HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Tom Rinaldo » Journal
Introducing Discussionist: A new forum by the creators of DU
Page: 1 2 Next »

Tom Rinaldo

Profile Information

Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 15,351

Journal Archives

The Anti-Democratic Party: An Overview of the Modern Republican Party

Changing the Rules:

Ultimately there are three reasons why anyone might propose changing how Americans elect our government(s); to make the process more or less fair, to make the process more or less inclusive, and/or to make the process more or less likely to deliver specific outcomes. Firm believers in the concept of democracy consistently seek elections that are as fair as possible, and as inclusive as possible, believing that is the best way to ensure results that best reflect the will of the American people. That goal after all reflects the heart and soul of democracy, and is what distinguishes it from other less egalitarian forms of government. That goal is not embraced by the Republican Party.

Republican’s newest election ploy involves changing how electoral votes are awarded to Presidential candidates, to be based largely on results inside of Congressional Districts, but it is only the most recent addition to their arsenal of initiatives to make elections less fair, less inclusive, and more likely to result in a specific result. That result of course is the election of more Republicans. The trial balloons Republicans have floated for their proposed changes have taken some hits but by no means have they all been shot down. While this “reform” effort needs more exposing for exactly what it is, a way to game election results, it can’t be viewed in a vacuum. It is part of a bigger picture that stretches back at least 50 years. Part Two will focus on a short historical review.

Though Republicans claim their current electoral vote reallocation scheme is meant to increase fairness that quickly fails the quack test. If it looks like rigging an election, if it sounds like rigging an election; Quack Quack, none should duck the logical conclusion. There are 24 States with Republican Governors and functional Republican control of the State legislatures. Prominent Republicans in six of them either called for considering or actually introduced legislation changing how those States reward their electoral votes. By some fluke coincidence those six are the only States controlled by Republicans where Barack Obama won the election in 2012, Under the “reform” plans Republicans want considered Mitt Romney would have reaped the majority of electoral votes awarded by those six states, instead of zero under the system actually used.

There is no such push for that type of reform in North Carolina though, which Republicans also control but where Mitt Romney eked out a small popular vote victory. Democrats won a majority of the Congressional Districts inside North Carolina. Of the States Republicans now control fully, eleven include Districts that elected Democrats to Congress 2012. Suffice it to say there is no new movement afoot within any State won by Romney to change how electoral votes are divided.

Even if in one fell swoop every state simultaneously changed how they allocate electorate votes to the manner endorsed by the Republican National Chairman that change would still deliver a decidedly partisan advantage to Republicans. Under such a system Mitt Romney would have defeated Barack Obama for President despite losing the popular vote by over 5 million voters. So much for respecting the will of the majority, if “reforms” are advanced that would knowingly and blatantly fly in the face of it.

Despite Democrats cumulatively winning over a million more votes for Congress than did Republicans, Republicans emerged from the 2012 elections with a clear majority in the House of Representatives because of how skillfully Republican controlled legislatures gerrymandered Congressional Districts to thwart overall majority rule. That is how, if Republican advocated changes had been in effect last November, Mitt Romney would ascended to the Presidency. That is why Republicans are advocating for those changes now, democracy be damned. This is not an isolated Republican outbreak of anti-democratic sentiments though; history bears witness to that.

The Wrong Road Taken:

What is it about today’s Republicans not recognizing “the will of the people”? Hell, what is it about them hedging on recognizing all of “the people” to begin with? Abraham Lincoln indeed helped end slavery, but ever since Republicans drifted toward becoming the main “conservative” party in American politics, they have tilted toward government for the people, by some of the people more than others. Though they still hail democracy as an elixir for most of the worlds problems, here in the good old U.S.A. Republicans of late have been luke warm at best about core democratic concepts such as “one man one vote” and majority rule. So their latest shenanigans over how Americans elect our President should come as a surprise to no one. It clearly fits their recent pattern.

The current Republican Party infatuation with rigging the Electoral College, as discussed earlier, smacks heavily of pure partisan politics, but historically many conservatives were more focused on the theoretical underpinnings of American democracy. Arguably that was true during the struggle for Civil Rights for black Americans, extending well into the 1960’s. A 1956 editorial by William F. Buckley in the National Review, for example, made the almost clinical assertion that:

“Support for the Southern position rests not at all on the question whether Negro and White children should, in fact, study geography side by side; but on whether a central or a local authority should make that decision. “
.

The landmark 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts would never have become law without strong Republican support. Senate Minority leader Everett Dirksen in particular played a critical role in the passage of both bills. Even Senator Barry Goldwater who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act (he was not a member of the Senate in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was considered) supported 9 out of its 11 provisions. Though Goldwater did vote for the less sweeping Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, he ultimately came down against the 1964 bill because he was reluctant to support significant federal interference in what he viewed to be state affairs. In addition Goldwater opposed legislating who a private person could or could not do business with.

