Gary Wills, no knee-jerk liberal he, marks this year’s election as a crucial moment for the right.
… this election year gives Republicans one of their last chances—perhaps the very last one—to put the seal on their plutocracy. They are in a race against time. A Democratic wave is rising fast, to wash away the plutocracy before it sets its features in concrete, with future help from the full (not just frequent) cooperation of the Supreme Court.
I accept the premise generally. I have said before that as dire as things might appear for the president this cycle, he nonetheless benefits from the Electoral College system and the raw fact that he has on his side the “Blue Wall” as Ron Brownstein calls it; the eighteen or so states that will absolutely vote Democratic, and the rise of demographics highly favorable to Democrats (youth and Hispanics primarily).
But I think Wills’ classification of 2012 as a do-or-don’t paradigmatic moment is a little too absolutist. Let’s begin with the main claim, that this is the GOP’s last chance to turn the U.S. into a Republican paradise. Hardly. If Obama wins, which I think is likely, yes the demographics will only continue to favor Democrats in later years. But certainly those demographics have not thus far helped the center-left since 2010.
If anything, we’ve found that the a sizable enough bloc of the voting public is sufficiently confused by Republican bullshit and fear-mongering to keep a progressive agenda from being enacted and progressive candidates from having a good shot at political office. Just look at Massachusetts. The very idea that in a regularly-timed general election that someone like Elizabeth Warren would have trouble unseating an amiable doofus squarely in the pocket of Wall Street in one of the bluest states that ever was…well, let’s just say that it’s a situation that argues that there will be plenty of work to do even if Obama and Warren eke out victories.
And as far as those lovely demographics are concerned, the whole reason that they can so heavily place their thumb on the scale is because there are so many of them, right? Which means that those groups will not always be in a minority or underclass situation in total. Naturally, as there are more of the millennials and Latinos in positions of relative affluence and power, they will themselves tend toward more plutocratic positions. Their particular version of plutocracy may not take the form of, say, conservative Christianism (and then again it might), but it would still have the basic hallmarks—a push for policy that makes the already rich and powerful more rich and powerful.
And do I even need to add that a Democratic win is by no means a non-plutocratic win by default? Indeed, the Democratic Party has plenty of centrist and center-right figures in it now due to the lunatic lurch of the GOP in recent years.
This is not even taking into account the accidents and catastrophes of history, like, for example, another global recession, terrorist attack, etc., that vaults another moneyed right-winger to power.
This is hardly plutocracy’s last gasp. And just to take a look at the flip side, a Romney win, though certainly a horrific prospect, does not keep that Blue Wall from adding bricks. The anti-Republican demographics are still expanding, and there’s nothing saying that they won’t boot President Romney if given the chance.
Big if, I know.
As a side note for my fellow atheistic readers, Wills makes clear the contours of the religionist alliance with the Romneys of the world:
The plutocrats have another tool they know how to use—religion. Not that the one percent crams our churches. But our religious leaders service causes helpful to the plutocrats. They are often supporters of war, of righteous certitude about America as an enforcer of “our values” around the world. They are also convenient opponents of the women who are part of the oncoming wave of a democratic demography. The explosion of anti-abortion laws and the opposition to workplace equality are used to placate and mobilize the religious allies of the plutocrats.
And I don’t see that changing any time soon, either.