(May 8, 2012)

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President Barack Obama, who frequently appears battered and weary at the tail end of a bruising first term, came to Virginia this past Saturday in a vigorous mood. The POTUS chose the swing state he won in 2008 to formally launch his drive for re-election, casting the 2012 race as “a make or break moment for the middle class.”

Compare this rousing event, where Obama declared himself “still fired up,” in front of a crowd of 8,000 at VCU’s Siegel Center, many of whom braved a downpour to get into see the president and first lady, to Mitt Romney’s own opening salvo a little over two weeks ago. Romney officially launched his general election campaign in the State of New Hampshire at an afternoon barbecue held at the Bittersweet Farm, operated by Republicans Doug and Stella Scamman. Zzzzz…..

It’s true that Ron Paul and Newt Gingrinch had not formally decamped at that time, which may account for some of the event’s timidity. But Ron Paul never believed he had a shot anyway and as for Gingrich, this might be the last political office for which he was momentarily considered a serious contender. He was going to roll around in the spotlight and savor every ray before he and third wife Callista retreated to their cynical Catholic piety.

But back to Romney. CBS News noted the symmetry of the campaign’s pivot toward the general election in New Hampshire, with reporter Sarah B. Boxer writing, “Romney’s current bid for the White House began on June 2, 2011 on Scamman Farm in Stafford, N.H., and the campaign considers his return Tuesday as a full circle moment for the candidate.”

Have we REALLY been enduring Romney’s second Presidential campaign for nearly a full year? It’s like the network television procedural that goes on for seasons while an entertaining, witty gem struggles to find an audience. He is the CSI: Miami of the political playing field. And perhaps for the second time that week, Team Romney selected an ill-advised locale for a photo op. Remember that shuttered dry-wall factory in Lorain, Ohio in mid-April? The one held up as an Obama policy failure that actually closed under the Bush regime? Yeah. Oops.

And it appears that the Romney people, sensing an obvious dearth of triumphant environments in their man’s history, were poised to occupy their rightful place once more as fish in a barrel. As CBS News went on to note, “On Monday evening, the University of New Hampshire released a new poll showing President Obama ahead of Romney 51 percent to 42 percent in New Hampshire. Mr. Obama’s re-election team is quick to point out that Romney’s campaign cleared out of the state immediately following the primary – often noting that his bustling headquarters in Manchester went dark the next day.”

By now we’re used to this from Romney, right? Wherever he needs to go is where he wants to be! The trees in New Hampshire are so green! The people are so real! And what’s that noise? Why it’s the shaking of the Etch-a-Sketch, the sound that may preclude residents of New Hampshire from remembering that Team Romney skipped town the moment the State stopped suiting his immediate purposes.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Romney folks are strenuously refuting any suggestion that their candidate is out of touch with local voters. Mitt’s senior adviser in New Hampshire, Jim Merrill was quoted as saying, “I would characterize what the Obama campaign says as nonsense, complete nonsense.”

Ah yes, the “I’m rubber you’re glue” deflection, a time-honored tool in the GOP debate arsenal. Game on. Good luck Mittens!

Romney: GOP Indifference Toward the Middle Class Personified (March 13, 2012)

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Last week Republican primary co-front runner Mitt Romney demonstrated once again that neither he, nor his increasingly radical political party give a fig about the quality of life of America’s middle class. Multiple media outlets reported Romney’s compassionately conservative response to a struggling college student who queried him at a town hall meeting about the profoundly unaffordable costs of a college degree in the 21st Century

My favorite headline came courtesy of New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait: “Mitt: Pay for Your Own Damn College!” Chait distilled Romney’s heartless rejoinder rather well. What Mittens actually said was:

“It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that. Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And hopefully you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”

Charles Dickens first published his classic novel David Copperfield in 1850, featuring the villainous Uriah Heep, described in a Wikipedia entry as a character “notable for his cloying humility, obsequiousness, and insincerity, making frequent references to his own ‘humbleness.’ His name has become synonymous with being a yes man.”

It’s tempting to believe Dickens may have been clairvoyant in his creation of Heep, conjuring a future in which a quarter of a billionaire automaton can make like a living, breathing regular guy. I thought that the gold standard for radical right wing pandering had been provided by “Maverick” John McCain during the 2008 campaign, but McCain’s about faces on issues like immigration in order to secure his party’s trust simply don’t do Romney’s kowtowing justice. Is there anything this former moderate, somewhat socially liberal fraud won’t say to get the nomination?

