Archive for the ‘john mccain’ tag
In a series of reversals on issues ranging from gay rights to immigration, Republicans have been implicitly admitting that their platform has been all but outdated and irrelevant for the better part of a decade or more, as they dial back on previously held positions and take stances that were typically identified with the Democratic Party.
Recall that in 2007, former presidential candidate John McCain the supported immigration reform under the Bush administration, saying in his most sincere voice:
I defend with no reservation our proposal to offer the people who harvest our crops, tend our gardens, work in our restaurants, care for our children and clean our homes a chance to be legal citizens of this country.
As if all Hispanic immigrants living and working in this nation only performed menial tasks like cooking and serving at the pleasure of the more affluent. In any case, according to The New York Times, although McCain supported an immigration reform bill in 2007, which he helped author, by 2008 he was saying that he would not support his own bill.
By 2010, McCain was toeing a hard line on immigration, saying that he supported, “No amnesty,” and that “Many of them (immigrants) need to be sent back.” Presumably, he meant back to Mexico. This year, however, he was part of a bipartisan panel consisting of four Democrats and four Republicans that has been working on immigration reform legislation. The panel also consists of Marco Rubio, who gave us this nugget back in 2007 before he was the GOP golden boy:
I am not and I will never support, never have and never will, support any effort to grant blanket legalization amnesty for folks who have entered or stayed in this country illegally.
Yet, by in late 2011, he was striking a different tone, saying that Republicans should tread softer on the anti-immigrant rhetoric. Here’s what he said in October 2011:
The Republican Party needs to be the pro-legal immigration party. We need to say, ‘We believe in immigration, and we think it’s good for America.’ But it has to be orderly, a system based on law, a system that works.
Fair enough, but Rubio is sitting on a panel that is working on a bill that would provide illegal immigrants living in the U.S. a path to citizenship. According to a report from Anderson Cooper, Rubio and McCain’s participation on the panel
seemed to send a signal that mainstream Republicans may be willing to compromise on an issue president Obama calls a top priority for his second term.
And here is John McCain from this January:
Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote which we think should be ours for a variety of reasons. Second of all we can’t go on forever with 11 million people living in this country in the shadows and in an illegal status.
Although Republicans will attempt to borrow the word “evolution” to account for their many reversals on immigration and other issues and how they are adapting to reach broader demographics, those demographics haven’t changed dramatically in the last five years. John McCain has shamelessly shifted in the wind on immigration so much that his changing views can’t even be described as evolutionary because that’s not how evolution works. There’s no room in basic evolutionary theory for complex forms, like ideas, to quickly revert to their pre-evolutionary status and then back again to complexity. Sure, a life form’s existence can slowly digress if their living and social conditions change, but even then, the idea is gradual environmental adaptation, not seismic changes in policy that change seemingly every month.
So, why has the Republican platform been so mercurial?
First, they are clearly losing the message, if they haven’t already lost it. In the aptly nicknamed “Republican Autopsy Report,” members of the GOP already admitted that their message was not reaching younger voters in Hispanic and other minority communities. Also in my view, younger voters are increasingly becoming less gullible and more savvy politically thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, social media, the satire of comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and the availability of information. How can young Hispanic voters and those of other ethnicities not be heavily influenced by this dynamic? According to a CNN exit poll from earlier this year, Mitt Romney garnered only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in the last election, which was down from 31 percent during the McCain presidential campaign in 2008. Bush managed to get 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2004.
Second, the GOP is acting like a moving target because they are just trying numerous strategies in the hopes that one of them will stick with younger voters. If the Republican Party had become more, not less, in touch with the needs and desires of the Hispanic community before the wheels came off the wagon, this might not have been the case since Hispanics tend to be religious and would sympathize with many of the standard GOP talking points. It appears that the GOP is attempting to build the party around Rubio, but at this point, I doubt merely throwing up a token Hispanic as your golden boy isn’t going to right the ship.
The long and short of it: she had no jurisdiction on consular security. That would be up to the state department. Rice is one of the candidates under consideration for the Secretary of State job.
Tomasky essentially makes the case that the Republicans, particularly McCain, went after Rice because of frustrations over the election and, perhaps most important in my view, failing to win the argument on foreign policy:
… most middle Americans recognize Benghazi for what it was—a terribly sad tragedy, but the kind of thing that, in a dangerous world, happens. And yes, many middle Americans would consider it a smudge on the administration’s security record, but most middle Americans also know that record is otherwise rather impressive. It seems to me someone just ran for president trying to argue otherwise, and he lost pretty handily.
And finally and maybe most of all, McCain and others are furious that the Republicans have lost their “natural” advantage on national-security issues. They are desperate to change that, and the quickest way to start doing so is to get Rice’s scalp.
I have felt a bit out of the blogging groove as of late. Even in years past when I have left town for vacation, I still found time for a post or two, as in 2008 when I wrote from Boston about the presidential debate between then-candidates Barack Obama and John McCain or in 2010 when I marveled about how difficult it was for a tourist like myself to get a clear view of the ocean on the coast of Maine.
So, let me briefly review what I’ve been up to the last couple weeks. As I hinted, I was on vacation in New England last week. Unlike in 2010 or 2008 (or the time before that), I didn’t bother to actually go into the city this time. My friend lives about 10 minutes north of Boston on the North Shore, so I mostly stayed in that general area, visiting numerous used book stores in Rowley, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Danvers. Among them were the Used Book Superstore, (This is a chain store, but the one I visited was in Danvers), Broken in Books (Rowley) and my favorite, Manchester by the Book (Manchester-by-the-Sea). In total, I came back to Georgia with seven books, and while I did visit Barnes & Noble once in Peabody, Mass., I resisted the urge to buy any brand new books. Prior to making it to Boston, I stayed over a couple days in Plymouth, where I drove past but did not actually see, what others described as “unimpressive” rock of that town’s fame.
I have also been reading quite a bit. Since the editor of the paper where I work seems fond of calculating the completion percentage of whatever history book through which he’s currently plowing (I believe he’s at 90 percent), I recently tabulated mine. I am about 72 percent done with From Sea to Shining Sea (not to be confused with this one), the former of which is a 600-page romp through the War of 1812, the war with Mexico and America’s westward expansion. It is an elegant and entertaining read and not so erudite that it’s inaccessible to the common reader. I plan to begin “The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson” next, which will no doubt make the incontrovertible case that while Jefferson made outward shows toward religion, he was privately more likely a deist and did not believe in the various miracles attributed to Christ. According to Charles Sanford:
From the evidence of his life, we may safely conclude that Jefferson remained a member in good standing of his local Episcopal church all his life, in outward form at least. His inward convictions were another matter, however. His great-grandson described Jefferson’s religion as that of a “conservative Unitarian….He did not believe in the miracles, nor the divinity of Christ, nor the doctrine of the atonement, but he was a firm believer in Divine Providence, in the efficacy of prayer, in a future state of rewards and punishments, and in the meeting of friends in another world.”
Jefferson also famously said in a letter to Benjamin Rush:
I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every from of tyranny over the mind of man.
In any case, I’m quite anticipating reading the book on Jefferson after I finish my romp through America’s expansionist years.
Otherwise, I have been catching up on my Counter Strike: Source, which I did not get to play at all while on vacation. This is a super high priority, I know, especially for someone who puts so much importance on reading and studying, but since I don’t watch much TV, I’ve got to have an engine by which to channel a little nightly frivolity. Of course, even at that, I am quite competitive and probably take it too seriously. Before going to Boston, for instance, I was quite disappointed with the my so-called “KDR” or kill-death ratio (It was o.95 or something. Quite unacceptable), but happily, the server was reset, and so too were the stats. Now, I’m at about 1.07. While some players’ KDR is above 1.50, anything above 1.0 is respectable in my case. I tend to quit the round or “spectate” if I find myself slipping too far below 1.0 so as not to totally screw up my stats. So much for the mirth.
Site notes: I just updated the software to version WordPress 3.1.3, and for anyone who uses WordPress plugins, you may want to shy away from Statpress. Although I had been using it for quite some time, it apparently caused some overload issues on one of my web host’s servers. My host, IXwebhosting.com, had to disable my database until I detected and fixed the problem. Luckily, the word “statpress” actually appeared in the error message generated by the server, so the culprit was clear.