Whatever his reasons, Goldwater’s vote contributed to profound electoral changes. When he went on to become the 1964 Republican Presidential nominee Goldwater won less than 5% of the black vote on the heels of Richard Nixon receiving a third of that vote in 1960. On the other hand the Deep South opened up for the Republican Party in that election for the first time in a century. Suddenly the southern white vote was available for Republicans to court, and although Barry Goldwater had no say on the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Ronald Reagan, the man who replaced him as the torch bearer for the conservative movement, opposed it. As late as 1980 Reagan characterized the Voting Rights Act as having been “humiliating to the South”, though as President he did sign off on extending it again in 1982.

It seems at times that other concerns, less rooted in debates over the relative powers of the Federal and State governments, factored into the resistance some conservatives had to the use of federal powers to eliminate Jim Crow laws and segregation in the South. In a 1957 National Review editorial titled “Why the South must prevail?” William Buckley wrote:

“If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numeric majority.”


His opinion in this instance at least was buttressed by what most now would view as racism when he answered what he saw as the central question “…whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race."

In fairness to William Buckley his views continued to evolve after 1957. Buckley later became an active opponent of racism and admitted that he was mistaken to have opposed both the 1964 and 1065 Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. Still his earlier comments help to illustrate why the “Southern Strategy” that Richard Nixon later advanced to win the Presidency was a natural fit for the Republican Party by the time Nixon ran aaain in 1968. And Buckley’s proclamation “It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numeric majority” still resonates in some Conservative circles today.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy was a major turning point for the modern Republican Party, one that severed it from a critical historic mooring. In the name of defending “States Rights” Republicans knowingly began aligning with Southerners opposed to integration, and with players intent on disenfranchising African American voters in order to maintain their political control. It is nothing that Democrats hadn’t done before them, in the South especially, but as the national Democratic Party began backing away from that sordid legacy Republicans stepped into the breech.

It was a fateful move for a Party once defined by its strong stance against Slavery. The same Party that once led the fight to expand the voting franchise to America’s newly recognized black citizens sought support from those intent on disenfranchising their descendents in the South. All done for principled reasons conservatives said at the time, while the political tacticians they employed focused on fashioning what they hoped would become a permanent Republican lock on an Electoral College majority. And they established the mindset of the modern Anti-Democratic Party.

Where That Road Has Led

It’s the age old argument of means and ends. Is democracy just a means toward an end or is it more of an end itself? If democracy in all its nitty gritty nuts and bolts glory is simply a means to secure an end, like for example the establishment of a certain set of policies, then its nuts and bolts will likely get stripped and bent if they stand in the way of achieving that end, with little in the way of any real remorse on the part of those who strip and bend them. The ideals of our country though say otherwise. We not only glory in our accomplishments as a nation, we glory in how we accomplished them; we the people, our common will manifest and measured through democracy.

Increasingly though the Republican Party is less enamored with democracy as an end itself, increasingly it views democracy as a means that must be mastered to achieve a desired goal; government by Republicans. No political party is monolithic and no vice is reserved for one side only, but the Republican Party has not been subtle of late about sacrificing democratic imperatives for the sake of political expediency. Their current nakedly partisan attempt to alter how electoral votes are allocated is just the most recent Exhibit A documenting the transformation of the Republican Party into the Anti-Democratic Party.

Last year Exhibit A was their nationally coordinated campaign for voter suppression. With their greatest efforts centered on presidential swing states Republicans went to work, not to Rock the Vote, but to block it instead. All of their initiatives had a common theme, to make it more difficult for some people to register and vote. The tactics varied but the impact was remarkably consistent. You can call it another fluke coincidence, but the demographics of those who found themselves facing added burdens to exercise their right to vote in States controlled by Republicans skewed heavily toward Democratic voters.

Whether it was the all of a sudden need immediately before a Presidential election to fight non existent voter fraud with new State mandated voter photo ID’s, or the hasty and often illegal massive last minute purges of voter rolls that inexplicably disproportionately targeted minorities, the goal was always the same; to shrink the overall electorate and to do so through surgical strikes against Democratic leaning constituencies. We’ve held elections in America for centuries now. It’s not like we can’t see them coming ahead of time in order to get prepared, but when Presidential elections happen under Republican control in the pivotal swing states of Florida and Ohio, they reliably have voting difficulties on election day, problems that result in huge hours long waiting lines in precincts that normally vote Democratic.

The Anti-Democratic bent of today’s Republican Party surfaces in less obvious ways also, often at the State level. In States like Michigan and Wisconsin far reaching initiatives that threaten to change the social fabric of those societies while upsetting the political balance get railroaded through Republican controlled State legislatures in record time, though they were never raised as campaign issues by those who suddenly propose them. It gets accomplished through backroom meetings, using questionable parliamentary gimmicks designed to both curtail public debate and the public’s ability to overturn the legislative vote through long established and accepted referendum processes.

