Why The Republican Party Is What It Is

“A reactionary is a person who holds political viewpoints that favor a return to a previous state (the status quo ante) in a society.”

Wikipedia

I often use the term “reactionaries” to describe those folks on the right who have a problem living in the 21st century, a problem coming to grips with present reality. I sometimes differentiate between reactionaries and conservatives because conservatism doesn’t necessarily involve reactionary politics, though it often does, especially as we watch conservative behavior today. Most of the conservatives we see dominating the Republican Party these days are—without the slightest doubt—reactionaries.

As most of you know, I was born and raised in Kansas. I lived there until I was about 30 years old. I worked there. I played there. I became a conservative there. I was baptized into an evangelical faith there. The political Kansas I knew was mostly a right-of-center place, with pockets of leftish resistance here and there, and for the most part its politics was not radical or reactionary. Today, though, like a lot of red states Kansas has been radicalized and has turned into one of the most reactionary places in the country.

Nothing could better demonstrate the change from a mild, if not moldy, conservatism into a radical and fiery reactionaryism than what emerged in Kansas recently. Last week, as nearly everyone knows by now, the Kansas House passed a bill that, according to Time,

would permit businesses and government employees to deny service to same-sex couples on the basis of their religious principles. 

That Jim Crowish bill, which has been condemned far and wide by progressives, passed 72-49 and is now being considered by the state senate, which is expected to either water it down significantly or kill it. Apparently there are some Kansas Republicans left who haven’t been completely radicalized by religious zealots in the state. But the fact that such a reactionary piece of legislation passed one side of the legislature in 2014—2014 for God’s sake—says a lot about not only about the Republican Party, but it speaks to why it is that our national government is so profoundly, if not dangerously, divided.

At the heart of this ascendance of a rabid reactionary politics in Kansas and elsewhere—there is an anti-gay bill in Idaho that is even worse than the one in Kansas—is the anxiety that (mostly but not entirely white) evangelical and fundamentalist Christians feel deep in their bones over the loss of cultural dominance they and their Iron Age theology once enjoyed. Most of the theological angst started with the Supreme Court ruling in 1962 (Engel v. Vitale) that government-composed prayers could not be used in public schools, then just after that blow came atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s victorious lawsuit in 1963 (consolidated with Abington School District v. Schempp) in which the Supreme Court put the kibosh on the Lord’s Prayer and Bible reading in government schools.

If I heard it once, I heard it a gazillion times from the conservative church folk I knew back home: “They kicked God out of the schools! Why do you think things are so bad!”

So, it started with those two court rulings, but other rulings followed that were specifically related to Bible-based anxiety over a rapidly changing culture. There was Griswold v. Connecticut (which found that because of the Constitution’s now strangely controversial “right to privacy” states could not prohibit the use of contraceptives by married people; later this freedom was extended to all couples via Eisenstadt. V. Baird; and now we are fighting over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate). Skipping over the landmark 1973 Roe V. Wade case (which isn’t necessarily—even though it has mostly become—a case involving evangelical theology), we come to Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 case that effectively struck down all sodomy laws in the country and paved the way for the eventual legitimation of same-sex marriage, which is now driving right-wing Christians into convulsions not seen since the Gadarene Demoniac.

Along with—perhaps partly because of—these culturally significant court cases, public opinion has evolved in the direction of progress and against the forces of Bible-inspired conservatism. Holy Book-believing Christians have essentially lost the fight over whether the Bible or a secular Constitution will be the ultimate law of the land. This has led to a backlash, a serious and divisive backlash, among folks who take the Bible seriously and who genuinely—I repeat: genuinely— believe that America is going straight to hell because it has turned its back on God and his Word.

More important, though, than all the talk of cultural anxiety and ancient theology is what these Bible-believing folks have been up to lately. In order to turn their biblical notions and reactionary tendencies into public policies like the one proposed last week in Kansas, they have increasingly and fanatically turned to grassroots politics.

These religious reactionaries have educated themselves and essentially taken over the Republican Party’s organizational structure. One such reactionary lives right here in Southwest Missouri. I used to go to the same evangelical church he did and used to believe a lot of the same things he believes. His name is John Putnam. He’s from Carthage and he is the Chairman of the Jasper County Republican Party.

Mr. Putnam has essentially written his own bible on how to take over and transform the Republican Party from the ground up. He notes that there are some “183,000 precincts in the 50 states” and he outlines how the system works:

putnam's patriotsThe voters of each precinct, according to their state’s laws, can elect or appoint one man and one woman to represent the people of that precinct in their political party’s organizational structure (sometimes called the party “machine”).  The precinct chairs/executives become members of their county committee and elect their county committee’s Chair and Vice-Chair who, in turn, help elect their Party’s State Committee; plus, they largely influence which candidates will run (and most likely be elected) in their party’s primary election and who, subsequently, will carry their party’s banner in the November General Elections. 

All of this represents the nuts and bolts of party organization. It is how a political party can be commandeered by a zealous minority and how such zealotry can come to represent the face of the party. It it why the Republican Party is so schizophrenic. It is why its national leaders are so afraid to actually lead. It is why Washington is suffering from legislative paralysis. You think I am exaggerating? Putnam goes on to point out that,

Nationwide, half of these positions sit empty and most voters no longer even know they exist.  If Constitutional conservatives will fulfill the precinct leader’s role and elect Constitutional conservative chairs and vice-chairs to their county committees, we can cleanse our representative form of government in very short order.  This is assuming the men and women who fill the precinct position have the wisdom of  Cleon Skousen gleaned from The Five Thousand Year Leap and the virtue of George Washington (see Glenn Beck’s Being George Washington).

