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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/20/11

The Three Wings of the Republican Party

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Message Drew Westen

from the Huffington Post

Why Washington is Talking about Deficits While the Rest of the Country is Talking About Jobs and the Shrinking Middle Class

Today's Republican Party has three wings: the psychiatric wing, the corporate wing, and the Democrats.

The first wing, the psychiatric wing, is defined by severe psychological and intellectual impairments, exemplified by the inability to read a birth certificate. Sarah Palin's recent foray into American history, replete with her description of Paul Revere as the man who rang alarms, bells, and buzzers to signal his support for the Second Amendment years before there was either a United States or a Bill of Rights, provides an example of the kind of "gaffe" that is, in fact, psychologically meaningful. This level of intellectual dysfunction, equally common in the pronouncements of Michelle Bachmann, once disqualified a candidate for high office. That was until the "lamestream media" decided to turn elections into reality shows, where the only real criterion is celebrity (defined as the state of being or becoming famous), and where commentators may poke occasional fun but no longer communicate to the public the seriousness of intellectual deficits in someone running for high office who would actually have to make decisions in which "facts" occasionally matter. (The dangerousness of that level of media indifference to reality should have been a lesson of George W. Bush's tenure in office, but things have sadly only gotten worse since then.)

This is the wing of the Republican Party that most endangers the party's chances to turn a dismal economy into an electoral victory in 2012, because it is so far to the right of mainstream America that you can see Russia from its porch (even if it locates that porch in Minnesota). The problem for the Republicans is that this wing of the party constitutes such a large percentage of GOP primary voters that it is hard to imagine any nominee emerging from the primaries without having had to produce so many general election campaign ads for the Democrats that President Obama may well defy political gravity and get re-elected no matter how high the unemployment rate drifts.

The second wing is the corporate wing, also known as the wing-tip wing. Once the home of moderate Republicans such as Bob Dole, this wing used to be slightly to the right of the American center. Its advocates held beliefs now seen as "quaint" by modern-day wing-tips (e.g., that humans evolved the same way other animals did, that a fertilized egg does not hold property rights any more than an omelet does, and that cutting the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, police, and firefighters does not reduce unemployment).

Today's wing-tips, in contrast, are defined by three articles of faith.

The first is that whatever ails you (whether budget deficits, unemployment, or kidney failure), the solution is tax cuts for the rich.

The second is the belief (this one true) that whatever ails them can be fixed within any two-year election cycle by an infusion of venture capital from the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, Big Oil, the Pharmaceutical lobby, or whosever interests could be served or threatened by some piece of legislation. These venture firms now require a controlling interest of 51 percent of an elected official (whether Republican or Democrat), but the futures market for political votes seems to be the only market that is working efficiently in America today. (Word has it that Larry Summers considers the deregulation of the commodities market for politicians one of his signal achievements, although to give credit where credit is due, he had an assist from the Roberts Court in its Citizens United ruling, which held that money need no longer be exchanged under the table, and reaffirmed that money is speech, making political payoffs a high form of rhetoric.)

The third belief that defines the wing-tips is that deficits present a grave threat to our way of life -- except when Republicans are in power, at which point deficits are deficit-neutral. This deep and abiding concern with deficits (under Democratic administrations) stands in sharp contrast to their relative indifference to unemployment, which they consider a luxury good consumed by people with too much time on their hands (after all, they're unemployed), whose "whining" is really annoying to lawmakers, lobbyists, and Washington pundits who want to get on with the real business of cutting budgets, and who have more important things to worry about than people who, for God's sake, can't even keep a job now, can they.

These are the Paul Ryan and John Boehner Republicans, whose virtue is that they seem genuinely to believe what they are paid to say. Some of them, like Ryan, can even do so with earnest looks on their faces (something Boehner has not mastered, even while smearing his mascara). This is an impressive feat, given that what they have been saying lately is that they would happily throw their own grandmothers under the bus, although they know this will never come to pass because they don't believe in public transportation (hence the absence of buses, ergo the safety of grandmothers).

The Wing of Icarus

And that brings us to the third wing of the Republican Party, the Democrats. Their standard-bearer, President Obama, has proven himself perhaps the strongest potential challenger to Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination if he decides to join the debates, having established his conservative bona fides on a wide range of social and economic issues:

  • Deporting more immigrants and breaking up more families than George W. Bush (or to put it in more business-friendly language, increasing U.S. "exports" of poorly documented human capital).
  • Coming out in support of expanded off-shoring drilling just before the BP catastrophe in the Gulf; repeatedly touting production of a mythical substance (seen only, legend has it, by industry executives) as "clean coal" (widely believed to be found in the Fountain of Youth); and calling for the building of more nuclear plants, which the Japanese have shown to be a safe complement to offshore drilling (perhaps with the hope that water contaminated with radioactive materials discharged into the ocean might prove useful as a dispersant for oil).
  • Extending the "Hyde Amendment" to allow GOP lawmakers to exclude abortion coverage from even private health insurance.
  • Cutting 120 billion in taxes for the rich while proposing billions in cuts to "entitlements," such as home heating subsidies to people who are poor or elderly.
  • Making sure the nation's largest banks remained solvent so they could continue to foreclose on the homes of millions of Americans, whose tax dollars supported the multi-million-dollar bonuses of the executives who continue to refuse to renegotiate their mortgages.
  • Saying virtually nothing as Republican governors and state legislators around the country attack organized labor (e.g., remaining almost entirely mum on the Wisconsin law stripping workers of the right to negotiate their contracts).

But that's just the president. We can't blame the party whose name he never utters for the actions or inactions of its titular leader, who prefers to remain "post-partisan."

So with nearly 15 million Americans unemployed and millions more working two and three jobs just to get by to feed their family, how are the Democrats saying they're going to solve the problems of ordinary people?

Consider the following five-point statement of conservative economic principles from ABC's This Week a couple of Sundays ago, which concisely describes what conservatives believe the Obama administration should do to solve our nation's economic ills, and how the Democrats responded to it:

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Drew Westen, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University, founder of Westen Strategies, and author of "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation."
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