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Conservatives at a Dead End?

1:02 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Election day has finally arrived and to true conservatives the final outcome will probably be nothing more than a mixed blessing at best. First and foremost Mitt Romney is hardly a rock ribbed conservative, not if you base your assessment of him on his political track record. He has migrated politically from a Northeastern liberal Republican to a faux “severe conservative” and then back to the center as the political winds have necessitated. Just look at his political maneuvering in the post primary run up to today. He may have disavowed the “Etch-a-Sketch” comments of Eric Fehnstrom but he has surely followed just that strategy, even to the point of largely agreeing with the foreign policies of Barack Obama as evidenced in the third presidential debate. In short there’s little reason to believe that Mitt Romney is anything but a shrewd political charlatan.

For conservatives whatever happens tonight there will still be several nagging questions to address. For one, what became of the “conservative counterrevolution of 2010″? In the wake of the widespread Republican by-election victories we were treated to all manner of editorials and op-eds, both written and on talk radio and Fox News about how America had seen through and rejected the “Socialism” of Barack Obama, returning to a more conservative political mindset. I however always believed that 2010 represented more of a protest vote than anything significant in the way of a fundamental shift in the political paradigm. Support for the notion that 2010 amounts to a protest vote rather than a fundamental shift in the American political landscape can be seen in the decline in popularity of the Tea Party Movement, the increased frustration on the part of the public with Republican Party obstruction in Congress and the increasing numbers of Republicans who have distanced themselves from Grover Norquist’s no tax pledge. Neither does Norquist’s idea that “all that we need is a Republican president with enough digits to sign what’s put before him” appear to resonate very well with the voting public. While more people identify as conservatives than identify as liberals, the net number of those who identify as conservatives is roughly around one third of the American public. If conservative thoughts had really taken hold you would see the numbers of people identifying as conservatives being north of 50% and the presidential race would look a lot different than it does today. Likewise the conservative attacks on Obama’s handling of the economy and posture as a world leader have failed to register with a majority of Americans. If they had Mitt Romney would be ahead by at least 6 to 10 percentage points rather than trailing within the statistical margin of error.

The myth that America is a “center right country” has been faithfully kept alive in the warrens of conservative media but as the polling numbers show on the day of the election, there’s no reason to believe that that idea has anymore validity today than in did in 2008 when Dick Morris claimed the same thing on the weekend before the election saying that: “Republicans were coming home and John McCain would win the election.” If there was anything in the way of a true conservative counterrevolution then where were the true conservative leaders during the Republican primary process? Out of the length and breadth of the conservative movement not a single viable candidate arose to challenge Barack Obama, instead Mitt Romney merely waited out the self destruction of one flawed conservative challenger after another till he was the last man standing. Quoting political commentator Steve Bogden: “Normally, you have a competitive primary. This year, it was an ongoing audition for whoever was going to be the anti-Romney. Almost everybody had their surge, but there were no credible challengers. Cain? Ging­rich? Santorum? Romney didn’t have to ‘win’ this year. He just waited for everyone else to lose.”

If Mitt Romney is lucky enough to win tonight it will be a squeaker and being the shrewd politician that he is he will continue to drift around the center no matter the tone of his rehtoric. He’ll have no other choice if he hopes to be reelected in 2016 and that bodes ill for conservatives who will be hoping that he pushes their agenda forward. I seriously doubt that Romney would ever subscribe to Grover Norquist’s notion that he should be a rubber stamp for a Tea Party Congress. I doubt that Romney sees Norquist and his anti-tax movement as anything more than a political sideshow to the big show of governing. If Barack Obama is lucky enough to win this evening I fully expect to see the usual crisis of confidence reemerge among conservatives when they beat each other up over the idea that “every time we nominate a candidate who moves to the center we lose.” The great irony of this debate is that if they did nominate a far right conservative, and why didn’t they, they would lose anyway. Like the Romney-Ryan economic plan the math just doesn’t add up for conservatives. For all of the bluff and bluster that one hears on Fox, Limbaugh, and across the entire spectrum of right-wing media about the American people being fundamentally conservative it just ain’t so. If it were true we wouldn’t be in essentially a dead heat and Romney would be way out in front. However in spite of four years of a visceral anti-Obama diatribe on the right, a lackluster economy and a threatening world scene there just aren’t enough conservative votes out there to make it happen.

Steven J. Gulitti

Mr. Limbaugh’s Nazi Obsession

5:49 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

It is a cardinal rule in American political discourse that one refrain from associating an opponent or an opposing position with Adolph Hitler or the Nazis. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) discovered this all too well when he found himself on the floor of the Senate, apologizing for having associated American military police personnel at Abu Ghraib with Nazi concentration camp guards. That said; it makes for a rather insightful discussion when we stop to analyze several of Rush Limbaugh’s recent insinuations that the present administration of Barack Obama resembles the regime of Adolph Hitler.

Back in August, at the height of the health care town hall follies, Mr. Limbaugh attempted to theoretically tie the Obama administration to that of Adolph Hitler by pointing out that Hitler and the Nazis opposed big business, cigarette smoking, Jewish Capitalism and environmental degradation. Limbaugh’s grasp of the Nazi platform is largely accurate. The Nazi 25 Point Program of 1920 called for the nationalization of all corporations, profit sharing by large industries, a communalization of department stores and, where necessary, the seizure of land without compensation for the good of the community. German doctors were the first to link tobacco consumption with lung cancer and the Nazi regime instituted the world’s first government backed anti-smoking campaign. By the 1930s, Germany had the most powerful conservation program in the world. My problem with Mr. Limbaugh lies in his ipso facto reasoning that reaches back in history to elements of a particular regime and suggests that they are in some way organically linked to the present. Beyond this elementary appreciation for Nazi economic and social policy, Mr. Limbaugh has strayed far from reality in his assertion that Hitler affected a reduction in chronic unemployment by a policy of mass arrest and internment at the Dachau concentration camp. Limbaugh has gone so far as to suggest that Nancy Pelosi has advocated the arrest of those who refuse to purchase insurance under a reformed health care system and have the arrested interned in prisons, which would thereby reduce the level of unemployment.

