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by sandyt

Republican Big Thinkers still need to get their heads out

4:45 am in Uncategorized by sandyt

Republican Elephant

Republican Elephant

I’ve just spend an hour or so looking at stuff from National Review and Weekly Standard sites (I still have Human Events, Powerline, RedState, Instapundit and others to go).  I started where I did because I  was looking for some idea what the ‘big thinkers’ of Republicanism were coming up with, following their decisive defeat this week.


It’s a pretty short list.  Go after Hispanics.  They are immigrant, entrepreneurial, family-oriented, religious, Catholic, socially conservative.


Really, that’s all.  If you leave aside the odd gold bug or small-government libertarian, all you have left is the idea of snagging a bigger part of this fast-growing demographic.  According to Mona Charen, “If Mitt Romney had received the 44 percent of the Hispanic vote that George W. Bush obtained in 2004, he’d be moving into the White House in January.”

This is pretty small ball.  More than that, it’s delusional.  Not a single voice was raised to argue that Republicans might want to put some distance between themselves and the demented theocratic reactionaries of the modern Christian right.  No one advocated moderating their stand on abortion (though some observed that blabbermouth morons like Akin and Mourdock should be weeded out).  No one said that perhaps the Republican Party should not stand foursquare for Wall Street.  No one mentioned perhaps raising taxes on the top 1%.  There wasn’t even that much talk about the deficit, except as something Obama was forcing on us.  No one opined that maybe it had been a bad idea to open the floodgates of anonymous dark money, drowning swing states in a torrent of negative ads.  Not a word was said about the lost investment of more than $300 million, or that a different approach might be called for next time around.  Nobody questioned the fact that the Republicans have let their party be hijacked, stolen from the Fortune 500 crowd by a pack of billionaire nutjobs.  Not a word was said that maybe it was a bad idea to try to shrink the electorate by using restrictions on registration and acceptable ID to disenfranchise students, minorities, the poor and the elderly.  And certainly no one brought up the idea of coming to terms with the science behind climate change.

All the arguments were about how to make the smallest possible electoral fixes, and how to keep them small.  As Charles Krauthammer put it: “The country doesn’t need two liberal parties.”  So, as I said, small ball.

And even this argument, that Republicans must embrace Hispanics, is delusional, which is my second point.  One has to suspect that all these people spent the primary season asleep in coffins filled with the earth of their native land (John Galt’s valley in the Rockies, presumably).  How else to explain the fact that they failed to notice the racist wave that stormed through their party?  Several authors faulted Romney for trying to go hard right on immigration after the challenge from Texas Governor Rick Perry.  But none of them accepted the context; that the primary was a frenzied contest of reactionary one-upmanship.  Candidates had to please the primary voting base of the Republican Party, which will have nothing to do with proposals for immigration reform, any more than with women’s freedom to choose regarding their own sexuality and reproduction, or separation of Church and State.

The Republicans have ceded their destiny to the Kochs and every other fantastically wealthy reactionary who thinks they can pound the world into submission with their money.  These are the people who encouraged and financed the Tea Party, which has taken over the Republican freshman (and sophomore) classes in Washington, and which dominates the Republican primary process.

This is not a party prepared to live in the twenty-first century.  That’s not to say that they won’t regain the White House; I’m sure they will.  But if these commentators represent the best thinking the Republicans have to offer, we can count on the GOP remaining the deluded halfway-house it has made itself.

I have to give a special hat-tip to young William Kristol, still trying to be an intellectual after all these years.  In the Weekly Standard, he argues that Republicans should embrace new ideas.

If a senator or a representative has a good proposal on immigration or monetary policy or education or tax reform, he or she should introduce it. If a candidate has an idea, he or she should run on it. Don’t worry about getting the go-ahead from leadership or from power brokers, from donors or from interest groups.

Considering that the modern Republican Party has imposed the most draconian party discipline since the days of Stalin, this is kind of rich.

