| Political Waves
You've got to hand it to our Republican brethren. Even their infighting and vote-splitting do not daunt their confidence that they are destined to rule the world. As is written into its standard operating procedure, the Party of No gives no quarter, admits no fault, and blames the other guy for everything. Some might see that as dedicated and disciplined, but I have had a political month, working the county Democratic booth at local fairs and events. I've seen this attitude close up. I've debated with it, and I think it displays the temperament of a stereotypical Missouri mule: thick-headed, unteachable and immovable. The GOP expects victory because they're sure they represent the actual, if unrecognized, will of the people, given by the Divine in a New Testament verse that reads, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." See there? God doesn't care about business, so they get to do whatever they want.
Pushed in these last months to put forward a leadership plan, and threatened by the popularity of their more radical members, House Republicans issued their newest version of Contract with America this week. The original Contract was fashioned from Newt Gingrich's alliance with the religious right and Libertarian-leaning conservatives, resulting in a referendum blitzkrieg that ripped both houses of Congress from Clinton's hands in 1994. The original Contract with America was one of those cyclic flirtations with 'purity' that the right can't seem to do without, drawing in religious conservatives akin to Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and giving them a movement to rally around. In such a climate, Monica was the gift that kept on giving, dragging Clinton down into the same impeachment frenzy that the right plans for Obama the Muslim.
The GOP calls this paler 2010 playbook their Pledge to America, a promise to carry Reagan and Bush policies forward until government is completely privatized and as thin as their talking points. To sum up this 'new' leadership pledge in the esteemed words of Nancy Reagan, they will 'just say no' to anything Obama wants, along with investigating and repealing everything he's accomplished in the past two years. In their spare time they will continue to promote corporate welfare so that taxes aren't unfairly raised on the very rich, and attempt as best they can to shut down government. In short, there's nothing here to see, citizen, move along. Even their own members yawned as they got in party line, save a few who found the economics objectionable. On that front, New York Times economist Paul Krugman
said the Pledge was "nonsense," adding, "Banana republic, here we come."
Nailing it, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka
called the 'real Americans' for whom the pledge was written "real white." The racism simply cannot be missed. But for corporate interests, the Republicans would be a Southern regional party, fading and failing. What can they offer the young, the black or Latino, the gays or the union members? Their demographic is elderly, white and non-renewable except within a growing, disenchanted rural underclass. The inability of conservatives to speak to the issues of those unlike themselves flies in the face of reality. I marvel as Republican strategists draw the noose tighter around their own necks. This should be a lesson to those who too narrowly define themselves. Still, they have the nativists, the business class and the newly fearful to put through their paces, and they make the most of it with a level of noise and commotion that has pundits sure the GOP has gained the upper hand this season. I wouldn't count my chickens just yet.
We are seeing a split in Republican leadership, although you have to look closely. It's that purity thing again, they just can't escape it. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint has aligned himself with the Bagger movement, earning awards and support from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation -- founded and funded by the Libertarian billionaire Koch brothers who are pouring multi-millions into right-wing ads during this campaign season -- and flying the Bagger flag by actively endorsing non-mainstream Republican candidates. Radically conservative as well as religious, DeMint was a featured speaker at the Values Voters Summit held in D.C. this month. He's making a name for himself among this new breed of Republicans. With more than 70 percent of the GOP base approving the Tea Party's 'lower taxes / smaller government' platform, DeMint is on the right side of movement politics.
Pity poor old mainstream leaders like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who have earned no brownie points with the base. McConnell is a mainstream Republican, open to big tent politics; DeMint is a purist with no taste for moderates, in the unlikely event he finds one in the GOP camp. Holding his ambitions close to his chest, he went after Minority Leader McConnell by announcing (quite absurdly) that "the problem in the Republican Party is that the leadership has gone to the left." Feeling his oats, DeMint recently informed his fellow senators that he would place a hold on all legislation that has not been cleared by his office until after the election, threatening to shut down the senate chamber. Seems a bit cheeky from a minority senator, you say? According to co-workers, DeMint has placed a hold on EVERY piece of legislation since Obama took office. Now, with election day nearing, DeMint has taken this tactic to the next level and holds the nation hostage. And they said the black guy
Those on the left who fuss that Obama hasn't been able to achieve the liberal dreams of the nation despite his majority in Congress, take note: over 300 proposed bills, successfully passed through the House, have not received a Senate vote. Twenty-three judicial nominees, some having received unanimous approval in Judiciary, have not come to the floor. There are 103 judicial vacancies -- nearly one in eight seats on the bench -- and at least half of those positions have been labeled emergencies because of heavy caseloads. The right to a speedy trial is compromised because Obama's nominees have been stonewalled. Other branches of government are also going without leadership because of obstruction; some 200 of them earlier this year. There are so many non-controversial appointments outstanding that some legislators have suggested they be 'bundled' together for an up/down vote, should the GOP be persuaded to participate in one. The President took a defensive posture recently by appointing Elizabeth Warren as consultant to his economic team so she wouldn't end up in this long line of obstructed nominees.
An unprecedented level of obstruction -- read that again: unprecedented -- has occurred, and it's only going to get worse. Last week, Republicans blocked a defense bill that included the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" as well as the Pentagon-sponsored DREAM Act, which would have offered fast-track citizenship to illegals who volunteer and serve. The bill never even came to the floor for debate, the first defense bill to be blocked since 1952. Similarly, the renewal of a bill that funds almost a quarter of a million jobs through the stimulus plan was blocked for a third time this week, despite Dems working for renewal since early spring. Even the new iteration of START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty beloved of GOP hero, Ronnie Reagan, has met an inflexible GOP block.
Not all of the obstructed bills are controversial. As ThinkProgress
writes, "They include measures to prevent prisons from becoming breeding grounds for AIDS, to authorize relief for torture victims, and to ensure that college dorms are equipped with fire sprinklers. Even bills to enable a full investigation into BP's catastrophic oil spill and to ensure that BP is held accountable for this spill are being denied a Senate vote."
And remember those half-billion bad eggs? There's a food safety bill in the Senate now that will go nowhere while Republican bad eggs dither. And they ARE bad eggs, every one who follows this party line. People die from salmonella, and each day that this necessary law remains stonewalled endangers us all. While Republicans don't believe that government should protect the public, it is ironic that the virulent obstruction they're practicing now -- in a concerted effort to get themselves elected as the architects of our future -- is exactly the kind of thing from which we need protection.
According to the polls, the majority in this country want more healthcare options, more financial regulations and more government intervention. Think how far along we'd be if we hadn't had to fight for every scrap of progress! Perhaps in these few weeks before elections we could point out to a confused public, not what the Republicans plan to do if they win, but everything they've done since they lost. When people are hurting they look for someone to care. No unemployment, no food stamps or healthcare assistance, no limits on Wall Street's plunder or its ability to manipulate your future and your children's? Really?
The Party of No will be the last to offer the walking wounded a hand up. If there's a message to get out there in the next few weeks, that's the one.