Tag Archives: GOP

Republicans Do Have An Agenda

A number of pundits have focused on the apparent lack of a GOP agenda going into the midterm campaign season.  They’ve noted that Mitch McConnell (aka “Dr. Evil”) has all but disavowed the list of unpopular proposals that Rick Scott produced earlier this year, and the lack of any other Republican platform.

So there’s no GOP agenda? Texas Republicans beg to differ.

As Heather Cox Richardson recently reported, Texas Republicans have put everything we suspected “out there” for all to see.  And if that platform, that agenda, that fever dream, doesn’t make chills run down your spine, there’s something wrong with you.

Delegates to a convention of the Texas Republican Party approved platform planks rejecting “the certified results of the 2020 Presidential election, and [holding] that acting President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected by the people of the United States”; requiring students “to learn about the dignity of the preborn human,” including that life begins at fertilization; treating homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice”; locking the number of Supreme Court justices at 9; getting rid of the constitutional power to levy income taxes; abolishing the Federal Reserve; rejecting the Equal Rights Amendment; returning Christianity to schools and government; ending all gun safety measures; abolishing the Department of Education; arming teachers; requiring colleges to teach “free-market liberty principles”; defending capital punishment; dictating the ways in which the events at the Alamo are remembered; protecting Confederate monuments; ending gay marriage; withdrawing from the United Nations and the World Health Organization; and calling for a vote “for the people of Texas to determine whether or not the State of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation.”

If this autocratic, theocratic and incredibly stupid wish list appeals to even a significant minority of Texans, I hope they will “assert Texas’ status as an independent nation” and secede.  Rational human beings–not to mention people who believe in the rule of law and the clear meaning of the Constitution and Bill of Rights–won’t miss them.

If Americans needed any further evidence of just how far the GOP has deviated from its former beliefs–not to mention sanity–Texans have just provided it.

Unfortunately, the GOP lurch off the radical cliff isn’t limited to Texas.

Here in Indiana, we’ve long had Republican legislators who are looney-tunes–the gun nuts who want everyone to be able to pack heat with no license or background check; the religious warriors who want to define religious liberty as the (limited) right of every American to live in accordance with the warriors’ own religious doctrines; the anti-intellectuals who fear new ideas and want to dictate educational curricula (or just replace the public schools with vouchers to be used primarily at religious schools); and of course, a hearty sprinkling of garden-variety homophobes and racists– but generally, saner heads within the super-majority have somewhat dampened their influence.

We’ve also been lucky that pious Pence was replaced by Eric Holcomb. While I have disagreed with Governor Holcomb on specific issues (sending back $ to taxpayers rather than using those dollars to address Indiana’s myriad deficits, for example), he has mostly been a reasonable and thoughtful official, out of the mold of former Republicans.

The Indiana GOP rejected Holcomb and the so-called Republican “establishment” this week in favor of the cult members and the Big Lie. Diego Morales defeated incumbent Holli Sullivan for the nomination to secretary of state in Indiana — an office documents show once fired him .

Sullivan’s loss is a major blow to the so-called establishment wing of the party, and yet another sign that Gov. Eric Holcomb’s influence is dwindling in his second term. Holcomb had appointed Sullivan in March 2021 after then-Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced her retirement.

As WFYI reported,

Morales’s bid was viewed by many as a challenge to the governor and the so-called Republican “establishment.”

Morales, whose family immigrated to Indiana from Guatemala, has previously pushed the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. He’s criticized Indiana’s election security, arguing the state needs to do more to prevent non-citizens from voting. And he wants to cut in half the number of early voting days before each election, from 28 days to 14.

“First of all, we are going to be efficient,” Morales said. “Number two, we are going to save some taxpayers money.”

After his win, Morales preached unity among his party. During the convention, many of his supporters booed and heckled current Secretary of State Sullivan.

In red states across the country, very much including Indiana, the inmates are running the asylum. I don’t know where that asylum is located, but it isn’t in the America I inhabit.

