Billions for Defense, But Not One Cent for Education!


First, check this video. It’s a teaser for an episode of 60 Minutes.

So the takeaways that I get from this are that A: the Republicans are happy to spend a lot of money, money they like to say we don’t have, for defense and fighting the evil of ISIS and stopping those bad guys who wanna kill us, etc, etc. B: they want to help out working-class families, totes for realz, yo! C: They don’t want to support anything (like free community college or a higher minimum wage or increasing taxes on billionaires), that might accomplish this.

These guys, and those who vote for them, really do live in a fantasy world. In McConnell’s case, I believe it is this one. In Boehner’s case, this one.

Still Not Getting It


The Republicans still don’t quite seem to get exactly why it is that Romney lost the election. There’s a bunch of reasons, really, but I think they all boil down to the GOP being unwilling to face reality while not realizing that, at least to an extent, the electorate is indeed willing to face it. One would think that after getting trampled last Tuesday, they’d stop and pause and reflect and do something new and different. This appears, at least so far, to not be the case.

For example, I saw Newt Gingrich on The Colbert Report the other night. He was his usual blowhard self and made some comments about how America is the only country that allows immigrants in and turns them into Americans. This is, technically, true, at least by that exact wording. But the implication is that America is the only country that allows in immigrants and turns them into citizens.

Never mind that the GOP has been pretty anti-immigration for the last few years, even of the legal variety. Certainly never mind that other countries that are very similar to us, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, not to mention most of the rest of the civilized world, also accept in immigrants and turn them into citizens.

This is part of the nonsense version of American exceptionalism that the GOP likes to peddle these days. It says that America is unique in history, blessed by God, and a nation wholly different from anything before or since. The occasionally not-subtle message here is that America is not only all these things, but it’s also better than any other nation.

It smacks of arrogance and ignorance, and is little more than ugly nationalism. It’s meat and potatoes to the Republican base, but the Democrats and independent voters generally know different. We know that our country is indeed great, and in some ways one of the best nations out there. But we also know that it has flaws and that its strengths are not unique. The GOP’s “rah, rah, go USA!” chant is very distancing to those of us who have a grasp of how the rest of the world functions.

The other lesson that the Republicans failed to learn from the election is that Obama is, by any real measure, a center-right president with a moderate agenda. They spent the entire election fighting against a fictional liberal monster who was out to destroy capitalism, bring us into another recession, sell out to Hugo Chavez and turn us into another version of Greece.

This is best represented to me by a text conversation I had with a Republican friend just last night. I made some comment mocking the current interest in some states leaving the Union and got back a reply saying, “Yeah, because the Democrats don’t have their lunatic fringe.” I pointed out, as I have before, that we do, but we ignore it. This lead to him saying that Obama was, in fact, a part of our lunatic fringe. I cited that as an example of the fictional president and got back. “Yeah, the real one who wanted to close Guantanamo, try war criminals in New York civil court, hearth care ‘my way or the highway’.” All I could do is sigh in response, because what else can one do?

This ignores the fact that, at least at the time Obama was elected, most people seemed fine with closing Gitmo (or at least the prison there), and that it was politicians on both sides who blocked it. It ignores the fact that no one suggested trying “war criminals” in civil court. I’m pretty sure he meant to say criminal court, and, yes, Obama was in favor of taking people who were accused of crimes and giving them trials. What an insanely liberal concept! Then of course there’s health care reform, where he tried to reach out to Republicans, was rebuffed at every move and finally ended up adopting a plan that was an almost exact duplicate of one put forth by a Republican former governor, and one that, by its very nature, is heavily capitalist.

What lessons have the GOP learned? Not many, as near as I can tell. But it’s early yet. With luck they’ll lose the House in 2014 and have decent, sane candidates running in 2016. As I’ve said many times before, I want the Democrats to win, yes, but I do also want a sane, loyal opposition to keep them from running off the rails. But until the Republican party has come back down to Earth, I want them kept far, far away from power.

Parsing the Election I: The Republican Party’s Next Move


Four more years!

The election is over. The only state left to call is Florida. Last I saw, it was trending toward Obama and hopefully will end up there. An imperfect man will continue to lead our very imperfect nation, and hopefully all will go well enough that in 2016, we can elect another Democrat.

I have a lot of thoughts on what happened last night. Here they are in no particular order.

