Thursday, August 13, 2015

Just What Is It That Holds The Republican Party Together, Anyway?

A fair question, in light of the fact that last week's debate on Fox provided very little insight that would help answer that question.  For me, at least, watching the debate, which was one of the rare times I watch Fox (apart from when I'm trapped in a reception area with a TV tuned to it), I got a rare but real glimpse into an alternative universe, one in which there is absolutely nothing wrong with America that couldn't be cured by getting rid of the Democrats, and any sign that they had ever existed.

For, as noted here, whatever the 2016 Republican presidential field has in number of bodies, it's balance out by the ideas.  Or lack thereof.  If ideas offer nourishment for our brains and souls, the debate had nothing to offer but the endless prospect of starvation for all of us.  The rhetoric of all of the candidates--even the so-called serious "establishment" candidates--was largely a series of bumper stickers, despite surprisingly tougher questioning than I would have expected from Fox-supplied moderators.  And, when the candidates weren't resorting to bumper stickers, they were resorting to personal attacks--not only against each other, but also between themselves and the moderators.  You need only mention the names "Donald Trump" and "Megyn Kelly" to understand what I mean.

In short, the Republican primary field has, right at the start, devolved into a personality contest, one with only two guideposts:  (a) who has the most compelling personal biography, and (b) who can otherwise sound like the meanest S.O.B. on the planet.  But that is not the same thing as saying that electing one of these losers to the most powerful position on the planet wouldn't have consequences. It would have very serious consequences indeed.

Specifically, WAR.

A Republican President with no policy or programmatic argument for his or her leadership would find, in all probability, that a Republican Congress would be more than happy to fill the vacuum their intellectual flatulence created.  And, while we have seen that the current Republican Congress can agree amongst its members on very little, war is something that, in spite of the Iraqi fiasco, brings them together very powerfully.  For proof of this, one need look no further than the current congressional debate over the Iran nuclear treaty negotiated by the Obama Administration, and currently before both houses for an ultimate vote on final approval.

This is a treaty that allows us to inspect the Iranian nuclear development program, to ensure against the development by Iran of weapons-grade nuclear material.  It been negotiated in conjunction with our allies, to ensure broad international support.  It has been endorsed by military leaders from Israel, the nation whose interests would be most threatened by Iranian possession of a nuclear weapon.  It would open up avenues of trade and other forms of international exchange that would expose the Iranian people to influences other than their thought-controlling theocracy.

And, worst of all from the Republican perspective, it would deprived them of their favorite political plaything--Iran as a pariah nation, outwardly hostile to the American public, yet open to covert influence from moneyed sources in the American conservative movement.  The delayed release of our embassy hostages in 1980 and the Iran-Contra scandal in 1985 illustrate the destructive nature of this latter influence.  Let there be no doubt:  our troubled relationship with Iran, born out of our Cold War manipulation of its government beginning in the 1950s, was the launching pad for the so-called "Reagan Revolution," and therefore the single most unifying force within the Republican Party and the larger conservative movement.

Which is why, in all probability, this treaty will become binding only after Obama vetoes its expected rejection by congressional Republican majorities.  This is currently expected to happen, and to withstand any attempt at a veto override.  But, in its own way, it does illustrate the irrationality of the Republican mindset on this issue.  Their supposed rationale for that mindset is a deep-seated concern for the security of Israel--a nation that already possesses between 100 to 250 nuclear weapons and allows NO inspection of its nuclear program.  My apologies for not putting "rationale" in quotes earlier.

In raw political terms, Iran and the prospect of war with it, is the glue that holds the GOP together.  It is its economic policy (guns over butter), its foreign policy (taking out the "bad guys"), and its social policy (war against the "heathens").  Take away the prospect of that war, and the Republican Party ceases to be a meaningful political force.

Which is why I can't wait for that veto, and the beginning of the end of our long national nightmare (thank you, Jerry Ford, a better Republican than any in the current lot).  It can't come soon enough.

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