Ted Frier

Ted Frier
April 02
Ted Frier is an author and former political reporter turned speechwriter who at one time served as communications director for the Massachusetts Republican Party, helping Bill Weld become the first Bay State Republican in a generation to be elected Governor. He was Chief Speechwriter for Republican Governor Paul Cellucci and Lt. Governor Jane Swift. Ted is also the author of the hardly-read 1992 history "Time for a Change: The Return of the Republican Party in Massachusetts." So, why the current hostility to the Republican Party and what passes for conservatism today? The Republican Party was once a national governing party that looked out for the interests of the nation as a whole. Now it is the wholly-owned subsidiary of self interest. Conservatism once sought national unity to promote social peace and harmony. Now conservatism has devolved into a right wing mutation that uses divide and conquer tactics to promote the solidarity of certain social sub-groups united against the larger society while preserving the privileges of a few.


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NOVEMBER 10, 2012 9:33AM

GOP a Dying White Men's Party

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The rush to buy Canadian real estate after an American presidential election is how the devastated supporters of the losing side commonly begin their five stages of grief.

But in 2012, Republicans got an early start on denial as even experienced conservative pros like George F. Will were confidently predicting a Mitt Romney landslide in defiance of all available evidence to the contrary.

In his postmortem the next day, Will compounded his error by declaring the real election winner to be neither liberalism nor President Obama but "divided government" instead -- studiously ignoring the fact Americans had increased Democratic margins in a US Senate once thought to be the Republicans to lose and easily passing pro-gay rights ballot initiatives that just eight years earlier had been used by Republicans as wedge issues to help get George W. Bush re-elected.

After Romney's hastily arranged concession speech, scapegoats were the order of the day. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the first to get thrown under the bus as he quickly went from Romney's go-to surrogate to "traitor to the cause" after his unforgivable fist-bump with that radical socialist in the White House.

Romney had momentum on his side and would have won easily, conservatives convinced themselves, were it not for 11th hour Divine Intervention in the form of Hurricane Sandy - perhaps the first Act of God in history the GOP's Christian fundamentalist base was grumpy about.

Republicans were also beside themselves at the "relentlessly negative" campaign President Obama was said to have run against their guy. It was the dirtiest in American political history, said conservatives,  as Mitt Romney was unfairly maligned for being a heartless and uncaring plutocrat caught on tape saying heartless and uncaring things about the 47% of Americans too poor to pay income taxes or to warrant Mitt Romney's undivided attention.

And then there was the $5 trillion tax cut Romney never explained how he'd pay for without raising tax burdens on the middle class or adding to the nation's debt. This bit of fiscal legerdemain constituted a "courageous, forward-thinking problem-solving reform agenda for a nation ready to renew and starved for leadership and maturity," said GOP mega-star Mary Matalin, who I can attest is just as unattractive in person as she is in writing.

Romney was done in by "character assassination" and "unrelenting and destructive distortion, derision, and division" at the hands of someone Matalin called (without the least bit of irony) "a political narcissistic sociopath" who "leveraged fear and ignorance" in order to wage a campaign against Romney "marked by mendacity and malice rather than a mandate for resurgence and reform."

More revealing than the hysterical things alliterating conservatives were saying about the election were the ominous tidings conservatives saw in the election's verdict.  

Like most of the Fox News line-up, Bill O'Reilly was beside himself. "The white establishment is now the minority," fumed O'Reilly on election night as the consequences of consent of the governed slowly sunk in. "The demographics are changing. It's not a traditional America anymore."

Ann Coulter offered her thought that if Republicans couldn't win in this economy a "tipping point has been reached" in which it's now "over" for America - "there is no hope" - because we now have more takers than makers.

Rush Limbaugh went to bed like Scrooge with a bit of undigested meat in his belly terrified by the thought the white Republican denizens of his Dittohead Nation were finally outnumbered.

Despite all the whining on the right, the Obama campaign never unfairly slandered their Republican opponent, not within the acceptable limits of America's hardball politics. Neither did Democrats run a "relentlessly negative" one as conservatives complained.  

Instead, as the scandalized reactions of Republicans revealed, what Democrats did was challenge O'Reilly's white male power structure and its  sense of entitlement that the country belongs to them while the rest of us are welcome just so long as we behave.