This was less about everyone thinking Obama was great than it was about everyone thinking Romney was, basically, a lying asshole. This was an election that the GOP should have won, due to how basically stupid the electorate are. A number of people bought into the largely inaccurate perception that Obama was a weak, do-nothing president who hadn’t accomplished anything of note in the last four years. Had the Republicans had a better candidate, they might have pulled it off.

But that’s the problem with the GOP. There was no better candidate that their fundamentally (and I use that word with great deliberateness), insane base would have accepted. Had they had someone like Jon Huntsman as their nominee, they might have had more traction. As it was, when the GOP candidates were people like Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, well, Romney is simply the most palatable of a really bad bunch.

The GOP needs to bear this in mind. They need to make sure they select a real moderate next time around, not someone whose opinions seem to vary by the hour. They also need to do a much better job of reaching out to minorities, especially Hispanics (more on how to do this in my Puerto Rico article that’s coming up next), and certainly need to do a better job of getting the youth vote. One CNN commentator I heard last night mentioned that once a young person had voted for the same party in three major election cycles in a row, it’s very likely that they will continue to vote for that party for the rest of their lives. By embracing the crazy and emphasizing the religious aspects of their party, the GOP has alienated the youth vote and basically lost an entire generation.

And I think that’s ultimately where the problem with the GOP lies. They continue to embrace the religious right, and, indeed, basically define the religious right. They aren’t the moderate religious sorts, like Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush I or even Reagan. No, they’re the party that embraces a view of reality that has nothing to do with facts. They reject evolution and global warming. They nominate people like Todd Akin, who famously made a series of dumb and wrong remarks about rape. They continue to try and force a conservative religious agenda on a populace that really doesn’t want it, especially among the younger voters.

For the Republicans to succeed in 2016, they need to have good, sane, moderate candidates. They need to weed out the crazy early on, and possibly have fewer debates, since that’s less chances for the crazies to get attention. They also need to properly and fully embrace immigration reform in a fashion that doesn’t include stupid concepts like self-deportation, but that rather provides, yes, amnesty. Most of us don’t like the concept of anything like amnesty, but those of us connected to reality understand that it’s needed. The GOP needs to understand that, too.

But I have a feeling that it’s going to take one more drubbing. They won the House, after all, and depending on what happens in 2014, they might keep it. I expect one final election where they double-down on the crazy and nominate someone like Rick Santorum, or possibly actually nominate Rick Santorum. I think the wing of the party that says, “Romney’s problem was that he was too liberal!” will hold enough sway to make that happen, and that likely will ensure that the Democrats retain power in 2016.

Know hope.

The Romney Veep Choice


We’re getting to the point in the campaign where Romney will have to announce his choice for vice-presidential candidate. It’s arguably the most important pre-election choice that a candidate can make. John McCain screwed it up horribly and memorably by selecting Sarah Palin; a completely unvetted selection who had very little experience, wasn’t going to gain him any real votes and who is quite possibly unbalanced. At about this time four years ago, I thought she was a possibly great choice. I soon learned I was wrong, and admitted as much. McCain still hasn’t. Palin was a terrible choice for him, and part of why he lost the election.

Now it’s Romney’s turn. Who will he pick? Who should he pick? Who will the base allow him to pick?

My guess is that he’s going to have to select someone who is extremely conservative. We’re talking nearly Santorum levels, here. Why? Because the base of conservatives doesn’t trust Romney. They look at the fact that, when he was running for governor of Massachusetts, he was pro-choice, in favor of gay marriage and put into place Romneycare, which has served as the model for Obamacare. He makes them very uncomfortable, and I doubt that his being Mormon helps. So not only will he need someone very conservative, he’s going to need someone who is a mainstream Christian.

However, Romney also needs someone who can help sway over independents. He’s a very weak candidate who in most polls leads only with white males, and he needs someone who, like Palin, can really energize people and get them excited about his campaign. If he picks another boring white man, he’s likely to just bore the hell out of people whose votes he really needs, and another extremist will only alienate the independent voters. This is where he needs someone who is basically the opposite of what the base wants. This puts him into a rather difficult situation.

All that in mind, let’s look over some possibilities.

Condoleeza Rice has had her name floated around lately as a possibility. Won’t happen. First, most voters still equate her with the Bush II administration, and rightly so. He’s political poison to the GOP and they know it. She’s also pro-choice. Plus, well, she’s a black woman, and that’s a bit too outside the comfort level for a large percentage, though not likely a majority, of the base. All that, plus the fact that she’s said in the past that she doesn’t want the job, makes her unlikely.

Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota who is such a non-entity, I had to double-check whether he’s the current or former governor of that state, is another one who has been floated. He’s…acceptable, probably. He seems fairly conservative, I guess. Uh. Hmmm. Uh. I wonder if there’s anything on TV? Oh, wait, no, I have to focus on this…this guy. God, he’s boring. I don’t seem him as being even remotely anyone who might energize…ah…hmmmm…where was I? Oh, yes. Pawlenty. Yeah…not likely, I guess. Hard to say. I can’t really focus on him enough to care.

Marco Rubio, a Senator from Florida, has been tossed around as a likely choice. He seems not horrible, but he won’t help shore up the Hispanic vote, despite what some people like to claim. Why? Because he’s of Cuban ancestry, and most of the Hispanic vote in this country has its origins in Mexico. If you’re a Cuban, it doesn’t matter how you get to this country, you get to stay. If you’re Mexican on the other hand…So there’s no real love lost between the two. He might, might help Romney win Florida, and that’s no small thing, but that’s about as far as he goes in usefulness.

Chris Christie of New Jersey has also been named. I suppose he wouldn’t be a bad choice, but New Jersey is likely to go Democrat no matter what, and I don’t see their massive number of electoral votes (fourteen), as being really worth it given the various problems that Christie might cause with the base. He would help with independents, though. But he’s another one who seems uninterested.

Then we have the various rejects from the GOP primary races. People like Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and the like. I don’t see any of them being even remotely appealing to independent voters. All of them basically have rather huge problems. Ron Paul might appeal to the independents, but the base would run away shrieking.

How could you not vote for that face?

I think probably the most logical choice is one I mentioned four years ago; Louisiana governor Piyush “Bobby” Jindal. I’m sure a large portion of the base would wince at a guy named Piyush Jindal, no matter how he “southern ups” his name by using “Bobby”. But ignoring that, he seems to have reasonably solid, but not rabidly insane, conservative credentials. I think he could appeal to both the base and the independents, but not easily. He’d have to work at it, especially with the independents. You think the Christine O’Donnell witchcraft thing was fun? Just wait until Jindal’s odd version of Catholicism, complete with exorcisms, comes into play.

There is also the problem that he doesn’t really do anything geographically for Romney. The GOP is already going to win Louisiana and the surrounding states of Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas. To do anything geographically he’d have to go for a Rubio or someone who might win him California, but realistically, those things aren’t likely to happen.

Personally, I can’t stand the guy. His religious beliefs are weird, he’s personally kind of creepy and he likes to make really stupid remarks. I know this isn’t a choice for me or my side, though. So, yeah. Bobby Jindal. My guess as the best of a set of really kind of “meh” choices.

Are the Republicans the Problem?


Short answer: yes.

Long answer: I think we can all agree that, at the moment, Washington is a massively dysfunctional mess with problems so intractable that government now may be even less useful at doing its job than it was in the late 1850s. While there is plenty of blame to go around for both parties, I’ve felt, especially during the last few years, that the real problem has been the Republican party. They’ve allowed themselves to make Faustian bargains with the extremist wing of their party and have now been hijacked by that very wing. A party that could, in the past, compromise, violate its own platform for the greater good and seemed to be more interested in governing than in kowtowing to a vocal minority, has, especially since Obama got into office, become the party of “no”, dedicated to not allowing…well, really anything that the president wants to have done get done. The rare times when something they hate has succeeded in passing, like health care reform, they’ve gone out of their way to destroy it at every turn.

This is not how our democracy works. The way it works, or at least the way it should, is through the process of compromise. It was compromise by both parties that led to a lot of what made this country great, but now GOP voters actively punish anyone who deviates from the party ideology and compromises with Democrats. If more people in Congress and the Senate compromised and helped get bills through, a: a lot of the gridlock would be reduced, and b: they would not then be able to vilify the very bills they helped pass.

Sadly, I don’t think this is going to change anytime soon. What needs to happen for change in the Republican party to occur is for them to lose, and lose hard, in at least three, if not four, elections. IF they get beaten in 2012, as seems likely, then lose the House in 2014, the Presidency in 2016 and don’t retake the House and/or Senate in 2018, then they’re going to have to change, pure and simple. They will have to realize that continuing to be obstructionist and embracing their lunatic fringe ever closer isn’t going to get the job done.

