The GOP Is Racist & Xenophobic, But Essentially... Not Populist
The GOP is primarily appealing to the white working class, while making inroads into the Hispanic and Black middle class. But, in the end, it is still the party of plutocrats. Last night, Paul Krugman wrote that "Ron DeSantis would be Florida’s [Viktor] Orban if he could, state governors don’t have as much repressive power as rulers of sovereign nations. Still, the comparison of European and U.S. ethnonationalists raises some interesting questions. In particular, as the GOP has become a full-on antidemocratic party, why has it also remained the party of plutocrats and the enemy of any policy that might help its many working-class supporters?"
In France, Marine Le Pen's fascist National Front (redubbed "National Rally" for this election but still fascist) is as culturally right-wing as the Republican Party here but in terms of an economic agenda appealing to working class voters, it is, writes Krugman certainly to the left of Macron's center right party-- and to the GOP. Macron wants to trim benefits (by, for example raising the retirement age) while the fascist National Front espouses reducing the retirement age for some workers. That's an actual populist party, fair more so than the GOP.
I can’t tell you what the official Republican economic program is, because the party doesn’t have one-- in fact, it has made a point of not saying what it will do if it regains power.
We do, however, know what the party did when it was last in power: It gave huge tax cuts to the wealthy, while almost succeeding in repealing the Affordable Care Act, which would have caused tens of millions of Americans to lose health insurance. There’s no reason to believe it won’t once again pursue anti-worker, pro-plutocrat policies if it regains control.
At the state level, the debacle in Kansas has apparently done nothing to shake Republicans’ faith in the magical power of tax cuts for the affluent. Mississippi-- America’s poorest state, with the lowest life expectancy and facing a collapse of its rural hospitals-- is slashing income taxes.
And recently Senator Rick Scott of Florida, who heads the Republican senatorial campaign, released a “Rescue America” plan that called for tax increases on the half of Americans whose incomes are low enough that they don’t pay income taxes (even though they pay payroll taxes, sales taxes and so on). He also warned, falsely, that Social Security and Medicare are headed for bankruptcy, without offering any suggestions about how to preserve them.
Senior Republicans have said that they don’t support Scott’s agenda, but haven’t explained what their actual agenda is-- and have left Scott in his key campaign position, suggesting that his views have wide support within the party.
So everything suggests that the Republican Party is as pro-wealthy, anti-worker as ever. Unlike right-wing European parties, it hasn’t made any gestures toward actual populism. Why?
The answer, presumably, is that the GOP caters to plutocrats, even as it attacks “elites,” because it thinks it can. After all, being nice to plutocrats and crony capitalists can yield tangible rewards, not just in the form of campaign contributions but also in the form of personal enrichment.
And the Republican Party doesn’t believe that it will pay any price for pursuing these rewards. It believes that its supporters will focus on denunciations of critical race theory and buy into conspiracy theories-- almost half of Republicans agree that top Democrats are involved in child sex-trafficking-- while not even being aware of what the party is doing for the very rich. After The Times revealed Jared Kushner’s highly questionable $2 billion deal with the Saudis, Fox News simply ignored the report, while harping endlessly on Hunter Biden.
I wish I could say with any confidence that this cynicism will backfire. But I can’t. In particular, Democrats who want to campaign on bread-and-butter issues are assuming that voters will understand who’s actually buttering their bread. And that doesn’t look at all like a safe assumption.
Yesterday, Trump was reported to have sold his endorsement in the open Ohio Senate race to big-spending neo-Nazi billionaire Peter Thiel, for some random unpopular candidate, JD Vance. There are several other crackpot random candidates Thiel is offering Trump money to back as well. Populist much?