That is the starting point of Terrence Heath's third essay on the way conservatives look at the world. Listen to the way conservative media heads, office holders, and candidates have said about the unemployed: Giving out unemployment benefits will make these people not want to get a job. People are unemployed because they want to be. There are jobs available for all. The unemployed are too lazy or too busy using drugs to apply for jobs waiting for them. They should just go work at McDonald's. I'm sure you can count how many statements in that list are actually true.
Put it bluntly, conservatives claim the government should not help these people because to do so would be immoral.
Yes, I know part of that belief is because liberals are so good at messing up programs intended to help the poor, as I wrote recently.
Even so, I think the charge of immorality is masking another goal, and it is darker than what Heath has written about.
More than a month ago Heath wrote an essay about how it seems the GOP is fostering hopelessness throughout the American working class. In response to that essay I had asked, "Is the GOP intentionally fostering this helplessness? To what end?" Heath's three essays were written to answer those questions.
I've gone back to my original post and discovered that Heath has posted that first of three essays in several forums and that his link to my posting is included in all of them. Perhaps I'm getting wider exposure? Blogger, the site that hosts my blog, now can report reader stats, though when I click on it I don't get beyond "Loading Stats…" Sigh.
To be fair to Heath I have a pretty good idea of what end the GOP has in mind, and have written about it several times. The answer I posed above was only rhetorical, at least to me and my regular readers. Since I saw Heath's essays were likely not going to get to the same conclusion I reached I started writing my answer a few weeks ago. This has allowed me to be more complete in my answer and to include fresh examples.
I haven't documented the source of every detail in this posting. Previous posts in this topic are here. I hope Heath finds many of my points to be familiar.
Until at least the 1960s conservatives didn't particularly care which party was in power because it was always white Christian (Protestant) straight men. The parties also weren't clearly divided between progressive and conservative and which controlled which party changed through the years.
But beginning by at least 1980 and Reagan's Southern Strategy the white Christian male began to realize his hold on power might be slipping. That becomes more apparent as population projections show the white Christian will likely, in a few decades, no longer be in the majority in this country.
Those who were concerned about who should be allowed to hold power in America drifted to the GOP, whose rhetoric attracted them. Some of them sound like an extremist fringe, but not all of them.
Now, a major goal of the GOP is: We're supposed to be in power. We're the ones the Founding Fathers had in mind. Our wealth is proof that we have the proper morals to be able to decide what you do. Your poverty is proof that you are morally inferior to hold power. Our god has anointed us to rule over you.
There are many ways they are going after that goal. Many of these points should be obvious. Terrence Heath has written about many of them.
* Make sure democracy doesn't work. The GOP realized, at least by 1990, that the time will soon come when they could not rely on the ballot to keep them in power. Obama proved it. Ways of undermining democracy:
* Point out how democracy has changed society: gay rights, abortion rights, no prayer in public schools, Protestant Christianity is no longer the de facto state religion, minorities hold office, Wall St. bailout took money from the poor to give to the rich, there is a "crushing" national debt that the GOP won't fix but uses as a reason why people can't be helped, health care reform that requires participation.
* Show that business is in control of government.
* Put elections in doubt. That both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were rigged in a key state has been well documented. But the shenanigans continue -- in Tennessee the GOP has sued to prevent the implementation of a law that would get rid of corrupt voting machines. Norm Coleman's loss to Al Franken in Minn. is "proof" that paper ballots are bad.
* Flood campaigns with cash, but do it through groups that don't have to disclose who donates the money, again showing that somebody else -- not the little guy -- controls government.
* Put obvious effort into electing GOP-friendly state supreme court justices so that the common man no longer trusts the justice they hand out. File suits against speech that works against GOP or business interests even though such a case would be dismissed on First Amendment grounds. Justice is only for those who can afford it.
* Insist judges must be elected and subjected to the will of the people. While this sounds like the ultimate in democracy it actually undermines it by allowing tyranny of the majority free rein. Nothing stands between rights that are supposed to apply to everyone and mob rule.
* Claim they are the only ones actually following the Constitution while also obscuring what it really says and claiming it needs to be changed.
* Constantly question Obama's right to be president.
* Claim all of Obama's actions will bring catastrophe -- make sure he fails even if it takes the country down too. A corollary is that the GOP is willing to (and sees advantage in) letting the country fail rather than let Obama have a success.
