The Republican Debate: My Take
The fault lines cracking through the national Republican coalition of interests bundled together with rusty bailing wire are beginning to show. The R presidential debates have made this abundantly clear: candidate A is courting the White Male, candidate B is drilling down to the Angry Unemployed White Southern Male, another is seeking to reassure the Religious Right, another is catering to the hopes of working women while others are relying on the warmed-over appeals to the whole haystack of interests such as the ancient mantra against big gummint and high taxes or the glorification (violins, please) of The Private Sector and the Small Businesses of America. But the testiness of the candidates with one another is a powerful sign that some sectors of the GOP no longer believe their interests are compatible with one another, while others no longer believe the Republican Party is addressing their needs adequately. These cracks in the coalition are also behind the nastiness of the fight over the Speakership of the House of Representatives, so it runs deeper than merely playful pre-primary presidential politics
One problem is that the old rhetorical formulas that worked so well for Rs in the Reagan Era (which has lasted until now) are losing their appeal among those groups whose boats have not been lifted by the tide of new money. This is particularly true of the Angry White Male, a loser in the net-worth sweepstakes, who is losing his faith the Rs will protect him in a crunch even if they do approve of his family values. And to make matters worse, Bernie Sanders is gathering steam on the other side by telling Angry White Males the problem is the Failure to Trickle Down, stupid, a very bipartisan failure that still has not fully registered in mainstream Democratic Party circles where slurping liquor with corporate lobbyists at fundraisers is part of the political game. But it is also true of other sectors of the G.O.P., such as the blue-collar or service worker everywhere, who has seen the good jobs disappear into the whirlwind of corporate flight to China, Mexico, and the Cayman Islands, only to see them replaced by part-time jobs with no benefits.
That this unease in the Republican base is dangerous, requiring more drastic language than the comfortable slogans of the past, is most scandalously, shockingly, outrageously slapped in our faces by the most famous billionaire of our times, Donald Trump. Trump's persistent appeal to one in four Republicans, in spite of, no, because of, his embrace of politically taboo subjects, has shaken up the other candidates, as well as Fox News and other crusty arbiters of political wisdom, and our own rhetorical comfort zones as well. We are asked by Trump to imagine, yes, a real wall, not the hypocritical rickety virtual fence of current
border enforcement policy, with real deportations. We are asked to imagine the forcing of US corporations to return
to the US and pay taxes--true blasphemy after two decades of bipartisan clucking about the inevitability of globalization. We are asked to imagine legalizing drugs, not
for the Libertarian purity of pointy-headed intellectuals like Rand Paul, but to give the government a piece of the
action, too. Trump imagines a powerful government to do all of this; and he imagines presiding under a larger tent than the one currently housing the GOP. Only now do we begin to see a glimmer of the kind of rhetoric the GOP will cobble together in the 2016 presidential election. Public pay heed. Trump is telling us the Golden Age of Ronald Reagan is over: get ready for the next stage of political combat between the people and the bipartisan coalition of interests that have seized control of our institutions of governance in recent decade.
The 2016 presidential election is the first serious test of the strength of that bipartisan coalition. By hook and by crook it presided over the most massive distribution of wealth and income to the wealthy in over a century, with barely a peep of resistance from any quarter. That there are cracks in the partisan coalitions that comprise each major political party is the first sign resistance may be brewing. Barack Obama became President in part because he suggested strongly he could change the tide. His failure to even try to deliver, coupled with the impotence of a dysfunctional Congress drunk with the flow of big money, is what underlies the strength of Bernie Sanders and the nastiness of the GOP presidential campaign so far.
Nothing can be more fundamental about the role of government in our lives than the distribution of about six trillion taxed dollars, and the effect taxation has on different sectors of society. Increasingly over the past third of a century national tax policy has closed loopholes on the middle class while opening up large holes for the famous One Percent. Now that Bernie has placed this hitherto taboo subject front and center on the political agenda, and Trump's candidacy appears more and more to be a New York City billionaire's response to Bernie, it will be interesting to see whether Trump's vision has made a difference in the way the GOP deals with bread and butter issues like taxation. From the looks of it, very little has changed. Ted Cruz hopes to win over the One Percent Super Pacs by giving them more tax breaks than the other candidates. Trump is kinder to the middle class than the rest, but still manages to shovel a lot more up the ladder. This, at least, is the view of Kevin Drum (click here) and Mother Jones: Drum summarizes his take on the proposals as follows: