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.

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.

Yet More Republican Idiocy

I still am amazed that there’s such a thing as a gay Republican. Clearly the party is doing every thing they can to get rid of you guys. Texas, as I mentioned before, released a party platform calling for gay sex to be made illegal again. Now Montana’s Republican party is getting into the act. This from the party that likes to claim it supports individual freedoms and keeping the government out of people’s private lives.

How can you people who are gay and Republicans live with yourselves? I mean, I’ve heard of self-loathing, but this is taking it to an insane level. Wise up and leave your party.

What’s the Matter With Arizona?

The Latin means 'God Enriches'. Argh. Why do we need that on the Seal?

A few years back there was a very good book called What’s the Matter with Kansas?. It examined how it was possible for a state that used to be at the forefront of progressive politics to, within one generation, turn into a great bastion for the right. It’s an excellent book and well-worth reading.

But the question that might now be asked is, “What’s the matter with Arizona?” My state has recently taken the place of Kansas as the butt of many a joke. In the last few months the following bills have either been passed into law or proposed by our state legislature.

SB1070 – You’ve heard about this one. I’ve written about it. It’s what kicked off the current spate of problems for our state.

Concealed guns allowed without permits – It does what it says.

Guns allowed in bars – Because what can be better than alcohol mixed with bullets?

The “Birther” Bill – Would require all people running for President in Arizona to prove they were born in the USA. Not signed into law. Yet.

Even if you were born here, it might not count! – At least according to the same genius behind SB1070 who also apparently wants to pass a law that would say if you’re born here to illegal alien parents you aren’t a citizen.

In other, non-law news here in Arizona, the mayor of Yuma recently had some choice words about gays in the military, and a mural in Prescott has also attracted much attention recently.

So what do all these things have in common, beyond the obvious? It’s pretty simple: for the laws, they were all either proposed by, or heavily supported by, or possibly both, by members of the Arizona Republican Party. As for the mayor of Yuma? His web page doesn’t list party affiliation, but take a look at everything else there, and you tell me. Less certain is the party affiliation of the fellow in Prescott who made an ass of himself, but I think I can guess where he leans.

The real problem in Arizona politics is the Arizona Republican Party. It’s a joke. It’s basically a tea party group that’s wearing a nice tie. In fact their website contains a link to a tea party event. It’s become a reactionary, extreme right-wing group that’s lost all connection to sanity. I can imagine Barry Goldwater looking at it and being stunned by what it’s become.

Of course, I suppose that this means that the real real problem with Arizona politics is the voters. We keep returning to office people like Sheriff Joe and these other fools. I suppose to that extent we get what we deserve. So I suppose maybe the people of the state are to blame. After all, how can we blame the politicians who are only doing what the people elect them to do?

Oh, well. Hopefully some resemblance of sanity will return to Arizona politics and soon. Hey, at least our Congressional delegation contains 5 Democrats to 3 Republicans. It’s a start!

At Last, the Dems Are Eating Their Fiber!

(because we have movement, see?)

Yes, at last the Democrats are growing a pair. Obama has finally told the GOP that, hey, you guys have had your chance to be involved in health care reform, we’ve taken some of your ideas on board, and now you’re not going to be able to stall any longer. Like sex with Kobe Bryant, you can scream and struggle all you want, but it’s gonna happen (gentle note to Bryant’s lawyers: it’s a quote from Family Guy! Fair use, fair use!).

It’s about damn time, too. I’m not happy with the current proposals in that they don’t go far enough, but it’s better than nothing. I’m also very annoyed that we’re going to have to wait several years for parts of the reforms to take effect.

But partial reform and delayed reform is better than nothing, and both are better than continuing with our current, highly failed system. We do not have the best health care in the world, despite what the Republicans have to say. In fact, according to a study by the World Health Organization that was done in 2000, we’ve got the 37th best. Also, we spend the most. The latter fact wouldn’t bother me if the former fact weren’t true.

So this is a case of half-measures, but half is better than none, and I’ll take what we can get now with hope of downloading patches to it later.