1. Joshua Holland @ Moyers & Company: “To Understand the Shutdown You Have to Grasp the Mindset of the GOP Base”
Democracy Corps – a Democratic-leaning polling firm – released a study this week based on a series of focus groups they conducted with loyal Republican voters. They divided them up into three sub-groups which together represent the base of the party. Evangelicals represent the largest group, followed by Republicans who identify with the tea party movement. “Moderates,” the third group, make up about a quarter of the party’s base, according to the pollsters.
Fear of a changing society is one thing that unites all three factions. The battle over Obamacare, write the study’s authors, “goes to the heart of Republican base thinking about the essential political battle.”
They think they face a victorious Democratic Party that is intent on expanding government to increase dependency and therefore electoral support. It starts with food stamps and unemployment benefits; expands further if you legalize the illegals; but insuring the uninsured dramatically grows those dependent on government. They believe this is an electoral strategy — not just a political ideology or economic philosophy. If Obamacare happens, the Republican Party may be lost, in their view.
And while few explicitly talk about Obama in racial terms, the base supporters are very conscious of being white in a country with growing minorities. Their party is losing to a Democratic Party of big government whose goal is to expand programs that mainly benefit minorities. Race remains very much alive in the politics of the Republican Party.
They worry that minorities, immigrants, and welfare recipients now believe it is their “right” to claim [public] benefits. Tea Party participants, in particular, were very focused on those who claim “rights” in the form of government services, without taking responsibility for themselves.
They are also unified in their belief that Obama is a usurper who has hoodwinked the public into re-electing him by hiding his true beliefs, which are essentially Marxist. They also think that Democrats have won the major political battles of our time because Republican legislators in Washington didn’t put up a fight.
But there are also deep divisions within the base, according to the analysis. Evangelicals still focus overwhelmingly on social issues. They think gay rights are the biggest threat to our society, but they also worry about the loss of what they see as an idyllic small-town culture. They feel besieged as the cultural ground shifts beneath them, and see themselves as a beleaguered, “politically incorrect” minority.
2. Michael Lind @ Salon: “Tea Party radicalism is misunderstood: Meet the ‘Newest Right’”
The Newest Right is the simply the old Jeffersonian-Jacksonian right, adopting new strategies in response to changed circumstances. …
The political strategy of the Newest Right, then, is simply a new strategy for the very old, chiefly-Southern Jefferson-Jackson right. It is a perfectly rational strategy, given its goal: maximizing the political power and wealth of white local notables who find themselves living in states, and eventually a nation, with present or potential nonwhite majorities.
Although racial segregation can no longer be employed, the tool kit of the older Southern white right is pretty much the same as that of the Newest Right.
… Today the white notables of the South increasingly live in states like Texas, which already have nonwhite majorities. They fear that Obama’s election, like Lincoln’s, foreshadows the emergence of a new national majority coalition that excludes them and will act against their interest. Having been reduced to the status of members of a minority race, they fear they will next lose their status as members of the dominant local class.
While each of the Newest Right’s proposals and policies might be defended by libertarians or conservatives on other grounds, the package as a whole—from privatizing Social Security and Medicare to disenfranchising likely Democratic voters to opposing voting rights and citizenship for illegal immigrants to chopping federal programs into 50 state programs that can be controlled by right-wing state legislatures—represents a coherent and rational strategy for maximizing the relative power of provincial white elites at a time when their numbers are in decline and history has turned against them.
3. Garry Wills @ The New York Review of Books: “Back Door Secession”
John Boehner holds the nation hostage because the Tea Party holds him hostage. The problem with modern Republicans is not fanaticism in the few but cowardice in the many, who let their fellows live in virtual secession from laws they disagree with.
Republican leaders in Congress are too cowardly to say that the voting restrictions being enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures are racially motivated. They accept the blatant lie that they are aimed only at non-existent “fraud.” They will not crack the open code by which their partners claim to object to Obama because he is a “foreign-born Muslim” when they really mean “a black man.” They will not admit that the many procedural laws adopted to prevent abortion are in violation of the law as defined by the Supreme Court. They go along with the pretence that all the new rules are “for women’s health.” De facto acts of secession are given a pseudo-legal cover.
… The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule. We see this in the Senate, where a Democratic majority is resisted at every turn by automatic recourses to the filibuster. We see it in the attempt to repeal the seventeenth amendment, which allows a majority of voters to choose a state’s senators. The repealers want that choice to go back to the state legislatures, where they rule thanks to anti-majority gerrymandering.
