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Elections | Green Dragon
Nov 082012

“We need Latinos”.

That’s the only consensus conclusion being drawn by Republican talking heads after watching their candidates walloped on Tuesday. Seeing the Latino vote climbing steadily, GOPers today all seem to be nodding soberly and agreeing that, yep, they need them some Latinos.

(Well, okay, except for Viagra Rush and Bill-O the Clown. Those guys are just fulminating about the end of “traditional America”, apparently simply shattered at the prospect of a pluralistic society not ruled by old white guys.)

So: what’s wrong with that? The thing about the Latinos, I mean.

Well, to begin with, Republicans who are soberly talking about the urgency of getting with some brown people today are seemingly operating out of a stereotype of the Latino voter as Juan Valdez: a simple, hardworking and basically conservative Catholic, who is only backing Democrats because of the immigration issue.

They don’t seem to understand that Latino voters are Americans. In fact, millions of them were born and grew up here. They went to American schools, grew up in American society and, remarkably enough, they are not bewildered and amazed by smartphones and indoor plumbing. They have opinions on issues other than immigration. They’re no more stupid or gullible than any other segment of the population.

So that’s the first problem: your cutting-edge assessment that maybe you should be, I dunno, a little less racist, maybe, is rooted in assumptions that are…racist.

Not to mention the strategic problem, of course, that budging on immigration policy will make the Tea Party and Southern white racists’ heads explode. But on that, I just say boo effing hoo: you cultivated them, now you’re stuck with trying to keep them.

As I see it, the real mistake the Republican hand-wringers are making is in completely ignoring the real lessons of having lost two Presidential elections in a row and failed by every standard in this one despite a weak economy and limitless money faucet: their policies are unpopular and don’t work, and they have been deliberately deluding themselves that this isn’t so.

Republicans are in a bubble. They are only talking with or listening to people who think exactly like themselves, surrounded by an infrastructure of fable-tellers—conservative media, right-wing think tanks—which feed them a constant stream of fauxformation that reinforces their delusions about policy alternatives, about Democrats, and about what voters really want. That’s why they are all so danged shocked that the polls turned out to be right, that Nate Silver’s math outperformed Peggy Noonan’s gut feeling in predicting election outcomes.

If the Republican Party wants to remain viably competitive on a national scale, they have to become more like Eisenhower’s Republican Party: preferring a market-based, private-sector-centric approach to economics while recognizing that there is a legitimate role for governmental oversight and public works, and meanwhile standing for the liberty of the individual so long as that liberty doesn’t hurt anyone else. But rather than looking at this most fundamental of political problems and realizing that their dreams of a libertarian paradise or Jesusland or whatever the hell they’re trying to do are never going to happen, they just keep doggedly clinging to their increasingly discredited and unpopular policies, hoping to find some magical marketing strategy that will help them to sell America a s**t sandwich.

You don’t solve that by “getting some Latinos”. You solve it by facing reality. America is an increasingly heterogenous society. Women are a majority of voters. Young people are engaging in politics again. The middle class really has been nuked by Reaganomics. Climate change is real. Acceptance of civil equality for gay people is rising fast, and isn’t going to stop. Most people support abortion rights.

These are facts. Throwing a bone at a demographic while continuing to deny that your entire worldview is based in delusional fictions is not going to win you elections any more. Blithely lying about anything and everything is no longer persuasive: the public has caught on.

Predictably, however, the prescriptions being offered by leaders of the various Republican factions this week boil down to: get some of them Latinos, and move more in the direction of [INSERT FACTION HERE]. To head further into Crazyland.

You are now on the wrong side of both history and reality, Republicans. You can’t resolve that with some pretty packaging targeted at a group of people you have treated with naked hostility and contempt for decades. You solve it by starting to offer a product that seems to voters as though it might be useful in some way, instead of a pointless and irrelevant widget.

If you want to become nationally competitive again, you need to face facts, and tough your way through the inevitable civil war you must endure between your Plutocrats, Theocrats, and Teahaddists to a new agenda not rooted in delusion. Otherwise, the most you can possibly hope to do at the federal level is to serve as a spoiler now and again.

