If I wasn’t quite so busy thoroughly enjoying it, the prospect of one of the two major political parties of the world’s only superpower self-destructing so buffoonishly might otherwise give me pause.
As it is, however, few things could delight me more, and one of my major disappointments in life remains that I live in country where crackers like those in the GOP aren’t considered absolutely certifiable, and sent off to some Abu Ghraib for the ideologically criminal insane, right next to the rapists, child molesters and treasonous conspirators.
I like to have some fun with this stuff, you know, but only some of my words are meant for entertainment purposes. If you think ‘crackers’ and ‘certifiable’ are unfair potshots, have a gander at Alexandra Pelosi’s new film, “Right America: Feeling Wronged”, charting the discontents of McCain-Palin supporters from last year’s campaign. I defy anyone to make a meaningful distinction between these people and the ones at Jonestown.
Heck, for that matter, just take a look at the crazies who are supposed to be the responsible leaders of the conservative movement, and at its marionettes in the GOP. They’ve been putting on quite a show lately, and the timing is especially bad from their perspective. Not only is the country in no mood for such tomfoolery now, but the current contrast to regressive idiocy is no longer the adamant insistence of insisting on nothing, courtesy of Harry Reid’s and Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic Party. Now there’s a guy in the White House who’s confident, articulate, popular and sometimes even bold.
I couldn’t help thinking of that contrast watching Rush Limbaugh perform at the CPAC religious revival the other week. He is the antithesis to Obama, and I don’t just mean in terms of body-type. So much bluster (not to mention blubber) covering so much transparent insecurity and neediness. The guy is the ultimate Napoleon or Hitler who got shoved around on the grade school playground and is now seeking revenge on a global scale. But, of course, there will always be clowns like that. The real question is what sickness pervades the mind of those who empower such mountebanks by giving them positions of power, even if only giant soapboxes? More frightening than Limbaugh was the room full of Moonie-like acolytes hanging on his every word, most of them quite young in age. No one should follow anybody quite so religiously, let alone a sick crank, but these folks sure did. Limbaugh told a little ha-ha joke toward the beginning of his speech, in which he half-kiddingly referred to this being his maiden address to the nation, given that Fox Lies was carrying the entire rant (I’m sure they’ll pay equal attention to Noam Chomsky’s next speech as well). Everybody laughed. Okay, no problem – it was slightly humorous if you discount the delusions of grandeur he was pretending to self-mock. What blew me away, though, was how he repeated the same line – I’m not exaggerating here – another ten times over the next hour, and how all the disciples laughed each time, right on cue.
Scary, but in some ways not as much as watching the nominal leaders of the GOP prostrate themselves at the feet of this Jabba the Hut of the airwaves. Prodded into doing so by a politically adroit White House, four or five of them have gotten their backs up and said a ridiculously truthful unkind word or two about Mount Rushmore lately. No sooner did that happen then that he was giving them just the on-air whipping errant sons should get from the angry and disappointed paterfamilias, and no sooner did that happen then that they were crawling back to him – also sometimes on air – begging his forgiveness. The issue was whether Limbaugh was the de facto leader of the Republican Party. The nominal leaders of the party, their manhood insulted and their masculinity in question, sought to show who was the real boss. They did, too, but it turned out, um, shall we say, a bit different than the way they intended.
That seems like bad news over on that side of the aisle, but in fact, cavemen everywhere should be reassured. I mean, do they want Bobby Jindal instead, doing his impression of Herbert Hoover, complete with the rigor mortis stage presence and embalming fluid circulatory system? Or how about Newt Gingrich, the guy who once impeached a president for marital infidelities, even while he was off having a bacchanal of his own? No worries, though. Newtie’s now apologized for how he dumped Wife #2 on her post-cancer surgery hospital bed to run off with the babe who would become Wife #3. Besides, he’s full of ideas! The only problem is that they literally involve stuff like space flight and reorganization of the military command structure. Ah, the man of the hour in America’s time of need! What voter couldn’t be smitten by that? Or do you prefer Mitch McConnell, instead? He may not be as slimy as Newt, but he is slimier than a newt, and less appealing than a three-toed tree sloth.
That’s the GOP A-Team, folks. Newt, Mitch, Bobby and Sarah, all taking direction from Rush. It’s like some kind of emetic factory, or something.
Not to worry, though. They’ve brought in the big guns to save the day. Michael Steele is the new chairman of the GOP. One month into his new job, and most members of the party are already trying to figure out how to get rid of him (don’t be surprised if he has a tragic ‘accident’ soon). Like they really needed this freakin’ headache now, just as every imaginable disaster is already imploding on them at every imaginable turn.
It’s kinda hard to imagine why Steele is having so much trouble, though. I mean he seems so top notch.
