In the good old days, Democrats used to form circular firing squads. These days, Republicans hunt their own. DINOs, Democrats in Name Only, have been supplanted in purge accounts by RINOs (take a guess).
"We need to purge the Republicans of the weaklings, and we’re on a...RINO hunt. And we’re going to drive them to extinction," said conservative activist Mark Williams last year.
This is an important process for those of us who hope for the fulfillment of a wonderful vision: the dissolution of the Republican Party. Whether by purge or by simply leaving, those who are not in the most extreme wing of the GOP must depart. If they don't, or if moderate conservatives find their way back, the entire phenomenon will collapse and Republicans will be with us for as far as the eye can see.
Even more important is the divide between the general voting population (I'm tempted to call them the General Electorate. Has a ring to it, don't you think?). If the Republican Party, in the hard fisted grip of what we can hope will be an increasingly extreme base, nominates candidates just on the borderline of crazy, that will be only half the battle. The nightmare scenario would be candidates from the land of Oz who are generally regarded as the voice of sweet reason. Only if the voting perception is that Republicans are from over a dark rainbow, can the collapse of the party be ensured.
If the country is somewhat conservative, on the verge of moon-howling radical, then all is lost. The mainstream perception is that the nation is, in fact, a center-right country. Poll after poll reveals this truth. Ask Americans whether they tend toward liberalism or conservatism, and more will say the C word. Our hope is in the details, rather than the labels.
For example, a majority of Americans now favor marriage equality for gay couples. That wasn't true just day before yesterday. But support has been inching up for years. Half a decade ago, lunching with an Associate Pastor, we talked about gay marriage. Did I think it should be allowed? I thought about it briefly and said no. It shouldn't be allowed, it should be encouraged. He reached over and shook my hand. He and I were exceptions then. We aren't now. The acceptance of gays will increase as time goes on. Should this be considered a conservative trend? Is it shared by the Republican base?
Should banks be subject to increased regulation? Most Americans emphatically say yes. Republicans, not so much.
How about deficit reduction? I'm opposed to it until economic recovery, as it picks up steam, produces jobs. Most Americans disagree. Rats! But how do they want to reduce the deficit? Republicans propose cuts to Social Security, and Medicare. Slashes to education, Head Start, and other programs. Most Americans reject that in favor of increasing taxes on the extremely wealthy.
The public goes for the idea that those in need should be helped by the government. This is a growing trend, a trend not shared within the GOP, where such efforts provoke bitter anger.
How about the Supreme Court ruling that corporations should have no limits in how much they spend on elections, and should not have to disclose what they spend? You guessed it.
On issue after issue, bread and butter stuff, kitchen table stuff, voters are for liberal issues, all while embracing the conservative label.
I'm hopeful that Wisconsin and Ohio are the tip of the titanic crushing iceberg as voters react to actual Republican policies. The General Electorate will continue to call itself center-right. In 2012 and in successive elections, the GE will become CRINO.
The standing prediction here is that the Republican party will disappear before the decade is over. It is an admittedly bold statement amid apparent Republican ascendency.
Every long term political party goes through cycles similar to that of today's GOP. The base becomes more extreme, less extreme members are driven out or leave as they feel unwelcome, which makes the base more extreme. But parties in the past eventually pulled back for a very simple reason. Multiple election cycles resulted in continuous losses, as only extreme candidates were able to survive the primary process. Election loss is the cold shower of mainstream politics. Painful re-evaluation has always followed years of loss, and parties modified their positions, their approaches, or both.
This hasn't happened in the GOP for nearly two decades. As Bill O'Reilly pointed out in his amazing scientific analysis, although in another context, the tide goes in, the tide goes out. Victories for the GOP have been short lived, defeats more common, and the margins have trended away. Each victory is by less, each defeat is by more. 9/11 and economic circumstance muddy the curve, but the trend has been clear. The GOP base has continued to shrink, becoming more extreme, even in good political times. For some reason, this shrinking process has not been happening to the Democratic Party (or the Democrat Party as my less literate friends like to call it).
What analysts have missed is that this recent trend is fueled by technology. Cable joins the internet in providing a cocoon for conservatives, a sort of alternate reality in which re-evaluation is unneeded. It is not a political strategy gone wrong. It is a sociological phenomenon. The train has not simply been directed onto the wrong track by an inept engineer. It is an out-of-control runaway with no engineer. The GOP is doomed.
Three fellow bloggers take issue with this analysis. Conservative T. Paine of Saving Common Sense relies on his own personal experience. Since he sees liberals as unreasonable and extreme and conservatives as the very soul of reason, he does not see the trend as real. John Myste at Mysterious Things and Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot disagree because the analysis violates their sense of symmetry. If it is true of Republicans, must it not also be true of Democrats? As I see it, all three of these friends present arguments that are so elegant, they provide enormous temptation toward willful blindness to actual evidence.
