The Wisdom of Bob Dole

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, May 28, 2013


a furiously oppositional Republican Party… has left mainstream conservatives like Mr. [Bob] Dole and Senator John McCain shaking their heads in disgust.

The difference between the current crop of Tea Party lawmakers and Mr. Dole’s generation is not simply one of ideology…the time came to actually govern, Republicans used to set aside their grandstanding, recognize that a two-party system requires compromise and make deals to keep the government working on the people’s behalf.

The current generation refuses to do that. Its members want to dismantle government, using whatever crowbar happens to be handy, and they don’t particularly care what traditions of mutual respect get smashed at the same timeThis corrosive mentality has been standard procedure in the House since 2011, but now it has seeped over to the Senate…Already, the mulish behavior of Congressional Republicans has led to the creation of the sequester, blocked action on economic growth and climate change, prevented reasonable checks on gun purchases and threatens to blow up a hard-fought compromise on immigration. Mr. Dole’s words should remind his party that it is not only abandoning its past, but damaging the country’s future.

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Bob Dole no longer recognizes the Republican Party that he helped lead for years. Speaking over the weekend on “Fox News Sunday,” he said his party should hang a “closed for repairs” sign on its doors until it comes up with a few positive ideas, because neither he nor Ronald Reagan would now feel comfortable in its membership.

“It seems to be almost unreal that we can’t get together on a budget or legislation,” said Mr. Dole, the former Senate majority leader and presidential candidate. “I mean, we weren’t perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done.”

The current Congress can’t even do that, thanks to a furiously oppositional Republican Party, and that’s what has left mainstream conservatives like Mr. Dole and Senator John McCain shaking their heads in disgust.

The difference between the current crop of Tea Party lawmakers and Mr. Dole’s generation is not simply one of ideology. While the Tea Partiers are undoubtedly more extreme, Mr. Dole spent years pushing big tax cuts, railing at regulations and blocking international treaties. His party actively courted the religious right in the 1980s and relied on racial innuendo to win elections. But when the time came to actually govern, Republicans used to set aside their grandstanding, recognize that a two-party system requires compromise and make deals to keep the government working on the people’s behalf.

The current generation refuses to do that. Its members want to dismantle government, using whatever crowbar happens to be handy, and they don’t particularly care what traditions of mutual respect get smashed at the same time. “I’m not all that interested in the way things have always been done around here,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida told The Times last week.

This corrosive mentality has been standard procedure in the House since 2011, but now it has seeped over to the Senate. Mr. Rubio is one of several senators who have blocked a basic function of government: a conference committee to work out budget differences between the House and Senate so that Congress can start passing appropriations bills. They say they are afraid the committee will agree to raise the debt ceiling without extorting the spending cuts they seek. One of them, Ted Cruz of Texas, admitted that he didn’t even trust House Republicans to practice blackmail properly. They have been backed by Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, who wants extremist credentials for his re-election.

At long last, this is finally drawing the rancor of Mr. Dole’s heirs in the responsible wing of the party. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said that negotiating on a budget was an “issue of integrity.” Roy Blunt, Lamar Alexander and many others have encouraged talks, and Mr. McCain (who was not above veering to the far right when he was running for president in 2008) now says the Tea Partiers are “absolutely out of line” and setting a bad precedent.

“We’re here to vote, not here to block things,” he said last week. “We’re here to articulate our positions on the issues and do what we can for the good of the country and the let the process move forward.”

Already, the mulish behavior of Congressional Republicans has led to the creation of the sequester, blocked action on economic growth and climate change, prevented reasonable checks on gun purchases and threatens to blow up a hard-fought compromise on immigration. Mr. Dole’s words should remind his party that it is not only abandoning its past, but damaging the country’s future.

Who Can Take Republicans Seriously?

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times,  May 12, 2013

It is time for President Obama to abandon his hopes of reaching a grand budget bargain with Republicans.

At every opportunity since they took over the House in 2011, Republicans have made it clear that they have no interest in reaching a compromise with the White House. For two years, they held sham negotiations with Democrats that only dragged down the economy with cuts; this year, they are refusing even to sit down at the table.

