Newt Gingrich, the most unlikely of candidates, has just won the South Carolina primary. As a man, he is vain, boastful, and arrogant. As a leader, he is overbearing, vengeful, and petty. As a husband and father, he sucks the big one. How could a man so flawed take the mantle of what once was the Grand Old Party. This seems as good a time as any to review how the Republicans got themselves in this sorry mess.
It started with FDR. For the fifty years following the civil war, republicans owned the federal government and its three branches. What’s more, they were the populist choice and the voice of change for the people. They were the original liberals. Then the depression happened and they were at a loss for what to do. The rejection by the voters was so sudden and so complete that it damaged the party’s psyche.
It felt personal and people tend to react to personal attacks in a personal manner. The goal within the party was to win, whatever the cost. It was no longer about doing what was right. It was about the reacquisition of power. They were determined to out patriot the democrats. They demonized democratic intentions. They partnered with whoever would support them. Southern democrats fearful of social change were welcome. Big business knew that they could buy or sell republican allegiance without consequence. It worked, for a while.
By the 60’s the democrats were back in charge, but Nixon brought with him a new list of enemies. The media, unions, and liberals became objects of derision. Nixon’s resignation should have caused some republican soul searching. Instead, it steeled the resolve of those who most craved a return to prominence.
Reagan knew that his message was more important than his actions when it comes to politicking. He wrapped himself in family, the flag, and the working man. He accused the democrats of being spendthrifts and then increased the federal deficit ten-fold. He cut social services. He encouraged American companies to outsource their labor. He sold missiles to enemies and funded an illegal war. His recession was significantly more severe than his predecessors. He witnessed an explosion in crime. He was loved. He always stayed on message. Bush the first suffered because he did not and his honesty cost him.
The one thing all republicans had in common up until this point is that for all their posturing they still understood the importance of working within the constitutional framework of the American government. They believed that good government was the best government and although each republican administration since Eisenhower had overseen inflation, recessions, and unprecedented growth within the government sector they did so with a belief that they were trying to do good things, however misguided they were. It was not the government they hated. It was the democrats. They would not dream of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
By the time Newt Gingrich orchestrated his republican revolution, government itself became a subject of ire. It was as if destroying the one thing he hoped to obtain was the surest way to secure his prize. He incorporated fascist discipline to common rallying points. It nearly worked.
Bush the second’s administration was afforded success based on circumstance. It was the incubation period for what has become the new Republican Party. The message, which had always been no more than a means, became the meaning itself as new members, galvanized by their own media outlets, failed the grasp the distinction between hyperbole and the truth. The Tea Party would happily destroy the entire social fabric of this nation because the very idea of its consequences are alien to them.
The two greatest culprits in this debacle are Ayn Rand and moneyed self-interest. Ayn Rand was the philosopher, author, sociopath upon which most current republican philosophy is based. She espoused the concept of supermen ruling the world and that if left alone everything works itself out so it’s best to let the powerful do their own thing. She had a no government, best government philosophy. She was an anarchist for the rich.
As for the wealthy, they want this world where they can do as they please. The gap between rich and poor is greater than it has been in a hundred years and the truly rich have little concept of the difficulties life presents the masses. Their only real concern is their own bottom line and the power they can control. They would privatize the air you breathe if they could. They are the bankroll and the voice of the party. They set the message and agenda. They are smart enough to know that they can do none of it without the support of the people so they have subverted the democratic process for their own gain. When 10,000 people stand on the white house lawn to complain that their taxes are too high it is because the wealthy put them there because it is they who do not want to pay their taxes.
So, here is the Republican Party in 2012. It is a party of naked ambition, atop spurious principals, orchestrated by greed. Of course Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary. He may very well win the nomination. Let us hope he doesn’t win the election.