The Lunatics Run the Asylum

Richard Lugar

Dick Lugar’s ouster as senator of Indiana marks the beginning of the end of this Republican party. He lost by nearly 20 points–well over 100,000 votes–in a primary…in Indiana.  It was a blowout.  You couldn’t fit the difference in an NFL stadium.

He lost to Indiana state treasurer, Tea Party extremist, and 3-time congressional seat loser, Richard Mourdock.  Mr. Mourdock is a liiitle bit out there.  He defines bipartisanship as “Democrats coming around to the Republican point-of-view.” (If you’re a Republican, imagine a Democrat saying the reverse of that.)  He pledges no compromise on anything at any time for any reason.

He is an automatic candidate for 2012 Fool of the Year–and he may still be a 4-time congressional seat also-ran.  He is extremely vulnerable in the general election.  Obama won in Indiana in 2008.

Lugar was the longest-sitting Republican in the senate.  He’s a mainstream conservative.  He’s respected among his peers.  He had status.  He chaired committees.  He specialized in foreign policy and arms control.  He would consistently beat Democratic challengers by 30 points in general elections, in a purple state (he won his 2006 senate race by over 70 points.  70!).  He was 80 years old and very near the end of his career.

So why couldn’t the Tea party crowd wait to give him the boot?  It wasn’t because he was too entrenched (which he was) or that he was out of touch with voters (which he wasn’t, nationally speaking).  He went down to defeat because he is one of the few Republicans willing to cross party lines (on rare occasions) and work with Democrats to get substantive things done.  Specifically, he worked with Barrack Obama to help prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of despotic regimes and terrorist organizations.

Not even Tea-Baggers are against locking down nukes.  Right?  Right?  Wrong.  Lugar committed the deadly and unforgivable sin of working with Barrack Obama for any reason, even a noble one.  Because to these whack-jobs Barrack Obama’s divine logos inverts that of God Almighty: a thing is evil because Obama says it is good.

Senator-elect and 2012 Fool of the Year nominee, Richard Mourdock

Super-PAC groups like the NRA and Freedom Works buttressed Mourdock with oodles of money and propelled him into victory on the pledge that he will never compromise.   This would push the Senate toward the same sort of intractable gridlock currently paralyzing the House of Representatives.

The general electorate tends not to favor people like Mourdock whose mindsets make the government even more ineffective.  He’s is the kind of guy who thinks programs like Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional.  And he promises, as senator of Indiana, to stand in uncompromising opposition to the president Indiana voted for in 2008.

It’s a key element of the divide between the extremists controlling the Republican party and the rest of America.  It is the kind of disconnection that dooms the party to failure.  Mainstream conservatives will look elsewhere–albeit not to Barrack Obama–if their needs aren’t being met by the Republican party.  They’ve proven it.  In conjunction with extreme positions on women’s reproductive rights, immigration, corporate subsidies, tax cuts for the rich, and LGBT marriage rights they’re pushing away all but a small minority of closed-minded Americans.

So please spare us the false equivalencies.  This is something that is happening in the Republican party.    And it’s something they need to deal with.  Otherwise, it’s a recipe for failure now and in the long term.

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Reagan and Obama Agree on Taxes

Think Progress has a great video showing Ronald Reagan making the same argument Warren Buffet made about CEOs paying lower tax rates than their secretaries.

Huh.  This would suggest that the Republican party has indeed moved far to the right if the entire GOP is fundamentally opposed to a philosophy Reagan himself supported (much like amnesty for illegal immigrants).

Curiouser and curiouser….

What I Hate About Republicans–Anti-intellectualism

“Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”  -Stephen Colbert

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over the constitutionality of the Individual Mandate in the Affordable Care Act.  Several Republican leaders, including Republican 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum, appeared on the steps of the Supreme Court building to dispute the constitutionality of the mandate and express their hopes of seeing it repealed.  Of course, the individual mandate they find so unconstitutional is actually a Republican conception.

It was proposed in 1993 as a “free market” counter to then-president Bill Clinton’s employer mandate for providing healthcare and was supported by Republicans as late as the 2008 election by, among others, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.  It was signed into law in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney. Both of these men are running for office in 2012.

Understand, Republicans didn’t oppose the mandate until Barack Obama began supporting it–in yet another unjustifiable concession b y the president–during the healthcare debates in 2009-2010.