Mr. Obama hasn’t given up inviting the Republicans to join him in making the hard choices of governing, but he has been rebuffed each time. This year, in hopes of getting some support for modest tax increases on the rich, he even proposed a reduction in the cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients. The events of the last few weeks should make it clear to him why that offer should be pulled from the table immediately. Consider:

Shortly after Mr. Obama presented this idea to Republicans, more than a half-dozen of them began trashing it as too “draconian” and a “shocking attack on seniors.” For years, the party has demanded entitlement cuts, but the moment the president actually offered one, he was attacked. Then last Tuesday, Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, said that no grand bargain is possible because Democrats aren’t willing to make significant cuts to spending and entitlement programs. The Social Security cost-of-living change, he said, did not go far enough.

Senate and House Republicans are refusing to meet with Democrats to negotiate over the budgets passed by each chamber. Four times in the last two weeks, Senate leaders have proposed beginning a conference committee to hash out a federal budget; four times they have been blocked by Republicans. The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said they were afraid the committee might reach an agreement to raise both taxes on the rich and the debt ceiling, which are, of course, the Democrats’ stated goals. Knowing that their positions would be deeply unpopular among the public if their stubbornness were exposed in an open committee, Republicans would simply prefer not to talk at all.

Instead of negotiation, Republicans cling to their strategy of extorting budget demands by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling. On Thursday, the House passed a stunningly dangerous bill that would allow foreign and domestic bondholders to be paid if Republicans forced a government default, while cutting off all other government payments except Social Security benefits. The bill has no possibility of becoming law, but its passage was a deliberate thumb in the eye to Mr. Obama, business leaders and those who say the debt ceiling should not be used for political leverage.

Republican lawmakers have become reflexive in rejecting every extended hand from the administration, even if the ideas were ones that they themselves once welcomed. Under the circumstances, Mr. Obama would be best advised to stop making peace offerings. Only when the Republican Party feels public pressure to become a serious partner can the real work of governing begin.

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What Happened to the Traditionally Conservative Republican Party? – Submitted by admin on Mon, 2012-07-23 14:00

To fully comprehend the sad spectacle that has become American politics since the 1980s, you need not peruse the politics section of major periodicals. Or the opinion, news or business pages of illustrious publications.

No, lately you’d be best served by heading on over to the obituary section.

For example, this past week, a legislative giant from an earlier and more evolved Republican Party – that is to say, one in which dazzling audiences with tales of cantering saddleback on the family T-Rex was not considered “reaching out to the base” – former Senator Charles Percy, passed away. This sad news has come not long after the passing of another Republican legend, former Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield.

These men were both of the Rockefeller, or old Establishment wing of the Republican Party, a robust and scientifically literate (hint) group that followed in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D Eisenhower. Therefore, the importance and symbolism of their passing, for so many reasons, cannot be overstated.

It is the disappearance of their perspective and purpose that is one of the major reasons why our politics is where it is today – somewhere on the spectrum between corporate performance art and collective shame. Namely, the Bachmannization of the GOP, its influence in wrecking Washington culture and corrupting the current Republican Establishment, and its overall deleterious effect on the American middle class since the early 1980s.

This history of accomplishment by these moderate to liberal Republicans and their now near-complete extinction also leads the more naivete among the Democratic Party – see 1600 Pennsvlvania Avenue – to believe there are still deals to be made with this current crop of Koch-infected androids, a group which considers George W. Bush to be a near-Maoist for having supported pro-business immigration reform, appointing Ben Bernanke to the Fed and wanting to ban those on terror watch lists from buying assault weapons.

Dirty hippie!

Essentially, the face of the GOP has gone from Mark Hatfield and Charles Percy to David Vitter and Tom Coburn, which would explain why a once-respected profession has lately morphed into something more closely resembling the oldest one.

It may be hard for those who either were not alive (which includes me) or have not studied what the times were like to understand how different our legislating process and political culture was when men like Percy strode the halls of the Capitol like a colossus.

