We have been forecasting the disappearance of the GOP as a political party by the end of this decade. Considering the smashing success of conservatives in the last election, it is a bold prediction.
The idea relies on a continual shrinking of the Republican base, pushing the Republican party into the control of an ever smaller and more extreme bloc of voters. The driving force is technology. As the party grows smaller, and the more extreme voters drive out the less extreme, members of the controlling group surround themselves with comforting, but delusional, messages from cable and internet alternatives that only became available in recent history.
For the entire phenomenon to work, several elements have to come true.
The party must become increasingly extreme. The purging of moderates, followed by the purging of mainstream conservatives, followed by the purging of extreme conservatives who are simply not extreme enough, is a pretty clear signal. Moderate Olympia Snowe (R-MN) is extraordinarily popular with voters. The overwhelming majority of her shrinking party want her out of office. Richard Lugar (R-IN) is scrambling for his life. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is scrambling for his life. In fact, the number of conservatives being targeted for defeat by conservatives has never been larger.
Party membership must continually shrink. Currently, this is disguised by a much higher level of popular support for the GOP during economic upheaval. The key here is not popular support, but the underpinnings of popular support.
Economic conditions come and go, even persistent recessions. Long term voter support depends on where a party stands. Increasingly extreme positions will tend to dampen the attractiveness of a party for voters. If a party continually shrinks, it can find itself in the hands of a more extreme base. This is not a GOP strategy, but it has to happen. Here is why, step by step.
If GOP candidates get few enough votes in enough elections, the party will disappear.
If the GOP grows extreme enough, it will attract fewer voters, thus fulfilling Number 1.
If less conservative members continue to leave the party, the party will become increasingly extreme. Thus fulfilling number 2, which makes number 1 a certainty.
If more conservative members of the party continue to believe ideological purity is the key to victory, they will continue to make the GOP a less and less hospitable home for mainstream conservatives. Thus fulfilling number 3, thus making numbers 2 and 1 a certainty.
If extreme conservatives listen to what they are being told by conservative media, they will become increasingly certain that any setbacks are caused by a lack of ideological purity. Thus fulfilling number 4, making number 3, 2, and 1 a certainty.
- If conservative media stop telling extremists they are right, extreme conservatives now have the easy ability to find other more conservative media alternatives. Thus making it all come together in a very happy, yellow-brick-road ending.
Some days I think of it as a set of falling dominoes. Other days it is more like an abbreviated Christmas carol, leading to the pear tree. Anyway you think about it, any analysis that assumes it is some mistake being made by grand strategists in a backroom is on the wrong track.
It is a sociological phenomenon. The party can't help it. If each step falls into place, and I think it must, the GOP is already doomed.
Students should not be allowed to vote, says New Hampshire Republican Gregory Sorg. Young people are ignorant and inexperienced which makes them overconfident.
He laid out the case for keeping certain types of people from casting ballots: "transient inmates" (that would be students) "with a dearth of experience and a plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce." He also wants to end other practices that make it easy for folks to get on the rolls, like same day registration.
Making sure voters have to really apply some effort at registration before they can actually cast ballots for, or often against, politicians like Gregory Sorg seems to be the core motivation. His effort is refreshingly straightforward. It simply tries to keep the kids from registering where they are going to school. Other efforts are a a little more involved.
The most often used method of keeping undesirables from voting is requiring identification that goes beyond what non-drivers will typically have. So those without automobiles, those who commute to and from work by bus, by train, or by foot must first do their homework. Not all identification can be used. Picture ID is to be required. If you dig out your high school identification, you're probably on the wrong track. Conservative legislators are way ahead of you, specifically disallowing school IDs. But there is a way. In most cases, the state will issue a special non-driver's ID.
The next step is to get there. All you need to do is drive, er, take a bus or cab to an authorized office to fill out an application. In some cases, they will take your photo, for a fee, and issue you an identification right there. But if you need to come back again, well that's what buses are for, right?
A lot of folks might give up and not vote at all, but life is filled with little tradeoffs. And massive voter fraud has to be prevented. Except that voter fraud is actually rare to the point of being non-existent. US Supreme Court Justice David Souter explained the simple economics of cost and benefit under existing law.
[F]raud by individual voters is a singularly foolish and ineffective way to attempt to win an election. Each act of voter fraud in connection with a federal election risks five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, in addition to any state penalties. In return, it yields at most one incremental vote. That single extra vote is simply not worth the price.
Actual election fraud, the sort that really can affect how an election turns out, involves stuffing ballot boxes, or totaling the wrong figures. It's the sort of thing that happens behind the scenes, well away from actual voters.
Every once in a while, you will find actual voter fraud. This happens only when there exists some extra motivation way beyond that single costly incremental vote. One recent example came to light when Indiana's Secretary of State, Republican Charlie White, was indicted for fraudulently voting in the wrong district. It happened to allow him to keep getting paid as a member of a Town Council, but he says it was because his schedule kept him too busy.
There is one other popular way to win an election fraudulently. It is by preventing opposing voters from casting their ballots. This can happen in a number of ways. In segregation days, black voters were threatened and sometimes killed if they voted. Today, it is simply easier to manipulate the law. For example, you can try to make voting too darn much work for low income working people who travel by bus. You can require extra identification.