If that stuff about cleansing doesn’t scare you, then you don’t know who Cleon Skousen and Glenn Beck are. Perhaps now you can see why the Republican Party looks the way it does. This kind of tactical action is going on, has been going on, all over the country. Mr. Putnam provides local zealots everywhere, those who have a biblical ax to grind, with essential knowledge of how to go about that grinding. Become “party officials” at the local level, he says. Why? Because:

…party officials have a strong influence on who wins the Primary because of their influence in recruiting and endorsing candidates. They also influence whether the Party stays philosophically true to its platform. There is no reason why YOU cannot become a Precinct Patriot and be one who influences these decisions. 

If you ever wondered why a disturbed and disturbing man named Todd Akin became the Missouri GOP’s U.S. Senate candidate in 2012, now you know why. Even after Akin was disgraced, even after his horrific views on women and rape were revealed, even after the Republican establishment abandoned him, John Putnam came to his defense and supported him. And even with that robust defense of a man clearly out of touch with reality, perhaps because of that robust defense, John Putnam remains in charge—in charge!—of the Jasper County Republican Party.

That tells you all you need to know about what is wrong with the GOP. At the ground level, where it often matters most, the reactionaries are running the asylum.

Steve King, Ted Nugent, And Team Republican

It is assumed, by most talking journalistic mugs in the medium of cable television news and elsewhere, that Steve King, Republican congressman from Iowa, is a member of the “fringe” of the Republican Party. He’s waaaay out there, it is said.

So, when Steve King labeled most undocumented immigrants as “drug mules” with Herculean, cantaloupish calves who could haul 75 pounds of dope through the desert, it was considered a nutty act by a former dirt-mover in Iowa who, polite commentators want to assure us, is not a mainstream Republican.

Except that in June the supposedly fringe-friendly King offered an amendment in the House of Representatives that would have essentially forced the government to deport “DREAMers“—young folks brought into the country by relatives and who don’t have proper documentation—and his amendment passed the House! Oh, and it passed the House with 221 Republican votes (including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and local right-winger Ozark Billy Long)! Some fringy congressman King is. Only six—six!—Republicans voted against the extremist amendment.

Like Steve King, another conservative, Ted Nugent, is not considered a mainstream right-winger because, as the mainstream press would tell you, he says crazy stuff on the scale of a Steve King. When told of Stevie Wonder’s performance boycott of Florida, due to the state’s Stand Your Ground law, Nugent said:

You’ve got to be kidding me. So 700 black people, mostly young children and young people were slaughtered in Chicago last year by black people, and not a peep out of Stevie Wonder. Are you kidding me? What is this, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? How brain-dead do you have to be? How strangled by denial, how dishonest, how cheap do you have to be to focus on a clear-cut case where all the evidence, from the DOJ, from the FBI, from the army of investigative specialists in Florida determined that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense against a life-threatening attack by hoodlum, dope-smoking Trayvon Martin?

Leaving aside the fact that he lives in a fact-free world, what Nugent said has been said, in one form or another, by most conservative pundits on TV and elsewhere. The opinion he expressed above is mainstream conservative opinion, whether any leader of the Republican Party or whether any mainstream media journalist wants to admit it.

If that isn’t enough to convince the average journalist that Steve King and Ted Nugent are smack in the middle of contemporary GOP thought, if not eloquence, then the average journalist should consider this:

I’m looking here at Steve King. He needs to be your Congressman again. I want him as my partner in Washington!

That, of course, was the loud voice of the last Republican to run for President of the United States. Remember him? Remember Mittens Romney? He spoke those words in September of 2012. And Steve King was as nutty then as he is now, yet the guy who represented the GOP in the last national election, the guy who represented what the party stands for, not only accepted King’s endorsement, he said, again:

I want him as my partner in Washington!

Yeah, boy!

What about Romney and Ted Nugent? Oh, there was this:

nugent romney endorsementAccording to Nugent, Romney called him and asked him for his endorsement. And that call and that “long heart&soul conversation” came after Nugent, among other things, had called Democratic leader Debbie Wasserman-Schultz a “brain-dead, soulless, heartless, idiot,” and after he called former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi a “sub-human scoundrel,” and after he referred to President Obama as a “piece of shit,” and after he referred to Hillary Clinton as a “worthless bitch” and a “toxic cunt.”

Yeah, that must have been some heart&soul talk the gun-loving, pants-crapping, draft-avoiding rocker had with the Republican Party’s national presidential candidate.

After Nugent’s endorsement, Tagg Romney tweeted out this keeper:

tagg tweet on nugent

How cool is that? Very cool! Ted Nugent and Steve King, even if they don’t always express their conservatism with phony Washington politeness, are on Team Republican!

nugent mainstream republican

The Republican Party Crackup, Presented By Rachel Maddow

No one on television quite ties it all together like the charming St. Rachel:

Whatever The GOP Is Doing Ain’t Working

republican democrat party poll

tea party poll

Rednecks For Romney!

The glorious absence of sophistication.”

—Jeff Foxworthy, Romney supporter, defining “redneck”

epublicans are alienating nearly every demographic these days.

They have told black folks to get off food stamps and go to work, and they are trying like mad to keep them from voting.

They have told Hispanics to go home.

They have prodded women with vaginal probes and told them they are going to hell if they use contraceptives or seek abortions, even if raped and impregnated.

It appears the only groups that show the GOP any love these days are redneck country music has-beens and their fans. From CBS News:

Hank Williams Jr. just made it pretty clear which presidential candidate he’ll be voting for come November.

The country singer took a political swing at President Barack Obama while performing for a crowd of 8,500 at the Iowa State Fair Grandstand Friday night.

After finishing the song, “We Don’t Apologize For America,” the audience started chanting “USA, USA…” According to the Des Moines Register, Williams then told the crowd, “We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S. and we hate him!”

According to the concert review, Williams’ comments brought on cheers and applause.

We hate him!” brings cheers and applause. At least somebody still understands and appreciates the character of the Republican Party.

The Armor Of God: The Republican Party

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

—Ephesians 6:11

Once again, those ungodly, evolution-drunk scientists have got it all wrong. From Scientific American:

Earth is the planet of the plants—and it all can be traced back to one green cell. The world’s lush profusion of photosynthesizers—from towering redwoods to ubiquitous diatoms—owe their existence to a tiny alga eons ago that swallowed a cyanobacteria and turned it into an internal solar power plant.

