Tag Archives: GOP

Supreme Court Nominee is Political, not Legal

Dahlia Lithwick has an article in Slate lamenting that the icons of liberal constitutional law are not even in the running to replace Justice Stevens, and are invariably depicted as radicals, while the equivalent judges on the right are likely to be nominated as soon as there is another Republican president.

Lithwick seems to think that this disparity is somehow part of the legal community, but in fact it has nothing to do with lawyers or the law. This disparity exists because Republicans are simply better at playing the game than Democrats are. Republicans are cohesive, all staying on message and using the same talking points, while Democrats tend to be all over the map. In addition, Republicans are far more savage, willing use words like “radical” or “threatening” to describe candidates (mild-mannered law professors, for the most part) whereas Democrats are more likely to use words like “gosh, I’m just not sure I agree with that man.”

Lithwick asks “Why should conservative law students be moved and inspired by their legal rock stars while liberals are sent the message that theirs are outrageous?” as if law schools can somehow fix this problem. I hate to criticize Lithwick, since normally her writing is so good that I practically have a crush on her, but in this case she is missing the point. Law schools can’t solve this problem; voters can.

Great Attack on Tea Party

Some dude writing for Salon has a very funny article on why he likes tax day, and it features this outstanding quote:

The Tea Partiers represent the aggrandizement of paranoia, rage and self-pity into a political agenda. It is a “movement,” created by for-profit demagogues whose sole mission is to build audience share at the expense of honest debate about our common crises of state.

I think that pretty much sums up the movement in two sentences. For another great article about Tea Party activists who are taking aid from the federal government even whilst they denounce all government aid, click here.

Tea Party Goes Racist

In a tea party-led protest of the health care bill outside the US Capitol yesterday, protesters started chanting the N-word at John Lewis, a black congressman from Georgia and a giant of the civil rights movement. I understand (although don’t agree with) fighting against the health care bill, but yelling racial epithets at anyone, let alone 70-year old men, is another clue that, as I’ve discussed before, parts of the tea party are crazy.

The Crazy Corner of the Tea Party

I understand the feeling of the Tea Party that government isn’t responsive to the public, and that government is too big. I even understand, although strongly disagree with, the Tea Party view that government just transfers money from hard working Americans to lazy ones. But as this NY Times article makes clear, there are parts of the Tea Party movement that share the paranoid, New World Order fears which have populated certain right-wing movements for decades. When reading the quotes from some of these people, I find it difficult to conclude anything other than that they are unhinged from reality.

Grover Norquist is a Terrible Person

Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, inventor of the “starve the beast” approach to government, and hater of all things that aren’t middle or upper class, showed in today’s Wall Street Journal why he is so terrible. As he was shoveling snow outside ATR’s headquarters, he said:

“Think about it…a government which can’t plow the streets and can’t fix the potholes wants to tell us how our toilets should flush, what size cars we should drive and whether we should paper or plastic when we buy our groceries.”

Let’s ignore the piss-poor parallelism of his statement, as well as his conflation of local and national government initiatives, because that is mostly stupid, as opposed to mean, to focus on the substance of his remark. Because what he is saying is that since he and his fellow low tax crusaders have starved governments of the revenue needed to perform basic services (eg. plowing snow), government is therefore incompetent, and thus shouldn’t be trusted to do anything. I know, that is the entire modus operandi of starving the beast, but rarely do you get him to say it so clearly and cruelly.

This is How Republicans Win

Because Frank Luntz comes up with catchy, albeit false, lines. He is a master (and I do mean master…you have to respect his talents, even if he uses them in a bad cause) at creating a narrative that appeals to the average American. Read about him here and here.

Politicians Should Start Their Careers Outside Politics

I was reading recently about Senator Byron Dorgan’s retirement, and the article claimed that he had been in politics for 40 years. I looked up his biography on his official site and on Wikipedia, and both confirmed the 40 year figure. Dorgan worked in business for 2-3 years, and then became State Tax Commissioner at age 26, and has been an elected official ever since.

Then this weekend’s NY Times magazine had a long piece on the GOP’s moderate vs. Tea Party battle, as personified by the race in Florida between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio. It turns out that Rubio has never done anything but hold elective office, serving as a West Miami city commissioner right out of law school.

Dorgan and Rubio might be great legislators — I don’t know enough about either of them to judge — but doesn’t it seem like we should want our politicians to have lived in the real world? Think of all the things we regular folks have to do: hunt for jobs, worry about insurance, cooperate with coworkers we hate, shop for cars, get things done at work, etc. Career politicians don’t have to do any of that stuff. They never need to execute and accomplish, and they get rewarded for being obstinate. They stop worrying about money, since they get to pay their family as “consultants” out of campaign funds. And they have staff to take care of life’s little details.

