Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking GOP, Redux

Latest newspaper column:

This past week, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter made an announcement that some had been expecting for a while. "Since my election in 1980 as part of the Reagan Big Tent," Specter announced in a press release, "the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans...I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary."

Specter, who'd angered hard-Right Republicans with his support of the Obama stimulus package, was facing a daunting challenge in the next primary against former Congressman and wingnut poster boy Pat Toomey. One poll showed Toomey up 51-30 among primary voters.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, Toomey was unpopular with Pennsylvania voters outside the wingnut anti-reality bubble, and would likley lose in the general election in a state Barack Obama won by 11 points. So Specter, seeing the probability of his seat going to a Democrat, probably thought, "Why shouldn't I be that Democrat?"

We don't know what the Democratic Party may have offered Specter. However, he said in his press release that he won't be an "automatic" vote for cloture, the process by which 60 votes are needed to shut down a Republican filibuster. With his vote being vital to overcome the obstructionism of his now-former party, the biggest change may be that Arlen Specter ends up being the most courted and therefore one of the most powerful men in the Senate. Because here's a little secret in politics: people in the center are powerful. They can get concessions. Hardliners, when they're in the minority, get run over, with nothing to do but whine.

So which moderate Republican is next? It's been apparent for a while that Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are less than happy with the party going further and further into the wilderness of Wingnuttia. Snowe, noted that she herself had “always been deeply concerned about the views of the Republican Party nationally in terms of their exclusionary policies and views towards moderate Republicans.” She also said, however, that she has no plans to leave.

Not that that made any difference to the hardliners of the rage-filled right, who seem eager to embrace the idea of burning the insufficiently zealous at the nearest stake. Commenters at the right wing website Free Republic called for this to be the beginning of the Great Purge: "Let’s get rid of Snowe, Collins, McCain, etc., too," one writer sniped. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, whose announcement that he'd be supporting Toomey against Specter in the primary may have pushed Specter across the line , insisted that he'd "rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.”

Yeah, Jim, you do that. Let me know how that works for you in terms of getting anything passed, or even stopping things you don't agree with. I know right-wingers hate science; they've now apparently developed a deep antipathy for arithmetic as well.

On the one hand, I can't help but feel a certain malicious glee at the prospect of the Republicans becoming the Incredible Shrinking Party. I wouldn't shed very many tears if the party that called me "traitor" and a "terrorist sympathizer" for the past eight years ended up getting tossed on the refuse heap of history. But, on the other hand, a healthy country needs a viable opposition party, one that engages in reasoned debate over big issues and can serve as a check and balance on the excesses of its rival. Unfortunately, the current pack of teabaggers, wannabe Rush Limbaugh groupies and the proudly ignorant that are driving the GOP as far to the right (and out of the mainstream) as they can go right now don't seem at all interested in being that party.

So I'll just go with the malicious glee for the time being.


Celine said...

I keep remembering a line out of Heinlein's Double Star, something to the effect of, "As the parties that didn't have their eyes on the stars withered and died, it was inevitable that the one party which was going in the right direction would split into two segments."

IOW, I think the Republicans are indeed going to implode completely, and that the new opposition party will come from a Democratic Party schism. This will probably be along the lines of progressives vs. traditional conservatives. I also notice that the Whigs have been trying to reconstitute themselves for the last few years, and that may be where the new opposition ends up.

Jim Hetley said...

Both Snowe and Collins get reelected by wide margins* every time they run. We don't need no steenkin' national GOP telling us how to vote up here in Maine.

*Two of the highest voter popularity ratings in the Senate.

charlie stella said...

The other problem with the shrinking GOP is the ultimate accountability the DEMS will face now that they have all the keys to the car. While the DEMS have the advantage of blaming Bush (deservedly so) for another few years, an incredibly sympathetic media (John King's being so "enchanted" by the Obama dog was extremely telling), an absolute charmer for their President, the hopes of most of America that they succeed ... they also face all the blame in another few years should these gifts to Wall Street not work. The fact they are gifts George Bush proposed in the form of a bailout loan to AIG and have been expanded beyond George Bush's wildest dreams will only serve to facilitate another Congressional blowout (sweeping the Dems from a majority) down the road should the stimulus not work.

