Right off a Cliff

Where are mainstream Republicans these days? What has happened to the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower? Prior to the Reagan years, Republican women were front and center in volunteering for planned parenthood, supporting the ERA, and working for abortion rights. First Lady Betty Ford was a proud feminist and one of the first women to put women’s health issues–including women with drinking problems and breast cancer–on the map. President Richard Nixon was responsible for many of the agencies that protect the environment. The current party is chock-full of science denying Theocrats and economics-denying Corporate Fascists. It’s making a sham out of the two party system. We may now have a window open wide enough to stop some of this.  We should ready ourselves with the facts and act now.

An online conversation has been initiated with the publication of Ron Brownstein’s article in the National Journal on Thursday called ‘State’s Rights’. It is front and center in starting a discussion among Democratic bloggers, journalists, and other liberal/progressive sympathizers.  States rights was code for the right to own slaves during the first 100 years of this country’s existence.  It is now code for the right to discriminate against the GLBT community, insert the government into an individual woman’s gynecological care, and bust unions. The racial overtones have not gone away since the worst of the hateful verbiage is aimed at stopping any policy goal attempted by President Obama.

Any one who has read me over the last few years knows that I am not a big fan of this President and I’m even less of a fan of his zealous followers.  However, it would take a fairly dim bulb to not see the racism implicit in many of the Republican attacks against him. Attacks range from the extremely bizarre personal assertions that he is a secret Muslim, foreign born, and a devout socialist/communist to a complete rewrite of any policy initiative.

Obama is about as conservative of a Democrat as one can find these days which has been one of my issues with him all along.  His actions and words have not stopped the endless attacks on absolutely everything he attempts by Republicans and their monied interests.  These tactics were first used against former Democratic President Bill Clinton but have reached some kind of hyper-extortionate apex today.  It’s to the point that I firmly believe some of these Republican extremists would rather take the country down with them than negotiate something other than an ideologically pure outcome.  Brown’s article and examples focus on the current bloc of extremist Republican governors with their take no prisoners policies.  While his focus is mostly on the impact on Obama, I believe his larger point should entice us to think bigger.

But one senior Obama administration official, who also had a close view of Clinton’s interaction with Republican governors, contends that ideology is trumping interest for the governors in many of these new disputes. Health care reform, for instance, asks states for no new financial contribution to expand coverage through 2016 and only relatively small participation thereafter; because 60 percent of the uninsured live in the states where a Republican holds the governorship, their residents would receive the most new federal aid if the law survives. “One had the sense in the mid-1990s that conservative governors were doing whatever was in the best interest of their state,” the senior official said. “This time, the Republican governors appear determined to make an ideological point, even if it costs their state a great deal.”

Whatever the governors’ motivations (one man’s posturing, after all, is another man’s principle), their unreserved enlistment into Washington’s wars marks a milestone. It creates a second line of defense for conservatives to contest Obama even after he wins battles in Congress. It tears another hole in the fraying conviction that state capitals are less partisan than Washington. And it creates a precedent that is likely to encourage more guerrilla warfare between Democratic governors and a future Republican president.

American politics increasingly resembles a kind of total war in which each party mobilizes every conceivable asset at its disposal against the other. Most governors were once conscientious objectors in that struggle. No more.

I can remember attending Republican conventions in the early 1980s during the first hint of the unholy alliance between religious fanatics along the line of a Christian Taliban with the John Birch Society version of libertarians.  It was a terrifying spectacle.  At the time, the more pro-business and hoity-toity conservative elements in the party were willing to use them like pet pit bulls because they were incredibly organized at the grass roots level and they voted. Republicans traditionally had a much more difficult time turning out voters and their GOTV machines were dwarfed by the Democrats who could rely on well organized and managed union membership.  This is one of the reasons why there is also the huge attack on the last standing unions now.  They’re worth a fortune come election time and no Republican campaign strategist worth anything underestimates them.  We can clearly no longer underestimate the religious zealots or those gullible to the rants of Glenn Beck.  They’ve become a contagion.

Back in the day,  the young me argued that this form of big daddy government intervention put forth by religionists and Birchers was basically enabling powerful business monopolies and drop kicking the constitutional mandate to deny the establishing of a state religion.  It was against the very core ideology of  historical Republicanism.  I got no where.  This was especially true as Nixon’s southern strategy began to work its evil influence on bringing in the remaining racist elements of the old Dixiecrats who frankly were all for the government taking care of any one that wasn’t like them.  This added the last nail in the traditional coffin of the party of Lincoln. That sin is now manifesting in the xenophobia against Muslims and Hispanics in addition to African Americans topped by the anti-science bias from the religionists and the pro-monopoly market creation from the corporatists.