You don’t “need Latinos”. You need to wake the hell up.

On publication, the Dragon was KEEPING IT REAL

Sep 262012

One of the many strikes against Mitt Romney’s candidacy has been a regular drumbeat of complaint by movement conservatives like Redstate’s Erick Erickson that Romney isn’t sufficiently ideologically conservative, that he’s wishy-washy on their issues, that his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts shows he’s too liberal, etc. During the primary season, each of the Non-Romneys du jour took a crack at undermining the Mittster based on this critique.

Sorry, right-wing nutcases, but I’ve got news for you: Mitt Romney is precisely what your party stands for.

In fact, he is a carbon-copy of what your party has nominated in each of the past four Presidential cycles: a privileged, spoiled, morally blank, mean-spirited person driven solely by desire for self-aggrandizement.

Why does it surprise you that Romney will tell you what you want to hear, gainsay it ten minutes later and then deny the contradiction? Republican Presidents have been doing that since Ronald Reagan. At least he had the excuse of dementia (which was denied, of course), but that hardly extends to his many handlers and flaks, who lied cheerfully and liberally, daring the worshiping press to contradict them. Romney is no more mendacious than Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, Dana Perino or Scott McClellan were on behalf of Dubya, or than John McCain is when throwing his supposedly stellar principles under the bus for political expediency (this week, it was Our Veteran Hero voting against the Veterans’ Job Act).

The current nominee’s only innovation in this regard is in having shortened the intervals between flip and flop, and not bothering to try some tortured rationalization for why the contradictions are somehow consistent.

This is what you get. This is the natural culmination of having steadily moved your end of the political spectrum away from facts and towards faith, away from thinking and towards ideology, away from public interest and towards self-interest, away from a pluralistic understanding that those who disagree must nonetheless work together to govern, and towards the idea of winning by any means necessary…and if you can’t, making sure the other guys lose.

Mitt Romney is the concentrated essence of what conservatism has become: a no-rules angler for his own interests, all other concerns secondary. A man who cares about nothing but himself.

He doesn’t care about your social issues. Neither did Reagan, or either Bush, or McCain. They mouthed the words and made occasional policy gestures while in office because they figured you were dumb enough for that to keep you on a string, and because they didn’t care about the people that got hurt in the process. There’s no commitment to values there: just Machiavellian pragmatism.

He doesn’t care about your economic philosophy. All he cares about is gaming the system to the greatest degree possible to personally benefit himself and his family. If that means raising taxes on the middle class so the wealthy pay even less, well, hell, let’s tee that right up. There’s no economic philosophy there: just greed.

He doesn’t care about integrity. If making appeals to racial prejudice, campaigning on obvious falsehoods cobbled from out-of-context edited quotes, and working to make it harder for some people to vote will raise his chances of success, he will of course pursue these strategies. There is no core sense of human decency there; Mitt Romney knows to his cold little core that he is The Only Person In The Universe.

There is a word for people like that. They’re called sociopaths. And your movement, your party, your articulated philosophies, your campaign tactics and, yes, your candidates all fit that label nicely.

Mitt hasn’t failed you. Mitt is the absolute essence of you. The mistake you make is in thinking he was supposed to stand for what YOU want, but you have missed the punchline of your own joke: he’s not there for you. He’s there for himself, and himself only.

Which is exactly the direction you have been trying to push the politics of the country for more than thirty years.

You were just too dumb to understand that you could be tossed out in the cold just like the blacks and the gays and the poor and the women and all the other people you don’t care about.

In a world run by sociopaths, you get betrayed just like everyone else. You’re not immune. You’re non-human non-factors whose feelings, interests and aspirations are non-relevant, too.

Welcome to Mitt’s world, suckers.

At publication, the Dragon was REFLECTIVE

Romney’s Shock and Awe

 Posted by at 12:44 pm  National Politics
Aug 042012

It occurs to me that in the 2012 Presidential, we’ve seen this movie before, produced by some of the same people. It’s the “Shock and Awe” strategy. And just like before, it isn’t working.

