Writing in The New York Post, Charles Hurt noted that conservative Republicans fear John McCain will make a left turn if elected. "He will," they suspect, "return to his lifelong positions as soft on illegal immigration, skeptical of tax cuts and favoring strong federal control over things like campaign financing."
Wow. God forbid that we might stop the insanity of tax cuts for millionaires when we're facing trillions in debt, largely a result of reckless Republican borrowing from countries like China and Saudi Arabia. God forbid that we might have someone "soft" on illegal immigration (that is, someone uneasy about rounding up and deporting 11 million people and turning American into a police state at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars). And God forbid that we might attempt to address a campaign finance system that is utterly corrupt and corrupting.
Later, McCain was booed at the Conservative Political Action Conference for not being outrageously narrow-minded and homogenous enough. Many in the right wing say they would rather have - gasp! - Hillary Clinton in the White house than allow for the possibility that any nuance whatsoever exists in the Republican Party. Some commentators, in a nice display of their idea of patriotism, said that after Hillary destroys the country, Republicans can win indefinitely after that, so it won't be so bad. Hmm. You mean after she gets us into an optional war, runs up trillions in debt and sits by idly smirking while eco-systems and coastlines face extinction?
Oh wait, that's what the last guy did.
But all of this isn't surprising coming from the right-wing extremists. Though they claim otherwise, their positions are rarely about right and wrong. They're about what wins them elections. In fact, many of the right's policies are directly contrary to the national interest and they hurt America. But in some way, the Republican Party usually benefits from them because the policy either a) hurts Democrats or b) allows the wealthiest to line their own pockets at the people's expense.
It's sad that we have a large portion of a political party that will choose their narrow worldview over the national interest. And, given the ideology of the most venal among them, candidates must vow to sacrifice the future of America in order to win their support. Why? Well, because they're fighting liberals and Democrats!
This became crashingly apparent, if it wasn't already, from the "farewell" speech of Mitt Romney. In disgraceful display of counterfeit patriotism, Romney claimed he was withdrawing from the race for the good of America because of the horrible things that might happen if a Democrat wins in November. Setting aside the pious, petty and obviously phony rationale - everyone knows Romney dropped out because he was such a bogus purveyor of mixed messages that he couldn't even beat a guy who's loathed by the very people that Romney genuflects before - his speech amounted to little more than an egregious display of anti-American partisanship. Oh, but that's what these people love. It's all about hating liberals and Democrats, you see, not about Republican policies that have overextended the nation's military, ignored the health of millions of children and mortgaged the future to China.
Romney is among the nastiest of those right-wingers who employ what I call the SOL strategy - suppress, obstruct and lie.
It goes like this:
1) Suppress the vote because in fair elections with large turnouts, Republicans can't win. Here's a dirty little secret: most people don't agree with policies that hurt America - even if they do hurt gays or the poor. So, under this part of the strategy, we see such frauds as "voter i.d. cards" that affect only the elderly or the poor - those who are mostly likely to vote Democratic - and that solve a problem that doesn't exist. Or, we see the purging of voter roles (Florida 2000) that remove perfectly eligible voters.
2) Obstruct the passage of legislation that may actually improve the quality of people's lives, even if it is supported by the vast majority of voters. (See SCHIP.) This strategy allows them to argue that "government doesn't work," another lie that allows outsourcing to private industry which almost always proves more costly, less efficient and less accountable than government programs. Sure, there's waste in government; but don't you think there's waste, fraud, greed and criminal activity in private industry? Take a look at the outsourcing for war profiteers in Iraq. The Republicans actually love big government when it allows them to line their own pockets - just don't ask any questions about where the money goes.
3) Lie about their own message; lie about the Democrats'. Romney is a dissembling machine in this area - look at his goodbye speech. He loves to say Democrats want to wave the "white flag of surrender" in Iraq and in the war on terror. Never mind that no Democrat has ever advocated anything of the kind; rather, the fact is, the war on terror has been severely damaged by the war in Iraq - ask any national security specialist, including those in the Bush administration. Republicans employ this strategy on a whole host of issues, from gay marriage to gun control to health care to flag burning. For example, the Republican candidates keep saying Democratic candidates want "socialized medicine." Not even close. They say the Democrats are for gay marriage. Um, no. Some Democrats may support civil unions, but most Democratic candidates do not support gay marriage. Guess who signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to ignore gay marriages sanctioned in other states? (Hint: it was another person named Clinton.) Another favorite whopper - "Democrats want to take away your guns!" Nope. While some may want to ban, say, assault weapons in schools, nearly all mainstream Democratic candidates support the use of firearms for hunting or protection. Just recently I heard the right-wing's favorite theory about the Clinton campaign - that it was trying to appeal to the racist Democrats in order to stop Sen. Barack Obama. Um, actually, if there was any racial undertone there, it was about trying to make the point that Obama might have problems in the general election because of the racist right-wingers. All of these are classic propaganda devices - create false issues and accuse your opponent of being extreme to hide your own extremism. (When was the last time you saw somebody burn a flag?)
Sigh. One has to admit that the strategy has been successful - successful in electing Republicans. Never mind that America's economy, armed forces, health care, natural resources, educational system, deficits and foreign alliances have all been made worse over the last seven years. That doesn't matter, you see; they believe the country must be destroyed in order to save it - from the Democrats. Guy Reel is an assistant professor of mass communication at Winthrop University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org