In this case however, we have reason to suspect that Mittens said exactly what he means. After all, why should he care? He and every friend he has possess the cash and the Ivy League legacies to ensure that their offspring will go to the higher learning institutions of their choosing. It’s not they who will be saddled with debt after graduation. And if that “little lower price” degree from a state school that Romney so generously recommends for you should still run an average of $40,000 before factoring in room and board, well you’ve got two choices don’t you? A lifetime of debt or minimum wage. It’s your problem for not being born rich.

What’s perhaps more telling is Chait’s observation that Romney’s comments at the town hall were met with “sustained applause from the crowd at a high-tech metals assembly factory.” Now I am going to go out on a limb and hazard that attendees at a Romney gathering are going to lean mostly right, so ok, these folks were predisposed to drink in the bland Kool-Aid that is the Mitt brew. But factory workers cheering a candidate who unapologetically snubs his nose at the idea of affordable, universal education? How much longer can Republicans expect they are going to find willing accomplices within the hard working, low paid ranks of their base? Sooner or later the spell will be broken. It has to be.

Bold attacks on middle class infrastructure is nothing new to the GOP. You won’t hear them complaining about the stagnant wages of workers while CEO pay has skyrocketed. They have no qualms touting party planks that champion the withholding of rights from everyone from members of the gay community to females who wish to make decisions regarding their own bodies. But the blatant, sound-bite ready pride with which these candidates can look a student dead in the eye and tell them to toughen up, while boasting about the two Cadillacs in the driveway, is just sickening.

Democrats Have to Hang Tough for the Future of Government and Our Children (October 3, 2013)

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The three most important children in my life are my 13 and six year-old nieces, and a four year-old step-granddaughter. Since President Obama’s election to the nation’s highest office in November of 2008, I have given a lot of thought to how I might try to explain the rapid disintegration of the nation’s political discourse. A good portion of the gridlock is certainly old-fashioned ideological difference, but it has been clear for years that other forces are at play. As these girls I love are of mixed race heritage, and all growing up in ethnically diverse households, tolerance is fortunately, their experiential norm.

So trying to account for the rancorous, divisive dogmatism and xenophobia (let us never forget that the Tea Party Nation was a key influence on the Birther movement) that has presently brought the daily functions of government to a screeching halt is somewhat challenging. It is incredibly disheartening and frustrating on a personal level, but I grew up in an era (the 1980s) where my conservative, immigrant grandparents comfortably trafficked in ethnic stereotypes and epithets, even as my kid sister and I cringed in embarrassment.

The next generation of our family is rather blissfully unaware that it was once considered socially acceptable to draw attention to, and pass judgment upon “otherness.” There will always be unfortunate exceptions, but by and large, day-to-day interactions in their world are characterized by public courtesy, regardless of privately held beliefs. The common American has taken a great public leap forward in this respect.

So how to clarify the feral, mean-spirited and utterly defeatist Republican goal of rendering the POTUS a one-term President? Just two days after the 2010 midterm elections, NBC News characterized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as offering “an aggressive assessment of the results, calling for votes to erode the reach of the health care law that was a signature of the Obama administration.”

The Birthers, Obamacare opponents and the Republican establishment which sought to unseat the President in 2012 with the boring, one percent loving candidacy of Mitt Romney, have all lost their causes. These issues have been dealt with at the ballot box, the Supreme Court and the court of public opinion, yet so great is the distaste for our African-American President with the Muslim name on the part of certain members of privileged white society, that here we are. The first large scale shutdown of government functionality since 1995. At that time the Republican-led House, under the stewardship of Speaker Newt Gingrich, paid dearly for its gamble in the 1996 elections, which saw Democrats pickup key seats.

There is little reason to expect a different long-term outcome this time, except several other variables stand to make the “temporary” pain of shutdown more keenly felt. Many families are still reeling from the Great Recession and its sustained impact on the job market. Government employment, devastated by cash strapped local budgets and the ill effects of 2013 sequestration “bargain,” already in record decline, is in full-on furlough mode. Hardworking families across the country have just lost their paychecks, however temporarily.