In Congress of course, there is the glaringly obvious example of the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate. Traditionally it was defended as a rare and dramatic measure invoked to protect the rights of the minority on important matters from being arbitrarily steamrolled by a runaway majority without due consideration or a sincere effort made to find common ground. Most Americans of good will find at least some merit in that understanding. Our political system developed with checks and balances for several reasons. Protecting the rights of the minority was one of them. The filibuster isn’t being used for that purpose by Republicans today. It is invoked routinely on even minor issues that Republicans object to. It is now used to provide the Republican minority with an almost effortless veto against the will of the majority

Can all of the lofty ideals, the Anti-Democratic Party is in this to win, and the rules of the game are secondary to the final score. Maybe a cadre of current Conservatives still believes, as William Buckley once did, that “It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numeric majority” with them of course as sole judges for what counts as being civilized. Maybe it’s not even Conservatives who ultimately are calling those shots; maybe it is just their ideology being used for political cover by those for whom their own chosen ends justify their own chosen means.

Whatever it is we are no longer witnessing the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, or even of Everett Dirkson, or of Barry Goldwater either for that matter. We are viewing something far less pure than that, something more pedestrian in its pursuit of power, something that can better be described as the Anti-Democratic Party.

.

The Anti-Democratic Party Part III: In Conclusion

It’s the age old argument of means and ends. Is democracy just a means toward an end or is it more of an end itself? If democracy in all its nitty gritty nuts and bolts glory is simply a means to secure an end, like for example the establishment of a certain set of policies, then its nuts and bolts will likely get stripped and bent if they stand in the way of achieving that end, with little in the way of any real remorse on the part of those who strip and bend them. The ideals of our country though say otherwise. We not only glory in our accomplishments as a nation, we glory in how we accomplished them; we the people, our common will manifest and measured through democracy.

Increasingly though the Republican Party is less enamored with democracy as an end itself, increasingly it views democracy as a means that must be mastered to achieve a desired goal; government by Republicans. No political party is monolithic and no vice is reserved for one side only, but the Republican Party has not been subtle of late about sacrificing democratic imperatives for the sake of political expediency. Their current nakedly partisan attempt to alter how electoral votes are allocated is just the most recent Exhibit A documenting the transformation of the Republican Party into the Anti-Democratic Party.

Last year Exhibit A was their nationally coordinated campaign for voter suppression. With their greatest efforts centered on presidential swing states Republicans went to work, not to Rock the Vote, but to block it instead. All of their initiatives had a common theme, to make it more difficult for some people to register and vote. The tactics varied but the impact was remarkably consistent. You can call it another fluke coincidence, but the demographics of those who found themselves facing added burdens to exercise their right to vote in States controlled by Republicans skewed heavily toward Democratic voters.

Whether it was the all of a sudden need immediately before a Presidential election to fight non existent voter fraud with new State mandated voter photo ID’s, or the hasty and often illegal massive last minute purges of voter rolls that inexplicably disproportionately targeted minorities, the goal was always the same; to shrink the overall electorate and to do so through surgical strikes against Democratic leaning constituencies. We’ve held elections in America for centuries now. It’s not like we can’t see them coming ahead of time in order to get prepared, but when Presidential elections happen under Republican control in the pivotal swing states of Florida and Ohio, they reliably have voting difficulties on election day, problems that result in huge hours long waiting lines in precincts that normally vote Democratic.

The Anti-Democratic bent of today’s Republican Party surfaces in less obvious ways also, often at the State level. In States like Michigan and Wisconsin far reaching initiatives that threaten to change the social fabric of those societies while upsetting the political balance get railroaded through Republican controlled State legislatures in record time, though they were never raised as campaign issues by those who suddenly propose them. It gets accomplished through backroom meetings, using questionable parliamentary gimmicks designed to both curtail public debate and the public’s ability to overturn the legislative vote through long established and accepted referendum processes.

Can all of the lofty ideals, the Anti-Democratic Party is in this to win, and the rules of the game are secondary to the final score. Maybe a cadre of current Conservatives still believes, as William Buckley once did, that “It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numeric majority” with them of course as sole judges for what counts as being civilized. Maybe it’s not even Conservatives who ultimately are calling those shots; maybe it is just their ideology being used for political cover by those for whom their own chosen ends justify their own chosen means.

Whatever it is we are no longer witnessing the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, or even of Everett Dirkson, or of Barry Goldwater either for that matter. We are viewing something far less pure than that, something more pedestrian in its pursuit of power, something that can better be described as the Anti-Democratic Party.

The Anti-Democratic Party Part II: The Wrong Road Taken

What is it about today’s Republicans not recognizing “the will of the people”? Hell, what is it about them preferring not to even recognize all of “the people” to begin with? Abraham Lincoln indeed helped end slavery, but ever since Republicans drifted toward becoming the main “conservative” party in American politics, they have tilted toward government for the people, by some of the people more than others. Though they still hail democracy as an elixir for most of the worlds problems, here in the good old U.S.A. Republicans of late have been luke warm at best about core democratic concepts such as “one man one vote” and majority rule. So their latest shenanigans over how Americans elect our President should come as a surprise to no one. It clearly fits their recent pattern.

