Tag Archives: GOP

How Has It Come To This?

One of the Republican Congressmen who voted for the extremely popular infrastructure bill has reported getting death threats.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) — a moderate who voted for the infrastructure package — said during an interview Monday evening on CNN that a caller left a message with his office that was filled with expletives and called him a traitor. “I hope you die,” the caller said, adding that he hoped everybody in his family died as well.

Paul Gosar–one of several GOP Representatives who are clearly and demonstrably mentally ill– posted a “cartoon” video of himself killing Democratic Congresswoman AOC. (In Gosar’s case, it’s notable that all six of his siblings ran an ad opposing him in the last election cycle; you really need to be “out there” for your family to publicly warn that you pose a danger…)

If these and similar examples were equally “out there”–that is, if the party leadership was distancing itself from its racists, anti-Semites and other assorted nut cases– it would be troubling enough. But the party not only isn’t distancing itself, it has arguably stopped behaving like a political party that needs to appeal to as many voters as possible, and has stopped even the pretense of caring about governing or policy or the future of the country.

This recent headline from the Washington Post would have been unthinkable not that long ago: “Tensions rise among Republicans over infrastructure bill and whether any agreement with Biden should be tolerated.”

Republicans are increasingly divided over the bipartisan infrastructure bill that will soon become law, with tensions rising among GOP members over whether the party should remain united against all aspects of President Biden’s agenda or strike deals in the rare instances when there is common ground.

Former president Donald Trump has led the call to trash the bill while deriding Republicans who voted for the measure, saying they should be “ashamed of themselves” for “helping the Democrats.”

Politicians have always played partisan hardball, but until recently, they have done their best to portray that game-playing as zeal to protect a policy goal –to prevent excessive spending, or government over-reach, or to protect “state’s rights.” (Dissident Democrats with personal agendas still maintain that public posture–Manchin comes to mind.) Incredibly, however, today’s GOP no longer even pretends that concerns for the common good or responsible governance are involved. As the article notes, the “divisions and hard feelings over the bill reflect the degree to which Republicans have defined themselves heading into the 2022 midterms as being against whatever Biden and the Democrats are for.”

We now know why the Republicans didn’t bother to craft a platform for the 2020 election: the party is simply against whatever the President of the United States is for. No matter whether a Presidential proposal is good for the country, no matter if it is popular even among the rabid base of their own party, if the President wants it, they oppose it.

Publicly. Unashamedly.Incomprehensibly.

Several media outlets have reported that allies of Trump are advocating for more than criticizism of party members who voted to repair the nation’s decaying infrastructure. They are proposing to punish them, particularly those who hold senior committee positions.

Former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said in interview on Stephen K. Bannon’s “War Room”podcast Tuesday that all 13 members should “absolutely” be stripped of their committee assignments by House leadership in the coming days.

This isn’t traditional politics, and the pathetic remnants of what used to be a normal political party can no longer be viewed as political actors.  They are consigliere and henchmen to the aptly-named Don.

I have to believe that there is a limit to just how long Republican gerrymandering and vote suppression can protect people who lack even enough shame to impel pretense; these  corrupt and clueless empty suits don’t care about governing, and they are uninterested in  feigning concern for the people they are supposed to be serving.

They are willing to be exactly who and what they are.

 

 

Extremism Goes Mainstream

I really try to stay positive.

Take the environment, where there are signs of genuine progress. Despite the mounting effects of climate change, there is much to applaud about the multiple efforts at what I’ll call “eco-responsibility”–for example, in the most recent issue of the Engineering News Record (my husband subscribes), there are stories about efforts to add plastic additives to road construction (thus extending pavement life while re-using plastic waste), new methods of decreasing concrete’s carbon footprint, and a particularly encouraging article about updating the U.S. grid to aid in the transition from fossil to renewable energy.

In a number of areas, serious people are making serious efforts to confront the multiple threats to our various societies that range from problematic to dangerous, and in many of these areas, there is slow but discernible progress.

But. (You knew there was a “but”…) A significant number of humans evidently cannot cope with the world they now inhabit, and are retreating into fantasy, hate and violence.

ProPublica recently explored the extent to which such individuals control today’s Republican Party.

North Carolina state representative Mike Clampitt swore an oath to uphold the Constitution after his election in 2016 and again in 2020. But there’s another pledge that Clampitt said he’s upholding: to the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militant organization.

