“As Christianity Fades, The Birth Rate Falls And Third World Immigration Surges”

The White establishment is now the minorityThe demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore.”

—Bill O’Reilly, November 6, 2012

y now we’ve all noticed that some of the adults in the Republican Party are talking about the party doing some soul-searching, making it more appealing to women, Latinos, young people, and, yes, even African-Americans.

These Republican grownups, folks like political gurus Steve Schmidt and Mike Murphy, realize the electorate is changing before their eyes and know that Republicans have to change too.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Not only are the extremists in control of the Republican Party not going to change—can anyone imagine Rush Limbaugh embracing immigration reform, for God’s sake?—it makes no sense for them to change, given what it is that really animates most of them.

There are two major forces that serve to energize the base of the Republican Party today. One is fundamentalist or quasi-fundamentalist religion, which is waging war against Constitution-blessed secularism. The other is an increasingly acute cultural anxiety over the browning of America.

Those two forces meet and merge in the mind of Pat Buchanan, who wrote three years ago:

In what sense are we one nation and one people anymore? For what is a nation if not a people of a common ancestry, faith, culture and language, who worship the same God, revere the same heroes, cherish the same history, celebrate the same holidays, and share the same music, poetry, art and literature?

…The European-Christian core of the country that once defined us is shrinking, as Christianity fades, the birth rate falls and Third World immigration surges.

You see, to people like Pat Buchanan—I give him credit for honesty—a diverse nation is not a nation at all. True Americans must all have European blood and belief. All others represent an existential threat to the country.

About one-half of all American children under five have Buchanan skin, a fact that makes Buchanan’s thin cultural skin crawl. And there is evidence that Americans are slowly embracing the secular nation that our Constitution establishes.

Thus it is that those in the Republican Party who care deeply and disturbingly about the threat to the “European-Christian core of the country” —those misguided but earnest folks who nominated Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, for instance—are not going to tolerate any talk of moderating the party’s positions on the social issues.

The Republican Party platform in 2016 will look much like it did this year, a document that reeks of uncompromising extremism, such as the party’s stance on reproductive rights and the status of homosexuals. The party primary process will continue to produce extremist true-believers who honor that extremist document.

Because people who are moved by faith and fear, folks who are on a mission from God or who are defending their waning cultural dominance, will not be deterred by an unfavorable election outcome. They will not be coaxed or coerced into compromise by people in their party who don’t share their enthusiasm for lost-cause crusades.

So it is that we will continue to see Tea Party-types dominate the Republican Party until such time that there is nothing much left to dominate, at least on the national scene. Republicans will always have a voice at the local and state level, even a voice in the Congress, but with uncompromising crusading conservatives in charge of its national prospects, it will one day become irrelevant as a governing national party.

When that happens, when the browning of America forces Republicans into waging only regional and state and local battles, then perhaps the adults can take the party back.

And America would be all the better for it.


Heretic Hunters And The Hunted

Steve Schmidt, who was the senior campaign strategist for John McCain in 2008, made an insightful comment this morning on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown about the unexpected retirement of a frustrated Olympia Snowe:

The Republican Party I think is inarguably stronger with its moderates in the party. Is the Republican Party a stronger party with Olympia Snowe a member of the United States Senate? I think the answer is yes.

We’ve heard so much talk over the last couple of years, purging the party of its RINOs, purging the party of its moderate members.  And there are just two types of churches. One that tries to go out and bring in converts and one that goes out and hunts heretics. And we have been a party that’s done a lot of heretic hunting over the last couple of years.

Ronald Reagan talked about the fact that someone who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my political opponent, you know, they’re my ally. And it was a stronger party with Olympia Snowe in it, and what the likely result’s gonna be now is that it is gonna be harder for Republicans to get the majority in the U.S. Senate and almost impossible for Republicans to serve the state of Maine in the United States Senate.

All I can say to that is,

Thank you, Olympia Snowe!