The current Republican Party infatuation with rigging the Electoral College, as discussed earlier, smacks heavily of pure partisan politics, but historically many conservatives were more focused on the theoretical underpinnings of American democracy. Arguably that was true during the struggle for Civil Rights for black Americans, extending well into the 1960’s. A 1956 editorial by William F. Buckley in the National Review, for example, made the almost clinical assertion that: “Support for the Southern position rests not at all on the question whether Negro and White children should, in fact, study geography side by side; but on whether a central or a local authority should make that decision. “

The landmark 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts would never have become law without strong Republican support. Senate Minority leader Everett Dirksen in particular played a critical role in the passage of both bills. Even Senator Barry Goldwater who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act (he was not a member of the Senate in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was considered) supported 9 out of its 11 provisions. Though Goldwater did vote for the less sweeping Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, he ultimately came down against the 1964 bill because he was reluctant to support significant federal interference in what he viewed to be state affairs. In addition Goldwater opposed legislating who a private person could or could not do business with.

Whatever his reasons, Goldwater’s vote contributed to profound electoral changes. When he went on to become the 1964 Republican Presidential nominee Goldwater won less than 5% of the black vote on the heels of Richard Nixon receiving a third of that vote in 1960. On the other hand the Deep South opened up for the Republican Party in that election for the first time in a century. Suddenly the southern white vote was available for Republicans to court, and although Barry Goldwater had no say on the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Ronald Reagan, the man who replaced him as the torch bearer for the conservative movement, opposed it. As late as 1980 Reagan characterized the Voting Rights Act as having been “humiliating to the South”, though as President he did sign off on extending it again in 1982.

It seems at times that other concerns, less rooted in debates over the relative powers of the Federal and State governments, factored into the resistance some conservatives had to the use of federal powers to eliminate Jim Crow laws and segregation in the South. In a 1957 National Review editorial titled “Why the South must prevail?” William Buckley wrote: “If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numeric majority.”

His opinion in this instance at least was buttressed by what most now would view as racism when he answered what he saw as the central question “…whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race."

In fairness to William Buckley his views continued to evolve after 1957. Buckley later became an active opponent of racism and admitted that he was mistaken to have opposed both the 1964 and 1065 Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. Still his earlier comments help to illustrate why the “Southern Strategy” that Richard Nixon later advanced to win the Presidency was a natural fit for the Republican Party by the time Nixon ran aaain in 1968. And Buckley’s proclamation “It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numeric majority” still resonates in some Conservative circles today.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy was a major turning point for the modern Republican Party, one that severed it from a critical historic mooring. In the name of defending “States Rights” Republicans knowingly began aligning with Southerners opposed to integration, and with players intent on disenfranchising African American voters in order to maintain their political control. It is nothing that Democrats hadn’t done before them, in the South especially, but as the national Democratic Party began backing away from that sordid legacy Republicans stepped into the breech.

It was a fateful move for a Party once defined by its strong stance against Slavery. The same Party that once led the fight to expand the voting franchise to America’s newly recognized black citizens sought support from those intent on disenfranchising their descendents in the South. All done for principled reasons conservatives said at the time, while the political tacticians they employed focused on fashioning what they hoped would become a permanent Republican lock on an Electoral College majority. And they established the mindset of the modern Anti-Democratic Party...

The Anti-Democratic Party. Part I: Needing to change the rules

Ultimately there are three reasons why anyone might propose changing how Americans elect our government(s); to make the process more or less fair, to make the process more or less inclusive, and/or to make the process more or less likely to deliver specific outcomes. Firm believers in the concept of democracy consistently seek elections that are as fair as possible, and as inclusive as possible, believing that is the best way to ensure results that best reflect the will of the American people. That goal after all reflects the heart and soul of democracy, and is what distinguishes it from other less egalitarian forms of government. That goal is not embraced by the Republican Party.

Republican’s newest election ploy involves changing how electoral votes are awarded to Presidential candidates, to be based largely on results inside of Congressional Districts, but it is only the most recent addition to their arsenal of initiatives to make elections less fair, less inclusive, and more likely to result in a specific result. That result of course is the election of more Republicans. The trial balloons Republicans have floated for their proposed changes have taken some hits but by no means have they all been shot down. While this “reform” effort needs more exposing for exactly what it is, a way to game election results, it can’t be viewed in a vacuum. It is part of a bigger picture that stretches back at least 50 years. Part Two will focus on a short historical review.

Though Republicans claim their current electoral vote reallocation scheme is meant to increase fairness that quickly fails the quack test. If it looks like rigging an election, if it sounds like rigging an election; Quack Quack, none should duck the logical conclusion. There are 24 States with Republican Governors and functional Republican control of the State legislatures. Prominent Republicans in six of them either called for considering or actually introduced legislation changing how those States reward their electoral votes. By some fluke coincidence those six are the only States controlled by Republicans where Barack Obama won the election in 2012, Under the “reform” plans Republicans want considered Mitt Romney would have reaped the majority of electoral votes awarded by those six states, instead of zero under the system actually used.

