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Friday, 13 March 2015 09:30

The Preposterous Spectacle of the Modern Republican Party

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STEVEN JONAS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDerpGOP(Photo: Republican Party)Your Republican Party today is some spectacle, is it not? Its House of Representatives dips into foreign policy. As is well known, it invites the Prime Minister of a foreign country to make a speech that serves two purposes: campaigning against the US President's present foreign policy and campaigning for re-election in an increasingly tough battle in his home country. Since he offers no alternatives to the proposed policy of the US President, it cannot serve any purposes other than dual-campaigning.

Its Senate then sends an "Open Letter" to Iran. Since it was not actually sent to anyone in Iran by post or diplomatic pouch (which would have had to go through the State Department and the U.S. "Interest Section" in the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, a totally unlikely occurrence), it is actually not a "letter" as such, but rather an Op-Ed piece. Again, it offers no alternatives to the present policy of the President, and it says nothing about how US foreign policy works that any student of it doesn't already know (and there are several of those on the Iranian side in the negotiations). Thus it too is nothing more than part of the Republican campaign against President Obama that began on the evening of President Obama's Inauguration on January 20, 2009. Actually Mitch McConnell had announced in December, 2008 that he "would filibuster any bill I didn't like."

(It is too bad that President Obama has failed for so long to take heed of these very clear announcements of total non-cooperation but continued to press until very recently the failed Democratic Leadership Council [and its "centrist" successors] policy of "finding the middle ground," when clearly none exists, or has ever existed. According to New York magazine's Johnathan Chait, he finally has done so).

The same Mitch McConnell announced just the other day that he "is urging governors to defy President Obama by refusing to implement the administration's global warming regulations." It happens that 12 states with Republican governors have already filed lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Administration's announced new regulations intended to do at least something about the ongoing tsunami of human-caused global warming/climate change [http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/the-climate-change-deniers-hall-of-infamy]. But that is not good enough for McConnell. The law be damned. Here is the most senior elected Republican legislator telling (Republican) Governors to just go ahead and defy the law, the EPA, and the President. (Funnily enough, the EPA was originally established by none other than Richard Nixon. And, get this [something I didn't know], he did it by Executive Order [!!!], which was eventually ratified by Congress. Talk about Republicans changing over time.)

As stated in the cited article: "Since the moment his party regained control of the Senate, Mr. McConnell has made clear that he intends to use all legal, legislative and political means available to fight Mr. Obama's climate agenda. While Republicans called Mr. Obama's climate change policies an example of government overreach that could threaten jobs in the coal industry, Mr. McConnell, whose home state is one of the nations' largest producers and consumers of coal, takes the fight personally." (You just have to love McConnell's plaint about "jobs." The coal industry once employed about 800,000 workers, most of whom were members of the United Mine Workers. Under the leadership of the militant John L. Lewis, the UMW was once one of the most powerful unions in the county. With the increasing mechanization [otherwise known as strip mining, which became "mountaintop removal"] of the coal industry, there are now only about 60,000 miners left, and with the increasing onslaught on trade unionism in the mining states, only about 20,000 of them are members of the UMW.)

One could give example, after example, after example, after example, of current Republican policy. Almost all of it is characterized by total opposition to anything that the President proposes, with no alternatives, viable or otherwise, offered.

And oh yes, we have failed to mention their undying opposition to the relatively minor health care reform system known as "Obamacare," a name the Repubs. gave it, hoping that it would carry opprobrium with it. Hasn't quite worked out that way. In fact, it is working reasonably well. Which is all the more reason why they are out to kill it, now through the Courts. Having failed on the legislative side, they are now hoping that the Republican Supreme Court will come to its Republican senses finally, and finally (on a minor technicality) kill the bill, and over time, many thousands of the people who would thus become uninsured along with it. An alternative? Once again, Nah!

Actually, for many readers of these pages, this campaign is well-known. As I and many others have pointed out, on the foreign policy side, the Republicans are desperately trying to make sure that the United States is involved either in Permanent War or the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War. This is a subject that I have treated on more than one occasion. Very briefly here (and I dealt with the subject in some depth in the two cited columns), it is about maintaining the military-industrial complex. Don't we already have by far-and-away the largest one in the world? Yes, we surely do. But the Republican instigated "sequester" policy to make sure that the Republican pledge of "no new taxes" is taking an increasingly large bite out military spending.

"Well, everybody knows that," as they say in a famous series of ads. Yes, but the problem that the Republicans are dealing with is that an increasing proportion of domestic capitalism is supported by that self-same military industrial complex. In fact, some months ago, when dealing with Defense Department cuts, some Republicans were actually speaking against them on the basis of the jobs supported by military expenditures! Now there's a nice contradiction for you: the Republicans want government spending to support employment. But of course, it's only a certain kind of employment. So much of the rest of US industry has been exported overseas. So that is one of the basic reasons for the beating of the war drums. Not just the spending itself, but the maintenance of the central element in US domestic capitalist, profit-making, industrial capacity.

Now as to the incessant attacks on Obama. Sure they don't like him, but even more they don't like any hint that government might actually work (which is why, for example, they refuse to create the infra-structure repair-and-development program that the nation and many of its businesses desperately needs, even though that would create many jobs and handsome profits as well). And why is that, other than their inherent opposition to certain kinds of government work (they just love the government-supported military-industrial and prison-industrial complexes, of course)? Because they are desperate to win the Presidency in 2016. And why is that? They already have control pretty much of fiscal policy and "domestic spending." The economy runs pretty much on Reaganite lines. But the one thing besides foreign policy they don't have control of, or at least not as much control as they would like, is "Regulation." This is the government function that they and their big corporate/fossil fuels/commercial banking masters would really like to get rid of. And the only way they can do that is to take over the Presidency.

So what does that have to do with their incessant attacks on Obama? Well, they figure (at least until this week) that the Democratic candidate will be Hillary Clinton, who has already announced that if elected she will play right into Republican hands by "going for the center," but she would still have lots of regulatory powers, which she might actually use. But Clinton would have to run at least in part on the Obama record. So the worse they can make it look, the better their chances, even if, as usual, they will be offering no workable alternatives.

So this is what it comes down to: the maintenance of the last big manufacturing sector of US capitalism, the military-industrial complex, and the capture of the White House for just one principal reason: the total gutting of regulation, of commerce, of industry, of the financial sector, and above all, the environmental sector.