I am less puzzled perhaps that many Americans search for their motivation to vote, than that so few become disabused of the propaganda they ingest on a continuous basis advocating policies that at best degrade their existence or at worst imperil it, to the point of revulsion or revolt.
In fairness to today’s Republican elected officials, they are surprisingly flexible, and utterly accommodating…
The Republican Negativity-Industrial Complex: Americans Ask, “Why Does The Republican Party Exist”?
Perhaps the problem isn’t that the Republican Party is out of sync with the vast majority of…
People Who Expected A Romney Landslide Govern The Way You’d Expect People Who Expected A Romney Landslide To Govern
Has it ever crossed your mind that perhaps the Republican majority in the House of Representatives…
Halcyon Days of The Pro-Murder Club
Comforting, was it not, to have Paul Ciancia reaffirm for us all with his assault rifle at LAX,…
There’s no crying in baseball and there’s no crying in ideological struggles for the soul of the nation either. Whether the rest of us like it or not, several strands of largely fringe radicalism have merged, and now emerged as the dominant ideology, nee fanaticism of one of our major parties. And hulking bummer though it is, inconvenient and unavoidable hard fact, this now prominent absolutism doesn’t compromise, doesn’t moderate, doesn’t give a whit about two-parties, nor will it accept anything short of full ideological purification, not to mention full domination of the country. It sucks mightily, and get used to it.
Indeed, the ferocity of this new right-wing and Republican determination to assert the preeminence of ideological reality over material and scientific truth, to unashamedly impose a brutal social order (with the same attendant doublespeak about liberty and will of the people and freedom, along with many of the same scapegoats) skirts uncomfortably close to the absolutist extremism of the grotesque European isms of the last century.
But the time for merely remarking upon its odiousness, bemoaning the depravity of its methods and the vastness of its blithe deceit, or for exposition of the boundlessness of its freakishness has passed. It is time to match it in the only area that really matters at this stage: raw power. Which brings me to the news today that a Texas bank, and a couple of right-wing think tanks have embarked on the new go-to play for the Republican right seeking the overturn of democratically achieved laws, which is resort to litigation in largely friendly federal courts, including the highest court in the land. This time it isn’t health care it’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau established under Dodd-Frank. Essentially, the poor, poor banks and the woefully put upon financial institutions believe essentially that nobody is the boss of them, and at bottom any restriction or oversight that prevent them from doing whatever they damn please to consumers is, oh my, unconstitutional. We’ll see. But the point is that friendly courts, including the big one is what you get with raw power… and elections are how you get that power.
There is no better example of course of the triumph of raw power than the 2000 presidential election in Florida. All but a coup, it was a legal coup, legal because all of the power was stacked in such a way every democratic mechanism was subservient to one political party and its own interest. Own the governorship, the top state election official, the state legislature and ultimately the highest court in the land and the actual vote count, or even counting of the votes or the expressed will and intent of the people themselves are beside the point. There’s democracy and then there’s democracy.
The point of this really is that liberals and Democrats must at last fully comprehend the stakes and behave accordingly, no matter how often and insipidly CNN insists it’s all just two perpetually equivalent polarities or sides of the same coin. They must embrace the stale and unoriginal reduction of it all to the political process and leave behind their distaste for the laborious and grimy work of aggressive advocacy and electing people. They must, where lacking, develop an appetite for political blood, hand-to-hand combat and trench war… for the thrill of a political kill. Anything short of angry defiance at attempts at punking you, gutting you or sliming you by this borderline personality disorder masking itself as philosophy is unacceptable. Ownership by venal doughboys like the Koch Brothers or fey authoritarians like Scott Walker, or rule by amoral tinker toys like Mitt Romney should be repudiated with extreme prejudice.
Take power and keep taking it.
Impressing voters with their capacity to incessantly embark upon partisan larks extraneous to voters’ lives and concerns, to fly ideological kamikaze missions such as causing debt default or passing legislation with zero ability to survive in the Earth’s soil beyond the House chamber, the Republican majority in the House has been nothing if not consistent. This week the Republican majority of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sought to reinforce that impression by giving the world another memorable straitjacket moment: voting Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
There was never any expectation the next Three Stooges movie would diverge from buffoonish slapstick and there is no expectation the Republican House will suddenly do something sensible or barely sane. If you want representatives whose actions mirror the obsessions of pale folks dressed in tri-cornered hats holding badly-spelled signs and poorly reasoned, ill-informed opinions, Republican members of the House are your cup of kooky tea.
