“As The New York Times reported this week, the platform also “demands that lawmakers use religion as a guide when legislating, stipulating ‘that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights.’” Anyone who thinks well-meaning public servants are attempting to blur the lines between Church and State out of zealotry for Christ, I’ve got a bridge in Atlantis to sell you. Over and again within in the Republican Party’s official legislative positions, religion is used to bludgeon and subjugate the “other.” The irony of course is that this backward-looking bullshit is the work of a scared and shrinking minority. These fools are the other now and they know it. GOP leadership is doubling down on the Man’s panic in an evolving world and culture where he’s losing the position to dominate.”
“The bottom line: when the Republican Party took its unified February gamble to stonewall replacing Scalia, the reasoning was already tough to follow. Moreover, the offered logic wed them permanently to the position. After all if you claim you’re exercising stubbornness in the name of democracy, it’s hard to shift gears if say, your candidate is a maniac, has no chance of winning the election and/or SCOTUS decides not to play along with the reliable ideological divide.”
“2016 is a year marked by a rapid rise in personal cognitive dissonance. I don’t want President Kasich. Frankly speaking, a majority of the Republican Party has come to the same conclusion. The only demographic demonstrating an appetite for his candidacy are residents of his home state. Still I find it impossible not to enjoy the schadenfreude that is the Governor’s adamant refusal to quit the race. Kasich’s most high-profile campaign success is happening in real-time – acting as Chief-Thorn-in-Side to party leadership and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.”
If you ask members of the Republican party about any one of our social safety net programs, badly needed resources on which 49 percent of Americans depend, you tend to get standard answers. They usually include words like “takers” and “entitlements.” Let’s recall this standard bearing gem from recent presidential candidate Mitt Romney:
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president [Obama] no matter what…who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. …These are people who pay no income tax. …and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
Of course the more humane and rational among us are quite aware that these programs overwhelmingly assist the elderly, disabled and gainfully employed, but afflicted with unlivable wages. The oft-peddled image of the lazy American eating prime rib in a hammock simply doesn’t hold up to reality. But no matter. “Those people” ought to suffer further for their crimes of poverty, lack of educational opportunity and infirm bodily condition. It is the cherished rhetorical and policy practice of oligarchs throughout history. If they want to live the American dream, let them figure it out, with no help from any of us. And let’s use the Bible as a defense of that position whenever we can. That’s capitalism, baby!
Yes, members of the GOP, party media apparatus and conservative celebrity heroes love telling everyone how to live and worship (Christian), and regulate their bodies (oh especially if female!) and embrace a moral philosophy of complete personal accountability. And yet stubbornly, these crusaders seem to have a hard time practicing what they preach (pun definitely intended). Also, the buck definitely stops before the sinner’s door in these cases, a benevolent gift of grace perpetually denied the economically challenged, especially if they are of a different creed or color.
While right-wing conservative hypocrisy is nothing new, I suggest that the latest round of agency deflection is unique and supremely galling. As a female writer and proud feminist, I am measuredly loathe to devote any more ink to Josh Duggar or the Ashley Madison hacking scandal, but I must, if only to further the goal of duplicity awareness.
For you see, Josh Duggar, despite being raised in a family that espouses to teach children to “exercise self-control in any situation,” has failed to keep it in his pants. So many times. And despite the horndog’s taste for his own underage sisters and other married women, proclivities that do more than hint at personal failings that deserve our collective denunciation, somehow the Duggar circle believes their oldest gift from God has been a victim in his own right. A martyr of authority.
Pastor Ronnie Floyd, leader of an Arkansas congregation that has included the Duggar family in the past, indicts culture for Josh’s indiscretions. He said during a live stream pulpit sermon earlier this month, “This sexual revolution is altering mindsets, undermining the family, influencing the culture and is a mockery to Biblical truth.” Yep. With so many women running around the country retaining informed and empowered reproductive control, how else could a young family man be expected to react? The good reverend has also been known to shrug off Duggar’s violation of his siblings as if it were an annoying mosquito bite: “Things like [this have happened before and will happen again.”
