Shutdown crisis – articles and excerpts

Situational analysis of the government shutdown crisis

It Can’t Happen Here?

The American Public’s Shocking Lack of Policy Knowledge is a Threat to Progress and Democracy

Ignore the Spin: This Debt Ceiling Crisis is Not Politics as Usual

The Ten Hardline Conservatives Pulling the Strings of the GOP Shutdown by BillMoyers.com Staff, October 11, 2013 – Much of the coverage of the government showdown has focused on a relatively small group of hardline conservatives within the Republican caucus who have backed their party’s leaders into a fight they didn’t want. As Ryan Lizza noted in The New Yorker, these lawmakers mostly represent very safe, heavily Republican and disproportionately white districts that don’t look much like the rest of the country. Many of those on the front lines are recent arrivals to Capitol Hill, and they’re pushing a leadership they see as having been too willing to compromise with Democrats in the past. It’s an important angle… If there’s only a relatively small group of lawmakers who think defunding the law is a dandy idea… Why is this supposedly silent majority of Republicans so docile? Why don’t they push back? The answer lies in the clout wielded by an extensive web of non-governmental conservative groups supported by mountains of dark money. Those groups see the Affordable Care Act as an existential threat to their worldview and their party and have waged a multipronged campaign to kill it in its cradle…Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy… “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups. It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government. With a broad, well-funded campaign, these groups have effectively shifted the balance of power in conservative Washington away from Republican leaders on the Hill and onto a cadre of true believers who will go to any length to destroy a modest set of health care reforms that, just 20 years ago, the very same conservative movement was itself advancing. So just looking at the rank-and-file members of the “suicide caucus” isn’t enough – it’s like focusing on the marionette rather than the puppet-master. View Interactive: Who’s pulling the strings?

Michael Needham: The Strategist Behind the Shutdown By STEPHEN MOORE, Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2013 – The 31-year-old Stanford business grad [president of Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the nation's largest conservative think tank] explains how he outmaneuvered GOP leaders and why he thinks House Republicans can defund ObamaCare…Though Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the public face of the high-risk strategy to “defund” ObamaCare, the masterminds behind it are a new generation of young conservatives, chief among them Mr. Needham. From a tactical view, the strategy has been deployed with precision…Needham is not apologetic at all for the shutdown that he sees as regrettable but necessary collateral damage if it focuses the public on the horrors of the health-care law…Mr. Needham and another young activist, Tim Chapman, wrote the business plan for Heritage Action four years ago. The idea was to tap Heritage’s network of conservative donors across the country and create a political lobbying machine to carry conservative ideas across the goal line. “The strategy from day one once it [ACA] passed was repeal, repeal, repeal,” Mr. Needham says… Mr. Needham’s new boss at Heritage is Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator whose former aides populate the staff of Sen. Cruz and other conservative groups and work closely with Mr. Needham. Mr. Needham is…conservative to the core, uncompromising and skilled in the smash-mouth politics now played in Washington. His first job was as research assistant…for Heritage founder Ed Feulner…Needham’s new boss at Heritage is Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator whose former aides populate the staff of Sen. Cruz and other conservative groups and work closely with Mr. Needham. Mr. Feulner was famous for preaching that “in the war of ideas there is no room for pacifists,” and Mr. Needham has taken those words to heart. To his admirers, he has pushed the Republicans to show backbone and stand up for principle. His detractors, many of them inside the party, denounce him as everything from cocky to a GOP wrecking ball…The concern of many Republicans, including strategist Karl Rove, is that Heritage Action’s take-no-prisoners approach is hurting the party. The latest Gallup poll shows the GOP is viewed favorably by only 28% of Americans, down 10 points since September…

House Republicans Changed The Rules So A Majority Vote Couldn’t Stop The Government Shutdown by Ashley Alman, Huffington Post, October 13, 2013   – In its effort to extract concessions from Democrats in exchange for opening the government, the GOP has faced a fundamental strategic obstacle: They don’t have the votes. A majority of the members of the House have gone on record saying that if they were given the opportunity to vote, they would support what’s known as a “clean” continuing resolution to fund the government. So House Republican leaders made sure no such vote could happen…Republican members of the House Rules Committee were developing a strategy to keep a clean CR off the floor, guaranteeing the government would remain shut down. Though at least 28 House Republicans have publicly said they would support a clean CR if it were brought to the floor — enough votes for the government to reopen when combined with Democratic support — a House rule passed just before the shutdown essentially prevents that vote from taking place. During a floor speech on Saturday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) drew attention to the quietly passed rule when he attempted to present a motion to accept the Senate’s clean continuing resolution and reopen the government. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), presiding over the chamber, told Van Hollen that the rule he was asking to use had been “altered” and he did not have the privilege of bringing that vote to the floor…the recently passed House Resolution 368 trumped the standing rules…“Mr. Speaker, why were the rules rigged to keep the government shut down?” Van Hollen asked. “The gentleman will suspend,” Chaffetz interjected. “Democracy has been suspended, Mr. Speaker.” (Van Hollen)

The Right’s Obamacare Rhetoric Is Completely Detached from Reality by Joshua Holland, Moyers and Company, October 13, 2013 – …We’re a nation divided not only by partisanship and ideology, but also by wildly divergent realities…Some of the claims ostensibly respectable figures on the right make about the law are simply mind boggling. This week, Ben Carson, a conservative surgeon and activist — and the flavor-of-the-day at Fox News – told a crowd at this year’s “Values Voters Summit” that Obamacare is “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” Forget two world wars, the Great Depression or coming within an inch of annihilation during the Cold War….Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)…was more subtle, concluding merely that the ACA would eventually turn the US into a “police state” and “will ultimately be known as DeathCare.” …This stuff is nothing short of comical when you recall that Obamacare was a conservative answer to the doomed “Hillarycare” [Mitt Romney]called the very similar scheme he’d enacted as governor of Massachusetts, “the ultimate conservatism,” …When you get into the details, the health care law is complex… But the broad strokes are relatively simple: there are a number of (highly popular) new regulations on insurers; there are exchanges where private companies offer a variety of insurance plans; it’s got subsidies that make those plans more affordable for the middle class; there’s an expansion of Medicaid for the poor, and a mandate While people who don’t consume an enormous amount of Fox News can easily laugh off the Hitler comparisons, another line of argument made by virtually every conservative in America is just as unmoored from reality…Nothing [Senator Ted] Cruz said is reflected in any objective reality

Republican members of the House of Representatives leading the right wing extremist movement include Mark Meadows – North Carolina; Steve King – Iowa; Raúl R. Labrador – Idaho; Jeff Duncan – South Carolina; Justin Amash –Michigan; Paul Broun – Georgia; Thomas Massie – Kentucky; Matt Salmon and David Schweikert – Arizona; Phil Gingrey – Georgia; Louie Gohmert – Texas; Michele Bachman – Minnesota; Steve Pearce – New Mexico

The tea party’s revolt against reality By Michael Gerson, Washington Post, September 30, 2013 – …this revolt is against anyone who accepts the constraints of political reality…composing less than 20 percent of the House Republican caucus…The tea-party faction holds the margin of victory in a slim Republican House majority…Conservatives now face the ideological temptation: inviting an unpleasant political reality by refusing to inhabit political reality.

Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead James Fallows Sep 27 2013  -A kind of politics we have not seen for more than 150 years…As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on…This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

Suffocating Echo Chamber By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, New York Times, September 25, 2013 …as conservative talk radio spread across America…talk radio, Fox News Channel and right-wing Web sites may have done greatest harm to conservatives themselves. The right-wing echo chamber breeds extremism, intimidates Republican moderates and misleads people into thinking that their worldview is broadly shared…Research suggests that the echo chamber effect is disproportionately a problem on the right, leading inhabitants to perceive a warped reality.

G.O.P. Extremists Defy Description by John Cassidy, TheNew Yorker.com, September 30, 2013…there is a significant minority within the Republican Party, both on Capitol Hill and at its grass roots, that would have preferred to stick with the suicide option to the bitter end…this faction, which is, by far, the most energetic group in the G.O.P…shares something with earlier right-wing movements, such as the John Birch Society…the religious fundamentalism that motivates many American right-wingers…instinctive white-on-black racism that has long tinged American conservatism…History suggests this is a dangerous road to go down. Once an elected government is deemed illegitimate, in whatever sense, normal democratic politics, with its give and take, is difficult to sustain. And that, of course, is what we are now witnessing

Republicans Facing a Test of Unity By ASHLEY PARKER, New York Times,  September 26, 2013 – conservative advocacy groups have emerged as central players — exerting outsize influence, investing tremendous time and resources.… number of key conservative organizations…ForAmerica, a Tea Party group…Heritage Action — the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization… Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers… The Club for Growth…Senate Conservatives Fund…

Marlin Stutzman and post-policy nihilism  By Steve Benen, maddowblog.msnbc.com, October 3, 2013 – …the last time Republicans shut down the federal government [1994]…then-Speaker Newt Gingrich…admitted in November 1995 that he closed the government in part because President Clinton hurt his feelings on Air Force One…We don’t yet know if a similar moment will come to define this Republican shutdown, but I’d like to nominate this gem as an early contender. “We’re not going to be disrespected,” conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”…congressional Republicans are now defined by a post-policy nihilism…Republicans are being driven by a mindless radicalism. There’s no meaningful policy goal in mind; there’s no substantive motivation; there isn’t even a strategic end goal. There’s just a primal instinct and a right-wing id causing a national crisis.

