Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Back to the GOP's Greatest Hits...

Republicans have tried a variety of issues as wedges against President Obama.

First it was the economy. The argument didn't stick-- it's improving. And Republican policies favour the rich over the struggling.

Next it was healthcare-- that didn't work because the GOP has no reasonable alternative policy to pitch.

Then it was gay rights -- that didn't work because more Americans support marriage equality now than oppose it.

Then it was religion and birth control -- didn't work because American women (and some men) aren't stupid.

Now, they're bringing back one of their "greatest" hits. 

Race. That's right, did you happen to notice that the president is black?

Great... Just. Great.

Tonight on the FOX show "Hannity" -- yeah, the one hosted by Sean Hannity, the guy on FOX who makes Sarah Palin look like a constitutional scholar -- they're releasing the full tape of then student-advocate Obama apparently defending a radical African American academic tied to the now infamous Reverend Wright (remember him?). 

So now, I guess, the uber-conservatives in America are back to calling Obama an anti-white radical fascist-socialist-communist. How did that work out in '08 again?

Originally, I found their desperation in the face of a fractured primary system and messy convention somewhat pitiful. Now it's just getting sad. 

I'm sure at some point in their analysis of the speech, Hannity and his friends will point out that Obama used secret radical-fascist-socialist-racist-communist code words like "equality", "freedom", "progress", "diversity" and "reason" that are designed to signal the global Chinese, North Korean, Iranian, South American, and general dark-skinned people's revolution against Christ, America and apple pies.

Be afraid, America, be very afraid. Obama's not like most Americans... He's black/dangerous don't you know?

This election was supposed to be about how Republicans were going to "take back" America. And, early on, they seemed to have a great chance at it. 

Now, it seems, it's just turning into "a list of reasons not to vote for the GOP." Bring on the greatest hits. Bring on four more years. This will back-fire. Quick.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mitt, Newt, and the Elephant in the Room

Something strange is going on.

No, I don't mean Newt Gingrich's collapse. That was inevitable. You can't campaign on vitriol and poisonous anger for longer than a couple of weeks. People just get tired of it. And no, despite what may happen in this primary process, Newt will never be the nominee. If you doubt that, you need to call someone to drive you home from work. Clearly, you're either drunk or stoned.

But something else is strange. Something about Mitt Romney.

What benefited Newt Gingrich most up until now is Mitt Romney. Sure, conservatives aren't really sure he's one of them and they rebelled -- well sorta. He isn't a real Tea Partier either. They rebelled, at least until Florida. Romney's problem is more fundamental than any of these institutional issues though.

That's the strange thing that Republicans are starting to realize.

Mitt Romney is proving to be a bad candidate. Whether it's the oft-misquoted line "I like to fire people" or his recent "I am not overly concerned about the very poor", this is a man who is proving to be, to put it kindly, out of touch. He seems like a man incapable of doing what effective politicians can do: speak to ordinary Americans and connect to them on their level.

I understand why Mitt Romney doesn't really care about the very poor, I mean the guy made $20m last year. But isn't the issue whether he ever should of even thought about saying so?
Romney's problem, it seems, is the impromptu conversation. When he's forced to improvise, he gets himself into trouble. And that, for a Republican field inching closer and closer to convention is a problem that is only going to get worse as focus is more and more concentrated on the front-runner.

This fact is becoming clearer by the day. Just look at yesterday's National Review piece by Mark Steyn.

So, what is the solution for the Republican Party?

Let me list three possibilities in order of probability.

First, the GOP faithful could fall in line. This is by far the most probable outcome. The party could, after Super Tuesday unite (relatively speaking) behind Mitt Romney and his anti-whoever-is-in-his-way SuperPAC ads and quietly encourage the candidate and his staff to pick up their game as he cruises toward a one-on-one against the disciplined and capable campaign of Barack Obama.

But this is a probability not without pitfalls. First, there is the issue of party cohesiveness. With all of these doubts surfacing (often given a face by Newt Gingrich -- and, sooner rather than later, likely Rick Santorum), Republicans have to be wondering whether it's worth turning out to really back this guy or not. 

Second, there is the problem of Gingrich. Without question there will, after any kind of "falling in line", remain a segment of the party, however large, supporting either Gingrich, Paul or Santorum. How can they be integrated into the party's organizing machine when all of these doubts about Romney's effectiveness remain. It's hard to believe that the party wouldn't suffer a Goldwater-style meltdown at the polls if some kind of real of grudgingly enthusiastic organizational harmony between these current adversaries isn't achieved. But as long as Romney looks weak, that's unlikely to occur.

And this eventuality wouldn't force Romney to improve his campaign messaging before facing the President. A loss would almost certainly be the result.