True, he does have a record of massive failure. He couldn’t cut it as a priest, so he went into law, where he failed the Maryland bar exam. He passed the Pennsylvania one instead (Yo, PA: time to up your standards, fellas), and then proceeded to launch a consulting firm so successful that he nearly lost his home. He’s never won an election for public office, though he did manage to produce an ongoing federal corruption investigation into his 2006 smashing defeat in running for the Senate, because of a $40,000 payment he made to his sister’s company. For what, is still unclear. While running, he not only hid from being a Republican, but his campaign workers passed out sample ballots on election day that listed him as a Democrat. Just the kinda guy who should be the top Republican, eh?
But, you know, success can really be overrated. I guess that’s what Steele had in mind when he recently said “I always found it interesting that people would cast aspersions on failure, as if it were a bad thing”.
Um, ‘scuse me? Good god, is there a way to clone this man? Let’s get all his cousins and put them on the GOP payroll. Hey, that’s what he’s probably actually gonna do! You know, along with his sis.
Some people think that Steele is merely the most crass and buffoonish opportunist in the Glorified Opportunist Party, but it’s hard to see why. I mean, yes, he is a black man who was recruited to the GOP by Lee Atwater, the same guy who apologized on his deathbed for having run the racist Willie Horton ads back in 1988. But, so what? You know, Condoleeza Rice and Clarence Thomas are black Republicans! Uh, well, never mind about that…
Anyhow, the GOP decided, as the roof was falling in on them, that they really had to go with their varsity squad. True, Steele was elected on the sixth ballot. True, that was only after one candidate dropped out because he was a member of a racially exclusive country club. And, true, another guy also quit the race after the party actually debated whether it was okay for him to have distributed CDs to committee leaders complete with the happy tune, “Barack, The Magic Negro”, on them. (Remember that moment in “Spinal Tap” when the hapless metal band is told that the record label won’t let them have the S&M misogynist album cover they want for their new release, “Smell The Glove”, because it’s sexist? And they respond, “So what? Wot’s wrong with being sexy?” I think you get the idea here. Rob Reiner, time for “Neanderthal Tap”, wouldn’t you say?)
But, you know, the Democrats elected Barack Obama president, so I guess the GOP decided they were gonna go after the young, black, contemporary vote as well, and hence they picked Rapmaster Steele to carry their standard. And so The Notorious M.I.K.E. has promised to give the Republican Party a “hip-hop makeover”. You think I’m makin’ this shit up, don’t you? I wish I was capable of such malicious creativity.
And you gotta hand it to the White House – they’ve played these fools like fiddles. Calling Limbaugh the “de facto head of the Republican Party” was as sure a bait as imaginable for getting the de jure head of the party to worry about his manhood and thus lash out at the Rustic One by calling him “ugly”, among other epithets. Until the next day, that is, when Macho Mike, Man of Steele, was on the phone apologizing profusely to the actual de facto, de facto head of Republican Party and his big fat radio audience, begging to keep his job. He did, so far, but Republican National Committee staff have not been quite so lucky, as around seventy of them have either quit or been fired under the new Steele Curtain regime, and the RNC house is empty these days.
But if it seems like this is all some cartoonish clown show, instead of the leadership of one of the two major parties of the world’s most powerful country, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Ol’ “What’s Wrong With Failure” Mike is just getting started. As he recently explained to the New York Times: “‘I’m very spontaneous,’ comparing working with him to riding a roller coaster without knowing when the next dip or curve might come. ‘Be prepared; you have no idea,’ he said. ‘Just buckle up and get ready to go.’”
Ooooooohhh! Baby! Gangsta! What a manly man! What an appealing swashbuckler! Boy, is he ever gonna peel away the black vote from Barack Obama! Boy, is the GOP ever gonna be getting its act together under Michael Steele’s stewardship!
I give the dude about one more month, after which I expect the Republicans will decide that abortion’s not such a bad thing after all.
Not that it matters a whit, anyhow. Steele’s pompously inflated exercises in idiocy are to the implosion of the GOP what a gnat is to a drowning elephant. Even if the gnat swims real, real hard, the big beast is still goin’ down. With the possible exception of Howard Dean, nobody knows who party chairs are anyhow, and for good reason. Does anyone think Mitch McConnell or John McCain are going to take direction from some staff flunky who’s never even won an election on his own? Does anyone think that a chairman could significantly change the fortunes of a party from where its real leaders are taking it anyhow? This guy could have all the leadership chops and strategic smarts of Alexander The Great and it wouldn’t matter a bit.
The GOP’s problem is its ideology, plain and simple. Their toxic brew of regressive policies, sold through hate-driven marketing techniques, all backed by the engine of kleptocratic thievery, just isn’t getting traction anymore. Just as it was inevitable that Bristol Palin and her nineteen year-old boyfriend, Levi Johnston, won’t be getting married after all (golly, didn’t see that one coming at all!) – Republican family values notwithstanding! – so was it clear that the GOP would end up being its own worst enemy. Americans show an amazing capacity for stupidity, to be sure, but just the same they will usually figure out in the end that what’s bad for them is bad for them.
