Oct 082013
 
Goposaur_xlg

Republicans, as has been widely recognized, have painted themselves into a corner on funding the government and raising the debt ceiling.

They’re not going to get any of what they’re demanding. Instead, they’re going to be humiliated after having been revealed as incompetent fanatics. A Continuing Resolution will be approved, the debt ceiling will be raised, and—because, thankfully, even in what has become the Party of Crazy-Stupid there are still enough marginally reality-tethered people to understand that crashing the world economy might be a wee bit bad—the hostage (meaning, all of us, at a global scale) will not be shot.

The result will be the worst possible outcome for them: the Republican Party as a whole has crashed in the polls, and there is now a legitimate possibility that they could lose the House instead of sewing up both houses of Congress as they had hoped. That’s in the swing districts. In the safe ones, members of the Evil Semi-Lunatic Caucus risk primary challenges from the Batshit Caucus, meaning we could see more of this down the road if they do retain the House.

I said this was coming ‘way back, and I am certainly enjoying it now that it is here, despite the fact that I, like everyone else, happen to be sitting atop the powder keg over which these idiots are waving matches.

Today, though, I just want to make one brief observation, which is about True Believers and effectiveness:

They do not go together in the slightest.

Zealotry is about insistence on How The World Should Be. Typically, it is built on axioms about How The World Is. These are generally simplistic, absolutist, and without nuance. If you’re on the right, it’s Jesus the Mean-Spirited Fascist, and Obama the Kenyan Muslim Antichrist, and sociamalism causing Teh Gay and feminazism and science and other Bad Things, and the War on Christmas. Oh, and Tax Cuts Create Wonderland.

When you believe stuff like that, you are incredibly hampered in your ability to get anything done. No effective path—even one that moves things in the direction of your goals—can be charted that doesn’t involve some aspect of soft-pedaling, deferring, or deprioritizing some of your agenda in order to advance some other part of it.

Which is why we have the spectacle of the House sending a ransom note to the White House consisting of a demand that basically every hard-right wet dream that was repudiated by voters in the last Presidential election and could not possibly make its way through Congress be surrendered  before the GOP will agree to fund the government.

Because, to hell with the legislative process in the Constitution, right? What we want is The Right Thing, To Be Had By Any Means Necessary.

It’s a losing strategy, and they’re going to rue the day they decided to let Ted Cruz use them as tools for his imaginary ascent.

My point, though, isn’t so much about that as it is about the zealotry. The noisiest grief I get from friends on the left (supposedly) is rooted in exactly the same kind of black-and-white oversimplification and fanaticism. If it wasn’t single payer health care, it was Obama and the Democrats being corporate stooges and selling out to the insurance industry. If it involved the possibility of killing anybody, it was off the table as a military/diplomacy strategy…even though that’s exactly what it takes to force an enemy to stand down.

You’ve heard something like this from me before, but I’ll say it again: principles are easy. Principles, in fact, are like opinions, which are like…

Well, in any case, everybody has them, of one sort or another.

The hard part is in making something happen in reality that conforms to some degree to your principles. And very frequently, that happens at the cost of something dear.

That’s why great progressive leaders are often criticized in some quarters because of the deals they had to make in order to achieve the strides they did. FDR’s salary cap on Social Security taxation, for example. Or Gandhi’s agreement to allow India to be partitioned in order for both of the resulting parts of it to be independent. Or Brower’s deal on Glen Canyon Dam.

Those actions, painful as they are to examine, weren’t outliers or aberrations. They were the cost of progress.

You cannot solve problems if you start from the standpoint of insisting on only one acceptable outcome and one acceptable path to get there.

100% or nothing really just means “nothing” here on Planet Earth. “No compromise!” is the motto of someone throwing himself into the wood chipper of history. It ain’t heroic. It’s just dumb. It doesn’t work.

The nutjobs holding the world hostage right now won’t learn the lesson even as they go over the cliff of their own making, because they are mentally ill.

But the lesson holds both for right and left: it isn’t True Believers that make things happen in the world. It’s problem-solvers with values, heart, and creative flexibility.

At publication, the Dragon was STUFFED WITH POPCORN

Nov 212012
 

Remember when Karl Rove had “the real numbers”?

Well, that was a long time ago. How about this?

And honestly, who could forget this? That one was so delicious I had to watch it several times, until my stomach hurt from laughing so much.

Ah, the sight of a man who pissed away $200 million in right-wing money watching his former reputation as a “genius” evaporate on live television. It just never gets old.

The GOP has been all a-Twitter over how completely wrong they were about Romney, and a bunch of other races. So now, the execrable neocon (but I repeat myself) and erstwhile Romney advisor Dan Senor says there is a “crisis” in polling accuracy, particularly in “right of center” polling, citing Rasmussen and Gallup.

Well, color me gobsmacked, guys. Slap my fanny and call me Nancy. It truly is shocking.

Funny, though, how that “limp-wristed” guy you were all smearing up until the returns started coming in managed to get it dead-on, using exactly the same polling data.