But that can’t be. Because, as most conservatives would have us believe, evolution is not a fact and the true story of how plants came to be was written long ago:

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so…

And the evening and the morning were the third day.

One problem with the Genesis account, which resourceful defenders of creationism can explain away, is that for plants to exist at all they must, as molecular bioscientists say (but what do they know?), be able to synthesize sunlight. And the sun wasn’t in business until the next day:

And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also…

And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Now, lest you think my sarcasm is wasted on a dead issue, I present some headlines from stories posted on the National Center for Science Education website over the last two months:

Conservative Christians, using the GOP as their theological weapon, will not stop pushing their religious agenda, just as they will not stop attacking reproductive rights and gay rights. They will lose fight after fight and then get up and start swinging again, faithfully believing that incrementally and eventually they can bend the country’s will towards righteousness.

You won’t find a better description of what has happened to the Republican Party, as we watch its integrity die on the vine of fundamentalism, than this one presented by Steve Benen:

The Republican hostility for science, scientists, the scientific method, scientific inquiry, and empirical research in general has already been solidified as part and parcel of the party’s identity. The GOP mainstream rejects scientific evidence on everything from global warming to stem-cell research to evolutionary biology to sex-ed — in part because they find reality inconvenient, and in part because, as David Brooks put it, many Republicans simply “do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities.”

The reason they don’t accept their legitimacy is because they believe there is an even higher and older authority, One who conveniently blesses their politics and is conveniently beyond the scrutiny of man, especially scholars and intellectuals and scientists.

And it is their version of the Almighty—only one version among many in the world—to which they hold fast, and molecular bioscientists, who discover “tiny alga eons ago that swallowed a cyanobacteria,” be damned.

Sign Of The Times

David Brooks Goes Far, But Not Far Enough

David Brooks, noted conservative columnist (although not many current conservatives note him or claim him, such has been the deterioration in conservative taste since the Age of Limbaugh), has put into words what most old-timey Republicans surely know in their hearts:

If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.

And they will be right.

The joke, of course, is on David Brooks.  Other than himself, “responsible Republicans”—once part of a respectable class of politicians in this country—have shipped away not just American jobs but American common sense from our political shores.

The Republican Party may no longer be a normal party,” Brooks observes.  It has been “infected by a faction” we all know as the Tea Party, members of which:

“…do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms.” (And, as Brooks points out, the terms are very sweet indeed, thanks to less-than-stellar Democratic negotiating.)

“…do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities…” (Brooks was speaking of the gazillion economists who have told the GOP that their stance on the debt limit is nuts, but I prefer to think of how some teapartying folks disregard the intellectual authorities regarding evolution and climate change and other such “hoaxes.”)

“…have no economic theory worthy of the name…” (But they do have what Brooks calls a “sacred fixation” on tax policy, which is important, but not all important, and certainly not important enough to ruin our economic future.)

“…have no sense of moral decency…” (They are willing to “stain the nation’s honor,” Brooks says, by not acknowledging ” the “sacred pledge” we made when borrowing money.  That pledge, in case anyone with teabags hanging from their foam ballcaps has forgotten, has to do with paying the lenders back.) 

The problem with Brooks’ analysis here is that it doesn’t go far enough.  He says, obviously referencing the Tea Party, the faction that has infected the GOP and that is responsible for the irresponsibility of Republicans, happened “over the past few years.”  Not so.

The Tea Party movement is just the latest incarnation of the kind of distorted, perverted conservatism practiced for a generation now by wildly popular Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and promoted by Fox and the Murdoch empire. 

Talk radio and later Fox enabled those who infected the Republican Party and continues to push the idea that compromise—especially with a “socialist” in the White House—is a dirty word;  that scholars and intellectuals have a hidden “liberal” agenda and are not to be trusted; that during this era of historically low taxes, taxes are still too high; that moral decency means gays can’t get married, but fiddling with the full faith and credit of our country is okay.

Brooks claims the Republican Party is infected, when, really, the entire country—from “sea to shining sea,” as the ubiquitous Limbaugh says on his three-hours-a-day-five-days-a-week radio show—is to some degree or another ravaged by the disease.

Oddly, Brooks himself demonstrates just how far the sickness has spread, when he makes this point about Democrats:

Republican leaders have also proved to be effective negotiators. They have been tough and inflexible and forced the Democrats to come to them. The Democrats have agreed to tie budget cuts to the debt ceiling bill. They have agreed not to raise tax rates. They have agreed to a roughly 3-to-1 rate of spending cuts to revenue increases, an astonishing concession.

Astonishing, indeed. And what have Democrats received for giving up so much ground to Republicans?

Nothing.  Nothing except more Republican irresponsibility, as they push Democrats, and more important, the economy to the brink of collapse.

Turn To Page 1 In Your Hymnbook

Gene Lyons, whose column appeared in today’s Joplin Globe, as usual, gets it right:  

Increasingly, one of our two great political parties appears to be governed by what Charles P. Pierce calls the “Three Great Premises” of talk radio: “First Great Premise: Any theory is valid if it moves units … Second Great Premise: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough … Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it.”

No doubt, if we could measure the fervency of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s beliefs, we would have one whopper of a Truth.  A couple of days ago, I heard Paul say the following on Dylan Ratigan’s show:

I think the debate is going my way…When the financial bubble burst—and the housing bubble burst—all of a sudden Austrian, free-market economics gained a lot of credibility…

Yep. In the mind of Ron Paul, all we need to solve our troubles is more of the same stuff that caused our troubles: free-market economics.  And, of course, he is not the only one singing from the Gospel According to Ayn Rand hymnal.  Nearly every Republican leader, and potential presidential candidate, is singing from that hymnbook, which really only has one song: An Anthem to Greed.