* Joke that lynching is the acceptable solution to the intransigence of fellow congressmen. Violence to protect ideology is acceptable.
* Make the congressional ethics committee inoperable.
* Make sure government doesn't work. It is done through obstruction, intentional mismanagement, and defunding of programs for the middle class, working class, and poor. The Katrina response is a prime example. The Gulf oil cleanup is another.
* Make the working class and poor feel helpless -- break the social contract, which says that if a person is willing to work he can supply basic necessities for him/herself and family and by working hard he/she can get ahead.
* Make the parts of government not in GOP control so small that it can't interfere with their plans. Government is the only thing with enough power to do that (in the same way that government is the only institution with enough power to fix our greatest problems, such as global warming).
* Reduce the availability and effectiveness of education, which allows the masses to be more easily led by emotion rather than logic. An ignorant populace is more easily led into extremism. Complain that teachers are paid too much, driving the better ones out of teaching. Witness the stink about spending to keep teachers while laying off military contractors. Also note the No Child Left Behind act focuses only on regimented testing, not on a well rounded education.
* Complain that school curricula is too liberal.
*Shift mainstream outlets from news to entertainment, which keeps them uneducated without them noticing.
* Attack scientists who don't support the party line. Ken Cuccinelli, AG of Virginia, is especially vicious against climatologist Michael Mann, working to discredit human involvement in global warming and intimidating other scientists along the way.
* Keep the fear high -- the masses need the GOP to keep them safe. The role of bogeyman has been placed upon Communists, gays, terrorists, immigrants, and Muslims (the Ground Zero Mosque). Push policies and attacks so that those attacked feel the need to fight back, reinforcing the GOP's claim. And, Black president aside, we still haven't gotten over racism. Imply the only solution for the bogeyman is elimination.
* Focus on national decline and victimhood. Claim the only way out is through national unity and purity.
* Get us used to more government invasion of privacy (airport TSA) even if the stated reason for that intervention is ineffective. This evening my friend and debate partner told me about border patrol agents on the Amtrak train from Chicago to Boston (no border involved) harassing riders in the middle of the night looking for illegal immigrants.
* Abandon civil liberties -- redefine torture, push surveillance, claim evildoers have no right to legal protections (Gitmo and underwear bomber), claim that a mosque can't be built anywhere near Ground Zero.
* Convince the rabble that the broken social contract and the ineffective government is the fault of the Dems.
* Overturn gun laws to make sure the rabble is well armed. Imply that the opposition is so evil that eliminating them is a good idea. At the height of the health care debate last August several Tea Party members interrupting congressmen were seen to carry guns. This implies you had better agree with me or you're next.
* Allow members of white supremacist groups to join the military, and thus be trained in weapons and explosives. Allow the military hierarchy to push the Fundamentalist Christian line. Glorify the military and military solutions. An example is soldiers being "forced" to attend an Evangelical Christian concert and sent to their barracks in lockdown when they refused.
* Push myths of the founding fathers -- that they really created a Christian nation.
* Pit the common man against the elites. Imply that all gains are zero-sum.
Some watchers, such as Sara Robinson of the blog Orcinus, have studied fascism and see many of these actions correspond to what happened when fascism arose in Germany and Italy in the 1930s. Their warnings became more than hypothetical with the rise of the Tea Party last August. Yes, that means in order to keep power the GOP is willing to turn America into a fascist state. So their goals have included:
* Make sure the public is confused about the definition of fascism.
An open question is whether the GOP politicians are savvy enough to come up with this extensive of an agenda aimed at the specific goal of demolishing democracy. I have my doubts, especially since this effort appears to have gone on longer than the shelf life of any particular GOP grunt and since no GOP operative (other than perhaps Bush II) appears to have the leadership or charisma to make it happen.
It is more likely that the GOP members are the puppets whose strings are pulled and wallets filled by other forces, who are content to be the secret power behind the throne. A couple guesses who those forces are:
One is The Family, a Fundamentalist Christian group that is pushing for a "God-led government."
Another is the corporate empire of the Koch brothers, built on oil. Their goal is to make the government as friendly to their companies as possible. Their money appears to fund the organizations that are staffed by Rove protégés and coordinate Tea Party events.
To what end? Permanently put white Christian males in power, no matter the cost.