The GOP is toast today, not because of the pathetic idiots at the helm, any one of whom could have become the Fourth Stooge, but because it has nowhere it can go, regardless of who leads it.
It has basically three choices, ideologically speaking.
It can stay where it is. But even the anvil-heads within the party can see that that’s a prescription for (more) disaster. Getting your clock cleaned in two elections running has a way of getting one’s attention. Near-death experiences tend to motivate change.
But, of course, that leaves the rather large question of what kind of change. You can see the party struggling with this every day, but I personally don’t see a viable solution anywhere on the horizon. Option Two is to turn to the right, and there are quite a few dingbats in the party who are making that argument right now. Evidently suicide by election is neither rapid nor violent enough for this lot. Of course, having governed with a hard-right agenda for eight years now, it becomes a bit awkward to make the claim that they haven’t been conservative enough. That’s why you’re now seeing the astonishing visage of party flacks trying to recreate George W. Bush as a non-conservative. Here’s John Bolton, for example: “Too many people identified Bush as being conservative, and we know that’s not the case”. Or Mike Huckabee: “Lenin and Stalin both would have loved Bush and Paulsen’s bailout plan”. Wow. Lenin and Stalin. Like, THE Lenin and Stalin? Gosh, imagine how bubble-headed Huckabee would have sounded if he had given in to the temptation to exaggerate here!
It’s quite amazing, not to mention absurdly improbable, this astonishing Bush-the-left-winger rap (who knew?). As such, the only thing they really talk about is spending (no war policy, no stem-cell stuff, no Terri Schiavo, no foreign policy issues), and since money is all that it’s really about for them, that’s not such a surprise. Nor is it a surprise that they didn’t object to W back when he was President Bush, rather than now that he’s former President Bush. Nor is it shocking that they don’t also criticize regressive demi-god Ronald Reagan, who presided over a tripling of the national debt in his voodoo economics spending spree. I guess you can only cover so much, you know?
But, golly, even if this made the slightest bit of sense, think of how rigorously batty you’d have to be to believe that if the Republicans only become more regressive, they’ll start winning elections. You know, like, if only they started more wars based on lies! If only they slashed Social Security and Medicare, in order to balance the budget! If only they let more cities drown! If only they intervened into every family’s personal medical crisis with congressional legislation! If only they deregulated Wall Street, so that we could have more frequent and far deeper recessions! If only they could give us further tax cuts to enrich the wealthy even more, and impoverish our children even further! If only they could make sure more of us die by blocking additional scientific research! If only they could make sure more of us die painfully by criminalizing not just medical marijuana, but all remedies! If only they could alienate more young voters with their homophobia, more Hispanics with their xenophobia, more women with their Palin pandering, and more blacks with their Magic Negro routines! If only they could replicate John Yoo, so that even the remaining shreds of the Constitution could themselves be shredded!
What a winning platform, eh?!?! Hard to imagine nobody else has thought of this before!
Of course, the only remotely plausible thing the GOP could actually do to ever hope for subsequent success would be to move toward the center, which is Door Number Three. Even that won’t work for quite some time, if it ever does. People are not soon going to forget the Rushpublican brand, and my guess is that Obama is going to continue to be popular for a long time to come, even if his policies don’t solve the economic crisis he’s been handed. But one could imagine, much as with Labour and the Tories in the UK, that a decade or two from now the Democrats will get lazy and corrupt and stupid enough to lose to a deradicalized Republican Party that runs on a non-ideological appeal purely focused on competence, as an alternative to the messed-up incumbents.
The problem for Republicans is that they can never get there. Perhaps after a third trouncing in 2010, but not now. And I’m even skeptical that that would be enough. This party is owned by the radical right – especially the social conservative base. These freaks are not going to let go, and they are going to punish horrifically any defectors from their ideological purity. John McCain is a real object lesson here. Having secured the nomination only by accident when two other candidates split the true-believer vote in a series of winner-take-all primaries, he was never embraced by his own party, who saw him as suspiciously liberal. John McCain! These are people who think – and will continue to think – that Sarah Palin is a really inspired choice who could make a great president. They even secretly still think that about Lil’ Bushie, though they’re at least sentient enough to realize that it’s impolitic to say it.
Progressives should count their blessings, after decades in the wilderness.
The new president and Congress show some signs of having moderately good politics, to start with.
But, as importantly, the Republicans are fielding their very best team, and it consists of transparent buffoons telling transparent lies. With lousy delivery, no less.
Best of all, though, is that they simply have nothing credible to say right now.
When the best you can offer to a frightened and submerged American public is some cheap and disingenuous rap about earmarks, along with a government that would do nothing to help, your party is going to go the same way as Herbert Hoover.
Because you are Herbert Hoover.
DAVID MICHAEL GREEN is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (email@example.com), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.