Fortunately, though, in a moment of repentance, the contemporary high priest of Randian economics, Alan Greenspan, put down his free-market hymnal in October of 2008.  Contrary to Ron Paul and the Republican Party, he said the following to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: The question I have for you is, you had an ideology, you had a belief that free, competitive — and this is your statement — “I do have an ideology. My judgment is that free, competitive markets are by far the unrivaled way to organize economies. We’ve tried regulation. None meaningfully worked.” That was your quote.

You had the authority to prevent irresponsible lending practices that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. You were advised to do so by many others. And now our whole economy is paying its price.

Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?

ALAN GREENSPAN: Well, remember that what an ideology is, is a conceptual framework with the way people deal with reality. Everyone has one. You have to — to exist, you need an ideology. The question is whether it is accurate or not.

And what I’m saying to you is, yes, I found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is, but I’ve been very distressed by that fact.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: You found a flaw in the reality…

ALAN GREENSPAN: Flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?

ALAN GREENSPAN: That is — precisely. No, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.

Mitch McConnell: No New Taxes, Take It Or Leave It

It’s clear from the election last year, we will not be raising taxes,” Republican leader Senator Mitch McConnell said this morning on Morning Joe. He was responding to a question about the budget.

That unequivocal statement is why, my friends, the battle will go on.  Until the GOP leadership moves off that position, nothing of substance will happen.  I hope.  Democrats, especially President Obama, haven’t exactly shown themselves to be competent negotiators.

McConnell also said, when asked why the Republican Party doesn’t take the lead with regard to entitlement reform, that it was because “I’m not the President.”  He said he has told President Obama both publicly and privately that divided government is the time to get something done and, “We’re ready to go.”

Ready to go? Hardly. Oh, they’re ready to go on spending cuts. If Democrats let them, radical Tea Party Republicans will suck the marrow out of the budget. But responsibly raising taxes to pay for the government people say they want? Not a chance, McConnell said.  That’s some compromise offer.  If Democrats agree in any way to this bargain, they deserve permanent exile.

McConnell used the example of the Reagan-O’Neill compromises in the 1980s and, most egregiously, the Clinton and congressional Republican compromises in the 1990s that led to budget surpluses as examples of how things can get done during times of divided government.

Except, naturally, McConnell ignored one teeny, tiny, tittle of a fact.  What he doesn’t mention, and Democrats shouldn’t let him ignore, is that in 1993, Clinton and the Democrats raised taxes responsibly to pay for government. Imagine that. Asking the American people to pay for the government they have voted for over the years. How novel that sounds today.

That law, known widely as the Deficit Reduction Act of 1993, received exactly ZERO Republican votes. ZERO. And what followed that responsible legislation was years of prosperity and job growth.

The GOP confirmed its fiscal irresponsibility via the infamous cuts in 2001 and 2003 that essentially repealed the 1993 law and set us back on the road to massive deficit spending.  And if Democrats let the Tea Party have its way, the home-bound chickens from that malgovernance will roost in a much smaller and less effective government hen house.

As I said, if Democrats yield to the my-way-or-no-way Republicans, led by anti-government teapartiers, then the Democratic Party deserves the dissolution it most surely will suffer.

Out Of The Mouths Of Conservatives

I know it’s common for people like me to say that the Republican Party is a footslave of corporations. And I know it’s easy for folks on the Right to tune out that truth, but what if it came from a right-winger?  Huh?  Would that help?

Yesterday on Morning Joe, during a discussion on the Wisconsin fiasco, conservative Republican Joe Scarborough asked conservative Republican Pat Buchanan a question relative to his presidential run in 1992 and 1996:

Scarborough: Pat, you have gone against the Republican Party time and time again; talked about the vanishing middle class; talked about over the last 30-40 years the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer…and a lot of people that supported Pat Buchanan n ’92-’96 were fed up union workers in the rust belt. So, I’m a little surprised by your position on collective bargaining, that you think they need to break these public unions.  Doesn’t that go against what you’ve been fighting for over the past 15-20 years?

Now, that’s just a wonderful question.  Although a Republican, Buchanan is not a believer in free trade, which has decimated many union jobs.  In fact, he wrote a book against free trade called, The Great Betrayal: How American Sovereignty and Social Justice Are Being Sacrificed to the Gods of the Global Economy.  I have sympathy for some of his arguments in the book, although I haven’t finally adjusted my erstwhile conservative thinking on the so-called free trade issue. It’s complicated, as they say.

But what is not complicated is that Republicans have completely sold out to what passes for free trade in this world and Buchanan has called them on it for years.  And Scarborough was right to point out his inconsistency in appealing to unionists in the past and his present defense of Governor Walker’s assault on public employee unions in Wisconsin. 

Here is Pat’s answer to Scarborough’s question, which was a dodge, but pay particular attention to the ending:

Buchanan: Well, I think the trade policy of the Republican Party has virtually destroyed middle America. It’s virtually destroyed these auto workers and these other unions, Joe, because, you know, people moving their factories out to China, it’s an easy thing to stop, but the big corporations control the Republican Party.

There you have it.  From the mouth of a conservative Republican:

The Republican Party has virtually destroyed middle America.”

The big corporations control the Republican Party.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Millionaires And Billionaires Fund Republican Takeover Plan

While Michael Steele, ostensibly the head of the Republican Party in exile, toils away in the GOP’s plantation house kitchen, cleaning up from an eight-year governing gala, the real Republican boss men congregate in the parlor making plans for yet another Age of Conservatism, the last one proving to be short-lived.

From the New York Times on Sunday:

In 2004, the Republican master strategist Karl Rove led weekly sessions at his Washington residence where, over big plates of his butter-smothered “eggies” and bacon slabs, he planned the re-election of President George W. Bush — and what he hoped would be lasting Republican dominion over Democrats.

In April, Mr. Rove summoned several of the important players behind Mr. Bush’s ascendance to his home once again, this time to draw up plans to push a Republican resurgence.