But I don’t think all those electoral losses are likely, and if they do happen, I have a sinking feeling that the GOP will simply double-down on the ideology (again). For example, assuming that they lose the Presidential Election later this year (which I think they will, though not by too much), then most of them will believe the problem is that they didn’t nominate someone like Santorum. If they lose with someone like him in 2016, you can bet the candidate in 2020 will be even more insane.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I want there to be compromise by both sides when it comes to running this country. That’s how it should be. I have no problem with either party having their extreme fringe as long as they don’t kowtow to it endlessly. I want a fairly moderate, sane governing style, and the Democrats, for all their faults and failings, seem to at least be trying to do that. The Republicans, at least these days, do not, and that’s a very serious long-term problem that we need to deal with. It’s also perhaps worth noting that the left’s extreme fringe consists of, basically, Michael Moore, whose biggest problem is that he occasionally shoots his mouth off more than he should. The right’s extreme fringe used to consist of Santorum, Limbaugh, Bachmann, Palin and the like, but now they’re all mainstream. I shudder to think of what the real right wing fringe is like these days. Shudder and weep.

For those who are interested, this article was inspired by one at the Washington Post. You can read it here, as well as another view of it here and Andrew Sullivan’s comments here. Enjoy!

To Republican Voters


There isn't enough room on the scren to make this far enough to the right.

This is a message meant for the more rational, sane Republican voters. For those who don’t believe that Obama is an evil, left-wing, Commie-Nazi, Kenyan-born Muslim who’s out to destroy this country. It’s for those who have views that are different from Democrats, but can understand the importance of compromise, and assuming the best when dealing with your competition. It’s a simple message, and that message is: please stop letting your party leaders act like lunatics. All of them, with the exceptions of Ron Paul (off in his own fantasy land), and John Huntsman (attached to reality, but no chance of winning), have moved your party so far to the right as to make it something that cannot be taken seriously as a national political party.

Your party has been taken over by a pack of religious extremists who believe that evolution is a lie. Who believe that somehow global climate change is some vast conspiracy on the part of scientists/Al Gore to do…something sinister that we’re never quite clear on. Who believe that keeping abortion safe and legal is an evil second only to allowing gays to marry. Who believe that people should be held without charges, without trial, for over a decade, and tortured whenever possible. Who believe that compromise and negotiation with anyone, be it Democrats or simply other countries, is a sign of weakness that must be avoided at all costs. Who believe that allowing the Bush era tax cuts to expire, increasing the highest tax rate by about 2%, will destroy our economy, and that the best way to balance the budget is to slash the benefits for the least among us.

These people believe, sincerely, that this is a Christian nation, first, last and always, and that government-mandated prayer in school is something we must have (as long as it’s Christian prayer, naturally). Who believe our judicial system is flawless enough that no innocent person has ever been executed for a crime and if they weren’t guilty of what they were killed for, well, they were probably guilty of something else. These same people also believe that our judicial system is so flawed, and so rife with “activist judges,” that the only solution is mandatory minimum sentencing, and if that impacts black people unfairly, well, black people should stop smoking so much crack.

These people believe if you get sick and can’t afford health care, well, too bad for you. Get charity and if you can’t get that, die, and help reduce the surplus population, because we certainly can’t afford to help lazy people like you. They believe that the only reason anyone is ever unemployed is because of a personal failing on their part, not recognizing the fact that at present there’s five applicants for ever job opening. To them, being poor is a sin, caused by laziness, and never such external factors as the cycle of poverty, racism, sexism or anything like that. It’s always your fault, and you should never expect government to help you. Your church should help you, and if you don’t go to church, well, I think that tells us all we need to know.

If you’re a single mother trying to raise three kids after your abusive husband left the picture, holding down two full-time jobs and even then unable to pay all the costs, and you have one child who’s sick all the time, well, it’s right that you should not have food stamps, because not having them will motivate you to work harder. It’s right that insurance agencies should be allowed to refuse coverage for your sick kid. If you don’t like it, find time during your 80 hour work week, and full time job raising your kids, to go to school and learn something. If you can’t afford to to, well, tough luck again, because there’s no reason you should get government-backed student loans at a reasonable repayment rate. This entire situation is your fault, the Republican candidates would generally have us believe. It’s your fault you got into the situation and it’s your fault you can’t get out of it. It’s all you.

Speaking of medical stuff, the primary candidates are all against Obamacare. That means they feel that insurance companies should be allowed to drop you once you get sick, even if you’ve paid all your premiums. They believe you should be denied health coverage for pre-existing conditions. They feel that you should be obligated to pay for preventative care, even though that can save insurance companies billions (though not if they’re allowed to drop you once you get sick). They believe there should be an upper limit on what insurers are required to cover, and if you get sick after that, well, that’s your own fault, Sicky McSick.

