Friday, April 10, 2015

Con-Artist Conservatives and The Great Hoodwinking of America 3/3

by Nomad

The Part One and Part Two we looked at how many similarities there are between the fraud and swindles and the modern conservative movement. 

In this, the final installment in the series we wrap things up with two questions: Have middle-class Americans at long last realized that they are the victims of the Republican scam? Followed by the more important question: Is it too late to save American democracy?

Novelist Walter Kirn makes an interesting observations about the victims of swindles. It could explain why the Republican con game has continued for so long. Under normal circumstances, most victims catch on. So why do some people keep voting for the conservatives?

The reason, Kirn says, con artists get away with what they get away with is because their victims are "ashamed of their own blindness and their own gullibility, and they tend to just quietly go away." 

Outsiders might wonder why American voters who have realized that they have been played for the last 40 years are not un-stuffing the feathers from pillows and heating up the cauldrons of tar.
The reaction is, in fact, a bit more subtle. You can find the effect...if you know where to look.

End of the Fraud?
In the political realm, the Republican voters that have wised up will not suddenly switch parties. It's not realistic to assume they all turn into Obama-loving progressives.
Hate tends lingers even long after the reasons for the anomosity have been forgotten.
Take a look at the comments on any story on CNN.  Despite all of the president's accomplishments- they continue to petulantly allege that Obama is the worst president since Carter. As if George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were all part of America's collective bad dream.

Admitting their inexcusable and inexhaustible gullibility seems out of the question. What is much more likely is that life-long Republicans will simply forgo voting altogether.  

Following the Republican election disaster in 2012, senior elections analyst Sean Trende writing for the conservative site Real Clear Politics noted that this is exactly what was happening. The percentage of minority voters, according to this analysis, hadn't changed greatly. For the Republicans, the evidence showed something more worrying.
Trende points out that a large group of white voters" simply did not bother to show up. The Republican party is much more heavily dependent of getting the white vote out.
In terms of interpreting elections, and analyzing the future, the substantial drop-off in the white vote is a significant data point.
As Trende says, elections are decided on who shows up, not on who might have shown up.
Had Latino and African-American voters turned out in massive numbers, we might really be talking about a realignment of sorts, although we would have to see if the Democrats could sustain it with someone other than Obama atop the ticket (they could not do so in 2010). As it stands, the bigger puzzle for figuring out the path of American politics is who these non-voters are, why they stayed home, and whether they might be reactivated in 2016 (by either party).
At this point, Trend's analysis of the results falls short. He seems incapable of explaining the reasons why the Republican party is losing its core demographic.

Scent of Denial
Instead of adding two and two, there is a strong scent of denial in the GOP camp. Republicans could point to the massive losses in the 2014 mid terms for the Democrats in Congress and say that the turnout overall is a problem. It's really a systematic problem with the two party system.
That could be true.
However, voter turnout rates have always been consistently lower in midterm years than in presidential election years. 

As depressing as the mid-terms were, it is a small consolation to remember that this poor showing trend has been a regular fixture in American politics since the 1840s.

In the presidential election of 2008, a full 57.1% of the voting-age population cast ballots. This was the highest level in four decades and it did not help Republicans at all. With a full 52.7% of the vote, Barack Obama became the first African American elected president.
That's worth a closer look.

A Gallup poll in 2009 showed that for the GOP there was a decline in all demographic groups including conservatives and senior citizens. There was another drop in the mid-terms but then Obama’s re-election in 2012, saw another high turnout rebounded to 53.7%.
Having felt confident in a Romney Ryan victory, Republicans were dismayed at the results. 
Given the demographic leftward shift of our country, sand is rapidly coursing through the hourglass for the GOP.
One might assume then that the Republicans must reform or be prepared to continue losing presidential elections ad infinitum.

A Veneer of Intolerance
Normally, when the tide turns, crafty swindlers can skip town in the early hours and set up shop in another town with new identities. For a political party, it's a little harder.

Every demographic sector of the American public has turned away. Studies have shown that there is only demographic that still clings to the GOP: The voters from the evangelical movement.  
Like zombies, these voters will, it seems, continue to vote against their interests, refusing to accept they have been stupid and have been so easily scammed. Perhaps they are relying on a leap of faith.

For Republican conservatives, that may be the only good news on offer. In the coming election we shall witness the hustlers squeezing the last dime out of the pockets of this remaining demographic.
But there is a price to pay. In order to maintain even that shrinking minority, the GOP has accepted to take on a "veneer of intolerance."

