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Republican Party – Page 3 – Green Dragon

Fighting the Last War

 Posted by at 2:46 pm  National Politics
Sep 032012
 

One of the recurring warnings/lessons/pitfalls in military history and strategic training is the propensity for armies to prepare and plan for the last war they fought, rather than the next.

This is natural in humans: we learn based on experience and plan our future actions based on what we learned. It’s our one big evolutionary advantage.

Well, and thumbs.

The problem, of course, is that conditions and technology continue to evolve between the last conflict and the next. Since the 19th century they have done so at a breakneck pace. Yet those in positions of authority—often convinced by their long experience that they have understanding of what is coming—continue to make plans based on what they learned in the last conflict, much of which may no longer be applicable.

And so you get horse cavalry riding into machine-gun fire in World War I. You get France pouring resources into the Maginot Line to prevent a recurrence of World War I…and Hitler just going right around it by invading Belgium. You get years of senseless slaughter of American troops fighting to “take the hill” in Vietnam, only to lose it the minute they go back to base, because the brass doesn’t understand that they are in a guerrilla war, not a front-line war. And today, you get insane amounts of American money going into maintaining military presences in places like Japan and Germany where they have long since been unnecessary.

This brings me to Republican Presidential campaign strategy in 2012.

Since Ronald Reagan’s campaign, GOP Presidential campaign strategy has boiled down to this:

  1. Publicly, paint a glowing, nostalgic fantasy of what you’ll make of the country, avoiding specifics and sticking to platitudes;
  2. Make private promises to social conservatives you feel no particular commitment to keeping;
  3. Make private promises to wealthy donors you absolutely intend to keep;
  4. Do everything you can to load the dice: make it difficult for minorities and the poor to vote, promote cynicism about voting, etc.

That strategy worked for a long time. The coalition of the wealthy and the socially conservative remained aligned, solidified and grew: so much so that by 2000, Karl Rove decided that it was big enough that he could ignore swing voters entirely, and win simply by galvanizing the base with a hard-right message. And with the help of some vote suppression, Ralph Nader and five members of the Supreme Court, it worked.

It continued to work in 2004, even as the shine was coming off the Republican brand. As the economy became increasingly untenable for any but the very rich, the Iraq War proved itself to be both unwarranted and not the slam-dunk that had been promised, we bogged down in Afghanistan and the last of Bush’s post-September-11 poll resurgence faded away, it was a narrow thing. But he won, promptly tanked again in popularity, and control of Congress was wrested away by Democrats in 2006.

It took decades, but the Shrub finally broke the spell of the Republican brand for many reasonable Americans, who had watched the GOP get crazier and more and more unwilling to listen or govern since 1980.

The problem with having a culture based on unquestioning faith in dubious principles is that by definition, you don’t learn. Instead, you just tell yourself you already know everything, and any who disagree must be wrong.

So Rove & Co. didn’t learn that things had changed. They just kept running the only plays they knew: tell a happy-making story, game the system as much as you can, and work the base into a foaming lather so they’ll turn out.  But it failed in 2008. The GOP base had shrunk, the party’s constituencies were at one another’s throats, and an unexpected surge of young voters upended the smugly assured “real numbers” of Bush’s Brain.

They’re running exactly the same playbook in 2012. And thus we get voter ID laws and voter roll purges and Citizens United and busting of public employee unions, and the Platform of Hammurabi.

Other than in his snipes at the President, Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention was in all pertinent particulars Ronald Reagan’s in 1980 and 1984: an invocation of a mythical postwar suburban America where all was safe and good for white men, women knew their place, and minorities were silent and invisible except when they were cleaning your house, shining your shoes or carrying your golf clubs. “Morning Again In America” all over again, 32 years after the first time this sanitized lie was sold to the American voter.

Of course, this fantasy describes a world that never existed, but I’m not talking about the content. I’m talking about the applicability of that message to the problem at hand, which is winning the election. With an electorate composed of today’s proportion of women who believe they should be treated as equals, minority voters, plus younger voters who don’t even know what he is talking about when he invokes the days of vanilla malteds at the drive-in with Peggy Sue, Romney and his handlers have developed yet another retread of a campaign plan designed to fight the last war.

No candidate has tried harder than Mitt Romney to obscure, deny, and obfuscate what his party really stands for. He and campaign strategists in his party understand that they cannot sell their policies on the merits (even zealot Paul Ryan is now doing a cute little dance around his plans to gut social safety net programs). But they believe that the Reagan/Bush Just-Keep-Telling-The-Pretty-Story-to-The-Believers strategy will once again sweep them into office, as it did those past Presidents.

