Tag Archives: GOP

Rick Scott: All-Republican

I know that in sports, some players are “All Americans.” In Florida, Governor Rick Scott might be considered “All Republican.” He follows the script of today’s GOP (a party that bears little resemblance to the GOP I once knew and supported), but without the finesse that allows other Republican lawmakers to at least pretend they care about their constituents, and that their policies, however damaging, are based on good intentions.

Scott has been everything you’d expect from a sleaze who–before turning to electoral politics–admitt to 14 counts of Medicare fraud and paid the federal government more than $600 million dollars in fines.

A couple of days ago, the Tampa Bay Times issued a blistering critique of Scott, calling him the worst governor in Florida’s history. Titled “If He Only Had a Heart,” it’s well worth reading in its entirety, but I’ll just share the summary:

In Scott’s Florida, it is harder for citizens to vote and for the jobless to collect unemployment. It is easier for renters to be evicted and for borrowers to be charged high interest rates on short-term loans. It is harder for patients to win claims against doctors who hurt them and for consumers to get fair treatment from car dealers who deceive them. It is easier for businesses to avoid paying taxes, building roads and repairing environmental damage.

Scott may lack their talent to project a “kinder, gentler” facade, but there is an entire cohort of Republican governors operating from the same playbook.

Most, like Indiana’s governor, are much smoother, but the agenda is same.

That Scary Black Man in the White House

The Right Wing has its panties in a bunch again. According to the usual suspects, President Obama issued a National Defense Resources Preparedness executive order that gives him “unprecedented new powers to appropriate national resources.”

And what does Snopes have to say about this latest evidence of Obama’s usurpation of power and disregard of the law of the land?

The Executive Order itself is nothing more than a restatement of policy that has been in place for decades and grants no authority to the President or the Cabinet that they don’t already have under existing law.

It has become fashionable to attribute the constant hysteria over anything and everything that Obama does to the same hyper-partisanship that prompted “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” And certainly, partisanship bears some blame.

But let’s get real.

I detested George W. Bush. I disagreed with his naive “faith based initiative.” I was appalled when he took the U.S. into the Iraq War. A list of Bush policies that pushed me out of the Republican party would fill pages of text.

But here’s the thing: these were actual policies. When the man was first elected, I found him likable enough–I certainly didn’t detest him before he even took office. And most of the people I knew who came to dislike him intensely (and were probably unfairly critical from time to time) were also reacting to things the man actually did.

Obama hadn’t even taken office when the ugly emails and the out-and-out lies began. The racism that fuels talk radio and “birthers” and insane accusations is too thick and too widespread and too obvious to ignore. The absolute unwillingness of the Republicans in Congress to work with this President–even to implement programs that they originally proposed–has brought this country to a virtual standstill.

One result of this behavior is ironic: those of us who are repelled by what we see as unhinged, vicous and consistently unfair attacks from people who simply cannot come to terms with the fact that we have a black President find ourselves defending Obama even when he is implementing or continuing policies we would otherwise criticize. As I wrote to a good friend,  there’s plenty to legitimately criticize. I’m no fan of the NSA, drone strikes and several other policies this administration has pursued. But calling Obama lawless and a communist, making hysterical accusations about things that previous presidents–including the sainted Reagan– did routinely with absolutely no pushback is so manifestly unjust, people who are fair-minded get protective.

A Facebook post from a (very Republican) friend of mine is a good example of what I’m talking about:

Ok, let me get this straight: Ted Nugent–who during the 2012 campaign declared that if Obama was reelected he (Nugent) would either be dead or in jail within a year (a not-so-veiled threat against the President of the United States)–last month called President Obama a “communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel.” And now, the GOP front runner for the Texas governorship not only welcomes Nugent on his campaign but calls this unhinged racist hater “a fighter for freedom.” What’s wrong with this picture?  The Lone Star GOP needs to find a candidate with the basic decency of Gov. George W. Bush. (I didn’t like him as a president but he was no racist hater. I wonder if the same could be said about Greg Abbott. A man is judged by the company he keeps.)

Allowing buffoons and bigots to become the face of the GOP just pushes moderate folks who might otherwise be inclined to vote Republican into the D column.

Defending racist rants as if they were legitimate criticisms, vowing to block this President at every turn (and damn the common good), repels people of good will who would consider — and perhaps be persuaded by–valid and thoughtful critiques.

There aren’t enough angry old white guys to elect a President. Get over it.

 

Alternate Realities

There’s an old song lyric that begins “Two different worlds..we live in two different worlds.” At the end of the song, the lovers turn those “two different worlds” into one.

In politics these days, Republicans and Democrats also live in different worlds–but they show little or no interest in merging them, or finding common ground.

Take the issue of personal responsibility, for example. (Invoking the importance of encouraging individual responsibility is the GOP’s standard reason for opposing virtually all government social programs.)

Here’s my question: how do Republicans who want to reduce the size of government until it is “small enough to drown in a bathtub” propose that citizens “take responsibility” for things like the recent West Virginia chemical spill? How, precisely, are individuals supposed to assume responsibility for things like the purity of their drinking water, or for the air they breathe, or the safety of the food they purchase and consume?

