I have been writing about what I call the “Rightward Imperative” of the Republican Party for quite some time, going back to the 1990s). As I said in 2010, Ronald Reagan initiated the historical stream of GOP-led right-wing reaction which we now see in front of us, every day. They do have real policies which have underlain the Party’s programs since that time. As is well-known, the GOP represents major sectors of the US economy: the extractive/fossil-fuel industries, the military industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, corporate agriculture, the “health” insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and of course corporate and “investment” finance.
But they could, and hardly can, run on a platform of “let the oil and coal companies do whatever they want to,” “we want the rich to get richer, donchaknow,” “we want to export as much American capital overseas where it can make larger profits than it can here, so we really want to de-industrialize our country,” “we don’t care about the health of the American people but we do care about the profits of the health care industry,” “we would like to have permanent war if we can get it,” “we want to convert the US economy from industrial capitalism to finance capitalism,” and so on and so forth. As is well-known their real policies have included: further tax cuts for the rich; creating ever-widening income and wealth gaps; reducing environmental, transportation, workplace, finance, and etc. regulation to the greatest degree possible; further facilitating the export of capital; promoting the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War economy; the abolition of Social Security and the tattered remains of the “welfare” system, etc.
And so for years to bring voters to their side they have cloaked their real policy positions under the camouflage of: the standard, generally meaningless “lower taxes, smaller government” mantra, and the promotion of prejudice: racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, creationism, sexual repression, etc. But done in a supposedly veiled way, by using the so- called “dog whistles.” They allow the GOP for the most part not to talk too much about what they are really about. And when they do, with the abundance of dog whistles about, their noise means that GOP voters hardly notice what their policies really mean. But, at the same time, for individual candidates to attract attention, they have to whistle up the dogs ever-more sharply, moving ever-further to the Right. Which leads to what I call “the Rightward Imperative.” In 1996, Bob Dole made sure that no one could get to his Right. Now, he wouldn’t even be in the conversation.But something interesting has happened in 2016. In their urgency to get ever-rightward, certain Republicans have broken the rules. No longer whistling, they are now speaking (actually, in the case of Donald Trump, yelling) the real stuff. Trump of course is the prime example. Not that the immigration policy that the far-right “Republican base” has not been the same for years –The Wall (to replace the walls already in place, I guess), no “amnesty,” the end of “anchor babyism” (with no shame about using such a putrid phrase) and for some sort of mass deportation. (Actually, the Repubs.’ biggest “immigration problem” is that someday it might be solved, depriving them of a sure-fire issue for appealing to that base.) The only difference is that Trump, following the Rightward Imperative, is now saying these things right out loud, and the “base” has been flocking to him. (That is until the Dominionist, racist-in-dark-skin, possibly least-informed Presidential candidate ever, right down to the base’s level of knowledge, Carson — apparently a great micro-carpenter who apparently doesn’t know much about medicine, e.g., on vaccination, on supplements, and on how pregnancies really happen — came along. But that’s another story.)
With his “birtherism” dog whistle of a couple of years ago, Trump showed that he was a racist, but back then it was still a dog whistle. And now, more and more, as the other candidates pursue the nomination, they have to follow the Rightward Imperative to get further to the Right than the next guy or gal. Except that this time around, they have to be increasingly open about it. So where does that get you? Well it gets Rubio to not having much of a real chance, not because of his Senate absenteeism or his messy personal finances, but because he moved away from a somewhat sensible position on the immigration question to some semblance of the Hard Right one that most of the other candidates have adopted. Fiorina has already had her little flare in the polls, but that resulted from open lie-telling: Planned Parenthood dissected live fetuses. Cruz has become very open about his Obama-centric racism. (By the way, if Cruz or some reasonable facsimile of him doesn’t win the Presidency this time around, just wait for 2020. The 2016 version will have sounded like a “moderate.”) The dog-whistles are being put away, because in following the Rightward Imperative, they think that they don’t need them anymore.
But, and it’s a big BUT, they are running into some trouble on this. Cue up the CNBC Republican debate. CNBC ain’t liberal. (I do watch it on a regular basis when I am getting-up/working-out in the morning.) But yes, the hosts did ask some tough questions. But NOT as the resultant GOP whining would make you believe, on anything that the candidates in question had not themselves said, stood for, or associated themselves with.
And so when they got caught up on one or more of their positions that they would really not like have to answer questions on before a national audience, they do what Repubs. have always done: duck the questions and complain of media-bias. What they want to do, and are so often successful in doing, is get the discussion off the subject of what their policies really are and onto the “yes, it is/no it isn’t” one of so-called “media bias.” That goes from the farthest right of the current crop to the supposed calm, “reasonable,” Mr. Public (“I’m simply for lower taxes and smaller government”) Republican, Morning Joe Scarborough, who has really gotten heavy into moaning about the situation.
Of course. Why should a potential President have to answer any questions that might come from non-same-party opponents, either of him/herself or his/her party, that might possibly be in the national interest? So then comes the proposal, from several GOP quarters, that future Repub., debate moderators should be Republicans. One moderator trio that has been mentioned is Limbaugh, Hannity, and Levin. And in all of this is of course the total denial that the GOP has its own 24/7 Propaganda/Echo Chamber Channel. (Yes, it is that even though Megyn Kelly of Fox”News’” went after Trump that first time. But that was because way back then Roger Ailes thought that it would be a good idea to get rid of Trump early. He was breaking too many dog-whistles).And so, the Rightward Imperative has worked well for the Republican Party, up to now. It happens that some smart heads inside their leadership and donor class have realized that perhaps it’s starting to not work so well, when some really tough questions are asked in this endless series of “debates.” Why? Because when they follow the Rightward Imperative, openly, they distance themselves further and further away for the general electorate. And now all the whistling in the world won’t bring all those horses back to the barn.
Well, what can bring this up short and what can be used to reveal to that general electorate what the Republican Party is really about if they remove themselves from whatever (not-so-strong) glare certain members of the media are casting on them? Why the other half of the Duopoly of course. In the course of their debates, certain GOP candidates, especially Fiorina (who is really running for the Vice-Presidential nomination) try to burnish their Presidential credentials by showing “how hard they can go after Hillary.” After all, it’s a good way to avoid answering embarrassing questions. How about Bernie and Hillary going after the Repubs. to reveal what they truly are: in their real policies, in the Rightward Imperative, and in the dog-whistle/cover stuff? Now that would make for a real change in U.S. politics. Why Bernie might even stop calling the Republican Senators his “colleagues.” But, don’t hold your breath.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Senior Editor, Politics, Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post, he is: a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement; a “Trusted Author” for Op-Ed News.com; a contributor to the “Writing for Godot” section of Reader Supported News; and a contributor to From The G-Man. He is the Editorial Director and a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine.us. Further, he is an occasional Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter, BuzzFlash Commentary, and Dandelion Salad. Dr. Jonas’ latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.