Friday, November 02, 2007

On the continuing splintering of the GOP

Much has been written already of the pending divorce of the Christians from the Republicans, and I've posted the most articulate report previously.

One of the more fascinating things about watching the fracturing of the various coalitions comprising the Republican Party has been the story behind the phenomenon of the rise of Ron Paul. Primarily viral and online, he has captured a toehold on the conservative psyche like few have in the past several years:

... Paul's popularity can't necessarily be explained by a previously undetected craving for gold-standard debates on college campuses. His message, even if packaged in obscure economic lectures, is that there is something very corrupt, very Halliburton-Blackwatery going on with our military-industrial complex, and that can attract some pretty weird followers. At the Iowa State event, a student stood outside in a tricornered hat and Revolutionary War–era suit, ringing a bell. Representative Tom Tancredo, another long-shot G.O.P. candidate, tells me that after a debate in New Hampshire, one of his staffers walked up to a guy in a shark costume and asked him if he was a Ron Paul supporter. "No. They're all nuts," replied the shark. "I'm just a guy in a shark suit." There is a subset of Paul supporters who believe 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government. And there are anarchists as well: They've picked Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes Day, for a fund-raising drive.

Even when Dr. No ran as a Libertarian for president in 1988 he wasn't as popular a figure as he is today. In truth he speaks to the strain of conservatives who do not favor the corporate brand Bush and Cheney have made so (un)popular. These anti-establishment conservatives are represented in polling as being in the majority with many of us on the left: they don't favor endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan, don't favor government surveillance and expanded executive branch authority, and they do not support local issues that give government and huge corporations more public assets (like the the Trans-Texas Corridor). They remain beholders of much of Republican orthodoxy, such as a Grover Norquist opinion of government and a xenophobic worldview, but they part company in so many places that it's fair to view them as a distinct and growing subset within the conservative ranks.

(Pausing to discuss the labeling: "anti-establishment" and "establishment" Republicans are clumsy terms and don't do descriptive justice to the dividing groups. They defy compartmentalization, but I'll still use the labels for the ease of making this observation.)

Make no mistake, though: the establishment Republicans -- corporate, pro-war, supportive of Bush and Cheney's assault on the Constitution via the unitary executive concept -- remain in the vanguard of Republican party control. They are represented by the concentric circles occupied by Rudy Giuliani and Rick Perry; it's worth observing that the international law firm of Bracewell Giuliani represents the Spanish corporation CINTRA, which is one of the primary contractors of the Trans-Texas Corridor, which is Rick Perry's prized "public/private initiative".

Now that's fascism at its finest. But I won't digress.

What's really amusing is to observe the two factions calling each other RINOS. If, for example, Kay Bailey Hutchison votes for SCHIP, she's a RINO. If Chuck Hagel doesn't support the war, he doesn't support the troops and he's a traitor and so on. If John McCain can't buy Attorney General-designate Mike Mukasey's quavering on the definition of torture any better than any of the Democratic senators on the Judiciary committee, but still wants to follow Osama to the gates of hell and shoot him ... well, you get the picture.

That last example is just so confusing for most Republican voters.

Fortunately though many people left and right do get it, and the rejection of corporate politics is fast growing within the Democratic ranks as well (and a bit ahead of the GOP, naturally).

Still, Republicans were the ruling party in this country for too many years. They aren't any longer, and just over a year from now will really have a lot to to whine about, but the majority party won't be the Democratic Party, either; the majority will be the Democrats and Republicans who continue to represent the special interests rather than the public interest. They will take millions from corporate lobbyists and pass tort reform and earmark pork for useless projects back home and claim to be something they are not -- representative of the people. And the people understand this: it's why you regularly hear "both parties are just the same", "why can't you guys just get along", "my vote doesn't matter" and so on and so forth. Usually these words are coming out of the mouths of people who don't vote, naturally.

And this goes to the heart of my inability to support Hillary Clinton as the nominee: she's politics as business as usual, the same as Giuliani. Because people on both sides of the spectrum get this, that's why there will be independent and third-party presidential challengers in 2008 if we wind up with those two as the nominees. Not because they aren't different enough -- certainly they are -- but because they're too much alike.

A rather substantial number of Americans don't favor the status quo, or the America the Republicans and Democrats have given them. They want fundamental change, not a mouthpiece.

They still may not get that kind of change next year, but it certainly looks like they'll have more choices for change than we've had in a long time. And not John-Anderson, Ross-Perot, Ralph Nader-style choices. Real legitimate choices.

At least I hope they -- we -- do.

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