How Conservatives Remain Republican

How Conservatives Remain RepublicanThe other day, my father was watching television and he heard about the new Republican healthcare bill. He was outraged, and he said, “There’s no way they will be able to get that passed.”

Now there are a few things about this. First is that conservatives, not to mention, Republicans themselves are very much against this bill. Second is that my father is very naive. But mostly, the comment reflected to me that this was typical of how Republicans like my father manage to live with themselves while voting for a political party that is so consistently vile.

Republicans Are Consistent — Really!

It’s all very simple for my father and Republicans like him. The idea here is that, sure, the Republicans are kind of mean, but they (and by extension those who vote for them) aren’t heartless. My father, who is, at rock bottom, something of an ol’ softy, can vote for a party that is cruel, hateful, and vile. And so my father can continue on voting for the GOP, and pretend that sentencing to death hundreds of thousands of people whose only crime is to be poor as a mere aberration instead of its core philosophical nature.

This is not to absolve my father. He should know better. Now at 84, I suppose he can be forgiven, because his mental functioning has really gone down in recent years. But he was the same way twenty years ago. Regardless, I’m not just talking about him.

I’ve long been fascinated that Republicans vote for this. Forget Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas. In that book, he was talking about something else: people allowing social issues to trump the economic issues they traditionally care more about.

What I’m talking about here is Republicans voting for a party that consistently votes against what they believe in. And I think this is the mechanism. They’ll convinced themselves that the Republican Party really does vote as they would like. It’s just that now and then they vote in an odd way.

It’s like going to the same mechanic that you father went to when you were a kid. The GOP may claim that they actually believe with their base of voters. But that isn’t the case. The Republican Party really has changed.

Republicans Really Will Destroy Obamacare

Despite what my father thinks, the Senate will vote for its vicious healthcare bill and tens of millions of people will lose coverage. It isn’t an aberration. It’s what they actually believe. And by extension, it is what my father believes it because he votes them into office.

He can pretend that what the Republicans actually vote for isn’t what they believe, but it is what they believe in. I’d love to give my father an out — an excuse for voting for an authoritarian who wants to see children and the old folk and weak die. But there is none.

Republican Is Republican — Trump Is Nothing Special

And let’s not forget: from a policy standpoint, things are no different now than they would have been in 2013 had Obama won. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up. Call it corporatist money management or nationalistic bigotry. It all ends the same: poor people die and rich people get tax cuts.

This is the Republican Party. This has been the Republican Party for at least four decades. They don’t just hate people like immigrants and black-skinned people; they hate people like my father. The only question is whether people like my father will figure it out before it’s too lake.

Don’t count on it.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

7 thoughts on “How Conservatives Remain Republican

  1. Me and Peggy were talking about this today. When we’ve visited Denmark, everyone we meet is passionate about politics. Some are succumbing to right-wing demonization of Muslims, others are more tolerant, still others are focused on agricultural policy or whatever. They all, even the right-wingers, have a strong sense of recent political history which they use to back up their claims.

    Whereas Americans tend to be Ma & Pa Kettle, perfectly happy to ignore the actual details of policy so long as the people in office seem like “just folks.”

    And I wonder how much of this is based on social stability. Despite deep divisions and vast injustices, the last war we had here ended in 1865. Europeans have no such sense of easy security. They’ve slaughtered each other by the millions in living memory.

    So if you’re a white American, things have been fairly good. Sure, there’s increasingly unaccountable corporate power, and a general sense that stuff is starting to fall apart, but our political conmen haven’t been ruinous like Hitler or El Duce. Instead, they’ve been Elmer Gantry or Harold Hill. So we keep falling for their cheap schtick.

    It can change. Public support for Gulf War II dropped very quickly after the revenge fantasy for 2001 dissipated into “what are we doing?” It just takes really colossal screwups to change it. Nobody cared about lynchings in the South. But people in church clothes getting attacked by fire hoses, that finally was Too Far.

    And that’s part of it. Like movie violence, sometimes the more blatant horror is easily shrugged off, because it seems so unbelievable. Bond gets a laser aimed at his weenie, that’s not scary. A close-up shot of a needle injection is FAR more disturbing to many people. We tend not to feel empathy or terror about stuff we’re not familiar with.

    To this day, we’re not horrified by the hideous carnage created by our wars of aggression. We’re bothered by the vets we know who were traumatized by having to inflict that hideous violence. Susan or Aaron talking about how the war messed them up, we know them, we see their suffering. The thought of an attack plane killing 20 people at your daughter’s wedding, it’s too unreal to seem real.

    What we can’t know yet is, have this time, Republicans pushed it too far? Will a horrid change to an already-hideous health-care system be enough for Ma & Pa Kettle to be outraged? I’m personally not taking any bets one way or the other, it’s too close to call.

    Here are the hopeful signs, though. Anybody who worked in a field which involved Medicare funding has known this move was coming for a long time. The trial balloons were floated, in little “investigative” pieces you started to see popping up in newspapers more often, always about how Medicaid assistance is a failure to its intended recipients, and ALWAYS with the byline “Special to…” In other words, think tank slam artists, not real reporters.

    The AARP has been prepping for this for awhile, trying to branch out membership to people pre-Medicare age. The disability-rights groups were a bit slower to see the danger, but they’ve been amping up organizing efforts of late. And when it comes to sleeping bears I don’t wanna poke, AARP and disability-rights folks are about at the top of the list. Compared to them, the Chamber Of Commerce is a paper tiger.