Next on the list of possibilities is that Romney will up his game and answer these questions in the next couple of months. He could hone his ad-lib skills, learn  to commiserate and to communicate more effectively with the American people and unite most of the party apparatus behind him.

Is this likely though?
Romney has been campaigning for the better part of six years now. He has done countless interviews, town halls, debates, and appearances. If he hasn't been able to fix these issues by now, will he ever? 

Certainly, this is the optimal outcome if you're looking to beat President Obama.

Finally, there's the crazy idea. It's highly unlikely, but it must be mentioned.

Could the Republicans pick someone else entirely? 

Think about it. Assume for a moment that, as Mark Steyn put it yesterday, Romney remains at best "a benevolent patrician" in the minds of Republican  voters. Assume that he continues to suffer from occasional Joe Biden-like "foot-in-mouth disease." His negative numbers amongst election-deciding independents grows still greater (they've already gone up 13 points in the last two months) and questions about his candidacy grow louder still.

This could result in a resolution-less primary process. With proportional representation, Romney could be denied the 50% needed in many states to really pull-away in delegate count. It's possible. Say Gingrich stays at 20-25%, Paul remains at his seemingly ever present 12-15% and Santorum sticks around with another 15% of his own. Romney likely won't earn the delegates needed to win the nomination until June at that rate -- if at all. After all, in Florida 38% of Republicans said they'd like somebody else.

It's at this possibility that I'll dive off the cliff with a huge "what-if". 

What if, by June or July, these doubts are louder and still no one has the command of enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot? Do GOP power brokers seek to forestall a Goldwaterian-style collapse and nominate someone who can unite the divided GOP and credibly claim that he (or she) has superior messaging skills to Romney while still bringing teapartiers and "true" conservatives together?

No. Sarah Palin, I'm not talking about you. Don't even try it.

But could Mike Pence, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, or maybe even the currently embattled Haley Barbour do it? If, by this point, Romney is weak enough (and he'd have to be for this to even be a possibility), why not?

I know it's crazy. But if you're a Republican that really really wants to beat Obama -- and that's perhaps the one thing that they all clearly want -- is it really that far-fetched?

That's the elephant in the room. Inevitable loss. If Romney can't convince the majority of his party that he's put these gaffes behind him and can truly relate "true" conservative principles to Americans in an effective way and beat President Obama, he may have to watch his back.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tim Thomas Showing Why The Tea Party Sucks

As I've indicated a few times in the past, I am Canadian. 

And it isn't often I have the chance to write something about the two things I love the most (well, in addition to beer and igloos of course): Hockey and Politics.
Today, Tim Thomas, the incredibly talented and hard-working goaltender of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins refused to attend the traditional ceremony celebrating their 2011 win at the White House.

Now Thomas has yet to announce his reason, so maybe I'm off, but based on the fact that he apparently once listed Glenn Beck on his profile of "people with whom he'd most like to have lunch ", we can assume it's a little political. 

I'm gonna assume that Thomas is taking a cue from Mr. Beck and the Tea Partiers.

Of course, Mr. Thomas, as an American citizen (glad he's not one of ours by the way!), is free to do this. Period. The First Amendment protects his right to express himself -- or not. That's definite.

But having the right to do something doesn't mean it's necessarily good, does it?

Tim Thomas is a kick-ass goalie. He should stick to that.
That's why the Tea Party is so hard to like, isn't it?

They say that it is not they, but President Obama, that is subverting the Constitution. Guys like Glenn Beck say that they are the "real" Americans, protecting its traditional ideas from an Obama-led liberal onslaught.

Yet Beck and the Tea Partiers (and Mr. Thomas) forget something important when they undertake protest in their particular ways. The American Constitution is based on a basic idea: that tyranny can be prevented by conducting cogent discussion and debate over issues, that powers are checked and balanced and  that democratic elections decide who's in power.

But then the Tea Partiers - the purported defenders of the Constitution go out and call President Obama names and say he wasn't born in America and... refuse to respect the office of the Presidency enough to go for an official visit. Not exactly cogent debate, not exactly what the Founders envisioned I think.

This is why their support is plumetting. Deep down, most Americans find it distasteful. And increasingly disingenuous.

The Tea Party, with actions like those of Tim Thomas -- I hate to say it, cause he's a kick-ass goalie -- just make it harder for reasonable people to like them.

You can see that they're angry, you can see that they care about their country. You can even (Mr. Beck aside for a moment) understand some of their arguments. But, it's the way that they do things. The way that they "protest" that reminds us all of the worst potentialities ever-present in politics. It reminds us of an angry (maybe slightly racist) mob.

The Constitution gives you the right to disagree. It doesn't give you the right to act like a bratty douchebag (not to mention, distract your whole team for at least 48 hours.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Tea Has Gone Cold.