It's insolence Republicans cannot abide, a contempt for the lower orders that is evident in almost everything they say,from the way Republicans define bi-partisanship as Democrats governing as Republicans or not at all to how they accuse Democrats of being "divisive" whenever Democrats refuse to capitulate to Republican demands.

The Miss Manners of American politics, Peggy Noonan, captured the mood of the GOP's inner Marie Antoinette perfectly when she called Obama's stimulus bill "a political disaster" - bad for Washington and bad for our politics - just because it contained so many Democratic priorities and too few Republican votes, which left me wondering: Just what part of "our top priority is making Barack Obama a one-term president" did Noonan not understand?

"Forward" -- the slogan of the Obama campaign - is a work of sheer genius and the person who came up with it deserves a medal.  It not only says we're never going back to the failed economic policies of the Bush Administration that got us into this mess in the first place. "Forward" also captures the spirit of the coalition that reelected Barack Obama and what that re-alignment means for the nature of American policy, for our politics and even for the standards by which Americans will now define what is real and what is true.

As the numbers came in from reliably blue states, nail-biting swing states and even from far gone red ones, we began to see that President Obama and his team had assembled what Charles Blow of the New York Times called "the face of America's tomorrow" -- young voters, urban voters, racially and ethnically diverse voters and women voters.

Obama won 60% of the 18 to 29 year old vote and 52% of the 30-40 vote, says Blow. He won 69% of the vote in big cities and 58% of the vote in mid-sized cities. He won 93% of the black vote and more than 70% of both the Asian vote and the Hispanic vote. He won over half of the female vote. And he won 76% of the gay, lesbian and bisexual vote.

Republicans, by contrast, are now confined to a party left to defend a monochrome past: the wealthy few; elderly conservative whites who year by year are a shrinking share of the national electorate; and Christian fundamentalists whose alienation from the rest of America's diversifying culture is so acute their mega-churches now loom like moss-covered medieval castles: archaic relics of terror-stricken irrelevancy.

And because the Republican Party now represents a coalition from yesterday its overriding psychology is a defensive one as well.

Accordingly, the GOP is less concerned with solving emerging problems than with preserving existing prerogatives and positions. That was why so many prominent Republicans were able to convince themselves that Mitt Romney was poised for a big victory on Tuesday despite all empirical evidence to the contrary.

When you're aim is looking "Forward" to solve problems, as the Democrats' are, you've got to be focused on what is real because the consequences of bad engineering are bridges that fall down. But when your highest priority is the defense of existing privilege it's easy to operate from what Conor Friederdorf calls "a self-imposed information disadvantage," which is a polite way of saying conservatives are "delusional."

When there is a broad consensus among economists across the ideological spectrum that government stimulus is needed to pump liquidity into a comatose economy in order to prevent a relapse into another Great Depression, but Republicans still cling to the gold standard, we begin to understand that Republicans are not offering an economic program so much as expressing white survivalist fears.

When the rest of the world is ready to move forward with wind, solar and other alternative energies while (in the words of Jonathan Chait) Republicans are intent "to dig up and burn every last molecule of coal and oil as rapidly as possible," we begin to understand that Republicans do not have an energy policy to promote so much as a defensive isolationism to indulge.

And when the only area of the federal budget deficit-obsessed Republicans are willing to increase is defense - at a time when the US outspends all other nations on war making combined - it's a telling barometer of the beseiged depths of the conservative bunker mentality.

To the observant, all these dysfunctional symptoms of a suspicious, frightened and dying party were manifest at both the Republican Party's national convention in Tampa and Mitt Romney's "victory" celebration in Boston.

President Obama and the Democrats invited 10,000 Americans to take part in their election night festivities in Chicago, whatever the outcome - what Charles Blow called the Obama coalition "in all its rainbow glory: black and white, yellow and brown, and still strikingly youthful."

Mitt Romney and the Republican's, by contrast, held a by-invitation-only affair where the Secret Service kept the press at bay, preventing the Great Unwashed from mingling with Romney's well-dressed supporters.  

I am told that more than 100 corporate jets were parked at Boston's Logan Airport after disembarking the well-heeled who showed up, briefly, to celebrate Mitt Romney's aborted victory at a Boston convention center that seemed more like an armed camp with  helicopters hovering overhead -- perfect symbolism, I thought, for the kind of country we might have seen had the vote gone the other way.

