Today’s Republicans are nothing like most Republicans of the 50’s through the 70’s who were THE progressive party. Republicans have always been ‘the business party’, but most members were reasonable and moderate - and were the responsible for things like the EPA and the Clean Water Act under Nixon for example.
When business morphed into huge mega-corporations operating on global scales is when things changed. The corporations, some of whom were financially more powerful than many of the nations wherein they operated evidently concluded regulatory agencies were insufferable monsters insofar as business profits are concerned. Since the populist ‘Reagan Revolution’ there has been a concerted and sustained attack on them, and anything else potentially affecting profits like unions.
There is always a conservative resentment against most social programs, Republicans viewing those as rewards for being ‘lazy’ - regardless of the realities. During Reagan’s time we saw the beginnings of an unholy but also largely unrecognized amalgamation of big business and theocracy. I believe business first saw religion as a vehicle they could guide and use on their crusades against anything smacking of socialism - even social justice. They began with anti-science, global warming being their focus. Business saw efforts to combat climate change as a clear danger to profit. But, theocrats also crusade against evolution, abortion, homosexuality - anything religionists viewed as going against the bible - as interpreted by some of the religious leaders whether or not actually true to messages in The Book. This also happens to coincide, not incidentally, with much of the archaic culture, politics and thought of the South and Southwest, mired in visions of days gone by. The Tea Party seems almost cloned from that, and reminds me very much of the rise of George Wallace and his “American Independence Party” in the late 1960’s.
However theocracy, being irrational to begin with, is notoriously hard to control, and business has now found they have created yet another beast they have no choice but to continue to try to ride if they have any hope of guiding. But, I believe they have collectively misjudged this monster, and it will end up counter-productive to their aims. I am almost certain the conservative fundamentalist wing will now consume the Republican Party, especially if any of the Tea Baggers end up with the nomination. With Perry, Bachmann, and Palin they are definitely in the top tier. But, I also think/hope clearer heads will prevail in the end and someone like Romney or Huntsman will end up the nominee - not that that will make a huge difference in the election. That will split the party with some going for Ron Paul or a second conservative candidate, and resulting in Obama winning.
The current drive for conservative ideological ‘purity’ where social programs are destroyed, unions attacked, and the poor and dispossessed are further disenfranchised and marginalized is an extremely dangerous tactic for business. I believe the ones behind this do not recognize the risks they are taking. The apparently are ignorant of or deny history. It is as Karl Marx classically predicts in Das Kapital!, when more and more people are dispossessed and more and more wealth concentrated in fewer hands, an explosion becomes inevitable. He has been proven right.
And when that day comes here, it will likely be violent and bloody. Big business capitalists will struggle mightily and brutally, and mount imaginative campaigns against their enemies, but in the end will be overwhelmed. Their economic might simply will not stand up to the mass numbers of people in the streets who will be arrayed against them. We have a whiff of this already in the revolts of the people in the Middle East against their leaders of decades. The tide becomes inexorable and will drown the oppressors. And as Marx wrote, “the expropriators become expropriated!”
It will not be a pretty sight, and many people will suffer or die. It will take years to recover, restore infrastructure, and regain a semblance of balance and prosperity. We have, in fact, already suffered damage like this. I have now become convinced this will happen, primarily because I have now come to realize there is no real difference between the two major political parties when it comes to business having dominance over them.
You can already hear lots of hostile rumblings in the mass of centrist moderates who make up the huge center of political thought in this country. These are the folks who really decide elections in the USA, and whose numbers outweigh both major political parties put together. When the inertia of this mass begins moving strongly in a definite direction, those in the line of march better watch out - and 'keeping their powder dry' won't matter one bit. Maybe our coming revolution will be a peaceable one, but I will not put money on that today.