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GOP in Freefall?

Is the Republican Party imploding? Revelations about the arrest of a growing number of rightwing, GOP-leaning “patriots” and the Republican party’s misuse of campaign funds to cover a wild night at the Voyeur, a West Hollywood “gentlemen’s club,” well might indicate a political party in freefall.

The Voyeur story first broke on The Daily Caller, a conservative online site, that revealed Republic party filings to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) showing that a party operative submitted a $2,000 invoice for a fundraising get-together at the club. The get-together took place after an RNC “Young Eagles” fundraiser in Beverly Hills. However, after the national press, talk shows and the blogosphere joined in reporting the episode with a great chuckle, Michael Steele, the head of the Republic party, moved quickly to fire those involved in the episode. It was an expected action attempting to stanch the embarrassment; one can only wonder how long Steele will hold his office.

In the wake of its rout in the 2008 elections, the GOP appeared increasingly desperate. Seeking to distance itself from the failed domestic and foreign policies of the Bush administration, it simply denies that Bush, Cheney & company were Republicans. Rather, the new-new Republicans insist that the Bush regime was really RINO, Republicans-in-name-only in big-government drag. The ’08 election exposed clearly that they lacked a coherent program to oppose the Democrats, thus forcing the GOP to become the party of “No!,” seeking to stall or tie-up Democratic legislative efforts no matter how modest. Recognizing that they lost their base in ‘08, particularly the “independent” voter, the new-new Republicans chose to chase the Tea Party activists, hoping that by adopting every crazy slogan, whether “death panels” or that Obama is a “communist,” to prove that they are really populists at heart.

The Republican party’s failed effort to sink the Obama-Democrat’s health-insurance reform effort is a testament to a failed political strategy. The evening’s night out at the Voyeur is more then the foolish blunder of a shortsighted party functionary; it is a testament to the arrogant (and sexually dubious) values of the country-club set that still controls the once-grand and pathetically-ageing party.

* * *

The Voyeur, also known as Club 7969, is located on Santa Monica Blvd near Fairfax Ave. It is described as “designed like an off-color fantasy scene” from Stanley Kubrick’s erotic thriller, “Eyes Wide Shut,” starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. It “errs on the side of eroticism [and] is suited up with an A-list clientele.”

As an upscale “gentlemen’s club,” it features topless dancers and offers performance sex shows involving bondage and other simulated play. According to one account, it regularly features “impromptu bondage and S&M ‘scenes’ being played out on an elevated platform by scantily clad [female] performers throughout the night ….” One of its distinguishing features is a heavy net suspended above the club’s lounge area where female performers writhe above the heads of upscale partygoers. However, its most famous attraction is an enclosed glass booth area adjacent to the dance floor where provocative homoerotic lesbian sex scenes are played out. No less an authority then the invaluable website, Yelp, currently rates the Voyeur as LA’s hottest nightspot.

It is not yet clear who attended the RNC’s night-on-the-town on January 31st. However, Erik Brown, an Orange, CA, Republican consultant and donor, submitted a reimbursement request to the RNC for $1,946.25 to cover the costs of the night’s charges. Dutifully, the party paid the outstanding bill.

As the scandal gained momentum, the party leadership reacted as expected. Doug Heye, a party spokesman, huffed, “It was not a sanctioned R.N.C. activity. It was improper because of the venue.” Seeking to deflect criticism, Heye rationalized: “It is unfortunate that a loyal G.O.P. donor [Brown] who has recruited other donors became involved in this incident while merely trying to help what turned out to be the improper request of a staffer who is no longer with the committee.” He insists that the party’s “accounting and reimbursement processes are being revised” to prevent similar episodes from occurring. And this hapless “Brownie” agreed to repay the money.

Complicating the episode of Brown and his guests partying at the Voyeur club are other revelations about the free-spending ways of party officials. FEC filings show GOP hucksters spent $17,500 on travel by private jet, $15,000 on limousines and stays in Four Star hotels including the Beverly Hills Hotel ($9,000), Washington’s W Hotel ($15,000) and Philadelphia’s Four Seasons ($7,000). It’s so reassuring to see that Republican functionaries can live as well as the bankers who finance them.

This scandal follows an earlier embarrassing episode involving Steele. In January, he published a book attacking the Obama presidency and, as he traveled the nation promoting his work at paid engagements, he not only pocked the proceeds of his book’s advance but the speaking fees as well. His speaking fees range between $8,000 and $20,000 per address, plus first-class travel and lodging expenses.

* * *

Marx once famously noted: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

A series of sex scandals befell the Republican party in the months leading up to the November 2006 election and contributed to the growing popular disillusionment with the Bush presidency. Among these were incidents that involved the former Congressmen Mark Foley (R-FL) and Don Sherwood (R-PA), religious leaders like Revs. Ted Haggard and Paul Crouch, and the pundit Bill Bennett. It also involved revelations (along with disturbing photographs) of tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Lynndie England’s seductive leer to the camera. And the absurd scandal involving Jeff Gannon, the Republican White House blogger who, after hours, turned out to be James Dale Guckert (aka “Bulldog”), operator of a gay website with U.S. Marine Corp. themes for the solicitation of male prostitutes. For Republicans, these incidents may well have been tragic examples of a party unraveling after six years exercise unchecked power.

The latest revelations about Republican goings-on at the Voyeur club may well be the second of a series of scandals that could represent pathetic farce. Having neither a coherent political program nor a secure electoral appeal among “independents,” the GOP is groping blindly for a viable identity in an increasingly diverse and economically troubled America. Amidst such blindness, it will likely move further to the right, appealing to ignorance and rage and thus promoting a neo-fascist program so as to avoid dealing with the pressing challenges facing a nation buffeted by a global capitalist system in the throws of a restructuring crisis.

WORDS THAT STICK

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David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

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