Personal responsibility is the cross to bear of those who have been unfortunate enough to be born less fortunate. Those who have been blessed so heavily by God with TV ratings, revenue and the power to lead political parties can hardly be expected to manage their libidos and moral rectitude with so much important work in front of them. The work that those damned poor and unwell choose not to do.
Unfortunately, the Ashley Madison scandal also ensnared executive director of Louisiana’s Grand Old Party, Jason Dore. However, just so we’re clear, Dore is not to blamed for so much as bad judgment upon the release of records showing he paid almost $200 for use of the site. This was merely, “opposition research.” The man is a true patriot.
The unique cocktail of xenophobia, inequality, misogyny and do as I say, not as I do insincerity that has come to typify right wing culture is swiftly moving the Republican party to the fringes of mainstream tolerance. Perhaps that should be reward enough for having to tolerate the constant stream of cruel duality that renders many of the characters onstage – Duggar, Dore, Donald Trump – stomach-turningly disingenuous. But somehow it isn’t. Too many injustices. Too many families are being hurt.
Though you’d never guess by listening to its representatives speak, it was a terrible week for modern Republican ideology.
Those right-wingers who love to call President Obama weak on foreign policy, setting him in relief against their favorite bare-chested strongman Vladimir Putin, are scrambling to crawl under the nearest rock. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the icon of conservative male virility lent support to war criminals who shot 80 children from the sky. Per a report from theAssociated Press:
“On Thursday, Putin blamed Ukraine for the crash, saying Kiev was responsible for the unrest in its Russian-speaking eastern regions. But he didn’t accuse Ukraine of shooting the plane down and didn’t address the key question of whether Russia gave the rebels such a powerful missile.”
If gathering rumors are to be believed, Russian interlopers may have already absconded to Moscow with Malaysian Airlines Flight 17’s “black box” recorder. And as of Saturday morning, the crash site in Eastern Ukraine remains unsecured. As evidence decays and/or is purposefully tampered with, Putin’s Thursday statement may be the closest thing we ever get to an admission of the truth. A wise person once told me that when an unpleasant man tells you something about himself, believe him. And by shying away from implausible deniability (a sport in which the Russian thug routinely indulges), Putin is speaking loud and clear.
Russian sponsorship of the downing of the defenseless civilian airliners. Yeah, that’s real bravery. Keep talking McCain Nation.
Moving onto another human tragedy a little closer to home, the Republican Party continued its parade of heartless, xenophobic double talk about the Central American child immigrant crisis. Even as Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper offered a ray of humanitarian hope in writing, “If Denver or other communities in Colorado want to offer their support and sponsorship while these children are in the legal system, the state respects and would defend that decision,” and Pope Francis publicly cautioned the devout to love and protect the kids, a dark strain of ugliness continued to permeate the official GOP response.
This past week, retired medical doctor and Republican House member Phil Gingrey told NBC News, “The border patrol gave us a list of the diseases that they’re concerned about, and Ebola was one of those…I can’t tell you specifically that there were any cases of Ebola, I don’t think there were, but of course Tuberculosis, Chagas disease, many – small pox, some of the infectious diseases of children, all of these are concerns.”
These alarmist and disgusting comments continue to undercut our nation’s once-vaunted reputation as a refuge for freedom seekers. On a secondary level, you have to wonder if the GOP understands that they won’t be able to erase Hispanic voter memory in 2014 and beyond. Yet the certainty that the party is briskly digging its own electoral grave doesn’t do much to relieve the dire and fearful predicament of the kids. They’ve run from terror only to be treated as enemy invaders by the Land of the Free.
This year has been unbelievably tough for those in favor of contemplative, deliberate foreign policy, sensible gun and comprehensive immigration reforms and last but not least, liberty for the GOP’s most discounted “special interest group” – women.