Dozens of Oath Keepers have been arrested in connection to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, some of them looking like a paramilitary group, wearing camo helmets and flak vests. But a list of more than 35,000 members of the Oath Keepers — obtained by an anonymous hacker and shared with ProPublica by the whistleblower group Distributed Denial of Secrets — underscores how the organization is evolving into a force within the Republican Party.

ProPublica identified Clampitt and 47 more state and local government officials on the list, all Republicans: 10 sitting state lawmakers; two former state representatives; one current state assembly candidate; a state legislative aide; a city council assistant; county commissioners in Indiana, Arizona and North Carolina; two town aldermen; sheriffs or constables in Montana, Texas and Kentucky; state investigators in Texas and Louisiana; and a New Jersey town’s public works director.

ProPublica found over 400 members and/or newsletter recipients who used government, military or political campaign email addresses; they included candidates for offices ranging from Congress to sheriff–a list that also included a retired assistant school superintendent in Alabama, and an award-winning elementary school teacher in California. There were significant numbers of police officers and military veterans.

Oath Keepers pledge to resist if the federal government imposes martial law, invades a state or takes people’s guns, ideas that show up in a dark swirl of right-wing conspiracy theories.

By far the most frightening aspect of the revelations is the degree to which these commitments have become mainstream within the GOP.

“Five or six years ago, politicians wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out with Oath Keepers, you’d have to go pretty fringe,” said Jared Holt, who monitors the group for the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “When groups like that become emboldened, it makes them significantly more dangerous.”

The article identifies a number of current lawmakers as members. Among them is Indiana state Sen. Scott Baldwin, whose spokesperson said he was unavailable to comment. The article meticulously categorized the members whose identities were disclosed by the hack: elected officials, GOP party leaders, and (chillingly) poll workers.

In the wake of the hack and the disclosures, several media outlets investigated how enrollees learned about the organization– how it was able to spread so readily. One conclusion: social media, particularly Facebook, is central; it provides a platform for the “patriot” movement. That conclusion would seem to confirm other recent studies showing how social media recruits for the far right more generally. One report found that Facebook was joiners’ most frequently cited source for having first heard about the Oath Keepers.

Mother Jones found that certain right-wing media outlets and figures, notably Alex Jones and Infowars, have played key roles in spreading the extremism. But more “mainstream” outlets and figures were also found to play central roles: Fox and Fox News were prominent.

There have always been extremists, malcontents, and outright lunatics. What is different today–and scary–isn’t just that they have moved the Overton Window and become almost mainstream. It’s that they have effectively taken over one of America’s two major political parties–and made it impossible to govern. Nationally, the GOP simply refuses to participate in legislative activities, preferring to wage culture war. That has driven virtually all sane people to become Democrats or Democratically-leaning independents–but they represent such a broad spectrum of political ideology that it is nearly impossible to unite them behind a single agenda.

Bottom line: Either the fever will break, or the country will.

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A quick reminder of site rules to commenters: do not feed the trolls, and do not engage in ad hominem argumentation. Thank you.

 

 

Frightened Little Men

I know we are facing enormous threats–to the planet and to democracy, to identify just the two that most concern those of us who are actually paying attention. Racism and other forms of tribalism aren’t far behind. But the severity of those challenges shouldn’t be an excuse for ignoring misogyny, especially since much of it emanates from the panicked denialism at the root of all the other problems we face.

And that brings me to Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, who may or may not believe the bilge he spewed to receptive Republicans at a recent “conservative” gathering.

According to The Guardian,Hawley claimed that women’s efforts to gain equality and combat toxic masculinity have led men to consume more pornography and play more video games.

Speaking at the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, Florida, Hawley addressed the issue of “manhood”, which he said was under attack, and called for men to return to traditional masculine roles.

The Donald Trump supporter who notoriously raised a fist in support of a mob outside the US Capitol on 6 January appeared to echo talking points made by the likes of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that opposes feminism and believes men are under attack from liberal elites.

The rest of Hawley’s speech was evidently a paean to “masculine virtues,” which he asserted are a foundation of everything from family life to political liberty. He identified “assertiveness” and “independence” as two of those “manly virtues.” (I can’t help noting that. when I was young, men who were “assertive” were praised and encouraged, while women who were assertive were disparaged as unfeminine, “aggressive” and “castrating.”)

As a report on the speech in the Intelligencer put it,

If women possess any virtues beyond childbearing in Hawley’s estimation, it’s impossible to tell. In his speech, women are assigned no quality but their identities as birthing parents. 

Everything I’ve read about Hawley screams insincerity and ambition; he’s the son of a banker and a product of Stanford and Yale. If his analytical skills were as limited as his rhetoric suggests, he would never have made it through those institutions.