Right now most Americans want to believe we're headed in the right direction and are willing to ignore their fellow Americans who've lost their jobs and homes while banks and the like continue getting bailed out (never mind the rise in banking management salaries all over again).

Voter confidence is on the rise but unemployment isn't going away. When (or if) enough people lose their jobs/homes, etc., we may reach a tipping point that will prove all those bailout dollars just another bad gamble {i.e., Chrysler—no matter how the white dare spin it} at our expense. So long as the banks own Congress, they own the Democratic Party every bit as much as they owned the Republican Party ... and NOTHING has changed.

Hopefully, Americans will drink a lot of coffee over the next few years and realize that both parties have grown fat and comfortable having no other viable competition (so much for our "democracy" when other parties aren't even permitted to debate in presidential elections) ... hopefully Americans will realize there are other choices and that some of those other choices aren't bought and sold by corporate America ... hopefully all those independents who've abandoned both parties at different times will come together at the exact right time (2012 should Obama continue to represent Wall Street rather than the poor schmucks who work there in less than upper managerial positions) and both parties will feel a jolt that will make me smile with malicious glee--the end of two party rule that serves the same single purpose--Wall Street.

What this government did for Wall Street at the expense of workers was unforgivable in my book. Last week I lost one of my two jobs (and a few coworkers lost their jobs). Those who didn’t lose their jobs were forced to take a 5% pay cut and a shortened work week. This is our sacrifice, I suppose … along with all those dollars the government saw fit to give away without protecting our jobs, benefits, 401K’s or anything else that might help workers.

Think about that: The government gave our money away to banks, insurance companies, auto makers, etc., and we continue to get laid off for our generosity. Those who retained their jobs were asked to take pay cuts, shortened work weeks and have lost benefits (if this isn’t 1930 all over again, I don’t know what is). The banking industry has already started pumping up managerial salaries (with our money). CEO’s who ran their companies into the ground continue to walk away with millions of dollars in compensation (GM’s guy, the one this administration was bragging about forcing out of his position, walked away with $20 million).

How does any of that make sense? No protection for workers but never ending bailouts paid for with worker dollars for those who mismanaged the economy into this recession/depression.

Do the Democrats really want to own that?

That’s more than fine with me … because the one thing Ralph Nader will have come 2012 is a lot more support than he’s had in the past. Should any of your “so-called” liberal democrats looking for a genuine democracy with equal rights for ALL want a piece of the action, feel free to join the ranks. Instead of patting yourselves on the backs for overthrowing the right, only to follow lockstep the right’s economic policy, social policy regarding gays, expanding one war under the guise of ending another, how about cutting through the bull once and for all? Is this really “change you can believe in”?

Ralph isn’t afraid of demanding equal rights for all (gays included). Ralph isn’t afraid of protecting workers before corporations. Ralph doesn’t owe his ass to Wall Street.

A scary statistic in New York shows 50% of black men between 18-35 unemployed. Are minorities really going to benefit from Wall Street’s bailout?

Enjoy your victory over an irrelevant Republican Party, but take a few moments to think about what’s really going on. Maybe it’s time to stop kidding yourselves about the Democratic Party.

Jim Hetley said...

Should add that the Democratic National Committee isn't going to be any happier with Maine -- we remain resolutely purple on the political map. During our tenure in the state, the governor's office has been occupied by an Independent for 16 years, two separate two-term governors. Current congressional delegation is half Dem, half Rep.

JD Rhoades said...

Charlie, what's your take on the deal by which the autoworker's union will end up owning 55 percent of Chrysler's stock?

charlie stella said...

My take is this: 1) Too bad the billions pumped into Chrysler before they filed for bankruptcy wasn’t put to better use (or maybe a little more oversight would've told our Gov't not to invest it in the first place?); 2) 55% of a failing company is 55% of nothing; 3) don’t forget Fiat gets a piece of this action as well (another form of outsourcing?). My take is Congress should’ve read the fucking legislation before the passed it and written a few dozen stipulations that protected the workers of the 4 Chrysler plants that will close (never mind the rest of us) this week.

That said, when we need to get a new car in a few months (assuming we can still get one), it'll probably be a Honda ... the last thing it'll be is a Chrysler. My family (my son's reduced hours working for an outsourcer at Goldman Sachs, my loss of a 2nd income and no raise at my other job, my daughter's no salary increases at her job) has already sacrificed enough.