Grayson blames shutdown on GOP literally drinking on the job By Josh Eidelson, Salon.Com, October 1. 2013   … Rep. Alan Grayson charged that Republican House members have been literally intoxicated while casting votes on the continuing resolutions that set the stage for today’s government shutdown…Grayson also blamed today’s shutdown on Republicans’ “anarchist ideology” and “blind hatred of government,” …“They are literally offended by the idea that people would get the care they need to stay healthy or alive even though they can’t afford it,” charged Grayson. “They regard it as some kind of crime against nature.”

Permanent Republican minority By Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, October 1, 2013  ……What’s behind this two-decade drive to employ the obstructive power of a governmental minority to undo the policies that a majority enacted or to unseat an elected president? Plainly, the gap between the Republican Party and the rest of the nation has widened. And as that gap has grown, Republicans have become more insular and more desperate — a toxic combination for a functioning democracy…The current Republican hold on the House is the product of the lily-white, gerrymandered districts that GOP legislators crafted after the 2010 Census..All this leaves only two ways that Republicans can affect public policy at the national level: They can embrace minority rightsthat is, they can move to the center… Or they can try to maximize the power of their minority status by trying to disrupt the nation to the point that the majority will be compelled to support Republican positions. Rationality dictates the first choice, but rationality doesn’t hold much sway in today’s GOP…Is this course sustainable? Ultimately, no. Eventually, the number of millennials, voters of color and fed-up moderates will rise to the point that 218 sufficiently white and conservative House districts can no longer be crafted. How much havoc Republicans can wreak until then, however, is anybody’s guess..

Where the G.O.P.’s Suicide Caucus Lives Posted by Ryan Lizza, NewYorker.com, September 26, 2013 – Excerpt – On August 21st, Congressman Mark Meadows sent a letter to John Boehner. Meadows is a former restaurant owner and Sunday-school Bible teacher from North Carolina. He’s been in Congress for eight months. Boehner, who has served in Congress for twenty-two years, is the Speaker of the House and second in the line of succession if anything happened to the President…Meadows wanted Boehner to use the threat of a government shutdown to defund Obamacare, a course Boehner had publicly ruled out…Meadows won his election last November by fifteen points…His district is eighty-seven per cent white, five per cent Latino, and three per cent black. Before Meadows sent off his letter to Boehner, he circulated it among his colleagues, and with the help of the conservative group FreedomWorks, as well as some heavy campaigning by Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Mike Lee, seventy-nine like-minded House Republicans from districts very similar to Meadows’s added their signatures…Not everyone thought it was a terrific … Karl Rove railed against the idea in the Wall Street Journal. The conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer dubbed the eighty Republicans the “suicide caucus.” And yet, a few weeks later, Boehner adopted the course demanded by Meadows and his colleagues. The ability of eighty members of the House of Representatives to push the Republican Party into a strategic course that is condemned by the party’s top strategists is a historical oddity…These eighty members represent just eighteen per cent of the House and just a third of the two hundred and thirty-three House Republicans… just eighteen per cent of the population. Most of the members of the suicide caucus have districts very similar to Meadows’s…The average suicide-caucus district is seventy-five per cent white, while the average House district is sixty-three per cent white… even within the broader Republican Party, they represent a minority view…In previous eras, ideologically extreme minorities could be controlled by party leadership. What’s new about the current House of Representatives is that…Boehner has lost his ability to control his caucus, and an ideological faction, aided by outside interest groups, can now set the national agenda…Through redistricting, Republicans have built themselves a perhaps unbreakable majority in the House. But it has come at a cost of both party discipline and national popularity. Nowadays, a Sunday-school teacher can defeat the will of the Speaker of the House.

Staunch Group of Republicans Outflanks House Leaders By JONATHAN WEISMAN and ASHLEY PARKER, New York Times, October 1, 2013…outside their districts, and sometimes even within them, few have heard of the conservative cadre of House Republicans who have led the charge to shut down the government… a hard-core group of about two dozen or so of the most conservative House members who stand in the way of a middle path… For nearly three years, Mr. Boehner has been vexed by an ungovernable conservative group made of up ideologically committed conservatives from safe House seats… the influence of the group is sparking an internal backlash, as a growing band of moderate and institutional Republicans are demanding that Mr. Boehner stand up to the conservatives to reopen the government and reach bipartisan accommodations in the future….

 

The New Social Contract — and Why You’re Not Part of It

by John Atcheson, June 11, 2013 by Common Dreams

Excerpt

People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both. – Benjamin Franklin

It was, I suppose, inevitable. For 225 years, we stumbled toward freedom and held tyranny at bay with a simple piece of parchment. Yes, the Constitution is a less than perfect document. But until recently, we rode the tide of history, moving steadily in the direction of greater freedom. But it was always and only five pieces of brittle parchment. Merely as strong as the men and women – citizen and leader alike – who claimed to cherish the values it espoused. Now, fear makes us weak and it threatens to shred that delicate parchment, and usher in an era of tyranny. Indeed, it is well on the way toward doing so. The Constitution was built on a principle arrived at in the Enlightenment: the simple notion that the governed and those who would govern, essentially entered into a social contract. An agreement about how we would apportion and share power. Over the years, we adopted a broader definition of who that social contract included and built protections into the document to assure that we honored them.

But today, in the home of the brave, fear trumps freedom. In the name of security, a massive and patently illegal surveillance program that would make George Orwell’s 1984 look low-tech, reaches into our living rooms and infects our national discourse.

The Constitution…with no power except the integrity of those who signed it and the power of the ideas embedded in it…Wars were fought to protect these freedoms; men and women died, were wounded, and disabled guarding these rights from foreign threats…After 911, we began to construct a security state…Less than 3,000 people died on 911. This is about what we kill with cars on a slow month, and about what we kill with guns in a slow year. Since then, even using the most expansive definition of terrorist killings, less than 100 more have been killed by terrorists, including the 3 fatalities in Boston this year.

Put another way, over the last decade, terrorism – even including 911 – has killed an average of about 20 people a month, compared with 3000 to 4000 a month from cars, and 300 from guns.

How can we hold dear the grossly exaggerated freedoms in the Second Amendment, while gutting those in the Fourth Amendment, when the result is to kill more than 10 times the number of people as terrorists do? But more importantly, how can we give away freedoms so cavalierly, when the threat we face is so small?… tyranny has already been visited upon our land – it came from within, in the form of corporate hegemony. Perhaps the constant drumbeat about the terrorist threat is merely cover for the fact that the social contract has been rewritten since Reagan. No longer is the compact between the governed and the government – it is between the corporations and the government.We are now one nation, under corporations, for corporations, by corporations…At any rate, there’s a new contract in town, and you’re not part of it, and that’s why your rights are diminishing.

Full text

People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both. – Benjamin Franklin

It was, I suppose, inevitable. For 225 years, we stumbled toward freedom and held tyranny at bay with a simple piece of parchment.

Yes, the Constitution is a less than perfect document. But until recently, we rode the tide of history, moving steadily in the direction of greater freedom. But it was always and only five pieces of brittle parchment. Merely as strong as the men and women – citizen and leader alike – who claimed to cherish the values it espoused.

Now, fear makes us weak and it threatens to shred that delicate parchment, and usher in an era of tyranny. Indeed, it is well on the way toward doing so.

The Constitution was built on a principle arrived at in the Enlightenment: the simple notion that the governed and those who would govern, essentially entered into a social contract. An agreement about how we would apportion and share power.

Over the years, we adopted a broader definition of who that social contract included and built protections into the document to assure that we honored them.

But today, in the home of the brave, fear trumps freedom. In the name of security, a massive and patently illegal surveillance program that would make George Orwell’s 1984 look low-tech, reaches into our living rooms and infects our national discourse.

The Constitution was ratified on June 21, 1788. It was only 5 pages long, written on paper so thin you can almost see through it with no power except the integrity of those who signed it and the power of the ideas embedded in it.

On December 15, 1791, the States ratified the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Another single sheet of paper-thin parchment – it extended individual freedoms and further limited government’s power. Here again, the parchment had no power except the power embedded in a vigilant, brave, and freedom loving people.

Over the years, blacks were freed and given the vote; women were enfranchised; government’s power further constrained.

Wars were fought to protect these freedoms; men and women died, were wounded, and disabled guarding these rights from foreign threats. Yes, many wars were fought for reasons of imperial or economic hegemony, not defense of the freedoms in our system of government, but many were.

After 911, we began to construct a security state. We took razor blades to the parchment and excised freedoms we had hitherto died for. Warrantless wiretapping; systematic eavesdropping on a massive scale; even imprisonment and execution of America citizens without due process.

Why?

Because, it made us safer from the threat of terrorism, we were told. That’s what Bush said; that’s what Congress – especially Republicans — stated (until it gave them an excuse to bash Obama – which apparently means more to them than security); and that’s what Obama claims now.

