Live by the Grift; Die by the Grift

Richard Viguerie has declared civil war on the Republican establishment and has vowed to root out traitors to the conservative cause, such as Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Reince Priebus. Yes, we weep and we mourn, not so much. But Rod Dreher at The American Conservative is really upset about it.

RINO hunt! This is astonishing, and can only be driven by an ideological mindset so impervious to reality that it would rather destroy political conservatism’s chances of actually running the country than succumb to the least impurity in the ranks. The movement types really do believe that the GOP lost because it was stabbed in the back by its own people at Versailles on Capitol Hill. The GOP tribalism is devolving into a Lord’s Resistance Army conservatism, after the fanatical Ugandan cultists who believe that shea butter and their confidence in God makes them impervious to bullets.

The thing about this dynamic is that the purer the activists make the GOP, the weaker the party becomes, and thus the less likely to achieve policy goals. Which just drives the forces of purgation harder. Ted Cruz rules the Jacobin Republicans now, but he should remember what happened to Robespierre.

I do appreciate the reference to Jacobins. But I doubt very much that Richard Viguerie gives a rodent’s posterior for achieving policy goals. Viguerie is a direct mail tycoon who makes a living by stoking the fears and phobias of the rubes to market ideological snake oil. If Movement Conservatism were ever seen as successful, and the marks got complacent, checks might stop coming in.

Indeed, there is a whole class of grifters on the Right whose incomes depend on keeping the crazy well fed. I’m thinking of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Fox News et al. No doubt Michele Bachmann will become a full-time gifter as soon as she’s out of the House. But there are tons of second- and third-tier gifters, all cashing in nicely.

And why not? If bank robbers rob banks because that’s where the money is, grifters infest the Right because that’s where the gullibility is. People who can be made to believe in death panels can also be sold on dubious investment schemes, survivalist kits and quack arthritis cures. It’s too easy. See especially Rick Perlstein, “The Long Con.”

There are also subcategories of specialized grifters such as the NRA/firearm industry and climate change denialists/petroleum industry. But it’s all of a piece, really.

I wrote recently that the only substantive difference between the “extremists” and the “moderates/establishment” in the Republican Party is that “the ‘moderates’ realize elections have to be won, and the ‘extremists’ don’t know that, or don’t care.” When you look at someone like Ted Cruz, who unlike many others may not be crazy or stupid, one suspects his long game isn’t winning the White House. The long game is making a ton of money. In this country, once you become a reliable supplier of red meat for the Right, you are set for life. Whether you ever actually accomplish anything that’s good for anyone is irrelevant.

The Republican Party set itself up for this, of course, by being willing to sell out anything that might be an actual principle in order to win elections on the cheap (and dirty). I’m sure most of you are aware of the arc of demagoguery that ran from Spiro Agnew to Lee Atwater to Karl Rove. But Frankenstein’s Monster took over the laboratory, and now Karl Rove (who is still making a lot of money, apparently, in spite of his colossal failure in 2012) can’t understand why no one is listening to him.


38 thoughts on “Live by the Grift; Die by the Grift

  1. When I read the FB notice for this post and saw your line “If bank robbers…” I knew it would be good. I think you’re dead on with Cruz. I can’t accept him as religiously sincere, based on his acts/attitudes, and I can’t see him having a governing mentality, either, so $$$ must be the goal. People who see this nation’s politics as a game are playing with lives they despise.

  2. Richard Viguerie has been making money off Republican rubes since what, the Nixon administration? And he’s always been pretty much a whacko. He wanted to run against Gerald Ford, but lost the Presidential nomination of George Wallace’s crazed nutjob 3rd party to Lester Maddox! (That was back in the day when racist Nutjobs formed their own parties, instead of just running the GOP outright. )

    To be surprised that The Vigorish is raising money and attacking from the extremist right is a bit like being surprised that water is wet. For Rod Dreher to be “astonished” suggests he really needs to get out more.

  3. maha and Bill,
    I agree – Ted Cruz-ader has absolutely NO interest in governing.

    He’s an Authoritarian psychopath, an ideologue, a megalomaniac, a polemicist, and an opportunist.
    No exactly the type of personality-type, who likes governing, or wants to govern.
    Now, RULING, on the other hand…

    I could easily be wrong, and I certainly hope that I am, but my guess is that he might be hoping that he can take hold of the Conservative base, and, if certain circumstances align – like another major rec/depr-ession, or another major terrorist event here in the US – that more than just the base may be looking for a strong Authoritarian leader.
    And he’s positioning himself as that strong Authoritarian leader.

