The following is a comment I posted at Washington Monthly, re Kathleen Geier’s “The End of Pork Rind Conservatism,” with a few modifications for here. That article begins…
Last week, Michelle Goldberg wrote a smart and provocative blog post that didn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserved. In it, she argues that conservatives may be giving up the ghost, and abandoning the pseudo-populist brand of conservatism that, for decades, has been their mainstay, in favor of a more open elitism.
Goldberg takes as her main piece of evidence a new book by antifeminist activist Charlotte Hays called When Did White Trash Become the New Normal? A Southern Lady Asks the Impertinent Question. In the book, Hays mocks working class people for allegedly being fat, lazy, and poorly dressed. Oh, and she also apparently thinks poor folks who have diabetes are hee-larious. Classy!
Cool that Kathleen Geier brought up the Liberty League and the REAL old-style Republican politics. I just read a history book about that era, Anxious Decades, America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1940, , and everything you say is correct: The elites wanted desperately to undo every piece of the New Deal. But they couldn’t do it then via elections, not after the debacle of the Great Depression and Herbert Hoover’s 3-1/2 years of failure to make a dent in it via business-friendly actions. They did undo a lot of the New Deal, but not through legislation. They did it via the courts, with their unlimited pockets to pay for lawyers, plus an initially slightly business-leaning Supreme Court. Trailer trash had nothing to do with it, and in fact, the trailer trash was on FDR’s side – because FDR was on their side.
Cool that Kathleen Geier brought up the Liberty League and the REAL old-style Republican politics. I just read a history book about that era, Anxious Decades, America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1940, and everything Geier says is correct: The elites wanted desperately to undo every piece of the New Deal. But they couldn’t do it then via elections, not after the debacle of the Great Depression and Herbert Hoover’s 3-1/2 years of failure to make a dent in it cia business-friendly actions.
(Then, as now, the business mindset was that “What was good for business was good for America,” so they kept being shocked that business-friendly actions kept failing. However, FDR and the Democrats got to learn a lot about what DOESN’T work, so by the time that FDR took office, they could avoid making the same mistakes.)
The problem at the ballot box for them was that there weren’t enough rich people to win elections. If you really look at all their submitted bills NOW, they are all pro-business – just like back in the ’20s and ’30s, the Ponzi ’20s, the Great Depression, and the New Deal years. I was amazed how much their approach to governing (as opposed to winning elections) was EXACTLY the same back then – endless arguments about balanced budgets, trickle-down (yes, THAT trickle down!), laisse-faire free markets, no regulations because business would correct itself, all that rot. Everything aimed to help the businessman and let Joe Main Street flounder. After all, there are plenty more Joe’s where the last one came from – especially for low-pay jobs which the business sector always favored; a dollar in the hands of the rich was good, while a dollar in the hands of Joe Main Street, “Why THAT must have been stolen from the rich! What is THAT guy doing with it? What can we do to correct THAT!!!???“
It has been the aim of the GOP to do exactly that – to make sure none of the wealth escaped the wealthy.
…After the FDR-Truman years, and even through the Eisenhower years, they couldn’t do much destroying of any remaining New Deal programs, because they didn’t control the Congress (in ’53-’55 they had the House but not the Senate) – but then Ike wasn’t a real Republican, either, and by then Keynesian was the economics of the day. It was not until Bush II in 2005 that the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress plus the White House at the same time – and the VERY FIRST thing on Dubya’s agenda was . . . wait now for the punch line… Social Security. He was there to do his master’s bidding, and he wasted no time, with his so-called “political capital.” But even mentioning it cost him and the Republicans so much popular support that he lost any chance actually do it.
As I think about it, that could well have been the moment that the trailer trash realized that the Republicans were not really on their side, and the moment when the seeds of the Tea Party were sown.
The very earliest genesis of what became the business-trailer-trash alliance was The Powell Memo in 1971, from Lewis Powell (soon-to-be Supreme) to the President of the US Chamber of Congress, laying out a plan to “take back America” from the Liberals. The memo was circulated widely and became the blueprint for what we have had for the last 40 years> The effort to steal America away from the People (again) began with primary funding by four billionaires (one of whom, weirdly, was Sun Myung Moon). The Memo suggested, among several other things, the creation of think tanks with which to plan the details of how to do it, and THAT is where the trailer trash strategy came from. Yes, Nixon’s Southern Strategy came first, but it wasn’t formalized.
Like in the ’30s, the Repugs cannot win an election on elitism. They NEEDED – and still need – those trailer trashers. They have held serve in the Trailer Trash Belt (called by some “Greater Applachia” and the “Deep South”) ever since they got that strategy in gear. That Charlotte Hays is an idiot. Till they allied with trailer trash they were NEVER going to control Congress. She and her business cronies NEED the trailer trash, big time.
But they found out finally that a deal with the Devil is selling their souls; the trailer trash lunatics are now insisting on taking over the asylum. The business Republicans never figured on that – that the trailer trash (led by Rush Limbaugh from the Ozarks – Trailer Trash Central) would someday realize their power and the DO something about it. Like every new organization, institution, or collaboration, it carried within it the seeds of its own destruction.
The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend. Ask Reaganites about Osama bin Laden. There is a price to pay for sleeping with the Devil.
Madame Hays and her kind are realizing too late that it is a one-night dalliance that turned into Fatal Attraction.
Yes, the elitists can go back to standing on their own, if they dare – but the cost will be to lose elections year after year – and to have the Liberals dictate legislation again and to control the direction of the country for the next 40 years or more. They will have lost (in time) all the infrastructure of aristocracy that they have built up. As elitists they have found that they now have but two choices:
- Win elections by playing second fiddle to the Tea Party, or
- Lose elections by themselves, by splitting the business and Tea Party votes – neither of which can command a majority nationally.
When the Repugs eject the Tea Party (or vice versa), we can look forward to a much more Liberal U.S. of A., even if it takes time to re-build it into what it was.
I only hope it happens before it is too late.
You know, when what Hays called the “trailer trash” was in the Liberal’s corner, the trailer trash did better and the Democrats welcomed them warmly – without making a deal with the Devil to join up with them. The Democratic Party is where the trailer trash naturally belongs, as brothers to the rest of the Joe Main Streets. It’s called being a citizen – what the rich in the ’20s called the hoi polloi (“the many”). We The People, have nothing in common with the elites, and they – the “trailer trash” – had no business siding with them in the first place.
But if the Tea Partiers will ever get the GOP-induced drugs out of their systems, the Democratic Party would welcome them all back – where they belong, on OUR side, battling the looting, parasitic elites who try to steal everything. So that legislation and court rulings can again serve We The People instead of the business interests. Besides, the apex of American prosperity began to end in 1968, the year before that bastard Richard Nixon took office and started us on this downhill path. Money-wise, businesses were doing better in 1968 and 1971 than at any time before or since. But they just could not abide the hoi polloi sharing in the wealth.
They never did – and still don’t – understand that it was the money in the pockets of the hoi polloi that fed their corporate coffers. The more the people have, the more they spend and the more gets returned to the corporate pockets. The engine of prosperity is not corporate CEOs putting money into offshore accounts; it is money in the hands of consumers. The business people have never understood that.