Time For A New Center-Right Party?

So here is where we are. We have a sitting president pretending that he won an election he resoundingly lost, and nearly 90 percent of the GOP members in Congress refusing to challenge the assertion.

Top officials in 18 states and more than half of House Republicans supported a bonkers lawsuit trying to reverse the result of the election–even though a number of them owe their own seats to that same election.

Meanwhile, Proud Boys (a White Supremacist gang) prowl the streets of Washington and were actually invited into the White House by a deranged and dangerous almost-ex President.

To say that this is all insane behavior is to belabor the obvious. Even Trump ally Chris Christie has called the Texas lawsuit “absurd.”

Prior to the Presidential campaign, former GOP strategists and conservatives–including Rick Wilson, George Conway, Steve Schmidt, Reed Galen, Jennifer Horn, John Weaver, Ron Steslow, and Mike Madrid formed the Lincoln Project, “accountable to those who would violate their oaths to the Constitution and would put others before Americans.” Wilson, Conway and Schmidt have been particularly vocal in repudiating the Trumpism that has radicalized and infantilized what remains of the GOP. There have been other groups of disaffected Republicans, like Republican Voters Against Trump, and large numbers of former Republican officeholders ( especially DOJ lawyers and military personnel) who have issued letters and statements pointing out that various Trump actions and statements weren’t simply wrong, but in violation of American values and the rule of law.

Ex-Republicans, including conservative “names” like Charlie Sykes and Bill Kristol, established the Bulwark, “a project of Defending Democracy Together Institute, a 501(c)(3) organization.” They are joined philosophically by media figures like Joe Scarborough, who was once a Republican Congressman.

These dissidents from Trumpism are largely drawn from what we might call the brains of the former GOP–strategists, political philosophers (and to be fair, a number of self-regarding blowhards. But still…)

Thoughtful people understand that America needs two responsible, adult political parties. That need is especially significant in a country that has only two major parties. When the political system works properly, both of those parties will be bigger “tents” than today’s GOP, but one will be generally more conservative and one generally more liberal.

People of good will who are focused on the common good will disagree about many things. They will bring different perspectives and life experiences to the nation’s problems. And in what should be an inevitable process of negotiation and compromise, broadly acceptable public policies will be hammered out.

That process is impossible when one party is a fundamentalist cult.

When one of only two political parties is dominated by people who believe that God is not only on their side, but has directed them not to negotiate, compromise or accept any reality other than their preferred one, government cannot function. And that is the alternative reality in which members of today’s GOP live.

As Michelle Goldberg wrote in the New York Times,

The postmodern blood libel of QAnon will have adherents in Congress. Kyle Rittenhouse, a young man charged with killing Black Lives Matter protesters, is a right-wing folk hero. The Republican Party has become more hostile to democracy than ever. Both the Trump and Bush presidencies concluded with America a smoking ruin. Only Trump has ensured that nearly half the country doesn’t see it.

As Paul Krugman observed in that same issue, the GOP has become hostile to the very idea that there’s an objective reality that might conflict with its political goals.

There are certainly similarly ideological, intransigent people among the Democrats–but they don’t control it, and they do not come close to being a majority of that party’s base.

Today, what remains of the GOP is a seething, angry mob. Scholars can research the roots of this devolution; psychiatrists and political psychologists can investigate the personality quirks that predict attraction to whatever it is that being a Republican these days represents. But what is abundantly clear–not just to Democrats and Independents, but to anti-Trump Republicans–is that the current iteration of the Grand Old Party is incapable of participating in governance.

Tantrums are not policy positions.

In my opinion (not that anyone is likely to ask for my opinion), if the United States is to return to a semblance of sanity, or to any adult version of governance, the principled conservatives who have exited the GOP need to form a new center-right party, and leave the current Republican Party to the howling, racist remnants that currently dominate it.


Tell Me Again How There’s No War on Women…

While I am on the subject of women’s rights, I see that the thoroughly despicable Chris Christie has vetoed a New Jersey bill that would have required businesses to pay men and women equally when they are performing the same tasks.

On average, women in New Jersey make 80% of what men make for substantially similar work.

Christie called the bill “nonsensical” and said it would make New Jersey “very business unfriendly.”

Christie is currently stumping for his former nemesis Donald Trump, who holds a 70% unfavorability rating among women.

Forgive me if I am uncharitable, but the only justification (if one can call it that) for this veto is as part of a pathetic effort to be The Donald’s running mate. I mean, let’s face it–Christie is massively unpopular in New Jersey where, on those rare occasions when he has visited the state he governs, his “accomplishments” have consisted mainly of lowering the state’s bond rating and closing a bridge.

There are a lot of things that people like Christie (and Indiana’s Mike Pence) believe make a state “business unfriendly.” Laws requiring employers to pay a living wage, or give bathroom breaks or sick leave, for example. Or laws against wage theft. (Do you know what would make a state really attractive to business– “business friendly” in the Pence/Christie model? Slavery! It would be great; you wouldn’t have to pay workers at all!)

To Christie–and Pence–“business friendly” measures include right to work laws (often called “right to work for less laws,” because they make it difficult if not impossible for employees to bargain effectively with their employers), and low taxes (although lots of research suggests that the low quality of life that accompanies low taxes is a big turnoff to businesses looking to relocate).

Add to those “business friendly” measures laws making it perfectly acceptable for employers to pay women less than they’d pay a male worker. After all, we women are just incubators, necessary only to produce the next generation of voters and workers, and ultimately beholden to the un-self-aware “mansplainers” and bullies like Christie. Why should we expect wages equal to those of a man?