So, to be clear: the Republican party leadership is gathered on the steps outside the Supreme Court to argue against the constitutionality of their own proposal.

Of course, short-sighted, narrow-minded, wildly hypocritical governance is now the Republican modus operandi.  They write confounding legislation like Stand Your Ground, then double down on their support for the law after tragedy strikes.  They unnecessarily ban Sharia Law-based legislation–which is already unconstitutional per the Establishment Clause (separating church and state) they so often lament.  They roll out religious leaders to support their anti-contraception agenda then–a few weeks later–ignore religious leaders when they denounce the Republican budget plan.

I know, it makes no sense.  (And for all those who would argue that Democrats also do a bunch of boneheaded things, that is not a defense.  It’s like a murderer saying he shouldn’t go to jail for killing his wife because other people commit murder, too.)

This kind of dim-witted lawmaking has overrun the Republican politics because Republican culture is not very big on thinking…or thinkers for that matter.  It’s like they’re allergic to facts.  Actually, it’s anti-intellectualism, relegating thought to simple reasoning and selective memory, prioritizing opinion over fact and propaganda over truth.

This may seem like an unfair charge.  So, in the interest of not over-generalizing, only those who subscribe to the following beliefs can be considered fact allergic conservatives:

  • Republicans are more fiscally responsible than Democrats.
  • Unregulated industries police themselves.
  • Markets are driven by low employee wages and tax rates.
  • The effective U.S. corporate tax rate is one of the highest in the world.
  • Taxes are unconstitutional.
  • Not raising the debt ceiling IS constitutional
  • Gay marriage threatens traditional marriage.
  • Barack Obama is a socialist.
  • Barack Obama is a Muslim
  • Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen.
  • Creationism is an equivalent alternative theory to Evolution.
  • Global warming is a hoax.

I could go on, but I believe this cuts a wide enough swath.  I’m not going to demonstrate how each of these beliefs is false.  There is a plethora of easily-accessed, unbiased information for disproval, from Barack Obama’s birth certificate to the U.S. Constitution. The problem is not with the facts.  It’s with Republicans’ unwillingness–perhaps inability–to trust those facts or process them objectively.

The reason for this lies partly with conservatism itself which is based on maintaining–or returning to–traditional institutions, values, and systems.   Yet progress–the advancement of social inclusion, knowledge, and technological capability–often disproves or revaluates our previous understanding.  So to protect beliefs that are constantly being  invalidated, conservatives,and especially Republicans, distrust contradictory facts and the people that provide them.

Before we go forward we have to separate Republican leadership which uses anti-intellectualism to control and manipulate uninformed and uneducated voting blocks.  They’re as bought out by the corporations as the Democrats and the media.  They’re part of that machine and therefore not really included in this discussion.

So why do Republicans subscribe to anti-intellectualism?  It seems that has to do with the make up of the conservative mind.

As more and more studies show, conservatives tend to see the world in a much more negative light than liberals.  A 2008 study conducted at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln demonstrated that conservatives had a much greater physiological response to negative stimuli than their liberal counterparts.  Notice the study didn’t just conduct surveys or fill out questionnaires.  They measured physiological responses, i.e., the body’s integrated fight or flight defense mechanisms (changes in heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation, respiration rate and depth, sweating, etc.).  The study also found that subjects who favored capital punishment, patriotism, and defense spending were highly responsive to threatening images.

A preliminary study by the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience demonstrated that conservative brains tend to have larger amygdalas–responsible for fear conditioning–while also having smaller anterior cingulates–the part of the brain responsible for rational cognitive functions, such as optimism, decision-making, empathy, and emotion–than liberal brains.

Likewise, a study at Brock University in Ontario suggests “that low-intelligence  adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies.”  According to Gordon Hodson, the lead researcher of the study, “Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice”.

These studies alone are hardly definitive, but as more studies on the subject come out, the more they support these conclusions.  In fact, I have yet to see a reputable study that contradicts these findings. More importantly, these study concord with what we see in societies across the globe.

The universality  of fear, ignorance, and a dearth of critical thinking leads many conservatives to de-emphasize facts.  These are the conditions that allowed propaganda threatening a mushroom cloud over a major U.S. city to overwhelm the fact that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were political and religious enemies and therefore unlikely to cooperate. Thus leading us into an unnecessary war that cost the loves of thousands of Americans.

