National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: The GOP Lockstep to Oblivion

It should come as no surprise that there was not a single Republican vote for the $819 billion stimulus package that passed the House last night.

Those Republican smiles over the efforts of President Obama to reach out to them were actually more like grimaces.

Indeed, talk of bi-partisan cooperation at the outset of a new administration in Washington is common, yet it seldom ever materializes, especially since the GOP was taken over by the wingnuts of the far right 30 years ago.

That party is now a distant cry from what it was under President Eisenhower in the 1950s, when he launched a stimulus package as big, in 1950s dollars, as what the Democrats voted last night. His humongous jump-start of the National Interstate Highway system is credited with lifting the nation out of a drifting malaise that could have returned it to the pre-war depression days.

Those were the days of true bi-partisanship, but they were eroded in the period following the fall of Richard Nixon when legions of scruffy hippies, those of the more amoral stripe, were washed and groomed and thrust into conservative churches and off-beat political causes to become reborn as the nation’s neo-conservative right wing.

The Young Americans for Freedom, with heavy funding and encouragement from some of the original “America First” deep pocket right wingers and Nazi sympathizers of the 1930s, were a cadre force operating in those particular denizens of the 1970s counterculture where concerns were only for sex, drugs and rock and roll. These were not the civil, women and gay rights and anti-war activists that animated the earlier spirit of the counterculture. These were the spoiled brats of American elite families who decided to slum it, while getting plenty of financial support from back home until they were ready to insinuate themselves into the pores of a vulnerable and unsuspecting Republican Party. Karl Rove is a perfect example.

The Republicans were reeling from the effects of Watergate, losing terribly in the 1974 midterm elections and dropping the 1976 presidential election to Jimmy Carter.

Along came the young neo-cons, looking mighty inviting by GOP regulars, even if a little edgy and some dangerously right wing.

They showed what they could accomplish by organizing a series of major referendum drives, picking on advances in gay and women’s rights, in particular, as relatively easy targets. In California, they nearly succeeded in a statewide referendum to require the firing of any public school teacher simply for the fact of being gay, demonstrating that they could wed their cutting-edge, quasi-fascist impulses and energy with old fashioned bigotry to achieve a political goal (see the current, highly-acclaimed Hollywood movie, “Milk”).

What had been a pro-business and economic development Republican Party, favoring large scale infrastructure development projects and strong military and economic alliances around the globe, transitioned through this process into a party run through and through by crackpots fixated more on gays rights and abortion than world peace or universal prosperity.

The “Reagan revolution,” not Reagan, himself, or some of his cronies, became the first wave. This was a mass youth movement that swept college campuses, fueled by the philosophy of “me, me, me!” Overt pro-Hitlerites like Werner Erhard of “EST” (Erhard Seminar Training) fed into this, receiving massive corporate funding to proliferate a mass brainwashing movement, replete with organized days-long sensory depravation and ego-stripping methods, predicated on the notion that individuals should feel no social obligations to anyone, not even grandma, besides themselves.

Too readily, gullible pro-business Republicans became swept into this social phenomenon, to the point they lost any grounding in their own values and began marching to the same beat as the dingbats.

They scoffed at the religious right at first, but quickly learned they’d better shut up and show respect. When the religious right started winning elections, they became “true believers” in hopes of riding the success for their own gains, as well.

Now, this party is in shambles, run into the ground by its own excess, but so far, no one in it seems to recognize this fact. They’ll just keep being set up by Obama to show their insensitivity to millions of real people and their jobs, as they did in knee-jerk fashion last night, until they slither back into those dingy denizens from which they came.