Indeed, the fraud must soldier on. That means keeping the Christian Right happy. For this reason the Republican party has to promote the ideas that America is not a secular nation, that the founding fathers wanted America to be a Christian nation.  That secularism is a second cousin to atheism and that blasphemy and heresy and Communism all rolled up in a Satanic ball. 

The party now must commit itself to abolish the long standing notions of separation of church and state. Republican candidates, like Ted Cruz, must proclaim that America is a Christian country.

Cruz's Bitter Kiss of Theocracy
As a man who only likes to hear a positive response, Ted Cruz enjoys the sweet but meaningless thunder of many hands clapping. He likes to think that everybody agrees with what he says.

His speech announcing his candidacy asked his audience to imagine, imagine, imagine a lot of things. Like abolishing affordable healthcare, abolishing the IRS, scrubbing all standardization of education with Common Core and a host of other things. His audience seem willing to indulge Cruz's flights of fancy without asking any difficult questions like: After all this destruction, what will be left?

His speech read like a checklist of personal revisionism and- to put it vulgarly- ass-covering.  (The story of his father's background was a particularly stunning example of misrepresentation of the facts.)

It is no mistake that Cruz announced his candidacy for the 2016 at Lynchburg, Virginia's Liberty University, home of Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority. As we have seen, the church-going voters are really the last refuge for the conservatives. Prepared as they are to receive second-hand interpretations about their religion, they are just as ready to give their trust to consummate demagogues like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

This is a college that is proud of its intolerance. For example, according to university policy, R-rated movies and-  à la Footloose - dancing are all forbidden.  As a matter of fact, when Cruz kissed his own wife, he was actually in violation of  university policy.
Religious Liberty in Action
In a sneak peak of what theocracy is really all about, students who did not attend the Cruz speech were reportedly fined $10. All this calls to mind the Puritans of Massachusetts in the colonial days..
"where almost every facet of an individual's life was closely regulated by church dogma., .games, dancing, social gatherings, and physical recreation were all forbidden as evil practices. Repression of sexual activities...was stringent and open display of affection was frowned upon."
The Founding Fathers hard-wired (or tried to) the Constitution in order that such intolerance would never be seen again in the United States.

Back in 2009, this very same university - which incidentally qualifies as a tax exempt school, reportedly refused to recognize its campus Democratic club The reason was very simple: According to the officials, "the national party's platform goes against the conservative Christian school's moral principles."

All of these appeals to religious intolerance might gain Republican a few votes but ultimately  it also makes for a case of diminishing returns. The more extreme the party becomes, the more moderates will turn away. As Finger observes:
The definition of conservative has shifted from running a responsible government with a balanced budget to how many days a week you punched your attendance ticket at church. It borders on zealotry. If your credentials on abortion don’t go back at least five generations, you might be branded an apostate.
In another blog post from 2012, we saw how even a revived Ronald Reagan would be unable to pass for a conservative by today's standards. This was, after all, the man who as governor, had signed legislation that established collective bargaining for all the state’s municipal and country employees.

To The Highest Bidder Go the Spoils
Without the Koch brothers interference, the results would be predictable. All that would be left of the Republican party by 2016 would be a loose collection of fraudsters pointing fingers at one another and some very disappointed church goers. 
The rest of the country would be moving on and be leaving the swindlers and the dwindlers behind.

However, it won't be as easy as all that.
The Koch brothers look set to outspend both parties in 2016. With a budget of a stunning $889 million, they can afford not only financing an army of con-artists, but also political actions groups free-market think tanks, foundations and universities. 
According to a Washington Post article, the network of conservative advocacy groups backed by the brothers Koch "with its resources and capabilities — including a national field operation and cutting-edge technology" will be "challenging the primacy of the official parties."

The billion-dollar question (literally) is whether all this Koch interference will actually make a difference in the outcome or whether it is simply another Republican scam- this time perfectly scripted for the Koch brothers and the politically-minded 1%.
Another Washington Post article shows a graph at how unbalanced the campaign spending has become since the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.
Last year, the Senate - under pressure from sixteen states, more than 500 communities, two million Americans, including the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee- attempted to use a constitutional remedy to reverse the most damaging effects of Citizens United. 

In the end, the vote on draft legislation for an amendment was defeated. And that vote revealed something that most people already knew. In a vote of 54-42, every Democrat sided with the people—and every Republican sided with the rich and powerful.
Still worse, as one source pointed out at the time, Democrats that voted for the amendment can now be expected to be "on the receiving end of attack ads made possible by Citizens United." 

The Koch brothers seem determined to become the sole beneficiary of the Republican bamboozling of the American public. In the end, it will be left to the American people to decide whether they still believe in the American experiment or whether they will be content to watch the government be auctioned off to the highest bidder.