Friday, January 30, 2015

2016 - The GOP's Gospel of Fear...

There is nothing that scares the American Media more than a slow news day. So even though 2015 is not even one month old, the media on all sides of the political / ideological spectrum have all moved on to obsessing over the 2016 election.

Show of hands… anyone really surprised? Anyone? Didn't think so...

Politics in the United States used to be about the art of the possible. What people of divergent opinion but unified intent could accomplish for the country,  when they worked together. Even from this side of the Atlantic I can hear many of you snickering and saying; “Dave, Dave… what are you smoking?”. Yeah, I know. It’s safe to say those days are clearly long gone. 

Politics in America is now a blood sport, and has been for some time. One of the interesting side effects of this is  the impact  on America’s two political parties.  I have blogged at length about how the Republican Party I knew in my youth,  bears no resemblance to the GOP of today.   The  last three months since the 2014 midterm elections  have provided a fascinating glimpse into the inner mind set of the GOP and its "Conservative Base" .

If there is one clear theme that has emerged from the crowded flashmob of GOP 2016 Presidential hopefuls, it is that America is under "attack", or  is  about to be  under "attack".  America's  freedoms, values, families and "job creators" are all under dire threat.

From what you ask?   America is under threat from; 1) Anyone who doesn't believe in a narrow exclusionary definition of Christianity. 2) Anyone who hasn't been born in the United States.  And last but not least,  3) Anyone who is LGBT,  or believes that  LGBT Americans deserve the same civil rights as everyone else.

The would be standard bearers of Republican Party believe that they are not just defending America from various "attacks" , but that they are truly "defenders of the faith", and by faith,  they mean their specific definition of who is a "Christian".   Comedian Will Ferrell's take on this would be funnier if it was not so close to reality.

As recently as the past two weeks,  we have seen  how clearly the GOP is connected to America's own brand of fundamentalist Christian extremism.  While at the same time claiming America is under dire threat from non-Christian religious extremism.   In the 1980's the GOP ran against the threat of Soviet Communism.  In the 1990's  the GOP ran against the threat of  Gay people. After 9-11 it was the threat  of "Islamo fascist terrorism"  and  then in 2004 it was both Islamic terrorists AND the Gays.  2008 and 2012 saw the GOP come full circle  and run campaigns that all but screamed "Vote against the SCARY Black Man!  (Who is probably a Muslim too!)".
Last week it was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who decided the best way to grab the attention of likely GOP voters, was to claim that America was in serious danger of Muslims establishing "no-go zones" in major American cities.   Areas where non Muslims (i.e. white conservative evangelical Christians) would be in danger if  they tried to enter.  As evidence,  Jindal simply  repeated a  disproved lie claiming  such zones already existed in many  European cities.  
When confronted by reporters in London with  the facts,  Jindal squirmed  pathetically.    Yet once back in the US, Jindal doubled down, repeating the lie and standing by his ridiculous assertions.  What is interesting here is his devotion to the talking point,  even when it contradicts reality.  It's  clear that the Governor Jindal feels the path to the GOP Nomination is to  run against "scary Muslims" as much as it is  to run against any other Republican or eventual Democratic Presidential candidate.
This week,  it was the Republican Party itself that was caught with their hands in the extremist cookie jar.    The Republican National Committee, along with the party's. National Chairman,  Reince Priebus were revealed to be participating in all expenses paid junket to Israel.  Paid for by the hate group, the  American Family Association.   An organization that claims the First Amendment to the United States Constitution only applies to Christians.  When caught out on this,  the AFA's response  has been to try  to spin some distance between themselves ,  and the things they themselves have been saying for years.  MSNBC's. Rachel Maddow has the very interesting details.

As of this posting, the RNC still has not pulled out of the AFA funded trip, nor has RNC Chairman Reince Priebus responded to reporters questions now that is clear that Bryan Fischer is still very much the face and voice of the. AFA.   Right now,  the clear message of  the Republican Party is that they subscribe the position that  America is a Christian Nation,  and basic civil rights only apply to people of the Christian faith.   
Compounding this message is the GOP position on the threat to America posed by immigrants.   GOP 2016 Clown Car occupant and attention seeking cartoon character Donald Trump,  has made "building a fence" (to keep out the scary brown people),  the centrepiece of his attempt to woo attention from  the Republican base.
The GOP has a problematic relationship at best, with the Latino community.  Demographically one would think it's political suicide to work so hard to alienate the largest voting block in the United States.  Yet, apparently in the GOP mind set,  its more important to have something you can  scare your base with, than it is to expand your electability beyond that base.
Setting aside the GOP's obsession with all things LGBT for the moment, when we look at the rest of the would be Presidential Candidates for the Republicans,  we see the clear trend of not, what they each stand for, but rather what each one hopes will resonate with "the base", because of what they are against.
Sen. Rand Paul - Running against poor people and Immigrants who he says want to steal your jobs and tax dollars.  Gov. Chris Christie - Running against Courts, Judges and Prosecutors who keep looking into possible crimes committed by his administration.  Sen. Ted Cruz - Running against Science and Affordable Health Care.   Gov. Mitt Romney - Announced today that he IS NOT Running. Probably due to the fact he couldn't run against the opponent he wanted. (Barack Obama).  Gov. Scott Walker - Running against Unions, Public Employees  and anything else that might upset the Koch Brothers.  Gov. Jeb Bush - Ok lets be honest here,  Jeb is really running to save his Father's legacy and family name.  He is running  against his brother,  George W. (Good Luck with that one, Jeb.)   Gov. Rick Perry- Running against Science,  scary Muslims and Medicare, .   Gov. Sarah Palin - Running against grammar, syntax and the "Liberal Media".   Gov. Mike Huckabee - Running against anyone who isn't a Christian and those non Christians  having any sort of civil rights. Dr. Ben Carson - Running against Muslims,  the minimum  wage, and oh yeah,  Benghazi. 
And all of the GOP hopefuls  want the good citizens of Teabagistan, (and Iowa), to know that they hate those icky Gay people and Women being able to control their bodies, just as much as they do, and have no reservations taking a felt tip marker to the US Constitution to put those pesky Gays and uppity feminists back in their place. And any attempt to protect the rights of people who think differently is clearly an "attack on Christians!!"