Well, OK. Let’s say that’s true. Does it justify jettisoning the constraints and protections that we’ve fought for? Does it warrant reversing the tide of history and rolling back the freedoms we’ve gained.

If we freely give away – out of fear – that which our attackers would have taken from us, don’t they win? Don’t we lose?

Less than 3,000 people died on 911. This is about what we kill with cars on a slow month, and about what we kill with guns in a slow year.

Since then, even using the most expansive definition of terrorist killings, less than 100 more have been killed by terrorists, including the 3 fatalities in Boston this year.

Put another way, over the last decade, terrorism – even including 911 – has killed an average of about 20 people a month, compared with 3000 to 4000 a month from cars, and 300 from guns.

How can we hold dear the grossly exaggerated freedoms in the Second Amendment, while gutting those in the Fourth Amendment, when the result is to kill more than 10 times the number of people as terrorists do?

But more importantly, how can we give away freedoms so cavalierly, when the threat we face is so small?

Are we a nation of cowards, willing to relinquish freedom at the first whiff of a threat?

The quote from Benjamin Franklin above called us to courage; the words and actions of our leaders today call us to cowardice.

One can’t help wonder whether the difference is because tyranny has already been visited upon our land – it came from within, in the form of corporate hegemony. Perhaps the constant drumbeat about the terrorist threat is merely cover for the fact that the social contract has been rewritten since Reagan. No longer is the compact between the governed and the government – it is between the corporations and the government.

We are now one nation, under corporations, for corporations, by corporations.

Perhaps the hoary threat of terrorism is meant to keep us from recognizing that. The fact that it also allows the government to tap your phone; observe your emails and otherwise poke its nose in your business, is just gravy.

At any rate, there’s a new contract in town, and you’re not part of it, and that’s why your rights are diminishing.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.

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Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/11-4

 

Remembering Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s Unmaternal National Matriarch

by Russell Brand (Actor and comedian) , Huffington Post, 04/09/2013

Excerpt

…When I was a kid Margaret Thatcher was the headmistress of our country…Perhaps my early apathy and indifference are a result of what Thatcher deliberately engendered, the idea that “there is no such thing as society,” that we are alone on our journey through life, solitary atoms of consciousness… I’m an adult now… so there’s no excuse for apathy.

…Norman Tebbit, one of Thatcher’s acolytes and fellow “Munsters evacuee,” said when the National Union of Miners eventually succumbed to the military onslaught and starvation over which she presided, “[We] broke not just a strike, but a spell.” The spell he’s referring to is the unseen bond that connects us all and prevents us from being subjugated by tyranny. The spell of community…

There were sporadic resurrections; to drape a hankie over a model BA plane tailfin because she disliked the unpatriotic logo with which they’d replaced the Union Jack (maybe don’t privatize BA then) or to shuffle about some country pile arm in arm with a dithery Pinochet and tell us all what a fine fellow he was. It always irks when right-wing folk demonstrate in a familial or exclusive setting the values that they deny in a broader social context. They’re happy to share big windfall bonuses with their cronies; they’ll stick up for deposed dictator chums when they’re down on their luck; they’ll find opportunities in business for people they care about. I hope I’m not being reductive, but it seems Thatcher’s time in power was solely spent diminishing the resources of those who had least for the advancement of those who had most. I know from my own indulgence in selfish behavior that it’s much easier to get what you want if you remove from consideration the effect your actions will have on others.

Is that what made her so formidable, her ability to ignore the suffering of others? Given the nature of her legacy, “survival of the fittest” – a phrase that Darwin himself only used twice in Origin of Species, compared to hundreds of references to altruism, love and cooperation, it isn’t surprising that there are parties this week in Liverpool, Glasgow and Brixton — from where are they to have learned compassion and forgiveness?

… If you behave like there’s no such thing as society, in the end there isn’t. Her death must be sad for the handful of people she was nice to and the rich people who got richer under her stewardship. It isn’t sad for anyone else. There are pangs of nostalgia, yes…What is more troubling is my inability to ascertain where my own selfishness ends and her neoliberal inculcation begins. All of us that grew up under Thatcher were taught that it is good to be selfish, that other people’s pain is not your problem, that pain is in fact a weakness and suffering is deserved and shameful… I do recall that even to a child her demeanour and every discernible action seemed to be to the detriment of our national spirit and identity. Her refusal to stand against apartheid, her civil war against the unions, her aggression towards our neighbours in Ireland and a taxation system that was devised in the dark ages, the bombing of a retreating ship — it’s just not British.

I do not yet know what effect Margaret Thatcher has had on me as an individual or on the character of our country as we continue to evolve. As a child she unnerved me but we are not children now and we are free to choose our own ethical codes and leaders that reflect them.

Full text

Russell Brand

Actor and comedian

Remembering Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s Unmaternal National Matriarch

04/09/2013

One Sunday recently while staying in London I took a stroll in the gardens of Temple, the insular clod of quads and offices between The Strand and The Embankment. It’s kind of a luxury, rent-controlled ghetto for lawyers and barristers; there is a beautiful tailor’s, a fine chapel, established by The Knight’s Templar (from which the compound takes its name), a twee cottage designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and a Rose Garden, which I never promised you.

My mate John and I were wandering there together, him expertly proselytizing on the architecture and the history of the place, me pretending to be Rumpole of the Bailey (quietly in my mind), when we spied in the distant garden a hunched and frail figure, in a raincoat, scarf about her head, watering the roses under the breezy supervision of a masticating copper. “What’s going on there mate?” John asked a nearby chippy loading his white van. “Maggie Thatcher,” he said. “Comes here every week to water them flowers.” The three of us watched as the gentle horticultural ritual was feebly enacted, then regarded the Iron Lady being helped into the back of a car and trundling off. In this moment she inspired only curiosity, a pale phantom dumbly filling her day. None present eyed her meanly or spoke with vitriol and it wasn’t til an hour later that I dreamt up an Ealing Comedy-style caper in which two inept crooks kidnap Thatcher from the garden but are unable to cope with the demands of dealing with her and give her back. This reverie only occurred when the car was out of view. In her diminished presence I stared like an amateur astronomer unable to describe my awe at this distant phenomenon.

When I was a kid Margaret Thatcher was the headmistress of our country. Her voice, a bellicose yawn, somehow both boring and boring — I could ignore the content but the intent drilled its way in. She became leader of the Conservatives the year I was born and prime minister when I was four; she remained in power till I was 15; I am, it’s safe to say, one of Thatcher’s children. How then do I feel on the day of this matriarchal mourning?

I grew up in Essex with a single mum and a go-getter Dagenham dad. I don’t know if they ever voted for her, I don’t know if they liked her; my dad I suspect did, he had enough Del Boy about him to admire her coiffured virility, but in a way Thatcher was so omnipotent, so omnipresent, so omni-everything that all opinion was redundant.

As I scan the statements of my memory bank for early deposits (it’d be a kid’s memory bank account at a neurological Nat West where you’re encouraged to become a greedy little capitalist with an escalating family of porcelain pigs) I see her in her hairy helmet, condescending on Nationwide, eviscerating eunuch MPs and baffled BBC fuddy duddies with her General Zodd stare and coldly condemning the IRA. And the miners. And the single mums. The dockers. The poll-tax rioters. The Brixton rioters, the Argentinians, teachers; everyone actually.

Thinking about it now, when I was a child she was just a strict woman telling everyone off and selling everything off. I didn’t know what to think of this fearsome woman.

Perhaps my early apathy and indifference are a result of what Thatcher deliberately engendered, the idea that “there is no such thing as society,” that we are alone on our journey through life, solitary atoms of consciousness. Or perhaps it was just because I was a little kid and more interested in them Weetabix skinheads, Roland Rat and Knight Rider. Either way I’m an adult now and none of those things are on telly anymore, so there’s no excuse for apathy.

When John Lennon was told of Elvis Presley’s death he famously responded, “Elvis died when he joined the army” — meaning, of course, that his combat clothing and clipped hair signaled the demise of the thrusting, Dionysian revolution of which he was the immaculate emblem.

When I awoke today on L.A. time, my phone was full of impertinent digital eulogies. It’d be disingenuous to omit that there were a fair number of ding-dong-style celebratory messages amidst the pensive reflections on the end of an era. Interestingly, one mate of mine, a proper leftie, in his heyday all Red Wedge and right-on punch-ups, was melancholy. “I thought I’d be overjoyed, but really it’s just… another one bites the dust…” This demonstrates I suppose that if you opposed Thatcher’s ideas it is likely because of their lack of compassion, which is really just a word for love. If love is something you cherish it is hard to glean much joy from death, even in one’s enemies.

Perhaps, though, Thatcher “the monster” didn’t die this week from a stroke; perhaps that Thatcher died as she sobbed self-pitying tears as she was driven defeated from Downing Street, ousted by her own party. By then, 1990, I was 15, adolescent and instinctively antiestablishment enough to regard her disdainfully. I’d unthinkingly imbibed enough doctrine to know that, troubled as I was, there was little point looking elsewhere for support; I was on my own. We are all on our own. Norman Tebbit, one of Thatcher’s acolytes and fellow “Munsters evacuee,” said when the National Union of Miners eventually succumbed to the military onslaught and starvation over which she presided, “[We] broke not just a strike, but a spell.” The spell he’s referring to is the unseen bond that connects us all and prevents us from being subjugated by tyranny. The spell of community.