Article first published as DADT Repeal Languishes in Senate on Blogcritics.
Here’s a look at the vote breakdown:
The controversy and debates surrounding the portion of the National Defense Authorization Act that would repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” seem like a non-issue to me, at least to some degree, and there is one element here of which I might actually agree with some conservatives, but for a wholly different reason.
Admittedly, reading some portions of “10 U.S.C. § 654 : US Code – Section 654: Policy concerning homosexuality in the armed forces” makes me cringe a bit, particularly the part about forcing homosexuals to refrain from whatever it is they do in their private lives, or else, be discharged from the military. Presumably, straight people can go about their bedroom business unimpeded. Perhaps, that portion should be repealed. But I think the specific part about military officials being banned from asking about personal orientation and personnel being banned from talking about it seems to me to be sound. For, I don’t believe sexual orientation is or should be relevant at all in military life. Thus, if both gay and straight people simply banished any talk about who is or might be straight or gay seems to be the most constructive way to proceed. Or, maybe this is asking too much.
Regardless, the rational, I suppose, behind the code above is that military personnel live separate lives than you or I, that they are essentially public figures and are held to a higher standard. But it is here that the prejudice in the code against homosexuals, that they intrinsically live less moral lives than anyone else, seaps through with lucidity. If homosexual military personnel are essentially public figures and are conduits of taxpayer money, so are straight service men and women. So, where is the ban on heterosexuals admitting they are straight or the ban on heterosexuals engaging in their behavior?
I previously wrote a review of the movie, “Milk” with Sean Penn, in which I lauded Harvey Milk’s attempts to enact change in his community by doing it the right way: by running for public office, contrasted to those well-known gay pride parade attendees whose flamboyancy and flaunting of their gayness wins them few brownie points. Thus, I think there might be a measure of empowerment gained by paraders in providing shock value to the rest of us, sort of a way of taking comfort in their otherness. That’s something to which I can relate in some ways, but it seems to me that creating an atmosphere of otherness within the gay community to the rest of the world seems counterintuitive to what folks are attempting to accomplish. That is, equal rights. Thus, if homosexuals truly want to be “equal,” not just in word but in law, throw off the us-against-them mentality, run for office, say nothing about your private matters and enact change from the top down.
Again, regarding DADT, I think the best way to proceed in all this might be to ban conversation about sexual orientation altogether, from enlistment, to boot camp and beyond. For I can’t see how, in any way, sexual orientation, straight, bi or heterosexual, is relevant to any goal the military might hope to achieve, and this includes those who might seek to serve in the military as openly gay. It’s nobody’s business but their own.
Anyone who reads this blog well knows by now that I make no exceptions when it comes to holding leaders, folks in the media and others accountable for their words or actions. While my overall inclination is toward a certain ideology that generally puts caring for people above amassing wealth, from Democrats to Republicans to Independents, everyone’s feet is held to the fire here.
I think John McCain is one of the most well-respected leaders in Washington, and it has been because of his willingness to work with folks on both sides of the aisle to get things done on the Hill. That, and he’s also one of the most pragmatic, clear thinking among his Republican brethren.
But nothing gets me charged more than exposing outright deceptiveness for what it is, and it can come from the left as much as from the right.
Yesterday, I came across this story from The Daily Beast, which claimed that McCain said on a radio show that he would not work with Democrats and reach across the aisle on the issue of immigration reform.
The originally linked story is from Think Progress, which, it’s no secret, is a progressive website, that probably, just as much as conservative ones, attempts to prop up its messages by begging, borrowing, stealing or by whatever other means to A) trash the opposing sides and B) advance its agenda.
This is a contemptible approach, in my view, no matter what side of the aisle you side with, and it’s a dangerous method for democracy as we know it. Let’s take the McCain case. Regarding the issue of immigration reform, a caller asked, and this is pasted straight from Think Progress’s article:
I would like to ask Sen. McCain if he will make a promise on the air now that if we reelect him, he will not reach across the aisle, especially with Lindsey Graham, for comprehensive immigration reform. Will you not do that for the time you’re in office. (I deleted the unnecessarily bold text where Think Progress claimed McCain wouldn’t reach across the aisle. Text is text. Bolding it doesn’t make it anymore important.)