I am not one of those who celebrated Senator Snowe’s so-called moderation, since she was a part of nearly all Republican obstructionism in the Senate over the last three years.

I remember her saying she urged President Obama to “take the public option off the table” in his address to Congress in September of 2009, implying that she could support the bill without it. She said back then,

I don’t support a public option and none of my Republican colleagues do.

Well, there was no public option and Senator Snowe still did not vote for the health care reform bill, a piece of legislation largely crafted (and weakened) to get votes from Republicans like her.  You may remember that she famously supported the bill in the Senate Finance Committee, using the now-ironic words,

Is this bill all that I would want? Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls. And I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time.

Apparently, when history came calling for a vote on final passage of the Affordable Care Act, Snowe was in her garage painting a Tea Party placard. She knew then that uber-conservatives would excoriate her for a “yes” vote and raise up a candidate to challenge her in this year’s primary.

How sad that Ms. Snowe, who gets a lot of credit—only some of it deserved—for being a reasonable, moderate Republican, chose to say no to history, when history came not just calling, but begging for her support.

And given her behavior related to one of the most significant pieces of legislation in recent memory, and given her support for Republican filibusters during Obama’s first term, how strange for her to say about her pending retirement:

Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term…I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern…we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America.

To repeat what Steve Schmidt said,

…there are just two types of churches. One that tries to go out and bring in converts and one that goes out and hunts heretics. And we have been a party that’s done a lot of heretic hunting over the last couple of years.

And there are those, like Olympia Snowe, who herself never hunted heretics in her party, but who sat in the pews keeping the seats warm for those who did.


Here is Olympia Snowe’s “take the public option off the table” moment:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Sarah Palin And The End of Civility

Now that the fractional governor, Sarah Palin, has been exposed for all—even the gullible—to see (something I repeatedly maintained would happen), I think it is time to examine two uncomfortable details from the 2008 campaign that I shall never get over and that perhaps changed the nature of our politics for generations.

Number one: On October 4, 2008, Ms. Palin, a candidate for Vice President of the United States, said this about Barack Obama:

This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. If we can be that beacon of light and hope for others who seek freedom and democracy and can live in a country that would allow intolerance in the equal rights that again our military men and women fight for and die for all of us. Our opponent though, is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.

The Associated Press reported at the time:

The Republican campaign, falling behind Obama in polls, plans to make attacks on Obama’s character a centerpiece of presidential candidate John McCain’s message with a month remaining before Election Day.

But the attacks on Barack Obama were more than just desperate, last-minute campaign tactics. They turned out to be a glimpse into the post-election future, as the Republican Party and its extremist allies conspired to demean, delegitimate, and destroy the presidency of Barack Hussein Obama.

And, oddly, I don’t completely or even largely blame Sarah Palin for the initial unprecedented attack—and suggesting that Barack Obama sympathized with terrorists “who would target their own country” is unprecedented as far as I’m concerned— on a political opponent who was aspiring to be President of the United States.

I blame people like Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace, not to mention John McCain, who ultimately picked her.

Which leads me to the number two detail about the 2008 presidential campaign:

Steve Schmidt was the top campaign strategist for John McCain and Nicolle Wallace was a senior advisor. Today, you can see them both frequently on cable television.   Three years ago they were essentially Palin’s “handlers” after she was chosen for VP, and both of them came to find out that she was, essentially, unfit for the office she was seeking.

Ms. Wallace just confessed to Time magazine (in a stunningly strange interview that lacked proper follow-up questions) the following about the inspiration for a VP character in her latest book of fiction:

The idea of a mentally ill vice president who suffers in complete isolation was obviously sparked by the behaviors I witnessed by Sarah Palin. What if somebody who was ill-equipped for the office were to ascend to the presidency or vice presidency? What would they do? How long would it take for people to figure it out? I became consumed by this question.