To help him push that resurgence are the usual suspects:

…the old coalition of millionaires and billionaires who supported Mr. Bush and have huge financial stakes in regulatory and tax policy…

Oh, boy! Millionaires and billionaires. Just your ordinary Republicans!

This time, Rove is assembling “a collection of outside groups,” in addition to his American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which began poisoning the political well a while ago, spending tons of undisclosed donors’ dough in various races around the country. From the Los Angeles Times:

American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS have already run millions of dollars in advertising in nine Senate races in California, Illinois, New Hampshire and other states. Washington state and Florida ad blitzes are likely to be announced soon.

Crossroads expects to move heavily into more than two dozen House races, including those in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and possibly California.

Some of the $31.6 million raised by Rove and his allies for the Crossroads groups also is going into a grass-roots campaign network that promises unprecedented coordination with business and conservative groups, strategies to monitor new early voting rules and a new database that will allow precise targeting of likely conservative voters. It would then generate 20 million phone calls and 40 million pieces of mail to get them to vote.

Not very comforting was a quote from David Axelrod, President Obama’s politics guy in the White House:

They’re running a very proficient party operation funded by millions of dollars of undisclosed special-interest dollars. These guys are great political operatives, and they will have an impact in this election.

Not exactly warfare rhetoric there, David.  How about this:

They’re running a political operation that is funded by millionaires and billionaires, the same folks who benefited from Republican leadership the last time they were in power, and they are trying to buy this election, the bastards.

There, I feel better. 

A ray of hope in an otherwise dark electoral cloud was provided by Richard Viguerie, who founded Conservative Digest and is known as the “funding father of the conservative movement.”  If you don’t know anything about Viguerie, just know that he used to work for Billy James Hargis, a Christian evangelist who had a penchant for Communist conspiracies.

Back to the New York Times:

Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative strategist who has allied with Tea Party activists, said, “We’re all on the same page until the polls close Nov. 2.”

But, referring to Mr. Rove and Mr. Gillespie as part of the “ruling class,” he added, “Then a massive, almost historic battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party begins.”

At least if Democrats get kiboshed in November, those of us who write for beer money will have plenty of material, as the conservative extremists fight each other for control of the plantation.

Meanwhile, where is Michael Steele again?

Oh, yeah.  He’s in the kitchen.

Pledging Republicans Can’t Escape Responsibility

I can’t let the day continue without a comment on the Republican Party’s latest “Pledge to America,” apparently necessary because numerous previous pledges the party made to the American people fell, shall we say, somewhat short of expectations.

Most of the people who will be waving around the newest pledge today—which, of course, is missing important specifics—we must not forget, were:

RESPONSIBLE for a decade-long decline in middle class well-being;

RESPONSIBLE for presiding over a record-breaking lack of job creation during the Bush years;

RESPONSIBLE for the wealthier getting wealthier during their governing tenure, even as the rest of the country lost ground and in some cases lost hope;

RESPONSIBLE for handing President Obama a $1.3 trillion annual budget deficit and a fast-sinking economy, as the Bush administration slinked out of Washington;

RESPONSIBLE for handing President Obama two protracted wars, funded on credit;

RESPONSIBLE for a deficit-funded Medicare Part D program that helped enrich pharmaceutical companies;

RESPONSIBLE for doing nothing about the rising costs of health insurance and the nasty practices of private insurers related to pre-existing conditions, rescission, and other unconscionable acts;

RESPONSIBLE for standing in the way of Democrats as they have tried to repair the damage done to the economy under Republican leadership;

RESPONSIBLE for giving aid and comfort to this year’s crop of radical Republicans, some of whom have made pledges of their own to get rid of Social Security and Medicare and the Department of Education, among other things;

I urge everyone to read at least the preamble to the Pledge to America, full of half-truths, quarter-truths, and lies, while keeping in mind the above list of gifts Republicans have recently given to the American people.

The Unemployed Held Hostage: Day 43

We are now 43 days into the Republican kidnapping of the unemployed.

Holding some 2 million folks hostage (another million will be abducted by July 31) by blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, most Republicans in the Senate have refused to accept even a scaled down, relatively paltry $34 billion package, which is not enough to adequately stimulate the economy, but will ease the pain for people trying to hold on to their houses and cars and mental health.

Oddly, Republicans feel no shame about their actions.  The shame should result from the fact that their economic and regulatory policies are largely responsible for the loss of some 7 million jobs.  Just prior to and after Obama took office, the economy was losing somewhere between 600,000 and 700,000 jobs every month.

So far this year, the economy has produced about 600,000 new jobs, which isn’t much, but it’s better than a year ago.

The fact is that the economy is not where it should be, or where it will be if we don’t give in to born-again deficit hawks, who after spending like drunken bloggers for so long, have suddenly been baptized in the waters of fiscal responsibility.

Only, it’s not fiscally responsible to hold back right now.  The sequence should be to get the economy up and running, then tackle the debt issue.

Reuters reported today:

Most economists argue that cutting benefits could slow recovery, describing benefits as direct economic stimulus because almost every penny of it gets spent. In a June 28 client note, Goldman Sachs said if all additional U.S. stimulus spending expires, it could slow the economy up to 1.5 percentage points from the fourth quarter 2010 to the second quarter of 2011.

Not so coincidentally, that potential economic slowdown covers the run-up to the November elections, when Republicans hope to get the keys to the Capitol restrooms back.

Funny thing: When Republicans should have been paying attention to the ballooning deficit, they gave the wealthy a couple of tax cuts, started a couple of Visa-funded wars, and made it rain money all over the drug companies via the Medicare Part D program, funded by, I think, MasterCard that time.  

But as if conservative malfeasance couldn’t get any worse, Republicans, while arguing that benefits for the unemployed “should be paid for,” are actually claiming Congress should not let the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year and that there is no need to offset with spending cuts an extension of that expensive benefit for the wealthy.

So, here you have it:

Republicans say an extension of unemployment benefits must be paid for.