New York Times commentator Timothy Egan makes the case this week that the SCOTUS’ disastrous Hobby Lobby decision does more than assault female reproductive freedom. It also takes a swipe at our founding principle – the separation of church and state. He writes, “In the United States, God is on the currency. By brilliant design, though, he is not mentioned in the Constitution. The founders were explicit: This country would never formally align God with one political party, or allow someone to use religion to ignore civil laws. At least that was the intent. In this summer of the violent God, five justices on the Supreme Court seem to feel otherwise.”
As Americans continue to grapple with the Supreme Court’s increasingly partisan suppression of human rights in favor of corporate ones, the media is finally (finally!) beginning to take the five Catholic male justices responsible to task in a semi-bipartisan way. Meanwhile, Democratic Congressional leaders are trying to develop and pass legislation that would grant women access to everything promised by the Affordable Care Act. May they be relentless.
It was a week when modern Republican claims to be defenders of freedom, limited government and human dignity were clearly exposed as money and power grabbing, racist scams. Individual rights trump all else – except for women who want to make their own family planning decisions. Give us your tired and your poor – unless they are frightened brown children. We have no money to take care of them properly as dictated by law. Those funds are subsidizing the lifestyles and business ventures of the one percent. And that weak-willed, effeminate Obama. If only he’d man up and covertly supply terrorists who murder international civilians like that macho Vladimir Putin.
Two men from opposing sides of the political spectrum, with different experiences of America, utilizing two divergent forums, arrive at the same conclusion: disenfranchising voters is harmful to our struggling democracy.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul appeared on last Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press for an interview with moderator David Gregory. Paul gave several statements that would appear to be at odds with Republican Party talking points, including a stubborn refusal to fault President Obama for the administration’s current cautious approach to reengaging Iraq. But we already knew that Paul is a true libertarian on this issue. He values a nation’s right to live and determine its own system of government above his party’s interest in warfare and faux domination. I am not alone in wondering if this approach renders him unelectable in a national Republican primary.
But in the same interview, Paul drew attention to another fundamental plank in his platform – ending the war on drugs. This is another issue on which the Senator takes a truly libertarian perspective. Even so, I bolted upright on my couch when he said the following:
“[The war on drugs is] the biggest voting rights issue of our day. We’ve gotten distracted by a lot of other things. We think there may be a million people who are being prevented from voting from having a previous felony conviction…It prevents you from employment, so if we’re the party of family values and keeping families together, and the party that believes in redemption and second chances, we should be for letting people have the right to vote back, and I think the face of the Republican party needs to be not about suppressing the vote, but about enhancing the vote.”
I am not in the habit of rewarding politicians for uttering statements of obvious common sense, but given the toxic state of reason and discourse in the Republican party, it’s difficult not to view this as a little brave. After all, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just got tossed for being viewed by his constituents as too liberal.
On the same day, The New York Times ran columnist Charles M. Blow’s piece, “The Frustration Doctrine.” Blow, a dyed in the wool liberal who writes from the perspective of an African-American man come of age in the deep South, has been critical of the broken prison system as well as voter disenfranchisement. This past weekend, while evaluating the nation’s general distrust in government institutions, he observed:
“As many Americans, particularly those in the middle, throw up their hands in disgust and walk away in dismay, hyperpartisans — particularly conservatives — exert more influence…moderates are the least likely to be politically active. The ambivalent middle appears to be the cradle of apathy. And while the consistently liberal are more likely to do things like volunteer for a candidate or a campaign, consistent conservatives are much more likely than liberals to vote.”
While Paul and Blow approached the issue of the vote from two different angles (Paul indicting a penal system that disproportionately disenfranchises minority men – who incidentally tend to vote Democrat, Blow trying to incite civic spirit in the malaised middle), the message is the same. Renewed access to and enthusiasm for the ballot is the only way to repair our fractured democracy.
