Category Archives: Random Blogging

John Boehner and the GOP’s Alternate Reality

There has been no lack of punditry–much of it inane–in the wake of John Boehner’s resignation. But I encountered one of the more thought-provoking analyses at the progressive website Daily Kos. After detailing the gleeful reactions emanating from the more reactionary precincts of what used to be a political party (and is now some sort of cult), and accusations from people like Mike Huckabee to the effect that Boehner had “given the President more power on Obamacare,” the poster ruminated:

After total legislative obstruction, a government shut-down, more than 50 votes to repeal Obamacare, an ensuing presidential election, two Supreme Court lawsuits, and other pending litigation – – Republicans are livid with the belief that John Boehner has worked with the President to strengthen Obamacare.

No sane political observer could think that.  So, what gives?  As Jonathan Chait explains, we are witnessing a sort of collective Republican denial where they cannot accept that they are not the ruling party, not the “deciders” (to use a former president’s phrase):

To understand the pressures that brought about Boehner’s demise as an ideological split badly misconstrues the situation. The small band of right-wing noisemakers in the House who made Boehner’s existence a living hell could not identify any important substantive disagreements with the object of their wrath. . . . The source of the disagreement was tactical, not philosophical. Boehner’s tormentors refused to accept the limits of his political power. . . .

The “crazy caucus” continues to occupy an alternate reality. It exists merely to throw sand in the gears of government, refusing to accept anything less than everything it wants–and increasingly unable even to articulate what “everything it wants” is. (Anyone who has ever parented a cranky two-year-old can recognize the behavior…)

That said, the real problem isn’t that a minor, albeit significant faction of a major party is arguably insane. The real problem is, voters elected them. And non-voters abetted them.

That’s what is so frightening to contemplate….


Jeb! and “Earned Success”

Here we go again.

At a recent campaign event in South Carolina, Jeb Bush was asked how he planned to include black people in his campaign and how he would appeal to black voters.

Bush responded, “Our message is one of hope and aspiration.” But–as Charles Blow noted in a recent column in the New York Times— he didn’t stop there. He continued: “It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting — that says you can achieve earned success.”

Shades of Mitch Romney, his “makers” and “takers” and 47 percenters!

As Blow noted, this was not one of the unforced errors we’ve come to expect from “Jeb!” (And I thought he was supposed to be the smart one…)

And this is not some one-time slip of the tongue for Bush. In Bush’s book written two decades ago, “Profiles in Character,” he wrote: “Since the 1960s, the politics of victimization has steadily intensified. Being a victim gives rise to certain entitlements, benefits, and preferences in society. The surest way to get something in today’s society is to elevate one’s status to that of the oppressed. Many of the modern victim movements — the gay rights movement, the feminist movement, the black empowerment movement — have attempted to get people to view themselves as part of a smaller group deserving of something from society. It is a major deviation from the society envisioned by Martin Luther King, who would have had people judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin — or sexual preference or gender or ethnicity.”

What is it about privileged people that makes it so difficult for them to look at their fellow humans and see fellow humans? What makes them unable to see the systemic issues–economic downturns, jobs paying less than living wages, overt and structural discrimination–that disadvantage some people?

What is it about less fortunate people that elicits these sneering, patronizing stereotypes, rather than efforts to understand–let alone remedy–those systemic constraints?

What special kind of cluelessness makes a man born to wealth and privilege consider his own condition “earned success” that anyone might achieve?

The Parable of the Corn

Sometimes, a Facebook post makes you stop and think. This one certainly spoke to me:

“There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

So is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

So many of the issues I deal with on this blog–and so many of the subsequent thoughtful conversations among regular readers–revolve around this lesson, this “parable.”

We humans really are all in this together. Ultimately, our individual prospects are bound up with the prospects of those with whom we share our communities, our nation and our planet.

Understanding that, and acting accordingly, used to be called “enlightened self-interest.”

