An alternate theory of Republican rage
by Chris Zappone
You could call it the alternate theory of Republican rage.
And you can certainly see evidence pointing to its existence in the anti-liberal, anti-elite filled rant for the National Rifle Association starring right-wing pundit Dana Loesch.
For a video designed to defend gun rights, it’s meaningful that Loesch criticizes “the global alliance of elitists, media activists, Hollywood celebrities, campus radicals and political power mongers who have openly attacked sacred American values and the people who cherish them.”
The Republican Party is the would-be party of the rugged individualist, or at least the party that sees itself that way, which is almost as important. It comes with all the frontier trappings; guns, strong religious beliefs, a myth of self-reliance, faith in the individual and grizzled acknowledgement the world is a hostile place.
So far in this election cycle, though, the Republicans have been unable to make the leap from these positions in a domestic context to one in a global context. The candidate who can make that leap, who can take the Republicans from a party whose energy and fear is aimed at domestic politics and instead refocus it outward towards a dangerous world, is going to be the candidate who helps the GOP become a modern, viable party. Many other things would have to happen, sure. But this refocus is one of them.
So far, Donald Trump has been successful at channeling the rage at rallies and in rhetoric. But that’s a far cry from actual leadership. And few expect him to be a competent leader.
A smart Republican would marry this cult of the rugged individual battler, fighting on, defiant against the world, and recast it away from a domestic-only setting. Then the desire for independence and resilience, and even a bit of defiance towards strategic rivals, would place the Republican Party and the US political system on more sustainable ground, particularly as things fall apart elsewhere. Democrats and liberals would be political rivals, but not threats to be confused with foreign enemies.
A word about Dana Loesch’s criticism. As the Washington Post notes, in her video, she “manages to interconnect all of the following:
– Hillary Clinton, the “queen of the movement;”
The front page of New York newspaper the Daily News that upset the National Rifle Association.
– The media that “whitewashed the killers’ motives at the Boston Marathon and Fort Hood”;
– “The unconscionable scandals at the VA”;
– “The weaponising of the IRS”;
– The “demonising” of Christmas and Christianity; and
– “The only religion in the world that contains a segment which condones this terrorism”.
Some of these topics are conspiracy driven, egged on by a sense of insult and aggrievement. Benghazi comes to mind, as does Obamacare.
There are legitimate issues, too.
How should the US media treat Islamist-inspired murder in the US? Weaponising the IRS sounds a lot to me like the real controversy of militarized cops in the US. The scandals at the VA in the US have weighed on the veterans, a group that has paid dearly for miscalculations by the political class.
If the Republican argument, in this case Dana Loesch’s, seems incoherent, it’s because the symbols and identity of Republicans have come unstuck in recent years. If it seems angry, it’s because the anger in that culture (white, working-class, post-middle-class and feeling under siege) conveys authenticity. And so, like I wrote in my explanation of the primal forces at work among the Republicans these days, it only makes sense that their tone has grown extreme.
— TIME.com (@TIME) December 16, 2015
It should be some comfort to non-Republicans that many in the GOP are alarmed at Trump’s rise. Now all that is needed is the candidate, or group of politicians, who take these angry Republicans by the arm, walk them past their perceived enemies in the US, and show them that out there, out on the perimeter, there are forces and nations and people much stranger, more more foreign and threatening than the liberal Obama-ist who lives next door.