And for what? Because the racist, classist, elitist guardians of white privilege can’t stand to “give in” and fund the government for six more weeks with a continuing budget resolution? NEWS FLASH: the issue of Obamacare has been settled several times over. It’s done. And despite the sustained campaign of fear and misinformation waged by the G.O.P against the American people, my fellow citizens will quickly wonder what all the fuss was about. Those who can obtain low-cost coverage from which they were excluded before because of financial or pre-existing health conditions, the many who begin to understand that they’ll no longer be one accident/illness away from insolvency, and the majority who respect the integrity of the democratic process will recoil from this disingenuous, destructive, arbitrary gamesmanship. Give it time.

But for now, I don’t know how to account for what’s happening to the very people whose future and health (mental as well as physical) I worry about most. What can I tell my girls about people willing to sacrifice the nation for the regressive, immature attitudes of the few? As awful as the situation is, I am grateful that President Obama and most of his fellow Democrats have taken a stand against blackmail. They must. Republicans have to lose this one, and badly, or what type of government paradigm are we bequeathing to our youngest?  Hatred and sour grapes resulting in scorched earth tactics cannot be tolerated a day longer. For better or worse, this is a defining moment in our nation’s history, when we decide what kind of country we want to be for the rest of the 21st Century and beyond. For the sake of our children, let this pain and shame result in a better, more constructive, more tolerant future.

Paul Krugman’s Stubborn Mastery of Facts Continues to Undermine G.O.P Policy (September 9, 2013)

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Every now and then a pundit publishes a piece of writing so simple, so right on, that it’s necessary to force a momentary pivot away from the gaping maw of the 24/7 news cycle to celebrate it. It’s one thing to share a link on Facebook or retweet a story, but I have to wonder if those sorts of essentially mindless activities have supplanted the demand of critical thought. And as a busy person who is as often as guilty of the “read, digest and move onto the next thing” as anyone else, I’m going to practice what I preach this week.

Because friends, Paul Krugman’s Monday morning column, “The Wonk Gap,” subtitled, “What the G.O.P. doesn’t know can hurt us,” is really what it’s all about.  I have long admired The New York Times’ Nobel Prize-winning economist for his approachable, accessible good sense. That approval went to another level in the fallout from the late 2008 financial collapse and the Great Recession that we seem unable to fully shake. While a large assortment of Krugman’s colleagues began to issue battle cries railing against the Federal deficit and debt, when it was clear that our biggest problem was the dual devastations of joblessness and demolished home value and equity, Krugman refused to throw in with popular opinion.

The result is that while the often-heartless austerity team has been proven wrong time and again (there’s zero examples of cutting a nation’s way to prosperity – see Greece, Spain, etc.), Krugman’s Keynesian philosophy has been vindicated over and over. He labeled the 2009 stimulus package too small and argued that a larger plan would pose no great threat to our nation’s long-term debt structure. With a U6 unemployment ratestill hovering near 14 percent, a measure that includes people seeking full-time employment, as well as those forced into part-time positions out of basic necessity, the jobs situation hasn’t improved much in the last four years.  Meanwhile factcheck.orghighlights the obfuscations of the GOP’s favorite debt policy fraud, Paul Ryan, by concluding “Ryan’s chart ignores $2 trillion in deficit reduction and compounds that exaggeration by projecting the inflated deficit figures out for many decades in the future.”

If the data fails to support the G.O.P. platform and the liberalism of economists like Paul Krugman has been proven to encompass solid policy as well as human empathy (imagine!), why then have the failed ideas of the modern Republican Party been so difficult to banish from our discourse? Let’s go to the man himself for a possible answer:

“[A sizeable portion of today’s Republican leaders] are inadvertently illustrating the widening ‘wonk gap’ — the G.O.P.’s near-complete lack of expertise on anything substantive. Health care is the most prominent example, but the dumbing down extends across the spectrum, from budget issues to national security to poll analysis. Remember, Mitt Romney and much of his party went into Election Day expecting victory.”

Moreover by tuning out any creditable sources that conflict with the party’s wish fulfillment, Krugman writes, “conservative ‘experts’ are creating false impressions about public opinion…Modern conservatism has become a sort of cult, very much given to conspiracy theorizing when confronted with inconvenient facts. Liberal policies were supposed to cause hyperinflation, so low measured inflation must reflect statistical fraud; the threat of climate change implies the need for public action, so global warming must be a gigantic scientific hoax. Oh, and Mitt Romney would have won if only he had been a real conservative.”

