When will Republican voters figure out how badly they’re getting screwed by Republican politicians?
— Desperate workers struggle with soaring rents (courtesy of Republican-donor hedge funds);
— wages have flatlined since Reagan declared war on workers in 1981 while the merely rich have become the morbidly rich;
— Americans pay 10 times as much as Canadians for some drugs because Republicans block any effort to bring competition to that marketplace;
— at the same time Trump and his GOP buddies in the House and Senate borrowed $1.7 trillion to fund a tax giveaway to his billionaire buddies, student debt passed the $1.7 trillion mark…
Yet somehow the “conservative” base voters never seem to figure it out. Why?
Most Republican voters don’t think much about it, but there are two very distinct layers to the GOP. It’s like a pyramid with a capstone at the very top.
The vast base of the pyramid are the white voters who Richard Nixon invited into the party after the Democrats embraced racial equality in 1964/1965 with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
They mostly live in all-white neighborhoods, attend all-white churches, and send their kids to all-white schools. While most aren’t the Confederate-flag-toting “out and open” racists like the folks who showed up at the Capitol on January 6th, they’re nonetheless “uncomfortable” with nonwhite people. It’s their “culture,” they’ll tell you.
At the tippy-top of the pyramid, it’s capstone, are the handful of white billionaires who answered Lewis Powell’s 1971 call to get active and seize control of America’s political institutions.
They’ve funded think tanks in every state and at the federal level, sponsor anti-labor economics and political science professors in our colleges and universities, lever judges into positions all the way up to the Supreme Court, and pour a seemingly unending river of cash into Republican candidates for office.
These elite of the GOP live insular lives in their mansions with servants’ quarters and private security, travel on private jets, and vacation on private islands or their own personal super-yachts. They don’t really care that much about race because it’s not an issue in their daily lives: the people who enter the circle around them and their families are tightly regulated.
These conservative elite often own or are descended from the owners of America’s largest and most profitable businesses. Their issues, therefore, are their own income taxes and the regulation of their companies’ behavior.
They understand that Voltaire was dead serious when he said, “The comfort of the rich depends on an abundant supply of the poor.”
To keep their taxes low they fund movements to privatize public schools, gut “entitlements,” and oppose any sort of “welfare” aid to working class or poor people. To keep their businesses “free of government interference” they pay off politicians and hire judges to destroy unions, kneecap regulations, and spiff “conservative” media celebrities who lionized them as “job creators” and “geniuses.”
You’d think the white base of the GOP would have figured out by now that the Republican elite are more interested in keeping their wages down than having them as neighbors, but the “Makers” of the party have executed a brilliant strategy to keep their own taxes low and profits high while suppressing the “Takers’” wages and benefits among the party’s base.
Truth be told, many in the GOP base were beginning to figure this out by the end of the disastrous presidency of trust-fund-baby George W. Bush.
He’d begun the privatization of Medicare with his Medicare Advantage scam in 2003; lied us into two unnecessary and illegal wars; borrowed around $4 trillion to fund a massive tax cut for his donors, family, and friends; and to top it all off was only in the White House because his brother was governor of Florida and threw 80,000 Black voters off the rolls just months before the 2000 election…and still needed his father’s friends on the Supreme Court to get him into office.
Bush Junior was also the least racist of the Republican presidents since Nixon, and put two Black people at the top of the State Department: many in the white GOP base never forgave him for Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice.
All in all, most Americans — including a substantial margin of Republican voters — were done and over with Bush and the metaphorical horse he rode in on (as much as he wanted to emulate Reagan, Bush is afraid of horses which is why his Texas election-prop “ranch” was an old pig farm).
You’d think the white base of the GOP would have figured out by now that the Republican elite are more interested in keeping their wages down than having them as neighbors.
Combine that dynamic with Barack Obama being one of the most gifted political orators of the 21st century and in 2008 a Black man became President of the United States for the first time in history.
Obama’s ascension to the highest office in the land was a gift to the morbidly rich funders of the GOP: a “Black liberal from Chicago” being president broke the brains of the most reliable part of the GOP base.
The billionaires leaped to the opportunity. Resurrecting a meme from the tobacco industry’s “smoker’s rights” scam of the 1990s, they rolled out the 2009 version of the Tea Party, complete with millions of dollars to pay for buses, staged events, and well-funded PR operations to get it all into the media every day.
While the foreground was “taxed enough already” and “death panels,” the background was “Black man in the White House wants to give your tax dollars to his Black friends.” It was Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” all over again, only in a far more sophisticated form.
There’s a lot of truth to the internet meme: “Republicans have gotten over Trump’s sexual assaults, affairs, idolatry, greed, profanity and vulgarity…but they’ve never gotten over Obama being Black.”
By the end of Obama’s presidency, though, the Tea Party had become a caricature of itself: old white boomers with silly “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” signs wrote their own jokes.
So, with fellow billionaire (at least he said he was) Trump in the White House, the capstone funders of the GOP changed their brand positioning.
They plastered the word “freedom” all over everything, including the caucus they bought and paid for in Congress. They helped launch hundreds of Spanish-language radio stations to spread the gospel of “free markets” and “you, too, can have white privilege” to America’s fastest growing demographic group. Their media operations made billions and aligned themselves with Russia, Hungary, and other straight-white-male-power authoritarian states.
They even continue to financially support politicians who tried to overthrow the government of the United States.
Which brings us back to the question: When will Republican voters wake up to their own oppression at the hands of the GOP’s billionaire funders?”
My bet is that as long as Democrats continue to welcome racial and gender minorities into their party, Republican voters will stay with their nearly-all-white politicians. Particularly people like Steve “David Duke without the baggage” Scalise and Marjorie “Jewish space lasers” Greene.
Will investigations of Hunter Biden’s laptop or the FBI be enough for Republicans to re-energize their base and gain control of all of Congress and the White House by 2024?
Hold my popcorn…
Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of “The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream” (2020); “The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America” (2019); and more than 25 other books in print. This commentary is republished from Common Dreams under a Creative Commons license.
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