Republicans: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!

centreWay back when George Dubya was still compassionate, I predicted that the Democrats would take a veer to the left.  The ensuing liberal civil war would create a political vacuum in the centre and the Republicans would naturally slide on over and dominate American politics for the foreseeable future.  I was wr-wr-wr, not right.  9/11 came along, Dubya got trigger happy and suddenly it was Hope and Change that was priming the political pumps.  Whatever else you want to say about President Obama (and I’ve said a bunch) he’s a dynamic centrist and while he and Hillary are staking out the high ground in the middle, it’s the Republicans who are going nuts.  The war is on in the GOP, and it looks as if it’s going to end up in a loser-take-all victory for the raging right.  Never, in the history of human politics, have so many been so screwed, so thoroughly by so few.

Shutting down the American government, just because you can, is such a willful act of childishness that I refuse to give it any room in a reasonable discussion.  Who the hell do you people think you are?  You have one job – One Job! – to ensure that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  And what do you do?  You shut it down.  No wonder you’re getting outwitted by the clowns at the New York Times.  And this isn’t just a rant about those Tea Party nitwits, either.  John Boehner, you need to give up being a full time cry baby and get your people in line.  You’re plucking your bum in the same chair that Henry Clay, Sam Rayburn and Tip O’Neill sat in.  The least you could do is look the part.  But enough about that.  The American government has survived worse than Ted Cruz and his motley crew, and serious people have bigger fish to fry.

Here’s the deal.  The Republican Party has been hijacked by a bunch of folks who obviously flunked out of Political Science, quite possibly as far back as kindergarten.  In an absolute tour de force of WTF logic, they’ve decided that the reason Mitt Romney didn’t make it to the White House is because he wasn’t conservative enough.  So, in order to rebalance the equation, they’ve launched themselves on an epic flight to the far distant political right.  Presumably, this is because, despite a century of voting records to the contrary, they believe America wants, needs and deserves a conservative government that lands just short of wearing a tinfoil hat.  While no one would suggest America is a hotbed of socialism, this kind of thinking is seriously delusional.  However, don’t take my word for it.  Let’s take a look.

In 2012, Romney lost the election by five million votes.  That’s four percent; not a lot by presidential election standards.  Historically, presidential losers get their asses kicked.  However, those five million votes are significant because they come from the political middle.  Like every election since Pericles ran for Afentiko of Athens, Presidential 2012 was an electoral Bell Curve.  The ideologically committed left and right wing voters anchor both ends of the political spectrum, and the great wad of the rest of us is stuck in the middle.  President Obama remained President Obama because he won more of those middle votes than Romney did.  Push Romney to the right, the far right or nothing but the right so help him God, and he wouldn’t have gained a single vote!  However, push him to the middle and he might have started siphoning votes off Obama’s juggernaut.  It’s not impossible: Ronald Reagan did it (twice) and two or three percentage points is not a lot to ask.  It could have been that simple.  Now, it’s becoming way more difficult.

The Tea Party and their ideological wannabes have seriously damaged the Republican Party.  First of all, they’re singing tocentre1 the choir.  I haven’t heard of one Democrat who changed his (or her) mind over Tea Party policies.  Secondly, their song is nonsense.  Their only message is “Obama’s being mean to me.” — the political equivalent of “Louie, Louie” on a loop.  But finally, and most importantly, they’re singing so loud nobody else can get a word in edgewise.  They’ve taken centre stage, and whatever good stuff Republicans might have to say is getting lost in the godawful noise.

Moderate Republicans need to quit being scared of these yo-yos and get organized.  They need to take back the primaries and start finding candidates who will be electable beyond the Barack Obama era.  (He’s going to go home, you know.)  But more than that, they need to tell guys like Ted Cruz to stick a sock in it and either lead, follow or get out of the way.  Otherwise, people like me are going to be looking at Hillary in 2016.