Or you might pass a law to keep young people from voting. After all they have "a dearth of experience and a plethora of the easy self-confidence that only ignorance and inexperience can produce." Too liberal. Too Democratic. Keep them out.
CONCORD – Secretary of State William Gardner came out Thursday against two bills that change state voting laws to eliminate Election Day registrations and that would bar students from voting in the towns where they attend college.
The House Election Law Committee held public hearings that drew close to 200 people, including the League of Women Voters and more than 100 college students who oppose the changes.
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Conservatives in Wisconsin are getting nervous that three Republican state senators may defect on the collective-bargaining reform vote. It's still anyone's guess as to when that vote will take place because Democrats remain in exile to prevent the necessary quorum. But Republicans in the Senate hold a 19-14 majority, so GOP Gov. Scott Walker can afford to lose no more than two Republican senators on this pivotal vote.
The iconic image presented by Dirty Harry movies makes its reemergence in Wisconsin as Fox News reporters and analysts play clueless police bosses, chastising heroes. The movies we watched through the 70s presented a conservative caricature of liberal soft-on-crime wimpiness. When Ronald Reagan took office, his Attorney General summed it all up. The ACLU, said Edwin Meese, was part of the criminals' lobby. The lobby was presumably composed of most liberals.
And so the movie series presented the political establishment of the day. Detective Harry Callahan walks into a hostage situation. A man with a gun, unkempt and bearded, holds hapless, frightened, customers in a local supermarket. Laughing crazily, he explains his plan to kill each of them. Harry disposes of the hostage taker, rescues the shoppers, and faces a stern scolding from high police officials.
As Wisconsin governor Scott Walker becomes perceived as the anti-working folk bad guy, Fox News is casting itself in the role of national scold. Assaults, thuggery, rudeness, general boorishness is documented by Fox reporters, occasionally with bogus videos. The fight moves from Madison to the television screen.
One genuine series of events shows an on camera report interrupted by chants of "Fox Lies!" In an interview with a single protester the reporter demands examples of Fox lies. The fellow has no good answer, not having internet access right then. Fox helps him out later on, with misleading videos of very-rude-protesters complete with palm trees fleetingly visible swaying in the hot summer breezes of frigid, snow covered Madison. The "Madison" video was actually shot in southern California. Apologists later explain that the film belonged to a previously covered narrative about union thugs in general, and was still being shown as the story shifted to Wisconsin. It was a bit of combined coverage. Uh huh. The chanting protesters are described on camera as violent, and text on the screen calls them an "Angry Union Mob."
Union workers publicly agree to every one of the Governor's budget demands, but the governor won't take yes for an answer. He insists that the right of unions to negotiate at all for employee benefits be given up forever. Switch to Fox and see the Governor describing the fight as a struggle over the budget, one in which unions are too stubborn to make concessions.
A Fox reporter is described as having been assaulted by a protester. Fox analysts are outraged and protesters are again described on camera as "an angry Wisconsin mob." The Fox reporter declines to describe it as an assault. It was a punch, then a hit. Eventually a video from a bystander emerges. It was a more like a pat on the arm. Fox continues to call it an assault for a while, then drops coverage of the accusation entirely.
As local reports are become briefly viral on the internet, documenting remarkably peaceful protesters, the Governor orders police to use force to clear them out of the capitol building. Police defy the Governor, declining to use force against peaceful demonstrators. Eventually, a judge issues an order. Protesters must leave for a while so routine janitorial services can be done, but the Governor cannot lock the protesters out. They have to be allowed back. The protesters leave and come back. But switch to Fox, and coverage is about a 7.5 million dollar cleanup. Dirty Demonstrators! Other reports, not making it to Fox, report a much lower cost of less than 5% of that. A concerned parent is interviewed on Fox blasting teachers unions for not supporting the Governor. The concerned parent turns out to be a Republican activist used by Fox to demonstrate a lack of popular support for the protesters.
The mad dash of Democratic state senators from location to location to keep the Wisconsin senate from having a quorum, thus tying up the Governor's anti-union measures, seems to capture the imagination of the public. It is Mr. Smith goes to Washington combined with the Fugitive. Democrats become fugitives from injustice. Efforts by the Governor to fine them $100 for each day of absence, keeping them from collecting any pay that's left after that, becomes lunch counter talk around the country.
The Governor's popularity in Wisconsin seems to be lower than that of Stalin in Russia. Pro-Republican poll takers try to discover new phrasing that will boost the numbers, but the evidence simply can't be turned. The public is against him, and the trend is increasing. This is taking a toll in the legislature. Three Republicans in the state senate are wavering, three defections being enough to torpedo the GOP majority. A Republican candidate to replace Governor Walker in his old job as county executive of Milwaukee County is running away from supporting the Governor.
But in what finally seems to be completing a very bad picture, the Governor has sent look-what-they're-making-me-do pre-layoff notices to 1,500 state employees. Nobody likes bullies anyway, but this gets us back to what so many voters grew up with: Harry Callahan reprimanded by Fox News, and the bearded guy in the Super Market yelling his threats.
