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Monday, January 07, 2013

Using Idiots Backfires

In an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post two conservatives try to rescue their reputations from where the radical right wing of U.S. politics has hijacked it. In Five myths about the 112th Congress Thomas Mann of Brookings and Norman Ornstein of American Enterprise Institute write about today's right-wing republicans as if they're some alien creatures who took over the GOP overnight. Nice attempt to disassociate themselves and their political faction from a disaster they have brought down upon all of us, the result of 30 years of using the radical right-wing as "useful idiots."

One pundit in the 80s referred to Reagan's victory as having resulted from the "Wall Street" wing of the republican party and the religious right having "stopped laughing at each other and started working together." They scored some huge victories, starting with the demise of organized labor in the 80s, deregulation, forcing the democrats further and further to the right; "free trade" agreements, defeating health-care reform under Clinton, then having their guys in the Supreme Court elevate GW Bush to the Presidency. They succeeded in making "taxes" and "government" into such dirty words that no one can discuss fiscal policy intelligently in public discourse anymore, they ran up such huge deficits that they can now leverage the debt as a way to attack Social Security, Medicare and all other social spending. Through all this time the radical right-wing posed such a threat that democratic voters happily put in office "democrats" who act more like moderate republicans (which we used to have ages ago) whose idea of "compromise" entailed meeting rabidly right-wing people "halfway." The halfway point between common decency and sound policy on the one hand and the viciously insane, totally disconnected from reality on the other turns out to be somewhere between theocracy and just plain nuts. Along the way over the last 30 years wealthy plutocrats have gained what they wanted: low taxes for themselves coupled with exporting jobs to places with cheap labor and runaway military spending (where lots of them make their fortunes: captive market for production of expensive goods, cost over-runs with impunity - pretty much like printing your own money). Maybe some of the "Wall Street" republicans knew that the religious right republicans always were and will be radicals, not conservatives.  But using the "useful idiots" paid off. Until recently.

After the 2008 election the democrats, who have to appease Wall Street in order to fund their campaigns, ceded the populist outrage to the right. An astroturf movement from the start, the "tea party" allowed the religious right to dress itself in secular clothing, then they managed to place a significant voting block in Congress in 2010. Republicans opposing even their own proposals in order to tank the economy in the hopes of having that blow-back on Obama did not work out so well. They really thought that would make Obama a one-term president for sure. Nice try.

Now, the Debt-ceiling debacle and the manufactured, imaginary "fiscal cliff" have caused most of the more-or-less sane people in the U.S. and the world to recoil in horror. The "Tea Party" right-wing radical ideologues will not even compromise anymore. The emergent threat to the economy, to say nothing of the threat to democracy and the constitution, has "real" conservatives reeling. The conduct of these vicious idiots has trashed the public standing of the entire republican party (how unfair! [\sarcasm]). So now we read Mann and Ornstein denouncing their own attack dogs - attack dogs who have started to bite, well, everybody.

Attempting to denounce their own not-so-useful-anymore-idiots sounds a little like Richard Pryor from the 3rd Superman movie. Remember that scene? If not, here it is

Gus Gorman: I'm not with them, Superman
Superman:     You could have fooled me, mister!

You're not with them? Really? You expect me to believe that? Don't spit on my cupcake and call it frosting.