Why the Republicans Lost

Now that the 48 hour news cycle is over and the shrill voices of victory and defeat have shut the hell up (almost) it’s safe to take an adult look at what happened last Tuesday.  How did Barack Obama snatch victory from the jaws of Mitt Romney’s defeat?  Partisan politics aside, President Obama was not only beatable, he should have been beaten.  The Obama administration’s accomplishments can be counted on one hand: it “got” Bin Laden.  One the other hand, you need more hands.  After four years of Obamanomics, the economy is still staggering around as if it’s been pistol-whipped.  Despite a gabillion dollar taxpayer-financed smackdown, unemployment remains standing, smirking defiantly at nearly 8%.   Yet, even as consumers are losing their ability to pay, prices are increasing.  Gas, for example, is up 75% in some places.  American debt is over 16 trillion dollars — an unfathomable amount that could have financed the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Reason and both World Wars.  Plus, that debt is increasing faster than even the government bean counters can count — over 3.8 billion dollars – per day.  Half the country doesn’t want Obamacare, there are more illegal aliens in America than regular ones, there’s been a fatal Al Qaeda attack that’s getting covered up, Iran is about to go nuclear, Syria is not responding to Hillary’s harsh words and on and on and on.  I’m going to stop here because it looks like I’m ragging on the guy.  I’m not; these are just the un-spun facts.  Looking at them objectively, there’s no way Barack Obama should still be president: they threw Hoover, Carter and Bush (41) out for less.  Yet there he is — back in the Oval Office — and you’ve got to wonder why?

The answer’s quite simple, really.  The Republicans look like idiots.  What started out as a serious campaign about policy and ideas disintegrated as if it’d been hit by the Death Star – and it was all self-induced.  You know you’re in trouble when the biggest name brand guy at your national convention is talking to a chair!  From there, everything just went downhill so fast even Lance Armstrong couldn’t have caught it — and he was taking elephant hormones.  For the next nine weeks (aside from the one brief, shining moment of the first presidential debate) Republicans played “Where’s Waldo?” with their credibility — and lost.

It is very difficult to carry on a reasonable discussion — even with people who want to listen — when you’re busy justifying, excusing and, finally, apologizing for “God’s infinite plan for legitimate rape” or some other such nonsense.  Under these circumstances, it’s impossible to elaborate on anything more than a face plant.  And that happened twice!  All the people blaming Romney for the Republican loss should take at look at Akin, Mourdock and a few others before they pass judgement.  Where did they find those guys?  Hanging out back in 1951?

Then there’s Donald Trump, the gasbag with hair.  Right in the middle of everything, this guy goes snarling Daddy Warbucks, waving a check for 5 mil in the air, and talking to the President of the United States as if he were some hotel maitre d’.  First of all, Donald, what makes you think Barack Obama is going to be swayed by five million dollars when, as president, he can pick up the telephone and give any charity he likes ten times that much – or more  – and he doesn’t even have to dial the number?  Secondly, give it a rest; even if the guy weren’t an American, it’s too late now.  You’re a day late and several million dollars short!  The only thing Trump accomplished with his comic book theatrics was to join Fox News in making everyone who is even slightly further right wing than Winnie the Pooh look like a moron.

Furthermore, Americans are a live-and-let-live kind of people.  They value their independence.  They fought a revolution over it.  It’s written in their constitution.  How Republicans, of all people, forgot this is mind boggling.  Yet, straight out of the gate, they start telling everybody that the road to hell is paved with abortion, same-sex marriage and marijuana.  From that moment on, it was the Democrats versus the “I’m-Your-Dad” party and nobody in the GOP did anything to tarnish that image.  Even if the Republicans aren’t the party of old white men, you’d never know it.

Despite what the pundits are telling us, the 2012 election was not a rout.  In fact, it was relatively close.  The Republicans fell a few hundred thousand strategically placed votes short of sending Romney and Ryan to the White House.  The reason they lost is not, heaven forbid, they weren’t conservative enough (if that’s possible) nor that they were too conservative.  There are plenty of fiscally conservative voters in America.  The problem is Republicans have become the mirror image of the lockstep, politically correct fascists they so love to hate.  For every strident liberal attitude, there is an equal and opposite Republican reaction.  And that’s all the average voter thinks they have to offer.

