The Dr. Moreau Theory of Republican Politics


A couple of years ago I noticed a disturbing analogy between Republican politics and H. G. Wells’ brilliant novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau. In the novel, Wells’ titular character creates an isolated world in which human/beast, hybrid monsters serve him and his human followers. It should come as no surprise that this plan ends badly. Moreau’s servants were, after all, monsters with human compulsions. They eventually rebelled against their master and destroyed everything, including the very island on which they were all living. 

Fast forward to 2009 in the real world. The New Right dominated Republican Party and their conservative agenda thoroughly discredited. Their policies had exploded economic inequality with very little benefit going to the majority of Americans. The nation was quagmired in two costly, perpetual wars, at least one of which was the culmination of clear lies and distortions (as was the other, but the con was impossible to hide in Iraq). Most devastating was the near complete collapse of the global finance system and the consequent recession. 

By January of 2009, the Republican Party was, as Rachel Maddow once mocked, in the political wilderness. The anemic Democratic Party was resurgent, controlling both houses of Congress and having elected an African American President. The Republican Party, now clearly the seat of the Conservative Movement, was broken vehicle. How could the party ever recover? 

Well, cultivating good, ol’ fashioned fear and paranoia was a tried and true method of the past. After all, from the right it sure appeared that the government had been taken over by a tax and spend socialist who was going to redistribute your hard earned money to, you know, those people (I’m not saying black, because it’s not about race, just “those people”…you know…you know). 

Oh, and this particular president was black and had a Muslimy sounding name…(not that that matters, but…you know). 

So the Republican Party and its corporate establishment appealed to its most monstrous base in order to obstruct any possibility of Democratic or democratic progressive. Party elites met in the Caucus Room to plan a new brand of slash and burn obstructionism to paralyze the government. At the same time, movement conservatives appealed to the far right base, those motivated by fear of invasion, cultural diffusion and government tyranny. This was the wing of the party guided by matras rather than political ideology. Government is bad. Progressivism is an evil that must be eradicated.  There will be no compromise. There will be no retreat. 

This seemed a fine firewall to protect the corporate elite from the inevitable taxes, regulations and redistribution that would squelch their thirty year golden age inaugurated by Saint Reagan. These political hybrids, part libertarian, part xenophobe, were the perfect army against the socialist surge. Unfortunately, the very characteristics that made these monsters useful to the Republican establishment, their dedication to moral purity, to small government, their irrational fear of the other, also made them dangerous.

The corporatists and the Republican establishment who serves them, after all, aren’t REALLY against big government. That’s just what they say to silence attempts at progressive reforms. They actually love big government when it subsidizes their ventures, protects their interests economically, expands their markets militarily, socializes the costs of production and provides a bulwark against popular uprising. Big government that serves the elite is wonderful. Also, the corporate elite couldn’t care less about things like God, prayer in schools, abortion or gay marriage. In fact, if they can profit from such social arrangements, they love ’em. However, these are useful wedge issues with which to convince people to vote against their interests. 

The first rattlings against the cages came in 2011 when the Tea Party Caucus, many of whom rode to power in the 2010 elections, threatened to block any attempt to raise the debt ceiling. Now to any reasonable observer, such a threat would have been scoffed. After all, not raising the debt ceiling would be economically and socially catastrophic. Nobody would be crazy enough to actually do that.

But for the Right Wing Monsters…GOVERNMENT BAAAAAAD!! TAXES BAAAAAAAD!! SPENDING BAAAAAAD!! They rattled the cages, knocked some lamps over, cost us a step in our credit rating with their insanity, but were ultimately beat back into their cages before burning the whole thing down.

This and other events led me to wonder just what kind of monsters had been unleashed. It was not possible that the Republican establishment and the corporate activists wanted any of their minions to even consider the possibility of blocking a debt ceiling increase. It was becoming apparent that the conservative leadership, which is more than anything else a shill for the corporate elite, was losing control of their own monsters. I began to wonder just how long the conservative establishment would be able to keep the cages locked. 

Now the wages of this sinister experiment appear to be coming to fruition. I offer the Dr. Moreau Theory of Republican Politics. The hinges on the cages are creaking against the weight of a monstrous cadre of presidential candidates, the gorilla-like Trumpstrocity, the all consuming Cruzoid, the Carsonzombie, the Rubiocyborg and…well…John Kasich who doesn’t look nearly as scary as he used to, but he’s going to be devoured anyway. I predict a Wellsian calamity to close out the Republican National Convention.

And this will be a catastrophe of their own choosing.  

Below I’ve included the actual posts from the original Mad Sociologist Blog posted in October 2013 in the order that they appeared. If you are satisfied with the theory as outlined, read no further. If, however, you would like to see how this idea developed, continue on. 

