For a party that blathers on about individuality and freedom, the Republican party does a pretty good impression of a Trotskyite splinter group.
There is no external policy debate in the Republican party. Party policy is infalible by definition, thus the only valid area of criticism is to ask whether the party is being sufficiently effective in getting its message across.
The problem is never the policy itself, only the public relations campaign promoting and defending the policy.
Translating this into the debate over gay marriage, the GOP has always been against marriage equality, therefore the party will always be against marriage equality. Nothing will ever change, except the messaging, and only apostates like David Frum even admit the possibility of change.
Lest you mistake this for an ad-hominem attack, it’s a deadly serious problem for any society. The silencing of self-criticism, and the elimination of genuine policy debate, was the principle cause of a number of terrors Europe faced in the last century, and it also was a big help to the illegal wars of George W. Bush. Neither is it a coincidence that Soviet factions took their direction from editorial columns in the party newspaper, and the GOP takes its marching orders from Fox News. When you control the debate, you control the masses.
Supporters of marriage equality were barred from the platform at biggest conservative conference of the year a few weeks ago, CPAC. But only three weeks later, GOP Senator Jeff Flake described as “inevitable” the prospect of a future GOP presidential nominee supporting same-sex marriage. The hidden inner cabal that sets the GOP message-of-the-day must have decided on ‘inevitable’ as the phrase of choice, as Rush Limbaugh used the same word two days earlier.
The manner in which policy is changed also closely resembles the UK Socialist Workers Party. Questioning party policy was grounds for instant expulsion. When policy changes became inevitable, the first step was to declare the issue ‘unimportant’. Only issues that were declared to be unimportant were acceptable topics of debate, a ‘debate’ in which anyone who wanted to be considered ‘solid’ already knew the outcome they were expected to argue for. Debate would not change the outcome of course, that had already been decided. But comrades could win points with the leadership for persuading the more diehard adherents of the old view to switch position, rather than quit the party, or worse, attempt to form their own party.
Depending on the urgency of the need to adopt a new position, the ‘unimportant’ debate might stretch over several years, or be concluded in a few weeks – at which point the purges would begin. Disagreement with official party policy was always tolerated within the Socialist Workers Party, as long as the disagreement was silent. Comrades were not required to actually embrace the new position, so long as they ceased mentioning their support of the old.
The Republican party played the same trick with segregation and the civil rights movement. Strom Thurmond and Jessie Helms were unrepentant racists to their dying breath, and neither gave up an opportunity to put their bigotry into action. Neither actually repudiated their racist views, but they did stop (blatantly) promoting them, and they would not correct others who falsely claimed that their views had changed.
The GOP just entered the second ‘purge’ phase on immigration reform last week, when Don Young was slapped down by Speaker Boehner after the Republican House member used the term ‘wetbacks’ to refer to Latinos in an interview. In that particular case, the offense was sufficiently egregious that it demanded some sort of rebuke from the Speaker’s office. The fact that it came from the Speaker himself, rather than a spokesperson, is significant.
The third and final phase in a policy reversal is denial. The party insists that the repudiated policy never existed, was never official party policy, or was even the policy of their opponents. From time to time, the GOP tries to claim the mantle of being the standards bearer for civil rights, from Lincoln to Eisenhower. This being to avoid the unfortunate truth that the modern GOP is the party of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, of persuading segregationists like Helms and Thurmond to switch party and make the GOP the party of continuing racism. Attempts to continue to make this case at CPAC this year did not go well.
All of which might sound good for supporters of marriage equality, and if that is all that you are interested in, so it is. Rolling back the tide of GOP bigotry will still take quite a few years, but everyone knows what the eventual outcome is going to be – it is now “inevitable”.
That is the good news. The bad news is that one of the only two major parties in the US follows the organizing principles of a totalitarian state. Like the UK Socialist Worker’s Party, the US Republican Party talks at great length about freedom and justice. But the way the parties manage their internal affairs gives the lie to their lofty rhetoric, and reveals a true intent that cannot be masked by even the best marketers on the planet.