Saturday, September 08, 2012

A plea, but first, a rant. Please read to the end!

This election is a watershed moment for a couple of reasons.

First, the difference between the two parties in principle and practice is, contrary to a lot of disaffected voters, as stark and obvious as it has ever been.  When you look at the stated goals of each, look between the lines and wash away the partisan politics, those goals are as far apart as one can imagine.

Second, the terrible nastiness of the election’s partisan conversation is an indication of a rising fear in the Republican Party’s ranks.  There is a battle going on for the soul of the Republican Party, and it isn’t pretty.

Look, I was a Republican for many years.  I voted for Reagan.  I voted for both Bushes and against Clinton.  But over the years, the tone of the Party changed.  It became obvious to me in the middle years of the second Bush when they were taking the tone that “if you aren’t with me, you are not only against me, but you aren’t American”, it made me very uncomfortable.

I’d always been pro-choice, and never liked the stance of a portion of the Republican party which was anti-abortion.  The extremists’ positions were not only uncomfortably inflexible, but the hatred they displayed towards even those in their own Party who were willing to compromise with the other side was more than disturbing. It was alarming!

Another part of the mix was religion.  I’d always been rather apathetic about that subject.  Just didn’t care.  Stopped going to church in my early thirties and stopped sending the girls to Sunday School too.  But I didn’t think much about it, it just wasn’t important.  So I was also apathetic about that “moral majority” thing, but went along with it because I didn’t see any harm.  I’d always lived around such folks and kind of took them and their attitudes for granted.  Kind of like living in the desert and not noticing the cactus - they’re always there, that’s where they grow and they’re just a part of nature.  Their spines aren’t a new thing, you’ve always known they were there and you just kind of thought anybody would know to stay away from them to not get hurt.

But the actions of the ultra-religious in acting to eliminate women’s rights to not only abortion but contraception and limiting access to medical care for women’s health issues was a shock- as if those cactus were suddenly shooting their spines at passers-by instead of just sitting there being a cactus!  Looking back a few years, I can see those cactus have been shooting spines for a while - it just hasn’t been terribly obvious to many of us.

The entire thing has come to a head - President Obama’s election in 2008 shocked the Republicans to the core.   Not only did he get elected by a virtual landslide, but he was (in their opinions) also black!  Preposterous!  Unthinkable!  There’s no way we can accept a black man in the White House, it has to be a mistake - hence the birth (ahem) of the birther movement!  “If we can just show he was never eligible, we can have him declared illegitimate and throw out all the leftie stuff he’s signed!”

Cooler heads at the top of the Party saw it clearer - the signs have been on the wall for some time, how the raw numbers of young people joining and voting Republican have been dropping for years, more and more young folks are not only leaving the christian faith - but are not even being taught about it in the first place.  The results of President Obama’s election in a landslide made them realize that if they didn’t take action, and soon, future electability for Republicans running on their current platform would be impossible.

So, the birth of the Tea Party.  Not a separate party, but as an ultra-conservative wing of the Republicans so they didn’t have to actually do the hard work of displacing an established Party in the infrastructure of the American election apparatus.  Easier to just take over.

So, the battle is on.  Colin Powell, a rising star in the Bush years, was tossed under the bus early on as a RINO (Republican in Name ONLY).  Others followed.  Some of that was understandable - with the obvious failure of the Bush economic policies, nobody in the Party wanted to be linked with those policies - even if their basic policies have never changed.  I can’t blame them, that is standard policy to dump a failed leader, one doesn’t want to follow one loss with another - and a guy whose policies have gotten you into trouble will definitely link your name to his failure.  I can’t and don’t blame the Republicans for that at all.

What I do blame them for is not dumping those bad policies.  This is a separate and distinct thing from their social policies - I’ll get to those in a minute.  In the past, parties who have failed have dropped failed policies - politicians are usually smart enough to see that handwriting on the wall.  In spite of modern cynical thinking, I don’t think voters are so stupid as to miss the obvious.

But, and this is a big one, those failed policies aren’t the only problem Republicans have in that vein.   (I said I’d get to the social policies, didn’t I?)