Politically speaking, this latest uncontrollable House Republican urge to advertise its own estrangement from the mainstream concerns of American citizens is highly beneficial to Democrats and to the re-election of President Obama, and I thank them for their lack of self-control. Reminding voters once again that the Republican Party in power invariably becomes preoccupied with ideologically self-indulgent theater, unrelentingly partisan obstructionism and sabotage of good faith efforts to address the challenges facing United States citizens is doing God’s work for Democrats.
The Fast and Furious program was an effort begun by the ATF during the Bush administration intended to track illegal gun sales in the United States to drug cartels in Mexico. Though Attorney General Holder terminated the program and though reasonable people might conclude that determining the lethal consequences of these sales (Remember that Arizona has justified all manner of barbaric immigration policy with the specter of border violence) was a worthy project, the far right construed this as an affront to the sanctity of the National Rifle Association and an act of blasphemy toward the role of firearms as holy icons in the Republican spiritual system, faulty American history and fetishism playing their part.
Demanding documents from Holder it was understood by Republicans he was obligated to keep secret in order to protect the lives of agents and the viability of operations ongoing was the basis of the Republican con that Holder was failing to cooperate, all in the service to a phantasmagorical gun control plot by the Great Black Socialist. Still, the only thing really important here is that Americans are offered yet another example that Republicans should not retain their House majority, nor for that matter be allowed to handle sharp objects, have unsupervised time with small children or keep the laces in their shoes.
At the very least, the reality-based community owes House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans a debt of gratitude for their unintentional, yet luridly vivid warning of the perils, frivolities and disorders of elected Republicans, and their distant remove from ordinary Americans’ priorities and basic mental health.
Republicans typically dwell in some combination of antiquity and mythological Candy Land, their long, loving gaze often coming to rest on the pre-Enlightenment era and the pre-capitalist days of feudal economic structures and aristocratic hegemony. Ayn Rand tried to gussy them up for a newer time with her Objectivist philosophy, but only adolescents and screwballs really buy it (including numerous Republican members of congress).
So when Senate Minority Leader and oratorical lightning bolt Mitch McConnell attempts to lay it on President Obama by charging that the Affordable Care Act is the first step toward “Europeanizing America” one wonders whether the last he heard about Europe was the big war that reduced the place to rubble, or perhaps given the degree to which Republicans inhabit the olden days of the earlier war of the 14th Century when the French subsisted on an exclusive diet of turnips. One of Republicans’ most desperate requirements continues to be that those low information voters upon whom they depend never figure out what modern Europe is like.
Of course when the epidemic of malpractice and criminality on the part of America’s real estate and financial sectors spread throughout the world it crippled Europe the same as it crippled us. Unfortunately, most European countries responded by adopting Republican economics, Europe Americanizing itself in the worst way. The Bizarro World economic response to recession of obsessing about debt and cutting spending rather than stimulating first and cutting later has made austerity about as popular among citizens of Europe as Eva Braun. Republican economics have Europe stuck in a muck of stagnation, recession and joblessness that make America’s current economic conditions look scintillating by comparison.
But McConnell lapsed into a perhaps medically dangerous seizure of irony when he attempted to condemn Obamacare through association with the mythically dystopian Europe Republican brains have been trapped in for several decades now. This would be in contrast to the actual Europe, where quality of life in innumerable key areas has become superior to ours, due in large part to a pragmatic, realistic addressing of contemporary problems across the ideological spectrum, absent any equivalent of our uniquely influential, zany dogmatic weirdos on the Luddite right.
Please, Mr. McConnell, don’t throw me into that Europeanized Briar Patch of gleaming new infrastructure, revitalized transportation systems, blazing fast internet, bullet trains, long vacations, economic mobility, lower infant mortality rates, longer life spans and affordable health care for every citizen. Please.