Wallace went on to suggest that like the character in her book, Palin was in a “troubled state of confusion, despair and helplessness,” and,

Palin vacillated between extraordinary highs on the campaign stage — she ignited more enthusiasm than our side had seen at any other point — to debilitating lows. She was often withdrawn, uncommunicative and incapable of performing even the most basic tasks required of her job as McCain’s running mate…

There certainly were discussions — not for long because of the arc the campaign took — but certainly there were discussions about whether, if they were to win, it would be appropriate for her to be sworn in.

Now, Steve Schmidt, who don’t forget was running John McCain’s campaign, was asked about Nicolle Wallace’s remarks and this is what he told Lawrence O’Donnell Thursday night:

…during the campaign after the economy collapsed we were essentially out of it. We were never closer than six or seven points again. But if the question is, did all of us, you know,  a bunch of us, who had been around the West Wing of the White House, did we see behavior that we found deeply troubling? And the answer to that question is,  yes, we did. Uh, did we talk about it? Uh, yes, we did. You know, was there, you know, legal considerations? No, there were not. But did we talk about a pattern of behavior that we found troubling during the campaign? Of course we did.

Now, forget, if you can, how  cold-dead frightening are the admissions by Wallace and Schmidt.  Let’s go back to Palin’s appalling and unprecedented remarks about Barack Obama.  They were made on October 4.  And remember that Schmidt referenced the economic collapse of 2008, asserting that after the collapse, “we were essentially out of it.” When did that collapse happen?  September 15, 2008.

So, we have Sarah Palin making her  famous “palling around with terrorists” remark after Schmidt recognized that the campaign was doomed, and after he and Nicolle Wallace recognized that Palin’s behavior was, in the words of Schmidt, “deeply troubling,” and in the words of Wallace merited discussions about whether “it would be appropriate for her to be sworn in.” 

Those aren’t my words.  Those aren’t the words of any Obama supporter. Those are the words of those closest to John McCain and his campaign in 2008.

Let the cynicism sink in.  Let it penetrate your brain like WD-40. 

These disgusting people were using Sarah Palin to trash Obama in unthinkable and country-dividing ways, even when they knew the race was lost, when they knew that their vice presidential candidate was profoundly and dangerously flawed.  For his part, to this day John McCain defends his decision to unleash the quit-in-a-fit governor on the rest of the country.

Just a few days after the 2008 election, when the anti-Palin stories were trickling out from “anonymous” campaign staffers,  I wrote a column for the Joplin Globe, partly defending Sarah Palin on the basis of her obvious ordinariness:

Ms. Palin’s naiveté included the fact that she did not understand how her Republican handlers used her; how they cynically chose her to appeal to women; how they disgracefully structured her stump speeches to question Barack Obama’s patriotism; and how they finally discarded her when she failed to convince a majority of the electorate to take her seriously as a candidate.

While she deserves part of the blame for such crass cynicism, the real culprits were the Republican Svengalis who, confident in their own ability to hoodwink the electorate one more time, plucked her from her Alaskan nest, knowing she could not fly.

I have little doubt that she honestly believed in what she was doing. That’s what makes it so sad and pathetic to watch her fellow Republicans cut her up and now suggest to the world that the whole Palin phenomenon was founded on a lie.

Using her anti-elitist persona as a hook to attract similarly lowbrow voters, the campaign insisted she was nevertheless qualified to be commander in chief. Turns out that presenting her as merely “common folk” wasn’t just a phony campaign tactic. Ms. Palin was as common as advertised, but she was uncommonly unfit to lead the free world.

That was November, 2008, and Ms. Palin, of course, has since learned a thing or two about how to manipulate those anti-elitist types for her own financial gain. But much of the fault for what Sarah Palin did—and continues to do—to our politics, lies with people like Nicolle Wallace and Steve Schmidt and John McCain, who were willing to use the  ‘ill-equipped” “pit bull” Palin to  jump-start the prejudices and fears of part of the American electorate in order to win an election and achieve power.

And as the 2012 general election season approaches, those prejudices and fears will be stoked once again, and the campaign to come—largely because of what happened in 2008—will feature a cyclone of cynicism which will likely blow away what’s left of our political civility.

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