I experience a genuine surge of adrenaline, accompanied by an increased pulse rate, flushed cheeks and giddiness when I read truth manifestos like this one.  Whereas the majority of conservative pundits have to contort themselves to make anything resembling a logical point, Krugman’s very success is located in the simplicity of his arguments. He is unafraid to continuously point out, very respectfully, that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

I respect Krugman’s apparently genuine belief that there will be a time when facts win, when the people of this Great Union will pause to wonder why they keep getting poorer, availing themselves of less and less opportunity anytime the modern Republican party controls an arm of the government. More war, less jobs and the removal of the social safety net even as the top one percent and the corporate interests they represent gobble up remaining resources. There are certain weeks I feel almost too demoralized, too exhausted to continue raising my voice in an attempt to counter the efforts at middle and lower class suppression I see everywhere I look. It is in part the stubbornness of experts like Krugman, with too many credentials to ignore, that inspires me to continue. We can’t let today’s G.O.P. destroy this great democracy. If Krugman can find new and interesting ways to spread a staunchly consistent message, then so can I.

Republicans Confront the Reality That America Just Isn’t That Into Them (February 26, 2013)

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There is so much to talk about this week. Those of us not living under a rock are well aware that the budgetary disaster otherwise known as sequestration will go into effect this Friday in the absence of a bipartisan Congressional resolution. I am going to take a rare break from my genuine, liberal defensiveness and point the finger at both parties for allowing it to come to this.

It is unfathomable that playing the blame game as to who must own responsibility for developing the plan has taken precedence over coming up with a viable alternative. Further, it now seems that Democrats and Republicans may just take their chances with the sequester and let the voting public decide who’s most at fault. The theory goes that the party who is assigned the largest portion of accountability will have to scream “uncle” and ultimately compromise their position.

Well these types of tactical moves may play well in Poker and Risk, but this the real world. Real people stand to lose real jobs, and a fledgling U.S. economy just starting to show signs of life may be sent back to the precipice from which it stood in late 2008. Shame, shame, shame on this pathetic excuse for representation of the peoples’ will. I am about ready to declare big picture, long term planning completely obsolete on Capitol Hill.

And while we’re on the subject of regressive thinking, the GOP continues to wrestle with a four-month old question to which finding the answer would change nothing. The Republican Party is still wasting time and resources trying to figure out why it is that Mitt Romney lost the 2012 Presidential election in the first place. The party of fantasy, having gotten nowhere blaming voters for their unfathomable desire to put their own economic survival ahead of big business interests, and the settled question of a woman’s right to control her own body, have found a new target: technology.

Mitt Romney’s former top strategist, Stuart Stevens, has been everywhere in the media in recent days. Stevens has canvassed print and television news outlets, defending himself from the latest charges directed at the Romney campaign, to try to account for what many Republicans still view as a incomprehensible rejection of their chosen candidate. Conventional right wing wisdom has reevaluated the Obama’s mastery of viral messaging across social media, YouTube, and campaign websites and come up with one conclusion: the Romney Team’s dearth of tech savvy cost them the vote.

Sounding more common sense than reactionary, Stevens has challenged the party to look deeper for its failure to connect with the electorate. Among other arguments Stevens made in an Op-Ed published in The Washington Post earlier this week, the strategist called upon his partymates to admit that the answers are not that simple. He wrote, “There seems to be a desire to blame Republicans’ electoral difficulties and the Romney campaign’s loss on technological failings. I wish this were the problem, because it would be relatively easy to fix. But it’s not.”

Instead Stevens joins a growing chorus of GOP leaders who seem to be waking up the simple unpopularity of the party platform. ABC News summarized the operative’s view as follows: Stevens “argue[s] that it was a generation and message gap that ailed the GOP last year and ultimately paved the way for President Obama’s victory over Romney. The Democrats’ superior technology – and Republicans’ weaknesses in this area – was only part of the problem.” Ya think?

Leave it to the modern Republican Party to turn anywhere to avoid the obvious truth: Americans just aren’t that into you anymore. Stevens went on to caution the right against adopting the belief that more effective Tweeting and the right software package would be enough to convince alienated voters to give the GOP another try. He said, ” “Technology is something to a large degree you can go out and purchase, and if we think there’s an off the shelf solution that you can with the Republican Party it’s wrong.”

We know by now that the 21st century Republican ilk retreats from facts and logic when it comes to pursuing its own agenda, but it seems that they’ve only really succeeded in fooling themselves. If they haven’t learned by now that continued legislative intransigence and a loose relationship with reality is a strategy destined to fail, may they be reminded during the 2014 midterm elections.