The ever insightful Paul Krugman recently observed the decidedly unholy alliance of preachers and plutocrats that makes up the heart and soul of the modern Republican Party. He wrote:
“[O]n economic issues the modern Democratic party is what we would once have considered “centrist”, or even center-right. Obama’s Heritage-Foundation-inspired health care plan is to the right of Richard Nixon’s. Nobody with political influence is suggesting a return to pre-Reagan tax rates on the wealthy. Fantasies about Obama as a socialist, redistributionist hater of capitalism bear no more resemblance to reality than fantasies about his birthplace or religion.It should be noted that beginning with Franklin Roosevelt‘s election, in the next fifty years we went from the probably worst economic calamity in our nation’s history to witnessing the greatest growth of income and widest and most equitable distribution of wealth we ever achieved. During this period, both Republicans and Democrats accepted the basic concepts of what became standard economic thought.
Second, today’s Republican party is an alliance between the plutocrats and the preachers, plus some opportunists along for the ride — full stop…. Someday there may emerge another party with the same name standing for a quite different agenda…. But that will take a long time… Finally, it’s true that there are some Republican intellectuals and pundits who seem to be truly open-minded…. But… “seem to be”… they’re professional seemers. When it matters, they can always be counted on — after making a big show of stroking their chins and agonizing — to follow the party line, and reject anything that doesn’t go along with the preacher-plutocrat agenda…. Anyone who imagines that there is any real soul-searching going on is deluding himself or herself.
During the thirty years following Ronald Reagan‘s election on the other hand we have seen our nation tumble from from that period of broad, equitable and high economic growth into the second greatest economic contraction in our history accompanied by the largest divergence of wealth between the fortunate few and the rest of us since the heyday of the Southern plantation economies. During that time, both Republican and Democratic administrations grew to accept the new economic and fiscal paradigm introduced in Reagan Administration.
What caused this change from a seemingly workable beneficent economic consensus to one so manifestly deficient? The only political event that bridges the transition from one paradigm to the other that I can see that makes sense as a cause is the emergence of civil rights movement. Not that it, in itself, engendered a simple reaction by racists who then swept away 50 years of economic agreement. But it did provide an excuse for the rural white southern and working class Northern poor who for the most part benefited (and supported) the New Deal, to make a political alliance with those who hated it in an effort to roll back the threats to their precarious existence that they imagined were provoked the civil rights movement. They were told by the preachers who saw in their fear an opportunity gain political power and by those who stood the most to gain financially by reversing the progressive economic consensus, that that economic consensus was responsible for financing the “welfare state.” That the “welfare state” allowed the civil rights and other progressive movements to threaten their precarious hold on their newly won social and economic stability.
The tragedy for those folks who joined on to the bandwagon, was that while this alliance has been very successful in rolling back the previous economic consensus, it abjectly has failed in halting the ever-expanding tide civil rights and other progressive programs. This result has thrown that wing (that we now call “social conservatives”) of the alliance into ever-increasing paroxysms of insanity even to the point of lashing out against virtually all science and their own self-interest.
The irrationality of this wing has grown so outlandish, that recently some of the more insightful of those most opposed to the old New Deal economic paradigm see in them, their allies, a greater danger to their interests, than all but the most radical wing of their traditional opponents in the Democratic Party. They, these few, seem to be beginning to see in the current Democratic Party, the Reagan economic consensus without the socio-theologic crap.
After all, they may now reason, a few years of diminished expectations is a small price to pay for fattening up the pig again.
Historically, Populism like most mass movements scours up both the worst and the best in a society as it scrapes across its depths. It is prompted by a deep mistrust of a community's most powerful individuals and institutions who, its adherents believe, have misused and mishandled the trust they had been granted, violated the social contract if you will. As the indefatigable realist Machiavelli pointed out; on the broad areas of public policy the general populace is almost always more reliable than the elite.Trenz Pruca