My read is that it can’t work, and will work less and less going forward. So long as Republican strategists feel locked into trying to sell a vision of America as a White Man’s Suburban Christian Paradise to an increasingly urbanized and diverse country, their percentage of the vote will shrink.

They’re fighting the last war. The country has changed. If we have Happy Days ahead of us, the malteds come in a rainbow of flavors, the burgers are served with salsa, and Peggy Sue is the CEO of the drive-in chain.

At publication, the Dragon was SANGUINE

Aug 302012
 

I get asked for this sort of thing all the time, and thought I’d put it all in one, convenient place, so the next time someone starts bending your ear about the glories of Reaganomics, tax-and-spend Democrats, or Weber and the Austrian school of economic theory, you can point them to a nice, sleet-frigid shower of reality.

You see, we liberals have this great hole card when it comes to economic policy, which is that while our prescriptions for the economic health of the country may not be 100% right, it is irrefutably a fact that those of conservatives are wrong.

You like charts? I like charts. Here are some charts: 42 of them, in fact. The list is below the image slider.

UPDATE! Here is an accessible annihilation of Hayek, von Mises and their “Austrian School” of economic theory, which really boils down to governments baaaaaaaad (boo! hiss!), and Magic Free Market Pixie Dust gooooooood.

Go read it, it’s informative and fun.

1_percent_share_of_pre_tax_income

Picture 1 of 42

  1. The Top 1%’s Share of Pre-Tax Income
  2. Republicans are Responsible for the National Debt
  3. The US has a low rate of taxation
  4. Federal Income Taxes on Average Families are Historically Low
  5. Corporate Taxes are Historically Low
  6. Effective Tax Rates on the Wealthy Have Fallen Dramatically
  7. The Bush Tax Cuts Were Weighted Heavily for the Rich
  8. Eliminating Bush Tax Cuts Flattens Debt Growth
  9. Tax Expenditures are Bigger than Entitlement Programs
  10. Bush Increased Spending by 88%; Obama by 7.2%
  11. Private Sector Jobs Have Grown Far Better Under Obama
  12. Deficit is Projected to FALL Under Obama
  13. Income Increases Flat Since 1979 Except for the Wealthy
  14. Capital Gains Are Concentrated Among the Very Wealthy
  15. Typical Middle Class Households Pay Higher Tax Rate than Many Wealthy
  16. Raising Capital Gains Tax Would Have No Major Effect on the Elderly
  17. Obama Scaleback of Bush Tax Cuts Affects Only the Very Wealthy
  18. Lower Taxes on Rich Do Not Lead to Job Growth
  19. Bush Policies–NOT TARP–Drive Huge Deficit
  20. Doing Nothing Would Reduce Deficit by 7.1 Trillion Over 10 Yrs
  21. Synopsis–Republican Economic Talking Points Are False
  22. Reaganomics Has Killed American Prosperity
  23. The End of the Great Prosperity Is Linked to Supply-Side Economics
  24. Ryan Budget Raises Taxes on 10x as Many People–Just Not the Rich
  25. More than one-third of Families With Children Have Increased Taxes Under Ryan Budget
  26. Income Growth, Climbing for Decades, Has Plummeted Since Reagan
  27. Nearly All Income Gain Since 1979 Has Been At The Top
  28. Nearly All Income Gain Since 1979 Has Been At The Top (2)
  29. Productivity Has Jumped, But Pay Fallen
  30. Inequality Since 1979 A Sharp Departure from Postwar Prosperity
  31. Median Household Incomes Declining
  32. Republicans Created Huge National Debt
  33. Obama Has Cut Taxes More Than Bush
  34. Private Job Gains Smaller Under Republicans
  35. Benefits of Increased Productivity Have Not Gone to Middle Class
  36. The Poor Pay the HIGHEST Taxes Proportionally
  37. Reaganomics Gutted the Middle Class
  38. Right to Work States Lose More Manufacturing Jobs
  39. Economists Near-Unanimous Stimulus Worked
  40. Supply Side Economics Fails By All Measures
  41. Average Tax Rates Reduced Most Since 1979 for the Wealthiest
  42. Taxes for Wealthy Have Fallen Dramatically
Aug 282012
 

There was a time when American politics didn’t involve one party that was stark raving mad.

We are about to watch a week of lunacy unfold in Tampa. Not harmless lunacy like Moon-landing-denial—RIP, Commander Armstrong—but deadly, morbid and obsessive lunacy which, if successful in taking control of the nation’s policy making, will more likely than not threaten your livelihood, strip you of liberty, possibly endanger your life and demolish any hopes for the future of humanity. If you’re elderly, welcome to the Catfood Diet. If you’re a woman, better get used to the idea that you might be forced to bear a child against your will, if you have a bit of bad luck. If you have children, you’d better be rich, because education, opportunity, and climatic conditions which are reasonably reliable for generating food are things of the past unless you can afford to buy your way into the bubble of privilege.