However, two writers at Politico.com propose an alternate future, one in which the Republican Party may not only recover the growth of their base, but may thrive. Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen suggest that the Republican base is already on its way to a rebirth. They suggest that a new direction, one that does not easily track as extreme or moderate, has taken over Republican ideology.
The new formula can be seen in the big policy fights gripping the nation - and in the political figures leading the charge.
Republicans in Congress, key states such as Wisconsin and around the country are all consumed with one thing: cutting spending at the federal, state and local levels. The shouts of most activists have changed from “Show me your birth certificate” in the early days of Barack Obama’s presidency, to “Show me your budget cuts” today.
They suggest that the bombast of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are becoming supplanted by the budget oriented arguments of Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, and Paul Ryan.
It is an interesting analysis: deficit reduction accomplished by draconian cuts in spending will revitalize the Republican Party, as conservative independents are brought back into the fold. The emphasis will be on jobs. I am, as might be suspected, skeptical.
First, the authors fail to see the Republican 20-year lurch to the right as what it is, a sociological development. Rather, they see it as a strategy: "The defining question for the GOP is simple: can Republicans maintain this focus on spending without going too far, too fast or getting spooled up with conventional fights over social issues – and turning off the swing voters it won over in November?" If tacticians can thread the needle, all will be well. This flaw in their logic is not necessarily fatal to their prediction. It is possible the "strategy" they envision will develop as en masse enlightenment throughout the conservative base.
In fact, they present interviews with several strategic conservative leaders as evidence that this is happening. Christie, Daniels, and Ryan are not the sum total of their evidence. If they are cherry picking on purpose it is not apparent. But their interviews reflect a top down system of decision making. Actual evidence is that the base, not any elite leadership, is choosing direction for the GOP. And those closest to the electorate, conservative representatives in Congress, are not at all ignoring culture-war issues. Redefining rape, so that minor children who are "willing" are not considered victims, was abandoned only after a public outcry. The idea was to restrict abortions to "unwilling" rape. Women who actually are raped will still be subject to IRS audit if they rely on insurance to pay for abortions. That part hasn't been dropped. DOMA, the anti-equality in marriage act will be defended in court by Congress. If the deficit-jobs argument was advanced by a recent resolution moving "In God We Trust" from its history as a 1956 motto to a founding document, I miss the connection. The base demands culture war without the cease fire Vandehei and Allen envision.
Reducing deficits is pretty much universally seen as a good idea, as long as it is done after economic recovery is complete. The argument presented by Vandehei and Allen relies on two assumptions. First, the public will be convinced that economic recovery, and a surge in jobs, will be ensured by sucking money out of the economy when the things are still shaky. Second, the controversy about deficits will be active when the economy is roaring once again, and everyone will be in favor of bringing back the budget surpluses. An issue kind of needs an opposition, doesn't it?
Perhaps Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen are prescient, apart from evidence. If so, the evidence will follow in time. For now, the evidence shows a continued shrinking of the Republican base. Before the decade is out, the GOP base will be so extreme, Republican candidates will no longer be able to maintain a presence on the national political stage. The party will,in fact, be dead.
What can I say about Newt Gingrich today that his ex-wives have not already said?
- - Pat Griffin, Political Consultant, March 17, 2011
Unemployment is caused by too many people and too few jobs, right? Well, not so much.
Employment comes from the exchange of goods and services, specialization allowing someone to do one thing well for a lot of folks, instead of many things not so well for self or family. Money allows the exchange to go on in a systematic, organized way. When people get scared or money flow becomes restricted, the exchange becomes impeded and unemployment jumps. That's why it's a dumb, dumb, dumb idea to slash deficits during high unemployment, and it is wisdom itself to cut deficits when jobs are everywhere waiting to be filled.
Immigration creates as many jobs as it claims. It brings in jobholders. It brings in consumers. Yin and yang.
In the good old days, we didn't have jobs arguments to the extent we do now. Bigotry was more open. There was a lot of concern about changes to the American character, meaning we should keep out people who don't fit in. There were restrictions on African immigration. Jews were kept to a small number. Eastern Europeans were viewed with suspicion. Nativists were the main force in the Immigration Restriction League, a force to be reckoned with in the early 1900s. Congressionally sponsored hearings, like the Dillingham Commission, followed, focusing on keeping out undesirable ethnic groups. Immigration quotas, based on a desirable ethnic mix, passed in the 1920s, stayed on the books until the Kennedy Administration.
Kennedy cast immigration reform, as he did civil rights. It was a matter of national security. How could we fight communism effectively if our own hands were dirty? "Immigration policy should be generous; it should be fair; it should be flexible," he said. "With such a policy, we can turn to the world and to our own past, with clean hands and a clear conscience." The emphasis was on the long twilight struggle, but he did touch on the moral struggle as well. "The immigrants we welcome today and tomorrow will carry on this tradition and help us to retain, reinvigorate, and strengthen the American spirit."
