The GOP: From "Permanent Republican Majority" to Permanent Minority Government

The Presidential election of 2000 was Karl Rove's first big play on the national stage. He won the election for Bush through a combination of luck (his opponent and the President he was trying to succeed didn't talk to each other much), skill (hiding the true nature of his candidate very well and also managing to get the media by and large to ignore his "military record"), Ralph Nader's 90,000 votes in Florida, threats of violence (which were carried out by a John Bolton-led team that prevented the Miami-Dade Board of Elections from proceeding with its recount, which if it had been done at that stage would have given the election to Gore), and of course a Supreme Court on which the majority was so tilted Republican that it actually said in their opinion, "our giving the election to Bush" cannot be regarded as setting any precedents.

But once getting his man into the White House, Rove went on to have delusions of grandeur that he could create a permanent Republican Majority, and he spoke about it openly. Not that he would be able to do simply by un-manipulated vote totals, of course. And so, in 2004, first he used the issues of religious determinism on gay marriage (the screen for homophobia) and abortion rights to get the necessary Religious Right voters to the polls.

Second, he set up a fairly sophisticated vote-count cheating system, especially in the key swing state of Ohio (in which the vote there, as well as other states, may well have been manipulated in 2000 as well). The Kerry Campaign saw this coming and actually set aside a $15,000,000 fund to contest the Ohio results if they went against them. And Kerry had promised John Edwards that he would do just that. While on election night it appeared that Kerry had won, lo and behold something odd did happen, and by 10AM the next morning, at which time the full results were hardly certain, for reasons unknown to this very day, Kerry folded; very importantly, see also the extensive work on this subject by Greg Palast).

So, one way or another, Rove won big in 2004. By hook or by crook, he was on his way to the Permanent Republican Majority. Then came 2008. Why didn't McCain/Palin win? Well, they were ahead when Lehman Brothers went under and the Financial Crisis hit. But it did hit and they did take a big hit. It is likely (guesswork here) that Rove and the other Pooh-Bahs figured that while they likely could steal the election again, this time it would be better to have Obama win. Then, counting on him to "look ahead, not backward," and avoid blaming Bush for the mess over and over again, which he should have done, they would a) using the filibuster in the Senate 9whihc they have had for most of Obama's Presidency) be able to prevent him from doing anything meaningful about the mess and b) blame it all on him (which Fox"News" and SavagelyLe-vinitatingO'Rhannibaugh et al still do over-and over again).

Thus, we come to 2012. Rove was now once again set up to manipulate and cheat the vote, especially the latter. But as was made clear by the "Ohio incident" on Fox"News" in one way or another, cheating at least came a cropper. And so Rove's star sank, very quickly. And believe me, it sank not because of his politics, as some would like to claim, but because he had completely failed in 2012.  But was this the end for the GOP? Would it be on the way to its demise? Hardly. It has been replaced by a much more sophisticated strategy: Permanent Republican Minority Government. As the estimable Paul Krugman described it in his column "The Boehner Bunglers," discussing the current government shut-down:

"The federal government is shut down, we're about to hit the debt ceiling (with disastrous economic consequences), and no resolution is in sight. How did this happen? The main answer, which only the most pathologically "balanced" reporting can deny, is the radicalization of the Republican Party. As Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein put it last year in their book, "It's Even Worse Than It Looks," the G.O.P. has become "an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. But there's one more important piece of the story. Conservative leaders are indeed ideologically extreme, but they're also deeply incompetent. So much so, in fact, that the Dunning-Kruger effect — the truly incompetent can't even recognize their own incompetence — reigns supreme."

An excellent, brief (wish I could do that) analysis. But wrong in one regard. What is going on is not the result of incompetence, but rather the result of very careful planning to create Minority Government. The Republican Party has now clearly recognized that a) the demographics of the nation are working against them, while at the same time b) their ability to cover up what their real agenda is, is diminishing.

And so, created by such organizations as the Koch Brothers-plus innocent-sounding American Legislative Exchange Council, Rove's rather crude cheat-the-vote and manipulate-the-voters program has been replaced by:

• Extensive state and Congressional- district re-districting to favour their candidates (otherwise known as Gerrymandering after the early 19th-century Massachusetts Governor who invented it) which itself followed a very-well planned campaign to take over as many state governments as possible in 2010.

• An organized campaign of voter suppression following those takeovers.

• A further continuation of effective and un-precedented GOP use of the filibuster in the Senate, enabled by the composition of the Senate itself, a product of the original protect-the-slave-states structure of the Constitution so that a minority of the electorate can control a significant number of votes in the Senate (e.g., Wyoming has as many votes as California).  Further, because of gerrymandering, in the elections of 2012 the GOP Majority membership in the House actually garnered about 1,000,000 fewer total votes nationally than did the Democratic Minority.

• And now the control of the House of Representatives by a minority of the GOP majority in it through the Koch/Tea Party's "threat-to-primary" strategy, which then, as a result of long-range planning produces the current artificial "fiscal crisis".

• This is all backed up by the clearly political Republican Supreme Court, (which for example struck down the key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act because they considered the "situation in the country had changed," a clearly legislative matter).

It is difficult to see how that Republican Minority Government is going to be replaced any time soon. That is unless the Democratic Party, or a new Progressive Democratic Party, can take on that situation head on. Why is this important? Well, Right-wing minority governments have been known to do some very strange things, especially when they are concerned first and foremost about staying in power in the face of an increasingly politically active voting or potentially-voting majority. See Germany, 1932-35.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------This column was previously published on BuzzFlash@Truthout, .


Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout, he is the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to . Dr. Jonas' latest book is The Political Junkies for Progressive DemocracyThe 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.