There is no such push for that type of reform in North Carolina though, which Republicans also control but where Mitt Romney eked out a small popular vote victory. Democrats won a majority of the Congressional Districts inside North Carolina. Of the States Republicans now control fully, eleven include Districts that elected Democrats to Congress 2012. Suffice it to say there is no new movement afoot within any State won by Romney to change how electoral votes are divided.

Even if in one fell swoop every state simultaneously changed how they allocate electorate votes to the manner endorsed by the Republican National Chairman that change would still deliver a decidedly partisan advantage to Republicans. Under such a system Mitt Romney would have defeated Barack Obama for President despite losing the popular vote by over 5 million voters. So much for respecting the will of the majority, if “reforms” are advanced that would knowingly and blatantly fly in the face of it.

Despite Democrats cumulatively winning over a million more votes for Congress than did Republicans, Republicans emerged from the 2012 elections with a clear majority in the House of Representatives because of how skillfully Republican controlled legislatures gerrymandered Congressional Districts to thwart overall majority rule. That is how, if Republican advocated changes had been in effect last November, Mitt Romney would ascended to the Presidency. That is why Republicans are advocating for those changes now, democracy be damned. This is not an isolated Republican outbreak of anti-democratic sentiments though; history bears witness to that...

Why I think Harry Reid caved

First my disclaimer; I don't agree with his decision even if I am right about his reasoning. I presume that he Biden and Obama have concluded that Senate Republicans are the key to accomplishing much of anything legislatively over the next two years. They are now the de facto brokers with the Republican controlled House that the Administration expects to deal with on a host of issues. The fillibuster deal is less about making the Senate more fully functional than it is about making the House at least partially functional when it really matters.

The focus for negotiations has shifted away from dealing with Speaker Boehner directly on anything. When the Democrats and the Republican House are on a collision path around anything really important the compromise gets worked out with Senate Republicans instead. McConnell delivered the clear majority of Senate Republicans for passage of the fiscal cliff deal. That gave Boehner the political cover he needed to allow the House to vote on and pass that deal in the House meven though he didn't have a majority of his own caucus behind him.

The final Sandy relief Bill was pretty much the same - it went throgh the Senate first then went passed the House with a majority of Republicans opposing it. I am confident that something similiar is envisioned regarding up coming gun violence legislation. It would not surprise me if we find out that fillibuster "reform" unofficially came up during those talks that Joe Biden and Mith McConnell kept having. Negotiations now run through the Senate first on everything and leveraging a degree of bottom line Republican sanity and cooperation there is now built into the ongoing political game plan for getting anything important passed by both houses of Congress.

I recall reading previous reporting that Mitch McConnell promised scortched earth warfare if Democrats unilaterally "imposed" fillibuster reform on the Senate. I think John Boehner also said that the House would not consider any legislation origination in the senate if that happened. My read is that the Majority Leader President and Vice President concluded that although a stronger fillibuster reform package would enable Democrats to pass more legislation in the Senate, it would have the adverse consequence of making it much harder to pass any legislation through the House, hence Reid cut the deal.

I acknowledge that I am only speculating on any White House role in the discussions. I do not believe the Senate Leader would allow the White House to impose any decision on the Senate, but it seems plausible that Biden at least would have been part of the consultative deliberations that Reid no doubt had with other Democrats regarding the fate of the fillibuster in this session of Congress. If I am correct on this the irony of it does not escape me. In a nut shell it would mean that the Democrats have concluded that the man who said it was if top priority to see that Barack Obama was a one term President is now being deferred to as part of a Democratic stratagy to increase the chances that Obama's second term agenda wins a degree of congressional approval.

I oppose the deal that was reached. I see it as a more subtle example of negotiating with kidnappers, in this case those who kidnapped the functionality of the U.S. Senate. Were the tables turned and some day they may be, Republicans would not blink at changing the rules in the Senate toward their own advantage. They once threatened to nuke the fillibuster completely when that threat served their purpose. I believe the stand off in Congress must be faced head on with the American public as witness. The silent filibuster that now remains in place allows Senate Republicans to continue to obstruct under cloak of darkness, and what is needed now is bright daylight, not cloak room deals.


If Republicans Obstruct again they do so at great Peril

Nothing is the same this time around, other than the fact that Barack Obama once again got elected President. He isn’t the same as he was four years ago. The nation isn’t the same as it was four years ago. Even the Republicans aren’t the same as they were four years ago, and now they have lost the element of surprise that played such a large part in their ambush of a then first term President. I’m a long time hard core cynic of Republican politics, and I’ll admit that they caught me off guard at first also. I honestly didn’t expect Republicans to rival Stalinists of old in the lock step unbending public unity of their Party Line – full bore un-nuanced opposition to anything and everything that the newly elected President Obama proposed.