The Old South went from virtual to actual secession only when the addition of non-slave Western states threatened their disproportionate hold on the Congress and the Court (which had been Southern in makeup when ruling on Dred Scott). It is difficult to conjecture what will happen if the modern virtual seceders do not get their way. Their anti-government rhetoric is reaching new intensity. Some would clearly rather ruin than be ruled by a “foreign-born Muslim.” What will the Republicans who are not fanatics, only cowards, do in that case?
To be fair to Republicans, not everyone is or was comfortable with this strategy. One of the things I remember best from Richard Ben Cramer’s legendary history of the 1988 election, What It Takes, was the way both George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole grappled with whether and how to reach black voters, in the wake of the Reagan revolution. Each man struggled, in his own way, to understand and accept exactly how party leaders, starting with Goldwater, had actively pushed African-Americans out of the party of Abraham Lincoln. Dole’s discomfort seemed a little deeper and more genuine; in the end, Bush acceded to Atwater and Roger Ailes, one of Richard Nixon’s media henchmen, to produce the infamous Willie Horton ad that helped torpedo Michael Dukakis.
Over and over, that’s how things got worse: Republicans who know better, who probably aren’t “racist” in the old-fashioned sense of believing in black inferiority and opposing the equality and integration of the races, nonetheless pander to those who are, for electoral gain. And when the election of our first black president riled up the racists and launched the Tea Party – supposed deficit hawks who tolerated skyrocketing government spending under George W. Bush — too many Republicans went along.
Today, the entire government has been taken hostage by leaders elected by this crazed minority, who see in the face of Barack Obama everything they’ve been taught to fear for 50 years.
5. Lee Fang @ The Nation: “Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown”
The coalition is managed by Heritage and the Council for National Policy. The latter organization, dubbed once as “the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of,” is a thirty-year-old nonprofit dedicated to transforming the country into a more right-wing Christian society. Founded by Tim LaHaye, the Rapture-obsessed author of the “Left Behind” series, CNP is now run by Christian-right luminaries such as Phyllis Schlafly, [The Liar] Tony Perkins and Kenneth Blackwell.
… The board of the Council for National Policy, the Conservative Action Project’s sponsor, features Michael Grebe, an influential Republican lawyer who leads the Bradley Foundation—a GOP money machine with close ties to Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus and Governor Scott Walker. The Heritage Foundation’s Ed Meese and Becky Norton Dunlop, both well-respected among mainstream Republicans, are said to be prime players in the effort.
Kevin Gentry, a key employee of Koch Industries’s lobbying subsidiary Koch Public Sector, has served on the board of CNP. Gentry now helped to run the new $250 million fund for conservative advocacy groups called Freedom Partners and manages the twice-annual secret gatherings for Charles Koch’s cohorts. (It was at a CNP gathering that Charles Koch once compared himself to the theologian Martin Luther.)
6. Brian Tashman @ Right Wing Watch: “Religious Right Leaders Hail Ted Cruz as a Modern-Day George Washington”
Family Research Council’s [The Liar] Tony Perkins commended Cruz and his allies for instigating the government shutdown: “I think they are acting heroic, I think they are heroes. They are along the lines of the patriots who founded this nation, they are standing up to the liberal press and to the naysayers and to the RINOs and saying, ‘No we’re not going along with it any longer, we’re going to try and use what ability we have to save this country.’”
7. Chris Skinner @ Peje Iesous: “Why ‘Jesus’ Is to Blame for the Government Shutdown”
If you listen to the sound bites of congressional leaders and other talking heads who both oppose universal healthcare and also identify as “Christian,” you can hear echoes of Bill O’Reilly’s Jesus. Apparently, the Jesus that baptizes Bill O’Reilly’s political views is the same Jesus who smiles approvingly at the congressional temper tantrum which has led to the government shutdown. That same Jesus sees universal healthcare as “unethical” because it undermines the work ethic of others who receive healthcare at their places of business and in the process rewards the lazy and slothful among us. It is interesting to note that, in all of the healing narratives in the New Testament, there is not one place where Jesus asks an individual about his/her job or work ethic before deciding to heal.
…Even in my own personal experience, the most outspoken opponents of universal healthcare have been self-proclaimed “born again Christians” who are quick to tell you that they read the Bible literally. Mind you, they don’t generally read the parts about caring for the poor and marginalized literally, though certainly the parts about cataclysmic end-times events. … Ironically, these same individuals also proclaim that “Jesus wants to save the world,” though we should keep in mind that such salvation, like much else in their reading of the New Testament is “spiritual” more than anything else.
The Jesus of Bill O’Reilly and other ultra-right-wingers is a Jesus who stands at the head of our nation, approves of our affluence, nods with acceptance at our disregard for the disenfranchised, embraces our imperial policies, and insists that his words shouldn’t be taken literally, at least not when it comes to turning the other cheek or giving sacrificially to help the less fortunate.