It’s time for the Republican Party to quit experimenting with social engineering.  That day is over.  They need to stop relying on the worn out “thou shalt not” social agenda of the religious right for their party platform.  They need to end their dependence on the “remember when” Tea Party for their political punch.  And they need to listen to people like Christie, Walker, Huntsman, Graham, Rubio and, yes, even Jeb Bush — to hear there are new ideas out there — new and better ways to do business.  They need to offer America new solutions that don’t involve telling Americans what they can and cannot do.  They need to do all this because you can’t govern if you can’t get elected and you can’t get elected if you’re quagmired in social controversy.

It’s either give up the social agenda or resign yourself to go soul-searching every four years for a long time.

Michele Bachmann: Take Her Seriously

On Monday, Michele Bachmann declared she was a candidate for President of the United States.  Nobody was shocked but I — and several million other people — got real interested in American politics – real fast.  Ms. Bachmann brings huge flair to a GOP campaign that, so far, has lacked a discernable pulse.  John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are peeing their pants anticipating their autumn TV ratings.  The girls from The View are sharpening their claws.  And journalists from here to McMurdo Station, Antarctica are dissecting every word she’s ever uttered to find a “pants on fire” error.  The big gun personalities, however, are still waiting in the weeds, but they’ve put their assistants on bread and water until they come up with 2012’s defining “gotcha” question.  Chris Wallace seriously jumped the gun on Sunday when he asked her — point blank — “Are you a flake?”  Pure idiot – he probably won’t get another crack at her and will be sniping from the sidelines once the action really heats up next year.

If I sound jaded, I’m not.  If I sound like a supporter, I’m not.  I’m just very aware that Bachmann is being painted as Sarah Palin in a skirt; she’s not.  There are some similarities, certainly; both desperately need a full-time fact checker, for one.  But I’m warning you, folks: take this woman seriously.

Sarah Palin was (and still is) a Republican mistake.  She was supposed to be the sacrificial “hockey mom” to the ’08 Obama juggernaut.  Unfortunately, she didn’t shut up and go home after it was all over.  Instead, she hung on to the spotlight and the microphone (I think she likes them) and became Sarah Palin, sideshow.  Along the way, she changed politics forever.

Michele Bachmann is nobody’s sacrificial lamb.  She’s serious.  She has an army of resolute supporters.  She can raise money – lots of it.  She has a message that many people want to hear — “America was great once, and it can be great again.”  She’s guaranteed tons of press, mainly because Palin was such good copy.  And she has arrived at a time and a place where she (because Palin is unelectable) is the stand-alone candidate.  Plus, she is the most dangerous of all opponents; she believes in what she’s saying.

Up until now, the Republicans have produced a whole bunch of candidates that ordinary people can’t name (except Newt Gingrich.)  They’ve been busy playing musical chairs with who wants to lose to Obama.  Mitt Romney and Tom Pawlenty are apparently the front runners, but from what I’ve seen, it’s a terminal case of the bland leading the bland.  Not so suddenly, Michele Bachmann shows up in Waterloo, Iowa, with nothing on her mind but the Oval Office, and suddenly she’s tied in the polls with Mitt for 1st place.  This is the kind of momentum politicians scheme about.  Bachmann is a natural press magnet.  Her name recognition is already huge and she’s only been on the job, officially, for 48 hours. Primary season is eight months away.

What everybody — including Romney, Pawlenty and Huntsman — has to remember is the primaries are not about voters.  They are about galvanizing the party faithful; that diehard 15%.  These are the people the candidates have to turn into supporters.  You can’t win primaries without them, and you’re not going to be anything but yesterday’s news without primary victories.  This is where Republican moderates are stumbling around in the dark.  The Tea Party has the high ground.  They show up in numbers and can get their people front and centre.  They can raise huge amounts of money.  They are willing to stand up and be counted.  Unfortunately, they’re also willing to present unelectable candidates (Christine O’Donnell) rather than compromise their principles.

This is the problem.  A lot of people think Michele Bachmann is just Sarah Palin with one less “you betcha,” and they are not going to take her seriously.  This is a mistake.  Bachmann can ride the Tea Party to legitimately become the Republican nominee for President.

If she does, when she gets to the national stage, Barack Obama and the media are going to tear her apart.