I can’t fully fault the President for failing to see it all coming. A lot had changed since the Republicans in Congress impeached the last Democratic President. Nine Eleven happened for one, and Democrats and Republicans frequently worked closely together in the months and years that followed to respond as one nation to an attack on American soil. Obama took office in the midst of another major crisis, a global economic melt down. The times again called for laying aside partisan differences wherever possible, so no doubt Obama didn’t anticipate Republicans holding a secret war council on the day of his first inauguration to plot defiance toward his every step. But now he’s seen it all, and so has the nation.

In January of 2009 we were, by and large, a frightened people. Most of us put our hope in a newly elected President, but fewer of us were firmly convinced that he had all the right answers. Obama was as yet untested and therefore he was also unproven, which left the Republicans room to sow their seeds of doubt. People, lots of people, were angry over what was happening to our economy, and anger breeds bitterness and the President is an obvious target when times are hard and stay hard.

Republicans milked that anger, and because President Obama made it his priority to fix our financial system rather than to demonize it, that gave the Right the opening they needed to demonize government instead. Hence the emergence of the “Tea Party” movement and the red electoral mid term tide that restored the House to Republicans in 2010. I don’t need to go into all those details because all of us were there, and that’s the point. We all saw that movie, we all were actors in it, America knows how it all played out and there is no need for any spoiler alerts. We even had another national election that rehashed everything that happened and Barack Obama won it, soundly.

America reelected the President and gave Democrats more seats in both he House and Senate. Despite what George W. Bush used to like to say, the voters are the real deciders in America and they decided – and did so without equivocating. Republicans may still hold a (smaller) majority of seats in the House of Representatives due to their gerrymandering after 2010, but Democrats got more votes. Voters don’t like to be ignored. They want our problems fixed and they chose a team to fix them, and this time they did so with their eyes wide open with none of the guess work that 2008 entailed.

We have fully experienced Republican imposed gridlock; it did not win rave reviews. If Republicans choose obstruction again they do so at their own deep peril. They don’t possess a winning hand, our economy is recovering. Mitt Romney tried to slip in under the recession wire and ride a rebounding economy to 8 years in the White House. He was confident promising voters 12 million new jobs because that is what experts agree can be expected naturally from a recovering U.S. economy. Americans wants to put the Great Recession behind us, and that means putting the politics of the Great Recession behind us also.

Public approval for the Tea Party has plummeted since 2010 and Sarah Palin is little more than a punch line for political jokes. America has little patience now for more of those extremist antics. Choose wisely G.O.P. The course they have been plotting is headed toward the Whigs.

Money and The Maxed Out Right

What will Wall Street do? The Republican Party has been their go to team for most of the last century. Sure Wall Street curried favor among some Democrats also. They are after all the folks who brought us hedge funds. But .to sell their interests to the voting public, Wall Street long ago positioned Republicans as the “Daddy” Party in American politics; the “Father knows best” eat your spinach Party. Wall Streets interests require deft promotion because Big Money is not all that popular in a Democracy where most people, to varying degrees, must struggle to get by. So Republicans were billed as the ‘grown ups” in the room, to contrast with those “flakey” to the point of “radical” liberals who, Republicans asserted, controlled the Democratic Party. Well that game plan has sure been shot to hell. Cue the pyrotechnics over our nation’s debt ceiling.

From the post World War Two days through the close of the 20th Century, Wall Street for the most part fronted Republicans who, by and large, didn’t pick ugly fights with well intentioned liberal goals, just with all the methods advocated to achieve them. The first major glitch in that playbook arrived with the Goldwater movement, which stunned the Republican Establishment in 1964 by defeating Nelson Rockefeller for the Republican Presidential nomination. LBJ’s subsequent landslide victory helped shove the social conservative genie back into its class glass bottle for nearly a generation, but 1964 exposed Wall Streets political Achilles heel. Staid candidates may reassure the general electorate, but staid doesn’t inspire a movement, and to cobble together national electoral majorities Republicans need social value conservative foot soldiers in the trenches to energize their sober centrist appeals. The trick lay in excluding them from the halls of power.

From Big Money’s perspective, Reaganism hit the sweet spot, all the fervor with little loss of real control. Wall Street could, and did, do business with Ronald Reagan, who mostly only frightened off the liberals. But right wing populism can be like crack cocaine. Wall Street soared on the Rush, but soon became dependent to it. Fear and anger bred votes that they came to bank on. Economic populists, for self evident reasons, are problematic for Wall Street to manage but “traditional values” populism posed no such conflict of interest. Increasingly there wasn’t a regressive social movement that Republicans refused to flirt with. But like Frankenstein’s Monster, the coalition that Wall Street helped stitch together developed a life of its own.

They were supposed to stay under the radar. They were supposed to settle for table scraps plus an occasional bone thrown to them. In Washington and on Wall Street the lessons from 1964 were forgotten. Give smoldering ashes oxygen and flames will reignite. Quietly but unambiguously, the John Birch Society strode back in from the cold, as an official sponsor of the CPAC Conference which major candidates for the Republican 2012 Presidential nomination addressed. In the hills and hollows where the KKK once gathered, Right Wing Militias stage military exercises while racism itself is reinvigorated through a “Birtherism” movement obsessed with denying the legitimacy of America’s first African American President.

