When Newt Gingrich calls President Obama “the food stamp president,” the party of crazy, old, white people has found its champion, a man who rose to power on the force of flaming epithets and his manifestos for the future conservative paradise, his unique appeal something that perhaps could best be labeled Newtonian Back to the Futurism.
When observers are heard to say the Tea Party drives the Republican Party now what they really mean is crazy, old, white people drive the agenda. These would be the Americans who swear by their Medicare and bristle at anyone reckless enough to threaten it, yet believe Medicare for all is a dangerous government takeover of health care. As a bold emblem of their remarkable disorientation they have chosen the protest ostensibly over taxation in Boston in the 18th Century as their guiding symbol, though at a time when taxes across the board are at their lowest point in modern American history. And of course Rush Limbaugh and Bill O ‘Reilly, the former a bulbous mass of white smoldering resentment blowing smoke out his ears, the latter a volcano of crotchety grump, together represent above all white male hegemony under siege, the preferred tribunes of crazy old white people across the land.
In fairness, the GOP retains some crazy young white people too: the Ayn Rand cultists, her philosophy of selfishness and her division of the body politic into the worthwhile and the useless unwashed irresistible to young reactionaries; those tutored since they were pups that all things progressive are evil and worse, European; the scrubbed and bushytailed bagmen for corporations, banks and big business. Whatever their age, the GOP welcomes them and their particular sense of victimization, whether what they believe lost is white privilege, gender domination (or both), employer unaccountability, socially enforced taboos and Puritanism, or whether it is the attack from science, economics, education on their ideological fundamentalism and assumptions…progress generally… that has them aggrieved.
The real point would be that the 2010 elections, and the GOP’s, crazy, old, white people led triumph likely was the party’s last big electoral hoorah. 2010 was their final perfect storm: a broad protest vote against high unemployment and a feeble economy, a Democratic base feeling a mixture of bafflement and letdown and vague purpose, the culturally put-upon on the right up in arms (literally, at times) fearful and antagonistic toward what they see as the cultural encroachment of Latinos, gays and blacks, and political harbingers redolent of progress and the European continent all somehow embodied in the person and symbol that is Barack Obama.
Jowly, superannuated dough boy Newt Gingrich certainly would be a natural as a standard bearer for the party of crazy old white people in the 2012 elections, his offering of ideological exotica and southern strategy just the ticket for the GOP. Long representing a district in Georgia that once went for segregationist George Wallace for president of the United States, his Confederate bona fides definitely are in order. But most any Republican candidate now in the field can serve the same purpose, even if Mitt Romney may blow the color-coded dog whistle a little softer than the others would.
The party’s abiding scorching antagonism and extremity are methodically causing it to drive itself into irrelevancy, any candidate capable of earning the endorsement of the rancorous base expected to hold the current president (and non-Republicans) in complete and utter contempt without relent, as traitorous, illegitimate and ideologically and culturally, if not literally foreign.
But demographics are against them, as are reality and the direction in which most of the world has long been moving and continues to move. Republicans may have been effectively indoctrinated with faulty history lessons and perverse nostalgia, but the modern welfare state is well entrenched, not only viewed virtually everywhere as obligatory and necessary, but much preferred. Republican politicians’ inability to resist sops to the populist xenophobia of the Republican base, insisting upon demeaning stereotypes and hateful demagoguery when dealing with the issue of immigration has alienated Latinos, the fastest growing segment of the population possibly for a generation. Comments such as “food stamp president” only remind blacks of the attitudes and smarmy appeals that have alienated them from Republicans for so long.
Younger voters across the board simply do not share the cultural conservatism of the far right, the stigmatization of either gays or abortion; nor do they revere the financial and corporate sector as unassailable good, nor accept generalized indictments of government as credible. That leaves…yes, crazy, old white people; the youthful exponents of greed and indifference with their Randian fever, and the frat wing of nasty ideological twerps, brimming with juvenilia, disinformation and dirty tricks to build their hopes upon. A coalition for the future it is not.
For the moment, the Republican regressives may hunker down inside their conservative media redoubts out of harm’s way of reality, factuality, rationality and the ways of the modern world. How long they can hold out as a viable political force, who knows? But all available signs are that the party is becoming an anachronism. For the Republican base indeed there is enormous emotional satisfaction in the purity of ideological fire and brimstone and ideological civil war. But the days are numbered. In the long run, I believe, these extremes will recede to the fringe where they once sustained, John Birchers and nutty libertarians relegated back to where they belonged before conquering a vulnerable and embittered Republican “mainstream.”
Making such a prediction I guess I will be in a lot of trouble if I’m proved wrong. But then, so will you.