Remember Newt Gingrich telling racist South Carolinans how he would go to the NAACP and tell them to stop being "satisfied with food stamps"?
The Republican brand is in a state of collapse – over 50 percent of voters give the Republican Party a cool, negative rating. The presidential race and the congressional battles are interacting with each other to drive down their lead candidate, the party, and perceptions of the congressional Republicans.
In the idealized version of the GOP primary, establishment Republicans would curry favor with their Wall Street pals while sending coded dog whistles to their foot soldiers—on race, immigration, reproductive freedoms, etc. Those dog whistles would motivate the GOP base without revealing their true radical nature to the American mainstream. It was a genius system while it worked, one that saw no parallel on the progressive side.
But the days of the dog whistle are over. The election of President Barack Obama created an entire cottage industry trying to prove how un-American and Kenyan he supposedly is, while Republicans like Rep. Pete Hoekstra run blatantly anti-Asian ads. Republicans laugh about electrocuting immigrants who will cut off your head in the desert if they're not stopped, while passing laws openly hostile to brown people. Attacks on homosexuals have escalated to new hysterical highs as society becomes more tolerant and open to equality.
But really, if there was one dog whistle I thought would persist, it was their hostility toward contraception. I mean, they've always hated it. This nonsense is nothing new. As I wrote in American Taliban:
While the laws have changed, and society long ago moved on, the American Taliban clings to its outmoded efforts to eliminate contraceptives. “Sex is a powerful drive, and for most of human history it was firmly linked to marriage and childbearing,” reads the official abstinence policy for Focus on the Family. “Only relatively recently has the act of sex commonly been divorced from marriage and procreation. Modern contraceptive inventions have given many an exaggerated sense of safety and prompted more people than ever before to move sexual expression outside the marriage boundary.” Of course, people have had sex for pleasure long before contraception became available, a cardinal sin for this gang. Alan Keyes, on his MSNBC show “Alan Keyes is Making Sense”, speaking about sexual abuse in the Catholic church, said on April 2002, “We don't need more voices that are going to somehow get [the bishops] to believe that all kinds of sex outside of marriage and apart from God's plan of procreation are to be regarded as joyful and wonderful and somehow consistent with Catholic teachings. It is those corrupting voices that exactly kept them from understanding the gravity of what they were tolerating."
Joseph Schiedler, the national director of the virulently anti-abortion Pro-Life Action League, is certainly outraged at the notion of sex as joyful and wonderful, “I would like to outlaw contraception. Contraception is disgusting, people using each other for pleasure.”
While conservatives may have been disgusted at sex for pleasure, at least they had the good sense to publicly pretend that their entire motivation was to save fetuses. But of course, that mask is off. What they want is to control female sexuality, and the hell with any candidate who doesn't scream it from the rooftops.
And that's the legacy of the 2012 presidential contest. Had Romney won South Carolina, this contest would be over and Romney would be bashing Obama over some bit of wingnut nonsense or another. Instead, we were gifted $10 million from Sheldon Adelson, and this thing continues to get dragged.
And every day that this race continues is a day in which base conservatives demand their candidates—including that former "moderate" Romney—pledge vocal and overt fealty to an agenda so outside the mainstream, that independents are flocking to the Democratic Party.
Conservatives got great mileage out of their dog whistles, even if they're not 100 percent extinct ("food stamp president"). Their new bullhorns? Eh, not so much.