Tag Archives: GOP

A Not-So-Brave New World

So Trump took New Hampshire. A man who could hardly be more unfit for public office won a primary election held by one of America’s major parties.

This paragraph from a recent post on Political Animal pretty much sums up the situation–and the inability or unwillingness of the media to cover it accurately:

To make better predictions about electoral politics, traditional pundits need to look in the mirror and revise their assumptions about the electorate. Americans in both parties are afraid for their futures and fed with up the current system, the Republican Party has become far more extreme on the right than the Democratic Party on the left, and the GOP electorate specifically is far more demographically isolated and less interested in small-government conservatism and far more driven by racial animus, authoritarianism and cultural backlash than most centrist pundits care to admit.

Despite all the abuse aimed at the “lame stream media” and its perceived bias, most traditional media reporters and pundits have a deep-seated urge to be seen as “playing fair”—to focus on conflict, yes, but to avoid any impression that they are playing favorites. That determination leads to what has been called false equivalence: party A does something truly awful, and when party B does something wrong that most of us would consider far less troubling, the reporter paints them as equally wrongheaded. “They both do it.”

But they aren’t equivalent.

The truth is that today’s GOP bears virtually no resemblance to the party I worked for for 35 years.In 1980, I won a Republican Congressional primary; I was pro-choice, pro separation of church and state, pro public education. That would never happen today. Today’s Republican party is dominated by inflexible ideologues and proud know-nothings; it has become home to unashamed racists and would-be theocrats. The flaws of the Democrats—and there are many—pale in comparison.

There have been other times in America’s history when one or another party has “gone off the rails.” We can only hope that we are seeing the crest of this particular wave of paranoia and anti-intellectualism. (Kasich–arguably the only sane Republican candidate– did come in second.) But we can’t defeat the forces of fear and reaction unless we name them for what they are—unless we stop pretending that this is just another instance of “politics as usual.”

It isn’t. It’s ugly and it’s very, very dangerous.

Slightly Better Than Herpes….

Today is the New Hampshire primary. Before Marco Rubio’s robotic debate performance, he was expected to do well in New Hampshire, thanks to the perception that he is one of the more “moderate” candidates.

As John Favreau points out in some interesting observations about Rubio in the Daily Beast, that perception is erroneous.

It’s silly to pretend otherwise: As a Democrat, I’d rather run against Ted Cruz than Marco Rubio.

But that’s like saying I’d rather run against herpes than Marco Rubio. Of course I would. I don’t care that Ted Cruz may be smart and strategic. He’s also creepy and cruel, according to just about everyone who’s ever had the misfortune of knowing him for longer than 10 minutes.

Favreau notes the reasons that most Americans–at least, those who haven’t paid close attention to the train wreck which has been the Republican Presidential primary season–consider Rubio the candidate who could give Hillary (or Bernie) a genuine run for the office. He lists Rubio’s “positives,” including his youth, an appealing personal story and, given his background, a possible/theoretical  appeal to Latino voters.

Mostly, however, pundits attribute Rubio’s greater “electability” to a widespread perception that he falls into the “moderate” category. But as Favreau points out, that’s sort of like saying that next to Hitler, Mussolini was a moderate.

Because Trump and Cruz have moved the goalposts on what it means to be bat-shit crazy in a primary, the press will confuse Rubio’s moderate temperament with moderate policies, of which he has none. Rubio was once described as the “crown prince” of the Tea Party. He has a 100 percent rating from the NRA. He’ll appoint justices who will overturn the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision. He opposes abortion with no exception for rape or incest. He opposes stem cell research and doesn’t believe in climate change. He’d send ground troops to Syria and trillions in tax cuts to the rich.

It is extremely unlikely that anyone championing those policies can be elected President. Voter ID laws and SuperPacs can only do so much. Gerrymandering can insure control of the House of Representatives, but not the Presidency.

How has the party of Eisenhower, Nixon (who despite his flaws understood governance and foreign policy) and even Reagan (who would be far too liberal for the current party base) come to this? And what will the outcome be?

The real problem for all of us— Democrats, Independents and those rational Republicans who haven’t yet thrown in the towel— is that the implosion of a once-responsible, genuinely conservative political party is a body blow to effective government. This country desperately needs adult conversations, thoughtful consideration of different policy approaches to the actual, real-world problems we face and a nuanced understanding of the systems within which those problems must be addressed.

These people want to be important. They want to rule; they don’t want to govern.




In Memoriam

The end of a year is a time for contemplation–for considering how the world has, or has not changed, and evaluating the apparent trajectory of our social institutions…for considering who and what has been lost….

In that vein, I share this quotation from Theodore White’s Making of the President: 1960. I came across it again recently, and was struck by its current relevance.

Read it and weep….

The Republican Party, to be exact, is twins and has been twins from the moment of its birth—but the twins who inhabit its name and shelter are Jacob and Esau: fratricidal, not fraternal, twins. Within the Republican Party are combined a stream of the loftiest American idealism and a stream of the coarsest American greed….

[I]t is forgotten how much of the architecture of America’s liberal society was drafted by the Republicans. Today they are regarded as the party of the right. Yet this is the party that abolished slavery, wrote the first laws of civil service, passed the first antitrust, railway control, consumer-protective and conservation legislation, and then led America, with enormous diplomatic skill, out into that posture of global leadership and responsibility we now so desperately try to maintain.