It’s hard to remember a time when getting out the vote was not a polarizing issue, but so it was. Merely eight years ago, then-President George W. Bush celebrated the extension of the Voting Rights Act. The compassionate conservative and former Governor of Texas would likely find himself primaried over such an inclusive approach to the polls in 2014.
I’ll go back to impugning his other dangerous policies in short order, but for now, I thank Senator Rand Paul for challenging his party to live up to its long stated core values. Freedom for all – not just the moneyed white man. At the same time, it’s equally critical that those of us on the left and in the middle chant the same mantra: Don’t like where the country is headed? Get off the couch and vote – even if they make you wait in line. No hyperbole here. It’s the only way.
If midterm election years have a reputation for being tepid and boring, a typically alienating cycle where the opposition party stokes its base with a referendum on the sitting President, 2014 is bucking the script.
By now we’ve all had time to digest the “shocking,” “stunning,” “earthquake” (all terms culled from actual media coverage) that is lame duck House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s ejection from his post by the likes of Tea Party upstart Dave Brat. Brat, an economics professor at Virginia’s Randolph-Macon College, is doing his level best to upend quite a few paradigms. After unseating Cantor while leveraging an infinitesimal campaign budget (you’ve heard the statistic: Brat spent $200,000 – slightly more than what Cantor’s campaign dropped on steak dinners), the most cynical of us are taking another look at the assumption that mass money buys outcomes without exception.
At the same time, Brat demonstrates that earning a PhD in a scientific discipline is no guarantee that data will have bearing on political policy development. Brat won over his conservative district with a staunch anti-immigration position that flies against the express desires of three major constituent groups:economists, business leaders and religious organizations.
But in between Cantor’s surprise overthrow and the tragic and scary events unfolding in a foundering Iraq, another story of GOP cognitive dissonance was somewhat lost in the shuffle. I am speaking of last weekend’s GOP convention in Moscow, Idaho, managed by wannabe House Majority Leader Raul Labrador. I am not sure I could provide a synopsis of the disaster more succinct and factual than writer Betsy Z. Russell of The Spokesman-Review:
“Idaho’s state Republican Party convention degenerated into a fiasco Saturday after attempts to disqualify up to a third of the delegates attending appeared to be succeeding – and the convention ended up adjourning without electing a chairman, setting a platform or doing any of it scheduled business…Far from uniting the deeply divided party, the gathering in Moscow degenerated into dysfunction – though it’s the party that holds every statewide office in Idaho, every seat in the congressional delegation and more than 80 percent of the seats in the state Legislature. It also proved not to be the finest hour for Labrador, whom many looked to as the healer for the fractured party just a day after he announced that he’s running for Majority Leader of the U.S. House; instead, he ended the convention facing jeers and walkouts from his own party members.”
I must own that I gasped audibly at several points while reading the text. June 2014 is the month of conservative schadenfreude that keeps on giving. But once the gleeful laughter recedes, an obvious question presents itself. Why does the party continue warring with itself during the primary season in the absence of any logical reason to do so?
The fallout from the silliness appears to be forcing a premature end to Labrador’s national ambitions before they have an opportunity to gain traction. Boise State University professor emeritus Jim Weatherby, a longtime observer of Idaho politics, noted, “It’s hard to blame all this on Raul Labrador, but on the other hand, this does not strengthen his credentials for a national leadership position, either.”
These increasingly common and bizarre instances of Republican infighting have clearly been a longtime coming. “Mainstream” conservatives asked for this after President Obama’s first election, when they welcomed new radical and reactionary elements to the fold that predicted long-term implosion. And anyone who paid attention to the fall 2013 government shutdown will recall that heated rhetoric was just as often Republican on Republican as it was liberal versus conservative.
The larger lesson may be that the best Democratic strategy for the 2014 midterms is no strategy at all. Sit back, take it easy. Put up your local candidates and support them, but why bother exerting yourself or spending a ton of money to go negative? Conserve your resources and watch your enemies eat other.