In his op-ed piece for the New York Times today, Charles Blow provides some strong reminders about why the self-defeating game of ideological purism that progressives play to sort "real" progressives from inauthentic ones is so dangerous at this moment in American history: the nation is coming apart at the seams. Literally so. It's not a moment in which we have the luxury of sorting ourselves into more- and less-pure ideological factions, if we expect to survive as a nation.
As Blow points out, precisely because Republicans believe they are now facing grim demographic realities that will assure the obsolescence of the GOP brand within a generation, they're working overtime at the state level in many parts of the country deliberately to divide the country, to deconstruct government, and to pit group against group in the hope of dividing the base that would otherwise make common cause by voting Democratic. In the process, they're deliberately tearing apart the fabric of the common good in the nation as a whole:
So, to defend themselves, their ways of thinking (and, to their minds, their way of life), Republicans are pulling every lever to slow the change on the state level — gerrymandering, limiting voter access, passing anti-immigrant laws, cutting assistance to the poor.
This means we’re now at a point where people may not worry as much about all of America as about their slice of America. In the tumult and transition of change, we may be becoming a nation divided against itself.
Robert Reich underscores Blow's point in a recent Huffington Post piece. As he notes, the Republican party can't learn to do anything other than what it's doing now--playing the dangerous politics of social fragmentation and national division--because this is the only game it has left to play, in face of the massive demographic shifts that are putting its brand out of business:
The greater likelihood is a steady eclipse of the Republican Party at the national level, even as it becomes more entrenched in particular states. Those states can be expected to become regressive islands of backwardness within a nation growing steadily more progressive.
The GOP's national role will be primarily negative -- seeking to block, delay, and filibuster measures that will eventually become the law of the land in any event, while simultaneously preaching "states' rights" and praying for conservative majorities on the Supreme Court.
In other words, more of the same.
And as Frank Cocozzelli wisely notes in the latest addition to his series on the neo-Confederate ideas of Thomas E. Woods (and Rev. John C. McCloskey), as some of the states in the union most bitterly resistant to national trends that track against the GOP are now trying to rehabilitate even the nullification notions of the old Confederacy, they are doing so with the deliberate collusion of Catholics like Woods and McCloskey. Frank asks us to imagine what might happen if the neo-Confederatism happened to succeed in splitting the nation into halves, as the ideas it's espousing did in the 19th century:
Let us imagine for a moment that Woods and his ilk can succeed where other states' rights advocates have failed. One of the obvious consequences would be that tyranny would not be abolished but locally established in the form of laissez-faire economics and theocracy. Indeed, the only "freedom" that would be expanded would be the freedom to oppress - the concept that is at the very heart of many Catholic neo-Confederates and economic libertarians alike. This underlying notion of the right to oppress others is the common thread that runs through both slavery and contemporary theocratic visions.
I happen to live in one of those states of the former Confederacy that is now, with lavish infusions of Koch brothers' money, far down the path to precisely the dystopian vision of neo-Confederate theocracy Frank is describing here. I doubt seriously the nation as a whole would want the regressive, right-wing religious ideals we're now enacting at a political level in our state to be imposed everywhere in the country.
But the rest of the country may eventually have no choice, if it lets this rhetoric and these tactics take hold in one state after another in more and more places in the U.S. While progressive-thinking Americans continue to play the game of who's the purest of them all . . . .