Come to places like New Jersey and Indiana,  “business-friendly” states where you can hire women and save money!

I’m sure Trump approves. And I’m sure Pence is taking notes….


Things I’ll Never Understand…

Yesterday’s New York Times had an editorial that began

Over the last several years, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has shown utter contempt for the State Supreme Court’s three-decades-old ruling in the Mount Laurel housing case, which bars wealthy towns from excluding affordable housing and requires them to write zoning laws that permit a reasonable amount of such housing to be built.

The editorial went on to describe Christie’s persistent refusal to comply with the court’s orders. It’s hard to believe that Christie was once a lawyer–a profession rooted in respect for the rule of law.

Of course, even ignoring “Bridgegate,” this is hardly the first time Christie has privileged his personal political interests over the common good. When he was first elected, he killed a much-needed, long-planned tunnel into Manhattan. As a New Jersey paper recently noted,

The ARC tunnel would have doubled cross-Hudson rail capacity – helping commuters get to high-paying Manhattan jobs and increasing property values back home in New Jersey. When Christie killed the plan – he didn’t have a Plan B. Instead, Christie grabbed the billions of dollars set aside by Gov. Jon Corzine and spent it on in-state transportation projects – which allowed him to pay for road and bridge repairs without raising the gas tax.  By pulling out of the ARC tunnel and spending the money, Christie left billions in federal dollars on the table and has nothing left to contribute to a new tunnel project – rail capacity that is still desperately needed.

Christie justified that decision by saying that the project faced cost overruns; the General Accounting Office said otherwise.

I wish Christie were an anomaly, but he isn’t. In fact, Christie’s is the face of far too much of today’s politics: officeholders who are contemptuous of the government that pays them and the interests of the voters who elect them, power-hungry, self-absorbed lackeys of special interests willing to do whatever it takes to stay in the good graces of their patrons, no matter who gets hurt in the process.

What I don’t get is why these people–who appear to have no concept at all of the common good, or respect for the purpose of government–choose political life in the first place. Surely in a capitalist economy there are more appropriate venues for their narrowly-focused ambitions.

Might it be that these pompous preachers of the virtues of the market lack the ability to succeed in the real-life marketplace? Why else go into a line of work for which they are so clearly unsuited?


Walking and Talking

In a speech last week in Washington, D.C., New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sang from the Republican playbook in criticizing President Obama’s recent economic interventions.

“We don’t have an income inequality problem,” Christie blustered. “We have an opportunity problem in this country because government’s trying to control the free market. We need to talk about the fact that we’re for a free-market society that allows your effort and your ingenuity to determine your success, not the cold, hard hand of government determining winners and losers.”

Aside from the somewhat bizarre assertion that we don’t have an inequality problem, most Americans (this one included) would agree with that basic assertion. Assuming a level regulatory playing field—a set of rules ensuring that everyone “plays fair”—the market should be the arbiter of business success and failure. We regularly quibble over the need for some of those rules, but it’s a rare politician or citizen (Republican or Democrat) who advocates government control over the economy.

Of course, there’s talking the talk and there’s walking the walk.

After his speech, Christie returned to New Jersey and signed off on a government regulation that blocks Tesla from selling its cars in the state. According to Slate Magazine,

The rule change prohibits automakers from selling directly to consumers, as Tesla does. Instead, it requires them to go through franchised, third-party dealerships, as the big, traditional car companies do. In other words, it requires that the middle-men get their cut. The Christie Administration made the move unilaterally, via the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. It was urged on by lobbyists for the state’s existing car dealerships, which fear the competition. The upshot is that Tesla will be forced to stop selling cars at its two existing dealerships in the state, and drop its plans to build more. It’s unclear what will happen to the employees of those dealerships.

There’s socialism, and then there’s corporatism and crony capitalism.

There’s rhetoric, and then there’s reality.


I Am Not a Crook! Er…Bully!

It doesn’t speak well for me, I’ll admit, but there’s a German word for what I’m feeling: schadenfreude. It means taking pleasure from the misfortune of others.

I’ve disliked Chris Christie ever since he first assumed the office of Governor of New Jersey, and decided to cement his “fiscally conservative” bona fides by refusing to allow the feds to fund a much-needed tunnel under the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York. His decision was all theater, and the effect was to screw up traffic engineering in the whole Tri-State area.

Evidently, screwing up traffic is his preferred modus operandi. 

Between his earlier “look at me, I’m not spending federal dollars” and his more recent “Don’t cross me or I’ll shut down your bridge” episodes, we’ve seen periodic outbursts–yelling at people who question him, crude insults lobbed at hecklers–that gave observers a glimpse into the arrogance of this big bully. If he had a coat of arms, it would say “How dare you cross me? Who do you think you are.”

In his rambling press conference, Christie did what bullies tend to do when they are confronted: throw someone else under the bus. He was shocked–shocked, I tell you–to find that his top aides had engaged in such behavior. He had been betrayed by the people he had hired and mentored. He was the victim.

Anyone who has ever been in politics–for that matter, anyone who has ever worked for someone with a huge ego–knows that subordinates act on the desires and/or orders of their bosses. If you believe that Christie didn’t (directly or tacitly) endorse this bit of petty bullying, I have a different bridge to sell you.

Like I said, schadenfreude.

The truly unanswered question arising out of this abuse of authority is: when will those who work for government figure out that office emails are public and discoverable? Didn’t Tony Bennett’s debacle teach Christie’s folks anything?