Those strikes were confusing to me as a child. All of the Tory edicts that bludgeoned our nation, as my generation squirmed through ghoulish puberty, were confusing. When all the public amenities were flogged, the adverts made it seem to my childish eyes fun and positive, jaunty slogans and affable British stereotypes jostling about in villages, selling people companies that they’d already paid for through tax. I just now watched the British Gas one again, it’s like a whimsical live action episode of Postman Pat where his cat is craftily carved up and sold back to him.

“The News” was the pompous conduit through which we suckled at the barren Baroness, through newscaster wet-nurses, naturally, not direct from the steel teat. Jan Leeming, Sue Lawly Moira Stewart — delivering doctrine with sterile sexiness, like a butterscotch-scented beige vapour. To use a less bizarre analogy: If Thatcher was the headmistress, they were junior school teachers, authoritative but warm enough that you could call them ‘Mum’ by accident. You could never call Margaret ‘Mother’ by mistake; for a national matriarch, she was oddly unmaternal. I always felt a bit sorry for her biological children Mark and Carol, wondering from whom they would get their cuddles. “Thatcher as mother” seemed, to my tiddly mind, anathema; how could anyone who was so resolutely Margaret Thatcher be anything else? In the Meryl Streep film, it’s the scenes of domesticity that appear most absurd. Knocking up a flan for Dennis or helping Carol with her algebra or Mark with his gunrunning are jarring distractions from the main narrative: woman as warrior queen.

It always struck me as peculiar, too, when the Spice Girls briefly championed Thatcher as an early example of Girl Power. I don’t see that. She is an anomaly, a product of the freak-conomy of her time. Barack Obama interestingly said in his statement that she had “broken the glass ceiling for other women.” Only in the sense that all the women beneath her were blinded by falling shards. She is an icon of individualism, not of feminism.

I have few recollections of Thatcher after the slowly chauffeured, weepy Downing Street cortege. I’d become a delinquent by then, living on heroin and benefit fraud.

There were sporadic resurrections; to drape a hankie over a model BA plane tailfin because she disliked the unpatriotic logo with which they’d replaced the Union Jack (maybe don’t privatize BA then) or to shuffle about some country pile arm in arm with a dithery Pinochet and tell us all what a fine fellow he was. It always irks when right-wing folk demonstrate in a familial or exclusive setting the values that they deny in a broader social context. They’re happy to share big windfall bonuses with their cronies; they’ll stick up for deposed dictator chums when they’re down on their luck; they’ll find opportunities in business for people they care about. I hope I’m not being reductive, but it seems Thatcher’s time in power was solely spent diminishing the resources of those who had least for the advancement of those who had most. I know from my own indulgence in selfish behavior that it’s much easier to get what you want if you remove from consideration the effect your actions will have on others.

Is that what made her so formidable, her ability to ignore the suffering of others? Given the nature of her legacy, “survival of the fittest” – a phrase that Darwin himself only used twice in Origin of Species, compared to hundreds of references to altruism, love and cooperation, it isn’t surprising that there are parties this week in Liverpool, Glasgow and Brixton — from where are they to have learned compassion and forgiveness?

The blunt, pathetic reality is that a little old lady has died, who in the winter of her life had to water roses alone under police supervision. If you behave like there’s no such thing as society, in the end there isn’t. Her death must be sad for the handful of people she was nice to and the rich people who got richer under her stewardship. It isn’t sad for anyone else. There are pangs of nostalgia, yes, because for me she’s all tied up with Hi-De-Hi and Speak and Spell and Blockbusters and “follow the bear.” What is more troubling is my inability to ascertain where my own selfishness ends and her neoliberal inculcation begins. All of us that grew up under Thatcher were taught that it is good to be selfish, that other people’s pain is not your problem, that pain is in fact a weakness and suffering is deserved and shameful. Perhaps there is resentment because the clemency and respect that are being mawkishly displayed now by some and haughtily demanded of the rest of us at the impending, solemn funeral are values that her government and policies sought to annihilate.

I can’t articulate with the skill of either of “the Marks,” Steel or Thomas, why Thatcher and Thatcherism were so bad for Britain, but I do recall that even to a child her demeanour and every discernible action seemed to be to the detriment of our national spirit and identity. Her refusal to stand against apartheid, her civil war against the unions, her aggression towards our neighbours in Ireland and a taxation system that was devised in the dark ages, the bombing of a retreating ship — it’s just not British.

I do not yet know what effect Margaret Thatcher has had on me as an individual or on the character of our country as we continue to evolve. As a child she unnerved me but we are not children now and we are free to choose our own ethical codes and leaders that reflect them.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/russell-brand/margaret-thatcher-our-unm_b_3046390.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Andy Kohut goes deep on impact of the GOP’s ‘staunch conservatism’

By Eric Black, MinnPost.com,  03/22/13

Excerpt

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” …The Republican Party has moved further from the center of national public opinion than any party has since the McGovern era when the Democrats were viewed by Middle America as the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.” The public now perceives the Republicans as “the more extreme party, the side unwilling to compromise or negotiate seriously to tackle the economic turmoil that challenges the nation,” Kohut says….

“The numbers prove it: The GOP is estranged from America.” Andy Kohut, Pew Research Center…“The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorable…

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” The party’s base, which constitutes about 45 percent of all Republicans, holds “extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns,” writes Kohut. “They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”

This group, whom Kohut dubs “staunch conservatives,” are “demographically and politically distinct from the national electorate. Ninety-two percent are white. They tend to be male, married, Protestant, well off and at least 50 years old.”

One of the unifying elements of staunch conservatism is the emotional intensity of their dislike for Pres. Obama…the role of Fox News on the right is much more powerful than the role of liberal news sources on the left: …the impact of staunch conservatism on the Republican Party for the foreseeable future… Three: “they also help keep the party out of the White House. Quite simply, the Republican Party has to appeal to a broader cross section of the electorate to succeed in presidential elections.”

Full text

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.”

Writing for the Washington Post’s Outlook section, Andy Kohut of the Pew Research Center makes a case that you won’t find too shocking but to which he brings a depth and breadth based on years’ worth of polling data. Namely: The Republican Party has moved further from the center of national public opinion than any party has since the McGovern era when the Democrats were viewed by Middle America as the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.”

The public now perceives the Republicans as “the more extreme party, the side unwilling to compromise or negotiate seriously to tackle the economic turmoil that challenges the nation,” Kohut says.

Kohut is no longer president of Pew and perhaps this piece suggests that he is planning to adopt a less neutral, scholarly, pollsterly tone. The headline on the piece reads “The numbers prove it: The GOP is estranged from America.”

“Estranged” is a strong word, but, as the headline suggests, every statement is rooted in polling data. Kohut writes:

“The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Although the Democrats are better regarded (47 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable), the GOP’s problems are its own, not a mirror image of renewed Democratic strength.”

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” The party’s base, which constitutes about 45 percent of all Republicans, holds “extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns,” writes Kohut. “They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”

This group, whom Kohut dubs “staunch conservatives,” are “demographically and politically distinct from the national electorate. Ninety-two percent are white. They tend to be male, married, Protestant, well off and at least 50 years old.”

One of the unifying elements of staunch conservatism is the emotional intensity of their dislike for Pres. Obama, Kohut says. “For example, a fall 2011 national survey found 63 percent of conservative Republicans reporting that Obama made them angry, compared with 29 percent of the public overall.”

The Pew organization has been a leader in tracking the nexus that connects politics with the news media. Looking back at that data, Kohut concludes that the role of Fox News on the right is much more powerful than the role of liberal news sources on the left:

“The politicization of news consumption is certainly not new; it’s been apparent in more than 20 years of data collected by the Pew Research Center. What is new is a bloc of voters who rely more on conservative media than on the general news media to comprehend the world. Pew found that 54 percent of staunch conservatives report that they regularly watch Fox News, compared with 44 percent who read a newspaper and 30 percent who watch network news regularly. Newspapers and/or television networks top all other news sources for other blocs of voters, both on the right and on the left. Neither CNN, NPR or the New York Times has an audience close to that size among other voting blocs… Conservative Republicans make up as much as 50 percent of the audiences for Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’ Reilly. There is nothing like this on the left. MSNBC’s ‘Hardball’ and ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ attract significantly fewer liberal Democrats.”

Kohut also concludes three curious somewhat contradictory things about the impact of staunch conservatism on the Republican Party for the foreseeable future. One: They will complicate the big plan of Republican leaders to soften negative images of the party. Two: The staunch conservatives sustain conservative Republicans ability to remain in many offices, especially in Congress, but  Three: “they also help keep the party out of the White House. Quite simply, the Republican Party has to appeal to a broader cross section of the electorate to succeed in presidential elections.”

http://www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2013/03/andy-kohut-goes-deep-impact-gops-staunch-conservatism?utm_source=MinnPost+e-mail+newsletters&utm_campaign=059c51e115-3_23_2013_Daily_Newsletter3_22_2013&utm_medium=email

Ayn Rand’s Gospel of Selfishness and Billionaire Empowerment Is Plaguing America

Thomhartmann.com / By Thom Hartmann [1], Sam Sacks [2]  February 7, 2013

Thirty years after her death, Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness and billionaire empowerment rules the world. It’s a remarkable achievement for an ideology that was pushed to the fringes for most of her life, and ridiculed on national television in a notorious interview with Mike Wallace.