On Right Wing Dogma and Strategy: Crazy Lessons of the Shutdown

Offering the Dr. Moreau Theory of Tea Party Politics

Since it became obvious that the right wing of the right wing was intent on shutting down the government I’ve been trying to make sense of what seems…well…insane. As a sociologist, I like to assume that social phenomena are logically and reasonably explainable. Contemporary politics has really provided a challenge to my theoretical framework.

As a rational strategy, the government shutdown does not appear to make sense. First, President Obama and congressional Democrats are pushed into a scenario in which they simply can’t compromise. Imagine the consequences if every law, passed through legitimate legislative means, were subject to the same blackmail as is the Affordable Care Act? No legal debate would ever be settled. No legislative compromise would ever be enough to guarantee stability of policy. Every law could be subject to overturn or even compromise through this byzantine funding process. The President would be a fool to establish this precedent any more than he already has in past compromises.

Secondly, the Democrats can assert their power by, simply, doing nothing. This puts Republicans in a position where they are constantly trying to present a reasonable front while defending an unreasonable position. Popular opinion is not on the side of the Republican Party in this matter. The more they thump the table, the bigger everyone’s headache.

And let’s not forget, shutting down the government and threatening default is just bad politics.

The most rational analysis of the government shutdown that I’ve read so far suggests that Republicans are now desperate to overturn Obamacare for fear that the ACA will actually work and make life better for millions of Americans. If that happens, three years’ worth of right wing fear mongering will be revealed as non-sense. As I elaborated in the previous blog, if fears of Obamacaregeddon prove to be unfounded, then what other corporate funded scare tactics might be called into question.

But the jig is up. People are already signing on to Obamacre in unpredicted numbers. Soon everyone will realize that Obamacare is just another policy with its ups and its downs, perhaps not a savior, but not the devil in disguise either. Republicans gain nothing in beating this very dead horse (yes, this is going to be an idiom heavy post). There are other tactics that the party can use to control for any damage that might result from a successful Obamacare. They might even be able to take credit for it down the road. “See! Mitt Romney did it in Massachusetts!”

So that leaves us with the dogmatic explanation of the current political mess. If, as it appears, there’s a relatively small knot of ideologically driven true believers pushing this agenda—which I’ve seen cleverly referred to as “Cruz Control“—then the issue is subject to analysis even though the real consequences are dire.

It’s increasingly evident that the Republican Party, especially the right wing-nuts of the Republican Party, are living in a FoxNoise, WorldNut Daily, American NonThinker netherworld where the only news is good news for the extremists. In 2012, the attendees of the Mad Tea Party were convinced, convinced, that Governor Mitt Romney was going to blow that foreign usurper out of the electoral water. They knew that researchers like Nate Silver at the 535Blog were confused or even disingenuous about all that mathy stuff. Now they claim that the people have spoken and they want the Tea Party to shut the government down in order to repeal the hated Obamacare.

Well, yeah. If by “the people” you mean the people who attend Tea Party rallies. They’re all for shutting the government down for any reason. If that reason is defunding Obamacare, then pass the Tea, Mad Hatter, and let’s shut it down. Remember, these are folks who have elevated Reagan’s mantra, that the government is not the solution, it’s the problem, to sacred canon. They see no value in a federal government. They want a federal shutdown. For years, they’ve been working themselves up for this very moment. They are literally “giddy” about it.

For those who dogmatically hate the government, a shutdown is a pretty sensible strategy. The distorted logic of shutting the government down is then reinforced by the internal mechanisms of existing within a reference group that is increasingly closed from outside sources of information. The madding crowd chants “shut it down! Shut it down!” They shut it down and hear nothing but applause because the FoxNoise drowns out the angry shouts and despairing groans from the other 83% of the population.

So this explanation may satisfy my theoretical understanding of this situation, but surely not all Republicans are this delusional.

Indeed, many Republicans, like John McCain, are trying to reason with the unreasonable. Of course, the Tea Party considers McCain a socialist. He, and similar lefties, has no sway over the radical right.

So how does the Tea Party Right have so much control in the face of reasonable opposition?

Some commentators have offered an analysis which I will call the Dr. Moreau Theory. In a nutshell, Tea Party candidates and their extreme libertarian economics were attractive to the business elite. Big corporations used their financial muscle and their PR expertise to create an astro-turf version of the Tea Party movement with which they helped to elect national Representatives and state governments, fortuitously coming to power after a census. The corporations, in essence, created monsters that would do their bidding, attacking anything that even remotely resembled progressivism/socialism. The Tea Party was bred to eat the government.

dr-moreauUnfortunately, corporations really like government largesse, just not government largesse they have to pay for, or government largesse that benefits poor people. But the Tea Party monsters, specifically those in the House of Representatives who are entrenched in safe, gerrymandered districts, are coming out of their cages. They are without fear, threatening primary challenges to eat any moderate conservatives who dare challenge them. They are primed to destroy everything in their path while they chant “government baaaaad! Shut it down! Shut it down!”

