George W. Bush left us many toxic messes on the policy side. They have been reviewed endlessly by many others and myself. What he left us on the political process side, the current GOP, may prove be even more toxic in the future. Many analysts say that this Party is “searching for its identity.” That is not true. It has an identity, put firmly in place by Karl Rove and his political puppet George W. 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. The “anti-gay marriage” theme sung again and again is just a symbol for the promotion of hatred of the identity group that the German Nazis, once gaining power, went after with a vengeance even before they went after the Jews. And they get away with it. Part of the fault for this lies at the feet of the Democrats, who out of fear for being “labeled” (who knows what, like devoted to the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment?), continue to let them do it unchallenged. Part of it also lies at the feet of the gay and lesbian community that 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, the GOP has become the party that would deny 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 that continues to fall back on the half-measure of “protecting Roe v. Wade.” Part of the fault also lies with the “pro-choice” movement itself, which a) has only fairly recently moved to make abortion-rights a political as well as a legal 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 gender. The criminalization of a religious belief. A major plank of a major party’s platform. Imagine that!
Third, 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. We will likely never know who that might have been (Jim Baker?) and what that “or else” might have been.
Fourth is of course the racism that, always referred to in code, but easily deciphered code, has been at the center of the GOP platform 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.
Fifth, the GOP is the party of the promotion of fear as a principal means of winning elections. Cheney, no shrinking violet he, 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, with the help of the GOP’s Privatized Ministry of Propaganda and their willing servants on cable news can be made 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, the GOP has become the party of the demonization of its opposition. So it is “The Liberals,” now equated with “Socialists” and “Socialism,” who are, so Limbaugh tells us, the cause of all the wrongs in our country. The self-parodying Mark Levin tells us that “Democrats must squashed underfoot like cockroaches,” while Ann Coulter tells us the all liberals are traitors, in a country where the penalty for treason is death. You know, like “The Jews” were the cause of all of Germany’s problems.
And there you have it: homophobia, criminalization of religious belief, election theft, racism, fear-mongering, and demonization of the opposition. It is George W. Bush that cemented in place these Rovian characteristics of the GOP. What a record! What a guy! The Party he left behind has no prospects for change for the foreseeable future. It is a party that in any other developed capitalist country would be regarded as far right-wing and marginal. What is most scary about it is that if it ever does manage to regain power, it will likely rule in such a way that we might even look back on the Bush Era itself with some longing.
This Commentary is based in part on my column “The Most Successful American President: George W. Bush, Part 4: The Bush Legacy,” published on TPJmagazine.us on April 12, 2009.
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.