    Remember, if I’m right, that he starts of with that base, which is the 27% of the population who are Authoritarian loons.
    That’s potentially 27% of the electorate, already in his pocket.
    So, all he’ll need to win, is some combination of cross-over voters from regular old Republicans, and Conservative-leaning Moderates and Independents – and a weak Democratic candidate.
    No 3rd Party candidate will every outflank him from his right, but maybe someone like a Ralph Nader type, will get his/her name on the ballot, and pull-off enough votes from the Democratic candidate for Cruz-ader to win – ala George W. Bush.

    And then, if things don’t align in the next 2, 3, 7 years, he’ll still be young enough to grift many millions of “Morans” of their hard-earned moolah.
    He’s already earned his Conservative bona fides, and I think he’s already proven that he can grift the rubes in Wingnut Welfare, with the best of ’em!

  4. I’ve been giving thought to this whole” RINO ” thing for some time now and as an independent it bothers me. Why doesn’t everyone wake the hell up? Here is the deal: The “RINO’S” in the gop are not the people everyone is pointing to, the real republicans in name only are the tea party members and the gop made a HUGE mistake by ever allowing them to caucus with their party.

    Now listen, I am not a fan of the gop and some class keeps me from telling you what I think of the tea party and I like a good gop implodes story as much as anyone, but I am sorry I have to call a foul.

    The Gop has spent decades building a party, and now the tea party, that runs against republicans has hi jacked the party and is taking over. WHY? The republicans certainly out number the trashbaggers so what gives? Now that all the heavy lifting is done they are really going to let the tea party just HAVE what they built? Are you serious?

    IF the gop is smart, they would tell their trashbagger friends they will no longer be caucusing with them. They wanted their own fucking party, then have one, get the hell out of theirs and build your own God damn party! See how much power your little group has on it’s own.- Then republicans and democrats can just move on without the trashbaggers. Make the teaparty like the bratty little kid brother who won’t go away when you have your friends over, till you ignore him and shut the door to your room. That is EXACTLY how the trashbaggers should be dealt with.

    And I cannot pass up the chance to talk about the really low tiers- at huffington post I have learned that they actually pay losers to create accounts and post for the tea party. They pay a nickel a post, more if you can get people to argue with you. Wing nut welfare is everywhere!

  5. Hey just me, I think a Venn diagram of the republican party factions would be helpful for you to understand; there is the country club faction, the southern blue collars, the evangelicals, the Israel firsters, the bat-shit crazies, and the white bread fox news friends. I think those groups have less common ground than one might think. Imagine William f. Buckley hanging with Joe the plumber or sarah Palin? Can you imagine john hagee partying with Ann Coulter? The republican party covers a lot of ground.

  6. And I cannot pass up the chance to talk about the really low tiers- at huffington post I have learned that they actually pay losers to create accounts and post for the tea party. They pay a nickel a post, more if you can get people to argue with you. Wing nut welfare is everywhere!

    Hey, speaking of grifters, that would be a pretty good way to pick up some extra income. They can’t tell satire from real life anyway, so we might as well grab some of their nickels.

  7. gulag, did you see this post at Salon? David Frum’s scenario is similar to what you’re talking about, but I agree with Alex Pareene that it’s exceptionally unlikely that Ted Cruz will ever be president. For one thing, look at this: his favorability rating is just 26 percent, which is remarkably close to the 27 percent that make up the right-wing base. Of course there’s also a pretty big chunk in that poll with no opinion, but it’s pretty easy to predict that most people who don’t know much about Ted Cruz will be revolted when they get to know him better. After all, the base loves him because he’s a colossal prick, so there isn’t much room for him to expand his appeal.

  8. Imagine William f. Buckley hanging with Joe the plumber or sarah Palin?

    🙂 Buckley couldn’t flee fast enough from the likes of Joe the plumber. He’d have to take a shower and apply an intellectual disinfectant to get the stench of that rustic off of him.

  9. I don’t think you’re quite right about Ted Cruz. He is a revolutionary in the mold of Newt Gingrich, or even Jesus Christ. He’s even more of a true believer than Gingrich was. It’s not about money for him, although obviously that’s nice too. Cruz I am certain has total belief in the value of what he’s doing, that he will be amply rewarded. It’s more about his gigantic sense of national, personal destiny. You’ve read (sorry no linkee) about that large oil painting in Cruz’s office? The one where he’s arguing before the Supreme Court, and yet within the painting itself, there are a number of artists who are capturing this same scene for posterity? Someone who’s driven by money doesn’t have stuff like that hanging in their office.

    Read about Cruz’s father in Ted Cruz’s Father Suggested His Son Is ‘Anointed’ to Bring About ‘End Time Transfer of Wealth’. See also The Theology of Government Shutdown: Christian Dominionism. This guy is a man on a mission, at a very dangerous intersection of politics, religion, oratory, and massive ego, and massive funding by the billionaires. By comparison, all the other grifters you cite are mere carnival barkers, half-wits that could just as easily be selling used cars, or magic cleaning potions on late night tv infomercials. It’s much more easy to see that it really is about the buckolas for them.

