The Republican Party: a white picket fence; mom in the kitchen; an apple pie cooling on the open windowpane. Or: a barbed-wire fence; a Ford F-150 pickup truck with swinging brass testicles; a russet-faced man in a trucker hat sitting in front of the livestock feedstore who bends to spit Skoal-sodden saliva into a rusting Folgers can.
The Republican Party: a white picket fence; mom in the kitchen; an apple pie cooling on the open windowpane.
Or: a barbed-wire fence; a Ford F-150 pickup truck with swinging brass testicles; a russet-faced man in a trucker hat sitting in front of the livestock feedstore who bends to spit Skoal-sodden saliva into a rusting Folgers can.
Or: a bottle of single malt whiskey on a silver tray with four cut-crystal glasses; the prospect of material self-fulfillment in this world; an Armani-suited 40-something checking his blue silk necktie’s half-Windsor knot around his white, starched collar in the rearview mirror of a Mercedes-Benz executive sedan while parked before the metropolitan branch of the U.S. Chamber
The Grand Old Party is all of these things, encompassing a diversity of American-ness commensurate to its self-proclaimed grandness.
The party of Lincoln has been a fantastically successful brand. Since the birth of the modern two-party system following the Civil War, Republicans have handily whipped the Democrats in the presidential pissing contest by a tally of 18 to 10. Their advocacy of free trade, low taxes and a my-way-or-we-will-rain-down-the-nuclear-holocaust-highway foreign policy has done much to make America the prosperous and universally feared nation that it is today.
But how has the GOP achieved this success? What is the common thread stitching together these diverging patches of upstanding conservatism?
As the above examples illustrate, the Republicans’ vitality rests on a deep geological strata of whiteness.
Theirs is the comfortable, swollen-waistline whiteness of American suburbia. They have the reliable votes of a diffused base: the rugged-individualist frontier palefaces. They hearken to the jaundiced Protestant values of honesty, hard work and individual responsibility. And they funnel this pallid energy into the doughy hands of an elite class of money-shufflers who have the eminently white privilege of producing nothing yet owning everything.
Despite this vitality, the national Republican leadership suddenly started whistling a different tune on federal immigration reform.
Only a few months ago, the party solidly opposed granting legal status to those who illegally entered the U.S., but it’s since done a 180 on this issue. When President Barack Obama declared his support for a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants during his recent State of the Union address, he drew a standing ovation from legislators on each side of the aisle.
I repeat: When Obama said words, Republicans stood up and cheered.
Prominent conservative stalwarts ranging from spray-tanned establishment cipher Rep. John Boehner to far-right Austrian school of economics worshipper Sen. Rand Paul have spoken favorably on immigration reform, and the party even marshaled a very thirsty freshman senator from Florida named Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, to give their rebuttal to the
This turnaround—with unknown origins—induced whiplash. Is not the GOP the party of principle that would sooner see melting polar ice flood the sodomite streets of lower Manhattan than submit to sapping global competitiveness heresies as carbon cap-and-trade?
This latest hypocrisy stems from the Republicans’ dismal future electoral prospects in a steadily brown-ifying America. Obama’s trouncing of Mitt Romney last November came in no small part from the support of 70 percent of the Hispanic electorate.
In recognition of their anti-immigrant bull-headedness alienating many Hispanic voters, the GOP took a strategic step toward building a right-wing rainbow coalition.
But what will become of the party of the titans of industry when one of these giants-among-men finds himself sitting in a deck lounger drinking highballs at the country club with the same individual who once skimmed dead leaves from his pool?
Will the steely, entrepreneurial, crush-my-enemies spirit of the ideal Republican specimen survive when all notions of racial hierarchy melt away and he sees each man as his brother?
How can the Republicans continue to rally unwitting rural voters and the white working class to their side with resplendent images of mom and apple pie when these are supplanted by a mama in kerchief and honeyed sopapillas?
If the Republican Party has ever stood for anything, it’s the resolutely American conviction that we all need a flushed, greying-at-the-temples father figure with a tie clip to boss us around. If the Republicans forfeit this conviction for mushy egalitarianism, they will go the way of the Whigs, Free Soilers, Anti-Masonics, Know-Nothings and Bull Moose Progressives.