The difference in atmosphere at the Republican and Democratic conventions was equally palpable: One resembled a block party; the other a gulag.

Change is never easy and defending the past would not in itself be such a bad thing were not Republican appeals to its declining constituency rooted in so much hate, fear and bigotry.

"We conservatives, we do not accept bipartisanship in the pursuit of tyranny. Period," says right wing radio personality Mark Levin. "We will not negotiate the terms of our economic and political servitude. Period. We will not abandon our child to a dark and bleak future. We will not accept a fate that is alien to the legacy we inherited from every single future generation in this country. We will not accept social engineering by politicians and bureaucrats who treat us like lab rats, rather than self-sufficient human beings. There are those in this country who choose tyranny over liberty. They do not speak for us, 57 million of us who voted against this yesterday, and they do not get to dictate to us under our Constitution."

Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent by Karl Rove and others appealing to the Republican  base's darkest instincts and fears. Republicans pulled out all the stops to make us afraid of Barack Obama -- and then had the audacity to accuse Obama of running a "relentlessly negative campaign."

Echoing the ubiquitous ugliness on the Right, Bill O'Reilly said the only reason Barack Obama won on Tuesday was that a new national majority of minorities now exists "who want stuff" and who voted for President Obama to get it.

This is the kind of toxic rhetoric you might expect from people Charles Blow says are trying to "hold back a storm surge of demographic change with a white picket fence."

It is a rhetoric that tries to take us back 30 years to Ronald Reagan and his "welfare queens" -- or even further to the glory days of the white male power structure "rooted in a 1950s or even a 1920s sensibility," says Blow.

But for the record, just what do we mean by "stuff?" 

Despite all the stereotypes about moochers, takers and welfare queens, Democrats who are looking "forward" toward the future are not interested in taking from the rich in order to give to the poor so that the latter can indulge their indolence in government "dependency" as conservatives want us to believe.  

Instead, Democrats are intent on building a government that taxes the rich in order to make the investments -- such as in Pell Grants and public education -- that give children whose parents aren't as rich as the Romneys a chance for a better future -- just like that young black man who got food stamps and student loans when he was young and then grew up to become President of the United States.

We are talking about a country that understands when good-paying manufacturing or manual labor jobs are replaced by robots or out-sourced to China, the workers who lose those jobs through no fault of their own are never going to be as resourceful or self-reliant as those fortunate enough to re-invent themselves as "entrepreneurs" or "single-shingles" able to open a new business in their basements.

Most of these displaced workers will require re-training and a new economy with jobs where their more limited skills can once again allow them to raise a family. That is all they ask for. It is a legitimate and honorable request and only the heartless and uncaring would call this being "dependent" on government or unwilling to take responsibility for ones life.

If history  is any guide, building this bridge to tomorrow cannot be done by the private sector alone but only in partnership with a federal government able to lead the way with, as Michael Grunwald says, land-grant colleges, transcontinental railroads, the interstate highway system, the Internet, the spinoffs of the space program, the development of semiconductors, and with seed money in emerging fields like bio-fuels, solar power and batteries so that the private sector can follow.

President Obama's much-maligned Recovery Act is loaded with transformative, "winning the future," strategic investments just like these designed "to help the nation and its people compete," said Grunwald.

Yet to backward looking conservatives like Noonan and O'Reilly, and the narrow, demographically-challenged Republican Party they speak for, "government is the problem, constraining the genius of the free market, interfering with the decisions of 'job creators,'" says Grunwald

And so, what to forward-looking Democrats appear like investments in the future, to defeated Republicans packing up and moving to Canada now that America is no longer recognizable to them or theirs to own and control, these important investments in America's future all seem like so many handouts -- "stuff" being given away to freeloaders.

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Much of what you say is true, but from my perspective a lot of the election was about pure and simple racism. For the most part, Republicans find it socially unacceptable to be open, avowed racism. However, they have become experts at using the racist dog whistle. "Entitlements," "stuff," "a dark and bleak future," "a fate that is alien to a legacy that we inherited," -- all of these are just pretty verbal window dressings for fear of The Other.

The angry, old, rich, white base of the Republican Party has been cruising on fumes, and now they realize that their gas tank is empty. The election of 2012 was always about breaking the back of the other party. There is no doubt that a Romney administration would have instituted the Ryan budget plan with the destruction of Social Security and Medicare among other things.