Maybe if a few of the legislators who approved this bullshit bailout and a few of those responsible for putting us all in the mess we're in were stringed by their balls from the Brooklyn Bridge (which is very close to Wall Street) instead of rewarding them, I'd think about buying a Chrylser ...

Anonymous said...

The Federalists disintegrated, and the original Republicans split into Democrats and Whigs.

The Whigs kept electing old generals who promptly dropped dead in the Oval Office and disappeared from history. (Well, Fillmore died a Whig, but Fillmore wasn't exactly a shining beacon of leadership.) The current Republicans filled the void.

The old Democrats were pushed out by disgruntled Progressives, became Dixiecrats, then squick-inducing Republicans.

The one-part system in the United States always lasts maybe one presidential administration at best.

But if the Republicans want to save themselves, I agree a purge is in order. Get rid of all the hardliners. I consider hardliners of any party, any strip, any religion to be willingly too stupid to live.

John McFetridge said...

"Right now most Americans want to believe we're headed in the right direction and are willing to ignore their fellow Americans who've lost their jobs and homes..."

Charlie, I think you could say that about every country in the world at any point in its history.

We've never offered more than lip service and no matter the crisis the people with the least money going in will suffer the most. This time is no different. It's just this time it's happening to us, so like everything else in our lives, we think it's the most monumental thing that's ever happened.

If you think there was a time in anyone's history when people losing their jobs and homes weren't ignored (or blamed themselves for their troubles) I'd like to know when it was.

charlie stella said...

John: The quote of mine you used wasn't intended to be an earth shattering observation. Rather, it was one possible explanation for why Obama et al are getting away with perhaps the most criminal policy to American workers in our history. Unless you know of a time in American history when workers were given a similar shaft.

I'd like to know when that was done because whatever gains were made for workers since industrialization are being wiped out wholesale (including that bogus 55% ownership of a bankrupt company).

John McFetridge said...

Charlie, you're right, any gains workers made since industrialization have been steadily eroded since the end of World War II (don't let those 50's nostalgia images fool you, that's really when this fight started) it's just been a different kind of fight, a slow, steady discrediting of their (our) lifestyle.

Any non-college eductaed worker (no matter how skilled) has been smeared and demeaned since the fifites - either directly, or with more subtlety but to the same effect. The movie and TV business has a lot to answer for, and the current state of novels isn't mushc better. Sometimes I think if it wasn't for crime fiction every novel published would be about college professors.

What we're seeing now is maybe the beginning of the first real class war in the US (at least that's what it looks like from the sidelines here in Canada), when for the first time the answer to people's problems may not be an individual "move up," as was always the only solution to things like poverty on offer previously. A fixed, mug's game, we all know.

At this point a change in attitude would be as welcome as a change in policy.

The move from an economy based on limitless growth to the idea of a managed economy may be coming (if it wasn't for the false housing boom and sub-prime mortgages, there would have been zero growth over the last eight years). Of course, that'll mean more regulation which freaks people out.

charlie stella said...

A class war is exactly what this has finally been exposed as and hopefully now that they'll be running the show on their own, the Democrats will be exposed as the front men they are (and have been) for Wall Street. Republicans have been more upfront about who they represented and have used absurd (and extreme) social scare tactics to maintain the status quo. They've relied on religion and basic fear of change to keep their rank and file in line. The Democrats have talked a better game but have done nothing much different where it counts.

The banks et al have the American worker exactly where they want him/her ... and they used both parties to get it done. What is even more appalling (to me) is how happy the Democratic rank and file is about their victory over the irrelevant right while taking the shaft six ways to Sunday. The two party system here has the population pointing fingers at each other while the banks (and big business) are laughing their way to the vaults.

People (Democrats and Republicans alike) have just sat back and watched their government give away hundreds of billions of their dollars to banks, insurance companies, car companies and the like (because those companies greedily mismanaged themselves) and those same people are now protectively and gratefully happy to take pay, work hour and benefit cuts rather than lose their jobs.

Like I said, those responsible (and the legislators who facilitated it) should be strung from the Brooklyn bridge.