It has been obvious to most political watchers for a while that the anti-abortion efforts have been failing to garner wide-spread support, in fact, the margin of acceptance of abortion by Americans has been increasing by 1-2% per year over the last few years, and a clear majority of Americans have always accepted one form of legality for abortion or another since the early eighties.  One can argue and debate the details - and we have - but the number of Americans in favor of complete banning of that procedure are in a clear minority, and always have been.  Whenever that question has been put to the voters, it has lost.  Americans favor some form of legal abortion in very large numbers.

Which makes the current effort to ban contraceptives puzzling.  Contraceptives are even more popular than abortion.  It has been estimated (through polling, how else?) that 98% of American women have, at some point or another, used them to help plan their family structure.  This includes Catholic women, in almost the same proportion.  As a matter of fact, studies have shown that both abortion and contraceptives are more popular in Red States among the very religious than in the general population!

And yet, and yet, Republicans have not only doubled down on their anti-abortion efforts at the State level, but have tried to get the extreme amendment extending human rights to be effective at conception on the ballot in numerous States!  This amendment would ban most popular methods of contraceptives outright, and also abortion, by the way.  Even though it was rejected last November in Mississippi by a double digit margin, they still are trying.


Other efforts are equally puzzling.  Bills allowing the bullying of gays, banning Sharia law, making miscarriages either reportable to State Health departments or outright illegal and tantamount to murder, prosecuting women who have had miscarriages by accusing them of living a substandard lifestyle deliberately to cause an abortion (in States where abortions are virtually illegal) - as well as laws allowing prayer in school and beginning public meetings as well as religious mottos and the Ten Commandments being posted in either courtrooms or city council chambers around the country, flouting Supreme Court rulings and Federal law.

Fox News has virtually dropped their pretense of being a “news” network, and flagrantly push the Republican Party line, and Republican Politicians (starting with Sarah Palin, who suggested this) often refuse to give interviews to any reporters who don’t work for Fox.

The tone of Republicans towards President Obama has been, from the beginning, disgraceful and insulting.  Republicans, in referring to him, rarely if ever, refer to him using his title.  Speaker Boehner, several times during contentious negotiations, has refused to call him back and has deliberately and blatantly refused invitations to White House affairs that have traditionally included the leaders of both Parties.  These are slights which, had they occurred in the reverse, would have elicited loud protestations of anger and outrage from Republicans, yet - they feel no remorse or shame in behaving in this disgusting manner now.

I could go on.  I could document point after point showing how the political discourse in this country has deteriorated from bad to worse in the last twenty years. (Clinton even mentioned this in his speech at the DNC.)

Why?  What has happened in the Republican Party to cause this deterioration?  Is it deliberate?  Are there political reasons for this?  What goals could be behind such behavior?  Is it merely racial animus towards a black man in the White House?   Not if it started twenty years ago.  Clinton is most decidedly not black!

And as for the support and passing of such unpopular policies, again, why?  Why does a political Party, in a period of shakeup after a devastating loss, decide to pursue policies which are so unpopular as to even cause allies such as the Catholic Bishops conference to tell them they’re sinning against god? Why would they double down on policies which outrage and alienate Hispanics, who, by the end of the next decade, will be one of the largest and most populous voting blocks in the country?

These policies are almost guaranteed to send voters to the polls to vote against them, and indeed, Republicans are so worried about this that in several swing States, they’ve actually passed policies designed to prevent minority voters from getting to the polls, and if they do, to prevent them from voting!

As noted by a character in an old classic movie once said, “It is a puzzlement!”

Yet, there are signs of cracks in the wall.

Several times in the past week or two, Fox News writers have, in opinion pieces, dragged Romney or Ryan over the coals for one thing or another.  Stories are beginning to circulate of Republicans becoming disenchanted.  The former Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, has turned Independent, and actually spoke at the DNC this week, excoriating the Republicans for all sorts of things and advising Republican voters to vote for President Obama.  Facebook is circulating stories of Republican voters getting fed up and either deciding to sit this one out or actually voting Democratic.

And the Republicans, especially on Facebook, have gone ballistic.  Nasty is hardly the word.

