The GOP these days is pretending to be a center-right party, while acting like a racial-nationalist party. It started with Nixon's Southern Strategy, and little by little the GOP became less and less about substance and more and more about resentment. The problem with eschewing substance like this is that as governing matters less and less your base demands more and more politically unfeasible things. Thus we have the 2013 debt ceiling brinksmanship, the government shutdown, Boehner being kicked out. And along comes Trump, and it becomes clear that the substance, and even facts, no longer matter; only winning does. Well, winning and yelling about illegals.
Sound familiar? Freepers swim in this new type of populism. It's not about I'll get you your rightful stuff, it's about I'll hurt the guys taking all your stuff. It's a relatively modern invention, it's dangerous, it's still growing in intensity, and it's not going away after Trump loses. There will be a reckoning of some sort in the next few decades, either in the GOP or in America generally.
Free Republic is a place where the only constants are hating top Democrats, and railing against illegals. Even racism became a main theme as a way to blame stuff on Obama. Not everyone votes Republican like Freepers do, but it's enough to control the party.
And well before Bush the party had fallen behind the curve, as the main driver became the media. Resentment politics became a culture, as hucksters found that resentment could be milked for money as well as votes.
So beyond a lesson in the darker parts of human nature and my own vices, monitoring Free Republic is important because it's a reflection of a huge driver of current events.
It's hard to separate out the signal from the noise. Is this for real, or is it just a few oddball Freepers, or a brief crazy fad, or some odd reaction to Jim Robinson's decrees from on high. And sometimes stuff that doesn't catch on outside the rarified air on Free Republic. For instance, I didn't see Trump coming until everyone else did (though I got an inkling of Palin, which I mocked as ridiculous at the time). So a lot of what I see is more descriptive than predictive, but there are some trends that at the very least deserve watching.
The biggest insight is that for all their talk about Guns, God, and Gays, the GOP base really cares about only one issue:
Free Republic is also why I'm skeptical the economic downturn has anything to do with this recent rise in populism, at least on the right. Seeing Freepers drop FOX and Rush for Brietbart Radio and the Conservative Treehouse corresponds to dropping conservativism for a purer form of blind nationalism. And since Freepers seem to represent, at the very least, an extremely cohesive and this powerful plurality of GOP voters, Freep tells me that the GOP (and the conservative power structure) in America is in deep, existential trouble that will continue well beyond this Trump situation.
Another trend, though one many outside of Freep have predicted as well, is the growth of Men's Rights idiocy on the site. It's fertile ground - Rush gleefully talked about feminazis, and Freepers have been discussing repealing the 19th Amendment since at least 2009. But the traction and acceptance of those who argue women are scheming beasts tells me that the right may soon have some new bedfellows to deal with.
Another insight that I suspect other have had independently is how little the right actually cares about Europe. The main use Freepers have for Europe is as a rhetorical tool. "Obama spit in the face of England, our best and most important ally!" "England is mostly girly men and Muslims, don't let it happen here!" Point is that if Europe gets into any sort of major trouble anytime soon, expect a lot of Republicans to be against any action by the US. Unless Muslims are involved, naturally.
Freepers' flailing about how exactly to hate Hillary tells me the GOP isn't quite sure how to handle her. Obama's a scary Muslim who hates America; easy enough. But Hillary? She's...a corrupt, ambitious, ugly liar, I guess? That does not make for good fanfiction. Hillary has a constellation of scandals Freepers are eager to bring up, but no good narrative throughline, so far. I think this betrays a weakness in GOP attempts to oppose her.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head. But as you can see, there's a wealth of interesting possible insights into recent and future politics to be gleaned from this vice of mine. Or so I tell myself.
Now, on to further Freeping! Tomorrow I'm spotlighting an octogenarian who wants to outlaw Foie Gras because she hates liver!