Tag Archives: GOP

Short-Term, Long-Term

A post-election article from the Houston Chronicle begins with a provocative projection that will comfort people depressed about the midterms:

Few things are as dangerous to a long term strategy as a short-term victory. Republicans this week scored the kind of win that sets one up for spectacular, catastrophic failure and no one is talking about it.

What emerges from the numbers is the continuation of a trend that has been in place for almost two decades. Once again, Republicans are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level across the most heavily populated sections of the country while intensifying their hold on a declining electoral bloc of aging, white, rural voters. The 2014 election not only continued that doomed pattern, it doubled down on it. As a result, it became apparent from the numbers last week that no Republican candidate has a credible shot at the White House in 2016, and the chance of the GOP holding the Senate for longer than two years is precisely zero.(emphasis mine)

The article follows this declaration with a matter-of-fact rundown of the electoral college votes–where they are and what a winner will need. His bottom line:

The next Presidential election, and all subsequent ones until a future party realignment, will be decided in the Democratic primary. Only by sweeping all nine of the states that remain in contention AND also flipping one impossibly Democratic state can a Republican candidate win the White House. What are the odds that a Republican candidate capable of passing muster with 2016 GOP primary voters can accomplish that feat? You do the math.

The key to understanding that paragraph (not to mention our toxic political environment),  is “What are the odds that a Republican candidate capable of passing muster with GOP primary voters”….

As the article convincingly demonstrates, the crazies who appeal to the GOP’s current base  are winning in bright red, frequently gerrymandered, mostly rural districts. The problem is, those crazies have now become the (embarrassing) face of the Republican party nationally–making it impossible for the party to win national elections.

We ought not take too much comfort from that.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again–this country needs two adult, sane political parties. Right now, the GOP is controlled by a base that is neither adult nor sane. Unless the remaining Republican grown-ups (whose ranks are thinning) can reassert control, there will be no rational “loyal opposition” to keep Democrats focused and honest, no healthy competition to ensure that all ideas get thoroughly vetted, and no place to go–no alternative to vote for– for the disaffected.

America needs a rational GOP. We had one once, and I miss it.

 

 

 

 

Watch Out for the Backlash

When people talk about “backlash,” they are generally referring to a reaction to something–an effort to undo or reverse a previous change.

Backlash is thus the proper term to apply to the movement that began in the mid-1960s, in reaction to social disruption caused by anti-war activism, feminism and the civil rights movement. Middle-class whites, especially but not exclusively in the South, resented the erosion of their social dominance and banded together to fight what they saw as the increasing secularization and liberalism of American society.

Paranoid fringe groups like the John Birch Society and similar “patriot” and  “Christian” groups gradually took over the national GOP. Political scientists tell us that Reagan’s election in 1980 solidified right-wing conservative efforts to transform the political landscape of America. Since 1980, the GOP has become less and less genuinely conservative—and more and more radically reactionary.

African-Americans understand the implications of this takeover (much more on that in tomorrow’s blog). I’m not so sure that LGBT folks do.

After all, although the racism at the heart of the backlash has become impossible to ignore,the  LGBT community is celebrating years of increasing acceptance. Same-sex marriages are widely if not universally recognized, and a majority of Americans support them. Popular culture is inclusive and affirming. Civil rights are being extended, albeit slowly.

As a recent post from The Daily Beast noted, “Today, unlike ever before, most Americans have openly gay friends, colleagues, and family members, and most approve of same-sex relationships. Young people are overwhelmingly gay-friendly, leaving little doubt which way the trends are going.”

So, as Alfred E. Neumann (Google it) used to say, “What—Me Worry?”

As the Daily Beast and other sources have reported, however, this rosy picture has plenty of thorns:

  • The Texas Republican Party has officially endorsed so-called “reparative therapy,” a quack regimen that reputable psychiatry roundly condemns. (How considerate! The Texas GOP wants to ensure the availability of “therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.”)
  • In Oklahoma, a conservative candidate for the state House of Representatives, has quoted Biblical passages that (he says) prescribe the death penalty for homosexuals. On a Facebook post, he wrote “I think we would be totally in the right to do it.”
  • Mississippi just passed a measure being considered in several other states that would “protect religious liberty” by allowing people to act on their “sincere religious convictions” by refusing to do business with gay clients or customers.