But, it’s happened. And today, the United States and other independent governments around the world are crumbling while Ayn Rand’s billionaires are taking over.

With each new so-called Free Trade agreement – especially the very secretive Trans Pacific Partnership, which has less to do with trade and more to do with a new law of global governance for transnational corporations – Ayn Rand’s reviled “state” (or what we would call our democracy, the United States of America) is losing its power to billionaires and transnational corporations.

Ayn Rand hated governments and democracy. She considered them systems of mob rule. She grew up in Russia, and as a child watched the Bolsheviks confiscate her father’s pharmacy during the Russian Revolution. Likely suffering from PTSD from that incident, Ayn Rand devoted her future writings to evil government, including the “evil” of its functions like taxation, regulation, and providing social services to the poor and sick.

She divided the world into makers and takers (or what she called “looters”).

On one side are the billionaires and the industrialists. People like Dagny Taggert, a railroad tycoon, and Hank Rearden, a steel magnate. Both were fictional characters in her book Atlas Shrugged, but both have real-world counterparts in the form of the Koch Brothers, the Waltons, and Sheldon Adelson. According to Rand, they are the “Atlases” holding up the world.

So, in Atlas Shrugged, when the billionaires, tired of paying taxes and complying with government regulation, go on strike, Ayn Rand writes that the American economy promptly collapsed.

On the other side are the “looters,” or everyone else who isn’t as rich or privileged, or who believed in a democratic government to provide basic services, empower labor unions, and regulate the economy. They are the leeches on society according to Rand (and according to Mitt Romney with his 47% comments). And, as she told Mike Wallace in in 1959, they do not even “deserve love.”

To our Founding Fathers, looking out for the general welfare of the population was an explicit role of the government, one of its most important and the reason this nation was created when we separated from Britain.

But to Ayn Rand, a government that taxed billionaires to help pay for healthcare and education for impoverished children was not just unwise economically, it was also immoral.

Nature abhors a vacuum – both in the wild and in politics.  So, when people, organized in the form of a government, are removed from power, then money organized in the form of corporations and billionaires moves into the vacuum to take power – which is exactly what’s happening today, worldwide.

In the thirty years after her death, the United States crept closer and closer to Ayn Rand’s utopia. Reagan dramatically slashed taxes on the rich and went after labor unions. Clinton deregulated financial markets for the rich, ended welfare as we know it, and committed our nation to one globalist corporate free trade agreement after another.

And, under Bush and Obama, we’ve seen the rapid privatization of our commons, the further erosion of social safety nets, and more losses of national sovereignty with more so-called free trade agreements.

In Europe, we’re seeing sovereign governments neutered by Conservative technocrats. According to Ayn Rand, the rich can never be asked to sacrifice. So instead, it’s working people across the Eurozone who have to pay for the bad investments that the banksters made in the run-up to the global financial collapse.

As we saw in Greece in 2011 with the deposing of Prime Minister George Papandreou, and all across the state of Michigan over the last few years with financial managers laws, when democratic governments are unwilling to do the bidding of the rich, they’re immediately replaced by corporate lackeys who will.

The Taggerts and the Reardens are holding the reins of government today.

Which explains why Corporate America paid an average tax rate of just 12% in 2011 – the lowest rate in 40 years. It explains why 400 billionaires in America now own more wealth than 150 million other Americans combined. And it explains why fewer impoverished Americans are getting less federal assistance than at any time in the last half-century.

Ayn Rand envisioned a world without governments – a world where the super-rich are free to do as they wish.

We tried that during the so-called Gilded Age of the late 19th Century – before Ayn Rand was alive. If she’d watched the ruthlessness of the Robber Barons like she did the Bolsheviks, she may have reached different conclusions.

She may have realized that American Presidents like Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower were right when they made sure that wealth was more evenly distributed and the Billionaire Class was held in check.

Or she may have come to understand that corporations and billionaires owe their wealth to the state and not the other way around. Without favorable patent and copyright laws, a court system, an educated workforce, and an infrastructure to move goods about the country, then no one would be able to get rich in America.  We’d be like the Libertarian paradise of Somalia.

As Harry Moser, the founder of the Reshoring Initiative,argued [3] in The Economist, “Corporations are not created by the shareholders or the management. Rather they are created by the state. They are granted important privileges by the state (limited liability, eternal life, etc). They are granted these privileges because the state expects them to do something beneficial for the society that makes the grant. They may well provide benefits to other societies, but their main purpose is to provide benefits to the societies (not to the shareholders, not to management, but to the societies) that create them.”

Sadly, this understanding of how democratic republics work – and why – has been lost this generation.

And Ayn Rand’s disciples are making sure the next generation never finds it again.

Idaho State Senator John Goedde, who chairs that state Senate’s Education Committee, introduced a bill this week that would require all students to read Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged” before they can graduate. Goedde explained that the book made his son a Republican and that it “certainly gives one a sense of personal responsibility.”

Between stupidity like this, and the re-birth of Ayn Rand through corporate-funded think tanks and Hollywood movies, the Billionaire Class wants to make sure the next generation buys into a toxic ideology that’s quite literally destroying the world as we know it.

They don’t want the 21st Century to be “America’s Century.” They want it to be the “Billionaire’s Century.” And if they succeed, then the middle class in America – and through most of the developed world – will go extinct.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/ayn-rands-gospel-selfishness-and-billionaire-empowerment-plaguing-america

Are Conservatives Rethinking Fox News’ Endless Outrage Model?

Media Matters for America [1] / By Eric Boehlert [2] published on Alternet.org, January 24, 2013

Excerpt

…predictable voices within the right-wing media, marshaled as always by Fox News, who freaked out over Obama’s inauguration addresses…Being outraged, and especially being outraged about made-up claims…has become a signature of the far right movement over the last four years. It’s also blossomed into Fox News’ entire business model. Fox News makes a pile of profits each year overreacting to imagined Obama slights. The question is, has the Fox model of the phony Outrage Machine damaged the conservative movement? Is it standing in the way of Republican progress and electoral success? …The amount of time and energy conservatives devote to utterly trivial bouts of phony outrage now seem to consume the movement, or at least the media portion of it…Of course, it was Rush Limbaugh who built a radio empire by mastering the we’re-all-under-siege-by-liberals shtick that conservatives love to wallow in…. it’s exhausting. And it doesn’t work. (Note the Republican Party’s 26 percent approval rating…

Full text

Responding to President Barack Obama’s inauguration address this week, Joel Pollak, an editor at Breitbart.com, wrote [3] about the president’s allegedly dastardly attack on the Supreme Court that unfolded during his address to the nation on Monday.

Pollak excitedly claimed that by mentioning his support for gay marriage in his inauguration speech, Obama was trying to bully Supreme Court Justices who were in attendance that day. By stating publically his belief, Obama was attempting to intimidate (to “attack”) the judicial branch of the government because the Supreme Court has before it a pending case about gay marriage and the president’s comment meant he was instructing the Court on how it “ought to rule.”

Alongside Pollak at the Breitbart site, Ben Shapiro, typing excitedly [4], wrote that Obama, via his address, had “attempted nothing less than an assault on the timeless notion of liberty itself.” (That sounds bad.) Shapiro separately attacked [5] Obama for the “brutal name calling” he used in his inauguration speech, even though Shapiro couldn’t locate any insults hurled by the president in his address.

Shapiro and Pollak were just two predictable voices within the right-wing media, marshaled as always by Fox News, who freaked out over Obama’s inauguration addresses. Going into Monday, readers, viewers and listeners weren’t sure exactly what conservative voices were going to be outraged about, but it was foregone conclusion, since the day featured Obama, that they’d find something trivial [6] to Get Very Upset About. (Answer: He was too partisan [7]!)

Being outraged, and especially being outraged about made-up claims, like Obama’s imaginary “name-calling” on Monday, has become a signature of the far right movement over the last four years. It’s also blossomed into Fox News’ entire business model. Fox News makes a pile of profits each year overreacting to imagined Obama slights.

The question is, has the Fox model of the phony Outrage Machine damaged the conservative movement? Is it standing in the way of Republican progress and electoral success?

Writing at his site RedState this week, conservative CNN commentator Erick Erickson beseeched [8] fellow partisans to drop the outrage shtick and to move into more substantial areas of debate. “Conservatives, frankly, have become purveyors of outrage instead of preachers for a cause,” he wrote. “Who the hell wants to listen to conservatives whining and moaning all the time about the outrage du jour?”

Erickson’s point is dead on. The amount of time and energy conservatives devote to utterly trivial bouts of phony outrage now seem to consume the movement, or at least the media portion of it. But it’s unlikely Fox News and its legion of copycat whiners in the press will heed Erickson’s wise advice. They’re too busy super-serving a radical niche and making money off the faux Outrage Machine.

It’s impossible to catalog every phony freakout that’s been staged during Obama’s time in office. It’s hard to even keep track of the ones that have been hatched [9] over the last week or so. The laundry list is annoyingly long.

