As the internal divisions in the right wing continue to deepen over the recent budget deal struck between Republican Representative Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray, the ardent fringe elements of the Koch Industries subsidiary TeaParty.org have apparently declared war on everyone and everything not dedicated to a complete and total destruction of the US Government.
In their recent post, the Tea Party declares “It’s War!” claiming that “zero” Senate Republicans support the Paul Ryan budget deal. Now, aside from the fact that they and their corporate interest backers came out swinging against the deal prior to information on it even being released, the stunning assumptions of political insight which they claim to maintain (in between bouts of Infowars conspiracy theory propagandizing and calls to arm children with guns) regarding the disposition of every Senate Republican, speaks to more than merely the inner divisions which seem ripe to destroy much of American conservatism.
Traditionally, modern American conservatism, despite all of its often very bad ideas, has been able to take and maintain power through the strength of unity and clever marketing to their base. Whether one was raised in the shadow of the cold war, with the orthodox all-or-nothing options of strict communism or unbridled corporate capitalism being presented as the only options in regards to the society one was to live in, or merely one who for whatever reason, repulsed by the topical aspects and image of liberalism, the adoption of conservative principles and ideas, draped consistently in the stars and stripes and carrying a cross on it’s shoulder, has served to unify and rally the right wing base.
However as with any large institution involving money, power and influence, certain structural players and elements involved inevitably rose to prominence from within. In the case of the Republican party, the American right wing and more recently the Tea Party, these players and elements are almost universally corporate interests. So why then, with so many elected officials dancing to the tune of the corporate fife and drum, would such a division be threatening to tear this once unstoppable power house to pieces?
The answer is as it always is: Greed.
From the Koch Brothers, to the Carlyle Group, from Wall Street to K-Street, the corporate institutions which have propped up the “pro-business,” anti-worker, hardline conservative positions of endless tax reduction, the elimination of public services and the concept that money equal speech, have found what some might regard as boundless success over the past several decades.
Their influence, as well as that of social conservatives who give the nebulous and rhetorical “pro-America” message that the GOP and Tea Party campaign on a base emotional appeal to the throngs of flag waving supporters, has continued to grow over the years, to the point where now, it would appear it has become a “Frankenstein’s monster”.
But why the infighting? Why at the height of such influence and victory, would the mechanisms and players which achieved such victory destroy themselves while their sickest dreams of deregulation, de-taxation and evangelical Christian dominionism are finally being realized?
Firstly, back to greed. For some enough is never enough. While the efforts to make the country “business friendly” once focused on tax havens, simple deregulation and the liability shields offered by corporate charters, such has now evolved (if one dare use such a term) into an all out effort to deconstruct government as an institution.
Tax havens have turned into tax eliminations. Deregulation is now meant to give companies total freedom to do as they please regardless of societal cost and the liability shields of corporate charters have now grown into outright protected personhood status.
Power is as natural a force in the world as air, fire or water. Like these, it exists, flows and operates under rules and conditions of its environment. Dig an irrigation channel from a river, the water will flow as you desire. Contain the combustion of a fire and you create an engine effectively. Likewise the same is true with power. Government, law and bureaucracy serve as the valves and blast furnaces for the force that is power and the end affect to the controlling of such depends on who takes control of such.
Without government, without the rule of civil law, power is derived as it was in primitive times from the strength of wealth and force. While corporate heads and lobbyists and their armies of public relations and marketing gurus work tirelessly to convince the public that what they do is in the public’s best interest, the reality is (as evidenced by Tea Party and Libertarian policy proposals, demands and reactions to even the most lukewarm of compromises) that they seek not to reform government and law, but to eliminate it so as to leave themselves and their companies as the central power brokers in the country.
The division here comes by way of simple reality. As hesitant as this writer is to offer any sort of praise to Paul Ryan or establishment Republicans, they, following the government shutdown which cost the country billions in revenue, have woken up somewhat to the reality that the United States needs a functioning civil government. This is something that is antithetical to the corporate sector who seeks unbridled power and the ability to maximize profit at any and all costs. With the record setting levels of such that they have been enjoying recently, their continued efforts to push for more are not merely a competitive capitalist spirit but rather the outright, obsessive greed which has overtaken those at the helms of such bodies.
Beyond this though, there is another root to the division and infighting, which is an underlying reality that has been festering within the right wing for a very long time.
This is the reality of False Partnership.
Though the corporate heads and their political operatives may very well maintain personal religious or philosophical devotions to the stated causes of the Republican coalitions which have brought them so much power, the end goals between the various factions are often as far apart as they are individually from their progressive and liberal counterparts. A Christian theocracy for example does not necessarily lend itself well to a “free” market focused economy.
Should a consumer base which is apt to be sold on sexually provocative or morally ambiguous product or service demand such, a free market (as such is promoted by free market proponents) will by default work to provide them with such. To moral purists who see the rule of law as a means to enforce their particular moral or ethical perspectives on the rest of society, such simply does not work to promote such an order.
Likewise, Ayn Rand Libertarian orthodoxy and those who advocate for a minimalist state and voluntary society are often the first to stand up against evangelical dominionists, claiming (rather rightfully) that moral enforcement by way of statutory law violates the very principles of a free society.
And while both the corporate establishment and underpinned Libertarian movement both often come into conflict with the Christian right, so do they often do so with each other. What the corporate conservative set might call robust participation in public policy by corporate citizens, many Libertarians and Libertarian enthusiasts will denounce as “crony capitalism.” In this, while the corporate establishment looks to the remaining shell of civil government as a body through which to enforce and bolster their claims to power, the Libertarian sees it as further statism and evidence of the inherent corrupt nature of the state and government as a whole.
These divisions are but examples of a plethora of such which have been quietly boiling beneath the surface of conservative unity and now, as such pro-corporate, anti-public ideals find themselves at the pinnacle of their power, the competing factions which make up the coalition which brought it there are all beginning to fight for their stake and claim to the helm of the conservative ship.
The adoption, promotion and surreptitious co-option of these marginally sympathetic factions by the established mainstream, are not becoming their undoing as each insists that they represent the heart and soul of the American right.
As they (the divisions) continue to evolve and as the Republican Party begins to experience that which the Democratic Party has endured for decades, many (this author included) have begun to theorize about the future of American partisanship. As a nation with only two substantial political parties, both serving as broad and general “big tents” under which various factions cluster and coalesce, the increasing sophistication of both the issues in play and the voting public at large is proving to be increasingly challenging to the partisan establishments.
With big labor and other institutional progressive social interest groups all vying for their claim to the “American left” and the influence peddlers and factions mentioned above doing the same for the “right,” the false and bipolar nature of our politics as they are presented are beginning to undo themselves.
With seemingly endless calls for a “third party option” from the left, right, top, bottom and center, the frustrations expressed by grassroots movements like Occupy towards the partisan embodiment of the left and astro-turf reactionaries such as the Tea Party towards others in the professional right would appear to be boiling over.
And with elements from both “sides” now both beginning to speak louder and louder as to the corrosive affects that big money has, both in public policy as well as the broader scope of popular politics, this author cannot help but wonder what the future holds, both in terms of unity and division throughout the political spectrum.