Political journalist Neal Gabler argues that the roots of modern day conservatism lie not with libertarian oriented Barry Goldwater but with - Look out! There's a communist under your bed! - Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator who in the fifties convinced Americans that the country was under attack from within by The Red Menace. McCarthy tapped into citizens' paranoia and distrust of foreigners, ruining thousands of lives in the process with his House Un-American Activities Committee. Gabler writes that the GOP's post-Reagan strategy has been to incite voter anger with recrimination and scapegoating. Look out! There's a liberal homosexual immigrant atheist with terrorist ties under your bed! From the Los Angeles Times: "That's why John McCain kept describing Barack Obama as some sort of alien and why Sarah Palin, taking a page right out of the McCarthy playbook, kept pushing Obama's relationship with onetime radical William Ayers. And that is also why the Republican Party, despite the failure of McCarthyism, is likely to keep moving rightward, appeasing its more extreme elements and stoking their grievances for some time to come."
If Republicans haven't learned from their failures during this election cycle, it's a sure bet they'll learn from their successes. Anti-gay initiatives passed handily in four states, two of which voted heavily for Obama. California, Florida, and Arizona amended their state constitutions to forever outlaw same-sex marriage, and Arkansas penalized orphans by making gay adoption illegal. (Florida's adoption ban was recently overturned by a federal judge.) Brent Hartinger at AfterElton writes: "The Republican base wasn’t flooding those Sarah Palin rallies because they wanted to get a look at her new designer shoes. They’re not giving Sean Hannity high ratings and turning Ann Coulter books into bestsellers because of their thoughtful analysis. No, the culture war is absolutely still brewing, and same-sex marriage is now the eye in the center of that hurricane... Unlike abortion and other social issues, the marriage issue also has the added advantage for Republicans of splitting liberal constituencies: black versus white, old versus young, uneducated versus educated."
If Sarah Palin and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal are rising stars in the Republican Party, as GOP insiders insist, you can be sure that McCarthy's political philosophy will continue to provide mother's milk to conservatives for years to come. After all, Us vs. Them is really the only thing right-wingers have going for them. Clinging to Karl Rove's outdated approach to politics, they'll suck that teat dry.