The push for right-to-work laws is obviously about creating a race to the bottom that will significantly lower the cost of labor for U.S. employees -- but it's also, as has been noted by Rachel Maddow and Kevin Drum, among others, about defunding the Democratic Party, whose candidates are supported by a significant amount of union money. So, yes, the Michigan right-to-work fight is about the rich trying to get richer -- but it's also a sign that Republicans hope to win future elections not by changing any of the things they did up through 2012, but by doing what they were doing more forcefully.
We also see this at the propaganda organs of the GOP. The right-wing media, led by Fox News, is fixated on a story about a Fox News provocateur who was dispatched into the group of anti-right-to-work protesters in order to stir up trouble and briefly got into a scuffle with a protester. The fight was over in seconds, fellow protesters broke it up, it didn't seem to be of particular concern to the large police contingent -- and yet this is what the right-wing base is being told is the big news coming out of Lansing. Fox -- which is a huge part of the GOP voter turnout effort, and which is still Republican politicians' go-to media outlet for getting out messages -- isn't modifying its message one bit in response to the 2012 election results. (Hell, the Murdoch press was whining about the "Ground Zero mosque" over the weekend. Back to the future....)
In D.C., meanwhile, as Noam Scheiber points out, Republicans are still playing to the rage junkies. Scheiber writes about
the mania that has yet to loosen its grip on congressional Republicans, even after they lost seats in both houses and watched Obama roll to a comfortable re-election. To see this, look no further than the party's internal discussions over its own fiscal-cliff positioning. The current debate within the GOP is between those who see that Obama has all the leverage in this particular episode and urge a quick deal on tax rates so the party can regroup for a bigger victory on entitlements, and those who still refuse to budge in any way on tax rates. Which is to say, it's a debate between the moderately delusional and the utterly, irreconcilably delusional.In other words, it's a debate between Republicans who think the party should be intransigent now, on tax rates, or later, on blowing up the global economy when the debt ceiling approaches, unless the president makes massive concessions on spending. That's the GOP's messaging after an electoral blowout: more of the same.
Add this all up and you've got a party that thinks rousing the base, and pretty much only the base, will work in the future, even if it didn't work this year. Just defund the Democrat Perty a little more, make voting more difficult for Democrats via voter ID and long lines, monkey with the Electoral College a bit, and who cares about changing demographics or alienating previously persuadable voters?
Last spring, Jonathan Chait argued that the "emerging Democratic majority" was here, and that the GOP had one final chance, in 2012, to seize power and steer the country its way. To me, the 2012 election results confirmed that theory -- but to Republicans, apparently, the last war still goes on.