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Has the GOP Become a Cult?

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Polarized, us-versus-them mentality – demeaning those who do not share their beliefs, sowing fear and mistrust amongst their members about such people

This point hardly needs any demonstration. Almost everything the GOP does and says is polarizing and demeans all those who dare to disagree. What’s particularly pernicious about the polarizing tactics employed by the GOP is that it has expanded well beyond the normal political fights regarding opposing candidates and political power to impact almost every major issue of American life. How people view issues as basic as: scientific education (to teach or not teach evolution?); environmental protection (should business be required to pay for environmental damage and commensurate health consequences?); civic participation (should the government encourage voting?); unions (should workers have the right to organize and improve their working conditions?) are now driven by people’s political identification.

It wasn’t always that way, I remember when Republicans didn’t demonize teachers and public employees, I remember when Republicans supported extending the voting age to 18 year olds, I remember when Republicans like Richard Nixon supported the EPA and touted their record as protectors of land, waters and air.

How did we get to this point? The history is nicely summarized in a Time article entitled, American Discontent: The Problem with Washington Politics:

The first shirts-and-skins President was Ronald Reagan, the first truly conservative Republican elected in 50 years. But it was only after Reagan and his GOP successor, George H.W. Bush, left office that congressional Republicans realized they could use political polarization to stymie government — and use government failure to win elections. And with that realization, vicious-circle politics started to become an art form.

In the 1980s, discrediting government was not the strategy of the congressional GOP, for two reasons. First, the sorting out hadn’t fully sorted itself out yet: the Senate alone boasted moderate Republicans from blue states like Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Oregon, where activist government weren’t dirty words … Second, because Republicans occupied the White House, making government look foolish and corrupt risked making the party look foolish and corrupt too.

All that changed when Bill Clinton took office. With the GOP no longer controlling the White House, a new breed of aggressive Republicans — men like Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay and Trent Lott — hit on a strategy for discrediting Clinton: discredit government. Rhetorically, they derided Washington as ineffective and conflict-ridden, and through their actions they guaranteed it. Their greatest weapon was the filibuster, which forced Democrats to muster 60 votes to get legislation through the Senate … Merely declaring their intention to filibuster derailed any bill that lacked 60 votes.

In Clinton’s first two years in office, the Gingrich Republicans learned that the vicious circle works. While filibusters were occasionally broken, they also brought much of Clinton’s agenda to a halt, and they made Washington look pathetic….

With these acts of legislative sabotage, Republicans tapped into a deep truth about the American people: they hate political squabbling, and they take out their anger on whoever is in charge. So when the Gingrich Republicans carried out a virtual sit-down strike during Clinton’s first two years, the public mood turned nasty. By 1994, trust in government was at an all-time low, which suited the Republicans fine, since their major line of attack against Clinton’s health care plan was that it would empower government. Clintoncare collapsed, Democrats lost Congress, and Republicans learned the secrets of vicious-circle politics: When the parties are polarized, it’s easy to keep anything from getting done. When nothing gets done, people turn against government. When you’re the party out of power and the party that reviles government, you win.

What began as political tactic has become the governing (or non-governing) principle of the GOP – do not cooperate with the opposition on any issue for any reason even if it’s in the best interest of the country or what the majority of voters want. As famously declared by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – his most important objective is to “beat Obama and make him a one-term president.”

In order to avoid accountability for adopting a strategy of deliberate sabotage and obstructionism the GOP is constantly on the offensive – demeaning their opponents as ‘unpatriotic’, ‘immoral’ charlatans who only want to waste people’s money by giving it to the ‘undeserving poor’ in a misguided attempt to impose ‘socialistic’ views on the American people. The modern GOP has been both aided and guided in this goal by the Murdoch communications conglomerate and right-wing echo chamber who spew forth a constant stream of misinformation designed to sow fear and mistrust of anyone who is not an avowed conservative or any source of non-approved information. As noted by Media Matters for America the most recent survey about FOX viewers reaffirmed the results of numerous other surveys that consumers of this steady brain pablum are mentally malnourished:

The release yesterday of yet another survey indicating the more you watch Fox News the less they know, has once again shone a spotlight on one of the unique features that defines Rupert Murdoch’s cable news outlet – it is very, very good at misinforming people. And it’s very bad at reporting the news.

The fear and mistrust generated by conservative media found its highest expression in the emergence of the Tea Party. The Tea Party has been an ideal vehicle for conservatives to promote their anti-people agenda under the guise of populism. With help from the Murdoch empire the Tea Party and its political adherents in Washington and various states have accomplished the amazing feat of cloaking themselves in the mantle of the Founding Fathers who created government while working systematically to destroy it.

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Photo from Mike Licht via flickr

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232 comments

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6:13PM PDT on May 21, 2012

@Susan B. "Oh, I'm sorry, have you looked at the Cult of OBAMA? A person with questionable background and applicable skills, questionalbe verification, and a deep hatred for what made this Great Country great? HA! When I am in conversations with O. supporters they spew such deep negative emotions about the other side of the aisle that I can't talk with them. They "bang their drums" just as vehimently as any fanatic."

That's so deeply amusing. You, calling Obama supporters "fanatics" and a "cult" ?

You parrot claims about Obama having a "questionable" background and claim he has a "deep hatred for what made this Great Country great".

