20 January 2015
There goes the neighborhood…
The Know Nothing/Do Nothing 113th Congress may have been noteworthy for their lack of legislative accomplishments but I fear that they may not suffer by comparison to their immediate successors. The intransigence of Know Nothing Republicans is not likely to be tempered by the failed coup of October 2013. The districts that elected the 80 Know Nothing Representatives who held the country hostage will still be safe Republican districts, probably even after the coming mid-term elections.
Yes, Republican gerrymandering played a role in 2012, but those gerrymandered districts were mostly drawn in Republican strongholds anyway. (See Nate Cohn’s take) Our country is self-segregating. Many aging baby boomers are migrating to urban areas for easier access to cultural venues and a less automobile-oriented lifestyle. Overall, the US is becoming more diverse, racially and culturally. But many rural Republican districts are actually becoming “whiter.” Constituents in these homogeneous communities fret about the threat to an American way of life (that never really existed), posed by illegal immigrants, abortion rights, “death panels,” government regulation, and yes, Socialists.
There seems to be a popular perception that the Tea Party sprang up, spontaneously, in 2009, shortly after the election of America’s first black president. But present day social conservatives have much in common with the late Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority back in 1976. The present day Know Nothings put politics just ahead of religion whereas the Moral Majority had it the other way around.
Back in the late ’70s there were pundits who felt that the naifs who made up the Moral Majority were being taken for a ride by the GOP establishment, that they had been seduced by a superficial conservative social agenda and were unwittingly advancing a grander agenda which they didn’t fully understand and couldn’t participate in. Some observers even went so far as to say that, eventually, the Moral Majority constituents would recognize that the political ideologies of the Democrats were more to their liking than those of the Republicans. (So, who was naïve there?)
The mainstream GOP has long and masterfully outmaneuvered the Democrats by exploiting working class, rural, and under educated voters, who realized little benefit from the fiscal policies promoted by the likes of the Koch brothers, Heritage Action, and others who spend big on the extreme right, by appealing to their latent fears and prejudices. Mitt Romney’s classically daft “47%” comment is cited by some as the deciding factor in the 2012 election. However, given the demographics of the people in that 47% group, it’s likely that most of those 47% (the ones who actually voted) voted for Romney anyway, despite his outright disdain for them.