Right-Wing Coup: How Deluded Secessionists Have Already Won
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Thanks to a confluence of three events, the S-word — secession — is once again in the air. In Washington, new questions are emerging about whether the United States can function as a unified nation after a partial government shutdown was engineered by a largely regional party — one whose home territory looks eerily similar to the Confederacy. Adding to the questions about the viability of the post-Civil War union is the fact that the shutdown has been orchestrated by a Texas legislator whose state party stalwarts — including its governor — seem to support secession, to the point of taking concrete legislative steps to prepare for independence. On top of all that, in states across the country, incipient secession movements have sprung up only a few months after secession petitions flooded the White House website.
In his seminal book “Better Off Without ‘Em,” Chuck Thompson marshals data to argue that America would benefit by letting the Republican Party and its strongholds formally secede from the country. Whether or not you end up agreeing with Thompson, the argument he forwards is compelling on the policy merits. It also raises an important but less-explored political question: Why would today’s conservatives want to formally secede from a nation that gives them the privilege of governing the whole country, even though they remain in the electoral minority and even though their policy agenda is opposed by a majority of the country?
Partisans on both sides will inevitably deny this reality, because they see the world exclusively through a red-versus-blue prism. The reality-distorting effects of such a prism cast Democratic politicians as uniformly liberal, and therefore creates the illusion that Democratic Party control of the presidency and the U.S. Senate mean those institutions are similarly liberal. But such a partisan view obscures ideological conservatism’s undeniable dominance of both parties — and, thus, American politics.
Inside the Beltway, you can see this dominance in (among other things) the transpartisan support for the escalation of wars, the expansion of the surveillance state, the perpetuation of the Drug War and the preservation of corporate welfare. You can also see it in the annual budget fights that interminably shift to the right.
The last few months illustrate that point. Today, draconian sequestration-gutted budgets that were recently considered controversial are the new mainstream center. Indeed, to Democrats, the sequestration levels they once criticized as too harsh are now the new acceptable normal. At the same time, to Republicans, the sequestration levels they once could only dream of are now the overly “Big Government” that allegedly requires a full-on government shutdown to rein in.
Underscoring the rightward shift, that government shutdown is not coincidentally structured to keep funding conservatives priorities (the Military-Industrial Complex, the Surveillance State, etc.) while eviscerating liberal social programs. Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation’s healthcare ideas championed by the Republican Party’s most recent presidential nominee are now billed as a socialist plot, thus pushing the Overton Windoweven further to the right and marginalizing anything genuinely liberal like, say, single payer. Oh, and as all this is happening, popular liberal priorities like gun control can’t get an up-or-down majority vote even after children are massacred.
It’s the same story of conservative domination in many state legislatures, regardless of party control. On economics, the debates in both Republican and Democratic states are typically not about reducing corporate welfare and tax cuts and using the recovered cash to better fund the social safety net. Instead, whether in a red or blue legislature, it usually is a debate about how much more corporate welfare and tax cuts to hand out, and how much more the social safety net must be gutted. At the same time, the serious state-level gun control proposals are stymied despite their strong public support, and legislatures keep passing new restrictions on a woman’s right to choose, despite strong public opposition.