Tag Archives: Democrat

16 Days in October (Part 4)

9 February 2015

The Party of God, Profanity, and Anarchy

“The white establishment is now the minority…The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore.”
-Bill O’Reilly, FOX news commentator, 2012.

So-called moderates in the Republican party will occasionally talk about “adjusting” their message so as not to alienate—well, everyone—except middle-aged, upper class white males. 

“It’s not about nominating less conservative candidates, moderating our messaging or changing our principles. It’s about effectively connecting with voters on issues they care about,”

-Phil Cox, executive director of the Republican Governors association (2 November 2013, Politico), a few days before the Virginia Governor’s election. (The Republican candidate lost.)

How, exactly, do you go about “effectively connecting with voters” when your message is racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, and elitist? How do you spin bending over backwards to deport 11,000,000 Hispanic immigrants, denying minorities their voting rights, intruding on women’s rights to make reproductive decisions, and denying equal rights to homosexual couples? And climate change isn’t real? Still? What about gravity? When you deny the laws of physics even your friends will shake their heads and walk away.

Over the last 30 years, Republicans, with the complicity of many Democrats, have systematically gutted the financial regulatory system while securing major tax advantages for the 1%, all the while whining about how government regulations are ruining their lives.  Please. They’ve never had it so good.  In fact, it looks like they’ve already won.  But no, they find themselves to be sorely abused. They portray themselves as victims, invoking the notion of “class warfare.”  They think we can’t tell we’re losing?

The GOP has stoked the largely religious Know Nothing wing of the party to such a fevered pitch that they can no longer be controlled.  The Know Nothings are not going away, but the problem for mainstream Republicans is not that they disagree with the views of the Know Nothings.  Rather, it is the opposite.  O’Reilly is right. He also said that, 20 years ago, a Romney-esque candidate would have defeated Obama.  Right again. 

And so long as O’Reilly, and most of the rest of the GOP, continue to wax nostalgic for the days when their party was the party of the white establishment, they are likely to continue their frustrated decline, kicking and screaming perhaps, into irrelevancy. People adopt conservative values when they are comfortable with the status quo. The majority of blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, and perhaps just young people in general, are anything but comfortable with the Republican party.

Democrats should not see this as good news.  Given the early promise of the Obama presidency many liberals feel disappointed, even betrayed. Then again, the Know Nothings’ sole aim since Obama assumed office has been to obstruct.  Obstructing is not leadership. The 80 Know Nothings who signed the shutdown letter sent to John Boehner care little for democratic process.

They claim to be Constitutionalists but run roughshod over that sacred document when it suits their purpose. They do not contribute; they only proscribe. They do not negotiate; they only blackmail. They preach God and country while practicing profanity and anarchy. They feel disconnected from the world and from their countrymen who defend their right to behave irresponsibly. They are a minority, but they are a force to be reckoned with because they have the unreasoned self-righteousness of religious zealots who know the true way.

International observers exercised their prerogative to look down their noses at us as they contemplated the wisdom of the US dollar as the default world currency. Writing for Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, Liu Chang suggested the need for a “de-Americanized world” and writers from Athens to London wondered that the world economy could be placed at risk by an unsophisticated minority of US lawmakers who don’t seem to “get it.” The opinions of others matter—outside the bubble.

    

16 Days in October (Part 2)

 20 January 2015

There goes the neighborhood…

The Know Nothing/Do Nothing 113th Congress may have been noteworthy for their lack of legislative accomplishments but I fear that they may not suffer by comparison to their immediate successors.  The intransigence of Know Nothing Republicans is not likely to be tempered by the failed coup of October 2013.  The districts that elected the 80 Know Nothing Representatives who held the country hostage will still be safe Republican districts, probably even after the coming mid-term elections.

Yes, Republican gerrymandering played a role in 2012, but those gerrymandered districts were mostly drawn in Republican strongholds anyway.  (See Nate Cohn’s take) Our country is self-segregating.  Many aging baby boomers are migrating to urban areas for easier access to cultural venues and a less automobile-oriented lifestyle. Overall, the US is becoming more diverse, racially and culturally. But many rural Republican districts are actually becoming “whiter.” Constituents in these homogeneous communities fret about the threat to an American way of life (that never really existed), posed by illegal immigrants, abortion rights, “death panels,” government regulation, and yes, Socialists.

There seems to be a popular perception that the Tea Party sprang up, spontaneously, in 2009, shortly after the election of America’s first black president. But present day social conservatives have much in common with the late Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority back in 1976. The present day Know Nothings put politics just ahead of religion whereas the Moral Majority had it the other way around.

Back in the late ’70s there were pundits who felt that the naifs who made up the Moral Majority were being taken for a ride by the GOP establishment, that they had been seduced by a superficial conservative social agenda and were unwittingly advancing a grander agenda which they didn’t fully understand and couldn’t participate in. Some observers even went so far as to say that, eventually, the Moral Majority constituents would recognize that the political ideologies of the Democrats were more to their liking than those of the Republicans. (So, who was naïve there?)

The mainstream GOP has long and masterfully outmaneuvered the Democrats by exploiting working class, rural, and under educated voters, who realized little benefit from the fiscal policies promoted by the likes of the Koch brothers, Heritage Action, and others who spend big on the extreme right, by appealing to their latent fears and prejudices. Mitt Romney’s classically daft “47%” comment is cited by some as the deciding factor in the 2012 election. However, given the demographics of the people in that 47% group, it’s likely that most of those 47% (the ones who actually voted) voted for Romney anyway, despite his outright disdain for them.  