Will they turn on their own corporate masters? After all, the debt ceiling debate is right around the corner.

And the only thing standing in the way of total destruction is…

…John Boehner!

I don’t see how this ends well.

Looks Like I Could Be Wrong…Thank God!

On keeping my fingers crossed

So, it looks like the beasts are not entirely out of their cages after all…

…or they are not quite as bestial as we thought.

Either way, for the time being, we have forestalled a government default. Well…we’ve forestalled the default for another six weeks.

This begs the question, if we are only going to raise the debt ceiling anyway—which every expert agrees we have to do—why do we even have this debt ceiling vote in the first place. If even the most bestial of beasts isn’t bestial enough to eat the global economy, what’s the point of this byzantine bureaucratic doublebend.

It wasn’t always thus. In 1979, Dick Gephardt instituted what was called the “Gephardt Rule” in which any new appropriations passed by the House was understood to raise the debt ceiling to pay for that spending. This was in effect through the vaunted Reagan years, coming to an end only when Republicans took back the house in 1995.

This rule serves only one purpose. It is a tool for blackmail.

Ah. Well. We’ll see if I have to write another Dr. Moreau piece in about a month and a half.

You just wait

Don’t Feed the Animals

Beasts are still Beasts

So a cadre of Democrats and some not totally insane moderate Republicans beat Dr. Moreau’s Tea Party animals back into their rickety cages. Yes, I’m imagining Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in pith helmets with tranquilizer darts and electric prods.

I wish that meant I could lay the Dr. Moreau Theory of Tea Party politics to rest. Unfortunately, the beasts are not gone, they are only their cages after a temporary setback.

What’s more, they continue to be fed by groups like Heritage Action, The Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks. These groups feed their snarling pets the purest of right wing rhetoric—that of dogmatic self-righteousness. Like self-defined “chosen people” confronting a humiliating loss, the thought that their strategy was crazy, if not catastrophic, is an unsatisfactory explanation. The only acceptable explanation for why God would turn His back on the righteous cause is that the true believers were just not righteous enough. The next time, however, will be different. Once we purge our order of the hypocrites and the morally weak at heart, then and only then will God smile on us and deliver us into victory.

Let the shaming, purity tests and purges begin. The beasts must be fed.

Only those courageous enough to stand strong against the heathen hordes are pure enough to lead. The rest are RINOs.

First, you can only borrow money you don’t have. That’s the definition. Secondly, that’s not what happened. But never mind all that. Clearly, the impure have abandoned God and delivered themselves into the hands of the Obamachrist.

Public RINO number one. I almost feel bad for this guy. What do you wear to the sacrificial altar?

This story is not over. The beasts may be back in their cages, but they are still beasts, and there’s only so long that those rusty hinges can hold them back.

A Test of the Dr. Moreau Theory of Tea Party Politics

Let’s Call this One

Yesterday I offered an admittedly tongue in cheek theory about Tea Party Politics. I called it the Doctor Moreau Theory. Hopefully this resulted in some of my younger subscribers googling “Doctro Moreau”. Regardless, the premise is simple. Corporate interests (without completely ignoring Democrats, for sure) backed ideologically dogmatic Tea Partiers because of their free market purism. They figured they could hold the more monstrous aspects of the far right in check while they received dividends from deregulation and lower taxation.

However, as with Dr. Moreau’s hideous brood, the monsters have come out of their cages and they are now ready to destroy everything in their path. Bred to eat government, they are poised to destroy even those parts of government that businesses like, like corporate welfare, low interest loans, and Treasury bonds.

I really hope that I’m pandering in satire, here. I really hope that I’m wrong. But if this theory is valid—god forbid—then things are going to get a lot worse.

Here’s my prediction. The Tea Party congress will refuse to fund the government right up to October 17th. Then they’ll have two hostages! “Bring us the head of Obamacare!” They couldn’t care less about the debt ceiling because… “debt baaaaaaad!” Even the word “debt” is bad. So no increase in the debt ceiling.

Our only hope is John Boehner…


Dr. Moreau is Back!

Do you smell the fires burning!

Just when I thought we might just get through this government shutdown/debt ceiling crisis more or less intact, it turns out Dr. Moreau’s beasts are closer to breaking their chains.

I thought that our one hope, anemic as that may be, lay in Speaker Boehner.

Yeah. Not so much!


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