There have been many watershed moments in the history of American political movements. In 1932, Americans decided en-masse that they wanted nothing more to do with hands-off economic policies. In 1952, a more radical group of Republicans, after failing to nominate Robert Taft, became inflamed against their own party establishment and began to seek change. In 1994, Americans embraced conservative Republicans and gave them the House of Representatives for the first time in four decades. In 2010, resistance to President Obama's leadership crystallized in the Tea Party movement. But, along with these important moments come the other kind. The type that end a movement. 

That moment came today for the Tea Party. After a week-long battle with Democrats, the President, and fellow Republicans on the two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday; Speaker John Boehner and his caucus caved. 

After supposedly agreeing to the two-month extension last Saturday, Speaker Boehner reversed course Sunday, citing "economic uncertainty" as his reason for scuttling the last-minute deal. It was too short-term, he said. In fact, he retracted his endorsement of the plan for one simple reason: his caucus, particularly the 60-plus Tea Party-backed freshmen in his party, were against it.

Now, first I'd like to say that this isn't Boehner's fault. He's doing his best in an impossible situation. He faces an insurgent group of house members -- likely led by "but-I-wanna-be-Speaker" Eric Cantor, that just don't care about political or economic reality. They live in a black-and-white world where ideology is king. And that's the issue. That's why they're finished.

Politics in a democracy is about pragmatism. It's about ugly compromises and occasionally subverting your own ideological impulses for the good of the majority of the people that you represent. No law is perfect (especially lately) and no law pleases everyone. But Tea Partiers don't see that. All they believe in is a perverse ideology, based not on any true American idea (though they talk enough about "the founders"), but on an absolutist laissez faire model of government that has never, could never, and will never work in America or anywhere else. And anything that challenges that view of the world -- even if it will improve things for the vast majority of people -- for them, is bad. Period. 

For tea partiers, it's clear cut. All taxes are bad. All spending is bad. And all government is bad. There. Done.  

Except, it seems, if a tax cut disproportionately helps ordinary Americans. Because that's the crux of their ideology. They think that it's the rich that should benefit from their smaller government and that that's how economies are built. But that isn't true. And Americans know it.

And that's why this marks the beginning of the end of the Tea Party. Their numbers have already been declining in national polls and have been for quite some time, but this is the point of no return because now there can be no doubt: even when confronted by a situation where just about everyone agreed, they wouldn't compromise their ideological rigidity. Political movements don't recover from that.

Americans have realized that this group of freshmen House members is simply out of their depth. Their ideologically infused intransigence blinds them to reality. Even when it's obvious to just about everyone else.

Americans have just realized that the Tea Party isn't about them. It probably never was. It's about a rigid ideology.

The tea has gone cold. America is ready to throw it out. Good riddance. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gingrichian Logic

So on Sunday, Newt Gingrich was on Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer defending his newest talking point, brought to light in Thursday's debate in Sioux City, that judicial decisions should be directly reviewable by Congress. Essentially, Gingrich argued that the Congress should be able to ignore judicial decisions and subpoena justices, by force if necessary, and drag them before it to "explain themselves" when the two are in disagreement.

Now put aside for a moment the sheer lunacy and danger of his argument. Obviously, this would mean an even more politicized judiciary, a more distracted congress and, oh yeah, it goes against the Constitution's description of co-equal branches and the separation of powers. Not to mention the fact that this would mean witch hunts each and every time the House changed hands in elections.

Think, for a moment, about the logic Gingrich is employing. In a rare moment of succinct debating, Gingrich said Thursday night that "the people's representatives" should essentially be more important than some "unelected judge". Okay. So there it is: the will of the people's elected representatives should trump that of America's evil robed appointees.

So what about the numerous court challenges to the Affordable Care Act that Republicans are so high on? Doesn't that mean that Newt must be against them? After all, Congress passed "Obamacare" fair and square. Since Congress represents the people, by Gingrich's own logic, shouldn't they and only they be the ones to repeal it? Even if the majority of Americans are against it, shouldn't Congress do the fixing? Shouldn't Gingrich come out against these challenges if he is truly so determined that the people's elected representatives be above all others?

The answer he would give is, of course, no. Because the truth is that Gingrich is just another hypocrite whose ideas -- once again as we have become accustomed with Newt, when taken to their logical conclusion, MAKE ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE.

Unless, of course, I'm wrong and he will in fact support the dropping of these appeals by the states that have made them. 

I hope that someone will ask him these questions. His answers would just further the realization already gradually being reached by Republicans everywhere. This guy is not an intellectual. His ideas are not new and exciting. They are just more of the pompous hypocritical windbaggery with which Newt is already so synonymous.