Cross-posted from SuchTimes
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by sandyt

The Rage of Always Playing Defense

4:20 am in Uncategorized by sandyt

These thoughts have crystallized out of various discussions and comment threads I have participated in over the past weeks.  They’re a little rough – sorry!

Point #1 – the Democrats are playing defense in this election.  Forget hope and change; the Donkeys are the party of the status quo.  It is the Republicans who are on offense, across a broad spectrum of issues.

Point #2 – the first point only applies to the dwindling remnant of issues where the parties actually disagree.

Let’s start with #2 first, why not?  There are lots of issues that are omitted, off the table, verboten.  The Center for American Progress listed ten of them awhile ago, which prompted the redoubtable Kevin Gosztola to point out that the Green, Justice and Libertarian parties are eager to discuss these issues and more.  If only they could overcome the major-party framing!

Actually, I think CAP is being too generous.  They list mass incarceration & the drug war; the housing crisis; India/Pakistan; overfishing; global disease & hunger; internet privacy; the national security state and endless war; factory farming; the Congo civil war; and educational segregation.  They could have added several more:

  • Climate change (despite Solyndra, both parties are committed to the fossil fuel industry, as the Newspaper of Record finally got around to pointing out here).
  • Elite impunity (no prosecutions for Wall Street crooks, for telecom warrantless snooping, for banks foreclosing with forged paperwork, on and on and on…)
  • All foreign policy questions (Russia, Iran, Syria, Libya, China, NATO, etc, not to mention impunity for Bush-era cases of torture and other crimes).

To this list, we can add the issues where the parties are only pretending to disagree.

  • The social-contract issues of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Both parties subscribe to the infamous lie that these programs are “going broke” and need to be “reformed”, in the face of obvious factual evidence to the contrary.  The Republicans refused to accept Obama’s offer of surrender last time.  If he survives the election, will they be that stupid again?
  • Mass joblessness.  We used to run deficits to employ people during hard times.  But Wall Street never liked that.  Now the Republicans have dug in their heels and the Democrats meekly submit to their obstruction, so the real debate is over; employment will be suppressed, and mass joblessness is now the new normal.
  • Immigration.  Neither party supports human rights or a citizenship path for people without documents.  The Republicans whip up race hatred and a more aggressive police state, and the Democrats want to continue abusing and exploiting the undocumented in the traditional manner.  That’s not much of a real difference, is it?

So let’s look at point #1.  On the (very few) truly contested issues, it is the Republicans who are playing offense, while the Democrats can’t seem to get off the ropes:

  • Women’s rights to abortion and birth control.  The GOP platform calls for a ‘human life amendment’ and Fourteenth Amendment protections for unborn children.   There are plenty in the party, including presidential hopeful Santorum, who understand that to mean birth control.  I guess coming after abortion and Planned Parenthood isn’t being tough enough anymore.
  • Vote suppression (voter ID laws and related restrictions).  So long, Voting Rights Act.  This is 21st-century Jim Crow, getting ready for the upcoming day when a ‘majority-minority’ America will be governed like a banana republic or the Gaza Strip.  Our hard-won accomplishments on extending the vote, a source of justified national pride, are to be tossed away.
  • Buying elections (Citizens United etc).  Hello to the Gilded Age all over again, on a scale that would have taken Boss Tweed’s breath away.  Forget about all the reforms of the twentieth century.  Ambrose Bierce’s definition of an election – an advance auction of stolen goods – will come back into style.
  • Taxing the rich.  Never mind the blindingly obvious fact that we need that revenue to maintain adequate levels of public investment and services, including, for example, education and public health, not to mention infrastructure.  The nobility are not to be subjected to the impertinence of demands that they help sustain the society that has rewarded them so richly.
  • Human rights for GLBT people.  This is the one and only issue on which the Democrats are trying to move forward.

So how did it come to this?  Where did the hope and change go?  We are confronted with huge, critical issues that weigh the entire human future in the balance.  But we’re not getting to address them.

