Posted on October 9th, 2013
A theory: the rise of the “conservative movement” has, at least for the past couple decades, not been about winning at the national level at all. It’s been about losing effectively.
If the GOP can be an effective obstructionist party at the national level, while pushing coordinated, but still piecemeal, legislation at the state level across the country, they can achieve two things:
First, they can push their agenda from the ground up rather from the top down while stymieing the agenda of their opponents.
Second, they can maintain the facade of being the aggrieved minority, standing up against the tyranny of the Democratic majority and president Obama.
The winner here is, of course, the conservative media machine. They make money and gain viewers (or listeners) regardless of who happens to be in charge. In some ways, they may even benefit more from a losing GOP—which raises an important question. Does the conservative media machine, which is the heart of the conservative movement, have conservatives’ best interests at heart?
I don’t believe so. What Fox News and talk radio have achieved is a gridlock for the GOP which requires moderate, electable Republicans to pander to the right-wing, adopt the language of modern conservatism and all of its hostility and grievances, running the primary gauntlet as far right as possible and dashing hopes at actually winning.
Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, utilize gerrymandering and dubious voting laws to attempt to win House seats, which has so far been effective. But even with the House under GOP control, the party can only ever hope to be a minority. Which, if my theory is correct, fits nicely with the overarching plan.
A combination of obstructionism at the federal level and hard-right lawmaking at the state level means the Democratic agenda can be effectively thwarted, but it doesn’t mean the conservative agenda can ever truly be realized. Instead of the prudent, budget-minded government Republicans want in theory, we have a government shutdown. We have an inefficient, badly run government.
To be fair, this isn’t so different than when the GOP is actually in power in Washington. Republicans, at least since Ronald Reagan, have been big spenders while cutting taxes. The budget under Republicans has been a joke. Fiscal prudence is sacrificed on the altar of a sort of class warfare against the poor and middle class that prioritizes tax cuts above all else. Trickle-down economics is a farce, of course, but this is what passes as fiscal conservatism these days.
But that’s not the point. The GOP exists to serve the conservative movement now, and the conservative movement exists to make money.