All of this tells me one thing - the man on the street (as well as the woman on the street!) is getting fed up with it all.  Many every day Republicans are, I think, beginning to rethink their support for the Party.  Its emphasis on religion has turned a lot of people off, and more than anything, the tendency of the Romney campaign to simply spread outright lies about President Obama has gone over the top as well.

Nice rant, huh?  Now, I want to say a couple of things about my feelings here.

As I noted at the beginning of this, I used to be a Republican.  Voted straight party ticket.  Swallowed the Kool-aid in one gulp.

No longer.

As one gets older and gains some life experience, one changes.  One sees more, thinks more and realizes that what you once thought was so simple isn’t.  Life is complicated.  The solutions to life’s problems, especially in job lots at the national level, aren’t going to be simple either.  Above all, you learn that nobody has a lock on being right.

Which is why our political system is designed to allow both parties to get a shot at being in power.  Why it is designed to get both sides together in cooperation to get things done.  Checks and balances aren’t just to balance the different branches of government, but to balance the power between the parties, too.  To put a brake on the most popular by forcing them to talk to the other side.

When one Party decides that such cooperation is over, and they think they’ve got all the answers, this country is in trouble.  It is then time for the American people to throw that Party under the bus and allow another group to fill the vacuum.  There is precedent for that, which is why we have a Republican Party today, with the downfall of the Whig Party in the 19th century.

I don’t, in spite of the tone of my frustration on this blog or Facebook, actually hate Republicans.  Frustrated with them, yes, angry when I see smart people failing to use their brains and simply spouting copied and pasted talking points.  Scared when I see where right wing leaders seem to be taking this country, especially the religious ones.

My plea at this time is to my Republican and Independent friends and family.  To all of you on Facebook and in meatspace reading this blog.  (First, if you think this bears reading, spread the link and get others to read it too.  A dialog wouldn’t be bad.)

What we need is a breathing space.  We need to dump the extremists - just throw them out the window and invite them to never come back.

Yes, this means the Republican leaders of today.  Every doggone one of them, every man/woman jack of them who have gone along with this extremist nonsense which has been catering to the worst of the racists and bigots among us just need to get thrown under the bus and forgotten.

I realize that this will most certainly put the Democrats in power for some period of time.   However, as noted in a Facebook post, Democrats lived through eight years of Bush and you’ve lived so far through four years of Obama - certainly you can live through four to eight more.  That should provide more than enough time (and incentive) for the majority of moderate ex-Republicans to get their feet under them and form a new Party which is capable of governing again.

With conditions the way they are, this country needs an extended period under one Party with consistent policies to heal and grow back to normalcy.  It needs time.  The Republicans need time to get their act together, especially if they decide to grow a new Party.

Again, there’s precedent.  Roosevelt was re-elected and served four terms.  By the time his last term ended (with Truman replacing him after his death), the country had not only recovered from the Great Depression, but had defeated her enemies and embarked upon one of the most astonishing periods of growth in her history.

But note that the Democrats didn’t do it alone.  There was plenty of Republican participation and cooperation.   The entire country pulled together, and there wasn’t this back-biting and cat-fighting which has brought this country to a cold stop.  That’s how it is supposed to be.  It is why we refer to that generation as the greatest of American generations.

So, join us.  Just this year, vote Democratic.  Let’s shock the Republicans again, and show them that their policies which are so extreme and so much against this country’s values are unwelcome and unwanted.  Be selective though, there are some Republicans who are moderate and deserve to stay around - you’ll need leaders going forward.  This country needs two parties!

Let’s just throw out the extremists - all of them, so we can start over.


Linda Norby said...

One word...WOW!

D'Lyn Murphey said...

This is the best thing I have read all year. I agree, this country needs to come together again.

Jack Harris said...

Nice try. But it ain't happening. If you think running this country by borrowing over 5 trillion dollars in President Obama's first 4 years is something we should vote for then, I'm sorry, but that is an exstreme and stupid way to run a government. The Democrats will certainly not lift a finger to stop this stupidity.

Robert Ahrens said...

Jack, you aren't paying attention! The Ryan budget would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, add almost exactly that amount to the debt - much of it straight into the pockets of the wealthiest 1% of the country!

Obama has been offering a budget that means to reduce such expenditures, not increase them. You've been listening to too much Fox News, dude!