America has a wingnut infestation.
Here’s the news just from today: a new PPP poll says that only 27 percent of Republicans believe that Obama loves America, a Pennsylvania Republican says that veterans who support climate change legislation are traitors, another Republican said of his sportsman’s caucus “We hunt liberal, tree-hugging Democrats, although it does seem like a waste of good ammunition!“, and champagne corks popped at GOP headquarters at 1240 today, as the Dow temporarily dipped below 10,000. Hooray, Americans are getting hurt!
And the GOP is sustaining terrible damage because of the wingnuts: new polls say that only 20 percent of Americans support the GOP – the lowest score in 26 years -- and only 19 percent have confidence in the GOP’s ability to made the right decisions for our future, which suggests that Obama will have a ridiculously easy time persuading Americans he can outperform the GOP. Polling also shows that in generic congressional matchups give the Dems a 51-39 edge, the same kind of margin they enjoyed just before the historic ass-kickings in 2006 and 2008.
Historically wingnuts have accomplished little in our governmental history. The few times they stumble over a good idea, their effort to pursue that ideal is so clumsy that one of the two major parties swipes their innovations for themselves. The only time a fringe movement truly caught fire was when the Republican party was born in the 1800s, and the GOP enjoyed ideal circumstances – they had the old Whig party to build on, they had a hot issue, and both the Democratic party and the nation it ruled were coming apart at the seams, creating a staggering power vacuum.
At other times, wingnuts have achieved little. In the earlier days small parties based on bigotry, like the Anti-Masons and the Know-Nothings, were laughed out of town, while the parties depending on one issue (Prohibition) or one man (Teddy Roosevelt, prefiguring Ross Perot) were short-lived. Their signal achievement in the 20th century came when their southern wing split off en masse from the Democratic party and joined the GOP in the 20 years following the Democratic effort to pass civil rights legislation.
FDR had many wingnut enemies like Father Coughlin, Huey Long and the bonus army, but they all embarrassed themselves and slid into oblivion. FDR’s real troubles were with establishment Republicans and conservative Democrats who impeded more of his legislative program than many people remember today. Clinton had the same problem: the wingnut attacks against him mostly rolled off his back, but his establishment opponents in both parties blocked or threatened initiatives such as Hillarycare and his stimulus package (Obama is having the same trouble with the same sort of alliance between Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats in the Senate).
But could the wingnuts finally get on the scoreboard? Find another Ross Perot who isn’t quite so obviously insane and build a movement?
One thing we know we will see in 2010: mainstream Republicans are being challenged by archconservative wingnuts for various electoral seats, either in primary challenges or in third-party challenges. Already, this is causing the Republicans big trouble, since the wingnuts are siphoning off money and voters, and forcing Republican candidates to tack to the right instead of the left, which makes it harder to pick up the independents they need for the general election, and so forth. One group in particular, the Club For Growth, is specifically targeting “RINO’s” for extinction – they are a key reason why Arlen Specter defected to the Democratic party. But so far the CFG is trying to fix the GOP from within.
What if the far right wing makes this a permanent, free-standing revolution? What if they work full-time to attack the apostate mainstream Republican party in hopes of conquering the conservative half of the country?
This would be analogous, somewhat, to what Nader did to Gore in 2000: Nader reasoned that it was worthwhile to run for president because he saw little difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, and because Nader was on the ballot in Florida, we ended up with eight years of Bush. By the same token, a split in the conservative movement could elect a lot of Democrats for a long time.
Let’s look at the tools which the wingnuts have to work with: they include the Reform Party and its adherents, the Constitution Party, the Libertarian Party, the Boston Tea Party, the Club For Growth, and of course the teabaggers.
What if one person could unite all these groups, or at least persuade a number of them to all nominate him, for President or another high office? What platform would he use, to unite them all?
First, the fear factor: this group’s base would begin to build in the South, so start with their centuries-old fear of uppity black folks (and brown ones too), and harp on crime, guns and immigration, as well as affirmative action. Also add the neocon fear and anger over the performance of both major parties on Afghanistan, Iran and al-Qa’ida. This is one reason why a retired general might serve as a party nominee, perhaps in the VP slot the way they did with Curtis LeMay (the original model for the insane Jack Ripper in Doctor Strangelove).
Second, attack anything Obama does, and keep the birther flame alive. Also hit hard on Obama’s effort against unemployment if it’s still a problem. Gotta have a skeery enemy, and a black man with the 82nd Airborne at his command scores right up there.
Third, the Big Gummint meme. The ages-old anti-revenooer attitude down south now provides fertile ground to yell and scream about gummint spending, gummint regulation (an issue which also attracts business people with deep pockets), the climate change “hoax” (ditto), and federal stimulus efforts. You can also scoop up more wingnuts with the tax issue, the Tenth Amendment, the health reform effort and the death panels, government spying, and fair trade.
Fourth, scoop up the religious right on gays and abortion: there are still millions of them and they know how to organize and spend money. Give them lip service on their seemingly endless list of grievances against the horrors of the modern world – hit them with school vouchers, school prayer, intelligent design, putting the Commandments in courtrooms, stem cell research, cloning, civil unions, HPV shots, contraception, sex education, faith-based initiatives, banning books, assisted suicide. Reagan never kept his promises to this crowd, and they still genuflect whenever they hear His Name. Men of faith indeed.
As you can see, it is platform perfect for the wingnuts – almost entirely rooted in fear, hate and ignorance. With a platform like that, the Chief Wingnut would win over the little third parties, the Club For Growth, the social conservatives, the neocons, the denizens of Corporate America who have deep pockets and loathe all government activity, virtually the entire conservative base (not dissimilar from Hitler’s coalition-building efforts in the 1930s – he even won over the socialists whom he subsequently sent to the ovens). Such a wingnut movement would leave the Republicans in tatters, forcing the GOP to choose between (a) going to the right to fight for their old base, which would doom them in any fight with Democrats in general elections, or (b) tacking to the left and fighting Rahm Emanuel and the Blue Dogs for control over the few centrists America has left, having abandoned the whole GOP base – and its platform, and its philosophy -- to the wingnut party.
The main problem the Wingnut Party would have is spreading its reach beyond the South. The West would afford some fertile ground, depending on how they play the immigration issue, but the North and East would require some true ingenuity. Fiscal conservatism, guns and fear.
Another issue is finding that elusive, charismatic leader. Obama has set the bar pretty high, and even the Republican party is having trouble finding credible national leaders – a wingnut movement would have even more trouble.
Perhaps it could be Pat Buchanan, who led the Reform party once already in a presidential election.
Today Buchanan was hollering on World Net Daily that “traditional” Americans, i.e. whites, are losing THEIR nation, that America’s politicians are media aren’t facing the “reality” that is white America, that whites are angry about jobs outsourced to nonwhites, about tax money spent on nonwhites, about nonwhite aliens, about a nonwhite affirmative-action president which causes whites to distrust their institutions….He did everything but scream “NIGGER” at the top of his lungs.
And here’s an ominous addendum: Buchanan is crowing about a new species of wingnuts, the “Oath Keepers”. These guys are either current or former military and police who have pledged to defend the Constitution even to the point of disobeying orders, in order to “stop dictatorship”. They have been overtly seeking the armed people they need for the revolution.