16 Days in October (Part 1)

12 January 2015

The Dodo is Extinct…The Wacko Bird is Alive and Well

“You do not take a hostage you are not going to for sure shoot, and we will not for sure shoot this hostage.”

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Another national election season is upon us and the field of potential Republican presidential candidates is as thick as locusts. Given Republicans’ approach to problem solving (remember the government shutdown?) does the GOP candidate exist who would not alienate the vast majority of the electorate?

There used to be a saying in national politics: Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line.  The first part is probably still true. Democrats are less likely to vote for a candidate purely because he/she is their party’s nominee if the candidate does not inspire passion. Republicans, on the other hand could always be counted on to turn out the vote, weather be damned, no matter who their nominee was, because theirs was a top-down organization. This disciplined approach to electioneering served the party well for decades and that, coupled with their fund-raising advantage and superior knack for appealing to the everyman, made them a force to be reckoned with.

Something has changed. These days the Republican party looks a lot like the maniacal melange of characters gleefully portrayed by Tony Collett, whose protagonist, Tara, suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID) in Showtime’s “The United States of Tara.” The title of the show is ironic but, then, so is the GOP, self-identified as the party of fiscal responsibility.

So, how did the party that could be counted on never to air its dirty laundry in public become the disfunctional family whose internal disagreements spill into the street and wake up the neighbors?

Dog Day Afternoon

In August of 2013, 80 House Republicans sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner suggesting that he use the threat of a government shutdown to defund the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  (Charles Krauthammer dubbed them the “Suicide Caucus.”) The Suicide Caucus was largely composed of Representatives of southern and upper midwestern, (mostly) red states. None of these states are on the West coast or in the major population centers of the East coast and New England. These 80 House districts represented just 18% of the US population – though the US population they represent is not representative of the US.  These districts are whiter, more rural, and far more Republican than the country as a whole.  Despite widespread criticism of the tactic from the more moderate wing of the party, the Suicide Caucus, egged on by fellow “wacko bird” Senator Ted Cruz, took the US Government and the world economy hostage. Standard and Poors estimated that the shutdown cost the US economy $24 billion and substantially reduced fourth quarter GDP. True to it’s nickname, the Suicide Caucus went down in flames, though its demise was not nearly as dramatic, nor as noble, as they wanted it to be.

“We’re not going to be disrespected”
Representative Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind) to The Washington Examiner.

(He was wrong.)

The Suicide Caucus’s initial demand to defund Obamacare as a condition for agreeing to a budget was quickly abandoned as unobtainable, and the ensuing drama devolved into a deluge of disfunctional demands which decreased in relevance and legitimacy as the fiasco wore on.

The ransom note(s): (Courtesy of Rachel Maddow. The comments are mine.)

  • Defund Obamacare
  • Delay Obamacare
  • Delay the Individual Mandate
  • Deny Coverage for the President
  • Deny coverage for the cabinet
  • Deny coverage to congressional staffers
  • Deny birth control coverage
  • Means testing for Medicare (Actually, a good idea. How did that get in there?)
  • Change federal employee pensions
  • Approve the Keystone pipeline
  • Expand oil drilling 
  • Block net neutrality
  • Tort reform
  • Weaken regs for coal-fired power plants
  • Tax code changes (Also a good idea but not the way they intended)
  • Thwart EPA coal-ash regulations
  • Repeal the medical device tax
  • Change rules on debt ceiling

The GOP has long been the party of fiscal and social conservatism.  This, even though social conservatives, who tend to be religious, often don’t have a clue as to what fiscal conservatism is all about. And many country club Republicans only pay lip service to conservative social values, for the sake of party unity. Mainstream fiscal conservatives are more likely to live on one of the coasts rather than in the rural bible belt, the domain of social conservatives. Monied Republicans are only loosely tied to rural conservatives by a shared dread of change. Change is bad for your bottom line—or it might be.  (Why take the chance?) If you are socially conservative you don’t want change because things are the way God intended (else, why would they be this way?) and you are bound to follow God’s will.

The issue of gay marriage may be the quintessential example of the divide between the two factions. Does anyone suppose that the cause of gay marriage (which is near to becoming the law of the land) would have made the gains it has in the last few years without the support of many mainstream Republicans?  Fiscal conservatives, business people, have gone public, first with tepid expressions of tolerance of gay unions but, increasingly, with full-fledged endorsements of gay marriage.  Why? The short answer is that gay marriage is good for the economy.

Listening to the rantings of the Know Nothing Suicide Caucus one was struck by the other worldliness of their point of view.  The “keep the government’s hands off my Medicare” ignorance of Tea Party constituents would be amusing if it weren’t also echoed by their elected representatives—at least when it serves their purpose.   Mainstream Republicans are no better. After all, they don’t necessarily disagree with the Know Nothings’ point of view, only their tactics. Their insistence that Obamacare is a “train wreck” that is “doomed to fail,” that it will “bankrupt the country” and is “causing thousands of people to lose their jobs” before it was implemented, mind you, borders on delusional.  The plain fact is that the state of health care in the US was a “train wreck” that was bankrupting the country and causing thousands of people to lose their jobs.  Not to mention that it isn’t any better than health care elsewhere that costs a third as much.