The Republican Conservative built their policies almost entirely on lies. Over time the failed results for the middle-class required overexpanding lies by the entire Republican establishment to lay blame for their failures elsewhere. That level of lying & dishonesty attracts people who are comfortable doing them ad-nauseam, cons. And Donald Trump fit the bill. And the Republican Conservative base brought him in.
When one builds a house on a foundation of lies and deception, it either falls, or democracy ends. Exposing the conservative con is essential. New York Times journalist Paul Krugman wrote a very enlightening article titled “Putting the Ex-Con Conservatism” that is worth dissecting.
Krugman begins his article pointing out that an ex-con, Massey Energy’s former CEO Don Blankenship, is likely to be the Republican Senate candidate from West Virginia. He put the miners who in danger as he willfully violated mine-safety standards. Four Republicans, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MO), Dan Donovan (R-NY), Joe Arpaio (R-AZ), with criminal convictions just may represent their parties in November. Krugman points out that while there are crooked Democrats, legal troubles are usually career ending, unlike for Republicans.
Krugman then gives some perspective.
What’s going on here? I don’t think it’s an accident that the modern G.O.P. contains so many crooks and that these crooks seem to thrive in intraparty politics. On the contrary, the success of people like Blankenship — or Trump — was an inevitable consequence of the political strategy Republicans have followed for decades. For the simple truth is that ever since Reagan, Republicans have basically played a con game on American voters.
So what exactly is the con that Conservative Republicans are selling? Krugman describes it and explains how they get away with it.
Their sustained, invariant agenda has been upward redistribution of income: cutting taxes on the rich while weakening the social safety net. This agenda is unpopular: Only a small minority of Americans wants to see tax cuts for the wealthy, and an even smaller minority wants cuts to major social programs. Yet Republicans have won elections partly by denying the reality of their policy agenda, but mainly by posing as defenders of traditional social values — above all, that greatest of American traditions, racism.
Krugman then explains why Republicans require con men and con women to drive their continued deviant ascent. He writes,
And this sustained reliance on the big con has, over time, exerted a strong selection effect both on the party’s leadership and on its base. G.O.P. politicians tend disproportionately to be con men (and in some cases, con women), because playing the party’s political game requires both a willingness to and a talent for saying one thing while doing another. And the party’s base consists disproportionately of the easily conned — those who are easily fooled by claims that Those People are the problem and don’t notice how much the true Republican agenda hurts them. The point is that Trumpism was more or less fated to happen. Trump’s crude racism and blatant dishonesty are only exaggerated versions of what his party has been selling for decades.
Krugman then explains the three implications that the Conservative Republican con has had on America and what it means going forward.
First, there will be no redemption from within. Principled, ethical politicians won’t reclaim the party from the likes of Trump, because they’re not what the base wants: The modern G.O.P. is no country for honest men. Con artists will continue to rule until or unless the party loses big, repeatedly, and spends years in the political wilderness.
Second, however, the party is indeed vulnerable, because there’s always the risk that voters will catch on to its con. Republican attacks on health care, not lurid scandals, seem to have been the biggest factor behind Democratic victories in special elections. And in November this backlash could give Democrats not just one or both houses of Congress, but also control of many state governments.
But what if it doesn’t? Here’s the third implication, which should scare you: The nature of the modern G.O.P.’s game gives it a bias against democracy. After all, one way to protect yourself against voters who figure out what you’re up to is to stop them from voting. Vote suppression and extreme gerrymandering are already key parts of Republican strategy, but what we’ve seen so far may be just the beginning.
Krugman makes it clear that the shenanigans that Republican operatives are playing with the electoral process are no accident. As the con wears thin, the only options that Republicans have are to go anti-democratic.
The March 28th, 2018 episode of the Politics Done Right daily show covered this issue in more detail.