Americans understand that during Republicans’ joint control of congress and the executive branch no health reform was put forward, no proposals to end the moral abomination and economically crippling persistence of millions uninsured, of skyrocketing medical costs and exorbitant premiums, of a national epidemic of bankruptcies due to medical bills were proffered. Republicans’ irresponsibility and immoral indifference to Americans’ health are now so far beyond the pale and past the point of moral defensibility, so defiant to common sense and societal efficiency for a modern nation Republicans should refrain from comment on the subject out of simple common decency. Sadly, the Teabagger Republican Party and common decency went their separate ways years ago.
For the record though, if Obama is Europeanizing America I’d prefer he did it a little faster.
Only persons afflicted with an optimism of the clinical variety found in DSM-IV would expect modifications of any kind in the thinking of America’s Republican right, any response to reason, facts or an occurrence in material reality out of the question, in the latter case, up to and even beyond a hunk of plywood against the side of the head one imagines. Economists, scientists, theologians or mere election results are no match for this implacability.
The first sobering lesson to be taken from this realization is that the behavior of one segment of the American polity is set in concrete for the foreseeable future (in other words, some period between the end of the Mayan calendar and the death of the sun). This leads to the second sobering lesson, which is that successful appeals to a tiny, still malleable segment of voters will be critical to empowering Democrats, Democrats’ political muscle all that stands between a modern, ideologically eclectic welfare state and altogether housebroken American society, and the full calamity of a right-wing cultural revolution.
The ‘revolutionary vanguard’ already is present in the House of Representatives, to a lesser extent in the United States Senate, as well as in governors’ mansions and state legislatures across the nation. With its harsh ideological strictures, rigid conservative political correctness, economic feudalism and banana republic economic structures, and not least, regime of oppressively draconian social policies enunciated with arrogant pseudo-pieties, this radicalism should strike even the semi-conscious as a clear and present danger. To be benevolent, some of our fellow voting citizens may not always be, let’s say, fully conscious. This remains the Mother of All Built-in Political Advantages to the right wing.
I retain affection for my fellow Democrats; and while there are many capable and battle-ready Democratic politicians and operatives, I would be frankly negligent if I failed to disclose that I am not entirely confident of the combat-readiness of the party in general, tendencies toward defensiveness, crippling cautiousness and a lack of philosophical and ideological sure-footedness a real concern. In some cases this is simply a lack of aggressiveness, and in others it is the absence of an instinctive feel for the urgency of the requirement to take the political and philosophical offensive.
In some cases, as pointed out by cognitive linguist George Lakoff who tirelessly reminds progressives of the necessity for and instructs them in the how-to of effective framing in political communication (and I somewhat tirelessly or tiresomely recommend Lakoff on this blog) the fault lies in an inability to penetrate the miasma of falsehood, distortion, misinformation and screaming inanity spewed into the political atmosphere by the right’s vast and efficient and ungodly-funded propaganda arsenal in a compelling and impactful way. What Democrats can’t do instinctively in this regard they had better learn. Even with its undeniable and abundantly remarked flaws, for all its amorphousness, quirkiness and oddities Occupy Wall Street drove income inequality, financialization and the bamboozling and maceration of the middle class to a salient place in the American consciousness, and with a very Lakoff-like adeptness and effectiveness at moral framing.
The public at large (in other words voters) is hardly oblivious, nor are they resigned when the right brusquely transforms their states into laboratories of anti-democracy in places like Wisconsin, Ohio or Florida for instance, turning them into something reminiscent of Khmer Rouge reeducation camps, as the uprisings by citizens in those states have demonstrated with various levels of success at polls. Citizens, when they actually find out, whether by a now nearly miraculous transmission of bare truth through the mainstream media, or via organs of progressive activism, that radical Republicans intend to subject them to something akin to prison sex they are neither receptive nor are they resigned.
When it comes to informing the electorate, if the quaint connotation of inform is to communicate credible, truthful and factual information and distinguish it from that which is none of those, then in large part the mainstream press does a great deal more harm than good. With Big Media’s two sides to everything model strongly in force, the public is left with a muddle, more confused than enlightened by what they get. Given the massiveness of the right’s alternate reality apparatus and the timorous waywardness of our current media, disabusing facts and truthful correctives must be all but forced into the media’s narratives, which naturally means Democrats and liberals must be resourceful, ingenious, indefatigable and aggressive…did I mention aggressive?…in forcing them in.
