The great thing about it, from the GOP’s standpoint, is that it allows the party to hide its real agenda — protecting the plutocracy — behind a smokescreen of know-nothing populism. Republicans use the race issue to get elected so that they can protect the interests of the wealthy.
Which brings us back to the failure of the bipartisan deficit-reduction super committee. Having taken control of the House of Representatives in 2010 in large part because of white resentment, the Republicans determined to make Obama a one-term president by opposing everything he proposed, no matter what the cost to the nation.
The debacle over raising the debt ceiling that led to a lowering of the national credit rating by Standard & Poor’s and the creation of the super committee was a totally artificial crisis brought on by right-wingers determined to embarrass Obama. Their adamant refusal to consider reasonable tax hikes on the wealthiest people to help close the deficit is the main reason that the super committee was unable to agree on a plan for cutting $1.2 trillion in federal spending starting in 2013.
As always, when you look behind the curtain of Republican rhetoric, the right wing’s real priorities emerge. They’re not really opposed to hiking taxes — just taxes for the rich. Unless there is quick action in Congress, the payroll-tax holiday will expire at the end of the year, increasing taxes for average workers by $1,000 — something that many in Congress had hoped the super committee could avoid by agreeing on a deal. The regressive tax-reform ideas put forth by Republican candidates such as Perry and Herman Cain would similarly hike taxes on lower-income people while showering new tax breaks on the wealthy.
They keep getting away with this stuff by playing political three-card monte with racial resentment. Just the other day, for example, Perry debuted a TV campaign branding Obama as a “socialist,” which, when combined with the Texas governor’s attempts to keep the Birther issue alive, is simply another way of calling the president a non-American.
That’s supposed to make you forget that Americans are already paying the lowest share of their income in taxes since 1958, according to an analysis by USA Today. Or that corporations are wallowing in cash that they’re using to buy back their own stock instead of investing in new businesses or building new plants, according to the New York Times. And that no matter how you measure it, poverty has risen to historic levels. And that the wealthy are getting even wealthier.
The tragedy is that the Republicans’ racial bait-and-switch strategy seems to be as effective now as it was in the past. As Edsall, who teaches journalism at Columbia, puts it, “These divisive issues have worked to the advantage of economic elites and there is no reason to believe this will change.”
Until they get over their racial resentments, too many white voters will fall prey to the GOP con.
Jack White keeps an eye on right-wing politics for The Root.