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Did the mice just roar?

October 8, 2015

Amidst all the hyper-heated rhetoric that swirls around this year’s presidential election campaigns, one theme is emerging.

The silent majority is finding its voice.

Kevin McCarthy’s abrupt and somewhat enigmatic withdrawal from the Speakership race today may be a consequence of that change.

A couple of years ago during the 2012 campaign this blog expressed the opinion that should Barack Obama win a second term, it could push the entire non-liberal, non-socialist portion of the electorate so far right as to virtually guarantee a 21st century version of the 1775-1783 War of Independence.

Maybe that seemed a little over the top at the time. Today, perhaps not so much.

All the media and political operative types discounted Donald Trump’s popularity as a carefully stage-managed flash in the pan promotional stunt, predicting that his campaign would fall apart amidst petulant cries of “why don’t they love me?” or variations on that theme.

Even people who sincerely vote as Republicans felt that in the end the “same-ol same-ol” tactics would eventually prevail in 2016.

Then came 2014, and the strong showing among the upstart rabble-rousers on the far right in the off-year congressional races.

As 2016 fast approaches, the far right now faces the same dilemma as parents dealing with the eminent birth of a premature baby.

Maybe the parents aren’t ready, but the kid’s coming anyway.

The knock against these ultra-right conservatives is that they are incapable of doing more than opposing things, both by nature and by virtue of the Oval Office being in Democratic hands.

That leaves people wondering if even if the Freedom Caucus and its peers do push through their agenda (defund Planned Parenthood, cut the deficit, repeal Obamacare, etc)  in the House, what good does it do them if it can’t clear the Senate or survive the inevitable Presidential veto?

In short, patience and concocting a winning strategy doesn’t seem to be high on their agenda.  Add to that, they are now stuck with John Boehner for the foreseeable future.

Given that a large percentage of the country seems ready to at least listen to the conservative message, that seems odd.

Even if you can’t stand Donald Trump, at least at this point in the race the top three polling Republican candidates are all political outsiders, collectively polling near or above 50% in an average of polls.

Far back in the field are the so-called traditional establishment candidates like Jeb Bush and John Kasich. Even the former darling of the Libertarian right, Rand Paul, is barely hanging on enough to garner a few percentage points.

With Kevin McCarthy’s  startling withdrawal from the House Speaker race today comes further indications that something is very different this year.

By advancing their own candidate, the vocal far right minority in the House made it very clear that they have no problem with playing the role of spoiler, so long as they are spoiling the status quo. To get a candidate elected as Speaker, the rest of the House is going to have to go through the so-called Freedom Caucus, as well as a few other hard-right coalitions.

While the Freedom Caucus only sports about 40-45 members, it is worth noting that 153 or 62% of the Republicans voted against the recent continuing resolution to keep the government funded as usual until December.

The “we are mad as hell and we aren’t going to take it anymore” faction seems to have turned up the volume.

That’s also true on the left, as evidenced by the popular interest in Bernie Sanders, who unabashedly admits he is an old-time Socialist and still out-draws Hillary Clinton by 100 to 1 or more when he speaks.

The silent majority still exists. Not everyone is on board with radical changes, so whether the course of history will truly change in November 2016 remains to be seen. If the moderates on the right decide to stay home instead of voting, what they think won’t matter other than of course to keep the Oval Office in Democratic hands.

In political terms it’s still a long time until November 8, 2016. It would be a shame if the ultra-right hardliners overplayed their hand at this stage of the game.

From → op-ed

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