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Posted Aug 23, 2012, 12:30 pm
As the Republicans prepare for their national convention, a tropical storm with the ironic name of Isaac might visit a biblical comeuppance on the party of theocracy. Now wouldn't that be "spaycial," as they say in the South. Wouldn't that be in-ter-est-ing. The Grand Old Party couldn't have picked a more appropriate place to gather, Tampa, a "city" that makes Phoenix look like Paris by comparison, a poster child for Kunstler's Geography of Nowhere, and a deep-red suburban bastion of ignorant and retrograde Republicanism. Back in the day, a convention would have defeated wealthy Republican Willard Milton "Mitt" Romney on the first ballot, and then the old hands would have gathered in a smoke-filled room to choose a better candidate.
Tom Friedman opines that "America today desperately needs a serious, thoughtful, credible 21st-century 'conservative' opposition to President Obama, and we don't have that, even though the voices are out there." Deconstructing Friedman is always a fun party game, but let me be brief. The sentence presumes that Mr. Obama is a liberal. And this is based on, what? Even Obamacare is a massive giveaway to big business, specifically the insurance companies and for-profit health oligarchy. The banksters got away with it. Wars go on. The national security state is bigger. Civil liberties more at risk. Tell me something liberal in the president's record. He's about as liberal as Jerry Ford. And the "voices are out there." Really? Tom Coburn? The world ain't the only thing that's flat.
The compelling question looms larger than Friedman's clueless search for the mythical center: Why is this election even close?
Robert Reich nicely sums up today's Republican Party, the ultra-extremists who would come to power if President Etch A Sketch takes the oath of office:
The Republican Party platform committee now includes a provision calling for a constitutional amendment banning all abortions, without an exception for rape or incest. This is basically Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin's position. (At least the GOP platform doesn't assert that women's bodies automatically reject "legitimate" rapists' sperm.)...
Ryan's proposed budget, approved by almost all House Republicans, is also an exercise in fanaticism. It replaces Medicare with vouchers that won't possibly keep up with rising healthcare costs — thereby shifting costs directly on to the elderly. That budget also harms the poor and rewards the rich, but does little or nothing to reduce the federal budget deficit...
The GOP's looniness doesn't even stop there. Republicans remain unwavering in their support of state laws allowing or encouraging the profiling of Latinos. And unrelenting in their war against gay rights.
Unfortunately, it does not stop even there. The Republicans would not only do nothing to address climate change, but would aggressively prevent state efforts, shut down science and drill-and-burn, baby, on a scale not even imagined by the highly compromised "liberal" incumbent. They would repeal the Great Society and New Deal, shred the clean air and water acts, defund Amtrak and PBS, starve cities of federal revenue, but of course increase military spending and corporate welfare, especially for polluters. Little of this is alarmist theory. Look at what has happened in the states where they hold power, especially where they have been in charge for decades. And the election that would allow this on a national scale is within stealing distance. Just ask Presidents Gore and Kerry.
It's within stealing distance, or so the conventional wisdom goes, because of the bad economy. Still, the economy is mostly bad because of the very policies that The Party That Wrecked America promises to reinstate and extend. Are Americans really that stupid? FDR won re-election during the Depression, partly because he was faced, in 1936, with a reactionary opposition much like today. The fact is that Mr. Obama has not made the economy worse, although he certainly could have been more vigorous in his stimulus. The larger reason the election is close: The president is an African-American. In a new Los Angeles Times poll, Romney leads the president among white voters by an astounding 55 percent to 39 percent.
Looking at these numbers, one can see why Mr. Obama has worked so hard to maintain continuity, not antagonize the elites with the rule of law or otherwise come off as the Angry Black Man. Having conversations with some of these white anti-Obama voters (for few are really pro-Romney) is an exercise in brain damage. Even smart people are convinced the regulatory state has been vastly extended and that's what's hurting jobs. Others completely believe the president is an Islamo-fascist Kenyan who "hates America" (Hank Williams Jr. stated this from the stage at the Iowa State Fair and was cheered). I finally learned in seventh grade that the only way to deal with bullies is to stride up and beat the crap out of them (I was never tormented again). The president's attempt at creating a new Era of Good Feelings has merely come across as weakness, a giant "Kick Me" sign plastered on the presidential behind.
So, pace Friedman, what we really need is a liberal party. Only liberalism can deal with facts and a complex world.
I return to a theme that may seem tiresome, but it is so important: How dysfunctional our politics have become and, specifically, the takeover of one of our two mass political parties by extremists. If all these Tea Partiers really knew the Constitution and the republic's founding, they would know that the framers 1) Were not reactionaries but to greater or lesser degrees Enlightenment liberals guided by reason; 2) Mistrusted the sentiment of the mob (Tea Party); 3) Created a strong central government with checks and balances; 4) Quite deliberately separated church and state; 5) Hated the idea of parties (faction), which had doomed previous republics, and 6) Insisted on compromise to create and build a nation. None of this describes today's GOP.
And yet this election is close.
Jon Talton is a fourth-generation Arizonan who runs the blog Rogue Columnist. He is a former op-ed and business columnist of the Arizona Republic and now is economics columnist of the Seattle Times.