It was a time when there were scores of Republicans who were more progressive on civil rights, war & peace and even social programmes than some Democrats. Percy supported legislation to stimulate the production of low-cost housing for the poor. He joined Senator Hubert Humphrey in creating an “Alliance To Save Energy” because of the OPEC oil embargo.

Hatfield, meanwhile, one of the first military servicemen to enter Hiroshima after the dropping of the atomic bomb, opposed Vietnam and the first Gulf War and offered his view of national security thusly:

“Every president other than Eisenhower has been seduced by the military concept that that is our sole measurement of our national security and the more bombs we build, the more secure we are.”

He would be branded a peacenik today. Concurrently, there is about as much chance of that coming out of the mouth of any Republican legislator today (and most Democrats) as the numerical value for pi – or even an understanding you can’t eat it.

But that is where the Rockefeller Republicans earned their paychecks. As Democrats still had many segregationists in their ranks – those who would later be seduced by the Republican Southern Strategy – or just didn’t have the numbers to pass good bills now and again, men and women like Margaret Chase Smith, Jacob Javitz and George Aiken were essential to getting this done and helping main street just a bit more that other street with the big bronze bull and habit of playing taxpayer-insured roulette.

These Republicans of conscience, who held real sway in the party, as its congressional leaders and even presidential candidates, played a pivotal role in deals made by Democratic presidents, such as Lyndon Johnson, who needed their numbers to pass The Civil Rights Act (over 80% of the Republican Senate Caucus ultimately sided with Johnson and civil rights).

In fact, their disappearance from our politics has led not only the Republican Party to resemble a Darth conference at the Hilton. But it has taken our entire political culture to a point just to the right of not working, such that President Obama is more conservative than was Percy, even if one were to compare their records as Senators from Illinois alone.

Left-winged Republicans

Meanwhile, as the President has searched in vain for good-faith partners among the few Republicans left with more marbles than Mariah Carey, all the while being ignored, insulted and squandering his popularity on a pipe dream. He doesn’t seem to grasp that Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe are only moderate when compared to a Know-Nothing Party, and would have been considered mainstream conservatives in the old GOP. Meanwhile, Obama’s current policies in Afghanistan, on the environment and in slashing social programs in service of his dreams of a world without government debt, would have been blocked from the left in the not-too-distant past – by these very Republicans

Perhaps our resulting situation is best described by progressive polymath and top-rated talk radio host Thom Hartmann, in his analysis of 20-year old David Lewis’ challenge to Speaker of the House John Boehner in a primary, because Boehner is a “Socialist” who has failed to eliminate Social Security.

Yeah, I didn’t make that up.

Hartmann reminded those who have forgotten, that: “Just like Jason Bourne doesn’t remember his earlier life – David Lewis doesn’t remember America’s earlier life – under the New Deal years of the 1940s, fifties, sixties, seventies, and early eighties – when the middle class thrived – and our social safety nets allowed more and more Americans to pursue the American Dream. Without that memory – Lewis believes in a fantasy – a fantasy about the power of this magical thing called the “free-market” – a fantasy that societies can function just fine without a government – a fantasy that if we all act selfishly, then we’ll all prosper. It’s a fantasy, because it’s never, ever worked in the history of the world…”

The Rockefeller Republicans made that “American Dream” happen, by working with Democrats on landmark legislation to move our country forward. But they are now gone, and we have been left with David Lewis and his brethren, and it’s hard to see how things will change in the near future.

It almost makes me want to join Rick Perry in a public prayer dance.

Follow me on Twitter @cliffschecter [1]

This piece was first published at Al Jazeera English [2]




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Date: Friday, September 30, 2011 – 11:08

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5 Ways GOP Tried to Subvert Democracy in 2012 — And They’ll Try Again

AlterNet [1] / By Steven Rosenfeld [2]  December 28, 2012  |

Creating barriers to voting, demonizing communities of color, attacking voting rights laws and their defenders, unleashing billionaires who financed candidates like an extreme sport, and hiding corporate donors behind opaque front groups—these were the chapters in the Republican Party’s electoral playbook in the 2012 election cycle.