Nowadays we mostly leave out the ethnic arguments, except for a few like Pat Buchanan and the occasional fringe spokesperson. But the arguments are nearly always tinged with an air of moralism. These are bad people, breaking the rules. The are not to be respected.
One Kansas state legislator spoke during a hearing on how to control the feral hog population. When a proposal came up to shoot hogs from helicopters, Palin style, he suggested that it might me a good model for handling the illegal immigration problem. He later explained that “I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person.” Eventually, he pointed out that he was just joking.
I find it interesting that conservatives want a hands off approach to market forces, except as it applies to immigration. An enormous labor demand on the US side and an enormous supply on the Mexican side can be contained with more officers and a wall? Still, I have some empathy for those on the large ship who see it as dangerously overcrowded, and face the heart wrenching decision of pulling up the ladders lest those struggling in the water climb in and capsize the ship. They are wrong on the facts, wrong on the problem, and wrong on the solution. But their point is intuitive, not hard to see.
I have no empathy at all for folks on the ship who openly despise those still in the water. Their sneers say more about themselves.
That is why I appreciated a series of speeches made by President George W. Bush, while still in office, defending immigrants, asking for humane treatment of those who enter the country illegally. "[W]e must remember that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are decent people who work hard, support their families, practice their faith, and lead responsible lives."
As we enforce laws, is it too much to ask that we remember that those who are subject to those laws are also human beings? Is it unreasonable to respect that humanity?
Holte Ender, living in Mad Mike's America, takes note of a blog writer who transcends all blogs, Jack Jodell. Holte likes Jack's idea of fighting for change through Democratic primaries with a sort of subset political party.
Extreme conservative FUNGAZI.COM starts with a reasonable observation that public servants should not expect to retire in fabulous wealth. He then proceeds on the assumption that this, in fact, typically happens.
Our favorite John Myste at Mysterious Things offers a critical review of the creation of existence by God. His conclusion: a set of design flaws was caused by a lack of quality control. Reminds me of the late Carl Sagan's comment: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."
Problem child Tommy Christopher, writing for Mediaite fawns over the wit and wisdom of Andrew Breitbart of misleading video fame. Poor Shirley Sherrod is gone and forgotten by the middling mind of Tommy. Breitbart is "nothing if not quotable" he giggles appreciatively.
Chuck Thinks Right gets a bit ticked at Hillary Clinton for comments about Tunisia until Tommy's pretty, witty, and wise smear artist, Andrew Breitbart, pats Chuck on the head and tells him it's okay. Then he sees her point.
Conservative T. Paine's Saving Common Sense rolls up everything he doesn't like, calls it Moral Relativism, and casts it as Satan's plot to justify the euthanasia of grandmothers everywhere. Even T. Paine's mushiest thinking makes for entertaining reading. Yeah, he's that good. Reminds me of a piece I once saw somewhere (Okay, it was here and I wrote it) that included a comment by the 19th century French poet, Charles Pierre Baudelaire: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.
Ned Williams at Wisdom Is Vindicated slaps around Jalen Rose for referring to a groundbreaking basketball team of two decades ago as Uncle Toms. Ned makes a good point, then muddies it a little with a concluding comment: "America's in trouble race-relations-wise and in general as long as 'being black' means what Jalen Rose seemingly thinks it does." Actually, America has been in trouble race-relations-wise and in general, and white racism has more to do with it than Ned seems to acknowledge.
- Slant Right's John Houk makes the case that an anti-Muslim law against Sharia is desperately needed because the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is not enough. His evidence is a ruling by a local judge in New Jersey a couple of years ago which was overturned because of ... wait for it ... the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Anyone who discovers a flaw in John's reasoning gets to leave class early.
Another suggestion from reader Bob S
This began 3 years ago. Still a good idea.
We've found a lot of brutal poll numbers for Sarah Palin so far in 2011: down in South Dakota, down in South Carolina, down in Arizona, only up by 1 point in Texas, only up by 1 point in Nebraska to name a few. But this has to be the worst- independent voters say they would support Charlie Sheen over Palin for President by a 41/36 margin. Seriously.
Two and a half minutes of well deserved ridicule
Alert Reader Robert S. Sends the above video with this note:
What a beautiful interlude to the present tragedy in Japan…to hear their wonderful young people playing the music that set Americans dancing and ‘swinging’ during the 1940s and onward…and now the Japanese young people (mostly female) are reviving that joyful sound.
Accompanying text translated from Japanese:
This video was created based on the simple analysis
of the current state of the Fukushima Nuclear power plant by media artist Kazuhiko Hachiya (http://togetter.com/li/111871)
Neither Mr. Hachiya nor video creator is an expert on the subject, and we advise you to obtain acurate information from the Tokyo Electric Power Company.
My thoughts and prayers are for those affected by the disaster.
And for us living outside of an affected area, should not take irrational action based on unofficial reports.
We're hoping for everyone's quick recovery so more people can have a smile...