More disturbing, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently broke what had been a string of pro-equality federal appellate rulings and upheld state bans on same-sex marriage, giving hope to those who want to roll back the clock on LGBT rights.

As I look out at our increasingly contentious, toxic political environment, I see a distressing number of frightened, old, furious, deeply threatened white heterosexual males. On my good days, I interpret their hysterical reaction to social change—their racism, their homophobia, their sexism—as the “last throes” of the old order of things. A backlash with unfortunate but ultimately temporary effects.

On my bad days, I worry that the vast amounts of money they are spending, the religious “authority” they are wielding/perverting, and their fanatic persistence will carry the day.

Progress is not a given.

 

Trust, City Life–and a Meditation on Branding

One blog I follow is CityScope–an ongoing conversation about urban life and innovation around the globe. A recent post there focused on one of my preoccupations, the importance of trust in building social capital and facilitating city life, from a fresh perspective.

Obviously, trust has always been a social dynamic in cities. (So has mistrust. See Ferguson, Missouri.)  Today, some combination of technology, austerity and social transformation seems to be changing the conversation. The rise of mobile apps, social media and other web-enabled forms of communication are a big part of what’s going on. These platforms don’t create trust, but they do create new ways for us to discover trust and put it to work in cities.

The author of the post quoted Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky, who described how his service, which lets people rent out their homes or spare bedrooms to strangers, had expanded to more than 34,000 cities in 190 countries in a mere six years.

“At its core, the thing that we invented wasn’t the ability to book someone’s home,” Chesky said. “What we invented was a very streamlined mechanism for trust.”

“Before us, essentially everyone was a stranger,” Chesky continued. “The only thing you could buy was from companies — those companies had brands, and those brands said the companies could be trusted. A person — you couldn’t trust. The moment identity got attached to people, suddenly the playing field was level. People could act as businesses. They could act as microentrepreneurs.”

I hadn’t really thought about the role of branding in creating trust, and reading this gave me one of those “aha” moments. Of course! That’s why people stop at a Wendy’s or McDonalds when they’re on a road trip–they “trust” what they’ll get; they’ll know what to expect. That’s why my husband orders his khakis from LL Bean when he buys on the internet; he knows what he will get in both quality and fit.  Creating and then fulfilling expectations is what “branding” is mostly about. (I do recognize that a large part of the preference for upscale appliances and identifiable designer clothing among those who can afford such things is not reliance on the inherent quality of the goods, but the message sent by flaunting the brand.)

Keeping one’s brand trustworthy is incredibly important to commercial enterprises. Public relations professionals sometimes specialize in “crisis management”–handling events that might reduce brand trust and thus loyalty. (NFL, anyone?) Companies that cannot manage these PR disasters find themselves in deep trouble.

Politically, we are about to see what happens when a political party’s brand becomes toxic to the nation as a whole, but the dynamics of the organization prevent cooler heads from “managing” the problem.

Recently, a Republican high in the party hierarchy admitted to a friend of mine that there is no way today’s GOP can win the Presidency; absent residential sorting, gerrymandering and voter “ID” laws, the party would not be able to win House seats. It may take another couple of election cycles, but the “brand” is increasingly toxic to younger voters, who “trust” it to take positions that are anathema to most of them.

When the old white guys who can be relied upon to support the brand no matter how repellent it has become die off, the Grand Old Party will face a choice: abandon its current radicalism and return to the center-right brand that sold well, or become irrelevant.

 

 

Hard To Argue

Sometimes, snark hits the nail on the head.

