[Marxism] So much for the growing conservatism of the American masses

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Sun Nov 6 06:18:12 MST 2005

It hardly seems only a year ago, in the wake of Bush's re-election, that the
US media was filled with commentary about the growing political conservatism
and religiousity of the American masses, plunging liberals and not a small
part of the radical left into despair. The Democratic party leadership
characteristically concluded that it could only compete politically if it
adapted more fully to the presumed conservative tide running through
American society. The Bush administration thought it was impregnable so long
as it did not break faith with its shock troops on the religious
fundamentalist right of the party.

A year later, this turn to the right by the Republicans and the copycat
Democrats is in shambles, having succeeded only in alienating a broad
majority of Americans who have a "low regard" for both parties, according to
a new Washington Post-ABC News poll released today. While Iraq and Katrina
have  exposed the ineptness of Bush and his handlers and have dramatically
shaken both public and elite confidence in the administration's ability to
govern, deteriorating living standards and the threat to existing social
programs have again shown themselves to be the enduring underlying issues on
which all governments flounder in capitalist democracies. A Washington Post
column earlier this week by the liberal commentator Howard Meyerson traces
the effect of these developments on the Republican party base, and the
resulting split at the top propelled by the nervous congressional and
corporate wings of the party.

The Revolt Of the Moderates
By Harold Meyerson
Washington Post
Thursday, November 3, 2005; A21

Amid all the self-inflicted disasters that befell the Bush White House last
week, it was easy to miss the fact that the president had to cave to a group
of disgruntled Republicans who had not made trouble for him before.

I don't mean the conservatives in revolt over Harriet Miers. I mean the
moderates in revolt over Bush's suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act, the law
that mandates payment of prevailing wages on federally funded construction
projects. In an apparent attempt to ensure that nobody rebuilding the
Katrina-damaged Gulf Coast made much more than minimum wage, Bush had
suspended the 1931 statute. But last week a group of 35 moderate Republican
members of Congress -- hailing disproportionately from Northeast and Midwest
states where building-trades unions still have political clout -- told Andy
Card that they couldn't support Bush's edict. With a congressional vote on
overturning Bush's order scheduled for next week, the president backed down.

Now, I haven't done the requisite Googling, but I don't think the words
"Republican moderates" and "revolt" have appeared together in many sentences
over the past four years. As the president and their Republican
congressional colleagues merrily undermined the New Deal and environmental
protections, threatened reproductive rights, and bungled a war about as
badly as a war can be bungled, Republican moderates stayed massively mute.
That they suddenly regained their voice last week not only attests to the
president's weakness but also calls into question the notion that there's
nothing wrong with the Republicans that rallying their base in a clear
ideological conflict won't fix. That, of course, is the argument that
relieved conservatives are advancing now that Bush has nominated Judge
Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court. And it couldn't be farther from the

In fact, both the Republican president and the Republican Congress are
tanking in the polls because the public understands their ideology all too
well. Bush's approval rating hovers at an anemic 40 percent, and he
currently gets good marks from just 35 percent of independents. Up on
Capitol Hill, the polls show that congressional Democrats have opened about
a 10-point lead over their Republican counterparts in the public's
preference, and that's not really because of anything -- except opposing the
privatization of Social Security -- that the Democrats have done.

It's precisely that fight over Social Security that belies the notion that
the Republicans will right themselves by continuing their decades-long
rightward galumph. Suppose, for a moment, that the campaign to privatize
America's social retirement program were still alive, that the legislation
was poised for a vote in both houses. Then look at the headlines about
private pensions going belly up, the magazine cover stories about the end of
secure retirement in America. Can anyone seriously argue that in the current
economy, this debate over first principles would be anything but a disaster
for the Republicans? They dropped this campaign because it so clearly
exposed the yawning gap between their ideological preferences and the actual
needs of actual Americans.

And it's not just Social Security. With incomes stagnating, energy costs
soaring and the war in Iraq taking an ever greater toll with an ever less
discernible strategic objective, the Republicans this year have concentrated
on the Terri Schiavo case; on their continual campaign to cut taxes chiefly
on the rich; and now on their efforts to cut back on Medicaid, Medicare,
food stamps and the like to offset the costs of Katrina. Not surprisingly, a
recent survey by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg found that just 38
percent of respondents called the Republicans "in touch" -- a decline of 12
points since he asked that question in March.

But of course the Republicans are in touch. They're in touch with Grover
Norquist's weekly conclave of right-wing groups, where all manner of
ideological campaigns get hatched. They're in touch with their think tanks,
which spent two decades developing an unworkable plan to privatize Social
Security -- never mind that they finally rolled it out at the very moment
that private-sector retirement plans were in collapse. They're so in touch
with their base, Harriet Miers notwithstanding, that nearly everyone outside
their base is abandoning them.

Which makes the Republican moderates understandably nervous. Life is unfair,
and it's their seats, more than the more secure ones of their hard-right
colleagues, that are being added to the Democrats' list of districts to
contest in next year's elections. And who knows? Maybe courage, or judgment,
is contagious. Having stood up to the president on Davis-Bacon and lived to
tell the tale, they might just tell their colleagues who want to cut back on
medical assistance to the poor to take a hike. Over in the Senate, they
might even reject a Supreme Court nominee who could imperil a woman's right
to reproductive choice. Because one thing is certain: Whatever ails the
Republican Party, it's not that it's insufficiently right-wing.


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