It should go without saying that stupidity is not exclusive to conservatives or Republicans.  There is more than enough idiocy and ignorance to go around.  Still, there are a lot of conservatives ruled by fear, anger, and factionalism.  Republicans cater to this element and perpetuate it.

As always, the problem is exacerbated by the compliance–or silence–coming from free-thinking conservatives.  Those who know better have a responsibility to lay aside their “liberals do it, too” cop-out apologism and take control of their faction or distance themselves from it (which, of course, liberals need to do as well).  There can be no legitimate discourse when facts are being ignored and dismissed purely on whim.

The only way we will get past this political dystopia is if the better minds and purer hearts among us put partisanship aside–albeit momentarily–step away from the fray, acknowledge the system is broken, and commit to rebuild it.

Otherwise people like this are going to get more power and more influence and bring this beautiful dream crashing down.

By comparison, this is what a real free-thinking conservative sounds like:

Into The Margins

The 2012 Republican presidential candidates don't inspire much hope for the future.

I feel like the Republicans are done for in 2012.

As vulnerable (and mediocre) as President Obama has been, the GOP was unable to find anyone better than the murderer’s row of assholes currently working the Primary Season Tour.  Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum suck so badly they can’t even beat Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum.  The candidates are tearing themselves apart in an ugly primary conflict that could drag out and irreparably devastate whoever is left standing to accept the nomination.

At least one can hope.

Ron Paul manages to get about 50% of what he says right.  And he’s pretty damn honest for a politician.  Unfortunately, the 50% he gets wrong he gets waaaaayyyy wrong.  I mean, the Department of Education is Unconstitutional?  By that logic so is the United States Air Force and the FBI.  (And I’m not even touching on how he printed (and profited from) a White Power themed newsletter for 20 years.)

Ron Paul has some intriguing qualities. Too bad he's tin shit-house crazy.

But more than any particular candidate’s shortcomings, I think the actual Republican Party has pushed itself out of the mainstream.

They’ve been virulently opposed to women’s reproductive rights since Roe v. Wade and against sensible immigration reform for a decade.  They’ve spewed rhetoric against multiculturalism,  the labor unions, and entitlement programs for years.  They’ve been trying to shove their interpretation of the Bible down our throats since the 1980’s.  And they’ve tried to disenfranchise left-leaning voters since the Nixon era.  None of that is new.

GOP Women's Rights Platform

What is new is that they’re going after all of these groups at the same time.  They started as soon as they took power following the 2010 elections and they haven’t let up since.  I doubt they will relent going forward either.  Maybe they feel like they’re going to get voted out of office soon and they want to make hay while the sun’s shining.  I don’t know.

Actually, I wish the Democrats would legislate with as much vigor.

Republican governors on the hot seat.

Another new element is how far they’re trying to turn things back.  Conservatives always want to roll things back, but it seems like these guys want to go back to Dwight Eisenhower’s America.  I mean, anti-contraception?  Seriously?    Then there are things like the trans-vaginal ultrasounds and mandatory drug tests for people receiving unemployment (as well as anyone–who is poor–receiving government assistance).  They’re talking about moon colonies and poor kids cleaning their schools.  Mind you this is in the election immediately following the chickens for healthcare debacle.  It makes them seem very wacky.

It’s already turning people off.  The ultrasound bill looks like it’s been effectively killed.  Scott Walker is being recalled in Wisconsin.  John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida are teetering on the brink.  To top it off, the Republicans came out on the short end of the debt ceiling debate (which may be starting up again around election time).

Wisconsin voters not havin' it. (Feb. 16, 2011)

And for all their efforts, mainstream America is not happy with the Republicans.  Of course, no no one is happy with the Democrats either (although Obama’s labors are now starting to bear fruit).  But the Republicans have done a lot more to alienate voters. They are out of touch with what people are dealing with.  They are too openly supportive of big business.  And they’ve got enemies all over the electorate.

In the end, I think it will probably cost them the election.  And not just the presidency.