McCain’s reply as recorded by Think Progress:
Yes ma’am. … I am promising that I will try to address the issue of immigration in a way that is best for the United States of America.
Now, when reading this for the first time, I thought the “…” was a little puzzling. I thought: “Was the ‘Yes ma’am’ just an acknowledgment that he would, indeed, not reach across the aisle or, and more plausibly, simply an acknowledgment that McCain heard and understood the lady’s question? From listening to the actual audio, it appears to be the latter. And did you notice the little chuckle McCain made after the woman was done with her question? This leads me to believe that he didn’t necessarily take the lady’s query terribly seriously and was merely attempting to come up with a reasonable response without outright disagreeing with her. Here is the audio:
I’m not confident that he agreed to that particular promise from this obviously right-winger. As for his part, Lindsey Graham, a senator from my home state of South Carolina, has very admirably reached out to folks on the other side of the aisle, as has McCain, to try to come to a consensus on numerous issues, immigration not the least of them.
After his long years of service of trying to work with Democrats and other leaders to get stuff done in Washington, I highly doubt that just because his state has adopted a new immigration bill, that he would decide out of the blue to turn into a rabid partisan crank. Partisanship, after all, is one component of politics that folks hate about Washington. That makes sense for a logical reason: partisanship (unless there’s a supermajority) rarely succeeds in getting anything done. And its folks like McCain and Graham who carrying the torch of the centrist, which, at least in some small part, bolsters my faith in the process.
Note: “Ctd.” means this is continued from a previous post.
For obvious reasons, Democrats and the always ideologically hard to pin down Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are supporting an effort to repeal the mid-1990s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law that prevents military personnel from openenly serving in the military. President Obama also called for the repeal during his first State of the Union address.
This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.
Republicans, however, are by and large seeking more information from top military officials about how cutting the ban may affect servicemen and women. And I think they are taking the right stance on this point. As one commenter from the Politics Daily Web site said:
Current policy seems to work so leave it alone. Just imagine the problems it will create. How are reg soldiers going to feel knowing that they are showering with someone who is gay? Or just being in the same room? I am not against gays, just wondering how others might feel. I still thing its in the gene make-up of the body which determines what someone might be. But two guys or women holding hands on a base could cause problems. Privately- who cares.
And appearing exacerbated by those suggestions, pondermom wrote:
Straight men are showering next to gay men NOW they just don’t know it. And how are they going to feel ” just being in the same room ” ? Are you serious? You and Diane Schwab are both completely clueless. Are straight men attracted to every woman they see? Why would you think that gay men and women are attracted to every other man or woman walking down the street, or for that matter, showering next to? And, by the way, the military is not exactly the profession that the “drag queen” type of gay man, which I am sure is what you think all gay men are, is going to choose…. basic training and stilettos don’t exactly mesh.
It’s true that just because men and women are serving together doesn’t mean that everyone is attracted to everyone. Or, we can at least hope that most members of the military have moved along from their hormone-strewn puberty years. And it’s also short-sighted to think that just because someone is gay that he’s going to automatically “like” every guy he sees. Gay attraction works the same as straight attraction. Some folks float your boat; some don’t. Still, I think lifting DADT could get awkward as the former commenter suggested. As I’ve noted elsewhere, who I “like” on a personal level is my business, and I see little reason to shout my straightness to the stars. Neither should gays.
I think some folks might be forgetting a key component of DADT: the law prevents military officials from investigating their sexuality upon enlisting or during their times of service. Surely any repeal of DADT would address this part of the law. Like John McCain has suggested, the status quo should probably be held on this particular issue.
If anything, perhaps arcane language in the current law, such as: gays in the military would
create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability …
should be cleaned up and modernized.
Former vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin is saying that her biggest regret is that she did not speak enough to media outlets during her and John McCain’s bid for the White House. She said the interviews she did were not the ones she would have chosen and that the campaign decisions were largely made by folks she did not know.
We, of course, remember the disastrous interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric. Apologists said the liberal media was out to get her, to set her up or frame her with questions that were too tough or too probe. That’s nonsense. For an honest, up front politician with an intellect to back up the rhetoric, like Bill Clinton, no question is too tough or probing. From the Couric interview:
Couric: Do you think the coverage of you been sexist?
