Tribal Two-Step

The Supreme Court just finished off a busy session with a flourish. After passing a host of pro-business rulings, and gutting the Voting Right Act, they pivoted and overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8.

Now most of us would agree that the ruling overturning the Defense of Marrige Act and Proposition 8 was the right one.

But my hypothosis is that the Supreme Court decision was a classic case of divide and rule.

“These cultural issues will keep conservative and progressive activists at each others throats, and divert attention from economic issues.”

The Koch brothers and other ruling plutocrats in the US don’t really give a shit about cultural issues. They have gay friends and relatives, and their wives, girlfriends and daughters can always get abortions. And cultural issues certainly do not impede their ability to sluice more of the profits their way.

But cultural issues do stoke the tribal differences between Republicans and Democrats.

We’ve seen this familiar dance step by Republican politicians with demonization of homosexuals and other divisive cultural-war related issues. But Democrats politicians have found that cultural issues are useful as well in diverting attention away from their pro-corporate policies.

“Politicians are winning liberal hearts and minds on social issues, while at the same time embracing a corporate political agenda based on ever-greater wealth for the few and increasing austerity for the many.”

This phenomenon goes to what political scientist Michael J. Smith calls the “Ratchet Effect.”

“The American political system, since at least 1968, has been operating like a ratchet, and both parties — Republicans and Democrats — play crucial, mutually reinforcing roles in its operation.

The electoral ratchet permits movement only in the rightward direction. The Republican role is fairly clear; the Republicans apply the torque that rotates the thing rightward.

The Democrats’ role is a little less obvious. The Democrats are the pawl. They don’t resist the rightward movement — they let it happen — but whenever the rightward force slackens momentarily, for whatever reason, the Democrats click into place and keep the machine from rotating back to the left.

Here’s how it works. In every election year, the Democrats come and tell us that the country has moved to the right, and so the Democratic Party has to move right too in the name of realism and electability. Gotta keep these right-wing madmen out of the White House, no matter what it takes.

Absent some countervailing pressure from what we’ll call, for short, the Left, it’s a foregone conclusion that the political system will evolve in a way that responds to the desires of the wealthy and powerful.

The Democrats depend on the Republicans to frighten their constituencies and keep them in the Democratic corral. It’s not too strong to say that in effect, they encourage the Republicans to play the bad cop. The Republicans, conversely, need a bogeyman to energize their activist base — a Godless, urban, liberal bogeyman who will tempt good Christian boys into sodomitical vice and take away people’s guns.”

The Robert’s Court just gave those conservative activists a big gay bogyman to campaign against.

Well played.

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