If Hawley was simply another QAnon-believing GOP cult member, I wouldn’t bother to post about this diatribe. But he has clearly decided that his path to glory lies with the Trump cult–and he has aimed his dishonest rhetoric at the angry and frightened people (mostly, but certainly not entirely, male) who make up that cult.

It is a truism to say that people are disoriented by change. We call phrases “truisms” because they are basically true–because they communicate a largely accurate observation.

Over the past few decades, the changed nature of the workplace and advances in medical science have combined to enable the advancement of women that so horrifies Hawley’s audience. Physical strength has declined in importance, birth control has allowed women to plan their reproduction. The skills needed by today’s economies are equally distributed between men and women, rendering the formerly massive privileges of maleness increasingly irrelevant.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that this state of affairs has shocked and dismayed the men who had very little going for them other than their gender. It hasn’t posed a problem for most of the accomplished and self-confident men I know–quite the contrary. There is much to be said for marriages and partnerships of equals. But we now inhabit a society where–haltingly and in the face of angry blowback–men are coming to realize that women are equal and independent human beings– not submissive “vessels” provided for their sexual and breeding needs.

The audience for Hawley’s pitch are the so-called “Proud Boys” and Incels and their like, males unable and/or unwilling to adjust to a world where the women they encounter are fully-realized human beings who must be treated as such– a world where their gender alone is insufficient to make them King of the Hill.

If the hysterical rejection of female equality was the only problem with the world-views of Hawley’s constituency, it would be bad enough, but the sad, angry and resentful people who are receptive to this drivel are also the people who believe in White Christian Supremacy and the Big Lie, who are sure that climate change is a hoax and COVID–if it is real–can be cured by horse dewormer. 

Next to climate change, they are far and away the greatest threat we face. 

 

Good News

In Christianity, the gospel is sometimes called the “Good News.” The phrase evidently heralds the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. If you have landed on this page in hopes of a post exploring that concept, you’ve come to the wrong place. I don’t even recognize “Christianity” these days. (Granted, I’m not a Christian.)

In fact, when it comes to contemporary news, I’ve become used to seeing headlines like this one, on articles documenting the ways in which Evangelical “Christians” have become more and more indistinguishable from GOP cultists. 

A group that says its mission is “to halt and push back the forces of darkness” is holding a tactical event in southwest Missouri this weekend to train Christians in “hand-to-hand combat” and “fighting from your vehicle.”

I’m not Christian, but I really don’t think Jesus would approve…

Peter Wehner, a lifelong evangelical, recently wrote an article for the Atlantic about the internal conflicts being caused by the politicization of Christianity. I recommend it.

My “good news” is very different– an explicit rejection of that perversion of belief . There are evidently evangelical pastors who are genuinely religious–that is, concerned with concepts like brotherly love, ethical behavior and the golden rule. 

The Washington Post recently had the story.

Emotions ran high at the gathering of about 100 pastors at a church, about five miles from the University of Notre Dame. Many hugged. Some shed tears. One confessed she could not pray anymore.
 
Some had lost funding and others had been fired from their churches for adopting more liberal beliefs. All had left the evangelical tradition and had come to discuss their next steps as “post-evangelicals.”

Those  who planned the meeting–which took place in South Bend, Indiana–had expected 25 pastors. Word-of-mouth expanded it to over 100.  The appeal appears to be part of what the report calls a” larger reckoning” that has been triggered in individuals and congregations that are “grappling with their faith identity in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency and calls for racial justice following the murder of George Floyd.”

Many of the (formerly) evangelical leaders in attendance at the meeting had been deeply concerned when they learned that approximately 8 out of 10 White evangelicals had voted for Trump in both of his presidential runs–evidence, as they see it, that the evangelical movement has been co-opted by Republican politics.

As the pastors traded stories, they quickly found shared experiences. They lamented their conservative evangelical parents who watch Fox News, as well as their peers who had re-examined their beliefs so much that they lost their faith entirely. They skewed younger, many in their 30s with tattoos covering their arms.

Most of the leaders held some belief in Jesus and the idea that people gathering in churches is still a good idea. Many want their churches to be affirming, meaning that they would perform gay weddings and include LGBTQ people in leadership and membership. They preferred curiosity over certainty, inclusion over exclusion.

According to the article, all of the attendees agreed on two things: they opposed Trump and they opposed racism. (Some of us would suggest that Trumpism is racism, so maybe they only agreed on one thing…) 

One of the most positive signs of change came in a quote from Amy Mikal, who was once a pastor at the Chicago-based megachurch Willow Creek.

