This afternoon at the Plum Line, Jamelle Bouie provided, Yet Another Reason to be Skeptical That the GOP Will Reform. Bouie is a “glass half full” kind of guy. But that doesn’t make him naive. Still, that headline is almost sweet; I can’t but smile at the thought of us needing another reason to be skeptical of GOP reform. The Republicans have been approaching crazyland asymptotically so long that they’ve arrived from any practical perspective.
Bouie provides a number of good examples: Texas’ Obamacare refusal and abortion clinic restrictions; Louisiana’s push to turn income taxes into regressive sales taxes; Kansas’ successful attempt to do the same. And now there is North Carolina screwing the unemployed. As Bouie notes, “As a matter of policy, the cuts make little sense. But as a matter of ideology, they fit perfectly.” Indeed they do! These Republicans are mad as hell about mythical problems and they aren’t going to take it anymore. Plus, they need the extra money to subsidize ExxonMobile, which only made $41 billion in 2011.
Where I think that Bouie goes wrong is in thinking that these actions will hurt the Republican Party. Only 50 years ago, the Democratic Party was racist and yet no one blames the current Democratic Party. People hardly blamed the Republican Party after Nixon—Ford almost won re-election. The Republican Party can be as vile as they want as long as they win elections. And the moment that the electoral tide changes, the Republicans can turn on a dime and the people will not blame them at all.
I understand that I am a cynic. But I’m almost never let down. There have been far more cases of Republican corruption than Democratic corruption, but it hasn’t made a bit of difference. Part of the problem is the media. It always treats the two parties as though they were equally valid. If one party started calling for all Mexicans to be put into concentration camps, the media would dutifully report that as the center-right position. (Since I’m on the subject: what the hell is “center-right” and “center-left”? By European standards, the Democratic Party would be considered center or slightly conservative. The Republican Party would be called far right. In what sense is Barack Obama center-left. How is Lindsey Graham center-right? All these labels do is hide the fact that our political system is far out of whack.)
Political parties always follow public opinion; they never lead. Just look at same sex marriage. Obama was against it until he was in grave danger of being drowned by the wave of public opinion. The true movers and shakers in that cause were the brave men and women who—at great risk to their relationships to their families, friends, and employers—came out publicly and said they were gay. And in 20 years, gay men and women will not be any more likely to vote for one party than the other. It just won’t be an issue. The Republicans of that time will pay no price for their decades of homophobia and scapegoating.
The same goes for Latinos and any other minority group that the Republicans currently vilify. Consider George Wallace, one of the most vocal and repellent segregationists in our long and colorful history. In 1982, he claimed to have been wrong and all was forgiven. He was again elected governor of Alabama. And he did some good—making a record number of black appointments to state positions. But the point is, he paid no price for his past behavior. And the same will be the case for the Republican Party generally.