    Now the other half of the equation – the gullible wingnuts who actually think this nonsense is good for them – that’s constant, regardless of who the person is that’s selling it.

  10. moonbat,
    Ever since he first came on the scene, I’ve called him the scariest and most dangerous person I think I’ve ever seen.
    I call him Ted Cruz-ader, because he’s a demagogue on a crusade – himself.

    And I wasn’t kidding when I said that, while I couldn’t see him governing, I can easily see him wanting to rule.

    He fits the old Sinclair Lewis line – “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross” to a t!

  11. I personally think Ted Cruz is creepy looking; and, that is what will keep him from winning any thing much. Every time I see a picture of him, it gives me the willies.

  12. Yeah, I kinda hope Cruz is just in it for the grift, and not for the power and the glory, amen. I don’t trust that guy. Let’s just say, if I hear about a fire in the Reichstag Capitol, I know who I’ll be looking at.

  13. Ever since he first came on the scene, I’ve called him the scariest and most dangerous person I think I’ve ever seen.

    I remember reading an interview of (I believe) Noam Chomsky from a few years ago, shortly after the economy tanked, who was old enough to remember the Weimar Republic and its descent into Nazism. He was saying that we have all the similar conditions here in America right now, except for a Hitler-like figure. I fear you are right about Ted Cruz.

  14. Moonbat – you said what I was thinking about Cruz. I don’t think he has a plan to actually rise to power (unless he can evade the fate of McCarthy). However, he’s sincere in his beliefs – twisted and un-democratic as they are. Yeah, he’ll do well financially but that’s a bonus to the objective of promoting the ‘faith’.

    There’s grifters with no real ethos behind their scams – and then there’s the promoters of the ‘faith’ a blend of religious fanaticism and libertarianism. Jerry Falwell was one – Newt is one – Jim DeMint..Rand Paul.. Paul Ryan.. These are top tier activists who believe and liberals who smear them as mony-grubbing opportunists ask readers to underestimate and thereby enable some fanatical adversaries.

    All evidence indicates Sarah Palin quit as governor to cash in before her 15 minutes expired. Anne Coulter and Beck and tub-o-lard on the AM radio make all the right noises to amuse the masses but they are basically clueless. They are on the grift but not in the same class as the true devote of Ayn Rand dedicated, heart and soul, to the plutocracy.

  15. Naw, smiley Cyrus is just the devil’s show dog. Billy ray is the Antichrist. Ted Cruz is a goblin. The auto correct on the mini pad keeps correcting with “smiley”, positive proof beelzebub is slinking around.

  16. You’ve read (sorry no linkee) about that large oil painting in Cruz’s office?

    I think that is the most telling fact in understanding who Cruz is. I also think he’s made more enemies than he has friends with the recent government shutdown and threat of/ attempt at default. He might be getting excessive praise and prolonged ovations from his bagger base , but my guess is that his base is a fixed number that has reached its high water mark of political power
    He shot his wad with his latest episode. He captured press, bagger praise, and some money…but in the big picture he’s alienated over 75% of the American public. In a political sense you might say he prematurely ejaculated on the national stage. Too much to soon.

  17. I’ve often wondered about Dennis Miller. Don’t ever remember him being a fire breathing conservative but…. Listen to his radio show and there you go. Actually, if you listen to his show he seems like his heart’s not in it. Some lazy slams on liberals and what not. Really a pretty lousy show. But, that’s where the money is now.

  18. I normally hate it when I hear people say “oh he wants to be a dictator”, Bush I or II, Clinton, Obama….

    BUT, with Cruz I suspect they may be right. He seems to have been raised with a mission in mind, to “save” the US. I think CUND is absolutely right. Cruz is a “demagogue on a crusade….” He is a scary man who would happily shove those he thinks are lesser than him into a gas chamber and think he’s doing God’s work.

  19. The problem is that they’re all so good at grifting that it’s really difficult to know if their persona is real or not.

    The GOP has used “outraging the base” as a motivational tool for election turnout and as leverage for extracting money from the faithful for years. After getting away with it for several decades, it seems like it has finally caught up to them. After being wound up on a regular basis for years and years, the base finally wants something to be done about it. That’s why they protest over rising taxes even as taxes are dropping, or complain about the deficit as it it shrinking. The reality of a black president was the final straw for them. Words are no longer enough. Frankenstein’s monster has broken free and is no longer under control.

