Xark began as a group blog in June 2005 but continues today as founder Dan Conover's primary blog-home. Posts by longtime Xark authors Janet Edens and John Sloop may also appear alongside Dan's here from time to time, depending on whatever.
One of our kids had an interesting idea last week. Rather than continuing our painfully redundant national argument over bizarre Republican beliefs about science, education, sexuality, religion, economics, the environment, race and national security, why don't we just give them the South?
"Nowadays, for both poles of the political spectrum but especially for
the right, politics is a business—the entertainment business.
The freak show, as Mark Halperin termed it, has been turned into a fully
merchandised product. It was Fox’s Roger Ailes who had the insight that
the American right was an underserved market, one with a powerful kind
of brand loyalty. Fox News has turned a disaffected segment of the
populace into a market, with the fervor and idiosyncratic truth
standards of a cult. Wingnut-ism has been monetized, is one admittedly
partisan way of looking at it. Palin stokes the disaffection of her
constituents and then, with the help of Fox, offers to heal them, for a
price. And—surprise—they’re more affluent than most Americans. Fifty-six
percent make over $50,000 a year, according to a Times/CBS
poll. Running for president is no doubt part of her business model. But
forget elections (as many Palin supporters already seem to have done);
she’s already the president of an alternative America—and also its CEO."
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement,
and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But
they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had
whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making
was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to
murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your
voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?
I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our
overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by
mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information,
overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent
and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and
they have very different imperatives from people in government.
Which brings us back to a recurring theme: The Teabagger rage about health care reform was never more than a proxy issue for the generalized anxieties and racial fears of roughly a third of the white population. These are people who have not done well in the modern world, whose adult lives have failed to track the trajectories of their parents' experiences. In the grand nativist tradition, they feel betrayed and beset and martyred, "true American" heirs to a country they are now forced to share with people they consider to be less worthy of it: immigrants, minorities, homosexuals, non-Christians, etc.
So yes, they're angry. And yes, populist demagogues like Jim DeMint and Joe Wilson are happy to stoke their rage for votes and donations. But to understand what the astroturf Teabagger movement means to the future of the Republican Party, one must consider this analogy: The Teabaggers are to the GOP in 2010 as the Weatherman Underground was to the Democratic Party from 1968 to 2006: an albatross portending doom.
One assumes that Frum is simply the advance guard of a Republican establishment counter-revolution. The GOP gambled that by refusing all attempts at bipartisan cooperation, it could turn Barrack Obama into Jimmy Carter. It played to its base, rode the populist coattails of its partisan media machine, and now finds itself wandering among the wreckage, pinning its last electoral hopes on a short-term future of misery for the country.
Republicans used to be the serious party, the party of bankers and generals and often-stuffy-but-reliably-prudent grown-ups. Nelson Rockefeller. Ike Eisenhower. George Herbert Walker Bush.That party would have no more nominated Sarah Palin for vice president than it would have danced down Pennsylvania Avenue in pink sundresses.
Until the GOP shows signs of owning up to its mistakes and rejoining the two-party system as willing partners, Democrats would be wise to go it alone. The post-partisan future Obama desires cannot arrive until Republicans across America confront the damage they have done to their party and their country.
I think I get it. The "uproar" over Sen. Harry Reid's "racist" statements about President Obama is a calculated episode of Republic rage designed to assert a passionate proxy claim: that Republicans have for years caught media hell for statements about black people, and now they want the same standard applied to Democrats.
So let's set aside Reid's remarks and deal with the GOP grievance for which this controversy is a stand-in. Does the mainstream media apply a double standard on race when it comes to Republicans and Democrats?
Answer: I think so.
But here's the difficult part for Republicans. It's not a context-free double standard, and it's probably not going to go away until party leaders establish a sustained public track record of confronting the racist-wacko wing of the GOP. There are clearly party officials who find this corner of the conservative base frightening and offensive, but political calculus has long required that they trend lightly on their neo-Bircher constituents.
Is it fair to tar all Republicans with this brush? No. Think back to the conservatives who confronted the extremists at various campaign rallies in 2008, or even to McCain trying to correct statements made by audience members at town hall gatherings. I'm no fan of Michael Steele, but I certainly don't think he's a black-on-black racist.
So if you Republicans want an apology for Trent Lott, here's mine. Lott shouldn't have had to resign his Senate leadership post for those comments he made to Strom Thurmond. Dumb? Yes. Firing offense? No. I suspect Lott was just trying to say something nice on the man's100th birthday and probably wasn't thinking too clearly about the fact that he had just publicly endorsed an explicitly racist campaign platform from 1948. Mistakes were made.
But here's the part I wish more Republicans would get. Lott was sacrificed for your party's collective sins since the middle of the 20th century, and the sins of the father will continue to be visited on his children until you confront the cynical political calculus that keeps nine out of 10 black voters in the Democratic camp.
The deep irony here is that in setting the racism bar so low for Reid, Steele and the Republicans are laying a trap for the next ill-equipped white guy from their party who says something quasi-stupid. As a liberal I can't say I'm upset about that, but my agenda here is pretty simple. In the same way that only Nixon could go to China, only the Republican Party can push the die-hard remnants of white racism out of the mainstream once and for all.
Consider it a practical quest. I sure wouldn't want to be known as the "white party" in a country with our current demographic trends.Not a good long-term branding solution.
*(For the record -- and so as not to hide behind the view-from-nowhere -- I don't consider what I read of Reid's remarks to be racist, or anything
less than candid truth. But racism is, like obscenity, in the eye of
the beholder... which is part of what makes it such a tiresome subject.)
When Tip O'Neil said that "All politics are local," the quote became famous because it was contrarian. It came in the ultimate age of wholesale politicking, when Seth Godin's "television-industrial complex" worked equally well at selling politicians as it did soap. Just commodities.
One interpretation of O'Neil's dictum is that you become successful by taking care of the people back home. Others have used it to justify pork, or explain a weird vote in Congress. But here's what I think it wound up meaning: No matter how powerful you got, you had to remain connected to, and empowered by, your base. Because let's face it: by the time O'Neil was speaker of the house, he had bigger things to worry about than whether his district got an extra million or two in community block development grants.
OK, it seems like sound advice. Or it used to be. But here's my contrarian update: Local is out. Tribal is in. And if tribal is the new basis of political and economic power in America, then we're going to have to change the way we do some things.
So here's how I see the political equation around health care today:
Democrats control the White House and both legislative chambers.
Voters correctly conclude that this makes the party accountable for federal policy and governance.
Despite counting 60 senators in their caucus, the Democrats don't have 60 votes for everything the president sends their way.
This means there will have to be compromise within the party to get a health-care reform package out of the Senate.
While I'm sure there are plenty of sane Republicans out there who oppose Obama's half-measure health-care reform on pure conservative principle, the party's public campaign against the package isn't even about health care. It's about playing up dark fantasies of murderous socialist oppression being unleashed against white conservative Christian people by the shadowy armies of some terrible communist/Satanist/Nazi/minority/hippie/gay/French conspiracy.
Consequently, the goal of achieving traditional bipartatisanship on this health-care package is really just kind of a nice thought. As Paul Krugman said, these people can't be appeased.
These people are out of their minds, displaying the kind of fanaticism that goes beyond laughable and into the dangerous. Michael Scheuer, appearing on Fox News, tells Glenn Beck ""The only chance we have as a country right now is" for bin Laden to "detonate a major weapon" in U S. Yep, they are WISHING for Americans to die so that they can push their political agenda.
It's time for Republicans to call these people what they are and to distance themselves from such lunatics and a network that promotes them. Seriously, folks, come back to reality.