By Jim Hightower
In the 1990s, astute Texan and renowned progressive author Molly Ivins delighted (and horrified) readers with her accounts of the tragi-comic horror of George W. Bush’s two terms as governor of the Lone Star State. His tenure was notable for his profound ignorance, frat boy arrogance, and blatant subservience to corporate interests. But those very qualities made America’s wealthy powers decide – wow! — wouldn’t he make a dandy president?
Molly warned the general public about the stupidity of that decision, but in the 2000 race, W’s patrons stuffed him with money, decked him out in a shiny coat of PR Shinola, and staged a flagrant post-Florida political heist… and squeezed him, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and the whole regime of terror into office.
Many Americans soon expressed their astonishment at how shallow, domineering and dangerous Bush & Co. were proving to be, leading Molly to say with a heavy sigh, “Next time I’m telling you, someone from Texas please don’t be President of the United States.” Be careful.”
Don’t look now, but another Texas governor named Greg Abbott comes up to you and insists that he should be your next president. Sadly, Molly is no longer around, but I knew her well enough that I feel I can speak for her on this matter of national importance: “Oh, hell no!”
Excuse the redundancy here, but the far right has gone extreme, and Abbott is vying to be the “most extreme” of them all. A clue to his madness is his slanderous anti-abortion absolutism, forcing rape victims to give birth to their rapist’s offspring. No problem, Abbott announced, because he’s the Lone Star Wizard. He stated he wanted to go out and arrest all the rapists – get this – before they rape anyone!
Abbott, a governor with no talent for government, set a record known for spectacular bugs, corporate gimmicks, rising inequality, corruption, political buffoons… and an awful lot more. If that’s your idea of a president, here he is.
You may remember Senator Barry Goldwater, the fringed, far-right GOP presidential candidate in 1964, who famously said, “Extremism in defense of liberty is not a vice.” Today, however, the core of the Republican Party is so far over the edge went on to say that they would boo Goldwater’s right-wing extremism for being insufficiently rabid. Instead, their new rallying cry is: “Crazy in defense of extremism is not a vice.”
The GOP as a whole has evolved from a conservative party with some extremist factions into a proclaimed party of extremism. Its key officials (governors, congressional leaders, state officials, judges, party leaders, etc.) no longer just wink at such anti-democratic, far-right groups as neo-confederates, paranoid “surrogate” theorists, secessionists, and QAnon cultists — they openly embrace the crazy . Hoping to win over the raw political zeal of dogmatic rightists, local, state, and national republican bodies are going to the extreme: parroting these groups’ wilder claims, adopting their code words, and supporting their supporters for elected and appointed office.
And, of course, all this fanatical horsepower is implicitly linked to the party’s true purpose of consolidating the supremacy of the corporate and money elites.
Now that extremism is about to erupt in the GOP presidential primary, as a whole host of this cooing right-wing fantasies of taking the group’s radical agenda to the White House. They all try to outdo each other with raw-meat bigotry and autocratic posturing, but two wannabes have emerged as the beefiest and most domineering: Texas’ Greg Abbott and Florida’s Ron DeSantis.
For months, these major state governors have been embroiled in a far-right crackpot that bans free speech, bans books, brutally attacks immigrants, preempts local elections and governments, and denies poor people health care. Remember, Abbott and DeSantis aren’t just preaching, posing, and promising what they could do in the White House; as governors they are doing it right now!
I don’t know if Abbott and DeSantis are the worst that the 2024 GOP wants to bring to the Oval Office, but please pay attention now, because today’s Republican elites intend to drag our democracy into the plutocratic, autocratic, and theocratic maelstrom they are creating .
Populist author, speaker, and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing struggles of ordinary Americans against the rule of plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.