As this is the first Monday since “Spring Forward” for me, and will also be for any US-based reader, I’ll keep this post especially short and to the point. Jeb Bush has in a simultaneously hilarious and terrifying fashion, declared that Obama based his reelection campaign on dividing the country – primarily on the basis of class. This was, purportedly, unfair because Republicans understand and sympathize with US voters from all backgrounds.
That’s rich coming from the brother of the Republican President who was installed in office after every Republican justice on the Supreme Court voted to discontinue vote counting and inspections in Florida and simply declare him the winner. Likewise, while in office, that same close relative continually made statements to the rest of government and the population of the US and the world in the vein of- either “you are with us, or you are with the terrorists“.
Those acts had antecedents though, in the form of decades of such rhetoric from prominent Republicans. Remember how they used to talk about how great it would be if the US became a de facto one-party state? Remember the Moral Majority and how it spent the 1970’s and 1980’s advocating for the rolling back of newly gained rights for non-Christians, women, and queer people? Before that was the Southern Strategy, when Republicans prioritized the racial views of White southerners over the opinions and rights of others.
These are more than distant facts though – these are the political forces that have shaped and continue to shape the Republican Party. There’s a reason that in the past presidential election, it was the Republican candidate who took credit for expanding opportunities for women when scores of female activists had actually pushed for it and did all of the work in creating the system that he then used. Isn’t it divisive and belittling how he erased their work from his account of what happened? Besides that, there’s also a two word phrase that Romney popularized during the primary: “self deportation“, which is the concept of making life so miserable for undocumented people that they would leave the United States (how’s that for divisive?).
Perhaps that’s why there were no states that Romney won that Bush hadn’t won in 2000 or 2004. There’s precisely two that he picked up from Obama in 2008. In all, 21 of the 23 states that Romney won had been won by the Republican in every one of those three elections. That is not an indication of a broad, inclusive political brand or presidential campaign.
(In this map which blends the percentage of the vote that was Republican [red] or Democratic [blue] along with population [color saturation], you can clearly see how inclusive the Republican brand is. From here.)
But this runs deeper than Romney – the entire party is culpable. As I pointed out last week, the only way Republicans can capitalized on Obama’s disastrous drone policies is by being concerned that the differentiation between targets who are US citizens in the US and all others isn’t strong enough. In a very literal sense, their grandstanding on the issue is based on worrying that there’s not enough legal division between citizens and non-citizens. Likewise, the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) has barred a group of gay activist Republicans from even sponsoring their event (cooties!) for the second year in a row (and in previous years, they were barred from various forms of participation while allowed to attend).
All signs point towards exclusion and division having become core Republican values.