Palin: No. I don’t. It’s obvious there are some double standards here. You know, in terms of what the media has been doing. But I think that’s more attributable to the Washington media elite not knowing who I am and just asking a whole lot of questions. Not so much based on gender, though. But based on just the fact that I’m not part of the Washington herd.
Couric: Having said that, do you think it would be sexist not to question your credentials and your policy positions.
Palin: It would be sexist if the media were to hold back and not ask me about my experience, my vision, my principles, my values. You’re right.
Couric: If that’s the case, why haven’t you been more accessible to reporters?
Palin: I am so happy to talk to reporters. My life is an open book, happy to do it and very happy for more opportunities to do so.
Notice: Couric directly asked Palin why she hasn’t been more accessible. Palin said she was “so happy to talk to reporters.” Her campaign, on the other hand. … I personally and honestly think Palin was (and still is) more than happy to talk to reporters without restrictions (Even if not possessing the capacities to eloquently and convincingly answer their questions), but the McCain camp held her back, thinking she was a loose pistol and even reaping some of the results of her loose-cannon-ness, despite their efforts.
The so-called “liberal media” was not out to get Palin, but perhaps out to get the foolishness of the McCain campaign, who clearly only appointed Palin as the vice presidential nominee for political reasons. Giuliani, Romney or heck, even Lindsey Graham or Fred Thompson would have technically been better choices, but the campaign went with a woman who, perhaps, could bring vigor to the ticket and could mobilize scores of women, evangelicals, etc. for the Republican cause. Now, Palin is still in the headlines, and we fail to see why, and the chances are, she will be in the headlines for years to come, and, we add, in the running for the 2012 vice presidential or presidential seat. Frightening.
This is really getting quite tiresome. If you are one who watches the news at least once a day, you hear a series of words that, once latched onto by TV anchors and politicians, seem to turn into, say, kudzu vines or cancer, spreading and metastasizing to the point that they have totally saturated (and choked) the verbiage market. That said, here are a few of my favorites … or should I say, most hated and most cliché:
- Change: Since the election is over, this one isn’t quite as prevalent as it was, but during the campaign season — as in every campaign season — it was noxious. While now-President-elect Barack Obama, perhaps, was capable of instituting the most change if elected, both candidates used the word ad nauseum to attempt to separate themselves from political buffoons, lobbyists and the current administrations failings. We heard, “Change we can believe in” from the Obama camp, and we heard the shockingly unclever turnaround, “Friends, that’s not change we can believe in” from McCain. Since Obama was capable of instituting the most change, quite literally, since his win would have meant a different party in charge of the highest office in the land, we at least thought his calls for change were coherent. McCain’s continual declarations that he too would bring change was laughable — unless, of course, he meant the kind of frightening change of a much older, less healthy (than Bush) man in the White House, who, if he died, heaven forbid, would leave us with Sarah Palin. Now, that would certainly have been change, but unfortunately friends, it wouldn’t have been the kind we could believe in.
- Vet: That’s right, no longer can the word “vet” simply mean a veterinarian or veteran. The media has latched onto this like a stray cat on fish bones. We can no longer use evaluate or analyze or discern or study up on or any other comparable phrase. All must be now and forever vetted. Vet, vet vet.
- Tap: Nope, not with your hands. And don’t tap the Rockies, at least now until you’re done reading this. “Tap,” with its almost taboo connotation, seems like a bizarre way to convey that Obama has appointed another person to his administration. I suppose the intended meaning is that Obama is “tapping” the resources of whoever he has named. But in headlines, we simply get: “Obama taps Richardson for commerce spot.”
- Wall Street/Main Street: This little gem came to the fore most recently during the bank fallout, and politicians have used it to comfort those in Anytown, USA by saying that propping up Wall Street is not the only important decision lawmakers must make. They also must find ways to help out Main Street, the little guy, Joe Schmoh, and the like.
