… the soon-to-be-gone administrationâ€™s failure is bigger than Mr. Bush himself: it represents the end of the line for a political strategy that dominated the scene for more than a generation.
The reality of this strategyâ€™s collapse has not, I believe, fully sunk in with some observers. Thus, some commentators warning President-elect Barack Obama against bold action have held up Bill Clintonâ€™s political failures in his first two years as a cautionary tale.
But America in 1993 was a very different country â€” not just a country that had yet to see what happens when conservatives control all three branches of government, but also a country in which Democratic control of Congress depended on the votes of Southern conservatives. Today, Republicans have taken away almost all those Southern votes â€” and lost the rest of the country. It was a grand ride for a while, but in the end the Southern strategy led the G.O.P. into a cul-de-sac.
Mr. Obama therefore has room to be bold. If Republicans try a 1993-style strategy of attacking him for promoting big government, theyâ€™ll learn two things: not only has the financial crisis discredited their economic theories, the racial subtext of anti-government rhetoric doesnâ€™t play the way it used to.
The whole column is very much worth reading. Krugman says (I’ve said the same thing) that our current GOP is the result of a deal with the devil made 40 years ago. That deal was the “Southern Strategy”; the tactic of using race baiting to pick up white voters who were fleeing the Dems because of civil rights and affirmative action policies. Krugman says (and I’ve also said the same thing) that even the GOP antipathy to taxes can be traced to that.
Krugman doesn’t say anything about the myth of the “liberal elite,” which is the other part of the rightie equation. Seething resentment toward anything that pushes their buttons — urban people, educated people, foreigners, and especially liberals — is the fuel of movement conservatism.
At the end of the cul-de-sac the GOP has marched into stands Sarah Palin. As Michael Tomasky wrote, “Never in my adult lifetime has one politician so perfectly embodied everything that is malign about my country: the proto-fascist nativism, the know-nothingism, the utterly cavalier lack of knowledge about the actual principles on which the country was founded.” The hard-core Right is in love with her, because she perfectly embodies and gives voice to their ignorance, their belligerence, their resentments, and she does so with a smile and a pretty face.
Speaking of Palin, be sure to read Michael Stickings’s essay at The Guardian: “Hockey Mom, you’re no Iron Lady.” Movement conservatives are so besotted with Palin that they are comparing her to their Mother Goddess, Margaret Thatcher. And it is Thatcher, not Palin, who falls short in this comparison.
As Michael says, this is, um, delusional, even if you don’t care for Thatcher. What what either Palin or Thatcher are, or were, or what they’ve accomplished, is less important to righties than what they represent in their addled mythos. But most Americans see Palin for the joke she is.
A cornerstone of the right-wing worldview is the belief that most Americans — most white Americans, anyway — believe the same things righties believe. If they see another American expressing a different worldview, either this person is “loony” — an aberration; not to be taken seriously — or “they’re just being PC,” meaning most Americans who express liberal ideas are just saying what they are supposed to say, not what they really believe. And if conservatives lose elections, it’s either because of voter fraud or media bias, not because most American don’t think the way righties do.
Most Americans, however, may have some lingering racist attitudes but don’t like racism and want us to all get along, somehow. Most Americans think that if a woman really doesn’t want to be pregnant she ought to be able to get a legal abortion, at least in the early months of the pregnancy. Most Americans think most other Americans ought to be able to get decent health care. Most Americans think Social Security and Medicare are good programs, if not perfect, even if they need tweaking now and then. Most Americans think the invasion of Iraq was a huge mistake and don’t give a hoo-haw about staying there in order to achieve something we can call “victory.” Most Americans don’t get bent out of shape if someone wishes them “happy holidays.” Most Americans expect government to be functional and don’t mind paying some taxes if they feel they are getting some value from those taxes (which, of course, is not always the case). Most Americans are catching on to the fact that, sometimes, some government regulation and oversight are a good thing.
Most of all, I don’t think most Americans are riddled with the fear, loathing and anger of the Right. They may be ignorant of many things, but on the whole most Americans are decent, well-meaning, live-and-let-live types who appreciate fairness and don’t necessarily fear everything that’s different. And that’s why they’re not following the Right into that cul-de-sac.