Do what I say or the Wisconsin workers get it.
Unions have a secure place in our industrial life. Only a handful of reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions and depriving working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.
- - President Dwight David Eisenhower, 1954
The ideal of religion is to allow worshipers a representation, one they can understand, of God, God being otherwise beyond the reach of human understanding. All belief is flawed, and the flaw of most believers is to believe it is not.
Plato, in The Republic, postulated a group of people chained for all their lives facing the back of a cave. They can see only shadows from the outside. Because they have never experienced any other vision of the world, they come to believe they are witnesses to reality. Only the philosopher breaks the chains, learns the limitations of the vision of his compatriots, and adopts a larger view of the world. Plato was onto something, but missed the limitations of the philosopher. At most, the philosopher can point to the limitations of the wall. That is a lot. Perhaps it is enough.
Christian author C.S.Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, included a fictional account of a demon assigned to subvert a Christian soul, seeking to exploit the limitations of belief. The demon's frustration comes when the Christian begins to worship God "not as I imagine thee to be, but as thou knowest thyself to be."
The temptation of religion is certainty, the absence of mystery. The danger of religion comes from the logic of that certainty. Since I know the truth of God, I know what God wants. I am fulfilling his will as I enforce that understanding. Forcing others into the vision presented to me can take the form of outlawing competing forms of worship, or restricting social interaction between those who do not share the vision: the sort of practices that provoked Pilgrims to land at Plymouth Rock, and the founders to write the first amendment.
Conservative speculation, that Muslims share the temptation to impose beliefs, is used to justify a spate of local state level bills outlawing any legal standing for Sharia Law, the first amendment apparently not being enough. Sharia is a system of conduct based on the Quran and augmented by the example provided by the Prophet Muhammad. Applied in the extreme, it gives us religious oppression in Iran. Typically it gives a system of tolerant secular laws consistent with Sharia in Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Morocco, and Afghanistan. More widespread than institutional law is a simple system of personal conduct, the ethical treatment of those around us, an honest way of settling common disputes, and a system of worship practices. The chance of Sharia being introduced as law in the US is as likely as widespread voter fraud, which is to say nonexistent. The bills are simply a way to slap Muslims around for being Muslims.
In Tennessee, a legislative proposal is seriously debated that would make the private practice of Sharia by individual believers a felony, punishable with prison. This is a more extreme than campaigns taken against Islam elsewhere. Even conservatives, for the most part, are not in favor of outlawing private beliefs or religious practices. They are simply against a system that would impose religious standards as institutional law.
Meanwhile, the conservative Christian religious group, the Family Research Council, has applauded House Speaker John Boehner. The House leadership will intervene in court to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which lets states discriminate against married gays. The Family Research Council backs the law for religious reasons.
Max's Dad, on the other hand, finds as his examples elected officials ranting to a screaming crowd against a group of Muslims, as the Muslims raise money for America's homeless.
At Saving Common Sense, conservative T. Paine rages at the Obama administration for not defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court. One extremely well informed comment is published in dissent. Oh gosh, it was by me. Also entertaining is a civil on-line dialogue between T. Paine and JMyste which, sadly, does not descend into the dreamed for food fight.
Ned Williams at Wisdom Is Vindicated points out that a Georgia bill, that would throw a woman into prison for experiencing a miscarriage, might be wrongheaded. He also anticipates that lefties might seize on it to "prove" the absurdities of current positions of right-to-life. Actually, that ship has sailed.
- Slant Right's John Houk, who has been screaming opposition to the overthrow of governments in the middle east as a leftist plot, is now angry about the hypocrisy about main stream media's failure to report atrocities by authorities resisting revolution. It's the Qadafi effect possibly combined with the all too human reluctance to admit when we are wrong. We all partake of that vice, don't we?
House Democrats used a creative floor maneuver Wednesday to force Republicans into blocking the elimination of more than $180 million in funds left over from the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” earmark.
During consideration of a bill that would extend the authorization for surface transportation programs through Sept. 30, Democrats offered a motion to recommit that would have eliminated $183 million in funding to Alaska.
Originally earmarked in the 2005 surface transportation reauthorization for two bridges in rural Alaska, the funds were ultimately directed to the state’s transportation department after the earmark became a symbol of Congress’ abuse of the system. One of the bridges, to a tiny community on Gravina Island, became famous as the Bridge to Nowhere.
(CNN) -- Amid a number of bills filed in Texas that address the issue of illegal immigration, one, proposed by Republican state Rep. Debbie Riddle, stands out.
As proposed, House Bill 1202 would create tough state punishments for those who "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly" hire an unauthorized immigrant. Violators could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
But it is an exception included in the bill that is drawing attention. Those who hire unauthorized immigrants would be in violation of the law -- unless they are hiring a maid, a lawn caretaker or another houseworker.
New applications for U.S. jobless benefits fell by 20,000 to 368,000 in the week of Feb. 26, the lowest level in nearly three years, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The last time claims were that low was in May 2008. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected first-time jobless claims to rise...