I read something about whales and cancer. Cancer happens when one of your cells is damaged in such a way that it starts replicating out of control, rather than working together with the other cells. Whales are so big, and have so many cells, how do they not get proportionally more cancers, or if they do, how do they survive so many constantly expanding tumors? It turns out that one proposed answer was this: as a cancer grows, the tumor has to become more internally complicated. The cells of the cancer cooperate with each other, and tumors have whole internal circulatory structures and such that keep them alive. However, in a cancer these cooperative cells are very close to just going nuts and replicating out of control – since that’s their thing, they’re cancer. So it turns out that tumors are at risk of meta-cancer, a tumor within a tumor that can actually kill, or at least halt the growth of, the original cancer. This may be the cause of some spontaneous remissions in humans. In whales, it becomes even more of a factor. Since a whale is so huge, a cancer needs to be quite a bit bigger to do the same amount of damage it would in a human. It turns out that whale cancers tend to succumb to meta-cancer before they can get large enough to do much damage. So a whale might be swimming around with a number of small tumors, that are just too riddled with their own sub-tumors to grow fast enough to be an issue.
So on that note, let’s talk about the Republican Party. The cancer metaphor is obvious – the party has been taken over by a coalition of billionaires / wannabe oligarchs, who have decided to stop striving for the general good, and instead to simply try to take as many of the nation’s resources under their control as possible. Their program has been going pretty well, and the nation is feeling the disease. However, there is hope among the whales. Like a whale, the United States is enormous. The ongoing oligarchic putsch has been debilitating, but has not yet been life threatening. Democracy is still intact, and mechanisms for recovery are still in place (PS Bernie Sanders 2016). And fortunately for the nation, the whale metaphor extends further. The Republican Party is stricken with meta-cancer. More people are figuring out the mechanisms by which the Republican oligarchs manipulate their base of voters, and are getting in on the action. The first huge manifestation of this was the Tea Party back in 2010. Having been whipped into a frenzy by conservative propagandists, a good chunk of the Republican base – both voter and donor – demanded even more extreme conservative candidates, who proved very willing to damage their party’s overall electoral chances in order to pander to their radicalized base (again, both voter, and even more so, donor).
Of perhaps even more concern to the old Republican establishment than the Tea Party, is Donald Trump. Trump, currently leading in the polls, is offering an ideologically mixed bag, which is in many ways similar to that of parties like UKIP in Britain or the National Front in France. Essentially: they support the welfare state, but only for white people. It’s a bit impolitic to say it, but these are voters motivated by racism. They support government social spending that they perceive as benefiting people like themselves, such as Social Security and Medicare, while opposing programs they perceive as being targeted at minorities, such as food stamps or ‘welfare’, whatever that means these days. And of course most of all they are anti-immigrant, viewing it as a part of a transformation of the country for the worse. Trump may be a flash in the pan, and it may turn out that this demographic is difficult to organize because of a lack of billionaires with similar priorities. However, what will not change is that the one big grift that is Republican ideology is beginning to break into many smaller grifts. As we’ve seen in the new primary season, more and more candidates are targeting finer and finer gradations of the Republican primary electorate. It just happened to turn out that “racist” was quite a big block, and Trump has manged to lock it up by saying out loud the things that modern Republicans have only implied. Likely there will be more competition for those votes going forward. All of this serves the competitive advantage of individual operators within the party system, while being harmful to the greater organization. When the whole point is that you’re only in it for personal gain anyway, it’s tough to build party loyalty. Tumor cells tend to be selfish even to other tumor cells, what can you do, they’re cancer.
Ideological unity will likely be a bit stronger in the legislature, at least on the pro-rich economic policies that are the party’s driving force, since the Republican donor class is unified on those issues. And that means that as long as a combination of gerrymandering, clustering, and poor Democratic midterm turnout keeps Republicans in control of any veto point there, nothing will get done. However, it is very unlikely that the Republican Party in its current incarnation will ever be able to win another Presidential election, which means it will not be appointing any more Supreme Court Justices, or ever passing any legislation the Democrats don’t want passed. In the end, the party can only hope to survive for so long as the demographic groups it has most thoroughly under control steadily die off. The meta-cancer effects will keep the party from moderating itself, and it will not be able to broaden its appeal to many outside of its aging base. Eventually there will come a tipping point, where they lose control of their last veto points on the national level, which allows a variety of reforms that reduce both their voter suppression and propaganda production capacities, leading to further reductions in Republican representation.
So god bless you Donald Trump, god bless you Tea Party, god bless you meta-cancer. If the Republicans could pull off being an efficient and effective party dedicated to the enlightened self-interest of the capitalist class, it probably could kept this country in an only vaguely shitty status quo forever. But thanks to you crazy bastards who are eating away at the thing from the inside, the whole cancerous edifice is going to fall apart and we are going to have a chance for some real positive change in this country.