(Article changed on February 4, 2013 at 16:17)
As Karl Rove's career crashes -- from discredited dirty-trickster to failed super-fundraiser/strategy wizard and lastly mortified TV pundit -- one clear narrative emerges: what made him famous is now unmaking his party. Yearning for that golden age when the Dubya Dunciad reigned, the right sanctifies Rove's schemes of glory: "if we can only tweak his winning social wedges, national glory is ours again." Thus conservatism embraces its minority status, doubling down on delusions of lost grandeur.
Bursting with the arrogance of all great con artists, Rove once shared his life goal and rightwing wet dream: a "permanent Republican majority." Often wrong but never in doubt, Dubya's master dirty-trickster revealed a party's stunningly reverse logic. In fact, his broken propaganda machine now sends the right off myriad cliffs, making Rovism the greatest political boomerang of our age. All the money in the world won't save the "party of stupid" when devolving into edgier, more divisive social wedges. Division, the demise of Rove teaches, cuts both ways.
Yet unlike Rove's manipulations, offering a modicum of surface plausibility, today's lesser lights mistake divisive wedge tactics for neo-Biblical commandments. Just keep on trucking, they think, turning up the volume: abortion transcends all political context when reduced to "murder of the unborn," gays, minorities and immigrants don't merit first-class citizenship, capitalism isn't an economic grab bag, but God's way to bless wealth-producers and immigration reform is unAmerican "amnesty." And now, with post-election fury, the violence of private firearms rears its ugly muzzle.
Hardly immune from his own outdated propaganda, Rove's career failures track the descent of his tumbling party. Compounding his well-deserved guilt by association with our worst president, Rove badly misread the '08 election (and Obama), then last year hit bottom by squandering $300+ million with his reactionary PAC, crowned nicely with a public meltdown on FOX election eve --- stubbornly assailing actual election results that offended his own promises. In the meantime, his "party of stupid" kept its minority position intact by lacing the following Rove wedge issues with poisonous extremism:
1) Self-defeating Abortion Absolutism. Though abortion commands unshakeable majority support, the GOP drove this loser into the ground, igniting a full-scale rampage against women's rights. No longer "pro-life" vs. "pro-choice," zealots impugned abortion as "murder," forbidden even after rape and incest. Chatter about "legitimate rape," every pregnancy a gift from God, proved how a few buffoons poison a national slate. In short, the abortion donnybrook got waylaid with egregious displays of ignorance about human procreation, thus assuring a backlash of women voters. Overplaying bad wedges has reversed the long-term aspects of debate, to wit: 1) women should have full rights to control their own bodies (plus defy invasive violations); 2) government should not get "between a pregnant woman and her doctor;" and 3) buffoonery about human procreation produces a predictable backlash.
2) Insult Minorities, Devolve to Minority. Like Rove, Republicans still pander to old, white voters by faking history: America is exceptional thanks to white people, as if no other crowd mattered. Even such racist pitches, however, require far more nuance than we saw in 2012, whether coded (the 47% of less "real Americans") or overt (slurring Obama with Birtherism). Unwisely, Romney-Ryan took divisive wedges to extremes by dividing America into first class citizens ("the makers") and moochers ("the takers"), separated by income, class, and ethnicity. What Romney did was domesticate Rove's nastiness about (often foreign) minorities while ignoring blatant, demographic shifts of late. Tribal divisiveness only works as a scalpel, per Rove, not a bludgeon, per today's wingnuts. How can the "party of opportunity" and "upward mobility" undermine its core position by reifying the discriminatory status quo? Who wins in a "country of immigrants" by demonizing immigration, or denying citizens rightful voting privileges, even implying support for a sitting president is somehow unAmerican?
3) Gay Rights Ascendant. Though moderating its attacks, today's GOP defies the majority cultural shift that aligns gay rights with our heroic struggles for civil, women's and minority rights. Let freedom ring, when no one else is harmed, and gay marriage fits this standard. Thus, the right forfeits its main talking point (gays threaten traditional marriage) while sounding bigoted and backward, both about the science of sexuality and modern trends. Full-fledged homophobia, like anti-abortion excesses, backfired this election, and the majority message grows: gay rights are human rights and the state should support, not undermine stability between loving, consenting adults. New politics routs old-time, reactionary prejudice so mark another wedge as losing its edge.
4) Mash the Moochers.
Romney leaned on rightwing economic memes with his "blame the needy" class
warfare. Insuring a boomerang, however, the autocratic Romney-Ryan clique took
this wedge over the line, as majorities were indicted simply for not being rich
(or "wealth producers"). Further, pitching lower taxes for the rich
backfires when multitudes understand taxation is a zero sum game: if the rich
pay less, everyone else pays more. Like outmoded crusades against abortion or
gays or women, only dense billionaires dare indict the jobless for wanting jobs, the poor for being poor, or the sick for wanting health care. What Rove used
with care Romney wielded like a club and was thus mortified for his worst
moments. Romney's one positive is perhaps being the last politician dumb enough
to indict millions of voters he should have actively embraced -- probably not.
5) Gun worship. Though AWOL in the last election, gun worship triggered the Bush-Rove assault machine. Today, however, the merger of tragedy and common sense indicts the entrenched GOP-NRA ideology, dramatized by answering the latest bloodbath of innocents with unhinged, pro-gun rants. That owning guns, the holy of holiest social wedges, is even on the table augurs ill for the rightwing, an expense of spite in a waste of shame. Strident defense of unregulated military hardware, just as fervently as Romney defended predatory capitalism, undermines this once potent rural-urban wedge. Framing has evolved from Second Amendment misreadings, now setting the dubious right to assemble arsenals vs. the inalienable rights of our most fragile youngsters to survive kindergarten. That opposes "gun rights" ominously with basic human rights to breathe, and so anticipate outcomes parallel to ongoing abortion, gay, minority, and immigrant rights. Wedges lose when universal human rights, if not commonplace compassion, trump perceived electioneering.
Minority Status Better Than None?
My argument positing the backlash of Rove's social wedge politics grows when Governor Jindal indicts his own "party of stupid," but then urges more rightward zealotry. As if Romney and the right lost because they were too "stupidly" moderate. Then we hear Speaker Boehner's dread this White House aims to "annihilate" his forces and shove the GOP "into the dustbins of history." Paul Ryan whines that Obama dreams of "political conquest" and I read such high anxiety that Tea Party Republicans are running scared, fretting over extended minority status.
No question, as long as rightwing losers look for salvation to discredited, outmoded social wedge demagoguery, they need not worry about tepid Democrats so much as the self-generated backlash of the "turd blossom." The blundering logic that a party regains majority control simply by concocting more decisive and divisive wedge issues ended with Rove's '06 departure from the Bush White House. No political party succeeds over time without policy solutions and programs that address the needs of those who go to the polls. Now, is that rocket science or political science 101, we ask the party of stupids?