 

If I Were A Rich (Wo)Man

Sometimes I fantasize about what I would do if I was really, really rich–Bezos or Musk or Gates rich, or even Bloomberg rich. I’d concentrate on the single most destructive aspect of America’s current malaise: our information environment.

I’d start by buying Fox News, Sinclair and the other propaganda outfits masquerading as “news.” Then I’d set up a foundation with a single goal: revitalizing local news organizations. Real ones, practicing professional, ethical journalism. Bezos had the right idea when he purchased the Washington Post and gave it serious financial resources, but that is only one newspaper, and it’s national.

It’s also not read by the substantial number of Americans who are insulated from reality.

David French is a conservative–one of the dwindling number of sane ones. He has a newsletter, and in the wake of the first January 6 Committee hearing, he explained why so many Republicans remain impervious to the truth, not only of what happened on January 6th, but utterly unaware of the sordid reality of the Trump Presidency.

French isn’t just a conservative and an Evangelical: he explains that he lives in a deep-Red state, and has friends and multiple family members who are devout Trumpers (a term he doesn’t use), and has engaged in numerous conversations with them.

I don’t know how to link to the newsletter, but here is the gist of his explanation.

Let’s put this all together and apply it to ordinary Republican views of January 6. First, they’re going to know a lot less about the Trump team’s misconduct than you might think. Mention the John Eastman memos that urged Vice President Pence to reject Joe Biden’s electoral-vote majority, and many will shake their heads. Never heard of it.

Bring up Trump’s infamous phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and they’re mystified. They simply don’t know that the president threatened Georgia’s top election official with criminal prosecution and demanded that he “find” the votes necessary to change the outcome of the state’s presidential election.

I could go on and on. They don’t know about Trump’s effort to create a slate of shadow electors. They don’t know anything about Steve Bannon’s “Operation Green Bay Sweep,” the plan he developed with Peter Navarro to leverage the objections of more than 100 GOP members of Congress to delay election certification.

It all comes back to information–or in this case, the lack thereof–and the pervasiveness of Rightwing propaganda. I am convinced that without Fox “News,” the cult that is today’s GOP would shrink considerably. Yes, we’d still have White Christian Supremicists and QAnon crazies and the like, but we’d have far few people living in an alternate reality.

So I’d start by cleaning up the information environment.

As important as it is to do something about the unprecedented levels of disinformation being spewed daily by the propaganda mills, however, citizens also need a context–an accurate context–within which to process facts and evidence. So I would also devote a lot of my imaginary money to the nation’s public school systems, and the development of curricula that would facilitate critical thinking–at least, the ability to recognize what constitutes probative evidence and what doesn’t. (And civics, of course!) I’d use my riches to counter those who are bleeding America’s essential public schools in order to send those resources to private–primarily religious–institutions that largely perpetuate tribalism and ignore civic responsibility.

And finally (remember, in my imagination, I would be very, very rich), I would create entertainments intended to influence the culture and reinforce human virtues–television shows depicting people being appreciated for traits like humility and integrity, comic books for young people showcasing admirable behaviors, music extolling friendship, inclusion and community…

Ah, well. A girl can dream…

There’s a line from Tevya’s song in Fiddler on the Roof  that has always seemed to me to be a big part of our problems.  Tevye sings that, if he was rich, all the men in his village would come to him for advice, and it wouldn’t matter if he answered right or wrong, “because when you’re rich, they think you really know” An embarrassing number of people thought Trump must be smart because he was rich, and simply ignored all the evidence to the contrary. Today’s rich–the one-percenters who are calling the shots these days– include both nice and not-so-nice people. Some are truly talented; others are blowhards and entitled know-nothings.

I wish a couple of the good ones would buy Fox “News.”

 

Remembering Margaret Chase Smith–And More

A recent post from Heather Cox Richardson reminded me that–despite my personal experience with a once-responsible Republican Party–this isn’t the first time the GOP has gone off the rails. In my defense, I was very young when the United States went through the period known as MCarthyism.