Even Republicans who concede that government has a role to play in these matters, however, will insist that individuals are personally responsible for their own economic status.

If you believe that poor people are poor because they don’t work hard (and rich people are rich because they do)– a belief shared by most Republicans, according to a recent poll– do you also blame poor people for failing to take “personal responsibility” for a lack of available jobs? What additional “personal responsibility” should be exhibited by the millions of working poor–the folks working 40 or more hours a week at jobs that don’t pay them enough to get by?

Today’s Republicans and Democrats do live in two different worlds. The Republican world is tantalizingly simple: a place where virtue is rewarded with success in the best Calvinist tradition–a world where those who work hard, attend church and marry someone of the opposite gender will prosper.

Democrats and Independents occupy a messier reality, where luck and privilege explain the gap between the haves and have nots more often than diligence and talent, and where simple explanations–however comforting– rarely tell the whole story.

In the Republican reality, government is unnecessary; in the reality inhabited by everyone else, it’s essential.

 

Republican Evolution

Dana Milbank has an explanation for that recent Pew poll showing a sharp decline in the number of Republicans who accept evolution. Ironically, he suggests that the Grand Old Party is continuing to…well, evolve…into an ever more conservative and religious party.

A survey out this week shows just how far and how fast the GOP has gone toward becoming a collection of older, white, evangelical Christians defined as much by religion as by politics. …..Forget climate-change skepticism: Republicans have turned, suddenly and sharply, against Darwin.

How to explain this most unexpected mutation? Given the stability of views on evolution (Gallup polling has found responses essentially the same over the past quarter-century), it’s unlikely that large numbers of Republicans actually changed their beliefs. More likely is that the type of people willing to identify themselves as Republicans increasingly tend to be a narrow group of conservatives who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible — or partisans who regard evolution as a political question rather than one of science.

Milbank mines the data to describe the current GOP:   86 percent white, and growing steadily older (the number of self-described Republicans ages 50 to 64 and 65 and older climbed seven points and two points, respectively).  The ideological gap between the parties has grown, but–despite the GOP’s desperate efforts to paint all Democrats as leftists moving toward socialism–the data shows that the widening gap is instead a product of Republican movement to the right.

The Republican Party is achieving the seemingly impossible feat of becoming even more theological. Democrats and independents haven’t moved much in their views, while Republicans took a sharp turn toward fundamentalism.

How much farther right can the GOP go? When I left what was then still a reasonably sane albeit ideologically transformed party in 2000, I was convinced that–as the song says–they’d gone about as far as they could go. I was clearly wrong.

The question now is, ironically, Darwinian. As Milbank notes:

As a matter of political Darwinism, the Republicans’ mutation is not likely to help the GOP’s survival. As the country overall becomes more racially diverse and more secular, Republicans are resolutely white and increasingly devout. If current trends persist, it will be only a couple of decades before they join the dodo and the saber-toothed tiger.

The disappearance of what used to be a major political party composed mostly of grown-ups has already occurred, and the country is the worse for it.  We need two sensible political parties. Watching whatever it is that the GOP has become self-destruct may make some partisan Democrats happy, but most Americans recognize it for the sad and dangerous state of affairs that it is.

The Problem with Ideological Purity

A recent post at Political Animal made a point I’ve pondered frequently as I’ve watched the GOP morph from political party to religious cult.

After a brief discussion of the attack on Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, the post considered the implications of the GOP’s refusal to bend even when voters are likely to punish them for that intransigence:

The most striking fact when it comes to women and birth control is this one: 99 percent of sexually active women use it.

Pundits have often pointed out that historically, neither party tends to dominate the political system for very long. The reason for this is that, like how corporations exist to make money, political parties exist to win elections, and if the party keeps taking positions that alienate huge fractions of the electorate, then they’ll change those positions.

But the GOP isn’t doing this. After the 2012 defeat, driven in large part by being absolutely crushed in practically every minority demographic, Republicans halfheartedly tried to choke down an immigration reform bill to at least stop the bleeding. President Obama signaled his support, and the Senate passed a half-decent measure. But now reform looks dead because House Republicans refuse to let the Senate bill come up for a vote. For the GOP, it’s almost the worst of all worlds: a bill supported by all the prominent Democrats goes down due to extremist Republican intransigence. Now Democrats get to blame the GOP for breaking their promise, and quite possibly increase their share of the minority vote. It would have been better to not do anything.

Something similar looks to be happening for women’s issues. Ken Cuccinelli just went down in the Virginia governor’s race largely due to his antediluvian views on women’s rights. The party as a whole would be best served by this debate just going away. But extremists have strongly-held beliefs, and don’t particularly care about clear-eyed electoral cost-benefit calculations.

Here in Indiana, the culture-warrior contingent of the state GOP remains adamant about the need to pass HJR6, despite pretty convincing evidence that their position is costing them support–especially among the younger voters they will increasingly need.

Politics is the art of compromise. Religion, of course, is a matter of faith. To describe today’s Republican party as “Faith Based” is accurate–but it is not a compliment. It’s another way to suggest that the party’s current course is suicidal.