Remember how Fox contributor Michelle Malkin led the hysterical [10] cries of exploitation [11] when Obama invited children who had written him about gun violence to attend a public White House event about gun violence? In Malkin’s eyes, only monsters incorporate kids in politics. (By the way, here’s Malkin’s column [12] this week where she incorporates kids into politics.)

And then there’s been the obsessive whining about how supposedly mean and nasty Obama is, a hollow cry that’s proven to be a right-wing evergreen. The Wall Street Journal editorial page complained [13] how “Obama demonizes anyone who disagrees with him,” while columnist Peggy Noonan whined [14] that Obama pushes “partisan rancor.” (That is, when Noonan wasn’t mocking Obama as the “Irritating Older Brother Who Got 750 On His SATs And Thinks He’s Einstein.”)  OnCBS This Morning, Newt Gingrich bellyached [15] about how the president’s “bullying” House Republicans, Karl Rove warned [16] darkly about the “unremitting war” Obama will soon launch on his foes, and Sean Hannitywarned [17] states might start seceding from the union.

As for Obama’s hopeful inauguration address, Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell went on Fox andcompared [18] it to the Civil War, claiming it was designed to rip the nation apart. Online, the address was angrilydenounced [19] as Orwellian “dreck.”

Most of the overwrought claims stem from the fact that Obama disagrees with Republicans and has said so publicly. The hysterical cry of partisan bullying just represents phony outrage being ginned up for feel-good attention among Obama critics.

Of course, it was Rush Limbaugh who built a radio empire by mastering the we’re-all-under-siege-by-liberals shtick that conservatives love to wallow in. But whereas Limbaugh’s plaintive, defenseless wail of the oppressed once represented one note in the right-wing media chorus, in recent years as it’s been adopted ad nauseaum online, on the AM dial and on Fox News, it’s to the point where that whiny, abrasive howl has become the only note in the conservative chorus.

The utter sameness of the fake outrage programming (i.e. We can’t believe Obama did/said that) now defines most of the conservative media message in America. Concocting things to be outraged about [20] and oppressed by (Hitler [21]!) is no longer a by-product of the conservative press, it’s become the entire purpose of the conservative press.

But it’s exhausting. And it doesn’t work. (Note the Republican Party’s 26 percent approval rating [22].) That, plus the fact that the perpetual outrage approach is now entering its second four-year cycle with Obama. If politically, the tactic didn’t work the first time, why is it being adopted again and reprised for the second term?

The bad news for Erickson is not only is the conservative movement purposefully trapped inside the phony Outrage Machine, but the machine’s stuck on a replay loop.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/media/are-conservatives-rethinking-fox-news-endless-outrage-model

Links:
[1] http://mediamatters.org/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/eric-boehlert
[3] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/01/22/Obama-Bullies-Supreme-Court-For-the-Third-Time
[4] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/01/21/Second-Inaugural-Address-Obama-Declares-War-on-Liberty-As-We-Know-It
[5] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/01/22/Obama-inaugural-insults-name-calling
[6] http://michellemalkin.com/2013/01/21/inaugural-lunch-menu/
[7] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323940004578256060684444322.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
[8] http://www.redstate.com/2013/01/20/the-loyal-opposition/
[9] http://www.salon.com/2013/01/16/right_wing_press_happily_allows_itself_to_be_trolled_by_made_up_video_game/
[10] http://mediamatters.org/video/2013/01/17/foxs-malkin-claims-it-was-child-abuse-to-have-c/192298
[11] http://mediamatters.org/video/2013/01/18/rush-limbaugh-defends-human-shields-comment-the/192324
[12] http://michellemalkin.com/2013/01/21/mlks-unfinished-legacy-and-the-fight-for-school-choice/
[13] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324235104578242121666374116.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_AboveLEFTTop
[14] http://online.wsj.com/article/declarations.html
[15] http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/newt-obama-bullying-house-gop-86206.html#ixzz2I3OSArxk
[16] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/20/prepare-for-long-nasty-four-years/
[17] http://mediamatters.org/video/2013/01/11/hannity-says-states-may-secede-if-radicalized-a/192198
[18] http://newsbusters.org/blogs/ken-shepherd/2013/01/23/bozell-hannity-review-medias-over-top-praise-obama-second-inaugural
[19] http://patterico.com/2013/01/21/obama-social-security-and-medicare-are-what-make-us-strong/
[20] http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/01/14/the-return-of-right-wing-pro-gun-insurrectionis/192216
[21] http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/01/fox-news-hitler-guns.php
[22] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/17/republican-party-approval-rating_n_2499934.html
[23] http://www.alternet.org/tags/fox
[24] http://www.alternet.org/tags/breitbart-0
[25] http://www.alternet.org/tags/right-wing
[26] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

The GOP Crackup: How Obama is Unraveling Reagan Republicanism

by Robert Reich, robertreich.org, January 25, 2013

Excerpt

…the GOP is doing a pretty good job annihilating itself….

The GOP crackup was probably inevitable.  Inconsistencies and tensions within the GOP have been growing for years – ever since Ronald Reagan put together the coalition that became the modern Republican Party….All President Obama has done is finally found ways to exploit these inconsistencies. Republican libertarians have never got along with social conservatives, who want to impose their own morality on everyone else. Shrink-the-government fanatics in the GOP have never seen eye-to-eye with deficit hawks, who don’t mind raising taxes as long as the extra revenues help reduce the size of the deficit. The GOP’s big business and Wall Street wing has never been comfortable with the nativists and racists in the Party who want to exclude immigrants and prevent minorities from getting ahead. And right-wing populists have never got along with big business and Wall Street, which love government as long as it gives them subsidies, tax benefits, and bailouts. Ronald Reagan papered over these differences with a happy anti-big-government nationalism….But Reagan’s coalition remained fragile. It depended fundamentally on creating a common enemy: communists and terrorists abroad, liberals and people of color at home…The 2012 Republican primaries exposed all the cracks and fissures in the GOP coalition…The 2012 election exposed something else about the GOP: it’s utter lack of touch with reality, its bizarre incapacity to see and understand what was happening in the country.  Think of Karl Rove’s delirium on Fox election night…Obama’s focus in his second inaugural — and, by inference, in his second term — on equal opportunity is hardly a radical agenda. But it aggravates all the tensions inside the GOP. And it leaves the GOP without an overriding target to maintain its fragile coalition…

Full text

Soon after President Obama’s second inaugural address, John Boehner said the White House would try “to annihilate the Republican Party” and “shove us into the dustbin of history.”

Actually, the GOP is doing a pretty good job annihilating itself.  As Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal put it, Republicans need to “stop being the stupid party.”

The GOP crackup was probably inevitable.  Inconsistencies and tensions within the GOP have been growing for years – ever since Ronald Reagan put together the coalition that became the modern Republican Party.

All President Obama has done is finally found ways to exploit these inconsistencies.

Republican libertarians have never got along with social conservatives, who want to impose their own morality on everyone else.

Shrink-the-government fanatics in the GOP have never seen eye-to-eye with deficit hawks, who don’t mind raising taxes as long as the extra revenues help reduce the size of the deficit.

The GOP’s big business and Wall Street wing has never been comfortable with the nativists and racists in the Party who want to exclude immigrants and prevent minorities from getting ahead.

And right-wing populists have never got along with big business and Wall Street, which love government as long as it gives them subsidies, tax benefits, and bailouts.

Ronald Reagan papered over these differences with a happy anti-big-government nationalism.  His patriotic imagery inspired the nativists and social conservatives. He gave big business and Wall Street massive military spending. And his anti-government rhetoric delighted the Party’s libertarians and right-wing populists.

But Reagan’s coalition remained fragile. It depended fundamentally on creating a common enemy: communists and terrorists abroad, liberals and people of color at home.

On the surface Reagan’s GOP celebrated Norman Rockwell’s traditional, white middle-class, small-town America. Below the surface it stoked fires of fear and hate of “others” who threatened this idealized portrait.

In his first term Barack Obama seemed the perfect foil: A black man, a big- spending liberal, perhaps (they hissed) not even an American.

Republicans accused him of being insufficiently patriotic. Right-wing TV and radio snarled he secretly wanted to take over America, suspend our rights. Mitch McConnell declared that unseating him was his party’s first priority.

But it didn’t work. The 2012 Republican primaries exposed all the cracks and fissures in the GOP coalition.

The Party offered up a Star Wars barroom of oddball characters, each representing a different faction — Bachmann, Perry, Gingrich, Cain, Santorum. Each rose on the strength of supporters and then promptly fell when the rest of the Party got a good look.

Finally, desperately, the GOP turned to a chameleon — Mitt Romney — who appeared acceptable to every faction because he had no convictions of his own. But Romney couldn’t survive the general election because the public saw him for what he was: synthetic and inauthentic.

The 2012 election exposed something else about the GOP: it’s utter lack of touch with reality, its bizarre incapacity to see and understand what was happening in the country.  Think of Karl Rove’s delirium on Fox election night.

All of which has given Obama the perfect opening — perhaps the opening he’d been waiting for all along.

Obama’s focus in his second inaugural — and, by inference, in his second term — on equal opportunity is hardly a radical agenda. But it aggravates all the tensions inside the GOP. And it leaves the GOP without an overriding target to maintain its fragile coalition.

