Back in 2001, when the economy was good, the tech bubble yet to burst, and 9/11 months away, the radical Republicans managed to win an election against an incumbent. Admittedly it was with the strong help of the Courts and some fairly corrupt moves on the part of the Florida Secretary of State, but the end result was the same, they won the White House and controlled the House and Senate, by narrow margins, but still in control.
During the next six years they would be in near absolute control of the legislative and Executive Branch. They would even extend their majorities in the 2002 elections. The radical Right had everything they had always wanted. They could control what came up for a vote, when or if there were hearings, and be sure that nearly everything they brought to a vote would be passed. It allowed two rounds of massive tax cuts, even though the second was right smack in the middle of the 9/11 caused recession. The House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert even said that he would bring nothing to the floor of the House if the majority of the majority did not support it.
This level of power allowed wars to be started, kept any serious investigation of allegations of torture and outing of CIA covert agents away from Congress and basically gave the radical Republicans free reign. Karl Rove was loudly and proudly talking about a "permanent Republican majority" (history shows that he was counting on using the Executive Branch departments to help, illegally, elect more Republicans).
For those on the Right it was a heady time. They could destroy pop stars for voicing disagreements with the President and the message of "with us or against us" was internalized by the base to mean anyone in this nation that did not agree with the policies of the President or Republican Congress was not really a loyal American.
As the policies and policy failures of the radical Republican majority began to became obvious; as the war in Iraq bogged down at a truly enormous cost in lives and money most of the public started to move away form the Republicans. Still within the party the base was being told not to worry; the high prophet of this movement, Karl Rove boasted that he had "the math" that showed 2006 would be another banner year for the radical Republican Party.
The reality was very different and the Democrats took back both the House and Senate in that cycle. It should have been a wake up call for the radical Republicans, but the downside effects of an echo chamber were starting to show. Those who proposed change and moderation of the Republican message were drubbed out of the conversation. Radical Conservatism never fails, only people fail it. The message inside the party was not one of realignment but redoubled commitment to radical conservative positions.
The base were told the party could be ascendant again, they just had to clap harder, 2008 would be the year they took things back! So ignoring all the factors around them the radical Republicans ran a far right campaign, complete with a reasonably good looking Religious Right governor to restart the radical Right.
The defeat, and a resounding defeat at that, put a good crack in the mental armor of those on the radical Right. They did not learn the lesson that they should, namely that their "tax cuts forever" and "no regulation of business" policies had pushed the nation off a cliff and the voting public knew it. Nope, they clung to the idea that radical conservatism never fails and went back to pushing that line.
The problem was the nation did not want what they were selling. In short order the Democrats passed a huge stimulus package (though sadly not huge enough), they passed laws about work and moved the biggest reform of the health insurance industry in history through the Congress.
It is that crack in the echo chamber that let a little reality in which I think is causing this "give me my country back" meme. They are probably experiencing a level of cognitive dissonance. They have been programmed to believe that they are not just correct on policy but are morally correct in holding these ideas. The fact that the nation as a whole does not agree with them and their preferred world view has to be really painful. This contradiction, between what they have been taught and what they are used to being able to get done and the new reality is making them crazed.
So, why is it that this meme of taking back or pleading for "their" country so persistent? It seems pretty clear; they were told that they had taken over the nation in 2000 and 2002 and 2004. As members of a authoritarian movement, they believed what they were told. It is hard to blame them; they could just look at the Congress and the White House and see how much control their party had. Then everything changed. Democrats took over and took over in a big way. The Democrats started working on their agenda and while there was ferment in the radical Right, most of the rest of the nation was okay with the changes and policies of the Democrats. To those who believed they had taken over the nation it has to appear like it was taken away from them. No one likes when something of theirs is taken away.
The problem, of course, is that it was never their nation to start with. There was always a large opposition to the radical Republican agenda. When the outcomes of this agenda became clear, the nation threw the bums out. The other issue is that even being out of power the United States is still the radical Right’s nation as much as it is anyone’s. They are still part of the electorate, even when they don’t have the power to dictate the agenda.
From this foundation, the forces of bigotry have built up the idea the President is not a citizen, that there is socialist conspiracy to overthrow our nation. The combination of fear and hate has propelled a false idea to the center of radical Republican thinking. The factors of the economy and the delaying tactics of the radical Senate Republicans might allow some gains this fall, it has also kept the base from dealing with the fact that Republican ideas are not mainstream no matter how many people in that party think they are.
This meme will continue until the radical Republicans implode or manage to take a strong majority back. In the name of partisanship the radical Republicans have managed to split the nation and turn a segment of it against the rest. Those who believe they have lost the United States are now open to further radicalization. The rise of right wing violence and nationalist groups is a direct result of feeding the meme of illegitimate government to a base who is most unlikely to question the dogma or look for countervailing views.
Thinking that the government is illegitimate and believing that you are part of a small group who are the only true citizens is a volatile mix that can easily lead to large scale violence. Here is a fervent wish that it does not reach that critical mass. It is easy to say "we will win at any cost" but the fact is that when you say that you lose control of what that cost may be, not just for your party but for your nation as well.
The floor is yours.