Granted, Nate did that in part by weighting polling houses for historical bias. But he used data from Rasmussen and Gallup, and even by your shills like Gravis and Mason-Dixon.

How about this: Republicans are so used to the idea that reality can be created by a media narrative that your polling outfits’ goal has become not to accurately measure the state of electoral races, but to drive the media narrative about them.

You guys have been living and dying by Fox News and insisting on living in the bubble of myths it promulgates for so long that you are no longer aware that there is a reality outside of it. While there are countless examples of how this is so, the starkest and most inarguable is arithmetic.

No reasonably informed observer of the 2012 Presidential election had any doubt that, short of massive and obvious electoral fraud, Barack Obama was going to win re-election. I said so last summer: it was clear that Romney was disliked and his campaign was hapless, while Team Obama was the mightiest political organization ever built, and supporting an incumbent.

No matter how much you try to spin them, numbers are numbers. And yours were badly wrong, Republicans, because you thought lying about the state of contested races would bring the numbers more into conformity with your wishful thinking. Just as you think Hannity, O’Reilly and Limbaugh lying their heads off about Benghazi or birth control or death panels or Kenya or tax cuts creating jobs or sociamalism can actually make these things true enough in the public mind so you can win.

Your problem isn’t that your polls need work. It’s that you’re tripping balls. If you want to become relevant to the concerns and wishes of a majority of Americans again, you need to put down the saying-it-makes-it-so pipe and confront reality.

In the process, you’re going to have to dump Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed and the PNAC gang. Embracing those guys and their extremist constituencies has marooned you on an island, and no matter how much you chant “The water isn’t rising!”, it is, and steadily. Demographics, like the climate change that is raising the oceans for all of us, are real. Steadily growing popular support for liberal positions on social issues is real. There are no words you can say to make them go away.

You don’t need to fix your polls. You need to start doing real ones, and actually looking at the results.

On publication, the Dragon was SOBER

Nov 112012
 

Months ago, when I first launched Green Dragon, I wrote a post about the implications for the future of the Republican Party of the effectiveness of the Obama campaign’s critiques of Bain Capital and its vulture capitalism. I said a civil war within the Republican Party was coming…one that would make the Tea Party split look like a garden picnic.

Well, it’s here.

Each of the GOP’s three major blocs is reeling, trying to make sense of a campaign result it did not anticipate and which flies in the face of its core beliefs. With the reelection of the President, trouncing of anti-abortion candidates and unprecedented approvals both of marriage equality and election of openly gay legislators, Republicans now know that 2008 wasn’t a fluke. It appears finally to be dawning on conservatives that their imagined version of the United States simply is not real.

Take the Christian right, for example, who seem at last to be figuring out that they do not represent the values of most Americans. Their internal narrative has always been that if they can just get out their message, most Americans will agree with them. But this time they turned out more than ever, and issues like women’s rights to contraception and abortion and gay rights were front-and-center in the national campaign narrative. And they got their clocks cleaned.

I think many of them are now realizing that America isn’t what they always thought it was. Some have begun thinking that they don’t want to be Americans any more (though they wouldn’t say it that way)…instead, they want to carve themselves away from the places that aren’t “real” America, and create that imaginary Christian Murikkka they’ve always hoped for.

All three of the major GOP constituencies are in a world of hurt and confusion. The Plutocrats got nothing out of all that Citizens United spending; the Teahaddists saw broad support for a party that put itself squarely behind higher taxes on the rich as well as progressive social issues…and now they’re having to listen to party leadership opining that they must make common cause with a buncha dirty Meskins in order to have a prayer of succeeding.

This is a storm long brewing, and it is definitely here. None of these constituencies has anywhere to turn in a quest for a return to national political viability that doesn’t put a dagger through its most cherished nonnegotiables: backing away from attacks on women’s health rights and civil equality for the Christian conservatives; accepting higher taxation and regulation of industry and markets for the corporatist Plutocrats; abandoning racism and extremist positions on taxation and the role of government for the Tea-Party types.

I don’t see any of them but the Plutocrats being smart or realistic enough to be able to make those moves. Sure enough, today Bill Kristol says that raising taxes on millionaires won’t destroy the country. Not that Kristol is either smart or realistic—in fact, he’s so reliably wrong that when he says this, it give me pause—but he’s a sure indicator of what the Rulers of the Universe are willing to go for.

For 40 years, Republicans have succeeded by feeding voters a steady diet of dog-whistle racism, empty gestures to social conservatives, and anti-government rhetoric, all the while taking a wrecking ball to our national institutions, previously inviolable values, and the very Constitution itself. It was a strategy of division, and now it has come home to roost: increasingly in the minority, Republicans are divided not only from the majority of the country, but from one another.

I wouldn’t say it is what they deserve, because frankly, those who devised and pursued this strategy deserve far worse. But I will say this: it’s about damned time most of the country can see how bloody awful these people really are.

At publication, the Dragon was EATING POPCORN

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