Oh, and if you’re not rich, get ready to pay a bunch more in taxes, too, because that’s the only way to fund another massive tax cut for the rich.

Seriously.

I’ve never been a conservative. The conservative school of thought has always struck me as rather cowardly, actually: unwilling to try anything new to make things better for our fellows on the odd chance that the Haves might Have a little less. I simply don’t respect the politics of fear: fear of difference, fear of diversity, fear of an Enemy, fear of Doing Something New. I think conservatism is inherently the orientation of small-minded people, whether they’re small-minded because they’re selfish, or because they’re ignorant.

But let’s face it: these are not our grandparents’ conservatives. Once, sobriety and practicality were the watchwords of conservatism. Conservatives generally didn’t want government to try to solve problems for us because it would cost money, because it would inconvenience those profiting under the status quo, because conservatives weren’t the ones suffering from the problems to be solved, and because it might not work, so they were too scared to try. “It’s working for me, so leave well enough alone” might as well have been the motto of the Republican Party since purging its Progressives during the Taft administration.

But at root, conservatives in those days were still patriots. They cared about the country as a whole and were grounded enough in reality not simply to conflate their personal interests with those of the nation. They considered facts in drawing their conclusions, rather than simply making up whatever they thought would sound good. They respected science…hell, they revered engineers. The pocket-protector crowd of aerospace and information technology and heavy-metal industry were in their camp.

Now we face a self-styled  “conservative” movement within which there is competition to see who can be most outrageous and shrill. Wherein callousness, violent rhetoric, bigotry, absurd exaggeration and distortion of fact, and appalling policy suggestions are no longer the fringe, but are the norm. Where science and reason are heresy.

I could go on. And on and on and on and on.

The crazy, ignorance, and flat-out stupid in the talk of these people pales only in comparison to their hate: the no-longer-even-thinly-veiled racism, the xenophobia, the reflexive demonization of difference or dissent, the loathing of anything or anyone they suspect of being involved with sex (generally women, gay people and minorities, because white males don’t do that sort of thing). Worst of all, in my opinion, the ends-justify-means moral blankness: “we are on The Side of Righteousness, which means we are justified in pursuing victory By Any Means Necessary.”

We’ve seen that sort of thing before, and it never, ever works out well. What with the goosestepping and ethnic cleansing and all.

I’m old enough to remember a time when American politics weren’t an ongoing teeth-and-elbows scrum between one party trying—however diffidently, unconfidently or disorganizedly—to serve the interests of the American people, and another that is a psychotic gang of evil clowns.

It started with Reagan. The Gipper Gang was the first to come into power operating under the principle that it did not matter what they said, so long as they did so with a straight face, and the first to speak in genuinely Orwellian terms: Ed Meese’s claim that “there is no hunger in America.” The paranoid jingoism of hero-in-his-own-mind Oliver North, of Elliot Abrams and Dick Cheney, and all the film-plot extemporizing of the Sleeper in Chief himself, already well into dementia, from recollections of when he was “liberating the camps” in Germany to jolly jokes about bombing in five minutes.

Thirty-one years on, we arrive here, debating whether or not contraception, for Christ’s sake, is morally acceptable. Whether or not women should be forced to bear children who are conceived via rape. Whether or not we should dismantle a program which transformed old age in this country from an experience of poverty for most of our citizens, to one wherein only one in ten of us is consigned to that fate.

Thirty-one years of steadily distilling crazy, evil, greed and stupid down to a black, delusional concentrate of sociopathy. The Republican Party has become cyanide for the lofty principles this country has always told itself it stood for…and towards which, until the advent of Reagan, it steadily made progress.

Somewhere around half of the people in this country who take the trouble to exercise their franchise in November will vote for a Presidential ticket which stands for lining its own pockets while impoverishing the rest of the country and shattering what remains of its social contract. They will do this because they believe things that are so far removed from reality that they are incapable of acting in their own interests.

How do you undo something like this? When you’re at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, you have to pretend as though the Hatter isn’t mad. You have to try to fit in. No one in a position of any significance inside the Republican Party dares to point out the madness, even if s/he can see it…which by this point, is doubtful.

How can fact, reason, and civility be reintroduced to a political culture this degenerate? I wonder: has any society ever recovered from this kind of decline in its public discourse?

I don’t have any answers. But I know that a first step is that Republicans need to be drubbed in this election. They need a resounding rejection of their insanity: a solid rolled-newspaper to the snout.

Sure hope it happens.

At publication, the Dragon was APPALLED

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