In hammering home the need for the rich to contribute a fair share in order to ensure equal opportunity, and for anyone in America — be they poor, black, gay, immigrant, women, or average working person — to be able to make the most of themselves, Obama advances the founding ideals of America in such way that the Republican Party is incapable of opposing yet also incapable of uniting behind.

History and demographics are on the side of the Democrats, but history and demography have been on the Democrats’ side for decades. What’s new is the Republican crackup — opening the way for a new Democratic coalition of socially-liberal young people, women, minorities, middle-class professionals, and what’s left of the anti-corporate working class.

If Obama remains as clear and combative as he has been since Election Day, his second term may be noted not only for its accomplishment but also for finally unraveling what Reagan put together. In other words, John Boehner’s fear may be well-founded.

http://robertreich.org/post/41456134467

On inaugural eve, Obama’s most virulent foes want the celebration stopped

By Marc Fisher, Washington Post, January 14, 2013

Eldon Bell, a retired Air Force officer and physician, is making no plans to see Barack Obama’s second inauguration, in part because Bell considers the president arrogant and dishonest, but more so because Bell is not yet persuaded that the swearing-in will occur at all.

“Whether I watch depends on who’s being inaugurated,” says Bell, 78. “If it’s this guy, probably not, because I don’t pay much attention to illegitimate things.”

At this late date, Bell and his fellow believers in the notion that Obama was born overseas or is otherwise ineligible to be president still expect some court somewhere to buy into one of their theories. After more than 100 court cases, no judge has.

Even after Obama convincingly won reelection despite four years of low popularity ratings, a sluggish economy and a highly motivated opposition, advocates of various counterfactual theories about the president — he’s a foreigner, he’s a Marxist, he’s a Muslim — say they’re sticking to their fight.

“This inauguration is a mistake and those who permit it to happen will have to live with their own consciences,” says Bell, a former Washingtonian who retired to South Dakota.

Most Americans have moved on from earlier dalliances with denials of the president’s biography. National opinion polls have shown increases over the past three years in the percentage of Americans who agree that Obama was born in the United States and that he is a Christian. But a persistent minority — between a tenth and a fifth in most polls — still believe he is Muslim, foreign-born or a socialist.

Those voters tend to be vehement opponents of Obama, and on Inauguration Day, they will not be at the party — and they’re still searching for ways to have the president declared illegitimate.

“Let’s face it, this is a man very deep into an ideology that is not American,” says the Rev. Clenard Childress, a New Jersey minister and antiabortion activist who says black and white voters alike returned Obama to office “to feel better about ourselves and get the guilt of racism off us.”

Childress says it’s 50-50 that Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya: “But what I really care about is do we have the same values? Do you believe in the sanctity of life? Do you believe in marriage as being between man and woman? And this president does not.”

Just because the election is over doesn’t mean the confrontations of the first term will end, Childress says. In addition to the fiscal battles on Capitol Hill, the minister says, social issues will keep Obama opponents fired up, starting with next month’s antiabortion rally on the Mall and continuing with court and political battles over same-sex marriage.

“There will never be more contentiousness than in the next two years,” he says. “I told my congregation: Just strap yourselves down, it’s going to be nasty.”

Those who monitor anti-Obama movements say the inauguration will do nothing to quiet the rapids. “The rhetoric since the election has actually gotten more vicious,” says Kevin Davidson, better known as “Dr. Conspiracy,” his handle on his Web site, Obama Conspiracy Theories, which keeps tabs on those who declare Obama’s presidency illegitimate.

Davidson, a retired software developer in South Carolina, has been predicting for four years that hardcore anti-Obama agitation would dissipate, but it keeps going, driven, he believes, by anti-black sentiment. “I’ve seen more openly racist remarks since the election,” he says. “Before November, they were careful to control the racist language because they were trying to persuade people to vote against him. Now they sort of don’t care.”

Hard-core opponents say that even without another election, they will keep up their efforts to end Obama’s tenure. “We have to think about impeachment for abusing executive power,” says Cliff Kincaid, who runs America’s Survival, a collection of Web-based groups portraying the nation as threatened by socialism, the United Nations and liberal culture. “The Republicans seem not to realize that Obama is a Marxist who wages class warfare and could not qualify for a sensitive government position based on his associates and his character.”

Kincaid, based in Owings, Md., recognizes that impeachment is a long shot, so he is focusing on pushing the GOP rightward. “We can survive Obama,” he says, “but is there another Reagan-like conservative who can lead the charge? Romney refused to run as a conservative. We had a failure of conservative candidates and conservative media, not of conservative philosophy.”

Although many Americans have thought about whether the president’s approach to health care and the role of government equates to socialism — “socialist” was the most looked-up word in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary in 2012 — polling indicates more widespread support for the conclusion that Obama is what he has called himself, a pragmatist. Before his first inauguration, he said that “what is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives — from ideology and small thinking. . . .”

Still, Obama’s more severe critics see him as highly ideological. Francis Cianfrocca, a New York cybersecurity entrepreneur, believes the president is determined to limit freedom and wealth. “He called people like me ‘fat cats,’ ” says the successful businessman. “What are we supposed to do with that? A lot of the personalization of the opposition to him comes from his saying personal things against capitalism, business people and Republicans.”

Although Cianfrocca thought of Obama as “a thoroughgoing socialist looking for wholesale reconstruction of the economy,” the president’s reelection persuaded the businessman that “the country is with him and that gives him tremendous moral authority.”

Cianfrocca’s disagreements with the president are mainly philosophical; he believes the country will right itself and flourish again within a decade. Many birthers and other hardcore anti-Obama activists, in contrast, see the president as the final architect of the collapse of American power.

“I despair for the future of our country,” says Bell. “He’s an emperor with no clothes.”

Even if the birther movement has lost some steam since Obama released his birth certificate in 2011, Davidson sees evidence that birthers are diversifying into other anti-Obama issues, using their Web sites and radio shows to focus attention on the next phase of the health-care debate, the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya and the latest Cabinet nominations.

Although Dr. Conspiracy is obsessed with tracking the birthers — before he retired, he worked on the software that state governments use to manage vital records, and that got him interested in the debate over Obama’s birth certificate — he is not one of them. After engaging with thousands of people who believe Obama has committed identity fraud, he says, “I know two examples in the entire country of birthers who changed their views. It’s just in the nature of believers that you can’t back down.”

Conspiracy theories have been an undercurrent in American politics since the birth of the republic, but after decades in which such ideas could be hawked only through obscure newsletters and shortwave radio, the Internet and cable TV have made it far easier to connect with like-minded souls.

From inside the information silos of left and right, Obama can seem to be the subject of the most virulent hatred of any modern president. But that’s been said of the past three occupants of the White House. Hillary Clinton said during her husband’s presidency that a “vast right-wing conspiracy” was out to get him, and an energetic network of Enemies of Bill questioned his qualifications and honesty from long before his candidacy through his impeachment in 1998.

George W. Bush and Richard M. Nixon hold the modern records for highest disapproval ratings in Washington Post-ABC News polling, but such surveys don’t capture the relatively small numbers of people who turn unhappiness with a president into a dyspeptic worldview.

“There’s a certain world of people who move from one conspiracy theory to the next,” says Bill Bryan, proprietor of The Fogbow, a Web site devoted to debunking anti-Obama movements. “Obama is perfect for them. They just hate him so much, and the election won’t end that. They really believe that one day soon, he’ll be declared an illegal president and Obamacare will vanish with a poof and Sotomayor and Kagan will have to leave the Supreme Court.”

“I got sucked into their vortex,” Bryan says, “but when I run into normal people, like waiters at a restaurant, only half of them have even heard of birthers, so I take comfort in that.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/on-inaugural-eve-obamas-most-virulent-foes-want-the-celebration-stopped/2013/01/14/2050f75e-54f6-11e2-a613-ec8d394535c6_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines

Far-Right John Birch Society 2010

ABC News, Feb 19, 2010

ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports: This week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington has a co-sponsor from the far-right fringe of American politics:   The John Birch Society. According to Ian Walters, a spokesman for CPAC, it’s the first time the John Birch Society has sponsored the conference.  That’s not surprising, considering that the Birch Society has long been considered wacky and extreme by conservative leaders. William F. Buckley famously denounced the John Birch Society and its founder Robert Welch in the early 1960s as “idiotic” and “paranoid. “  Buckley’s condemnation effectively banishing the group from the mainstream conservative movement.  Welch had called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a “conscious, dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy” and that the U.S. government was “under operational control of the Communist party.”  Buckley argued that such paranoid rantings had no place in the conservative movement or the Republican party.  Two years after Buckley’s death, the John Birch Society is no longer banished; it is listed as one of about 100 co-sponsors of the 2010 CPAC. Why is the Birch Society a co-sponsor? “They’re a conservative organization,” said Lisa Depasquale, the CPAC Director for the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC.  ” Beyond that I have no comment.” On its website, the Birch Society describes it mission as to “to warn against and expose the forces that seek to abolish U.S. independence, build a world government, or otherwise undermine our personal liberties and national independence. The John Birch Society endorses the U.S. Constitution as the foundation of our national government, and works toward educating and activating Americans to abide by the original intent of the Founding Fathers. We seek to awaken a sleeping and apathetic people concerning the designs of those who are working to destroy our constitutional Republic.”

