Sunday, July 01, 2007

Fred Thompson, Corporatist

Forget Molly Levinson, Mark Halperin, Chuck Todd, Chris Matthews, and all the other pols. They and others may tell you that the Republican Presidential race likely will come down to two candidates, one "moderate" and one conservative.

The problem, of course, is that none of the four leading GOP contenders is running as a moderate. Yes, Rudy Giuliani is a liberal on cultural issues, such as gay rights, abortion rights, and gun control. But, not surprisingly, he's downplaying his deviance from the Republican base on those issues and instead emphasizing the inheritance tax, which Republicans, famously and disingenously, like to refer to as the "Death Tax." Mitt Romney has been reborn as a pro-life, anti-gay rights activist and John McCain, who now supports Bush's income tax cuts for the wealthy, is arguably the most passionate supporter of the Iraq war in the U.S. Senate. And former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee has expressed nary a moderate view as he has been increasingly, and effectively, promoted as the party's best hope to nominate a staunch conservative.

But what kind of conservative is Fred Thompson? Responding in 1996 to a survey by the Christian Coalition, Thompson checked "opposed" to an amendment to the United States Constituion "protecting the sanctity of human life" and explained "I do not believe abortion should be criminalized." And when asked by the Memphis group Family, Life, America, Responsible Education Under God Inc. (hardly pro-choice) if human life begins at conception, Thompson circled "N/A."

Thompson has spent several years as part of Hollywood, appearing both in films and on television, most notably in "Law and Order." It is hardly suprising, then, that he is comfortable with modern culture, at ease with a society many Republicans are not. On economic matters, however, he is a classic conservative. As a Senator, he voted to terminate Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards, to reauthorize fast track trading authority of the President, to restrict class action lawsuits, in favor of allowing personal retirement accounts and Medicare means-testing, and against allowing reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada. When Thompson recently cut a video ridiculing Michael Moore for traveling to Cuba for the making of his movie "Sicko," Moore responded in part by targeting the Republican's "box upon box of cigars- Montecristos from Havana that you have in your office have contributed to Castro's reported wealth."

Fred Thompson, Corporatist

It's an interesting habit on the part of a hawkish, conservative Republican- doing his small part to bolster the regime of the dreaded Communist dictator. But it's not out of character. Thompson is playing the part of the cultural conservative but is, at base, a corporatist. It's an act commonly played by GOP politicians, as portrayed by Thomas Frank in "What's the Matter with Kansas?" Thompson's appeal to conservatives reflects that of the larger conservative movement, which "depends for its continued dominance and even for its very existence on people never making certain mental connections about the world, connections that until recently were treated as obvious or self-evident everywhere on the planet. For example, the conection between mass culture, most of which conservatives hate, and laissez-faire capitalism, which they adore without reservation." The Republican race will not come down to a "moderate" and a conservative, but between two conservatives: one who represents cultural, "social" conservatism and the other, who, despite his image, represents corporate interests.

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