    I’m hoping that what prevents this from turning into some of more the frightening anti-democratic scenarios is the fact that they’ve done such a good job purging intellectuals from the movement. As we just saw during the “shut-down”, they have no long range plans. They’ve spent so many years cultivating an uninformed electorate and demonizing critical thinking that they may not have the ability to plan for the long haul.

  20. First blogged the following in 2009. Glad to see so many others have finally caught up.


    In order to gain the political power they’d enjoyed for decades, Republican moderates and fiscal conservatives made a pact with the devil (faux Christians, bigots, racists, sexists, xenophobes) to achieve the numbers they needed to defeat Democrats. They made a strategic decision to manipulate and exploit the ignorance, fears and hatreds of dysfunctional, malleable and misanthropic voters in order to win elections rather than lose them by being intellectually and morally HONEST.

    Today, those who conspired with the devil are caught between wanting to disassociate themselves from and or casting out the demons they recruited and empowered and the karmic reality that they don’t have the numbers to hold on to or regain power without accepting and “advocating” the immoral bigotries, hypocrisies and corruptions that are dividing and destroying their party.

    The survival of today’s disparate Republican Party is so dependent on extremism that they have no significant power left WITH or WITHOUT the support of America’s increasingly pernicious lunatic fringe.

    The idiom “caught between the devil and the deep blue sea” is appropriate as Republicans are facing the dilemma of choosing between two equally undesirable alternatives that both result in Republican impotence in mainstream American politics. They are suffering the consequences of their treachery.

    Their irresponsible propping up of George W. Bush cost them their credibility, and the malicious dissonance of teabaggers, birthers and deathers exacerbated by the incendiary exhortations of mercenary egomaniacs like Limbaugh and Hannity have cost them their viability.

  21. I remember telling my daughter’s friend that her choice for president, john Edwards, was too pretty, and so would have too many women squealing on him. I will go on record as saying ted Cruz is too greasy to go much further in politics. He may get a shot at a fox news position like Sarah Palin did, but that’s about it.

  22. @Court Jester

    I’m inclined to agree with your assessment, and it is somewhat hopeful.

    Essentially the Republican Machine has a huge grift component – not all of it but I’d say the majority of it is. Money goes to think tanks, comes from angered supporters, people pay each other consulting fees, etc. It’s actually an extraction industry.

    The thing is all the industry knows how to do is extract. Now they’re pretty good at it, but the thing is they’re not supposed to be extractors. The polticians are supposed to help run the country. Instead at best they can exploit parts of it.

    And at some point I think many of them – and I’d put Cruz in this basket – literally only know how to grift. They can’t run a country they can at best run a campaign. Try to imagine the Tea Partiers in congress confronted with the country facing a real crsis; an epidemic disease, a massive natural disaster, a nuclear meltdown, etc. At best they might figure a way to profit off of it.

    So the Republican party sells solutions that won’t work, or just vagueness about solutions. But they literally can’t deliver.

    Now the danger is they use what power they have to keep doing terrible, grifty things. But they’re really incapable of doing anything useful, and thus have to keep yelling and pointing fingers at others because that’s all they’re capable of.

  23. linkee: Ted Cruz: The Distinguished Wacko Bird from Texas

    @lynne: Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
    – Matthew 10:34

  24. “No doubt Michele Bachmann will become a full-time gifter as soon as she’s out of the House.”

    You mean she isn’t now? You might want to re-think that.

    • “You mean she isn’t now? You might want to re-think that.”

      Being in the House puts a crimp on the grift. Ethics rules and all that.

  25. I once saw a map showing locations across the country where criminal fraud cases have been filed by the United States Department of Justice over the previous 20 years. All the little red dots were concentrated by far the most heavily in the Red States, especially the Deep South – with a notably outsized concentration of them in Salt Lake City and Provo.

    Having lived there for many years, I wasn’t surprised in the least.

  26. What people don’t get is that the MOVEMENT CONSERVATIVES, and not just the tea-baggers, wanted the radicals in the house to keep the government closed and force the country into a crash up against the debt limit unless the Dems and Obama surrendered, AND THEY DID NOT SURRENDER.

    Their intention was simply to blame Obama and the Dems for all ensuing economic and political chaos.

    George Will, Pat Buchanan, and numerous others SAID SO OUTRIGHT.

    Among Republicans, a “moderate” today is a conservative as far right as Goldwater, Reagan, and all the others who want to destroy every stitch of progressivism in America, but who does NOT accept the “by any means necessary,” “the end justifies the means,” and “we have no choice; we must save America from the tyranny of the progressives” outlook of the radicals.

    At this moment, those moderates seem to include mostly, if not only, the Christian right and others whose concerns are principally sociocon.

    Republicans who actually did accept our modest social democracy and the progressive idea of government supervision of the economy for the public good ideologically and in principle like Nixon and Eisenhower have long since disappeared.

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