I wrote the core of this article two weeks ago then put it aside, fearing it sounded like a Beckian conspiracy theory. Not all conspiracy theories are baseless however, and recent events prove this one is credible.
Republican politics, always a little strange, are on the verge of unfathomable. The party's behavior in the months before the midterms and the weeks since reeks of arrogance, tone deafness, and a large dose of "we just don't give a sh*t." I would add a ton of stupidity, except whatever else they are, Republicans are not stupid.
What I find odd is the perverse enthusiasm with which Republicans are waving even the ugliest parts of their agenda in voters faces; crowing about plans and goals that, in a rational world would lead to political suicide. The right wing however, appears to fear no fallout, legal or political.
The Supreme Court, in an amazing display of what the right wing has long decried as judicial activism and with two of the majority justices having open and beneficial associations with parties highly invested in the outcome, granted personhood to corporations. Once this decision unleashed the predictable flood of campaign money for Republicans, the four "reliable conservatives" shelved all pretense of objectivity; attending Republican fund-raising events, swearing in low-level Republican congressional staffers, "commenting" on the State of the Union speech, and participating in one of Rep. Michelle Bachmann's growing list of partisan stunts. Justices are virtually immune to discipline, but they have historically sought to at least appear above reproach.
Republic governors and legislatures are proposing or have enacted some outrageous items. A legislator in Missouri has proposed revising child labor laws; minimum wages are in danger in several states, but the move that stands out in its disregard of both public opinion and humanity is Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's elimination of an organ transplant program. One man, prepped to receive a liver specifically willed to him by a friend, was denied the organ when Brewer pulled the funds. Two of the 99 potential recipients have already died. This is a political consultant's worst nightmare, but Brewer appears oblivious. Florida's new governor Rick Scott is blocking implementation of two new constitutional amendments which would limit his options in redistricting; and multiple state legislatures are considering bills to limit women's access to even life-saving medical care.
Before the election, candidates like Sharon Engle in Nevada and David Vitter in Louisiana ran openly racist anti-immigrant ads. Afterward, Halley Barber, Bob McDonald, Newt Gingrich, and Steven King to name a few, have made ugly plays toward the religious, racial, and gender bias of their base while right-wing radio has gone off the rails with hate speech. Not one Republican leader has called this behavior out of bounds.
But it is the Republican Congress that has really unfurled its banners and marched out of the closet. Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell make no bones about the agenda -- support corporations and the rich, keep Congress in gridlock, and balance the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class. The third, fourth, and fifth rails have been, not just touched, but ripped out of the ground and waved in the air. Privatizing Social Security, cutting Veterans health benefits, insisting on and getting tax cuts for the rich -- and promising more -- are no longer behind-caucus-doors whispered wishes, they are face-in-the-camera roared demands.
These examples and the hundreds I have left on the cutting room floor indicate that the GOP has willingly, even gleefully written off minorities and a chunk of independent voters. Conventional wisdom says they are just playing to the base of their base, especially the least educated and most driven by the big three, God, guns, and greed; that they are, as the Speaker of the House is addicted to saying, "listening to the American people."
But why? The Tea Party may field primary contenders in 2012, but win or lose, they have nowhere else to go and are too angry not to vote. At best Republicans might convert a few new wingnuts, but they are working with declining margins on their side of the ledger. A rational party would now be working to reassure and retain the dismayed moderates who are looking for political alternatives.
There are only two explanations for GOP behavior. Perhaps they have been reading their own press releases and truly believe that they have a moratorium from the American people rather than just a majority of voters who were mostly mad at the president. Or perhaps they know that there will not be a real election in 2012. There will be a campaign of course, Americans will go to the polls, but the votes won't count. The procedures tested and perfected in Ohio, New Mexico, and Florida in the last two Presidential elections are now ready for prime time. Votes will be suppressed, ballots won't be counted, talleys will be challenged. Couple this with the control they exert over much of the media, hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate campaign money, and a nation of low-information voters, and it is easy to believe that no one other than the right wing matters.
Shortly after I put this aside, two things happened. First we learned beyond doubt the uses to which the Koch Brothers' and other Chamber of Commerce money will be used; not only to swamp the process with money but to kill progressive institutions so we are helpless to fight back. They got Acorn, they are going after NPR, PBS, and in Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin they are well on their way to busting the already weakened unions. As we have seen on the ground in Wisconsin, this may have been a GOP misstep that gave the middle-class the poke it needed to start fighting back. I hope so, because the second reason I resurrected this article came on February 13 when Newt Gingrich, the architect of the last GOP power overreach, responded to a question about democracy in the Middle East on ABC's This Week with this chilling statement: "Every society has to come to grips with the fact that there are some elements that would create a dictatorship, so (there may be an occasion when) you will have one last vote."
Will that be 2012? Or was it 2010?