While Democrats copied [3] but did not quite match [4] the GOP on the campaign finance abuse side of this depressing ledger, the 2012 campaign cycle arguably was the worst for democracy issues in years. And the GOP’s prospects for changing course are dim.

The nation’s most comprehensive [5] 2012 Election Day survey of voter attitudes found [6] that upwards of one-fifth of Republicans believed the GOP’s voter fraud propagandists. That cadre claimed that non-citizens voting, people impersonating others, voting more than once, and tampering with ballots and results occurred in their counties.

Meanwhile, top GOP officials in Pennsylvania [7] and Wisconsin [8] are hoping to change the way their states allocate Electoral College votes to dilute future Democratic victories.

To be fair, the Democrats are no angels when it comes to using [9] the same campaign finance tactics as the GOP—although the GOP was first to pioneer and exploit 2012’s newest and biggest loopholes. But on voting rights, the GOP clearly is a party that does not want [10] everyone to vote, whereas Democrats believe in expanding the franchise.

1. Voting Barriers     

The bad news was that between January 2011 and October 2012, 19 states (all but one with GOP majorities) adopted [11] 25 new laws and two executive actions that created barriers at varying stages of the voting process, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School. These new laws weren’t just newly restrictive voter ID requirements, but also curbs on registration drives and early voting options.

The good news was liberal voting rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice (after doing little in 2011) reversed or weakened new laws in 14 states, according to Brennan’s count [11]. But in some of the most contested fights, such as Pennsylvania’s new photo ID law, the Court only postponed [12] the law from taking effect until after 2012.

2. Voter Intimidation

The GOP’s propoganda machine went into overdrive in 2012, with a handful of Tea Party governors and secretaries of state—led by Florida Gov. Rick Scott—falsely claiming [13] that hundreds of thousands of non-citizens were on voter rolls. Scott’s claims of 180,000-plus illegals led to hundreds of legal voters, including World War II vets, being incorrectly purged. He retracted [14] that figure, but the initial publicity did its dirty work: intimidating new voters from communities of color, according to Florida election officials like Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho [14]. And as Election Day neared, Republican activists paid for billboards in several swing state cities with big minority populations that cited penalties for illegal voting, another voter suppression tactic.

The good news was that in Florida, election supervisors from both parties rebelled against Scott’s false claims. But rightwing media trumpeted these and other fabrications. On Election Day, a nationwide survey [6] by CalTech/MIT of 10,200 voters found that 35 percent of Republicans believed non-citizen voting was a problem in their county. (This is the nation’s largest survey of voter attitudes and experiences.)

Twenty-two percent of Republicans said there was voting by people pretending to be someone else in their county, CalTech/MIT found. The same number said there was voting by people more than once; 17 percent said people tampered with ballots; and another 16 percent said election officials tampered with the count. In contrast, only 9 percent or less of Democrats believed these issues were real problems.

Taken together, roughly one-third of the 2012 electorate believe some version [6] of GOP-defined voter fraud was widespead—even though innumerable academic studies have shown that these kinds of infractions are singular events, on par with getting hit by lightning. (In fact, 2012’s most notable examples of election fraud were by Republicans, such as the Indiana secretary of state’s resignation [15] after falsified candidate filing papers surfaced, or GOP consultant Nathan Sproul was caught dumping [16] voter registration forms submitted by Democrats, or Ohio counties barring the new GOP voter vigilante group True the Vote from polling places after lying [17] about members’ credentials.)

There is plenty of evidence that the GOP’s accusations and tactics—on top of Obama being a mixed-race candidate—backfired and increased minority turnout. On Friday, Pew Research Center reported [18] that blacks voted at a higher rate than whites in 2012, a first. But when partisan beliefs carry more weight than facts, it is all but impossible to reach consensus solutions in the political world. That takes us to the next big trend that will continue to unfold in 2013—the GOP’s assault on federal voting rights laws.

