Tag Archives: GOP

The Political Climate

This introductory paragraph from an article from Grist reprinted in Mother Jones is incredibly depressing–not just because  one of our major political parties  is controlled by people unwilling to acknowledge accepted science on climate change, but because that unwillingness is symptomatic of the party’s current approach to reality generally.

It’s hard to believe, surveying the GOP field of possible presidential nominees, but back in 2008 the parties were not that far apart on climate change. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican nominee, backed cap-and-trade for carbon emissions. After joining his ticket, so did Sarah Palin. But back then, lots of Republicans and conservatives also supported an individual mandate to buy health insurance. The Republican Party of 2008 was a big enough tent to include people who admitted demonstrable problems existed and supported free-market-oriented solutions. Not anymore. The rise of the Tea Party movement and the rightward shift of the Republican base and the politicians who pander to it put an end to all that. Whoever is the Republican nominee for president in 2016, it’s a safe bet that he—and yes, it will be a he, as all the leading contenders are male—will oppose taking any action on climate change. Chances are that he won’t even admit it exists.

I don’t believe that all of these candidates are that divorced from reality. It is actually worse: those who know better are willing to ignore the threat of widespread devastation in order to pander to a frightened and uninformed “base.”

I know I sound like a broken record, but what drives me nuts about climate denial is the illogic of the “bet” being placed.

Let’s just say that the science is far less conclusive than it really is. Pretend it’s only 50-50. If policymakers decide to act on the premise that climate change is real, and prove to be wrong, there will have been some up-front costs, but the steps taken to address the problem will clean up the air and water, conserve finite resources and create new industries and jobs. If they decide to ignore the warnings, and they’re wrong, however, the earth will become less habitable. Weather disruptions and climate change will cause devastation, and mass migrations and social upheavals will follow. And that’s the best-case scenario; in the worst case, we wipe out much of humankind.

It’s Pascal’s wager on steroids.


Calling It Like He Sees It

Norm Ornstein has a recent column in the Atlantic, in which he considers what has happened to his–and my–former political party. Ornstein, for those unfamiliar with him, is a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and a longtime and respected expert on Congress.

The most interesting, and important, dynamic in American politics today is the existential struggle going on in the Republican Party between the establishment and the insurgents—or to be more accurate, between the hard-line bedrock conservatives (there are only trace elements of the old-line center-right bloc, much less moderates) and the radicals…

As for the party leaders, consider some of the things that are now part of the official Texas Republican Party platform, as highlighted by The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg:

That the Texas Legislature should “ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify” federal laws it doesn’t like.

That when it comes to “unelected bureaucrats” (meaning, Hertzberg notes, almost the entire federal workforce), Congress should “defund and abolish these positions.”

That all federal “enforcement activities” in Texas “must be conducted under the auspices of the county sheriff with jurisdiction in that county.” (That would leave the FBI, air marshals, immigration officials, DEA personnel, and so on subordinate to the Texas versions of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.)

That “the Voting Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized.”

That the U.S. withdraw from the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank.

That governments at all levels should “ignore any plea for money to fund global climate change or ‘climate justice’ initiatives.”

That “all adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves, or their minor children, without penalty for refusing a vaccine.

That “no level of government shall regulate either the ownership or possession of firearms.” (Period, no exceptions.)

Texas, of course, may be an outlier. But the Maine Republican Party adopted a platform that called for the abolition of the Federal Reserve, called global warming a myth, and demanded an investigation of “collusion between government and industry” in perpetrating that myth. It also called for resistance to “efforts to create a one world government.” And the Benton County, Ark., Republican Party said in its newsletter, “The 2nd Amendment means nothing unless those in power believe you would have no problem simply walking up and shooting them if they got too far out of line and stopped responding as representatives.”

One might argue that these quotes are highly selective—but they are only a tiny sampling (not a single one from Michele Bachmann, only one from Gohmert!). Importantly, almost none were countered by party officials or legislative leaders, nor were the individuals quoted reprimanded in any way. What used to be widely seen as loony is now broadly accepted or tolerated.

