Tag: conservatives

Why America’s Heartland is Conservative: A Lesson from Vietnam

I was chatting today with one of the doctors at the VA clinic where I get my healthcare. We were discussing the “old days”, by which we meant 1963 to 1965 when I was serving a two-tour stint in the Vietnam War.

Part of my job in Vietnam involved helping to craft propaganda for leaflet drops on remote hamlets and I was discussing how we discovered that those farmers simply couldn’t be made to care whether the government in Saigon or the Viet Cong were in charge of the country. All they wanted was for whoever was in charge to leave them alone, let them harvest their rice, and raise their families in peace.

My doctor, who hails from the Midwest, suggested there was a parallel in both Iraq and Afghanistan and then he pointed out that the same could be said of the vast heartland of the United States. “Basically everything from the Appalacians to the Rockies,” he said, “is much the same way. Many of those people are farmers and all they want is the right to be left alone to work their farms and raise their families without government interference.”

He pointed out that these people are accustomed to taking care of their own, by which he meant their families and their neighbors. When they oppose social programs, it’s not because they dislike other people in need or have a fundamental ideological disagreement with the Left. Rather, they see the problems of hunger and poverty being better solved by interpersonal outreach than by government intervention.

While it remains difficult for me to understand the mentality that would judge others in need as being objects which could be ignored in the absence of strong family and community support and essentially allowed to starve or worse, his comments gave me a somewhat better perspective on the underlying rationale. I think I have often been too quick to ascribe bad motives to such people, when in fact we were simply disagree about the scope of the definition of “my brother.”

The Next Decade of Titanic Constitutional Power Struggle in America

It seems to me that the following broad outlines of the American political scene are clearly visible and likely to remain in place for at least 10 years:

  • The Republican Party, dominated by its ultra-conservative wing, will continue to hold majority positions in both Houses of Congress.
  • The Democratic Party, dominated by its centrist wing and largely ignoring its progressive base, will continue to carry the White House.
  • The Federal Government will, as a consequence of the above two conclusions, continue to malfunction, staggering along with very little actual governance, which is precisely in accord with the agenda of the conservative movement broadly.

Tactically, if the Progressive Movement in this country hopes to regain any of its former power and influence to carry out policies with which broad swaths of the population concur when polled on the issues themselves outside the context and baggage of labels, it must immediately shift its emphasis away from attempting to regain control of the Congress and toward regaining control of state governments. Only by doing so will the Democratic Party and its coalition partners (see below) be in a position to take advantage of the 2020 Census. That Census, reflecting as it inevitably must the broad shifts in demographics taking place in this country and which further enhance the governability of the Progressive Movement, will determine the makeup of Congress from 2022 and beyond.

Near-Term ‘Governance’

During the next 8-10 years, a struggle of increasingly titanic proportions will be waged between the conservatives and the progressives. Unlike previous such struggles, the center will not hold as it continues to be diminished in economic and political power by virtue of its own fatigue with a stagnant holding action that passes for governance. In stark terms, the Presidency will seek to take on more and more authority via Executive Orders and other direct execution tactics while Congress attempts to assert its power by using the purse strings and veto overrides to impose legislatively what the Framers intended to be done by the Executive.

That will be the underlying theme of politics in America in the next 10 years.

liberals-vs-conservativesAs a result, the political process in this nation will continue to fragment. The two-party system cannot hold. The centuries-old idea of Republicans and Democrats will realign into Conservative and Progressive. I predict a viable three- or four-party system with coalition governments reminiscent of the Europe of the last century.

The Tea Party will either take over the Republican Party completely or splinter off into an alternative conservative power. On the Left, the Democrats will either expand their tent to embrace Greens, Working Families Party members, and Socialists, or those parties will create their own leftist party. I see this as inevitable. If this shift happens, as I believe it will, before the 2020 Census, then party realignment will completely reshape the governing landscape within four years after that Census.

The two-party system is an anachronism. It is not possible — if indeed it ever was — to define the spectrum of American political opinion into two camps. The current system will crack under the strain of a global problem set that neither wing of the political parties can solve without aligning with elements of the other.

The Longer View

Eventually, this country must shift its energy and its governance from “me” to “we”, from a completely selfish form of capitalism to a regulated and managed form of social democracy with heavily modified capitalism. Short of that, America will either fall of its own weight as the needs of the less fortunate overburden the hoarded means of production or open insurrection — not necessarily but possibly violent — will topple its systems and chaos will rule for some period of time before an adjustment takes place. I do not see any other alternative. The system is too fundamentally broken.