At this point anything less is a concession to Republicans’ remarkable marriage of dogmatism and cynicism, their renunciation of modern realities and their malevolently dishonest propaganda. In other words all but appeasement of an intractableness and vehemence that is a declaration of civil war in all but its public designation.
When the Great Misfortune struck back in the year 2000, and an unsuspecting and undeserving nation was afflicted with the maledictory rule of George W. Bush, it wasn’t really fair, in both the human sense and the democratic sense. Bush came to office legally; but he certainly wasn’t elected: call it a legal coup. Those maligned exit polls turned out to be correct: Al Gore received the most votes in Florida, just as he did in the national popular vote.
Recounts confirmed that in addition to thousands of undervotes (the machinery failed to detect the vote that was there) there were many thousands of legitimate overvotes (ballots on which a voter marks the ballot and in addition writes the candidate’s name) that should have been counted and weren’t, though they still would have been had the Supreme Court not kaboshed the recount. If you throw in the botched ballots that shouldn’t have been counted yet clearly indicated a preference for Al Gore Florida wasn’t especially close, at least to the extent the expressed will of the people is concerned. Of course, timing is everything: the consortium conducting the recount had its result days after 9-11, major media outlets either minimizing or all but burying the story, a concerted and conscious effort to refrain from undermining the legitimacy of a new president while the nation was tense and raw from being attacked.
No such mitigating circumstance exists this time. Press coverage of the current election cycle is the predictable and soporific stew of polls and pundits, presumably two presidential candidates vying for the presidency and the two political parties competing for power across the land. Slightly beneath the surface or perhaps occasionally off to the side, anywhere but in the foreground where it belongs is the monumental development: seriously loony people are trying to take the country over, and attempting to do so using manifestly undemocratic and un-American methods: another legal coup.
Having observed America’s young and minorities inundate the polling places to elect Obama, Republicans asked the expected question: no, not, “How can we broaden our appeal to more Americans?” but “How can we stop large swaths of the population likely hostile to our increasing radicalism from making it into a voting booth?” Hence, Republican-controlled state governments launched their flurry of voter suppression measures, all manner of obstacles to voting for targeted demographic groups introduced, passed and signed.
Florida, fearing no amount of irony has been the very worst. Send 180,000 Democrats letters declaring them non-citizens (180,000 non citizens managed to register to vote?) forcing them to PROVE their citizenship in order to remain on voter rolls. Those who fail to respond to the letter are simply purged. I ask this in all seriousness: what’s next? I also ask this in all seriousness: what does it take to get the major media organs in this country to take a hold of this like the extraordinarily consequential story it is? This is about as close to authoritarian usurpation of the democratic franchise as one can get without physically threatening harm to potential voters or members of the opposing party. Again, what’s next?
One would like to avoid getting all Weimar and Christopher Isherwood, but unfortunately, it is time for getting all Weimar and Christopher Isherwood. Better before than after to wake up and ask, “How could such unsound and dangerous and destructive people ever get control of a modern democracy?” Typically the latter would be the simultaneous Newsweek and Time covers after the fact. How unsound is this radicalized segment seeking control? Mike Lofgren, who resigned after 30 years as a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill published an essay in which he recounted the radicalism that drove him away
“To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy. It was this cast of characters and the pernicious ideas they represent that impelled me to end a nearly 30-year career as a professional staff member on Capitol Hill.
“It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant.”
In his essay, Lofgren included the following quote from John Judis of The New Republic, offering his own assessment of the current Republican Party:
“Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today’s Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery.”
And of course the conservative SCOTUS that was such a sound investment in the year 2000 gave Republicans their money’s worth in the Citizens United case, guaranteeing that what voter suppression cannot manage, a billion dollars worth of television propaganda paid for by anonymous donations from corporations and the very wealthy can. For anyone seeking a persuasive answer to the question, “How could such unsound and dangerous and destructive people ever get control of a modern democracy?” these are two of the ways: suppress the vote and buy it.