“The hardest part is that we were taught to take the Bible literally,” Mikal said. “We want to be a place that asks more questions than provides answers.”

I have previously shared my youngest son’s distinction between a good religion and a bad one: a good religion helps you wrestle with morally-fraught questions about life’s meaning and challenges; a bad religion gives you predetermined “correct” answers and demands that you live in unquestioning accordance with them. Mikal obviously reached a similar conclusion.

The article quoted a different participant, Brit Barron (who had worked for a megachurch in California before she began re-examining her beliefs) for a similar sentiment. Barron opined that “Our job is to create the conversation. If someone opens up and says, ‘I don’t know if any of this is real,’ then we’re doing our job.”

The participants in this meeting understood that the “job” of a pastor is to provide a safe space for questions and debates about morality and faith. That sets them apart from the mega-churches and celebrity pastors who increasingly seem to believe that their job is to program troops for the GOP while raking in lots of money.

The refusal of a growing number of pastors to participate in the con games of the Falwells and Grahams really is “good news.” 

 

 

Speaking Of Florida…

Speaking of Florida…

Ron DeSantis–the delusional and dangerous governor of Florida–is evidently doubling down on his insistence that government has no business protecting the public health via vaccine mandates.

According to The Week,

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday stepped up his fight against the White House over COVID-19 restrictions, calling for a special legislative session so the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature can block President Biden’s vaccine mandates. “We have an opportunity here to take additional action, and I think we have to do it,” said DeSantis, who also has vowed to challenge Biden’s mandates in court. “I think we have got to stand up for people’s jobs and their livelihoods.” Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls said his office had not received details on the plan for a special session. Biden in September said his administration would impose vaccine mandates on federal workers and businesses with more than 100 employees, prompting criticism from Republicans who said getting vaccinated should be a personal choice.

I don’t have any special insight into whether DeSantis is really as stupid as he sounds, or whether he has decided that his political future rests with the delusional Trumpian base of the GOP, but this latest bit of theater is driving rational observers over the edge.

The hypocrisy is bad enough. This sudden libertarianism is jarring, coming as it does from Republicans who have waged culture war on behalf of government’s right to dictate everything from citizens’ right to smoke weed to who they can marry and and how they must reproduce.

What is especially infuriating, however, is the insistence that protecting others from serious illness and possible death should be a matter of “personal choice.”

As most readers of this blog are aware, I spent six years as the Executive Director of Indiana’s ACLU. I came to that position as a libertarian Republican (a category that no longer exists in the GOP, despite these sudden dishonest exhortations about “personal choice.”) I was–and am–a believer in what is called the libertarian premise, the  Enlightenment construct that says citizens are entitled to pursue their own telos, their own life goals–in today’s jargon, entitled to “do their own thing” and make their own “personal choices”–so long as they do not thereby harm the person or property of a non-consenting other, and so long as they are willing to accord an equal liberty to others.

The legitimacy of government action rests on those caveats.

There can certainly be arguments about what constitutes sufficient harm to justify government rules and regulations. Those arguments have been especially relevant to so-called “victimless crimes.” We distinguish, for example, between the guy who gets drunk in the privacy of his own home and the guy who gets drunk and takes to the road in his car. People who smoke in their own homes and cars are free to do so, but we have regulated smoking in public places ever since medical science discovered that passive smoke  endangers others. We argue whether the gambler who sustains losses poses a threat to others sufficient to legitimize laws against gambling, and whether the driver who doesn’t “buckle up” endangers anyone but himself.

The argument that vaccination is a “personal choice” doesn’t fall into that category.

Previous epidemics have not spawned similar, widespread debates about government’s right–actually, government’s duty–to protect public health. American courts, including the Supreme Court, have upheld both vaccination and quarantine mandates, because they are most definitely not matters of personal choice. A decision to forego vaccination for a non-medical reason is a declaration of disregard for ones fellow-citizens. Period.

If today’s insane Republicans want to risk their own lives in order to make a political statement, I’m fine with that. When they want to risk the lives of other people, not so much.

In Florida, a large percentage of the population is composed of elderly folks who are particularly vulnerable to the pandemic, That makes DeSantis’ opposition to vaccination especially heinous. He isn’t protecting “personal choice;” he’s signaling his willingness to add to the 59,000+  deaths the state has already suffered from COVID.

He has made a “personal choice” to elevate politics over morality.He’s despicable.