Instead, we are locked in a struggle over whether a society recognizable as “America” will continue to exist.  The fight in this showdown was picked by the Right.  The Democrats are fighting over issues the Right has picked, and they are accepting the Right’s formulation of the issues.

The Right may be denied its victory this time.  And next time.  But at some point, if things go on as they are, they will hit the jackpot of White House, Senate, and House.  Then the wrecking will start in earnest.

I don’t have the answer.  But one of the things that keeps me coming to FDL is that people here understand the problem, appreciate its scale and difficulty, and are willing to put shoulder to wheel to bend history our way.

by sandyt

The Dems and Reps are not divided. And we’re learning not to be.

3:14 pm in Uncategorized by sandyt

Continental Divided? Occupy! (Photo: kthread, flickr)

Continental Divided? Occupy! (Photo: kthread, flickr)

I was going to write about what I’m thankful for this season; I was focusing on the Occupy movement and how it has generated some appeal to people who call themselves conservatives.  Both sides share concerns around the issues of wealth inequality and, to some extent, militarized and brutal policing.  It occurred to me that this kind of “transpartisan” appeal, that is, appeal to both self-identified liberals and self-identified conservatives, depends partly on the fact that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress and state legislatures have a kind of “bipartisan” agreement on each issue.  Both political parties, as we know, have eagerly promoted wealth inequality and have helped Wall Street clear away the Depression-era regulations that, for decades, prevented these kinds of financial crashes.  They have also colluded in the militarization of American policing (and of American life generally).

This idea led me in some unexpected directions, which I would like to share.  I wound up with more to be thankful for than I had originally imagined.

Take a trip with me on a little train of thought…

The “Gridlock” Lie, First Take

We are accustomed to hearing the story that our political parties are in “gridlock”, that they are indulging in “partisan bickering”, that they cannot agree about anything of importance to the country (we also hear the ‘he said, she said’ narrative that Ds are as much to blame as Rs, but that’s another story).  As I considered the transpartisan appeal of the Occupy movement on the issues of wealth inequality and police brutality, I began to realize how false this story is.

On almost all issues that face our country, the two political parties are quite impressively united.  They agree wholeheartedly that they are going to do nothing to lessen the worst problems that burden the lives of our people; quite the contrary, they are going to collude to make them even worse than they already are.  This may seem hard to fathom, but it is amply supported by the evidence; so much so that I think there can be no controversy on the facts. Read the rest of this entry →

by sandyt

Labor Day questions: Who is ‘productive’? Who gets to decide?

3:48 pm in Uncategorized by sandyt

I am writing to follow up on Eli’s excellent post about democracy being ‘un-American’. He and the commenters bring out the connections between Matthew Vadum’s rant and the Republican efforts to shackle actual human voters and unleash corporate power in elections. But I thought there were a few other points worth drawing out.

Blowing the Script
To start with the author: Matthew Vadum reminds me of a third-stringer in the chorus line who rushes to center stage for their star turn, only to plant face big time. Blunderer that he is, he can’t stick to the script.

According to the script, vote suppression is necessary to protect our elections. It exists to safeguard the sanctity of our political process from the insidious menace of voter fraud. It is the ultimate in good government, wrapped in noble terms like ‘ballot integrity’ and appealing to us to save our democracy. For Vadum to blurt out the true class motives is unforgivably stupid. Alex Pareene at Salon’ War Room draws this out quite well.

Zombie Prejudices
Vadum drags the half-forgotten slur of ‘un-American’ from Joseph McCarthy’s crypt. But he reaches a lot further back for most of his ideas. His article resurrects a vast array of decayed bigotries from the age of pompous squires, flint-hearted masters, and dark satanic mills: The poor are “criminals”. They are credulous fools, open to demagoguery and bribery. They are “non-productive” and will “destroy the country” by “helping themselves to other people’s money.” Most fundamental of all is the idea that the ‘wrong’ people should not be allowed to vote.