It appears that many old school Republicans now see the results of opening this Pandora’s box. They are horrified and have been trying to stuff the demons back into the chest.  Now, you see those same folks that opened their kennels filled with poodles to the pit bulls are now acting absolutely appalled by the rising influence of absolutely whacked extremists like Glenn Beck.  Scarborough, Rove, and Kristol are currently trying to put the Beckheads back into the box.  Those of us that don’t vote Republican could afford to ignore this if it were just some intraparty feud.  It’s gone beyond that with the rise of tea party hysterics and billionaire libertarian Daddy Warbucks’ propaganda machines. In many states, the Republican party infrastructure has been commandeered by the pit bulls. The poodles–like Arianna Huffington and Markos–have long left their confines. They are morphing traditional Democratic Party concerns.  The same divisive issues that used to motivate the base to do the GOTV and show up at the polls has managed to bring this new crop of Republican governors and congressional members to a critical mass.  They refuse any middle or even right of middle ground.  They won’t negotiate on the usual country club Republican issues. It’s no longer a GOTV ploy for them because they are true believers.

Steven Benen explores this quandry in his blog at WAPO today.

Keep in mind, it’s ideology, not practical concerns, that lie at the heart of these governors’ reactionary moves. The states turning down investments for high-speed rail, for example, were effectively handed a gift — jobs, economic development, improved infrastructure — but Republicans like Rick Scott and Scott Walker turned down the benefits because of a philosophical opposition, deliberately hurting their state in the process. The administration was effectively throwing a life-preserver to a Republican who’s drowning, only to be told, “We don’t like government life-preservers.”

The same is true of health care, which would be a boon to states, but which far-right governors resist for reasons that have nothing to do with public policy.

Bill Clinton faced a watered-down version of these Republican pit bulls over a decade ago.  Dealing with them is how he got his reputation for triangulation.  He seemed uniquely placed to make some small progress then–that now seems impossible now–because of his past position as a southern governor with a decidedly homespun and folksy manner.  President Obama has none of this going for him.  He is surrounded by Businesscrats that are unlikely to fill the void. The only thing he’s managed to do is to gain the ear of the Chamber of Commerce types.  These folks are hardly going to be sympathetic to social justice or middle class bread-and-butter issues.  Additionally, right wing media sources and timid main stream media sources are playing into the hands of the outrageous.  We have media enablers instead of investigative journalists.

That is why it is absolutely essential that whatever is left of the Democratic grassroots need to make one extremely loud noise right now.  It is unconscionable that a rewrite of history, science, and economic is taking place while many of us are simply standing around with gaping mouths.  I’ve spoken many times about the absolute lack of economics that is driving austerity programs.  It’s already showing signs of slowing economic growth down at a time when unemployment is unacceptably high. This is only going to multiply as the days and months unfold.  Ask yourself if we can really afford another recession?

I was also disheartened to read that science is not fairing well either. Scientific American has a thought provoking piece up on the overwhelming science behind global warming and climate change.Their title should be rhetorical but it is not: ‘Why Are Americans So Ill-Informed about Climate Change?’

Near the forum’s conclusion, Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Kerry Emanuel asked a panel of journalists why the media continues to cover anthropogenic climate change as a controversy or debate, when in fact it is a consensus among such organizations as the American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American Chemical Society, American Meteorological Association and the National Research Council, along with the national academies of more than two dozen countries.

“You haven’t persuaded the public,” replied Elizabeth Shogren of National Public Radio. Emanuel immediately countered, smiling and pointing at Shogren, “No, you haven’t.” Scattered applause followed in the audience of mostly scientists, with one heckler saying, “That’s right. Kerry said it.”

Such a tone of searching bewilderment typified a handful of sessions that dealt with the struggle to motivate Americans on the topic of climate change. Only 35 percent of Americans see climate change as a serious problem, according to a 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

It’s a given that an organized and well-funded campaign has led efforts to confuse the public regarding the consensus around anthropogenic climate change.