I’m not expecting our politicians to follow the lead of Cincinnatus, who left his farm to run Rome, and then returned to his farm. But maybe some experience in the real world, not the political world, would get our legislators to work — WORK — on policy, instead of spending all their time posturing and campaigning.

“Death Panels” Are Another GOP Lie

Check out this NY Times article which shows in detail how the ridiculous rumor about “death panels” in the current health care reform effort came from the same sources whose lies helped kill Clinton’s health care reform. Why do Republicans so hate health care reform? Do they really think it’s OK for poor people to get worse health care than wealthy ones?

The GOP is Splitting in Two

In the wake of sweeping Republican losses on November 4, we are seeing the GOP fracture into two wings. The first wing is the traditional, intellectual wing, as personified by George Will. This is the low taxes, small government, muscular foreign policy wing. The second wing is the Main Street, rail against the elites wing, as personified by Sarah Palin. This is the social conservative, religious right, law and order wing. These two wings always had a tenuous coexistence in the party, with the intellectual wing using wedge social issues to get the Main Street wing riled up, and then screwing them economically. The intellectuals provided the money and ideas while Main Street provided the votes.

This tenuous coexistence, however, has now turned into open hostility, with each side blaming the other for McCain’s loss. And as the GOP tries to figure out what it really is, and how to avoid a third consecutive stomping in 2010, these two wings are fighting for dominance. Unfortunately for the future of the Republican Party, the two wings can’t reconcile, and neither wing can win an election on its own. After all, even with the wings combined, they just got smoked by Barack Obama’s politics of hope. On their own, they are doomed.

The intellectual wing itself has two components – the rabid neocons and tax cutters versus the more moderate Rockefeller Republicans – but they both share a commitment to lowering taxes and shrinking government. They also share a slavish devotion to President Reagan. McCain, despite his campaign rhetoric in 2008, is part of this wing. As Joe Klein from Time described him:

He believed in the unilateral exercise of American power overseas, with an emphasis on military might rather than diplomacy. He believed in trickle-down, supply-side, deregulatory economics: his tax plan benefited corporations and the wealthy, in the hopes that with fewer shackles, they would create more jobs.

But widening income disparity and the financial crisis of 2008 have fundamentally discredited that economic approach. Reaganism failed. And while the Rockefeller Republicans might be able to craft a workable economic theory, they are so marginalized in the party that they can’t ever win. Moreover, there simply aren’t enough Americans driven by desire for lower taxes to support this wing of the party. There are too many citizens who actually want their government to provide something.

The Main Street wing of the GOP is the part that believes there is a “real America,” as opposed to the liberal “fake America.” It’s anti-elite, anti-intellectual and anti-media. Which is its main problem: it’s against everything and for nothing. It is fueled purely by anger and self-pity. This is unsustainable; without new ideas, this wing will wither and die. It will be consumed by a black tumor of hate, like Lee Atwater‘s brain.

Also, much like the intellectual wing, the Main Street wing isn’t large enough to win on its own. There aren’t enough voters who buy into its false dichotomy. This wing, however, has a chance. If it were to embrace a truly populist economic strategy, it might be able to peel off enough blue collar Democrats to build a winning coalition. Even the Wall Street Journal notes that “new Republican voices are popping up to argue that the importance of working-class voters means the party needs to develop economic policies more obviously directed toward the working class than the capitalist class.” But that would require a complete reworking of Republican economics: supporting unions and trade protection at the expense of corporate interests and wealthy individuals. It would require an approach that sounds strikingly similar to….the Democrats.

This is the problem facing GOP strategists as they figure out what to do. They want to chase the voters, but that will require moving away from their core philosophy, because that’s what the voters are doing. As Politico put it, the GOP is “a party that is overwhelmingly white, rural and aged in a country that is rapidly becoming racially mixed, suburban and dominated by a post-Baby Boomer generation.” Some strategists want to pursue growing demographics, namely black and Hispanic voters. But how do you do that when your two wings cater to wealthy WASPS and white rednecks, respectively? Both wings of the GOP have painted themselves into electoral corners, and there is no obvious way out.

Perhaps the recent election marked the generational shift that we all knew was coming. For the past 20 years government has catered to, and been run by, people of our parents’ generation – those who grew up in the 1940’s and 1950’s – often leaving those of us from later decades mystified at the decisions being made. And we kept wondering, as old fogeys (Ted Stevens!) retired or died, and young folk grew old enough to vote, when our generation would start making decisions. Nobody WE knew hated blacks, or thought that poor people should be abandoned, so why was government pursuing such crappy policies? Why was the GOP so out of touch with our generation? After all, when you belong to a generation where a third of you have tattoos, it’s hard to see how branding a black candidate as “Muslim” is going to work. And it didn’t: Obama won, while conservative congressional candidates lost.

The GOP isn’t dead; its basic message of small government and individual liberty will always resonate. But it needs to do a lot of work to retool that message into a governing philosophy that will appeal to the new generation.