The Republicans are resorting to gold medal-level mental gymnastics to defend their Mafia boss. If you’re following the impeachment hearings, you can really see how Donald Trump’s rise is the logical fulfillment of the “Base Strategy” developed by former Bush consigliere, Karl Rove.
The 2004 Campaign
During George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, Rove, along with campaign strategist Matthew Dowd and media advisor Mark McKinnon de-emphasized pursuing “independent” voters. The latter group made up a mere 6-7 percent of the electorate. Instead, Rove and co. focused more on driving turnout among the GOP’s conservative base. They knew that Republican voters made up a larger share of the electorate in 2004 than they did during the Reagan years. More crucially, they knew that conservative voters were culture war voters.
The History of the Base
The Base Strategy to lure culture war voters has a long pedigree. Since the mid-20th century, and particularly since Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign, conservative voters have been marinating in a right-wing subculture. The growing political awareness of Evangelicals and the free-flowing funds of the moneyed classes have fueled this subculture from the beginning.
Pat Buchanan said it best during his speech at the 1992 Republican Convention. There, he described the contest between Bill Clinton & George H.W. Bush as a “culture war” over “the soul of America.” This “culture war” pitted lily-white, bible-thumping, free-marketing, patriarchal, fried-chicken chomping, evolution-denying “values voters” against the alleged godless, commie, baby-killing heathens in the Democratic Party. The GOP has been playing this tune ever since.
By the end of the 1990s, the cycle was in full bloom. The legacy of the Religious Right, Wall Street, & the Chamber of Commerce combined with the emergence of far-right talk radio, think tanks, the Militia Movement, & the arrival of Fox News to create a massive conservative infotainment subculture. Out of this right-wing subculture, Generalissimo Karl Rove emerged. He mobilized an army of GOP-voting culture warriors who reelected George W. Bush, suffered through Barack Obama’s two terms, & unleashed the wave of reactionary political sludge that put Donald Trump in the White House.
If you find yourself following the impeachment hearings & wondering why the entire Republican Party decided to quench their thirst with the cultish nectar of the Trump Kool-Aid, remember that the party is still playing to the base.
The Republicans convinced their voting base that the other side is the second-coming of the communist Antichrist. As a result, they have a very DEDICATED voting base. Donald Trump knows how dedicated they are.
“The radical democrats are going totally insane,” His Orangeness bellowed at a November 4th rally in Lexington, Kentucky. “They want to obliterate the rule of law [and] drive out faith from the public square,” Trump warned. He also issued the standard Republican hyperbole that Democrats will, “destroy anyone who calls traditional America American values.” This kind of talk is as culture war as it gets.
The Republican base has been primed for decades to embrace a patriarchal, proudly ignorant, materialistic, capitalist demigod. The conservative subculture has been drinking the Kool-Aid for years, and now the GOP brass has gotten high on their own supply.