14 February 2010

GOP Strategy: Exploit Palinism to Delegitimize Obama

I asked a friend -- a seasoned Republican political operative who must remain anonymous -- to comment on New York Times columnist Frank Rich's recent analysis of the Tea Party phenomenon, Republican faux populism, and its chief spokesperson du jour, Sara Palin (see Rich's Palin's Cunning Sleight of Hand also introduced below).  My friend, call him Republican Operative X, has been very critical of the witty albeit accurate criticisms Rich has used to poke fun at both these subjects as well as their Republican adherents.  Operative X has warned me repeatedly that Rich was being too light hearted about what was a very dangerous movement toward a demagogic strand of populist authoritarianism that could move this country toward the darkness of an "inverted totalitarian" dictatorship.  But this op-ed by Rich is different.  Attached are my friend's reactions to Mr. Rich's latest handiwork and some political prognostications.

A Political Analysis of Inverted Totalitarianism 
by Republican Operative X
February 14, 2010

I suppose Rich gets it now.

1. As I said about 6 months ago, the GOP strategy is to delegitimize Obama and make it impossible to govern -- then sweep into power amid the chaos they they themselves partly created. A "chaos" strategy is the only thing they've got (rather than rational alternative policies), but it's an effective strategy given the intellectual qualities of the American people, effective GOP control of large segments of the media, and the Democrats' propensity to play into their hands.

2. Psychological testing has shown that for people with deeply held but false beliefs, empirical demonstration that their beliefs are false does not cause them to renounce those beliefs; on the contrary, they dig in and believe them more firmly, and invent conspiratorial rationalizations as to why the empirically demonstrated facts are wrong. That's a good profile of the Palinistas.

3. I am already making odds that the GOP will sweep into power, at least in one house of Congress in 2010, and the whole shooting match in 2012. It probably won't be Palin, but the party will be in her image. The Palin GOP will make the Bush GOP look like the Mensa Society.

4. I go back and forth on how radically authoritarian the Bush presidency was: was it sui generis in American history, or did it just incrementally intensify already-evident aspects of cold war and post-cold war America? Conceivably, under the shock of 9/11, a Gore presidency might have adopted similar unilateral and authoritarian measures. And Obama has shown little propensity to roll back the main thrust of Bush's policies. Some people called the Bush administration fascist, but Sheldon Wollin's term "inverted totalitarianism" might be more applicable: intensifying authoritarianism under a fa├žade of normal life. Much of the propaganda function of authoritarian government was done not directly but through corporate intermediaries: advertising, corporate-owned cable "news," etc.  Rather than mobilizing the population a la classic fascism, inverted totalitarianism seeks to make them distracted and politically apathetic: e.g., Bush telling Americans to go out and shop after 9/11.

5. While Bush represented the classically corporate model, the Palin Party will blend in a (faux) populism and a leather-lunged lower middle class white male resentment. A GOP in power in 2018 is going to have more of the trappings of what we think of as traditionally fascist: political witch trials; xenophobia and racism (for reasons having to do with free trade ideology and Eastern elite upbringing, Bush was not xenophobic or racist); political mobilization via the tea parties (or whatever their successors are); and God knows what else.

6. It will finish us off as a great power, for whatever damage the populist side of Palin's GOP does to civil liberties, the social fabric of the country, and foreign relations, the corporate side of the party will be back at their old tricks: they will thoroughly and irrevocably wreck the government's finances, destroy social security, and drain even more of the nation's wealth into the hands of an even more entrenched oligarchy.

    Anyway, that's how I think it could happen.