This idea has a distinguished pedigree, unfortunately. Economist Ha-Joon Chiang recently wrote an excellent book called 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. It is a brilliantly-organized and highly readable takedown of the deluded economics being practiced nowadays. In one of this chapters, entitled “Making rich people richer doesn’t make the rest of us richer” Chiang reminds us of the beliefs of the founding thinkers of economics:

The nineteenth-century liberals believed that abstinence was the key to wealth accumulation and thus economic development. Having acquired the fruits of their labor, people needed to abstain from instant gratification and invest it, if they were to accumulate wealth. In this world view, the poor were poor because they did not have the character to exercise such abstinence. Therefore, if you gave the poor voting rights, they would want to maximize their current consumption, rather than investment, by imposing taxes on the rich and spending them. This might make the poor better off in the short run, but it would make them worse off in the long run by reducing investment and thus growth.

In principle, according to David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus and the other big thinkers of capitalist economics, the vote is not a right. It is a privilege. You get the vote if you can be trusted to use it ‘responsibly’, that is, in the interests of those who control society. David Ricardo argued against the universal franchise when it was proposed in the 1820s:

So essential does it appear to me, to the cause of good government, that the rights of property should be held sacred, that I would agree to deprive those of the elective franchise against whom it could justly be alleged that they considered it their interest to invade them…If the objection made against reform were an honest one, the objectors would say how low in the scale of society they thought the rights of property were held sacred, and there they would make their stand. That class, and all above it, they would say, may fairly and advantageously be entrusted with the power which is wished to be given them, but the presumption of mistaken views of interest in all below that class would render it hazardous to entrust a similar power with them—it could not at least be safely done until we had more reason to be satisfied that, in their opinion, the interest of the community and that of themselves were identified on this important subject.

Opposed to this principle, of course, is the principle we hold today, that voting is a right, a natural right that only tyrants and despots would seek to deny. This principle has won the day, thanks to decades – centuries, in fact – of determined and sometimes bloody struggle. Those sacrifices and victories have given our principle its strength, which is why our modern squires can’t afford to state their real aims as baldly as Vadum does. That’s why he’s a moron for giving their game away.

So Who is Productive?
I think it’s also worth remarking on Vadum’s slur that the poor are ‘unproductive’. This trope – that the rich and the corporations are the producers, the job creators, the veritable gods of prosperity on whom the rest of us must dance attendance – is a favorite teabagger applause line and Randroid rant. But if we look at the record, it’s the exact opposite of the truth. The rich are the ones who have spent many years sending jobs overseas by the millions, undermining our economy, destroying our industrial base and the skill set of our working population. They and their anti-tax sock puppets in Congress and state legislatures are the ones who have undermined and destroyed our educational systems, our communities, our jobs and our physical infrastructure. This class, Vadum’s alleged ‘producers’, the ones who paid themselves more than they paid the nation, who spend more on lobbying than on taxes, are the biggest destroyers of wealth on the planet. ‘Productive’, indeed!

Take Back the Power
I have been a little tough on Mr. Vadum, but I’ll give him credit for one sentiment:

It is profoundly antisocial … to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country…

Does that mean I think the rich shouldn’t vote? Of course not (I don’t think their money should vote, of course).
It does mean I don’t think they should “be empowered” to wreck the economy, let alone to take the vote away from the rest of us. Let’s not forget that Vadum’s rant is not just his own opinion, and perhaps not even his own idea. The right’s agenda has been obvious for months, and the fight against it is still just shaping up. It’s going to be tough. For more information about vote suppression, or to help defend the people’s right to vote, see the following:

Vote suppression and voter ID requirements: data, journalism and activism
ACLU Voting Rights
Election Defense Alliance
Election Law Blog
Greg Palast
League of Women Voters: Registration and Election Administration
NCSL Voter ID Map
TPM’s Voter ID page
Uncounted: The Movie
Verified Voting (blog located here)

Electronic voting and its hazards:
Black Box Voting
Election Science news
Election Updates
National Committee for Voting Integrity
Voters Unite