Now lest you think I am completely one sided here, I consider the Democratic side to be just as incoherent.  All I really know about Senator and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at this point is, that   she is clearly  for winning and against losing.

Yet  compared to the GOP's clown car of "Pick  me because here's who / what you should fear / hate",  even the say nothing, do nothing, but raise lots of money -undeclared Clinton candidacy, is infinitely preferable to the cirque du insanity currently gearing up on the Right.

The United States of America is not a fundamentalist  Christian theocracy.  The unmistakeable message  coming from the Republican Party at this stage is, in 2016 they want to elect people who think it should be.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Catch Up Blogging.. State of the Union 2015

Yeah yeah... I know.  I have been pretty quiet for the last  two months... What gives?  Well,  like most folks I was busy over the holidays.  We were back in the United States spending Christmas and New Year's  in Northern California with my family.  It was great to be back in San Francisco.   As always it was too short of time to see everyone we wanted to see.  But like we always say, there is a remedy for that;  Come visit us!

There has been a lot going on in the news obviously.   The horrific terror attacks on Paris,  the ongoing threat of the terrorist group Islamic State,  the beginning of the three ring cirque du insanity that will be the 2016 US  Presidential Election campaign,  and the decision by the US Supreme Court to finally take up the issue of Marriage Equality.   Not to mention  the looming  general election here in the United Kingdom next Spring.

So there is a lot to talk about.

But for starters,  we have last night's State of the Union Address by President Obama  in Washington, DC.   For those that are interested,  you can watch the speech in its entirety  here:

To be honest,  I  was not that optimistic as I sat down to watch the speech.  With Congress now completely controlled by the Republican Party,  I fully expected there to be blatant displays of disrespect for the President.   After all  it was at President Obama's very first. SOTU Address that Congressmen Joe Wilson lost his marbles  and blurted out " You Lie!" at the President, when he stated the completely true fact that illegal immigrants could not get health care under the Affordable Care Act.   

So I was not optimistic the 112th Congress would be any better.   I am very happy to report that the GOP majority  behaved itself.    Granted,  it  treated America to the sight of the Republicans refusing to even clap for things like equal pay for women doing equal work,  or that making sure all Americans can vote is good thing.    But overall the GOP mostly just sat on their hands and sulked.

The one moment they did try to get in a jab at the President,  it didn't really go well.  When President Obama mentioned that he would not be running for any office ever again,  the GOP erupted into cheers and applause.  Giving  Barack Obama the opening to respond  with the best one liner of the night:

Setting aside, the zingers, applause lines, and who stood up for what.  The speech shows that President Obama is determined to be anything but a lame duck in this last two years in office.   The agenda he set out last night is a bold one.  So bold in fact,  you could easily say his chances of getting any of it through this congress are slim at best.

The GOP Majority has already signalled its opposition to any attempt to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and despite overwhelming evidence that the Affordable Care Act is a success, the GOP remains determined to kill it and take away health insurance from millions of Americans.

The Republican agenda is basically this;  Affordable Health Care = Bad,  Keystone Pipeline = Good.  The thought process pretty much stops there.    As was evident in the  GOP response to the speech.  Actually,  I should say it was evident in the GOP response(s) to the speech, as there were FOUR of them.  Each one less coherent than the last.

President Obama's State of the Union was officially rebutted by Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, then  Rep. Curt Clawson of Florida delivered the tea party response.   Then Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida interpreted the first GOP response in Spanish. Lastly, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul , desperate for attention, gave his own  YouTube response.

 It's worth noting that  Texas Senator Ted Cruz tried to give his own You Tube rebuttal, but it went so badly that his staff yanked it offline shortly after it was posted.  But the Huffington Post managed to save it for all to enjoy.  So for the Democrats, the good news is that the GOP may be so divided among itself that it proves unable to effectively move its own agenda forward.

It is always an odd experience to watch  American politics from the vantage point of an Expat living overseas. The divisions that dominate the American domestic discourse  seem so petty and just plain silly from this distance.   From here in  Europe ,  where the concept of Universal Health Care is just common sense,  Senator Ernst's insistence that  the  Affordable Care Act is a "disaster", is so irrational  as to call into question  her honesty or her intelligence , or both.

Add to this  the  GOP fetish of clinging to the myth that somehow, directing all wealth and opportunity to the richest in society will result in that wealth and opportunity "Trickling Down" to everybody else.   Trickle down economics does not work. It has never worked, and it will never work. The GOP's bizarre insistence that it does, just makes them  look either really stupid or really greedy.  

Asking the top one tenth of one percent  to pay the same tax rates they did under Bill Clinton, (which by the way are still less than they were under Ronald Reagan) is not “class warfare”, it’s asking the those who have benefited the most from American Freedoms to give back in a fair measure.   That is called Patriotism.

So  the gauntlet has been thrown down by  Barack Obama, it will be interesting to see just how much of this ambitious agenda can survive the political reality  of next two years.