On September 11th, 2001, America was attacked by Al Qaeda under the direction of Osama Bin Laden. What happened in the wake of that tragedy was a reinforcing of their already hawkish tendencies. But at the same time, they were a party who was shrugging off its veneer of fiscal responsibility. Without any regard to how to pay for it all, Bush created a new government agency, started not one but two costly foreign wars, and ultimately didn’t capture or kill the man responsible for those attacks. And all the while within the Republican party, and the NeoCon movement which had become its political engine, fundamentalists were taking root.
Suddenly there were bumper stickers all over the country declaring our love of America first over all others. American flags were everywhere, and we were reminded over and over again that our colors don’t run. I guess the implication there is that we’re not cowards or something. But the bottom line is that the Republican party, and even many in the Democratic party were on board with going into Afghanistan. Being attacked on your own soil will make you open to the idea of war. The fundamentalists in the Republican party seized on that nationalistic fervor, and used it as a way to lay down roots in American politics, roots that prove important in 2010.
The economic meltdown that happened in the waning months of Dubya’s second term, mixed with growing anti-war sentiment made Barack Obama an easy choice against the guy who pretty much embodied the NeoCon blood thirst for war at all costs and economic policies that had helped cause the meltdown in the first place. Then when Senator John McCain selected Sarah Palin to be the person just one heartbeat away from the Oval Office, and she proved herself to be not only unfit for the offices of President or Vice-President but also unfit to be the crossing guard at a local elementary school, the GOP was ousted from the White House. Democrats had control of the bicameral Congress on both ends, and they the White House too. But the powerful fundamentalists within the Republican party weren’t going to go quietly.
Over the last four years it has become a sort of accepted practice among progressives to slap the racist label on everything that Republicans did in opposition to Obama during his first term. While the existence of racist elements within the GOP can’t be denied, it obfuscates the real reason they’ve been so obstinate and resolute in their obstruction of progress in the last four years. And that reason, simply put, is fear, and the ones they fear the most?
Minorities and women.
As we split apart the demographics of the people who turned out and in some states waited hours to exercise their most important natural right in this country, we can see that perhaps the GOP was right to fear them. Well, not right from the moral or ethical standpoint, but from a strategic one. You see, in 2010 the Tea Party rose to power and thanks to some good campaigning and low Democratic turnout, pushed their favorite candidates into seats of the House of Representatives with enough numbers to turn the table and take control of that body of Congress. But within that Tea Party movement are the most staunchly conservative folks, both fiscally and socially, and to them women and minorities should always have a quieter voice in our way of life. I can’t explain why, but I think some of it is tied to the Biblical notion that God made women and minorities subservient to white men, and who are we to question God?
The argument has been made many times in our nation’s history. God’s will was an argument for keeping slavery intact. God’s will was an argument for Jim Crow laws, and God’s will was used as reason to keep the races from intermarrying one another. Again, let me be clear when I say that in no way, shape or form do I think that all Republicans are racist and misogynist. But the intolerant fundamentalists within the party were the loudest voices, bolstered by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity to name a few. In 2010 Republicans also made significant gains in the state legislative bodies around this nation and wound up writing extremely harsh immigration laws, voter ID laws aimed at suppressing minority, youth and elderly turnout, and over a thousand new laws aimed at reducing or restricting a woman’s dominion over her own reproductive parts.
This tactic may have worked in a pre-Internet, pre-social-media world, but in this modern era, the word spread fast, and it activated a key piece of Obama’s so-called coalition of voters. Latinos, African-Americans and women came out to re-elect President Obama in droves. And as the returns came in that Tuesday night, we watched the nightmare come to fruition for Karl Rove and Fox News. Their house of cards was falling fast, and it was all thanks to the very same people they figured were too lazy or uninformed to vote, and if they did try to vote the new voter ID laws would make damn sure that they’d be turned away.
After 9/11, Republicans helped make everyone in the country scared to death of terrorists. It’s hard to blame them; after all terrorists by definition terrorize people. But 9/11 also twisted the Republican party in on itself. They became even more so a party of “us against them,” and that even started to be the case when it came to political ideology. They called Bill Clinton a secret communist in the pre-9/11 days, so in the post 9/11 era that topped that one by outright questioning Obama’s right to hold the office, speculating on whether he really was Kenyan born or not. They ran a campaign this year calling Obama’s ideas “foreign” and “un-American.” They fear mongered their way through the election cycle, and it all blew up in the faces.
Because minorities and women were more scared of them than they were of President Obama’s alleged crimes against the Constitution.
The truth is that with the demographics in this country being what they are, and with the new generation coming along not being suckered by a lot of the political propaganda about progressive movements like ending the drug war, and socializing medicine, the Republican party has always been in trouble. But now they have the raw data, the numbers in front of them to prove that they are the minority. At least their political ideologies are. People don’t have to be in favor of getting tons of “free” stuff from the government to be in favor of taxing the rich at the same rate they paid under President Clinton. Clinton, by the way, presided over a huge period of growth in our country economically, despite warnings at the time from the right that his raising of taxes would destroy the economy as we knew it. Republicans have data now that shows the very people they were trying to rob of their right to vote, and trying to deny the freedom of control over their own genitalia are the ones who kept them out of the White House and out Senate control.
The reaction on the right has been mixed so far. Some in the party see the writing on the wall and are making pleas with the Tea Party faction to shut the fuck up or marginalize themselves again for the sake of their party. But the fundamentalists are blaming it on the takers leading our country down the wrong path. These are the same people who said Obama’s recovery just wasn’t good enough, despite the trench their guy dug for us all. They will continue to put their fingers in their ears and deny the real reason they lost. I am quite confident that among the women and minority vote that showed up to trounce Mitt Romney and the Republican party are people who probably do want smaller government and lower tax rates. But when you offer them that future but at the hands of people who simultaneously would treat them as second class citizens, do you know what you get? A stinging defeat, and one that might just signal the end of your party as you know it.
And the only question now is whether the reasonable Republicans will leave or evict the fundamentalists, and it’s truly fascinating no mater how it shakes out.