Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Party of Delusion

Two writers from different sides of the spectrum come up with the same answer to the question, how did the GOP become raving insane?

In an open letter to Republican friends, Richard North Patterson examines current Republicanism and finds a distressing absence of evidence-based policy, but rather delusional orthodoxy.  Purging the moderates in favor of true believers.  How did this happen?
Start with the relationship between the party establishment and its base. Your family, and mine, occupy a privileged slice of American society. Not so for most members of the GOP electorate. They are folks that few of us know very well: evangelicals; modestly educated whites threatened by economic dislocation; and people whose distrust of government partakes of paranoia.

...The real causes of their woes are globalization, the Great Recession, the housing crisis, and an information society which marginalizes blue-collar jobs. But the GOP never addressed these complex forces with any kind of candor — let alone proposed solutions like job retraining and educational access for their kids. 
Barren of ideas for helping its base voters, it resorted to blame-shifting and scapegoating — of government, Obama, illegal immigrants, Muslims and other minorities. Instead of looking forward, the party indulged a primal nostalgia for simpler times, an imaginary white folks’ paradise which can never be resurrected.
BINGO. "an imaginary white folks’ paradise which can never be resurrected."

GOP lifer sees the same thing, but goes one to place  the roots of the problem in the "Southern Strategy" that appealed to race in the era of desegregation.  That's when the Democrats lost the south. That's when the prudent GOP businessman united with culturally conservative whites who were largely evangelical Christians.  (my emphasis below)
When millions of Southern whites frightened by desegregation pivoted into the Party of Lincoln, something had to give. This marriage between Southern racial conservatives and America’s party of commerce and trade could only be sustained through a collective commitment to delusion....

Leveraging religious fundamentalism as a political force created consequences beyond mere rhetoric. Central to this worldview was a denial of Enlightenment ideas about the foundational value of science and data. Coupled with the wider decline of social capital institutions that once filtered the crazy from our political system, this uncoupling of ideology from empirical results unleashed a monster. A smokescreen of religious fundamentalism allowed Republicans to recruit racial conservatives in the South, but expansion came at a cost. With facts discredited, no force could contain the wave of crazy that broke across the party of prudent, intellectual conservatism.
And, as he points out, the results are inevitable.
Nevertheless, in time tax cuts produced massive deficits. Ever looser gun regulations produced thousands of needless deaths. Pointless wars produced global instability on a massive scale and a terrible tide of death and debt. Bigoted rhetoric drove non-whites and urban voters out of the party. Refusal to acknowledge climate change fed accelerating climate change. Blind financial deregulation produced unprecedented economic collapse. Cuts to the social safety net led to ballooning poverty. Tax cuts for the rich made the rich richer. Meanwhile public institutions shriveled and public faith in government collapsed.
Exactly. And so, here we are.

Your court, Republicans.

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