- And finally, the winner for the most ubiquitous buzzword of the day: bailout. We seemingly bailout those companies who traditionally, have packed their pockets quite full of giant sums of money that you and I will never see. When they need help, we trip over ourselves to save them because saving them means saving jobs and saving future economic strife, while no one is standing in line ready to bailout the small business down the street who is just as affected by the economy as the big guys, yet has no one’s sympathy and no one’s extra resources to make it through. After all this, we haven’t come to the heart of the issue yet: We allow such companies to swell to the heavens, so that they become so massive and influential that their very failure would the entire economy into disrepair. Something is wrong with such a system.
And on that happy note, I leave with a quote from Benjamin Franklin about debt, which has been the cause of much of man’s economic woe for centuries:
Let honesty and industry be thy constant companions, and spend one penny less than thy clear gains; then shall thy pocket begin to thrive; creditors will not insult, nor want oppress, nor hungerness bite, nor nakedness freeze thee.
As my wife and I were in the dark, somewhere between Allentown, Pa. and New York City bound for Boston, Mass. on a very long, one-day car ride, we tuned in to the third of the presidential debates, where John McCain and Barack Obama again pleaded their cases, and again laid out their, even then redundant, plans to turn America around in the wake of George W. Bush’s errant policies.
Here, like in talks before, we heard McCain mention his concern (or lack thereof, we’re not sure) for Obama’s “associations” with
Mr. Ayers, I don’t care about an old washed-up terrorist.
In the very next breath:
But as Senator Clinton said in her debates with you, we need to know the full extent of that relationship.
It’s remarkable that someone could turn about-face in a matter of half a second. Regardless, Ayers was clearly an issue, and one of Obama’s Achilles’ heels throughout the election cycle.
Yesterday, Ayers broke his silence in a column posted on The New York Times’ Web site (The column was published in Saturday’s print edition).
In it, Ayers admits:
The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war. — William Ayers, column published in The New York Times, Dec. 6, 2008
In the piece, of course, Ayers says he co-founded The Weather Underground, which we already knew, and that the organization did plant “several small bombs” in government offices, including ones at the Pentagon and the Capitol in protest to the Vietnam War. He said the Undergound’s protests were peaceful, intended to harm no one and not terrorist in nature.
He goes on to express confoundment that placing two people in the same room, who had very thin, at best, associates amounted to palling around, noting, “There is a long and sad history of guilt by association in our political culture, and at crucial times we’ve been unable to rise above it.”
We didn’t pal around, and I had nothing to do with his positions. I knew him as well as thousands of others did, and like millions of others, I wish I knew him better.
Demonization, guilt by association, and the politics of fear did not triumph, not this time. Let’s hope they never will again. And let’s hope we might now assert that in our wildly diverse society, talking and listening to the widest range of people is not a sin, but a virtue. —Ayers
The McCain camp during the campaign seemed to present the opposite argument: hang with, shake hands with, view across the room those of unscrupulous, now or at any point in the past, and be forever married to those people’s hips. Ayers closing exposed what we knew: that the McCain camp was simply trying to stir the kettle of fear by dark associations, which almost hobbled Obama’s campaign. Interestingly, as if to hint at who he supported during the election — it was quite clear from the beginning of the column as well — Ayers injected Obama’s “not this time” phrase into his last paragraph.
Ayers did well to wait until after the election to flesh these thoughts out in public. Had he tossed his proverbial voice into the already crowded cauldron of plumbers and pigs, it could have resulted in a true political circus nightmare, if it hadn’t hit that point already. Ayers admits he regretted what he did way back when, and has served his community as a professor for decades now. Since the low-level tactic didn’t dupe enough Americans, I think at this, we can let it go. What is important now is to support education, not willful ignorance, understanding, not fear, at least until the next batch of presidential candidates rolls around and tests our mettle in discerning honesty from dishonesty.
I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I’ve been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education. —Ayers
The ironies of the modern Democratic and Republican parties are stark. One hundred fifty years ago, the Republican Party was a trailblazer in social and moral reform. It alone helped tumble slavery, while the Democratically-controlled South resisted, seceded and eventually surrendered a Civil War that a few in the South, paradoxically today calling themselves Republicans or Libertarians, are still waging. At one time, the Republican Party was the progressive party, while the Democrats floundered in an intrisincally flawed and morally decrepit economic system.
Something changed around the 1920s and 1930s, as the Democratic Party began garnering support under Frederick D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, a series of programs geared to refuel the ailing numerous elements of the economy and American life, fresh off the heels of The Great Depression.
