Can The GOP Save Itself From The Desire To Make A Hero Of Cliven Bundy?

Can The GOP Save Itself From The Desire To Make A Hero Of Cliven Bundy?

Even after he suggested that black people were better off under slavery, Cliven Bundy probably could still be elected to the House of Representatives in certain districts, if he were the Republican nominee.

Safe House districts, a generous Senate map that forces Democrats to defend seven seats in states Mitt Romney won, and a president with sagging popularity mean that Republicans would need a meltdown of Bundy proportions to have a bad 2014. And even given their advantages, they have no better than a 50/50 shot of taking the Senate majority, which they would likely lose again in 2016.

Some Republicans understand that their near-bulletproof status in 2014 isn’t helping them. In fact, it’s making them feel comfortable doing very dumb things, like making a hero of Bundy — as the right-wing media did for more than a week, with conservative politicians rushing in to suck up some sweet airtime.

Men in cowboy hats aiming guns at federal officials appeals to a certain demographic — and it’s not a demographic Republicans are struggling with.

“The rush to stand with Mr. Bundy against the Bureau of Land Management is the latest incarnation of conservative antigovernment messaging,” Josh Barro wrote in The New York Times’ Upshot. “And nonwhites are not interested, because a gut-level aversion to the government is almost exclusively a white phenomenon.”

Some conservatives are rushing to condemn Bundy’s outlandishly awful comments, without noting that his basic premise — government assistance is an evil that maims the souls of black folks in particular — underlies conservative philosophy.

That’s why when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) seemed to express a similar sentiment in coded language, he found himself in the middle of a small uproar that he’ll still be trying to defuse in a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus scheduled for next week.

Republicans argue that there is no racism in their philosophy. Rather, they’re trying to live up to Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of judging people not by the “color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” as if Dr. King said nothing else. Chief Justice John Roberts’ assertion that the Voting Rights Act’s enforcement formula is no longer relevant, even though it was renewed in 2006, speaks to a “colorblindness” that denies we live in a world where Cliven Bundys still exist.

Republicans have sold themselves on the logic that the only way to get over racism is to get the government out of the business of ensuring equality of opportunity and everything else — except marriage, reproduction and people saying bad words on the radio.

But they haven’t really sold anyone else.

The GOP has become increasingly dependent on Southern and rural whites, creating maps that may maintain its House majority but bar it from achieving the real goal of its billionaire funders — the White House. And as the party becomes more powerful and entrenched in states where young people are as conservative as their parents and grandparents, it becomes almost impossible to evolve on same-sex marriage and immigration reform.

And if Republicans don’t do better with Latinos in 2016 than Mitt Romney, who did worse than John McCain, who did worse than George W. Bush, they might as well save the billion dollars they’re going to spend to lose.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gets that. After months of making excuses for why not one immigration bill has emerged from Republican-led House committees, he revealed on Thursday what’s stopping him.

“Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this,” he said, mimicking his colleagues. “Ohhhh. This is too hard.”


The long-held suspicion of opponents of so-called “amnesty” is that as soon as the Republican primaries are over, Boehner will push for some sort of reform that will erase the fact that his House’s only accomplishment on immigration was voting to deport undocumented young people, twice.

The Republican Party of the last half-century has been a “three-legged stool” of those interested in “free enterprise, strong defense, and pro-family social policies.” Ronald Reagan and the Bush family have pushed the belief that welcoming immigrants was good for free enterprise. Cynics argue this was to feed the rich cheap labor, but it led to an inclusiveness that grew the party.

But the current GOP seems to be made up of a coalition of people who hate the government and people who hate the government when it’s run by Obama.

This overwhelming antigovernment sentiment is uniquely appealing to the GOP base and harkens to something deeply alienating to nearly everyone else.

“In no other advanced country do leading figures of governing parties propose the denial of medical care to their citizens or take their ideological inspiration from crackpots like Ayn Rand” New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote, just hours before Bundy’s racist quotes became public. “America’s unique brand of ideological anti-statism is historically inseparable from the legacy of slavery.”

Right-wing antigovernment sentiment may be unique to America but it’s also paired with a good old-fashioned anti-immigrant nativism that severely threatens the GOP’s electoral prospects.

Republicans know what happens when their anti-immigrant id lashes out and alienates a demographic timebomb. It’s called California, and the GOP is essentially a larger third party there.

A party that finds it easy to embrace Cliven Bundy and impossible to embrace immigration reform isn’t a party that’s built for the future. This summer, we’ll find out if the GOP donor class’ will for power can overcome its base’s will for Bundy.


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