The Democrats did not break the back of the Republican Party. There is still 49% of the country in full venom, fearful of different races, religious views, and sexuality that do no worship white patrimony. I find it interesting that Rupert Murdoch and Sean Hannity among others immediately had their "come to Jesus" moments about the wisdom of reaching out to Hispanics and favoring immigration reform. But as Mike Huckabee said on his radio show the day after the election, "If you're a hater and you suddenly stop hating, don't expect that person to immediately warm up to you." He was talking about those mean, spiteful Democrats, of course.

I think that Rush Limbaugh is correct when he pooh-poohs the idea of window dressing the Republican ideology to draw more Latinos into the GOP mix. Such moves really do represent the flop sweat that the Republican Party is currently undergoing.

In a satirical response I gave to the National Review this week about the greater meaning of the election, I said that the GOP should embrace its racist ideology and attempt to woo more racists into the fold by adopting the socially liberal beliefs of Arnold Schwarznegger (dope smoking, gay rights, women's choice) -- while attempting to woo independent and Democratic racists into the GOP fold.

I think that for now, there are no easy answers for reversing the long term decline of the GOP. And I think that the open and secret struggles going on within the Republican Party will continue for many years until it finally moves towards moderation. And I think that Democrats are at least temporarily in a win-win-win situation.
Ted, you really articulate what so much of the MSM reporting misses: "It's insolence Republicans cannot abide, a contempt evident in almost everything they say, such as the way Republicans define bi-partisanship as Democcats governing as Republicans or not at all; or how they accuse Democrats of being 'divisive' whenever Democrats refuse to capitulate to Republican demands."
What is hard to understand is why they didn't see these demographic changes (& their implicaitons) coming years ago, despite their ideology and biases. Our growing racial and ethnic diversity is not news or something that appeared suddenly. Did they think they could just keep ignoring it? [r]

I do agree with you that whether we call it racism or what Richard Hofstadter called "status anxiety," what motivates a large fraction of the GOP base is the very "identity politics" they once accused liberals of advancing. As Republicans lick their wounds from Tuesday all I have heard by way of soul searching so far is how conservatives must get better at wooing Hispanics and others through better tactics or softer voice tones but nothing which says they must finally learn to embrace diversity and give up their idea that America is a white Christian nation.
"Republicans were also beside themselves at the "relentlessly negative" campaign President Obama was said to have run against their guy."

Since when is it maligning someone to repeat what they say and what those on their side have already said about them? The truth the Republicans will never admit -- even to each other -- is that for the most part the Obama campaign had only to repeat Mitt's gaffes (and his weasel-words) and what Republican hopefuls said about him in the primaries.
Oof. As always, Ted, just brilliant. Your essays are always long, and it would be tempting to bypass them for that reason alone, but, man oh man, for the person who takes the time to read through them, there is always a HUGE payoff in the end. Well written, my friend. Splendid.
Oof. As always, Ted, just brilliant. Your essays are always long, and it would be tempting to bypass them for that reason alone, but, man oh man, for the person who takes the time to read through them, there is always a HUGE payoff in the end. Well written, my friend. Splendid.
One claim that is made by the RRR (Ridiculous Republican Right) is perfectly true. You mention it in your essay above.......

""Romney was done in by "character assassination" and "unrelenting and destructive distortion, derision, and division" at the hands of someone Matalin called (without the least bit of irony) "a political narcissistic sociopath" who "leveraged fear and ignorance" in order to wage a campaign ................ "marked by mendacity and malice rather than a mandate for resurgence and reform.""

As we all saw, this is an absolutely perfect description of the campaign waged BY THE RIGHT and, in doing so, they showed their true character to the American voters. Or, as an ol' fart like me would put it........

"Them fellers shot they'selves in the foot an' now they's hollerin' about the pain!"

Tom and Donegal, this OS software is driving me nuts. It swallowed a whole reply, but the gist of it was that my pet peeve is that sense of entitlement among Republicans who treat any criticism, however accurate, as "negative" and hence out of bounds.

And Deborah, I can't tell you how grateful I am that you have the patience to stick with me. Our politics are so polarized that most ideas and arguments bounce off castle walls like ping pong balls and so to have any hope of getting heard at all you have to engage in the literary equivalent of shock and awe.