3. Rolling Back Federal Power

The goal of this page in the GOP playbook is to weaken the federal government’s power to regulate voting law changes in states and counties that have past histories of racial discrimination. Led by Republicans such as Texas’ attorney general, the GOP is seeking to overturn [19] the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the DOJ used this year to reject voting laws in Texas, South Carolina, Florida and other states. The DOJ also used the VRA to reject Texas’ post-2012 Census redistricting, which ended up electing more Latino (Democrats) to the U.S. House after federal courts intervened.

These legal challenges are heading to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Chief Justice John Roberts has said [20] that these enforcement sections of the Voting Rights Act are outdated. Arizona has another legal challenge to DOJ oversight that will be heard by the Supreme Court in 2013, over requiring new voters to provide citizenship documents when registering to vote. (Most states allow people to sign an oath.)

To say that the GOP is hypocritical on race and voting is an understatement. In these anti-VRA lawsuits, GOP attorneys general are arguing that America has outgrown affirmative action to ensure voting rights. On the other hand, GOP officials such as Florida’s Scott and many partisan secretaries of state (Colorado, Michigan, Kansas and New Mexico) demonize [10] communities of color with irresponsible and unproven allegations of illegal voting. And rightwing public intellectuals keep writing articles that personally attack [21] current and former DOJ Voting Section attorneys, to try to discredit their efforts.

2012’s Real Problems

It’s worth noting what the CalTech/MIT survey [6] found were the real problems faced by voters in 2012—to offer a sense of perspective.

Of the 128.6 million [22] voters this fall, 13 percent (or 16.7 million) said they waited in line longer than 30 minutes. (Early voting lines were longer than Election Day because there were fewer polling places.) African Americans and Latinos faced longer waiting times than whites, sometimes twice as long or more, it found in its preliminary analysis. The longest waits were in Florida (averaging 45 minutes); the District of Columbia (35 minutes); Maryland (32 minutes); Virginia (28 minutes); and South Carolina (27 minutes).

Three other big-picture statistics are worth remembering. Three percent of voters, or 3.85 million people, reported a problem with voter registration records. In contrast, 2 percent or 2.57 million reported a voting equipment problem. Importantly, one-third of voters didn’t believe that all the votes cast would be counted.

4. Billionaires Steer Presidential Race

On the campaign finance front, the biggest trend in the 2012 campaign cycle was the emergence of independent political spending by the super wealthy via so-called super PACs [23] and secretive groups that could also spend without [24] disclosing their donors.

It may very well be that Mitt Romney would have been a stronger candidate facing Obama were it not for the battering he received from fringe Republicans—first Newt Gingrich, then Rick Perry, then Rick Santorum—all of whom were propped up [25] by elderly white businessmen relishing their impact in the GOP nominating contest. Texas Gov. Perry called Romney a “vulture capitalist [26],” defining him long before Democratic attacks and Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe surfaced, and Pennsylvania’s ex-senator Santorum said Romney was the “worst candidate [27] to face Obama.”

However, the trend of billionaire-funded outside groups that publicly claim no relation to candidates—even though they are run by people who worked for the men they’re helping—was just one way big money distorted 2012’s elections. The GOP nominee would have emerged months before were it not for the meddling billionaires. (In 2016, we may see the same pattern for Democrats.)

5. Secret Big Money Groups

At least with the super PACS that landed like flying saucers in the GOP desert, the public quickly learned who was behind their money drops, as they had to file Federal Election Commission reports. But these political venture capitalists were just an opening act for the far more secretive operations led by the Koch brothers and Karl Rove—and copied [28] by Democrats.

By early summer, the airwaves in swing states were inundated [29] with attack ads that were not sponsored by candidate campaigns or their political parties. Instead, groups with opaque names that were organized as non-profits—which would allow them to hide donor’s identities—sprang up anywhere [30] in the country where a race was thought to significantly impact the presidential election or balance of power in Congress.

This recent profile [9] of how these secretive groups infiltrated the Montana Senate race is illustrative of this pernicious trend. Political scientists and analysts say that $6 billion or more was spent on 2012’s federal elections, with $1 billion of that coming from the so-called dark money groups that are accountable to no one except their secret donors.

