Paul Krugman Warns About The Right-Wing’s Hold On GOP

by on Monday, November 9, 2009 at 2:26 pm in Politics

Krugman makes some interesting points in his NY Times column about the Right-Wing’s new hold over the GOP.

First, he addresses the anti-health care reform rally last week in front of our nation’s capitol, and some of the now-all-too-common ‘grotesque’ visuals and rhetoric (i.e. “large signs showing piles of bodies at Dachau with the caption ‘National Socialist Healthcare.'”):

The key thing to understand about that rally is that it wasn’t a fringe event. It was sponsored by the House Republican leadership — in fact, it was officially billed as a G.O.P. press conference. Senior lawmakers were in attendance, and apparently had no problem with the tone of the proceedings. […]

What all this shows is that the G.O.P. has been taken over by the people it used to exploit.

He gives some historic background on the GOP’s courtship of the far-right:

With the rise of Ronald Reagan: Republican politicians began to win elections in part by catering to the passions of the angry right.

Until recently, however, that catering mostly took the form of empty symbolism. Once elections were won, the issues that fired up the base almost always took a back seat to the economic concerns of the elite.

But something snapped last year. Conservatives had long believed that history was on their side, so the G.O.P. establishment could, in effect, urge hard-right activists to wait just a little longer: once the party consolidated its hold on power, they’d get what they wanted. After the Democratic sweep, however, extremists could no longer be fobbed off with promises of future glory.

Furthermore, the loss of both Congress and the White House left a power vacuum in a party accustomed to top-down management. At this point Newt Gingrich is what passes for a sober, reasonable elder statesman of the G.O.P. And he has no authority: Republican voters ignored his call to support a relatively moderate, electable candidate in New York’s special Congressional election.

Real power in the party rests, instead, with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin (who at this point is more a media figure than a conventional politician). Because these people aren’t interested in actually governing, they feed the base’s frenzy instead of trying to curb or channel it. So all the old restraints are gone.

Krugman warns that the party of Beck and Limbaugh could make some serious gains in the midterm election, if only because Obama has been unable to stop the country’s economic bleeding (unemployment has now reached a 26-year high of 10.2%).  He cautions what this could mean:

if Tea Party Republicans do win big next year, what has already happened in California could happen at the national level. In California, the G.O.P. has essentially shrunk down to a rump party with no interest in actually governing — but that rump remains big enough to prevent anyone else from dealing with the state’s fiscal crisis. If this happens to America as a whole, as it all too easily could, the country could become effectively ungovernable in the midst of an ongoing economic disaster.

It sort of goes without saying, that if an ideological group as evil as the Nazis could come into power during extremely adverse economic times, who’s to say we won’t end up with an ever-increasing number of scary, fear mongering, destructive politicians of our own during this economic slide?  Probably a good rule-of-thumb is to never take the far-right lightly …


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