    So are Ma & Pa Kettle gonna be pushed too far? I cannot say. It’s getting awfully close to that point, though.

    • Great post, as usual, James.

      You make a good point that for most white folks, politics does not have a huge impact on a day to day or even a year to year basis, in their own lives.I think it due to three factors. One is our American system where one party can almost always check the other party. And there is the fact that in our economic system, almost every measure of your quality of life is attached to your employment situation and with the luck of the draw that is capitalism, a lot of people will be employed and doing alright even when the aggregate economy is not looking great and vice verse.Third, your social class creates a cap and floor for your economic situation and that further insulates people from politics.

      I think that by attacking medicaid/Obamacare, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are trying to be like Columbus and go where no conservative has ever gone before. They are trying to reverse major entitlement that benefits a lot of white people. Ordinarily, even talking about doing so has blown up in the faces of those who do such talking. On the other hand, bad mouthing veterans, gold star families and former POW’s would have been political suicide but 2016 proved otherwise. Combine that with voter suppression and the results of these recent special elections and Republicans have every confidence that the political price for taking away an entitlement will be minimal.

      • Good points. Especially about social class. Since there’s virtually no American programs to reduce income inequality, few people have a vested interest in maintaining the public good. They absolutely should, yet they don’t see the kinds of things (say, job training or child care assistance while attending college classes) which might make them strong defenders of social programs. They also don’t assume they’ll fall on very hard times, and if they do, it’s not like there’s much help there in any case. They see money coming out of their paychecks, and they have little concept of where it goes, so it’s easy for them to assume it gets wasted on the undeserving poor.

        The Repubs are being very clever when it comes to these proposed Medicaid cuts. The vast majority of Medicaid goes to people with disabilities, who are largely unseen. And older people needing nursing-home care who don’t qualify for Medicare yet. Also largely unseen. Especially in rural areas, there’s a tremendous shortage of nursing home facilities. Plus the GOP plan is to chip away at Medicaid over a set period, so by the time white people feel the pinch Republicans can fall back on their old standby, decrying “tax increases.”

        They do want it all. They see their moment of glory here, and they’re going to push for dismantling the whole kaboodle. They can be stopped, but it has to be mobilized citizens doing it. It’s happened before!

  2. “The Nazis are well remembered for murdering well over 11 million people in the implementation of their slogan, ‘The public good before the private good,’ the Chinese Communists for murdering 62 million people in the implementation of theirs, ‘Serve the people,’ and the Soviet Communists for murdering more than 60 million people in the implementation of Karl Marx’s slogan, ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.’ Anyone who defends any of these, or any variation of them, on the grounds of their ‘good intentions’ is an immoral…enabler of the ACTUAL (not just the proverbial) road to hell.” ~ Rick Gaber

    “But to manipulate men, to propel them toward goals which you — the social reformers — see, but they may not, is to deny their human essence, to treat them as objects without wills of their own, and therefore to degrade them.” ~ Isaiah Berlin

    “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” ~ Frederic Bastiat

    “If the right to vote were expanded to seven year olds … its policies would most definitely reflect the ‘legitimate concerns’ of children to have ‘adequate’ and ‘equal’ access to ‘free’ french fries, lemonade and videos.” ~ Hans-Hermann Hoppe

  3. And here;s Ed, to remind us “how people remain Republican”; by ignoring the actual Republicans and pretending that American liberals and populists are like murderous dictators.

    Sadly, I suspect that it’s really simpler than you’ve laid out here, Frank. It’s pretty much all tribalism now. The GOP and its pet media organs have managed to con about a third of the American public into being Ed; thinking that not wanting your fellow citizens to die in a hole because they’re poorer or browner or older or sicker than you are is like being Pol Pot, or that flensing some cash off your plutocratic “betters” is like Mao murdering 62 million people.

    The precedent here is Henry Frick smirking that he could hire half the working class to kill the other half. Or, in this case, Trump conning a third of the American electorate to go all in on a Gilded Age agenda that will result in a poorer, sicker, dirtier, more oligarchic America because they’ve been told that the dirty commie li’bruls want them to get bushwhacked in the ladies’ room by a pair of gay-married illegal-immigrant refugee Cambodian ladyboys in cocktail frocks.

    The real irritating is the bone-stupid ignorance of the original Gilded Age, which really WAS the plutocratic equivalent of the dictatorial genocides, only directed by the wealthy against everyone else. In a return to such a world Ed would be the first rasher of lean, objectivist jerky, but it doesn’t suit his conceits to recognize that.

    • Certainly. It’s the slippery-slope argument vs. what’s really happening, in real life, right now. What makes it potent, I think, is that the slippery-slope argument is more frightening than what’s happening right now. If I say, “I’m getting my life ruined by capitalism, right this minute,” that’s less scary than “possibly, it might someday happen to you.”

      It’s like being caught for a speeding ticket. Nobody enjoys that, or wants to pay it. Everyone wishes they could avoid paying it. And, if everyone did, we’d be in full-on “Mad Max” world.

      These people are free-ridering all over the place, because they don’t understand how grim and gruesome their concept of “all against all” actually is. If they did, they’d spit bullets in pure terror.

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