Tag Archives: extremism

Romney Sells What’s Left of His Soul

If there is any lingering doubt that Mitt Romney has sold what passes for his soul to the extreme right, his appointment of Robert Bork as his “legal advisor” should remove it.

I remember when Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by the Senate in a vote that included several Republicans. I was a pretty partisan Republican at the time, but even so, I found his nomination both mystifying and appalling. It’s fashionable among people who are unfamiliar with Bork’s writings and positions to bemoan the “nasty politics” that denied him a seat on the high court, but that sanitized version of history is simply inaccurate. While politics undoubtedly played a part, the reason Bork was rejected was that his views were far, far out of the legal mainstream.  His diatribes have–if anything–gotten more extreme since.

As law professor Jamin Raskin reminded readers in a recent post to the American Constitution Society blog,

  • Bork condemned as “lawless” and “a new low” the Supreme Court’s decision in Roper v. Simmons, which banned state execution of juveniles — a practice that he would allow despite the fact that no other country in the world sanctions it. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.
  • Bork rejects the Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey upholding a woman’s right to choose an abortion.  He is adamant that Roe v. Wade be overturned and states be allowed the power to prosecute women and doctors who violate criminal abortion laws.  As Bork states, “Roe, as the greatest example and symbol of the judicial usurpation of democratic prerogatives in this century, should be overturned.  The Court’s integrity requires that.” (See The Tempting of America)
  • He attacked the Supreme Court for its 7-1 decision in U.S. v. Virginia barring the state-funded Virginia Military Institute from discriminating against women. He argued that the “feminized Court” had reached its conclusion based on “sterile feminist logic” and rejected the mainstream view that sex-based classifications by government trigger heightened scrutiny.
  • Bork deplores the Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas striking down state laws that criminalize gay sex and has advocated amending the Constitution to declare that marriage is between “one man and one woman.”  (He even championed for a while a constitutional amendment permitting a simple majority of Congress to overturn the Supreme Court’s constitutional holdings, but appears to be backing away from this position.)
  • Bork lambasted the Court’s decision to uphold affirmative action as constitutional, despite the consensus of most universities, and even the United States armed services, that such programs are needed to counter historical discrimination and promote diversity in these institutions.
  • He has an embarrassing record on voting rights, vehemently opposing the fundamental constitutional principle of “one person, one vote” and defending the constitutionality of the poll tax and literacy test in state elections. 

I read Bork’s “Slouching Toward Gomorra” when it first came out; in it, Bork essentially took the position that he and other members of an “enlightened” elite should decide what other (lesser) Americans could read. Despite the effort of many on the Right to rehabilitate Bork’s image, the man’s own works testify to his profoundly anti-democratic views. If there is any doubt of the utterly radical nature of Robert Bork’s positions, the evidence is in his own articles and books, his own words. It is unnecessary to consult secondary resources.

The obvious question is: Why on earth would Mitt Romney choose Robert Bork–as extreme and polarizing a figure as can be found–to be his legal adviser, the person he would listen to when choosing Supreme Court nominees, the person he would consult about the constitutionality of policy proposals?

Why, when he has secured the nomination, would he embrace someone beloved only by the farthest fringes of the lunatic Right? If it’s time to shake up the Etch-A-Sketch and try to look reasonably moderate, this is a seemingly inexplicable choice.

I can think of only two possible answers to that question: either Romney really is an extremist who only played a moderate in Massachusetts; or he is making a final, desperate Faustian bargain in an effort to earn the trust of today’s reactionary GOP base.

Either explanation makes him a fraud. Bork makes him a dangerous fraud.

Mississippi, Arizona, Ohio, Indiana

Another election day has come and gone, and while I’ve grown leery of predicting anything in an era when crazy is the most prominent characteristic of our political environment, the results may justify a cautious optimism.

Despite the constant references to the “gay agenda,” anyone sentient has long recognized that the group having the real “agenda” has been the extreme religious right—and it’s an agenda that doesn’t have much place for anyone who isn’t one of them. It’s anti-gay, obviously, but it is also anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-freethought….pretty much anti-modernity, actually.

So it was heartening to see results from a referendum in Mississippi, of all places, where the usual subjects were promoting a measure that would have given “personhood” to fertilized eggs—thus outlawing not only abortion, but several methods of birth control. This proved to be a bridge too far even for Mississippi voters, who are not generally considered pinko/socialist/liberal types.

It was also gratifying to see the recall of the Arizona State Senator who had spearheaded that state’s mean-spirited and draconian anti-immigration frenzy. There are legitimate arguments to made about immigration policy, but these sorts of punitive efforts are clearly based upon animosity toward people who “don’t look like us.” (As I have often noted, my own son-in-law is an immigrant who has been in the US for 30 years, and has never encountered any anti-immigrant sentiment. He’s never been asked whether he’s here legally. It’s hard not to attribute that to the fact that he’s a very fair-skinned white guy from England, with a cute British accent, rather than a brown-skinned person with a Spanish accent. But the anti-immigrant movement is all about the rule of law—not bigotry. Right?)