The fact that all this has been almost forgotten by the current stylists of our culture is in itself significant. For until this century and down through its first decade the natural home party of the American intellectual, writer, savant and artist was the Republican Party. Its men of state and diplomacy were, as often as not, thinkers and scholars; and it is doubtful whether any President, even Wilson or the second Roosevelt, made the White House so familiar a mansion to writers and artists as did Theodore Roosevelt (who, indeed, was also one of the founders of the Authors’ League of America).

The alienation of the Republican Party of today from the intellectual mainstream of the nation stems, actually, from the days of Theodore Roosevelt. For when in 1912 the twins of the Republican Party broke wide apart in the Roosevelt-Taft civil war, the “regulars” of the Taft wing remained in control of the party machinery, and the citizen wing of progressive and intellectual Republicans was driven into homeless exile.

An exile within which we remain, nearly 60 years after this was written.

Despite the fact that I consider myself an optimist, I doubt very much that 2016 will see a return to reason and moderation.

The United States desperately needs two sane, adult political parties. We don’t have them now, and the prospects for the near term are not promising.

Horse and Rider

Who’s the horse and who’s the rider?

As the spectacle of Donald Trump continues, as we come to grips with the hitherto unthinkable possibility that he might actually ride a simmering stew of fear, rage and hate to the nomination, political observers are speculating about possible reactions and consequences.

At Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Ed Brayton looks back at other candidates who have caused heartburn—from Barry Goldwater to David Duke—and quotes Jeff Greenfield for a surprising prediction:

With Trump as its standard-bearer, the GOP would suddenly be asked to rally around a candidate who has been called by his once and former primary foes “a cancer on conservatism,” “unhinged,” “a drunk driver … helping the enemy.” A prominent conservative national security expert, Max Boot, has flatly labeled him “a fascist.” And the rhetoric is even stronger in private conversations I’ve had recently with Republicans of moderate and conservative stripes.

This is not the usual rhetoric of intraparty battles, the kind of thing that gets resolved in handshakes under the convention banners. These are stake-in-the-ground positions, strongly suggesting that a Trump nomination would create a fissure within the party as deep and indivisible as any in American political history, driven both by ideology and by questions of personal character.

Indeed, it would be a fissure so deep that, if the operatives I talked with are right, Trump running as a Republican could well face a third-party run—from the Republicans themselves.

Greenfield’s entire column, linked by Brayton, is worth reading and pondering. But even more thought-provoking is Brayton’s “take” on Greenfield’s analysis and the current deep divisions within the GOP:

As much as some on the left like to think of the enemy as a single monolith, there are very deep divisions within the GOP. If you don’t believe that, ask John Boehner. I’ve been writing about this since 2010, when the Republican party made the fateful decision to try to ride the Tea Party horse into power. It worked then, allowing them to take over the House and most state legislatures and governerships.

But as I said at the time, this was not a horse that they could break and they quickly realized that when they lost control of their own caucus in the House to extremists who view any compromise as a literal betrayal. This is what spawned the likes of Ted Cruz, and it’s the kind of temperament that Trump is giving voice to. There is a war within the GOP that at some point has to open up into open warfare, as it has for both parties at various times in the past. And Trump could either declare the war himself or have it declared upon him.

This is the sort of scenario that gives new meaning to the old admonition: be careful what you wish for.

And before you saddle up that horse, be sure you can ride it….

Not Your Father’s GOP…

Younger Americans don’t understand–probably cannot understand–how far the political pendulum has swung since 1980.

1980 was the year Ronald Reagan ran for President, and I ran for Congress. We were both Republicans, both excoriated as “too conservative.”

Today, Reagan would be too liberal for the “Freedom Caucus” and other far rightwing activists who have taken over the GOP in the intervening years. As for me, I haven’t changed my basic political philosophy at all (although I have changed my position on some issues after learning more, or examining accumulating evidence), and I’m now considered a wild-eyed liberal. At best.

Every once in a while, an old-time Republican decides to violate Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment (Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican), and publicly bemoan what has happened to a once-sane and responsible political party. Most recently, that person was Bob Dole. (I have a soft spot for Dole for a number of reasons, not least because his political action committee financially supported my campaign “back in the day.”)

In a recent interview on MSNBC, Dole bemoaned the current state of the Republican party, which he said had become “an extreme group on the right.” Dole harshly criticized Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, calling Trump “over the top” and saying that he “couldn’t understand” how people supported him.

Dole also opined that Ted Cruz is far too extreme, and not at all a traditional conservative. He criticized Cruz’ so-called Senate “achievements” of shutting down the government twice and calling Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) a liar on the Senate floor.

Dole, like many traditional and Reagan-era Republicans, represent an era that modern conservatives constantly idealize but is seriously disillusioned with the current extremism and ignorance of the Republican Party, which he’s said is “out of ideas.” Dole also said that he doubted Ronald Reagan would win the nomination if he ran in the current extremist climate of the Republican Party.

In the ultimate heresy, Dole also praised President Obama, calling him a “very good man.”

While saying that he probably wouldn’t support Hillary Clinton in a potential general election matchup with Trump or Cruz, Dole suggested that he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to vote for either of those Republican demagogues, saying with a laugh that he “might oversleep” on election day.

A good number of the remaining reasonable, disheartened Republicans are likely to oversleep on election day–or even vote Democratic.

After all, you don’t have to be excited about Hillary Clinton to recognize the gulf between competent and crazy.