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.

Welcome to the Tea Party

Okay, you won the election — mostly. You took the best Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann and the girls on The View could throw at you and you won. You beat the elites. You’re dancing in the streets. Hold it! Stop! Alto! You didn’t do anything. Despite whatever you folks were telling each other last night in the euphoria and the moonlight, this is the morning after, so let’s all get outta bed and go catch the reality bus. Last night was an off-year, off-speed, mid-term election. People are angry. The country is in the middle of one of the worst recessions (dare I use the D-word) in history, and just about everybody has taken it in the goonies. And besides all that, 2008 and Obama’s coattails served you up a Democratic majority in Congress that had no business being there. So, if you hadn’t won last night — and won big — we’d all be writing the eulogy and digging the hole by now.
But before you start doing the happy dance and repainting the Oval Office just in time for 2012, let me let you in on a little secret: Barack Obama wasn’t running for office in 2010. He was likely sitting at home, in the White House, watching the results on his presidential big screen TV — and so were his troops. There’s a room full of boring CNN stats that prove this, but here’s the only one that matters. In 2008, 126.4 million people voted; in 2010, only about 95 million did. Duh! The kids saw the avalanche and stayed home. They’re not going to make that same mistake twice.
“But we’ve won a great victory,” you say. “We must keep up the pressure,” you say. “We must march on the White House and beat those champagne glasses into beer mugs,” you say. ”No retreat! No Compromise!”
History teaches us something different. In 216 BCE, Hannibal won a great victory over the Romans at Cannae. The road to Rome was open. His Nubian cavalry could have been there in a day – two, at the most. His generals urged him to march. Hannibal wisely turned away. He knew if he took his war elephants to the walls of Rome, they would be useless, and he would be trapped and annihilated. This isn’t just a cute story. If the pissed-off and the profane take these Republican war elephants to Washington and try to fight the campaigns that are coming up between now and 2012, they’re going to be trapped and annihilated. The bottom line is this: it’s politics — not righteousness — that’s going to carry the day – and politics starts this morning. This means that — angry or not — the Republican caucus better quit being indignant and start working with the Democrats. If they don’t, and Congress goes into cardiac arrest early, they’re the ones who are going to be hit by the Blame Train — not Barack Obama.
Right now, we’ve all been invited to a tea party and Sarah Palin’s pourin’. But just in case you didn’t notice “You betcha” is not a policy statement! If Palin drags this crowd into the race for 2012, she might make it through the primaries, but in a national campaign? Jon Stewart, Barbra Walters and the New York media are going to eat her alive — just like Katie Couric did last time. They are going to make her look like The 3 Stooges — except this time she’s going to be 2 Stooges short.
There’s no doubt that this president is all hat and a teleprompter. But you don’t go from After Dinner Speaker to the White House in 4 years if you don’t know what you’re doing. People are learning that Barack Obama just isn’t a very good leader but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good politician. Don’t confuse the two. He can and will rally the team for 2012, and all those folks sitting on the sidelines this year are going to get back in the game. Remember: 58% of voters under 30 still think Obama is the best thing since Bill Clinton, and young people prefer Democrats by over 20%. These people aren’t angry; they’re not frustrated; and they don’t give a damn how much money the champagne socialist elite throw at the economy, healthcare or each other. They just think the Tea Party is a collection of knuckle-dragging racists who have the misfortune of being old. You, me, Fox News and Harry the Talking Penguin can call them irresponsible, immature or even imbeciles. It doesn’t matter. They vote: Obama wins. It’s that simple.
The Teabag people and their allies better temper their message right now or run the risk of being just another bunch of Glenn Beck whiners on the road to obscurity. It’s one thing to seize power; it’s another to use it, and use it properly. Like it or don’t, the American people (some of them anyway) have said “Put up or shut up!” Now it’s time for these new Republicans to, first of all, learn how to govern — so America can dig itself out of the mess it’s in. And secondly, think up a coherent plan to take back the White House in 2012 — so the sinkhole doesn’t swallow them up again. If it’s Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, so be it. But they’re going to need more than outrage and a loudspeaker, or they’re going to end up with nothing.