As Richardson reminds us, the Republican response to FDR’s New Deal was divided between those who understood the new approach as a “proper adjustment to the modern world” and those who were determined to destroy that adjustment.

Those who wanted to slash the government back to the form it had in the 1920s, when businessmen ran it, had a problem. American voters liked the business regulation, basic social safety net, and infrastructure construction of the new system. To combat that popularity, the anti–New Deal Republicans insisted that the U.S. government was sliding toward communism. With the success of the People’s Liberation Army and the declaration of the People’s Republic of China in October 1949, Americans were willing to entertain the idea that communism was spreading across the globe and would soon take over the U.S.

One of those who wanted to return to the “good old days” (aka “Make America Great Again”…) was an “undistinguished senator from Wisconsin named Joe McCarthy.” McCarthy famously proclaimed that he had “a list” of communists working for the State Department,  and that the Democrats–“fellow travelers”– refused to investigate these traitors in the government.

It was a previous version of the Big Lie.

The anti–New Deal faction of the party jumped on board. Sympathetic newspapers trumpeted McCarthy’s charges—which kept changing, and for which he never offered proof—and his colleagues cheered him on while congress members from the Republican faction that had signed onto the liberal consensus kept their heads down to avoid becoming the target of his attacks.

These forerunners to today’s spineless Republican officeholders weren’t willing to speak up about the damage being done to American principles. One who did speak up–memorably, and on the Senate floor–was Margaret Chase Smith.

Referring to Senator McCarthy, who was sitting two rows behind her, Senator Smith condemned the leaders in her party who were destroying lives with wild accusations. “Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism,” she pointed out. Americans have the right to criticize, to hold unpopular beliefs, to protest, and to think for themselves. But attacks that cost people their reputations and jobs were stifling these basic American principles. “Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America,” Senator Smith said. “It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.”

Senator Smith wanted a Republican victory in the upcoming elections, she explained, but to replace President Harry Truman’s Democratic administration—for which she had plenty of harsh words—with a Republican regime “that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation.”

“I do not want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny—Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.”

The parallels to our current situation are blindingly obvious, and those of us (me very much included) who had forgotten this dangerous time from America’s past should recall Santayana’s admonition that “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Today’s GOP is using the McCarthy playbook–repeating Smith’s all-too-accurate appraisal. They are appealing to fear and ignorance with bigotry and smear. And with exception of a very few like Liz Cheney and Adam Kitzinger, elected Republicans who know better, who understand the threat posed by these tactics, remain silent.

That silence is acquiescence.

Smith’s attack on Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear has often been quoted (although it would be inaccurate to say it remains well-known), but America would do well to ponder another part of her speech, which Richardson quotes.

“As an American, I condemn a Republican Fascist just as much as I condemn a Democrat Communist,” she said. “They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.”

Smith authored a “Declaration of Conscience,” enumerating five principles she hoped (vainly) that her party would adopt. That declaration ended with a warning:

“It is high time that we all stopped being tools and victims of totalitarian techniques—techniques that, if continued here unchecked, will surely end what we have come to cherish as the American way of life.”

History may not repeat itself, but as Twain observed, it often rhymes.

 

Cultural Combat

David Brooks is one of those pundits who just drives me bonkers. Half the time, he comes across as  self-satisfied pedagogue. Other times, he can be uncommonly perceptive. You never know what you’ll get.

In a recent essay, both elements were present..

Brooks begins by quoting (approvingly) a conservative writer who faults “progressive elites” for their presumed inability to understand the battle over social issues in American life as “anything other than a battle between the forces of truth and justice on one side and those of ignorance and bigotry on the other.” He takes several subsequent paragraphs to lecture readers on the legitimacy of Republican cultural views–a lecture that  would have been defensible “back in the day,” when most Republicans were conservatives rather than  White Supremicist QAnon believers.