And then you prove your hypocrisy by saying Obama supporters spew deep negative emotions !

Here's a tip, maybe you can buy a clue with it; Obama doesn't have a deep hatred for what made America great.

Glenn Beck ranted about Obama having a deep-seated hatred of white people, and sponsors abandoned his show in droves. Beck's show ended up being cancelled, because he crossed the line from fanatic to disgustingly stupid.

As you just did. You're not in a position to know Obama, and you're just repeating empty rhetoric from "entertainers" that make millions on millions of dollars feeding trolls like you.

Since you have no credibility, and no proof, you should have realized your claim would be laughable.

But you're a fanatic. You can't think your way out of a wet paper bag. So you just say what you feel like saying and

6:34PM PDT on May 17, 2012

I maintain the suspicion that it's all lead poisoning.

After the invention of the automobile, there was a need to deal with the problem of "knock".

Henry Ford advised using Ethanol. He thought it was a good opportunity to help out America's farmers, by having them make biofuels as a gasoline additive. And it worked fine.

But you can't PATENT Ethanol.

Which means you can't get rich off it.

Enter Tetra Ethyl Lead. The same guy that later invented CFC's BTW, experimented to find something that would counter the tendency to "knock" that he COULD patent.

He tried Tetra Ethyl Tin. And it almost worked. Ethanol was still better though.

Then he tried Tetra Ethyl Lead. BINGO !

People who knew better tried to dissuade him, but he wouldn't listen.

He marketed his poison as an additive. And eventually the rights were bought up and lead ended up in all gasoline.

We must have pumped thousands of tonnes of lead into the air. Graph the lead background level in America; it matches the Interstate Highway System.

Our kids grow up poisoned by lead for decades.

Lead poisoning causes mental retardation, inhibits impulse control, and increases aggression.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that crime rates began to drop suddenly 18 years after lead was banned from normal gasoline. (although AV-Gas still has lead in it).

That was the first generation of the 20th Century that didn't grow up constantly breathing lead vapor.

Who kno

3:59PM PDT on May 17, 2012

I've never seen a republican actually stick to his belief in small government. Look at the recent George W. Dept of Homeland Security, huge. War in the middle East, huge. Spending on military weapons even in peacetime, huge. Their support of 'capitalistic' banks as large as some countries, huge. They only talk about mom and pop businesses in the theoretical, imaginary sense. And they support health insurance companies who take our money and deny coverage, huge. Not a small business in sight in our town and area. All big chain stores. Big box stores.

3:59PM PDT on May 17, 2012

I've never seen a republican actually stick to his belief in small government. Look at the recent George W. Dept of Homeland Security, huge. War in the middle East, huge. Spending on military weapons even in peacetime, huge. Their support of 'capitalistic' banks as large as some countries, huge. They only talk about mom and pop businesses in the theoretical, imaginary sense. And they support health insurance companies who take our money and deny coverage, huge. Not a small business in sight in our town and area. All big chain stores. Big box stores.

1:00PM PDT on May 17, 2012

This is an excellent article and a good analysis. Yes, GOP has taken on some very culty aspects:
- cartoonish, extreme characters out in the lead
- hateful, ignorant rhetoric
- slavish devotion to non-sensical, impractical positions

Remind anyone of movements elsewhere?

6:35PM PST on Mar 9, 2012

Ms. Small, you are not exaggerating or over-the-top in your comments. The old Republican Party at least had beliefs in small government. But old-style repubs must be quaking in their boots, because the party has allowed these hate-filled bigots to capture the dialogue, and now they must feel like the person who captures the wolf -- they can't hold on, and they can't let go.

The Democratic Party has believed in good will to all, inclusion. Liberals are more adventurous, and enjoy investigating new info. They don't need black and white, but grays in their lives. We are not fear-based. We like to explore and learn new things, not stay with the same info we learned in elementary school. We LIKE facts, and as science changes, and new hypotheses and experimentation, disprove old theories, it does not dismay us, but causes us to embrace the new. As Martin Luthor King, Jr. said, "the arc of justice bends forward" (or along those lines). We will progress, not the backward, fact-hating, mean-spirited repubs. They are the past. It may sometimes seem like one step forward and two steps back, and I am dismayed at the lack of civility, but the arc of justice does bend forward.

8:08AM PST on Feb 10, 2012

Yes it is a cult. NO THINKING PERSON COULD EVER JUSTIFY BEING A PART OF THIS PARTY! Cults banish people if they don't conform , so do the repthuglicans.

8:47PM PST on Jan 31, 2012

More than merely a cult, I've been saying for several years now that conservatism is some sort of mental disorder. I mean, when an ideology routinely relies on myths and propaganda while eschewing facts, evidence, data, science, history, reason, and objective truth, what else could it be?

1:20PM PST on Jan 29, 2012

Can we ALL say, The GOP A.K.A. The Cult of Satans Spawn!!! At this point I am not totally sure that the members of the GOP are in fact human! If they are they must be a group of humans who have been possessed by Very Evil, Demonic spirits, who became so at home theat they decided to stay & breed! Even as cults go, I am almost certain that there are Not any that would want to be held in the ranks of with the GOP! "GRIEVOUSLY OBLIVIOUS PIGS- GOP!!!!!!!!!!"

5:27PM PST on Jan 20, 2012

Yes, I'm convinced!

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