The Romney campaign and SuperPACs that support him operated under the assumption that their money would simply bomb the Obama campaign into oblivion…that their overwhelming advantage in ammunition would be enough to carry the day and sweep up “hearts and minds”, and they wouldn’t ever have to have a debate about the merits of their candidate.

They also assumed that the “real” campaign would happen in the fall, so they could spend months making the whole debate about the state of the economy and the need for a “business mind” to take over, figuring that Obama would want to talk about anything except the economy.

They did not expect that the Obama campaign would jump in early to define Romney before they could, doing as Karl Rove has done in the past: go after what appears to be your opponent’s strength, and turn it into a weakness. Polls tell us that Romney’s supposed business prowess has now been framed in the minds of a majority of voters as exactly the predatory, unaccountable Wall Street mindset that got the country into this mess.

The proof of this is that they are scrambling to change the subject, first with the disastrous foreign policy trip and now with the fact that they have started talking about Romney’s stint as Governor of Massachusetts again, which they have been fleeing for two years. They have learned that talking up “Romney the Businessman” has been taken away from them by smart, pre-emptive, surgical incisions.

But they can’t change the subject, because they can’t put the tax return issue to rest. It’s not going away. Try as he might, he can’t put it behind him without releasing his returns, and it seems pretty clear that he has something to hide, or he would have revealed them. Now Reid has upped the ante, and his only response is his now-familiar whining and apology-demanding (weak), and attempts to shout “squirrel!” and point elsewhere.

This is far from over. But recent polling in battleground states appears to be showing some stable daylight between the President and Romney. The challenger has very few ways of putting together a winning electoral map, while Obama has multiple ways to win (synopsis here)

Shock and Awe failed in Iraq, and it’s failing in 2012. However many weapons you have, the people you are claiming to “liberate” have been lost to you once they have formed a negative conclusion about your character. Barring significant vote suppression or an unforeseen calamity, it’s hard to imagine how Romney pulls this out.

At publication, the Dragon was CONTEMPLATIVE

Jul 102012

Mitt Romney is a rich guy, and he made a bunch of money in a manner that shuttered American factories, forced many out of work and turned a pretty penny for his investors. There’s nothing illegal about that—unfortunately—but it is only Americans like Romney who see such behavior in a positive light. It is pretty clear that attacks on Romney’s history at Bain Capital are pure poison for the Republican Party’s electoral chances this year, so the GOP is scrambling to change the subject to pretty much anything else: preferably, “jobs and the economy.”

It’s hard to talk about jobs and the economy, however, without admitting room for discussing your candidate’s history of job destruction and predatory enterprise killing, so Republican proxies are wearing the taps off their shoes trying to find a message that doesn’t come back to bite them, and the only strategy they’ve found thus far is simply to change the subject and lie, fabricating such whoppers as that the Affordable Care Act is “the largest tax hike in history.”

And it isn’t working. In states where Obama ads have been hammering Romney with Bain, Romney’s favorables are in a tailspin despite the fact that he and his allied SuperPACS are spending far more money.

Attacks on Bain-style capitalism are more than just exploitation of one particular candidate’s Achilles’ heel. The threat they present to the Republican Party is deep and long term: these critiques are an indictment of the primary raison d’etre of the Party itself. They are turning the purpose of the Republican Party into a negative.

Since the 1960s, the Republican Party has been driven by two core constituencies. I call them the “Plutocrats” and the “Theocrats”. The Plutocrats are large business entities and the affluent wealthy—the Masters of the Universe. They are a tiny minority of exceedingly rich and powerful Americans and the enterprises they control, and they comprise the deep pocket donor base of the GOP. Sophisticated as they may seem in their expensive suits, Plutocrats are simple in motivation: however much they have, they want MORE, and they don’t want any pesky impediments to their capacity to go and get it.

Theocrats are social conservatives, primarily evangelical Christians, who have been the foot soldiers for Republicans. They are numerous, and collectively able to contribute significant funding as well. Theocrats are motivated by their insistence that the United States reflect in its laws and society their idea of proper morality.