In a July 2009 interview with Greta Van Susteren, of Fox News, Limbaugh boasted of his “refusal to go to college” as if this were somehow a badge of honor. Perhaps it is this lack of a formal education that lies at the root of his constant misapplication of history as a means of explaining present day politics. With regard to government efforts to stabilize the economy, Limbaugh has wrongly conflated sound Keynesian measures with all-encompassing state control in a centralized economy. Outside of a relative handful of libertarian economists, you would be hard put to find any reputable economic thinker today who does not agree with the fact that government action a year ago prevented the world from sliding into another depression. On the topic of health care it is impossible to deny that the system here is not broken and that the market has failed to adequately deliver affordable care at a reasonable cost to the majority of Americans. Would Mr. Limbaugh and his fellow travelers have preferred a collapse of the banking system and Detroit along with it so as to test conservative economic theories in real life? The mere fact that the federal government has acted to shore up the financial system and the auto industry does not equate with a centralized program of nationalizing all industry nor is it a harbinger of some economy-wide profit sharing scheme. Most educated individuals are sophisticated enough to see this so my question is, why can’t Mr. Limbaugh? Does the fact that the Nazis recognized the dangers of smoking do anything to undermine the now more than established fact that tobacco consumption is unhealthy? With regard to Nazi environmental policy, a recently published book: How Green Were the Nazis? Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich, points out that the environmental movement’s popularity pre-dated the Nazi regime and many of the policies enacted under Hitler would have come about anyway.

It is in his contention that the Nazis reduced unemployment via a policy of mass arrest and internment that Mr. Limbaugh reveals just how little he actually knows about Nazi policies aimed at reducing unemployment in pre-war Germany. As a college senior, I undertook a yearlong study of German labor policy from 1876 to 1976 and over the course of this project and all of the material examined in the course of a year, I never once came across any evidence that mass arrest and internment were a major component of pre-war German labor policy. During the course of the three-hour oral examination that I took at the conclusion of this study, my supervising professor never once interrupted me to point out that arrest and internment were an essential element in reducing unemployment in Nazi Germany. Rather than through mass arrests, unemployment was reduced by public works and conservation corps projects, paid employment within the Nazi Party, the subtraction of women from the labor force via family building and marriage incentives, the recruitment of one million men into the military and the economic disenfranchisement of Jews, Communists, Socialists and Pacifists and their subsequent classification as being no longer in the work force. While many in this last category did in fact find themselves behind bars that was never the main element in pre-war Nazi labor policy. A concise review of this subject can be found at Nazi Economics:

It is one thing for Mr. Limbaugh to try to spin historical facts upon the present policies of the Obama administration and thereby attempt to force fit the past into the present. It is an altogether different matter when Mr. Limbaugh misrepresents one narrow element of the Nazi regime as having been it’s main policy tool for reducing unemployment and then, beyond that, to suggest that Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi actually intend to enforce adherence to a reformed health care program by way of mass arrest, which would have the corollary benefit of reducing unemployment. Such a misrepresentation of history goes beyond the pale of a polite and informed disagreement and crosses over into the realm of fraudulent misinterpretation. One can only wonder if Mr. Limbaugh’s actual intent is the undermining a legitimately elected president who, for all of his missteps, is still grappling with the worst economic environment in eighty years. If Mr. Limbaugh has a problem with Barack Obama’s approach to dealing with this nation’s present predicament then let him endeavor to confine his arguments to the realm of established facts. It would benefit Mr. Limbaugh to leave the intellectual flights of fancy and the fantasizing about Hitler and the Nazis to the denizens who inhabit the netherworld of the far right blogosphere. On the other hand if Rush Limbaugh sees his future in reinterpreting history to the point of corrupting facts beyond recognition, then so be it. It will be his reputation that will suffer far greater damage than it already has. Mr. Limbaugh’s content free cackle about Communism, Socialism, Fascism and his conflating of these three ideologies to the point where one can only wonder if he really understands the difference between them in the first place, adds nothing to the national political debate. From what I can observe, the only discernible positive that emanates from Mr. Limbaugh’s commentary is that it further burnishes his image as America’s national buffoon.

Steven J. Gulitti
New York City
28 November 2009

Revving Up the Kamikazes on the Right

7:31 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In 1281 medieval Japan was spared a Mongolian invasion thanks to a massive typhoon that swept across Kyushu Island, thereby destroying the invading fleet and drowning the Mongolian warriors. The storm was deemed a divine wind or kamikaze, sent by the gods to save the Japanese. In the waning days of the Second World War, Imperial Japan would invoke the legacy of the 1281 typhoon in an attempt to forestall defeat in the Pacific by crashing wave upon wave of kamikazes into allied invasion fleets as they made their way toward the Japanese home islands. Today an ideologically challenged G.O.P. is failing in its effort to forestall the current administration’s recovery plan. Many commentators on the right have chosen to meet the new political reality with waves of virtual kamikaze attacks through all manner of media. The recent New York Post comic portraying a monkey shot by two policemen and insinuating that the monkey is Barack Obama is the latest, and most tasteless, example of the Right’s desperation.

Lead by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Phyllis Schlafly and even the venerable Tony Blankley and Pat Buchanan, the public has been bombarded with Read the rest of this entry →