Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

Home of the This Is Not Normal podcast, Bill Scher columns and other liberal commentary

Category: Republican Party (page 1 of 5)

Conservatives and Government

A couple of days ago, one of my commenters correctly mentioned that conservatives want a smaller government and that conservatives have no desire to eliminate government. I can agree with both of these statements. The problem is that conservatives have no desire for government to look out for the people, whereas I believe that liberals see government as a counterbalance to the excesses of business.
The good news is that we can follow conservative philosophy for nearly 100 years. Conservatives like to write. The 1935 book, Our Enemy, the State, written by Albert Nock, is an excellent example of conservatism at its best. The things he writes seem almost exactly like Ronald Reagan. “Wherever the state is, there is a felony.” This is right out of Reagan-speak. He wailed against the New Deal as a “coup d’etat.” He talked about the people ripping off the hard-working few — rich businessmen.
We can even go back to the 1880s and 1890s to see an example of conservatism at its best. Look at the combination of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. (The trend may have started earlier, but I cannot find any specific documentation of this.) Richard Olney was a staunch conservative and railroad lawyer who was appointed to be Attorney General. He made his name by attacking the Sherman Antitrust Act. Now he’s been placed in a position where he can actually appoint people either to enforce or not enforce the law. He chose the latter. The essence of conservatism, as I see it, is summed up in the famous letter he wrote to his old railroad boss.

“The Commission, as it functions have now been limited by the courts, is, or can be made, of great use to the railroads. It satisfies the popular clamor for government supervision of the railroads, at the same time that that supervision is almost merely nominal. Further, the older such a commission gets to be, the more inclined it will be found to take the business and railroad view of things. It does becomes a sort of barrier between the railroad corporations and the people and the sort of protection against nasty and crude legislation hostile to railroad interests… the part of wisdom is not to destroy the Commission, but to utilize it.” – From Thomas Frank’s The Wrecking Crew

Therefore, over the last 30 years, we’ve seen examples of this throughout Republican administrations. James Watt was an attorney who made his living attacking environmental protections and touting the EPA as being unconstitutional. Reagan appointed him Secretary of the Interior (the EPA is under the Department of the Interior). Although James Watt was the most egregious example, there are literally hundreds of examples throughout the Reagan and Bush administrations. The Securities and Exchange Commission was headed by somebody who did not believe in regulating Wall Street. The agency was packed with like-minded individuals. The Justice Department filled the Civil Rights division with lawyers who did not believe the 1964 Civil Rights Act was constitutional. The Justice Department actually decreased the funding to this department while Bush was in office.
The examples of conservatives using the government as a tool for business and de-funding agencies which would not align with the conservative vision of the function of government are simply too numerous to name. The one thing that modern conservatives like Grover Norquist have done is make government work for them, make government work for business. The quickest way to become a millionaire during the Bush administration (2001-2008), besides winning the lottery, was winning a government contract. Privatization was the way to go. The brilliance of this conservative strategy was to sell privatization to the American people. The sales pitch was that government was inherently inefficient and that business was efficient. Therefore, if we could get the government to work more like a private business then everything would be great. The only thing that would be better would be to privatize portions of the government. This is what happened during the Bush administration.
So, in conclusion, my commenter was 100% right when he said that conservatives do not want to eliminate government totally. Conservatives simply want government to work for big business who is happy to reward compliant politicians with large campaign donations.

What happened to the truth?

Maybe I’m wrong but it sure seems like times have changed. At the risk of sounding like one of those old-timers in the movie Barbershop, it seems that words like integrity, honesty and truth have lost their meaning. As the two major parties clash over everything from healthcare to Afghanistan to global warming, it seems that they can’t even agree on the basic facts. We see this not just our leaders but everywhere around us. The other day when I was in my own barbershop, there was this older gentleman who had conspiracy theories involving the government, our preachers and, well, everybody. He had a lot to say. Unfortunately, a lot of what he had to say was devoid of facts. I don’t blame him. This is the way our society has been going for the last 30 years. Although “truthiness” (a term coined by Stephen Colbert which he defined as “truth that comes from the gut, not books.” In other words, stuff that we wish were true.) did not start with President Ronald Reagan, he brought it to the forefront. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, conservative columnist Ann Coulter and others have perfected this means of communication in which you start with something that is the truth and then segue into something that is almost true and end up with something that is completely false. To the unsuspecting observer, you made sense.