In Ohio, voters overwhelming rejected a mean-spirited effort to punish teachers, firefighters and other public employees for the perceived transgressions of “big” government.

And here in my hometown, we achieved a milestone of sorts with the election of an openly-gay candidate to the City-County Council.

Not only did Zach Adamson, the candidate in question, win election easily, his orientation never became an issue—not overtly, not covertly. If there was any sort of “whisper” campaign, the whisper was so soft no one heard it. Zach ran a close third among the four Democratic at-large candidates (and third among all ten running at large), and focused his campaign upon the issues most important to voters: infrastructure, business climate and other matters with which a municipal government must deal. He stressed his experience as a small business owner, and treated his orientation in the same matter-of-fact fashion he treated everything else. His partner was visible and involved.

Little by little, gay and lesbian candidates around the country have been running similar campaigns—not hiding their homosexuality, but placing sexual orientation in the same context that heterosexual candidates do. It’s one more piece of information about a particular, complex human being. Increasingly, out gay candidates are winning elective office—not just on the coasts, but in places like Indiana and even Texas, where Annise Parker, an out lesbian, just won her second term as Mayor. (Her campaign was successful despite significant anti-gay activity, however; here in Indianapolis, as I noted above, there was no such activity evident.)

I’d love to believe that these elections were a harbinger of a return to collective sanity, but I allowed myself to believe that in the wake of Obama’s victory and I’ve been forcibly reminded otherwise. On the other hand, it’s hard not to see the vicious backlash against Obama as the last gasp of people who “want their country back”—whether they are reacting against an African-American President or simply against the rapidity of social change. The November elections seem qualitatively different, and for that reason more promising.

But I’ve been wrong before.

The Exodus Continues…

I left the Republican Party in 2000, after 35+ years of active participation, including stints as a precinct committeeperson, appointed government official and candidate for Congress. Despite that level of participation, a number of those in the party shrugged off my departure (or said “good riddance”) as the foreseeable decision of a “liberal” who had never really belonged.

What they refused to see–or admit–was that I hadn’t left the GOP. It left me–and many others. The party I had joined was fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Goldwater Republicans believed in limiting the power of government in both the boardroom and the bedroom. We believed in fiscal responsibility. (Those Republicans would never have gone to war without bothering to pay for it, to give just one example.) The party I left, on the other hand, was fiscally liberal and socially conservative.

Since my departure for an occasionally uncomfortable berth in the Democratic party, I have watched the GOP steadily shrink, as control has become concentrated in its most fanatical, hateful and reality-challenged elements. And it is getting more difficult to attribute the growing pace of defections as coming only from “liberals” and civil libertarians. When notables who are clearly on the right have had enough, you know the party is on the verge of self-destruction.

This morning, MyDD reported that conservative blogger Charles Foster Johnson, founder of Little Green Footballs and co-founder of Pajamas Media, has parted ways with the right, and blogged on the matter outlining his rationale:

” 1. Support for fascists, both in America (see: Pat Buchanan, Robert Stacy McCain, etc.) and in Europe (see: Vlaams Belang, BNP, SIOE, Pat Buchanan, etc.)  

2. Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.)

3. Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.)

4. Support for anti-science bad craziness (see: creationism, climate change denialism, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, James Inhofe, etc.)

5. Support for homophobic bigotry (see: Sarah Palin, Dobson, the entire religious right, etc.)

6. Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.)

7. Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.)

8. A right-wing blogosphere that is almost universally dominated by raging hate speech (see: Hot Air, Free Republic, Ace of Spades, etc.)

9. Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.)

10. Hatred for President Obama that goes far beyond simply criticizing his policies, into racism, hate speech, and bizarre conspiracy theories (see: witch doctor pictures, tea parties, Birthers, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax, and every other right wing source)

And much, much more. The American right wing has gone off the rails, into the bushes, and off the cliff.

I won’t be going over the cliff with them.”

Johnson, who is also a respected jazz musician, started blogging in 2001. In a recent interview, Johnson said the main reason that he has parted ways with “right wing blogosphere  . . .  is that most of them have succumbed to Obama Derangement Syndrome. “

In his post, Johnson went on to note the following:

 “One “nontroversy” after another, followed by the outrage of the day, followed by conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, all delivered in breathless, angry prose that’s just wearying and depressing to read. 

It’s not just the economic issues either. I’ve never been on board with the anti-science, anti-Enlightenment radical religious right. Once I began making my opinions known on issues like creationism and abortion, I realized that there just wasn’t very much in common with many of the bloggers on the right. And then, when most of them decided to fall in and support a blogger like Robert Stacy McCain, who has neo-Nazi friends, has written articles for the openly white supremacist website American Renaissance, and has made numerous openly racist statements on the record … well, I was extremely disappointed to see it, but unfortunately not surprised.”

All this is just very sad. The party I joined over 40 years ago, the party I enthusiastically supported and worked for, no longer exists. What has taken its place is both dangerous and terribly depressing.