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2010/02/farright-john-birch-society-2010/

America’s White Male Problem

AlterNet [1] / By Frank Schaeffer [2] January 4, 2013

The American political process is being hijacked by a reckless, whining dangerous gang of psychologically damaged white men who are far-right ideologues. I used to be one of them. It’s time to tell the truth about our white male problem…the continuous attempt by the white far-right in Congress to shut down the government rather than work with our black president has a lot to do with racism… This has less to do with politics and more to do with the fear and mental illness that grips a willfully ignorant minority of white males. But the mainstream media is talking about everything but the underlying racial, cultural and mental health issues afflicting the white male minority of far-right congressmen holding us all hostage. And the extreme insanity of the right-wing rhetoric over the last four years, from “birther” to Obama-is-a-Muslim etc., conclusively points to something other than politics…Overlay a map of the states with the safe gerrymandered congressional districts that sent us the Tea Party Republicans hijacking our country and you’ll find it’s the same map by and large of the former slave states…

The anxiety of losing white long-held power at the expense of minority and marginalized constituencies like women and gays has metastasized into outright hatred of everything and anything President Obama would suggest. Racism has combined with fear…The fear is of a world in which white (mostly) evangelical Republicans lose power… forever. …The mainstream media doesn’t have the courage to say it…The truth of the matter is that there is a subculture of frightened white Republicans who see their own government as a threat. They’ve embraced ignorance and a fact-free life that denies evolution, gay-rights, the demographic changes in America, and above all, the fact that their fellow countrymen have rescinded our entire history of racist bigotry and voted for a black man for president. They just can’t accept this...The real problem we face is racism, bigotry and willful ignorance in the face of our changing demographics, spiritual beliefs and the challenge that postmodern thought poses to people stuck in Bronze Age thinking. These haters are a minority in the South, but they have  – through gerrymandering — given the whole South a black eye. The millions of tolerant Southern white men, women and all the rest of us wherever we’re from need to rise up and condemn this charade.

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The American political process is being hijacked by a reckless, whining dangerous gang of psychologically damaged white men who are far-right ideologues. I used to be one of them. It’s time to tell the truth about our white male problem.

Not everyone who disagrees with the president is a racist. Not even most people who do are. But the continuous attempt by the white far-right in Congress to shut down the government rather than work with our black president has a lot to do with racism. And lurching from manufactured crisis to crisis isn’t about politics; it’s about pathology. It doesn’t make sense politically to take the blame for risking America’s future — and the Republicans know they will take the blame — so how can we conclude other than something else is going on here?

I’m not talking about the white young male mass murderers we’re afflicted with carrying assault rifles courtesy of the NRA. I’m talking about the white far-right males who hijacked the 112th Congress and are set to destroy the 113th. They have metaphorically done to our country what the killer in Newtown literally did to 20 children, and for the same apparent reason: alienation from the mainstream and retreat to a paranoid delusional fantasy land of — literal — mental impairment.

This has less to do with politics and more to do with the fear and mental illness that grips a willfully ignorant minority of white males. But the mainstream media is talking about everything but the underlying racial, cultural and mental health issues afflicting the white male minority of far-right congressmen holding us all hostage. And the extreme insanity of the right-wing rhetoric over the last four years, from “birther” to Obama-is-a-Muslim etc., conclusively points to something other than politics.

The manufactured crisis we face are not about economics. These self-inflicted wounds are about a few people’s fear of being marginalized.

It’s not considered polite to mention race anymore. But I’m going to mention it anyway. We have a white problem.

I’m a 60-year-old white male father and grandfather. My son served in the Marines. I own a gun. I have handwritten notes from George Bush Sr, Jr, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford both to me and to my late father expressing gratitude for our contributions to the “fight” for traditional values and the Republican “cause.” Been there, done that!

I spent my youth not only as part of the Republican Party but helping to organize the culture wars that have come near to destroying our country. I have worked with the very kind of people who are now the hard-core Republican right. But I have changed my views. I may not be one of them any longer, but I bring an insider’s knowledge to the table.

Overlay a map of the states with the safe gerrymandered congressional districts that sent us the Tea Party Republicans hijacking our country and you’ll find it’s the same map by and large of the former slave states.

The anxiety of losing white long-held power at the expense of minority and marginalized constituencies like women and gays has metastasized into outright hatred of everything and anything President Obama would suggest. Racism has combined with fear.

The fear is of a world in which white (mostly) evangelical Republicans lose power… forever. The country has moved on, but the safe Republican gerrymandered districts have not. These folks are literally living in a fool’s paradise whose time has come and gone.

The white Republican hijackers of our Congress talk about smaller federal government and out-of-control federal spending, states’ rights and the Defense of Marriage Act. These are the defenders of 30-round magazines and personal arsenals, Kevlar-piercing cop-killing bullets, access to unlimited numbers of semiautomatic weapons and lethal handguns carried in public — all in the name of the Second Amendment.

The mainstream media doesn’t have the courage to say it, but the Second Amendment “defense” is nothing to do with today’s loud defense of “gun rights.” The truth of the matter is that there is a subculture of frightened white Republicans who see their own government as a threat. They’ve embraced ignorance and a fact-free life that denies evolution, gay-rights, the demographic changes in America, and above all, the fact that their fellow countrymen have rescinded our entire history of racist bigotry and voted for a black man for president. They just can’t accept this.

The common thread that runs through the Republicans’ “issues” of the day has little to do with those issues per se. What it’s really about is the fear of a future in which traditional white male power structures dissolve.

The true crux of the friction with the White House and the Democrats and indeed with most Americans — including most women living in the South and many Southern men as well — lies in the racial history of Reconstruction, Jim Crow and slavery.

The lies about our federal government — that somehow they are in league with the United Nations, to the point where we can’t even sign an international declaration on the rights of the handicapped! – have nothing to do with the stated objectives. This is like a family argument where an uncle shows up at the dinner table and argues with everyone not because he actually disagrees but because he’s feeling alienated from the family.

Simple palpable hatred drives these people to willful ignorance. The white males insisting on carrying guns (in a country where violent crime is way down!) are scared, not of muggers, but of the fact that their imaginary reality is coming unstuck.

They’re too smart to believe that Fox News spin on reality is reality. Most of these folks are too smart to believe in their evangelical theology either. I’ll bet at heart many are atheists or at least doubters, well aware of the hypocrisies and inanities of evangelical Christianity. But they put on an act of upholding what they believe are the traditional standards we need to live by, which really boils down to little more than white resentment.

These Republicans are from safely gerrymandered districts so they have little to lose and something to gain by “holding the line” against public opinion and the president, even if it continually pushes the country to the brink.

The fact is that many flag-waving American Republican males these days are horribly unpatriotic. Not since the 1960s and the far-left of the Weather Underground have we seen people who hate America so deeply. Some of the Republican “patriots” hate this country so much they join secessionist movements and interpret their “right to bear arms” as a right to build personal arsenals against that day when the federal government comes to “take away our freedoms.”

House Republicans like to say that Americans voted for a divided government. They say that “gridlock” is what becomes it. But that’s not true. The Democrats won 50.6% of the votes for president, to 47.8% for the Republicans; 53.6% of the votes for the Senate, to 42.9% for the Republicans.

A state of panic exists because Republican members of Congress demand a state of paralysis. They want to freeze the world as it is because the new world doesn’t have room for white male bigots who base their lives on Bronze Age mythology and white, privileged, Jeffersonian-style institutional racism. Their real ideology has nothing to do with gun rights, fighting against abortion or reducing the size of the federal deficit, but has everything to do with their own personal psychological turmoil.

These people are literally ill with fear. And their world is turning lopsided. There is a black man in the White House and he’s winning, and worst of all he’s self-evidently smarter than they are. He’s not even angry!

It is time for the mainstream media to stop playing the Republican extremists’ game. Let’s talk about racism and white Southern males who can’t get with the program. Let’s talk about what’s really going on with gun rights, which has nothing to do with hunting or home protection or even the Second Amendment, but has everything to do with the delusional paranoia of people who really believe the world is out to get them because it’s changing.

Let’s talk about the fact that there never was a fiscal cliff, just a dysfunctional Congress hijacked by the white males who turned the Tea Party into their cry of anguish.

The real problem we face is racism, bigotry and willful ignorance in the face of our changing demographics, spiritual beliefs and the challenge that postmodern thought poses to people stuck in Bronze Age thinking. These haters are a minority in the South, but they have  – through gerrymandering — given the whole South a black eye. The millions of tolerant Southern white men, women and all the rest of us wherever we’re from need to rise up and condemn this charade.

The real problem we face is not economics or gun ownership or what happens to Planned Parenthood, but how we can reintegrate a few hurting marginalized white males in Congress and their most ardent delusional supporters into a better future while stopping them from using self-created political stalemate to burn down the house we all share.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/americas-white-male-problem

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/frank-schaeffer
[3] http://www.alternet.org/tags/white
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tags/race
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politics-0
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/culture-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/united-states
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/slavery
[9] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B