The Democrats and the Obama campaign tried [31] to employ this same campaign finance strategy as the GOP, but did not have as many billionaires willing to write multi-million-dollar checks as the GOP. Obama and the Democrats also had many more small donors than Republicans, and enlisted their help in get-out-the-vote efforts.

But there was a big winner in 2012 that was neither candidate nor political party, and that was big money. Unless there are significant new federal campaign finance reforms or a new U.S. Supreme Court majority willing to regulate campaign finances, then the latest presidential race has established new rules and modes of campaigning—welcoming wealthy Americans and pushing everyone else to the back of the bus.

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The Case Against Romney: At Heart, He’s a Delusional One-Percenter

By Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, 10/31/12

Every election is a choice between imperfect alternatives. I will examine both choices in turn, but the first one, Mitt Romney, has rendered the normal analytic tools useless. The different iterations of his career differ so wildly, yet comport so perfectly with his political ambitions of the moment, that it is simply impossible to separate his panders from his actual beliefs, the means from the ends. It is easy to present Romney’s constant reinventions as a character flaw, but all politicians tailor their beliefs to suit the moment; Romney’s unique misfortune is that he has had to court such divergent electorates — first a liberal general electorate in Massachusetts, then Republican primary voters of an increasingly rabid bent in 2008 and 2012, and finally America as a whole after securing the nomination.

One can plausibly imagine Romney as a genuine right-winger, first implanted in hostile deep blue territory, hiding his arch-conservative beliefs in order to secure the brass ring he coveted before he was liberated from running for reelection and unmasked himself to his fellow Republicans nationwide as the “conservative businessman” he always was. One can just as plausibly imagine him as his father’s true political heir, covertly plotting to move his party sharply leftward, a turn he would execute only once he had burrowed undetected beneath its ideological perimeter.

The true picture is a mystery, probably lying somewhere between these points. Undoubtedly, what Romney believes in above all is himself. As a friend of his told Politico last month, at a moment when his campaign appeared hopeless, Romney approaches politics like a business deal: “Just do and say what you need to do to get the deal done, and then when it’s done, do what you know actually needs to be done to make the company a success.” (This was the reporters’ paraphrase, not the friend’s own words.)

He meant this not in the spirit of exposing Romney’s fraudulence, but in an elegiac way — a lament for a great man who would do good if only given a chance. From a certain perspective, there is an understandable and even admirable elitism at work. Romney truly believes in his own abilities and — unlike George W. Bush, who was handed every professional success in his life — has justification for his confidence. He is a highly intelligent, accomplished individual.

Some version of Romney’s own fantasy — that, once in office, he will craft sensible and data-driven, and perhaps even bipartisan, solutions to our problems — surely accounts for his political resurrection. Starting with the transformative first presidential debate, Romney has wafted the sweet, nostalgic scent of moderate Republicanism into the air. Might he offer the sort of pragmatic leadership that was the hallmark of his party in a bygone era — a George H.W. Bush, a second-term Reagan, an Eisenhower, a Nixon minus the criminal paranoia? Some moderates supporting him, like reformist conservative Ross Douthat or the Des Moines Register editorial board, have filled the many voids of Romney’s program with some version of this fantasy. It is an attractive scenario to many, and one worth considering seriously.

This hopeful vision immediately runs into a wall of deductive logic. If Romney were truly planning to govern from the center, why would he leave himself so exposed to Obama’s attacks that he is a plutocrat peddling warmed-over Bushonomics? The election offers Romney his moment of maximal leverage over his party’s right-wing base. If he actually wanted to cut a budget deal along the lines of Bowles-Simpson, or replace Dodd-Frank with some other way of preventing the next financial crisis, or replace Obamacare with some other plan to cover the uninsured, there would be no better time to announce it than now, when he could sorely use some hard evidence of his moderation. He has not done so — either because he does not want to or because he fears a revolt by the Republican base. But if he fears such a revolt now, when his base has no recourse but to withhold support and reelect Obama, he will also fear it once in office, when conservatives could oppose him without making their worst political nightmare come true as a result.