While in order to reach national electoral majorities, Republicans have had also to draw in other voters—lower-education working class and rural voters, mostly—that is not who has called the shots in their party. Their policy agenda has consistently been crafted to benefit the Plutocrats, while promising the Theocrats victory in their crusades against moral evil.

It was in the 1980 Presidential campaign that the coalition of these two blocs first really flexed its power. Reagan aggressively wooed Christian conservatives, dumping his former pro-choice position on abortion and framing his campaign as not about policies, but about the moral character of the nation.

Ever since, Republicans have made an art form out of coordinating these two quite disparate blocs into a juggernaut. By 2000, they had so completely succeeded in dominating national politics that Karl Rove’s campaign strategy completely ignored moderates and independents, choosing instead to pump up the base with hard-right conservative policies, and focusing on getting it to the polls.

However, there is trouble in GOP Paradise. Because in actual outcomes, one of these blocs has won, while the other has decidedly lost.

Reagan and both Bushes checked the proper boxes for social conservatives on issues like abortion, but their administrations focused their energies on cutting taxes for the wealthy and weakening or eliminating regulations which curtailed corporate behavior. Their gestures to the social conservative base on issues like abortion and gay rights may have been awful from a liberal standpoint, but here it is more than 30 years after the Reagan Revolution, and abortion is still legal, gay rights have advanced tremendously, and mandatory prayer remains illegal in public schools.

Plutocrats couldn’t care less about the Theocrats’ social agenda, any more than Theocrats care about Plutocrats making more money. When polled on weakening environmental regulations, for example, evangelical Christians are generally opposed. But so long as the Theocrats were getting red meat rhetoric on abortion, school prayer and (later) LGBT rights, they worked their tails off to elect candidates whose economic policies primarily benefited the Plutocrats.

If not for the vote-splitting of Ross Perot, Rogue Plutocrat, it is entirely possible that Republicans could have held the White House for 28 continuous years. Voters have had a long time to watch how the Republicans behave when they win, and as it turns out, their policy priorities have really only benefited the wealthy.

Hard as Theocrats have tried to nibble at the edges of these issues, the Constitution has mostly prevented their vision of America from becoming reality. Instead, the culture has grown steadily more vulgar, secular and sexually accepting…while the Plutocrats have succeeded beyond the wildest expectations Reaganites may have held in 1980. Triumphs of the wealthy class have undermined the economic prospects and security of most of the Theocrats every bit as much as the rest of us who aren’t in the top 2%…and many Theocrats have begun to question whether linking arms with Plutocrats was such a great idea.

They’re starting to figure out that they’re being used. Their numbers are falling. And a growing chorus within their ranks is wondering how shoveling silver at the moneychangers squares with the philosophy of Jesus Christ.

So here comes Mitt Romney, who is the distilled essence of Plutocracy: no faux regurgitation of evangelical talking points, no pretending to be a folksy cowboy. Romney is a Plutocrat with the mask off…the first we’ve seen as a Republican Presidential nominee since the last Depression.

And of all the temerities, Democrats have dared to call him out for what is supposed to be the very heart of Murkin Freedum: making a pile by any means necessary.

And it’s working.

The implications of this are obvious. If attacks on Bain-style vulture capitalism continue to be effective in moving undecided voters, Plutocrats may very well be in danger of losing the moralizing little people they have been using as window dressing. If that happens, they cannot win a national election.

Hard-core Theocrats will hold their noses and vote for Romney in November. It’s what they’ve been told to do, and they are accustomed to doing as they are told. But they will not have the enthusiasm they had for Reagan, or for GW Bush. They will not go the extra mile.

Given the state of the economy, many former Christian bloc voters have grown more practical, moving away from abstract morality as the top criterion for their vote. They see what the untrammeled greed of the very wealthy has done to their families, to their children’s futures. They understand that the Plutocrats have gotten out of control, and the rest of us are paying the price.

If—as seems to be happening—being a successful, wealthy capitalist is coming to be understood by swing voters as a badge of shame, today’s Republican Party is in big, big trouble.

At publication, the Dragon was AFFABLE