Thursday, June 19, 2014

The party of hate far from “dead” after Cantor primary loss

Virginia Republican Rep. Eric Cantor held the powerful office of House Majority Leader, but that wasn’t enough to prevent his primary loss to someone who was an unknown only a few months ago. Although Cantor was infamous for blocking the “grand bargain” between the president and Speaker of the House John Boehner in regard to a long-term deficit reduction plan, and backing repeated useless votes against the Affordable Care Act and other administration policies, he was a “reliable” voter for nearly everything that a Republican majority voted for in the House of Representatives—and providing for it the reputation as one of the most “do-nothing” Congresses in history. 

But this was not extreme enough for the voters of his district. He made the mistake of voting for aid for Hurricane Sandy victims, and then raising the debt ceiling; showing actual “leadership” on a national level was anathema to Tea Party voters in his district. But far worse was the rumor that he supported some kind of immigration reform, which even a Fox News poll suggested that most Americans now support, and the Republicans were in the process of announcing their own “comprehensive” reform package.

So who is David Brat, who as the new Tea Party favorite handily defeated Cantor in the Republican primary, which Cantor with 79 percent of the vote in 2012? He is an economics professor of a supposed “libertarian” bent at Randolph-Macon College, which is a “liberal arts” school of a more conservative bent. According to one rating website, he is “humorous” and “smart” to some students, to others he is “unclear” and frequently “off subject.” Brat barely put up much of a campaign, spending very little money, and rarely making an appearance in public to meet-and-greet voters. His small government “platform” wasn’t anything new, and his support of “Main Street” over “Wall Street” was little more than cute words. His main “theme” was opposition to immigration reform, which he claimed was the principle difference between him and Cantor. Brat claims that the U.S. should simply stop supporting oppressive Latin American regimes; it is a little late for that.

Interestingly, Brat’s opponent in November will be another Randolph-Macon professor, Jack Trammell; his political views are reportedly a mystery to even his students, and most observers say he has no chance to win in the heavily Republican district.

Since it is clear that feeding the monster that is race and racism was Brat’s ticket to victory, what will it take to convince people that the Tea Party mentality is a no more a viable national political ideology as was others of its paranoia-feeding ilk, dating back to the so-called “American” or Know Nothing Party? These voters don’t want their representatives to solve problems, but “formulate” policy that only worsens them merely, because of their hate.

Why is it that every position these people hold, their racial attitudes are part of the equation? “Big government” is always equated with “helping” minorities over whites; they seem to want to maintain the vast economic and social disparities, because that is the (white) American way. The military and law enforcement budgets must be preserved to maintain this “balance,” but help to the less fortunate—usually identified with minorities—must be “drowned in a bathtub.” Opposition to the ACA is predicated on the belief that some people don’t “deserve” the same medical care as others. Is it a total lack of common human decency? Is it greed? Is it a failure to discern the consequences of actions? Is it blatant hypocrisy? Is it the ignorance of blind hatred of anything “liberal”? 

In an op-ed in the New York Times, “research suggests that primary voters are not more ideologically extreme than those who vote for the same party in general elections,” and that “while primary voters are more interested in politics than general election voters are, this heightened level of interest does not translate into systematically different political views within each party.” The “conventional wisdom” is that incumbents “fear primary voters” more so than general election voters, and this is a false notions based on a study by herself and other political scientists who allegedly found that there is little ideological difference between the two.

The problem with this supposition—which on its face suggests that the Republican Party is one big Tea Party—is that merely having “similar” political views does not mean they all share similarly extreme, inflexible views that are closed to any compromise. The people who voted for Brat are focused on a single issue, not the “big picture.” Their hate governed their reason; not all Republicans “hate,” and those were the ones who apparently sat out the primary election because few actually thought that Cantor would actually lose. 

And so as long as the media continues to ignores the racial element that drives the extreme right, and is only exposed when freelancers crash Tea Party events, we will see more of this. And who created this “monster”? Republicans themselves, who fueled the atmosphere of paranoia and scapegoating against “brown-skinned” people for political “gain.”  

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