Republicans say an extension of tax cuts for the wealthy should not.

If Democrats can’t make a tasty and fiery political chili out of those ingredients, then they should turn in their crock pots.

Homogeneous

178 minds?  178 souls?

There are 178 Republicans in the People’s House, the U. S. House of Representatives.  Just out of pure chance, you would think there would be one—just one—member of the Republican caucus who would have some desire to side with the 32 million Americans who will eventually have insurance coverage under the bill passed last night. 

Or side with we the people against insurance monoliths who deny coverage to the sick and discard those who have paid premiums for years when they dare get sick.

You would think that among 178 conservative men and women at least one of them would have a conscience that leaned toward a reform bill so conservative that liberals had to hold their nose while voting for it.

But no.  Not one.

On the Democratic side, more than 13% of the caucus voted against the bill.  Being a diverse party, naturally there was no way that every single Democrat was going to support the bill. There are many reasons one becomes a Democrat, from a deep concern for the natural environment to a Kennedy-like focus on the social environment, and all points in between.

But the Republican Party these days is a little different. It’s fairly easy to corral 178 people when your collective raison d’être is primarily about protecting the interests of the affluent. 

While using the language of individual liberty, Republicans support social structures that confine—not liberate—large swaths of Americans.

Using “family values” issues, Republicans—often failing to practice those same values—persuade decent, dedicated working folks to vote against their own economic interests. 

Using anti-government hate speech, Republicans convince agitated and fearful citizens to put Republicans in power in the government.

What Republicans have managed to pull off in the House seems like an amazing thing.  But when you think about it, and when you consider that they will do the same thing in the U.S. Senate, what it really says about the Republican Party is that nothing—absolutely nothing—trumps its historical love affair with business and the moneyed class.

So, there really isn’t 178 Republican minds or 178 Republican souls in the People’s House.

There is only one mind and no soul.

Republicans Don’t Mind Sleeping With Willing Teabaggers, But They’re Married To Money

As if there were any doubt, and despite spooning with gullible teabaggers, the Republican Party’s first love is the moneyed class.

As Democrats attempt to hammer out some kind of effective financial regulatory reform legislation, John Boehner, House Minority (read: MINORITY) Leader, has assured nervous bankers that reform is a long way away. 

From Think Progress:

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) told “an enthusiastic crowd of bankers” today that, even if the Senate passes a bill, reconciling it with the House version will take another year. “If the Senate is able to produce a bill, I think it’s just as likely that we’ll be talking about the same issue a year from now as we are right now,” Boehner said at the American Bankers Association government relations summit.

Boehner then added that the bankers should be standing up for themselves against “those little punk staffers” trying to write new regulations:

“Don’t let those little punk staffers take advantage of you and stand up for yourselves,” Boehner said.

The website also reported:

In February, Boehner met “over drinks” with JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, where he “made a pitch” for Wall Street support by explaining that “Republicans had stood up to Mr. Obama’s efforts to curb pay and impose new regulations.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, “said he visited New York about twice a month to try to tap into Wall Street’s ‘buyers remorse’” with Democrats. These pitches had some effect too; last year, “major Wall Street players began sending an increasing share of their donations to Republicans.”

If it’s true that “major Wall Street players” are throwing in with Republicans, that’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.  The Democratic Party should unmistakably be the party of “major Main Street players.”

Palm Reading

Now that we all know how Sarah Palin made it through college, it’s time to cut her some slack.

I mean, so what if she needed a hand-y cheat sheet to remind herself that her and her Republican Party’s raison d’être was to “lift American Spirits.” One can’t be expected to carry such stuff around in one’s head, right? It gets in the way of other important stuff.

And, if someone had told me that Ms. Palin needed a Sharpie-produced reminder of why she was at the National Tea Party, or why she was traveling about the country making appearances and basking in the adulation of angry, if hypocritical, teabaggers, I would have guessed it would have looked like this:

 

UPDATE: Just one month later, my suspicions were confirmed.  Sarah actually did write a monetary reminder on the palm of her hand. In a speech at an Ohio Right to Life fundraiser: 

What I scribbled on the palm of my hand tonight too — it was the dollar sign, and I’m — we’re going to talk about the practical needs too for this cause, and this will remind me to — because I didn’t write it in my speech, I have to ad lib that part, so to remind me.

A dollar sign on the palm of her hand?  Now, that‘s my girl.  Here is the short video:

 Now that we all know

 

Newt Gingrich, Ever The Optimist

The Republican Party is now at a point of no return.

Either it accepts what the tea-party conservatives did to Dede Scozzafava in upstate New York and thus become the National Conservative Party, or it, through its “leadership,” condemns those Republicans, like Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty and Fred Thompson, who openly and defiantly campaigned against the GOP candidate, and ultimately forced her to quit.

However, it sure doesn’t look like the party is poised to even put up a fight against the tawdry teapartiers, who demand absolute fealty to their particularly doctrinaire version of conservatism.  Such fealty does not allow for even the slightest deviation from the “principles” of the extremists, let alone the relatively wide divergence represented by Ms. Scozzafava.

Here is what the New York Times reported today regarding the Republican moderate’s departure from the NY 23 race:

The Republican National Committee, which had strongly backed Ms. Scozzafava’s candidacy, issued a statement applauding her decision and announcing it was now supporting Mr. Hoffman.

“Effective immediately, the R.N.C. will endorse and support the Conservative candidate in the race, Doug Hoffman,” the party’s national chairman, Michael Steele, said. “Doug’s campaign will receive the financial backing of the R.N.C. and get-out-the-vote efforts to defeat Bill Owens on Tuesday.”

So, it doesn’t appear Michael Steele has any fight in him to maintain some semblance of control over the party he ostensibly heads, and it is quite likely the newly emboldened conservative revolutionaries will run with their success to other parts of the country, demanding obeisance to their philosophy, and commanding Republican attention by their strident, town-hall trained voices.