Sound of the Trump-et

I was reading Frank Rich’s analysis of the Trump phenomenon at New York Magazine, when I heard that John Boehner would resign .

Reading Rich with Boehner’s resignation in mind just served to underscore the travesty that is today’s American political landscape.

According to Rich, Trump’s “passport to political stardom” has been “his uncanny resemblance to a provocative fictional comic archetype.” His character

 is a direct descendant of Twain’s 19th-century confidence men: the unhinged charlatan who decides to blow up the system by running for office — often the presidency — on a platform of outrageous pronouncements and boorish behavior. Trump has taken that role, the antithesis of the idealist politicians enshrined by Frank Capra and Aaron Sorkin, and run with it. He bestrides our current political landscape like the reincarnation not of Joe McCarthy (that would be Ted Cruz) but of Jay Billington Bulworth….

In résumé and beliefs, Trump is even closer to the insurgent candidate played by Tim Robbins and reviled as “a crypto-fascist clown” in the mockumentary Bob Roberts (1992) — a self-congratulatory right-wing Wall Street success story, beauty-pageant aficionado, and folksinging star whose emblematic song is titled “Retake America.” Give Trump time, and we may yet find him quoting the accidental president played by Chris Rock in Head of State (2003): “If America was a woman, she would be a big-tittied woman. Everybody loves a big-tittied woman!”

Rich points out that Trump embarrasses the GOP by saying in public what “real” Republicans keep private.

Republican potentates can’t fight back against him because the party’s base has his back. He’s ensnared the GOP Establishment in a classic Catch-22: It wants Trump voters — it can’t win elections without them — but doesn’t want Trump calling attention to what those voters actually believe.

 Rich’s devastating analysis of the Trump phenomenon, together with John Boehner’s resignation (to the barely veiled glee of the party’s Neanderthal wing) confirm the GOP’s descent into know-nothingness and farce– and its utter inability to govern.

We may be entering an “End Times” rather different from the one anticipated by the GOP’s fundamentalist base. The question is whether the “Trump-et” is sounding for a complete melt-down and disintegration of the once Grand Old Party, or the beginning of a difficult but necessary climb back to something approaching sanity.


If We REALLY Ran Government Like a Business….

I get so annoyed when people say that government should be “run like a business.” Government isn’t a business; the statement betrays a total lack of understanding of what government is and does.

Government should, however, be run in a businesslike fashion–and a Congressman from Minnesota has made a proposal borrowed from the world of business that I absolutely agree should be applied to government as well. According to the Political Animal blog, 

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) introduced a bill Friday that would prevent members of Congress from getting paid in the event of a government shutdown.

“It’s time to put an end to government by crisis management,” Nolan said in a statement. “And it’s time for Congress to start living in the real world — where you either do your job — or you don’t get paid. If hundreds of thousands of other federal employees are to go without their salaries — twisting slowly in the wind in a government shutdown — then the Congress should not be paid either.”

Under Nolan’s bill, members of Congress would go unpaid for the duration of the shutdown. He introduced similar legislation during the 16-day government shutdown in 2013 that left 800,000 federal workers furloughed without pay. While his bill never got off the ground, Nolan donated the money he was paid over the shutdown to charities in his district.

As anyone who follows the news is aware, the Crazy Caucus–led by Senator Ted Cruz–is threatening to shut down the government once again if they don’t get their way; this time, “getting their way” means defunding Planned Parenthood and denying basic medical care to millions of poor women (and poor men, who rely on Planned Parenthood for STD testing, among other things).

When union workers strike, they don’t get paid by their employers. Why should We The People–who employ these bozos–continue to pay them while they are refusing to do their jobs?

It’s bad enough that they work a three or four day week for wages hard-working Americans can only dream of. As the blogger, David Atkins, concludes:

If Republicans want to run government like a business, this would be a good way to start. If you don’t do the work you’re supposed to do you don’t get paid.

Makes perfect sense to me.