Brooks’ introductory paragraphs are barf-inducing:

Many progressives have developed an inability to see how good and wise people could be on the other side, a lazy tendency to assume that anybody who’s not a social progressive must be a racist or a misogynist.

This framing carefully avoids defining either the “other side,” or the enormous amount of credible research confirming the transformation of what used to be a normal political party into something very different–and very dark. Pretending that transformation didn’t occur–ignoring the fact that “good and wise” people are leaving the GOP in droves, appalled by what it has become, is simply dishonest.

It’s one thing to criticize strategy–to point out, as Brooks does, that much of progressive elite discourse comes across as preachy as Brooks himself, and can be distinctly unhelpful politically–is fair enough. Insisting that fair-minded, moral people must respect what the GOP has become, however, is to bury one’s head very far down in the alternative-reality sand.

In the second half of his essay, however, Brooks does a very good job of summarizing the rival moral traditions that undergird our culture wars, and summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Here is how he describes the “moral freedom” ethos:

It is wrong to try to impose your morality or your religious faith on others. Society goes wrong when it prevents gay people from marrying who they want, when it restricts the choices women can make, when it demeans transgender people by restricting where they can go to the bathroom and what sports they can play after school.

This moral freedom ethos has made modern life better in a variety of ways. There are now fewer restrictions that repress and discriminate against people from marginalized groups. Women have more social freedom to craft their own lives and to be respected for the choices they make. People in the L.G.B.T.Q. communities have greater opportunities to lead open and flourishing lives. There’s less conformity. There’s more tolerance for different lifestyles. There’s less repression and more openness about sex. People have more freedom to discover and express their true selves.

However, there are weaknesses. The moral freedom ethos puts tremendous emphasis on individual conscience and freedom of choice. Can a society thrive if there is no shared moral order?

He then describes the countervailing position.

People who subscribe to this worldview believe that individuals are embedded in a larger and pre-existing moral order in which there is objective moral truth, independent of the knower….

In this ethos, ultimate authority is outside the self. For many people who share this worldview, the ultimate source of authority is God’s truth, as revealed in Scripture. For others, the ultimate moral authority is the community and its traditions.

We’re in a different moral world here, with emphasis on obedience, dependence, deference and supplication. This moral tradition has a loftier vision of perfect good, but it takes a dimmer view of human nature: Left to their own devices, people will tend to be selfish and shortsighted. They will rebel against the established order and seek autonomy.

Brooks recognizes the weaknesses of this tradition: it often leads to “rigid moral codes that people with power use to justify systems of oppression” and facilitates “othering — people not in our moral order are inferior and can be conquered and oppressed.”

He also recognizes that the United States has opted for autonomy–legally and culturally.

This is the ultimate crisis on the right. Many conservatives say there is an objective moral order that demands obedience, but they’ve been formed by America’s prevailing autonomy culture, just like everybody else. In practice, they don’t actually want to surrender obediently to a force outside themselves; they want to make up their own minds. The autonomous self has triumphed across the political spectrum, on the left where it makes sense, and also on the right, where it doesn’t.

Nor is he entirely blind to the threat posed by Rightwing Christianist politics:

Consumed by the passion of the culture wars, many traditionalists and conservative Christians have adopted a hypermasculine warrior ethos diametrically opposed to the Sermon on the Mount moral order they claim as their guide. Unable to get people to embrace their moral order through suasion, they now seek to impose their moral order through politics. A movement that claims to make God their god now makes politics god. What was once a faith is now mostly a tribe…

So is there room in the Democratic Party for people who don’t subscribe to the progressive moral tradition but are appalled by what conservatism has become?

I’d rephrase that last question: will American politics ever return to the era of the “big tents,” when conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans overlapped? The answer to that hinges on another, more critical inquiry: will today’s GOP either (1) return to sanity or (2) implode and be replaced by a sane political party?