The likelihood of the peaceful insurrection — a more or less sudden transformation — increases to the exact extent that leaders emerge who govern with compassion, vision, a clear understanding of the vital necessity of the Middle Class, and the ability and willingness to be bold in implementing extensive and fundamental change in the underlying structure of things. And the likelihood of that happening is directly connected to the degree to which progressive social policies can be brought to bear to solve the immense global problems of poverty, climate change, sectarian warfare and violence. Note that these are all problems that the conservative elements in our society do not value as serious problems worth solving. Indeed, they either argue for their non-existence, claim they are overstated or explicitly support them for selfish economic reasons.

Nothing less than a spiritually based evolution of consciousness provides any hope for humanity here. The good news is that there are many indications that such a transformational tipping point could well be in the offing. It is incumbent on each of us who would prefer that we all rise together to greatness to take an active role in this process.


More Conservative Anti-Science Poppycock

The U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday passed a bill that would ban subject-matter experts from advising the EPA on regulations while opening the door to such advice from industry representatives with no specific expertise and a clear political, anti-regulatory agenda.

You can’t make up this kind of stuff.

As reported by Lindsay Abrams at Salon.com, the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. She went on to explain:

In case that wasn’t clear: experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research — the bizarre assumption, apparently, being that having conducted peer-reviewed studies on a topic would constitute a conflict of interest.

Or, as Union of Concerned Scientists Director Andrew A. Rosenberg said in an editorial for RollCall:

“In other words, academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, along with two others designed to interfere with the EPA’s work. One of those bills would ban what the GOP calls “secret science” by which it means science that hasn’t undergone testing beyond that required by accepted scientific practices. The other would put a rush on permit applications for permits by bypassing provisions of the Clean Air Act.

The trio, wrote Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, in an editorial for the Hill, represents “the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.”

When the Facts Are Against You… Conservative “Debate” in Modern Politics

The first rule of the practice of law says, “When the facts are against you, argue the law. When the law is against you, call your opponent names.”

In World War II, Nazi Propaganda Chief Joseph Goebbels famously said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

I imagine the conservatives in this country have perhaps too many lawyers in their ranks. They seem unable, when faced with facts that contradict their ideology, to respond in any way other than to shout the same lies more loudly. And those who aren’t lawyers are apparently ideological propagandists. (I’m not making a Nazi comparison here; he just happens to be the source of the quotation.)

In his New York Times column today, Paul Krugman points out that:

Conservatives want you to believe that while the goals of public programs on health, energy and more may be laudable, experience shows that such programs are doomed to failure. Don’t believe them. Yes, sometimes government officials, being human, get things wrong. But we’re actually surrounded by examples of government success, which they don’t want you to notice.

In that column, he points out several examples of this prevaricating government bashing by conservatives, whose agenda is only served when Americans believe government cannot and does not work:

Solyndra. This is a non-scandal scandal perpetrated by the GOP. Any time anyone — government or private individual or company — invests in future technologies, they’re going to bet wrong from time to time. As Krugman points out, if they don’t, they’re not taking sufficient risks to move the marker. Overall, the program of which Solyndra was the sole significant loss is earning a present profit for taxpayers of $5 billion. Why aren’t conservatives — who are profit-driven — touting this? Because it was a Democratic Party idea. No other reason.

Affordable Care Act. The conservatives dig up, often falsify and then proclaim from the rooftop outlier failure anecdotes while completely ignoring the underlying factsFact: 10 million previously uninsured Americans now have some health coverage. Fact: average premium increases — which conservatives point to as horrendously bad news (“We thought they were going to save money!”) — are well below historical average increases. Fact. Obama Administration policies — many enacted in spite of the supposedly fiscal conservatives — have brought the national debt to pre-crisis levels as a percentage of GDP all the while Republicans have been screaming about deficits running rampant.

Science research. Conservatives have made an annual tradition of finding odd-sounding scientific research projects and singling them out for ridicule without the first understanding of anything scientific. Quite apart from their obstinate refusal to look at any science on climate change — and indeed, considering their oft-repeated observations that they are not scientists (a fact of which we need no reminder given their 18th Century ignorance) — they are in the way of important research. One example is a study of how memes form and are spread, which is incredibly important in, among other arenas, the battle against terrorist tactics. But the GOP holds up this study as an example of leftist programs designed to censor or interfere with conservative speech!

Over the years, I’ve learned that it is not possible to win a debate with someone who is willing to lie or distort facts. When conservatives do this at the top of their voice, they drown out debate and obstruct progress of any kind for which their opponents could be congratulated.

Net Neutrality = Government Takeover of Internet? Seriously?

