On the first full day of the government shutdown, Rush Limbaugh, the one true leader of the Republican Party, took to his “golden microphone” to declare that bringing hundreds of federal agencies to a screeching halt, threatening the economy with the loss of $300 million a day in lost revenue, and cashiering 800,000 federal employees was not so bad. Why? Because in Rush’s words, “Barack Obama’s base” will be having a “fine day” because they’ll still get their “welfare checks.”
If you want to understand why we are where we are, that’s all you need to know.
Despite all the pundits, political consultants and even some elected Republicans, who see the government shutdown as a disaster of epic proportions for the GOP, House Republicans have no incentive to care. In fact, they only have to listen to one person: Sen. Ted Cruz, because Cruz, a kind of Joe McCarthy-meets-Father Coughlin figure, is channeling a political base Rush and his ilk have been prepping for more than 30 years to be exactly as they are. What are they?
Immune to the results of elections, for one thing, in part because they simply don’t believe the results they don’t like. In the districts where the Archie Bunker bulwark of the Republican Party lives, Barack Obama lost both the 2008 and 2012 elections in a landslide. Nobody they know voted for him. And the people they bowl and watch college football and have backyard barbecues with hate the guy, and believe just like they do that he’s a Kenyan Marxist who stole the White House using a horde of fraudulent voters who in reality are a bunch of criminal “illegals.”
They also reject the concept of majority rule, living instead by the rules of the post-Reconstruction South, where nullification of federal law is just another way of saying “stand and fight for your values.” And they’re frustrated with a Republican political class in Washington who they believe has sold out and buckled to Democrats (and the media) for far too long.
Consider that three polls this week — a CNBC-All America Economic Survey, a USA Today/Pew Research poll and a Quinnipiac poll — found that just 19, 22 and 23 percent of respondents, respectively, believe Republicans should shut down the government in order to derail the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The latter number is the percentage of the 53 percent of respondents who oppose “Obamacare,” meaning that the House GOP is operating at the behest of a super-minority.
But for the 30-80 hardliners currently in control of the U.S. House of Representatives, where they’re holding not just the U.S. economy hostage, but also their own speaker, those numbers are meaningless. At best, they see them as “skewed” polls designed to trick conservatives into caving to Obama’s ruse of letting poor and working-class people purchase health insurance at a federally backed discount, which, of course, will destroy freedom itself.
Rush has spent a radio lifetime feeding this base of mostly older, Southern or rural Americans, a steady diet of victimhood. Many of them broadly resent the scope of societal change that has taken place since the 1960s, when to their way of thinking, a slew of unearned benefits went to the blacks, the browns, the “lazy” poor, and overly “liberated” women, all at their expense.
Their radio guru, whose grandiose style and over-the-top pomposity Cruz mimics, though in a higher vocal register, has given meat-and-potatoes conservatives a language of defiance. They don’t have to back down in the face of an elitist media or a national electorate that rejects their ideas, their preferred presidential candidates, their religious values and their yearning for a more “traditional” America.
They have Fox News and Rush and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin to tell them all they need to know about “the news.” And their experts at the Heritage Foundation — refashioned by GOP primary-boss Jim DeMint from a think tank into a talk radio meme factory, tell them the shutdown, or even a breach of the debt ceiling, is no big deal, if you’re a real, hardworking American and not a welfare queen.
They don’t need any of you. They have their convictions (and their government Medicare, tax breaks and FHA loans, but who’s counting). And their politicians will blow the whole damned government to smithereens if they have to, in order to give them their country back, untainted by Obama and his scheme to give undeserving inferiors the health benefits the same God who gave El Rushbo his golden microphone meant for them alone.