Because we can’t consider and/or debate Brooks’ philosophical arguments while the barbarians are at the gate..

 

 

 

The Long And The Short Of It

Like lots of Americans, I go to the doctor twice a year for check-ups, and I respond to the standard initial questions: have I fallen in the past six months? Have I been depressed? Thought about harming myself?

I have standard responses to those last two standard questions: I’m only depressed when I pay attention to the news. I haven’t wanted to harm myself, but I have definitely wanted to harm some other people I could name….

Actually, I’m pretty sure I have a widely-shared medical condition I’ll call “news sickness.” Its symptoms are lack of focus, feelings of futility, and free-floating anger.

The lack of focus is most maddening. What should I be concentrating on–what news should I be following– at a time when there is a new threat to democracy, to well-being, to sanity every single day? A morning scan of the media highlights the most recent atrocity, in this case, the murder of yet more innocent children and their teachers in a Texas classroom. That followed closely on the White Nationalist massacre in Buffalo, and has prompted media reviews of the unthinkable number of mass shootings in America, along with statistics showing that gun violence is a peculiarly American problem. (Evidently, the mentally-ill in other countries are less murderous…)

These recent events have operated to overshadow other recent and important matters: an unprovoked war in Ukraine that is killing thousands, displacing millions, and threatening to ignite World War III; revelations of traitorous behaviors uncovered almost daily by the January 6th Committee in the course of its investigation into the unprecedented attempt to overthrow a duly elected President; the increasing successes of the retrograde movement to strip women of their right to self-determination, beginning with abortion but sending strong signals that the war on women and gay people won’t end there…

And then there are ongoing debates over COVID measures, and the shameful revelations about Baptist clergy, who–it turns out–are just as prone to sexual misbehavior as Catholic priests (and undoubtedly other “men of the cloth.”).

Hovering over all of these and many other issues is the threat posed by climate change. And hovering over all of it is the adamant refusal of the Republican Party to engage responsibly with any of these issues, and its determination to keep others from doing anything about them either.

Here, for example, is a recent report from the New York Times, detailing an organized GOP effort to punish corporations trying to be responsible stewards of the environment.

In West Virginia, the state treasurer has pulled money from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, because the Wall Street firm has flagged climate change as an economic risk.

In Texas, a new law bars the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that the state comptroller says are boycotting fossil fuels. Conservative lawmakers in 15 other states are promoting similar legislation.

And officials in Utah and Idaho have assailed a major ratings agency for considering environmental risks and other factors, in addition to the balance sheet, when assessing states’ creditworthiness.

Across the country, Republican lawmakers and their allies have launched a campaign to try to rein in what they see as activist companies trying to reduce the greenhouse gases that are dangerously heating the planet.

Every single day, we get media reports with the same story: Republicans continue to block even the most modest gun control efforts. State-level Republicans are passing draconian measures aimed at criminalizing abortion and punishing both women and those who might help them obtain one. Republican lawmakers are resisting subpoenas and refusing to testify to the January 6th Committee. Senate Republicans filibustered and defeated the recent anti-terrorism bill.  Senate Republican “leadership” refuses to sanction the party’s (several) “out and proud” congressional White Supremicists. A significant number of Congressional Republicans resist sending help to Ukraine, and to varying degrees, offer justifications for Russia’s invasion.

If you make a list of the most pressing issues facing the United States, it becomes blindingly clear that the federal government and the various governments of America’s Red states are doing virtually nothing to address those issues. It also becomes blindingly clear why that is: today’s Republican Party has morphed into a White Christian Supremicist cult, dismissive of science and evidence and intent upon “returning” the country to a time that never was. Thanks to gerrymandering and several outdated elements of America’s electoral system, that cult wields considerably more power than fair democratic elections would otherwise give it, and it is using its disproportionate and unrepresentative power to thwart passage of desperately-needed legislation.

What’s wrong with America today can be reduced to one simple statement:  the Republican stranglehold on government.