes, by giving away “free” contraceptives (actually, Mitt not, “free” but required to be in health insurance packages, and figured into their costs, but with no co-pay), and writing off a certain amount of student-loan interest. (If that were the case, the President would have been buying votes pretty cheaply, don’t you think? Nothing like what the GOP and you too Mitt, charged their monster contributors to buy influence in the Executive and Legislative branches.) And so, one wing has it, the GOP has to “modernize” its message. But, it’s not that simple.
Since Reagan the true GOP electoral agenda has been to: cut, cut, cut taxes on the rich and the large corporations; facilitate to the extent possible the export of US capital; fragment as much as possible the so-called “safety net” for lower income folks (compared with most of what the European countries provide that “net” is more like a piece of wet tissue); continue to expand US imperialism around the world; continue and expand the dominance of the military-industrial complex in the US economy; keep the nation carbon-based fuel dependent while denying the existence of global warming; and so on and so forth. This is an agenda that the GOP can openly run on only to a limited extent.
So since Nixon began the “Southern Strategy” of racism-based politics, and added the race-based “Drug War” to it they haven’t had to. Reagan very significantly added the theme of religious authoritarianism, first on abortion rights, then on gay rights. Under George W. Bush, Karl Rove brought the use of mobilizing the Religious Right on these issues to get them to the polls to its highest pitch. This was especially true in the 2004 election, where for example, Rove got anti-gay marriage propositions on the ballots in 12 states, just to make sure that his homophobic base would go to the polls. But then, in this past election, with the demographic changes, at least this time around, the Rove magic in terms of the cover issues to use didn’t work nearly as well as they did in the past. Part of the Rove magic has also been vote-count cheating and voter suppression. The former was apparently on the front burner and then was apparently stopped in this past election by the intervention of the misty international left-wing computer hacker organization called “Anonymous.” The latter was widely attempted, but was beaten, especially in Ohio and Florida, by a very determined sector of the electorate against whom it was aimed.
And so, what to do? “Modernize the message,” as proposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Marco Rubio, on the immigration question? Or, give a little on taxes for the wealthy, as proposed by Bill Kristol and John Podhoretz? Possibly ease up a little on the religious authoritarianism issues (incorrectly labeled the “social issues”)? Well no, that’s not likely to work, for two reasons. One, there is already push-back from the GOP base, for example on the immigration issue. Two, Billy Graham and the millions of religious authoritarians he represents are hardly going away, especially when GOP primary voters pick folks like Todd “legitimate rape” Akin in Missouri and Richard “pregnancy from rape is God’s will” Mourdock in Indiana. But then there is the class, the ruling class in the United States, that the GOP truly represents, that wants ever-lower taxes, ever-disappearing Federal regulation, especially of the extractive industries, ever-larger subsidies for those same industries as well as for the factory farms, and so on and so forth. That class is not going anywhere and is not going to agree to change its true agenda one whit.
So indeed what is needed is a new GOP strategy, except that it will really be the old GOP strategy but doubled down in certain areas. First and foremost, racism will be brought back, front and center (you know, let’s focus on all those “urban” folks who voted for Obama/Biden, as Paul Ryan told us). The GOP will probably be aided in this by the Supreme Court which in its current term may very well overturn the essential parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Second, if you think that Rove and his people are going to abandon their attempts to cheat-the-vote, just because Anonymous appears to have to gotten to his system this time, think again. They will come back ever stronger and ever-better protected on the computer side.
Third, they will, mimicking the Obama campaign, also have a much more sophisticated, computer-based, get-out-the-vote campaign. Fourth, they will be strengthening their voter suppression efforts in every one of the 30 or so states where they fully control the state governments. Fifth, they will try to tailor their message of religious authoritarianism so that its gets to their targets alright, but future Akins and Mourdocks will get schooled is using less inflammatory language for the general electorate. Finally, for the whole of the next Obama term they will be on the de-legitimizing/stop-him-in-
The GOP is not going to fade into the historical dust. The class it represents will make sure that that doesn’t happen. Their traditional cover messages seem to have had less effect because of demographic changes. And so A) they will ramp up on racism and B) they will double down on controlling and limiting the vote. After all, one of the god-fathers of modern Reactionary Republicanism, Paul Weyrich, many years ago said: “We don’t want everyone to vote. Quite frankly, our leverage goes up as the voting population goes down.”
This is Dr. Jonas' Commentary No. 222 for BuzzFlash, now at Truthout. Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-