The Right is embarked on a forced march away from America’s center, with the Republican Party now held as hostage with large portions of that Party showing clear signs of Stockholm syndrome. When there no longer are any holds barred do major financial interests still have a hold on the Right? When virulent conspiracy theories center on the U.N. in N.Y.C, how distant can Wall Street remain? Just how safe is that bet Wall Street made on social conservatism? Its Chosen Son just went down in flames; all the money in the world couldn’t save Mitt Romney from the company he was forced to keep. The litany of litmus tests the New Right forced Romney to pass disqualified him to a broad swath of voters.

The Center refuses to hold and the New Right isn’t strong enough to carry the Republican Party on its own, not on a national scale at least. The Right, for practical purposes, is maxed out. It might yet grow more extreme but it will not grow larger. For every new voter it attracts a former one is repelled, and even that temporary stasis is slipping away as the aged die and a white majority erodes.

This nation has war fatigue but Republicans want more war, or at least more Americans left behind in countries we are trying to exit. Attempts to resurrect the Cold War have not proved very popular. America no longer favors the Republican Party to govern our foreign affairs. Republicans used to reliably win elections by playing to homophobia, but today that tack works against them more often than not. Republicans heavily courted fundamentalists and wound up in a war on science, which is seldom a long term winning strategy. Their embrace of traditional gun culture morphed into defending expanded ammo clips for Survivalists and anti-Government rebels. Opposition to Abortion broadened to attacks on contraceptives, and now rape is heard described as a means of procreation.

Fifty years of branding have been overturned in five. Republicans once were cast as realists with their feet firmly planted on the ground. The Democrats, it was said, were the wild eyed dreamers. That is not how it seems today. The Right embraces brinksmanship as their favored tactic; Shutting down the government slides from being a threat toward a desired outcome.

The self professed custodians of our nations treasure are preparing to play craps with the full faith and credit of the United States of America, and that does not make “The Market” happy. Wall Street, literally, was hit hard by Super Storm Sandy, and the overwhelming majority of House Republicans just voted against bailing New York out. Who can Wall Street turn to, to carry their water now?

I posted this nearly a month ago, is America ready to discuss the paranoid Right & their guns yet?

It's about the arsenals, it's about preparing for combat, it's not about hunting. But almost no one is willing to raise this in national debate - with a few rare exceptions like Chris Mathews recently:

"A small but increasingly influential element of the Republican Right opposes all efforts to regulate assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons, and high capacity ammo magazines precisely because they are effective in combat situations, but no one seems willing to say it. All of the eminently reasonable comments about hunters not needing automatic weapons to bag a deer miss the point completely. The NRA tries to muddy the waters whenever they can but no one seriously tries to make a case for hunters needing semi-automatic pistols with large ammo magazines. Even the NRA knows no one would buy that line. So instead they raise the specter of "a slippery slope" that begins with machine guns banned and ends with hunting outlawed. They then shift the focus to crime and personal security, because they know only a shrinking small minority of Americans still hunt or engage in sport gunmanship.

But an insistence that individuals need access to semi-automatic weapons to protect themselves is irrational, if the threat envisioned is common crime. If the solution to street crime is arming the public with semi-automatic weapons, than the cure is far more deadly than the disease. Innocent bystanders already are killed in shootouts. No one is safer if threatened individuals begin spraying their near vicinity with a hail of bullets. Semi-automatic assault rifles are offensive weapons, designed to kill large numbers of people. A standard pistol or a shotgun is far better suited for defensive use, unless of course you are defending yourself against a hoard of heavily armed attackers

Which begs the obvious unasked question: Is that why the most unflinching opponents of reasonable gun control measures refuse to give an inch? Are they arming themselves with the weapons most appropriate for future combat scenarios? I think it naïve to assume that the answer to that question is anything other than yes. Right wing militias have been forming for decades, training for overt military confrontations. Mainstream candidates for the U.S. Senate now talk openly about “Second Amendment remedies”. Increasingly the phrase, “Government is the enemy” has taken on literal implications. And then there are the survivalists, large segments of which believe that in some coming apocalypse roving lawless mobs will descend upon rob and kill anyone who had the foresight to assemble the provisions needed to weather the collapse of civilization. Heavy weaponry will be needed, they believe, to survive that approaching crimson dawn.

Would most of the individuals now motivated to defend themselves against the specter of a full blown “Communist Fascist U.S. Government”, or the inevitable Zombie hoards, hesitate before actually turning their combat weaponry against fellow American citizens over perceived but non-existent threats? I like to think most would, if push ever came to gun. That might prevent a future slaughter along the lines of a civil war, but it doesn’t help us now. In subservience to their paranoid delusions sane gun regulations are off the table today. American is held hostage to right wing political zealotry that accepts increasing mayhem and slaughter on American streets as unfortunate but necessary collateral damage. It is time to face that reality.