Then there’s illegal immigration. With only a couple exceptions, the mainstream GOP view is that if you’re here illegally, never mind the circumstances, then you’re going to be kicked out of the country. Period. You might get a deportation hearing, you might not. Even if you were brought here as an infant and were raised here almost your entire life, tough. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a great education or some badly needed skill. You’re still out of the country, because you broke the law, and in the GOP world, that’s only ok for corporations to do. If this means crops are left to die without being harvested, as happened in Alabama, with their new law, well…er…uhm. Well, they’re still taking jobs Americans need! Yeah!

The current GOP is obsessed with states’ rights on everything from immigration to medical coverage. This is the same party that touts itself as “the party of Lincoln,” and we all know what a great champion of states’ rights Lincoln was. Interestingly, their views on states’ rights wither when they talk about Constitutional amendments to ban abortion or gay marriage.

Listen, Republicans, I don’t want you guys to win in 2012. I’ll admit that. But you will win in the future, even if you don’t in 2012, and when you do win, I’d rather you win as a sane, rational party that’s based in reality. A party that I can disagree with on fundamental levels, but can still respect. I’d rather see you as the party of Eisenhower, Regan, the first Bush and even, god help me, Nixon, rather than party of Perry, Gingrich and Bachmann.

I think that a lot of you, deep in your hearts, know that your party is broken. You can take it back from the extremists. Just make sure that on primary day you’re out there voting for the rational candidates. Make sure your voices drown out the voices of the extremists. The Democrats have managed to do this. We listen occasionally to the extreme left of our party, then we mostly pat them on the head and ignore them. We don’t let them make speeches at our conventions. We don’t pay attention to them when they run for President. We certainly don’t nominate them. Our equivalent in extremism to Bachmann, Cain or Palin would probably be someone like Michael Moore, and if he ever ran for President, we’d never vote for him.

There was a time when the GOP, the party of nostalgia, was a party that believed in grand things. A party that supported NASA, that understood the value of a strong defense, but also of diplomacy. That knew that a social safety-net was a good idea. That understood that sometimes you had to increase revenue in addition to cutting taxes.

Eisenhower gave us the interstate freeway system at a cost of over half a trillion dollars in modern money. He also warned us about the military industrial complex. Regan negotiated with the Soviets. Nixon gave us the EPA and wasn’t against abortion. All three weren’t above raising taxes when the times called for it. These were people with whom I did, or would have, disagreed on many fundamental points, but I would do so knowing that at the end of the day, I could at least respect them.

The modern Republican party is a joke, and not just to us in the states. It’s a sad, tragic, mess of a party who seem to feel that the fundamental message of A Christmas Carol is that Scrooge gave in to Socialist ghosts bent on destroying him as a job creator. This is a party that’s to the far, far right of Republican Presidents like Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Ford, and the previously mentioned Eisenhower, Nixon, Regan and Bush I. It’s a party that, these days, would never elect someone like Regan.

It’s a badly injured party that could and should be better than its voting base.

And Another One Joins the Fun


Welcome to the party, bub!

John Huntsman officially joined the GOP primary race today. He made a speech in New Jersey with the Statue of Liberty in the background. By pure happenstance I was awake for this and watched it. It wasn’t bad. Actually, overall he’s not a bad candidate.

Huntsman, for those of you who don’t know, is the former US Ambassador to China. He’s also the former governor of Utah. In that capacity he supported legislation to work against global climate change, lowered taxes, had no problem with a health care mandate, has fought back against his own party on certain issues and supports same-sex civil unions. That’s not as good as gay marriage, but it’s more than any of the other GOP frontrunners support.

Huntsman is an interesting candidate. He’s one of the few major candidates for the Republicans that doesn’t make me want to throw up my hands in utter disgust or, failing that, just throw up. I don’t agree with all of his positions, but there’s enough I do agree with that it seems to me like he’s a reasonable candidate and, out of all of them, is the one who stands the best chance of being Obama next year.

Needless to say due to the fact that he’s a Mormon, worked with Obama as ambassador to China and supports civil unions, he’s pretty well screwed. The mainstream party might be willing to go for him, but they aren’t the ones who generally vote in the primaries. The people who do tend to be the extreme wingnuts who will freak out when they see him.

And as a Democrat, nothing makes me happier.