And so the reality remains that a vote for Romney is a vote for his party — a party that, by almost universal acclimation, utterly failed when last entrusted with governing. Romney may be brainier, more competent, and more mentally nimble than George W. Bush. But his party has, unbelievably, grown far more extreme in the years since Bush departed. Unbelievable though it may sound to those outside the conservative movement, conservative introspection into the Bush years has yielded the conclusion that the party erred only in its excessive compassion — it permitted too much social spending and, perhaps, cut taxes too much on the poor. Barely any points of contact remain between party doctrine and the consensus views of economists and other experts. The party has almost no capacity to respond to the conditions and problems that actually exist in the world.

Economists have coalesced around aggressive monetary easing in order to pump liquidity into a shocked market; Republicans have instead embraced the gold standard and warned incessantly of imminent inflation, undaunted by their total wrongness. In the face of a consensus for short-term fiscal stimulus, they have turned back to ancient Austrian doctrines and urged immediate spending cuts. In the face of rising global temperatures and a hardening scientific consensus on the role of carbon emissions, their energy plan is to dig up and burn every last molecule of coal and oil as rapidly as possible. Confronted by skyrocketing income inequality, they insist on cutting the top tax rate and slashing — to levels of around half — programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and children’s health insurance. They refuse to allow any tax increase to soften the depth of such cuts and the catastrophic social impact they would unleash.

The last element may be the most instructive and revealing. The most important intellectual pathology to afflict conservatism during the Obama era is its embrace of Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy of capitalism.Rand considered the free market a perfect arbiter of a person’s worth; their market earnings reflect their contribution to society, and their right to keep those earnings was absolute. Politics, as she saw it, was essentially a struggle of the market’s virtuous winners to protect their wealth from confiscation by the hordes of inferiors who could outnumber them.

Paul Ryan, a figure who (unlike Romney) commands vast personal and ideological loyalty from the party, is also its most famous Randian. He has repeatedly praised Rand as a visionary and cited her work as the touchstone of his entire political career. But the Randian toxin has spread throughout the party. It’s the basis of Ryan’s frequently proclaimed belief that society is divided between “makers” and “takers.” It also informed Romney’s infamous diatribe against the lazy, freeloading 47 percenters. It is a grotesque, cruel, and disqualifying ethical framework for governing.

Naturally, this circles us back to the irrepressible question of what Romney himself actually believes. The vast industry devoted to exploring the unknowable question of Romney’s true beliefs has largely ignored a simple and obvious possibility: That Romney has undergone the same political and/or psychological transformation that so many members of his class have since 2009. If there is one hard fact that American journalism has established since 2009, it is that many of America’s rich have gone flat-out bonkers under President Obama. Gabriel Sherman first documented this phenomenon in his fantastic 2009 profile in this magazine, “The Wail of the 1%,” which described how the financial elite had come to see themselves as persecuted, largely faultless targets of Obama and their greedy countrymen. Alec MacGillis and Chrystia Freeland have painted a similar picture.

The ranks of the panicked, angry rich include Democrats as well as Republicans and elites from various fields, but the most vociferous strains have occurred among the financial industry and among Republicans. All this is to say, had he retired from public life after 2008, super-wealthy Republican financier Mitt Romney is exactly the kind of person you’d expect to have lost his mind, the perfect socioeconomic profile of a man raging at Obama and his mob. Indeed, it would be strange if, at the very time his entire life had come to focus on the goal of unseating Obama, and he was ensconced among Obama’s most affluent and most implacable enemies, Romney was somehow immune to the psychological maladies sweeping through his class.

Seen in this light, Romney’s belief in himself as a just and deserving leader is not merely a form of personal ambition free of ideological content. His faith in himself blends seamlessly into a faith in his fellow Übermenschen — the Job Creators who make our country go, who surround him and whose views shaped his program. To think of Romney as torn between two poles, then, is a mistake. Both his fealty to his party and his belief in his own abilities point in the same direction: the entitlement of the superrich to govern the country.