How the Republican Party Rules a Nation That Hates It
The white nationalist and arch-regressive Republican Party is an unpopular political organization in the United States. Thanks to the chasm between its militantly pro-big business and right-wing record and agenda on one hand and the progressive sentiments of most Americans on the other, the Republican Party is viewed unfavorably by 62 percent of the nation’s populace. Just a third of the citizenry holds a favorable view of the “Grand Old Party” (GOP).
And guess what? The Republicans are about to assume control of all three branches of the federal government. They won the U.S. presidency (the executive branch) and retained control of both chambers of Congress (the legislative branch). Donald Trump’s presidential victory means the Supreme Court (the top of the judicial branch) will be tilted to a right-wing 5-4 majority sometime next year, with disastrous consequences.
Republicans—leaders of a party viewed with disapproval by nearly two-thirds of the population—have control of 34 of the nation’s 50 state governor positions, the GOP’s best gubernatorial showing since the 1920s. The Democrats have lost 939 state legislative seats under President Obama. They will control both the governor’s office and legislature in just five states (California, Oregon, Hawaii, Connecticut and Rhode Island). By contrast, the Republicans now hold both the executive and the legislative branch in 25 states.
How do we explain this seeming anomaly? Below I discuss 12 interrelated and overlapping factors behind the strange political dominance of the Republicans in a country that rejects their party.
1. Dismal “Dollar Democrats”
A first and obvious factor is the nature of the Democrats, once described by Kevin Phillips as “history’s second-most enthusiastic capitalist party.” It’s not just the Republicans who have moved to the right of majority public opinion under the pressure of big corporate and financial donors in a new Gilded America. The dismal, demobilizing “Dollar Democrats” walked out long ago on their onetime imperfect but still not insignificant connection to the majority working class, the poor and civil rights. This stark neoliberal abandonment and related drift further right toward national and transnational capital (the real deep-state power atop the Democrats since at least the early 20th century Progressive Era) dates from the 1970s.
The neo-Dickensian Democrats have tried to cloak their cold, neoliberal (hypercapitalist) agenda in the fake-progressive veneer of multicultural identity politics—in a commitment to “diversity” meant to veil their allegiance to the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire. But the material reality and harsh experience of low and stagnant incomes for the many are not so easily escaped. A party perceived (for good reason) as not delivering the goods because of its captivity to a financial sector that has been actively dismantling American industry and development for decades will pay a price at the polls, opening the door to the other party claiming to stand for “change.” It will lose votes to the other party and to apathy and nonvoting. At the same time, liberal Democrats’ often over-the-top commitment to an almost childish and openly manipulative degree of racial and gender identity politics often becomes a sure-fire way to alienate people in the nation’s white working-class majority.