Oddly, the good news in all of this was expressed by Newt Gingrich, who had supported Scozzafava:

“This makes life more complicated from the standpoint of this: If we get into a cycle where every time one side loses, they run a third-party candidate, we’ll make Pelosi speaker for life and guarantee Obama’s re-election,” said Mr. Gingrich, who had endorsed Ms. Scozzafava.

“I felt very deeply that when you have all 11 county chairman voting for someone, that it wasn’t appropriate for me to come in and render my judgment,” he said. “I think we are going to get into a very difficult environment around the country if suddenly conservative leaders decide they are going to anoint people without regard to local primaries and local choices.”

Gingrich always has a way of finding the silver lining in any ominous dark cloud, doesn’t he?

KZRG Is Out To Get Me

 
Awakened Monday morning by the clock radio, the alarm mistakenly set for 2:45am, I was entertained by a program on Mark Kinsley’s beloved KZRG called, “Coast To Coast AM with George Noory,” apparently broadcast each night from Midnight to 5:00am.

Part of the program involved a host, who was quite serious, taking calls from people with various accounts of strange powers or strange experiences. Like Julie in Oshkosh, who reported that the ringing in her ears correlated with various earthquakes around the world. Or Jacqueline, who described her abduction, in which she was taken into the sky, and her belief that the government was tracking her via microchips placed strategically in credit cards she receives in the mail. The host, helpfully, reminded her that they could just as easily be planted in her body, and he also advised her to get a body scan. “Maybe, I will get one next week,” she said.

And there was Linda in Chicago, who speculated that the latest swine flu virus may have been engineered by the government, as a weapon. The host, in a rare moment of rationality, assured her that, as of yet, there wasn’t enough evidence to believe the government was involved.

Another part of the program featured a couple, Cathy O’Brien and Mark Phillips, whose story is, well, miraculous. It seems Ms. O’Brien, an alleged victim of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA research program, was “covertly rescued from her mind control enslavement by Intelligence insider Mark Phillips.” While it would take too long to go into the intricate details, here is a summary of the things the couple have alleged happened to Ms. O’Brien, some mentioned on the show on Monday:

O’Brien alleges that she was abducted by the CIA as a child and forced to participate in a mind control program named Project Monarch, which is said to be a subsection of MKULTRA and Project ARTICHOKE.

O’Brien claims that, as part of Monarch, she was forced to serve as “a top-level intelligence agent and White House sex slave” for (among others) Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter with West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd working as her handler for the latter part of her time in the program. She states that she remained in the program until 1988 when she was rescued by Mark Phillips, who she claims is a former CIA operative.

O’Brien alleges that her daughter Kelly (born 1980), currently a ward of the state of Tennessee, is also a victim of Monarch.

Of O’Brien, religion scholar Matthias Gardell writes:

O’Brien claims to have been abused since she was a toddler. Forced to partake in satanic sadomasochistic child pornography movies produced for Gerald Ford, she was eventually sold to the CIA, which was looking for traumatized children for their mind-control program … U.S. Presidents Ford, [and many other world leaders] all sexually brutalized her. She recounts in graphic detail how the elder George Bush raped her thirteen year old daughter and how she was forced to have oral sex with Illuminati witch Hillary Clinton … While being sodomized, whipped, bound and raped, O’Brien overheard the globalist elite planning a military coup in the United States and conspiring to usher in the satanic New World Order.

On websites, O’Brien claims she was rescued in 1988, which suggests that her daughter Kelly was no more than eight years old when last abused. Phillips stated in a Granada Forum lecture in 1996 that Kelly was in fact institutionalized when she was eight and has been raised in a mental institution.

Now, while I thought it strange and perplexing that any radio station that calls itself “News Talk, Radio You Can Depend On” would resort to such tacky overnight programming, I soon figured it all out.

On the “Links of Interest” page on the KZRG website, there are, understandably, links to local Republican representatives, who, after all, dominate our politics. But there is a link to the Missouri Republican Party and no such link to the Missouri Democratic Party. Further, the last time I checked, we had a Democratic Governor, whose website might perhaps qualify as a “link of interest.” But Gov. Nixon enjoys no such connection to the Joplin conspiracy-believing public.

So, I surmised that only Republicans—currently bewildered by their lack of political power—would be interested in conspiracies in order to understand and explain their electoral crisis. And to offer such paranoid Republicans some spiritual support, KZRG offers on Sundays from 8am to 11am a talk show hosted by perhaps the most famous Republican of all, Jesus Christ.

And then I realized the KZRG’s attempt to cater to the conspiracist crowd wasn’t just limited to overnight programming. I remembered that the story of the CIA-controlled, White House sex-slave, Cathy O’Brien, was told and presented as truth on the same station that carries Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

Voila! Of course! It wasn’t so strange that KZRG would carry wee-hour programs such as Coast to Coast, with its appeal to paranoics, because much of the daytime programming at KZRG is also about fear and paranoia, about Obama plots and Democratic schemes, about, well, government conspiracies.

Some of these daytime hosts entertain callers who also phone in with wild tales, most as nutty as Jacqueline’s account of being whisked skyward by her secret abductor. On the same day that Cathy O’Brien and Mark Phillips were guests on Coast to Coast, Rush Limbaugh took a call from Christine in Westchester :

CALLER: Thank goodness for you and the Heritage Foundation, otherwise I don’t know what we would do. The reason I’m calling you today is I’m commenting on your comment regarding Saul Alinsky and Barack Obama’s being a great student of his, and I think as a more contemporary person I would focus on George Soros. I mean, it just seems to me that the little bit that I know about him, it’s not just about the money, it’s just… If you look at everything that Obama is doing, it’s George Soros.RUSH: Well, we can argue about, you know, who is the man behind the curtain, but why do you think there is one?CALLER: (laughs)RUSH: Really, no, I’m serious.

CALLER: Okay.

RUSH: This is not a trick question. Why do you think there’s somebody, whoever it is, behind Obama?