(Approval ratings image from: http://www.gallup.com/poll/116479/barack-obama-presidential-job-approval.aspx.  Republican hopefuls image from: https://plus.google.com/117458573761796006397/posts/75neNe6QxwU.  Ron paul image from:  http://speakup-usa.com/.  Wisconsin protestors image from: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_62326.shtml.  Mittually assured destruction motivational from: http://www.stridentconservative.com/?p=2097.  The governors image from:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/05/19/republican-governor-popularity-plummets-from-ohios-kasich-to-floridas-scott-to-wisconsins-walker.html.  The spanked woman image from: http://www.politicususa.com/en/shame-american-women)

What I Hate About Republicans – Intro

Due to constructive-feedback from friends, I changed the title of this series of posts.

I have to begin with a caveat–not to soften my stance, but to make a distinction.

I do not hate conservatives.

In the many debates I’ve had with my conservative friends we could usually get to a point where finding some middle-ground at least seemed possible–if we didn’t reach it outright.  There are, of course, plenty of instances where we’ve agreed to disagree but it’s clear enough that our core principles aren’t so far apart.  I guess I’m saying that most of the conservatives that I’ve met have been pretty decent people.  They love America and they want what’s best for it.  That’s the reason I make the distinction.

The Republican party does not represent conservatives. Conservatives believe in fiscal responsibility, limited government, low taxes, a minimal (or nonexistent) welfare state, and strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.  However:

  • No Republican president has overseen a balanced budget in over 30 years.  (Anyone arguing that it was the Newt Gingrich-led congress that balanced the budget during Bill Clinton’s presidency would then have to explain why there wasn’t even an attempt to balance the budget under George W. Bush even though the GOP continued to control both houses of congress for his first 6 years in office).   Don’t buy into the attacks on Clinton or Obama, the GOP’s premise is that Republicans are fiscally responsible so the burden is on them to show that responsibility.

    The chart clearly shows that neither party can consider themselves deficit hawks.
  • Republicans don’t want limited government.  They want to stick their noses into our bedrooms, books, movies, music, schools, women’s wombs (figuratively), and hammer us over the head with their fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible–which flies in the face of the 1st (FIRST!) Amendment. President George W. Bush and his Republican-led congress actually increased the size of the federal government and attached ineffective, wasteful spending programs to Medicare and the Department of Education among others.
  • Republicans don’t want lower taxes; they do want to lower taxes for the rich, as evidenced by their intransigence on such things as corporate subsidies and the Bush Era tax cuts.  But their attempts to repeal the home mortgage interest deduction and shift the payroll tax credit away from employees, both of which primarily benefit the middle-class, show their true colors.  How can taxes affecting the middle-class not count?
  • Damn, Grandpa should'a been an oil tycoon.

    Republicans don’t want to end welfare.  Well, they want to end it for the poor and unemployed (or at least humiliate them by requiring them to take drug tests and other such folderol).  But they will fight tooth and nail to make sure the oil industry keeps every penny of their subsidies, even though big oil companies are among the most profitable businesses in the world. As a side note, many of the oil subsidies began as incentives to spur investment in oil production–which we can all agree is probably not necessary anymore.  Yet those same Republicans fighting to keep oil subsidies chafe against providing similar subsidies to clean and renewable energy.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made the point.  Republicans do not represent conservatives.  To be fair, Democrats are even worse at representing progressives, and disregard of the population is a common practice among politicians.  It’s the reason I have disdain for the Democrats as well (I’ll get to that later). The only real difference between the two parties is that Democrats still believe the government has a role in assisting the disabled and disadvantaged.  Republicans could care less.

Republicans see America from one perspective: the white heterosexual Christian male.  Obviously, a WASPy straight guy is a perfectly fine thing to be.  The problem is, the further you identify away from that, the more you find the Republicans pissing in your eye.  If you’re black, LGBT, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Native American, or a woman, they have no interest in helping you get to equal footing.  They admit there is discrimination, but do nothing to combat it…unless the they feel the discrimination goes against whites.

Thus we come to the first reason I hate the GOP: Bigotry.

Believe me, it’s the bread and butter of Republican politics.  Stay tuned for for part 1 to see why.

(Republican money machine image from: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-the-gop-became-the-party-of-the-rich-20111109.  Most profitable businesses image from: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2009/12/most-profitable-global-companies/. Federal debt chart from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Federal_Debt_1901-2010_.jpg)