December 15, 2012"


A malnurished child in a cash strapped family

Getting weaker, losing weight. There's isn't enough income to buy more food, so the solution is: Tell her to burn less calories. That is the Republican position. The other night I watched the CNN Special "The Coming Storms" about climate change and the increase in severe weather events. Sure, it was sobering, but grim as that special was it didn't surprise me with anything I didn't already know. Except in one small specific instance, a minor detail actually.

While covering Super Storm Sandy the vulnerability of our infra structure was raised, specifically the major transformer stations in the New York area that our power grid depends on. If I remember correctly there are about 150 such stations, all designed to last for 40 years. Their current actual average age? 42 years. Arguing that severe spending cuts will restore health to our economy is like saying a starving child will recover if she is taught to consume less calories.

Quantum Physics and Nine Dimensional Chess

Granted, opinions on this board about President Obama’s ongoing role in fiscal talks range from calling him a masterful strategist to a piss poor negotiator. Common sense argues that the truth likely lies somewhere in between. But from our perspective of grassroots democratic activists, it really doesn’t matter. The President has his role to play, and we have ours. Even if Obama is a Ninth Dimension Grand Chess Master, the act of our observing how he plays the game changes the game itself. When we stand on the sidelines and cheer or jeer, we are simultaneously part of that game, no matter how small our individual roles. The position of pawns alters the field of battle.

Call it physics, call it chess, call it politics or the democratic process; not only does the game effect us, we are the frigging game. We’re in the stands, we’re on the field, and we even own the team. My feelings about President Obama, love him or hate him (and I’ll say more about that below), are inconsequential compared to the “games” ultimate outcome. More than any other person in America, the President’s role in determining our future is crucial; such is the power of the office he holds. Like millions of other Americans, I worked hard to put Barack Obama back into that office. Like millions of other Americans I still celebrate his victory. But the election now is over and my role in the game has shifted.

Constitutionally Obama can call on and expect my loyalty as he would of any American citizen, politically though it’s a different matter. As a candidate I made it my duty to help carry Barack Obama over the finish line to victory in November. But the nature of my loyalty is fundamentally different in regards to him as an office holder; it shifts back onto the agenda that Obama represented as my candidate. It does so whether I like him or hate him as an individual, whether I deeply respect or disparage of his political skills. It does so without being personal, personally I wish Obama only well.

What the President needs from me now is simple. When I back him on an issue he needs to world to know, and I’m sure he feels the same way about us all. When he takes a stand, and I support that stand, he deserves and needs my vocal support. He should count on that wind at his back when he leads us where we asked him to head. However Obama no longer needs my help convincing people to make him President. He is President. Now it is about results. How, as activists, do we help achieve the best possible outcomes on issues? Not, I would argue, through loyalty to a man, but rather to a mission. And if that mission wavers, it is right to cry out an alarm. This does not harm Obama, nor does it hurt either his cause or our own, assuming that cause is one and the same.

Because we are in the game even as we observe it, our reactions can affect outcomes. If a squeaky wheel gets the grease than a silent wheel will rust in peace. And that’s how it’s been for liberals for too long. There’s a cliché in politics that pundits love to tell, all of us have heard it. When complaining from the Right equals complaining from the Left, that’s the true place for a compromise. What does our loyalty to Obama, the man, bring him, when our relative passivity only serves to weaken his negotiating hand – if his aim is the same as ours? And in an instance when it may not be, when Obama might welcome a deal that we reject, what interest does our loyalty then serve?

There is no harm in advocating for what we actually believe in, especially when the ball remains in play and the outcome is not yet certain. There is no harm in making an alternate case, when the case that is being made falls short in its dimensions. And there is no harm is seeking more, when less is not close to being enough. They are voices that should be hear regardless of the outcome.

I like Barack Obama, I like him a lot actually. In the realm of national politics I think he’s about as honest as they come. I find him sincere, and I find him compassionate. President Obama has many leadership qualities that I admire, and it often makes me proud to hear him speak on behalf of our nation. Our President is a very intelligent man. When the Left goes off key and begins to sound too strident for mainstream American ears, Obama knows how to play us off against the middle to his benefit. I can’t begrudge him that talent, it makes for effective politics. He knows both how and when to milk the stance: “I’m willing to disappoint some on my own side” to strengthen his overall standing. Obama can take care of himself

But there are times when the Left speaks loudly and eloquently in a language that most Americans understand and respond to immediately. It happens on the topic of income inequality regularly, and it does on defending the most vulnerable among us also. I don’t need to be insulting toward our President to make this observation; he is acclimated toward the status quo. Obama’s orientation is to accommodate powerful existing interests, to grant them choice seats at the table, while working to moderately improve the lives of average Americans.

Sometimes that method reaches the best achievable results, other times it undersells the chance for more significant and beneficial changes. I know this for certain though. The more the Left succeeds in shifting the political center in America away from the Right, the more good work this President will accomplish. .
Go to Page: 1 2 Next »