CALLER: Because I don’t think he’s good enough to have done all of this all on his own.

RUSH: You mean at age 47 and as a community organizer, you’re not really prepped to be president?

CALLER: You betcha. Yes, I do.

RUSH: And after a hundred days working in the Senate, you’re not qualified enough to be president?

CALLER: No absolutely not.

RUSH: So you think that somebody picked Obama because they knew that the combination of things Obama is — his race, his eloquence, his ability to read the teleprompter — would sort of make him immune from any criticism, that nobody will have the guts to be critical of Obama?

CALLER: I think so. I think he’s been primed for a lot longer than most of us ever even imagine. Now, I may sound a little crazy, and maybe I’m a little bit of a conspiracy kook.

RUSH: Okay, so why do you… Well, this is what happened. She’s reacting, by the way, folks, to a comment I made a little over an hour ago. I had a bunch of houseguests in for the week, 15 people here from Wednesday night through Saturday night (they all left on Sunday) and at dinner every night, all these topics were discussed. One of the things that was discussed is it turned out everybody had a theory explaining Obama, much like yours, Christine. They just don’t think this guy could have risen himself from his own background, had to have a sponsor, had to have somebody orchestrating, directing it, so forth and so on. So everybody started talking about names, who might it be, and of course Soros is a popular one because his hatred of America is well known. His hatred of Republicans is well known. His pocketbook size is also well known.

One of the guests suggesting that it was even somebody like the king of Saudi Arabia after Obama’s bow, because Obama is eager to paralyze our ability to defend ourselves, which is what our enemies want. One person, just to show you how much fun we have when we get together — Christine, you’ll probably love this — one guy in the group said, “Everybody’s waiting on a second terror attack. There’s not going to be a second terror attack. There isn’t going to be one! The terrorists, they’re entertainers. They know performance requirements. They know theatrics. They know if they do a second terror attack. They’re going to have to make it much bigger than 9/11. Your second act has to be bigger than the first act.” He said, “Besides, they don’t need a second act. Obama is the second terrorist act!” I mean, I had opinions in my house going all over the ballpark. It was fascinating. And these are all, in their own right, involved, intelligent people.

But somebody actually thought Obama is terrorist attack number two. Obama is the follow-up to 9/11. So I find it interesting that among those who oppose Obama a lot of people think he couldn’t be doing this on his own. There’s gotta be somebody behind him, somebody writing the speeches. We know that’s Axelrod. Somebody putting words in the teleprompter. We know that that’s Axelrod. Somebody who may have chosen him, prepped him, groomed him, what have you, some man behind the curtain. So she thinks it’s Soros. In the discussion in the last hour, I mentioned, “It’s Alinsky! It’s Saul Alinsky. It’s Rules for Radicals. It’s the book.”

After hearing Limbaugh discuss his and his guests’ conspiratorial delusions, I concluded that the people on Coast to Coast, those who believe that they are routinely abducted by aliens or the CIA, didn’t seem so crazy after all. And at least those people are sequestered on nighttime radio, on programs with anemic ratings and inconsequential hosts, where their peculiar and paranoia-soaked theories do not enjoy much legitimacy.

But rightwing talk radio in the daytime is much different. In some markets it is quite popular, but that’s not the main reason it is so hazardous to our collective health. The fact that Republican politicians—among them future party leaders—refuse to criticize such programs and their hosts is the real danger in the proliferation of paranoia facilitated by stations like KZRG. There is apparently nothing that Rush Limbaugh can say or do that would cause a single Republican politician of consequence to criticize him, without later repenting in a fit of sycophantic prostration.

Sadly, Limbaugh is free from censure from the very people who might be able to rescue the Republican Party from its troubles. And as long as potential Republican leaders stand in his shadow, they will serve a party that is itself only a bit player in our national politics. And as long as they remain silent about comments like the following, made on Monday, they will give legitimacy to them:

LIMBAUGH: The reason that the swine flu and the torture garbage is out there is to cover up the mess that is the United States of America right now.

Is it any wonder that Linda in Chicago can believe that the government might be in the business of creating flu viruses?
________________________________________________________
  
COMMENTS: 

From: Anson Burlingame
Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 12:57 PM
 
Duane,

Paul Belaga called Tea Party attendees “whinning, something, weasels”. Not hard to find dopes on both sides.

A young, charismatic, smart, but extraordinarily inexperienced senator (forget the race) gives a great speech 5 years ago at the Democrat Convention and now is the President.

A young, charismatic, smart (maybe) but extraordinarily inexperienced governor (forget the gender) receives the Vice Presidential nomination.

No doubt Obama received strong support from the left wing, anti-war segment of the Democrats. No doubt Sara Palin received strong support from the right wing, religious segment of the Republicans.

Nothing wrong with either getting such support. But it sure would be interesting to know the details of the powers behind the throne in each case and how much control they continue to exert today.

Anson

______________________________________________________
 

From: Duane

Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 01:59 PM
 
Anson,

I can only respond to you by pointing out the following:

1. Paul Begala doesn’t have a cult following.

2. Paul Begala doesn’t believe he is a leading voice for any kind of “movement.”

3. The fact that you imply that Limbaugh is a “dope” is exactly what the Republican leadership does not do, and is exactly what is wrong with the party.

4. Barack Obama’s support for an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and his refusal to immediately withdraw our troops from Iraq (which is what the “left wing” demanded) contradicts your implication that the left wing exerts any “control” whatsoever on him.

Duane

_____________________________________________________
 
From: jonas

Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 02:07 PM
 

Anson,

Just by reading the Belaga quote that begins your response, it appears you’re missing the point.

This is made especially obvious by the ridiculous parallel you attempt to draw between Obama and Palin.

It’s disappointing that you, of all people, would try and perpetuate the very fear and paranoia that Graham is criticizing in his blog with such a conspiracy-inciting comment as, “But it sure would be interesting to know the details of the power behind the throne in each case and how much control they continue to exert today.”

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