One of those not really a secret secrets as closely held as Lindsay likes to party is that while public birther activism is confined to a relative fringe it is a welcome and essential component to the wider Republican insurrection. There’s a Grand Canyon’s worth of difference obviously between John Boehner or Mitch McConnell offering up the customarily cutesy pie, “I take the president at this word,” non-affirming affirmation of the president’s citizenship, and behaving morally and patriotically, which means denouncing an assault on the president’s legitimacy emphatically as the sickness it is, a racist and un-American plague. From Boehner you get, “It’s not my job to tell the American people what to think.” Well okay, then it is MY job to tell them what to think. And I’m telling them that burrowing rodents such as John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Reince Priebus are unworthy of American citizenship, moral eunuchs fit to be flung from polite society, much less political leadership. And I’m going to do everything I can to see that it happens.
In the meantime it is important to remember that most of America has no use for these atavistic kooks when it learns what they’re really up to. Which is why your modern Republican Party is all shadows and ducking and winks and weasel words. The plan to dismantle Social Security is The Plan to Save Social Security because they don’t actually have the balls to tell America what they really believe and what they really want. And what cannot be accomplished forthrightly can be accomplished otherwise is virtually the Republican motto of the last thirty years. These rich folks funneling in the money are delicate flowers, if truth be told, the Captains of Industry and Finance are rather publically shy and they run like tiny spiders when the light exposes their dirty work.
In fact, outlawing unions, sanctifying corporations, rejecting ideologically inappropriate scientific or economic research and conclusions to the point of excising them from school textbooks: you really do have something from mid-Twentieth Century Europe. And history tells us you can end up living under it if you’re not careful. And if the media you depend upon has the energy of noodle soup and the fortitude of dandelions.
In one regard at least, conservatives’ mortally dubious presumptions about their synchronicity with the nation’s founders actually may be justified. When the colonists proclaimed human equality and the right to resist tyranny in the Declaration, they listed among the abuses suffered at the hands of the King that “He has excited domestic insurrections against us,” meaning Britain had promised freedom to slaves who abandoned their owners and declared loyalty to Britain. The temerity of the British Crown interfering with their right of ownership over their slaves was an infraction against liberty far too unspeakable to stomach. Remind you of anyone?
So perhaps it is something of the Spirit of ’76 that motivates the Koch Brothers to lament the gall of regulators and environmentalists to challenge their liberty to befoul the air their neighbors and fellow citizens breathe. The frequent and self-righteous citations of liberty in defense of a more powerful entity’s liberty to exert its will over a weaker one is the right-wing inculcation and abuse of liberty in a nutshell. Indeed in situations that pit the safety or well being of employees against the insistence of employers, liberty invariably is on the side of employers, intervention to mitigate employees’ treatment a trespass against liberty, if not a literal trespass, according to this radical and perverse interpretation of liberty.
Many would find the assertion that attempting to interfere through regulation with the manufacture of a product that causes bodily harm or dangerously malfunctions an infringement upon the liberty of the manufacturer, an assertion fit for mirthfully acidic ridicule. Yet, such is today’s conservative construing of liberty. In this universe your liberty to continue respiration is trumped by the manufacturers’ liberty to manufacture as he sees fit. While the condition of being deceased may impede your future exercise of market choices at least those who witnessed you keeling over may exercise their own freedom of choice in the marketplace not to buy the product that killed you. Feel better? How’s that for some liberty.
The American colonists were very promiscuous in their use of the word liberty while retaining the right to own slaves and reserving the choice to be indignant toward the British Crown for a colonial relationship that made colonists feel as subordinate as slaves, of all abominable things. And of course our Republican and Libertarian friends, while championing the bigfoooting of American consumers, neighbors and ordinary folks are equally promiscuous with use of liberty, virtually every right-wing or Republican or Libertarian organization, group, klatch, pac or gathering appropriating the word liberty for its name.
Goldman Sachs may induce you into an investment that it knows is doomed at the same time it bets against it, and while you may feel swindled when you lose your shirt, any legislative effort, say, Dodd-Frank for instance to prevent such theft prior to it taking place is according to this version of liberty an unacceptable infringement upon Goldman Sachs’ precious liberty to conduct its business practices free of interference. One may feel secure in the freedom or liberty not to abide by the tyranny of the religious doctrine that insists life begins at the instant of conception, and that early stage fetal life is indistinguishable from born human beings or even viable fetuses at a later stage. In this situation the right is much less impressed with your assertion of liberty.
Samuel Johnson wrote during the period of revolutionary foment, “Why is it we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the drivers of Negroes?” Tell me about it, Sam.