One of the most disingenuous public petitions I’ve seen has gathered 2.4 million signatures from people allegedly opposed to Net Neutrality. Just one small problem: the petition never mentioned the term “net neutrality” or anything resembling it. Instead, the entire petition signature prompt was:

“The Internet is not broken, and does not need to be fixed. Left-wing extremists have been crying wolf for the past decade about the harm to the Internet if the federal government didn’t regulate it. Not only were they wrong, but the Internet has exploded with innovation. Do not regulate the Internet. The best way to keep it open and free is what has kept it open and free all along—no government intervention.”

This is one of the most disgusting attempts at misleading the public I’ve seen since…well…the last election in California. And the same basic people are behind it: conservatives who think any government regulation is too much government regulation. These people think that, left to their own devices, the greedy unregulated corporations who run this country will do the fair and equitable thing. We’ve been engaged in an experiment for the past 150+ years proving the folly of that opinion.

Faced with the proposal above and ignorant of what the Internet is and what FCC regulations are at stake, I might have signed it as well. But 3.7 million people who were actually aware of what they were asking for not only signed petitions, they sent individual comments to the FCC on the subject.

Let’s hope informed opinions prevail over propaganda.

How’s THIS for Consistency? Future Rep. Brat is an Evangelical Randian!

Ayn Rand vs. Jesus. Republicans, pick one or you're doing it wrong.I’ve spent far too much time today reading various analyses from the Left and the Right of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s unexpected and humiliating defeat at the hands of a little-known political neophyte, Dave Brat. At the end of this ill-spent time, I’ve come to two conclusions:

  • Bill Moyers’ Senior Digital Producer Joshua Holland did a much better job of reading, understanding and summarizing the blow flow than I ever could.
  • Brat is a dangerously non-thinking, knee-jerk politician who will be terrible for the nation and for his own Congressional district.

I derived this latter observation from reading a bit about Brat online and found it all neatly bundled into a factual and insightful analysis in Esquire by Charles Pierce.

Brat is not only billed as a professor of economics despite lacking a degree in the field, he is actually the department head of business and economics at tiny Randolph-Macon College, a 1,300-student, four-year school run by the Methodists. (In an irony sure to be a future Trivial Pursuit question, his fellow faculty member, sociologist Jack Trammell, will be his November opponent from the hopelessly outnumbered Democratic Party in the district.)

Here are some pull quotes from the Pierce piece that may help to put Brat into some sort of perspective. As far as I can tell — and I fact-checked these statements to the best of my ability — these are all factually correct observations:

  • Brat has promised to vote against raising the debt ceiling for the first five years he’s in Congress.
  • He says his conservative religious background informs his views on economics.
  • He attacked Cantor for, among other things, voting to raise the national debt (see #1 above), end the government shutdown, and for the Ryan-Murray budget plan.
  • At his victory speech last night, he told supporters that he won because God was speaking through the voters of the Seventh Congressional District of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Among his extremely sparse publishing resume is a paper entitled “An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.” As Pierce wryly observed, “Well, that must have been good for a few laughs.”

Rand was a militant atheist. It’s hard to predict precisely how she’d react to Brat — and a number of other alleged followers who also claim fervor for evangelical Christianity — trying to meld the two completely incompatible philosophical positions. But it appears that consistency isn’t the kind of “deep thinking” in which Brat likes to engage.

Unless Brat proves too much for the general electorate come November (the district is 57% registered Republican), Democrats who are whooping it up over Cantor’s sudden fall may be wishing they had Eric back by the time Brat’s been in Congress a while. Like two weeks. Or until the first vote to raise the debt ceiling.

This is Outrageous! Oklahoma “Conservatives” Impose Tax on Homeowners Who Install Solar Panels!!??

Do these people have no shame at all? Do they not recognize their own hypocrisy? Or has greed so gripped their souls that they can no longer see anything but dollar signs when they look where they used to keep their ethics?

global_climate_change_3Seems the Oklahoma legislature has decided to adopt a bill written by the most nefarious lobbying organization in the country that is designed to actively discourage homeowners in that state from attempting to do something about global climate change. The bill, prepared by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), views such citizens as “freeloaders on the system” who must pay a fee to stay on the grid. This despite the fact that they are producing, via their sun panels, more electricity than they need and are thus enabled to sell the excess wattage back to the grid’s owners and operators.

So these people are exercising freedom of choice, independence, and the principles of capitalist free enterprise. So the Republicans want to bring that crap to an immediate halt! WTF??!!

I wonder how many other state legislatures have adopted this bill or will do so in the future?