Throughout the nation men and women, forgotten in the political philosophy of the Government, look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth… I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people. This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms. — “A New Deal,” Stuart Chase
Then Republicans began equating New Deal policies as synonymous, or at least, similar to socialist ideals, thus, in part, creating the tension that laid the foundation for what we consider our modern Democratic and Republican parties. Democrats, then, made great gains in the Civil Rights movement of the mid-1960s, while many Republican’s hail the Reagon years as the epicenter of all that is conservative and fiscal.
So, in light of Barack Obama’s recent nomination to the presidency, where did the Republican Party slip a disk? It was not merely in the George W. Bush administration’s failings in Iraq and New Orleans or the economy. Those were certainly fire-starters, but the problem begins elsewhere. I would argue that it begins with the folks who are seemingly still waging the Civil War, allbeit in less explicit ways, 150 years after the fact. It begins with a party seemingly stuck in the past.
On the surface and most immediately, the party lost the election for any number of reasons: the novelty of a candidate like Barack Obama; the downward-spiraling economy, which sped quickly on Bush’s watch; equations, real or imagined, made between Bush and John McCain; Sarah Palin … the list is long.
The general failing that has been accumulating over the years begins with the party’s seeming inability (or unwillingness) to move on, to modernize itself in our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religion society. It certainly doesn’t revolve simply around Iraq or the economy. The world of the 1940s and 1950s, perhaps the heyday of what some would consider to be the “good ol’ days” in America, is no better or worse than today with regard to moral uprightness. Mass murderers still killed en masse, genocidal dictators still touted their claims of positive ethnic cleansing and racists still supported the axioms of Jim Crow and the segregated South. All these elements go in cycles, and just because we aren’t witnessing modern versions of The Crusades of the Holocaust, doesn’t mean tragedies far worse than genocides in Darfur and famines in Africa, won’t crop up again at some point in our history.
Many Republicans, at least those not yet attempting to anaylse where the disk skipped, are still locked in a time, real or imagined, where America was more morally upright and more partitioned into separate ideologies, social classes and races. The world appeared more black and white then (no pun intended). But, for good or bad, this no longer represents America today. The inability to recognize this has led to the coinage “the stupid party.” I include this not to trivialize the matter or make jokes because it’s not funny in the least. Quite literally, the Democrats picked up the most votes of those with college educations, post-graduate degrees and the like.
The Economist on Nov. 13 put it this way:
The Republican Party’s divorce from the intelligentsia has been a while in the making. The born-again Mr Bush preferred listening to his “heart” rather than his “head”. He also filled the government with incompetent toadies like Michael “heck-of-a-job” Brown, who bungled the response to Hurricane Katrina. Mr McCain, once the chattering classes’favourite Republican, refused to grapple with the intricacies of the financial meltdown, preferring instead to look for cartoonish villains. And in a desperate attempt to serve boob bait to Bubba, he appointed Sarah Palin to his ticket, a woman who took five years to get a degree in journalism, and who was apparently unaware of some of the most rudimentary facts about international politics.
Republicanism’s anti-intellectual turn is devastating for its future. The party’s electoral success from 1980 onwards was driven by its ability to link brains with brawn. The conservative intelligentsia not only helped to craft a message that resonated with working-class Democrats, a message that emphasised entrepreneurialism, law and order, and American pride. It also provided the party with a sweeping policy agenda. The party’s loss of brains leaves it rudderless, without a compelling agenda. — The Economist, Nov. 13, 2008
And further down, we read that the party is
… trapped in an ideological cocoon, defined by its outer fringes, ruled by dynasties and incapable of adjusting to a changed world. The movement has little to say about today’s pressing problems, such as global warming and the debacle in Iraq, and expends too much of its energy on xenophobia, homophobia and opposing stem-cell research.
The article concludes by mentioning a book titled, “Ideas have Consequences” by Richard Weaver. The party’s lack of fresh, salient ideas about how to handle our most pressing issues and the unwillingness to step into the 21st century — and even more, a seeming inability to recognize that need — has gotten the party to its current predicament. Ideas have certain consequences, but a lack of ideas, perhaps, breed even more dire results.