After reading what David Atkins has to say about Donald Trump’s current ascendancy among GOP presidential candidates and what it suggests about the nature of the GOP base, it occurred to me that his speculation about what puts the red in all that GOP red meat could explain why, out of all Governor Nixon’s vetoes of GOP legislation, the lege failed to override only Right to Work, HB116. Atkins asserts that:
Trump’s extremist positions on immigration and foreign policy, combined with his vulgar, racist and sexist remarks, are so obviously appalling that for him to continuously lead the GOP field not only proves the Mann/Ornstein thesis that the Republican Party has grown uniquely extreme, but also shows that problem extends beyond Republican Party leadership to the actual voters themselves. Even more, the fact that Trump’s apostasy on taxes and healthcare has not significantly damaged him is a demonstration that GOP voters are not actually so committed to the libertarian supply-side economics of the Republican Party as they are to using the power of government to benefit traditionally powerful whites at the expense of women and minorities.
So how does right to work fit into this picture? Of the several bills that will potentially have a real impact on the lives of working families, only HB116 has a hardcore white working class constituency that understood how the issues affected them and, consequently, opposed the bill. There’s no way that standing against right to work can be spun as giveaway to minorities in the time-honored Republican way.
Just consider the contrast between the response to the veto of HB150 as opposed to HB116. GOP lawmakers overrode the veto of HB150, which ties the duration of unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate, with alacrity. Consider further that the group likely to be most out of sync with the state’s official unemployment rate are African-Americans. African-Americans experience significantly higher unemployment than any other group. The out-state GOPers that dominate Jefferson City evidently don’t anticipate any serious disaffection among their predominantly white constituency if they are perceived as denying “special” unemployment benefits to “those” people.
The same principle likely applies to the override of the veto of SB224 which denies the state’s A+ scholarships to non-citizens, that is to say, the foreign born children of undocumented immigrants who otherwise meet all the requirements of the program. I’m sure I don’t have to explain the motivation behind this piece of cruel pandering to white privilege. If you’re not sure what I’m getting at, just consider the immigration bonanza Donald Trump is currently mining and the anti-immigrant gold rush it has started among his rivals for the GOP presidential nomination.
It has to be significant that of all the GOP-sponsored bills that would increase income inequality and hurt working families, only the right-to-work bill – with an appreciable white constituency – wasn’t resuscitated by our GOP-dominated legislature’s veto override session. Of course, I’m grateful that right to work for less went down no matter the reason, but it does imply that Atkins’ theory about the the racism and ideological vacuity of today’s GOP base – what’s good for me, is not for thee if you’re brown, Muslim or female – may provide us with the correct platform from which to regard our political adversaries.