The Eerie Parallels Between Ryan’s View of the Poor and the Irish Potato Famine

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan’s pre-St. Patrick’s Day post about the tone-deafness of Paul Ryan is a classic.

Right-wingnut Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

Right-wingnut Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

In his piece, Egan compares Ryan’s attitude toward the poor in America with the Victorian English approach to the Irish Potato Famine that killed over a million people, many of them children, in the mid-19th Century. It is breath-taking how closely the language of the two eras parallels itself.

England declined to help “bail out” the starving Irish because of concerns that doing so would “set up a culture of dependency.” As Egan observes, “His [Ryan’s] oft-stated ‘culture of dependency’ is a safety net that becomes a lazy-day hammock.” The attitude in both cases seems to be that folks who are poor are in that condition because of some fundamental character flaw or defect; that being poor is an effect, not a cause.

While it’s not likely that Ryan’s cold-hearted intransigence is going to result in the deaths of a million or more people, it’s also not believable that it won’t lead to any deaths. And it certainly does lead to unneeded and undeserved misery and pain and suffering. But Ryan and his Ayn Rand-inspired acolytes clearly do not concern themselves with this “collateral damage.” Unmindful of the Irish Potato Famine — from which Ryan claims his forbears escaped to come to America — the Tea Party GOP is more concerned with ideology than compassion, with winning elections than with helping their fellow humans.

I honestly do not see how people who have those kinds of attitudes can call themselves followers of Jesus Christ, whose teachings are all about love, compassion, service to humanity. For that matter, I don’t see how they can sleep at night or look themselves in the mirror.

It really is sad.

Wal-Mart is First Major Retailer to Get Bit by Food Stamp Cuts

I found this story too deliciously ironic not to share.

Wal-Mart announced a slightly less profitable picture for Q4 due primarily, its spokesman said, to “a greater-than-expected negative impact from reductions in … food stamps.”

What poetic justice!

Or as Daily Kos commenter Siri offered:

They put their political muscle behind the party that celebrates undercutting the economic stability of their largest base of consumers. Beyond the simple humanity of making sure families can afford to buy food, I’d think their own economic interests rely on those in need receiving the benefits they need to survive.

As I’ve said for years — and as many economists and other real experts have warned — you can’t cannibalize your market by denying them access to the wages to buy your products. I mean, wake up you morons! Henry Ford taught that lesson early last century! If you have no other morality than your bottom line, it still makes sense to make sure the lower classes don’t get too low.

Pro-Life, Pro-Choice: Terminology Matters and It’s Time to Stop Letting the Right Define the Words

There’s a bit of a tempest in a teapot brewing in Texas surrounding Democratic State Senator and Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ assertion that she is pro-life. By the term “pro-life,” she means a whole different set of things than the anti-choice conservative movement means. And they are screaming “foul” at her attempt to redefine their “brand.”

Davis says she means that, “I care about the life of every child: every child that goes to bed hungry, every child that goes to bed without a proper education….” Among other things.

The Right, of course, is furious. They claim that anyone who says they are pro-life must be in favor of protecting the life of unborn fetuses.

And this little tempest is just a symptom of a much deeper problem, one about which I’ve written several times over the years.

anti-choiceWe’ve allowed the conservatives to couch the battle over women’s reproductive health and rights as “pro-life” and, implicitly, “anti-life,” which is ridiculous. I know hundreds of pro-choice men and women. I do not know a single pro-abortion man or woman. Not one. They’re not anti-life. Because the disagreement and the fight aren’t about life, they’re about who gets to make the choice, the decision, regarding the outcome of a woman’s pregnancy: the woman or the government.

The so-called “pro-life” groups and lobbies are disingenuous in adopting that moniker in any case. They are almost universally in favor of the death penalty (pro-death and pro-life? Really?). They oppose programs that enhance the quality of life of poor children, many of whom die of disease and hunger that could be prevented with government programs they oppose in order to protect their personal wealth and income.

And the media continue to perpetuate this baldfaced lie. Tonight, liberal news commentator Rachel Maddow, a strong and powerful pro-choice advocate, used the term “pro-life” to describe the anti-choice elements in our culture war. It’s like the Right wing propaganda machine has succeeded in convincing all of us that anyone who is pro-choice is thereby anti-life and pro-abortion. It’s pure unadulterated bullpuckey. And they know it.

We have to figure out how to get the mainstream media and the liberal commentators to start using the more accurate terminology here or we will continue to grant the irrational, unscientific, emotional nut jobs who oppose a woman’s right to make the choice how to deal with her own pregnancy the default upper hand in the debate.

And they flat don’t deserve that.