Over the past several columns I have discussed the successes of George Bush in terms of substantive outcomes. They would have been enough for the Georgites, I’m sure. But some of them can be and are being reversed by the Obama Administration.
Thus many Bush policies, in the foreign and domestic arenas, from war and its threat as the primary instrument of foreign policy, to the deindustrialization of the US with the replacement of industrial capitalism by finance capitalism, to the total degradation of the environment for the sole purpose of enriching the extractive industries in the short-term, and so on and so forth as we have detailed in some detail in recent weeks, can be and to some extent are being moderated by President Obama. What may be more important for the country in the long run is the political process “achievements” of George Bush and his minions. For these apply to the GOP, which remains a major political force in our nation. It is now licking its wounds. Many analysts say that it is “searching for its identity.” That is not true. It has an identity.
It has been developing this identity since Goldwater was its Presidential standard-bearer. That developing identity underwent something of a detour under Nixon (who, for all his faults, liked diplomacy and thought that government had some level of social responsibility, for the environment and in health services, for example) but its modern pathway was established by Reagan and, in succession, Gingrich, DeLay, Bush, Cheney and Rove have cemented it in place. As long as the party remains intact and remains one of the two principal US parties, if indeed Obama fails (and the GOP is doing everything it can to attempt to ensure that outcome) they could come roaring back to power. So what is the nature of the GOP political processes that have been cemented in place by George Bush?
First of all, the GOP has become the only major political party in the non-Muslim world for which a principal plank is homophobia. And it gets away with it. The “anti-gay marriage” platform plank is just a symbol for homophobia. It’s amazing to think that that is the case. Part of the fault for this lies at the feet of the Democrats, who out of fear for being “labeled” (who knows what?) continue to let them do it unchallenged. Part of it also lies at the feet of the gay and lesbian community which numbers among some its wealthiest members Republicans, who simply will not allow it to raise as an issue the fact that the GOP runs on homophobia.
Second of all, the GOP has become the party that runs on the denial of the freedom of religious belief as to when life begins. And gets away with it. Part of the fault likewise lies at the feet of the Democratic Party which continues to fall back on the half-measure of protecting Roe v. Wade. But part of the fault also lies with the “pro-choice” movement, which a) was very late historically to make abortion-rights a political rather than a legalistic issue, b) continues to frame the issue in terms of a “woman’s right to choose,” nothing broader, c) has only half-heartedly and relatively lately made abortion the health issue that it truly is, and d) has never attacked the Republicans on the fact that a central platform plank of theirs is the criminalization of the belief that life beings at the time of viability, for everyone, regardless of sex.
Third of all, the GOP has become, especially under Cheney, the party that holds that the Constitution can be destroyed if it is in power and says, on its own authority, that there are one or more reasons for doing so. So, they still defend torture and warrantless wiretapping and Presidential “signing statements” that arrogate law-breaking power to the President (as long as he or she is one of theirs, of course) and unilateral abrogation of treaties. This extremely dangerous GOP governmental-process plank may well come under direct attack from this Administration, once certain new high-level Department of Justice personnel are in place. But that remains to be seen. In the meantime, the GOP is allowed to get away with having such a process plank in its platform, generally unchallenged on the political level.
Fourth of all, still on political process, and a successful outcome of the Bush Presidency, the GOP has become the party of election theft, which of course is how they got hold of the Presidency to begin with. Karl Rove was their master propaganda master, but he was also their master election thief. There are indications that he may have been maneuvering even to attempt to steal this last election, until someone told him to cease and desist with an obvious “or else” thrown in, although we will likely never know who that might have been (?Jim Baker) and what that “or else” might have been. Funny, isn’t it, how Rove’s point man for election computer manipulation was killed in a light plane crash while on his way to testify about certain matters in the Ohio election. But you can bet your bottom dollar that they ain’t done on this one yet.
Fifth of all, they have developed their Privatized Ministry of Propaganda (PMoP) to a very high level. It ranges from the Fox”News”Channel to the O’RHannibaugh Republican Scream Machine and everything in between. This will forever be a clear and present danger to the Republic, regardless of whether the Fairness Doctrine is ever reinstated. That the radio and television airwaves are the property of the general public, not the private networks that use them, is reason enough to restore it, but so far President Obama seems not to have the stomach for this one.
Sixth of all is of course the racism that has been at the center of the GOP since Nixon developed the Southern Strategy in 1968. It is muted now and they even have an African-American national chairman (who knows for how long, but they’ve got one). But for the time-being at least they have become a White/Southern regional party and they will continue to have to appeal to that constituency.
Seventh, the GOP is the party of the promotion of fear as a principal means of winning elections. Cheney has famously been at it again, with a vengeance. (They may also be the party of false-flag operations, but that is another story.) Again, if, with their assistance, Obama indeed fulfills the spoken wish of the Limbaughites and the unspoken wish of almost every other Republican leader and fails, or can be made with the help of the PMoP and their willing servants on cable news to appear to have failed, the GOP will be rolling out fear as a major electoral tool, perhaps as soon as 2010, certainly by 2012.
Finally, on the process side of the ledger, the GOP is stuck in the process mode of politics: “cut taxes” and “shrink government” is what they are all about all the time. That these are the policies that have directly to the economic disaster we now face is irrelevant to the GOP, viz. their recent “budget” proposal. But, David Brooks’ and David Frum’s pleadings to the contrary notwithstanding, given the economic realities, there is no way they can come up with any alternatives to what President Obama is pursuing with vigor that has any substance to it. Thus the constant “cuttaxesshrinkgovernment” noise, the constant of the Bush Administration, is all that we will hear.
The modern GOP is thus cemented into the Bush mold in terms of political process. It has no prospects for change for the foreseeable future. And that is the most important legacy that George Bush has left behind: a party that in any other developed capitalist country would be regard as far right-wing and which, if it ever does manage to regain power, will rule in such a way that we might even look back on the Bush Era with some longing.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in both the academic and the lay literature on health policy, health and wellness, and athletics. On politics Dr. Jonas is a www.TPJmagazine.us Contributing Author; a regular Columnist for the webmagazine Buzz Flash; a Special Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online; a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC; a regular contributor to Thomas Paine’s Corner; and a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad.