Those Rich, Crazy Americans
Reacting to the contrast between Karl Rove‘s purported campaign strategy of emphasizing “terrorism and turnout” and Brad DeLong‘s hope that the GOP will begin “building pragmatic technocratic policy coalitions from the center outward,” Kevin Drum responds,
Over the past 30 years the Republican Party has gone from Gerald Ford to Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to Dick Cheney — i.e., from conservative to reactionary to crazy to batshit insane — and Rove’s “two T’s” are further evidence that they have no intention of rowing this back. They’re obviously getting more desperate in the face of possible electoral defeat this November, but other than that they’re just doubling down on the same old strategy of cultural bloodletting in the service of economic plutocracy.
And, yet, these guys continue to win elections. Clearly, they are either the most clever marketers of all time or the plurality of Americans are now batshit insane and filthy stinking rich.
Gerald Ford: Narrowly lost “re”-election despite Watergate, having pardoned a man who was at the time more hated than Hitler, a lousy economy with runaway inflation, and being perhaps the least suitable major party nominee for the television age ever. The man who beat him, Jimmy Carter, was much more socially conservative, wearing his born-again Christianity on his sleeve.
Ronald Reagan: Won two landslide victories, 44 states to 6+DC and 49 states to 1+DC. Given the high misery index in 1980, it certainly wasn’t the plutocrats. Clearly, then, a reactionary wave had spread across the land.
Newt Gingrich: Engineered the first Republican takeover of the House in 42 years, with a net gain of 54 seats. The GOP still controls the House 12 years later. The economy rebounded mightily during the Reagan years and was doing pretty well during the early Clinton years, too. Probably, then, it was a combination of the rise of the plutocracy and general craziness that explains this.
Dick Cheney really hasn’t been the face of the GOP, since he’s the backup QB. Still, he was part of a ticket that narrowly won an Electoral College victory six years ago and again two years ago. Probably, the dot.com bubble bursting weakened the hold of the plutocracy, what with them having so much of their money in stocks.
Interestingly, the two national elections that the GOP has lost during this period were with comparatively moderate (or, on the Drum scale, “conservative to reactionary”) candidates, George H.W. Bush (who got beaten by the more conservative Reagan in the 1980 primaries and then ably served as his Veep for eight years before winning a term of his own) and Bob Dole (Ford’s erstwhile running mate). How much of that was a reflection Bill Clinton’s political gifts and how much of it was a temporary waning of the nation’s plutocratic impulse and thirst for cultural bloodletting, it’s hard to say.