These extremists are even rewriting the already right wing Ronald Reagan’s legacy to make it seem more extreme to support the legitimacy of their radical agendas.  Here’s an example I found this morning on ThinkProgress on Reagan’s views on unions. Scott Walker’s fantasy world includes his vision of being Reagan’s heir. Yet, here is Reagan himself on the union movement in Poland during one of his radio addresses to the nation.

REAGAN: Ever since martial law was brutally imposed last December, Polish authorities have been assuring the world that they’re interested in a genuine reconciliation with the Polish people. But the Polish regime’s action yesterday reveals the hollowness of its promises. By outlawing Solidarity, a free trade organization to which an overwhelming majority of Polish workers and farmers belong, they have made it clear that they never had any intention of restoring one of the most elemental human rights—the right to belong to a free trade union.

The one thing that I learned early on when dealing with these people from within the Republican party itself in the pre-Reagan and early Reagan days is that they believe their courses are so righteous that they will lie and do anything to support them.  If we do not hold their actions and lies to the light of day, our country will be completely overrun by by folks that are anti-science, anti-economics, anti-rational thought, and anti-democracy.  We’ll have a theocratic plutocracy in fairly short order.

It is absolutely imperative that we put pressure on the media and Democratic politicians to fact check these people, stand up to them, and expose their lies to the public.  It is possible that we’ve caught a tipping point in their overreach process. If this is the case, it means we have to work with the momentum now.  Nothing short of our democracy and our children’s future is at stake here.  We cannot be complacent and we cannot be left with mouths wide opened.  We also cannot rely on leadership from the very top.  If you’re in one of those states that is acting up, act now!!!  Find and support your version of the Wisconsin 14.


11 Comments on “Right off a Cliff”

  1. Delphyne says:

    This needs to go viral, Kat – really. I just FB’d it and am going to email it to friends not on FB.

    It’s a spectacular post – I thank you for doing it!

  2. Dario says:

    Health care reform, for instance, asks states for no new financial contribution to expand coverage through 2016 and only relatively small participation thereafter; because 60 percent of the uninsured live in the states where a Republican holds the governorship, their residents would receive the most new federal aid if the law survives.

    The Obama health care is so bad, that it cannot be defended. If supporting Obama/RomoneyCare is a test of being a liberal, I’m no longer a liberal.

    • dakinikat says:

      No, I agree with that. It’s a remake of the Heritage plan that John Chaffee presented in the 1990s. But look at other policies like the attempt to regulate the shadow banking industry, the repeal of DADT and trying to disable DOMA, and any hope for another stimulus that isn’t oversaturated with tax giveaways to the wrong people. Obama keeps heading for the right and that needs to be stopped too. But, until people stop dragging him there and enabling there, we’re not going to see anything positive. Romney is still defending Romneycare and that’s essentially what the Obama’s plan has become. Most Romney like Republicans would’ve gone for that in the 1990s. Few Democrats would’ve tolerated it. That’s the point. Under the old Republican terms, that would’ve been a wildly successful plan for most state governors.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    “You haven’t persuaded the public,” replied Elizabeth Shogren of National Public Radio. Emanuel immediately countered, smiling and pointing at Shogren, “No, you haven’t.”

    Excellent. NPR is almost as bad as the rest. Nice post, Dak.

    • dakinikat says:

      The press is gunshy about providing facts and data and calling these folks out on their lies because they get called bias. What they need to practice is this phrase. Truth doesn’t have a bias. These are the facts. The facts aren’t biased. And repeat it a lot. I’ve seen Anderson Cooper say that some but not many others. They just sit there dumb as posts while people lie because they think they should listen to ‘opinions’. Lies AREN’T Opinions. They are Lies.

      • bostonboomer says:

        True. Anderson Cooper does that. I also heard that Shepard Smith went on a rant against union busting. He might have to switch to MSNBC if he keeps this up.

  4. Sophie says:

    Apologies Dak, for being way off topic, but do you recall which post you provided the statistics of public school success with unions vs. without?

  5. Sima says:

    This post reminded me very much of Sagan’s ‘A Demon Haunted World’. Maybe I need to read that book again.

  6. “Attacks range from the extremely bizarre personal assertions that [Obama] is a secret Muslim, foreign born, and a devout socialist/communist to a complete rewrite of any policy initiative.”

    Anyone who thinks that Obama is a socialist or a communist is truly demented!

    A spot-on post, dakinikat!