A couple of days ago, over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Ed Brayton made a snarky and audacious claim: After noting those aspects of Sharia Law that are most frequently criticized as being inconsistent with American values, he pointed out that today’s GOP holds those same beliefs:

  • Government is to be based upon religious doctrine
  • Women should have fewer rights than men
  • Homosexuality is to be outlawed
  • Religious doctrine trumps science
  • There is no separation of church and state
  • Religion is taught in government schools
  • Abortion should be illegal

All of these positions are proudly held both by extremist Muslims and the extremists who control  today’s Republican party.

Brayton’s conclusion: if you don’t want Sharia law, don’t vote Republican.

I hadn’t planned to share this–it seemed unnecessarily partisan–but Sunday evening I moderated a panel discussion sponsored by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The panel was hosted by Broadway United Methodist Church, and candidates for the Indiana legislature (both incumbents and challengers) were invited to participate. Five accepted: four Democrats and one Republican.

I was initially impressed that a Republican would be willing to defend the party’s current platform to a group that was unlikely to agree with much of it, but it immediately became clear that the Republican had not the foggiest notion what AU stood for, or for that matter, how church and state differ. Her answers to the questions were rambling, incoherent and  filled with personal anecdotes and biblical quotes. (Although she seemed totally unaware of the operation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, she did at one point offer the opinion that Jefferson “lied” in his letter to the Danbury Baptists.)

When a question was asked about recognition of same-sex marriage, she responded that “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” (I kid you not.) She offered her support for pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions and merchants who refuse to provide services to gay customers, because “liberty,” and when asked whether those same merchants should also be able to refuse service to African-American patrons, she at first said she didn’t understand the question, but when pressed, said yes.

There was much, much more–including a closing statement in which she shared with the audience the information that God had asked her to run for office.

I know this woman is not representative of all Republican candidates. (As one appalled attendee noted afterward, she was a “stereotype on steroids.”) But the party was willing to have her run under its label. She somehow made it through slating.

In the course of the evening, she took every position on Brayton’s list (indeed, she went well beyond the list).

I’d be interested in knowing which of those positions today’s GOP–aka the American Taliban–would disown.

The Apocalypse Caucus

At Talking Points Memo, I came across a new–and very apt–term to describe the rabid members of the House GOP: the apocalypse caucus.

There is no doubt that members of this caucus are out of step with the vast majority of Americans–including the majority of Republicans. They are a small tail that is wagging a large and unhappy dog. Their ability to win election–and then pull their saner comrades to the far Right–is explained by a structural anomaly and what Bill Bishop has dubbed “The Big Sort.”

When 2015 rolls around, Steve King is going to have a lot more company. As the Republican House majority looks to add seats, both the House and the GOP caucus will shift rightward. The self-parodying display of conservatism required in red-district primary contests has resulted in a striking new crop of future members for the Apocalypse Caucus….

The new class of Republicans will join an already-large faction of extreme conservatives in the House, representing districts that are out of step with the rest of the country. Reporting on the members who drove last year’s government shutdown, Ryan Lizza notes that:

The ability of eighty members of the House of Representatives to push the Republican Party into a strategic course that is condemned by the party’s top strategists is a historical oddity….these eighty members represent an America where the population is getting whiter, where there are few major cities, where Obama lost the last election in a landslide, and where the Republican Party is becoming more dominant and more popular. Meanwhile, in national politics, each of these trends is actually reversed.

Why does the hard right edge of the GOP have such sway over national politics? Because Speaker John Boehner depends on them. He needs their votes to hold on to the gavel, and he needs to craft legislation to appeal to enough of them so he doesn’t need to rely on Democratic votes to pass bills. The Apocalypse Caucus sets the agenda.

The right wing of the GOP is energized by a wide network of donors, activist groups and — especially — media outlets, in which conservative politicians compete for attention, votes and dollars by trying to out-right-wing each other. There’s essentially no such thing as a Republican moderate any more, since in order to get to November, any Republican needs to get through this gauntlet.

It’s like watching the brakes fail on a driverless car that gains speed as it rolls down a hill…..