There are all sorts of theories about why the Grand Old Party has lost its collective mind. I’ve offered a few on this blog. But whatever the reasons for the departure from reason and elementary common sense, the fact of that departure is beyond dispute.

And infinitely depressing.


I Kid You Not….

Can you spell irony?

Per ThinkProgress:

Hours before Congress broke for the August recess, House Republicans claimed that the President could use executive action to fix the border situation with unaccompanied children fleeing violence in the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

In a press statement released Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and other House Republican leaders indicated that President Obama could address the crisis “without the need for congressional action,” a statement tinged with some irony given that just the day before, House Republicans had slammed the President with a lawsuit claiming executive overreach.

“There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.”

That sound you just heard was my jaw hitting the floor.

Self-awareness evidently isn’t one of the Speaker’s attributes.

As a post to Daily Kos put it, a bit more baldly, “I shit you not. Republicans in the House are encouraging the President to act on his own — for which lawless actions, of course, Republicans in the House earlier this week voted to sue him. You really can’t make this crap up.”

Your Assignment for Today…

…is to read Don Knebel’s most recent post at the Center for Civic Literacy blog.

You need to read the post in its entirety, but here’s the lead-in, to whet your appetite:

When some American reporters described the recent election in India as a victory for the Hindu Nationalist Party, an Indian comic tweeted that Indian reporters should begin referring to the Republican Party as the “Christian Nationalist Party.” The tweet was sarcastic, but nonetheless close to home. As the primary defeat of Virginia Representative Eric Cantor emphasizes, the current incarnation of the Republican Party is increasingly both Christian and nationalistic.

Don notes that today’s GOP is most popular among citizens with the least education and the lowest incomes, and posits that those are the Americans who are also the most fearful– those most threatened by immigration and social change in general.  He also notes that those citizens are also more likely to be Christians. (I would add a few descriptors: older, white, male, heterosexual…). And he concludes:

Ironically, the Republican Party, long considered the party of the rich, seems increasingly to be the party of the poor or at least the working poor. While Republicans continue to advocate for lower taxes and less government spending, because of the correlation between a state’s poverty and its likelihood of voting Republican, eight of the ten states most heavily dependent on federal assistance also voted Republican in the 2012 Presidential election. Who would have thought?

Read the whole thing.

Dr. Faustus, I Presume?

The term, “Faustian bargain” refers to the deal struck between Goethe’s Dr. Faust and the devil: the devil will do everything that Faust wants while he is alive, and in exchange Faust will serve the devil in Hell. (See also: selling one’s soul.)

Since the GOP’s capture by its extreme fringe, moderate Republicans have had to decide whether to leave office (Olympia Snowe), leave the party (Charlie Crist et al), stay and argue for moderate policies and risk losing to a True Believer (Dick Lugar et al) or accept the Faustian bargain by falling in line with the Tea Party agenda.

Indiana Representative Susan Brooks has fallen in line.

I knew Susan for over 25 years as an intelligent and reasonable individual. Then she ran for Congress, portraying herself as a far-Right conservative. Those of us who knew the more moderate incarnation chalked that up to a primary in which the candidates were trying to out-conservative each other, and assumed that once elected, she would be the moderately conservative person we’d known, but the new, partisan Susan Brooks has proved more durable–and disappointing.

In Congress, her party-line voting record has been so extreme, it’s earned her a 92% approval from Concerned Women for America–and you can’t get much crazier than CWA.

Now, she’s joined the “Select Committee” that will be investigating Benghazi for the 14th time.

The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen–a frequent critic of the Obama Administration–noted his bemusement over the GOP’s obsession with Benghazi.

I recognize it as a transparent Republican attempt to provide the party’s base with grist for its fantasy mill. Is it possible the Obama administration fudged the nature of the attack, refusing to apply the term “terrorist”? Yes, of course. Did the White House spinmeisters put their hands all over it? Could be. But is any of this so momentous that it has required 13 public hearings and now a select House committee that will delve and delve feverishly — for what?

Sometimes you have to choose: sell your soul to appease a rabid base, or refuse to play that game.

Congresswoman Brooks has clearly made her choice.