To say that the problems in the black community have been caused by the US government is laughable. Sure, maybe government programs like welfare did not help the black community, but it sure did not cause the problems with joblessness and lack of education and our youth growing up without fathers. It did not start with welfare or the Great Society. In The Philadelphia Negro, written back in 1897, W.E.B DuBois describes joblessness, black men fathering multiple kids and a lack of education in the black community. What we see now has been going on for over 100 years!

Do you remember August? The right wing was pushing several items that simply weren’t true. They told us that health-care legislation included death panels. There was no such thing in the legislation. They also told the elderly that, in order to save money, Democrats were trying to kill them off. This is simply a lie. I’m not saying that either the right or the left has a monopoly on truth. Neither side does but give me a break.
One of the common themes that heard over the last several years is that gay marriage will destroy the institution of marriage. I simply don’t understand this logic. I don’t know how somebody else who gets married – a man and a woman, a woman and a woman or a man and a man – I don’t know how they’re going to affect my marriage. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that my marriage is mostly affected by me and my wife. I have a high likelihood of divorce if I forget my wife’s birthday or I buy her something ill-advised like a vacuum cleaner for our anniversary. I simply don’t see how gay marriage is going to affect it.
Finally, the new economic numbers came out for October. The economy still is not making jobs. Republicans have stood up and asked where are the jobs? This is a little gamesmanship being played by the Republicans. 190,000 jobs were lost last month, which is the lowest figure since the recession started. Any economist will tell you that business will need to start making money and feel good about their economic prospects before they begin hiring workers again. If people would like to criticize Obama’s economic plan, they should ask where are the jobs are going to come from? The lackluster Bush recovery was driven by the housing market. The housing market is currently problematic. New jobs are going to have to come from Obama’s green energy initiative.
I guess my point is that many people think that they know the answers to the ills of America. Most of our problems are complex and require a thoughtful solution. Anyone who gives you a knee-jerk answer to a complex question is probably leading you astray. There are definitive truths in our society. We just have to be willing to find them.

Where did this divisiveness start?

American politics is always been a contact sport. Heck, even the founding fathers didn’t agree on many things and that’s what caused the original founding party to break up but what we’re seeing today is a little bit different. It started with Richard Nixon. He learned the art of divide and conquer. He used in California politics in the late 40s and again in the 60s. He used it to get elected to Congress in the early 50s. He was able to use the Vietnam war and patriotism to get elected president in 1968. So, I can think of no better expert to talk to than Rick Perlstein, author of the book, Nixonland. It was Nixon who taught Ronald Reagan. More correctly, Ronald Reagan learned from Richard Nixon.
Click here for interview!
Check out this vid:

I decided to post my interview with Rick Perlstein, again. It seems we needed the perspective after the elder former President Bush decided to personally attack Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. This wouldn’t be any big deal if the President wasn’t calling for civility not five minutes before attacking them. What I find most reprehensible is not that he questioned the reporting or their delivery of their commentaries or even their shows but instead it was a personal attack. “There are a couple of sick puppies.”
I think you’ll find this interview informative and enlightening. Enjoy!
For more go to my blog.

Bill O’Reilly hates cartoons and the New York Times and…

In my ongoing quest to try to enlighten some friends of mine, I watched Bill O’Reilly’s Talking Points which aired last night. Okay, let’s break it down —
O’Reilly starts his rant by showing a cartoon picture of the Statue of Liberty holding a cat of nine tails. He wants us to believe that this proves that the New York Times hates America. I guess I could agree with him if the United States didn’t actively torture captives. This is what happened. Now I guess that conservatives like Bill O’Reilly and others would like to forget that chapter in our history (like forgetting the Trail of Tears or imprisonment of Japanese-Americans) but like other painful chapters before, the only way that we rectify this, is by looking directly into the situation. This means investigations. O’Reilly then denigrates the New York Times by suggesting that they are unfair because of this one cartoon. A cartoon in the New York Times is not mean it’s fair or not. It has no relevance on their journalism and their editorial comments. So far, O’Reilly has spent a third of his three minutes babbling on about the New York Times.
Behind every liberal organization, Bill O’Reilly believes George Soros lurks. Of course, anyone with Internet access can take five minutes and find out that Georgia Soros, although he’s a rich man, is not behind every liberal organization or even every liberal cause. George Soros is not behind the New York Times or GE or NBC for that matter. These facts don’t seem to matter to O’Reilly.
O’Reilly then justifies burying the torture story because it harms America’s image. This is one of the dumbest arguments he’s used so far. America’s image will elevate once America faces this problem and deals with it. But, on one hand, conservatives would have us believe that it doesn’t matter what our image in the world is, on the other hand, our image around the world seems to matter to Bill O’Reilly at least in this specific instance. I guess this is one of those cases where you can have your cake and eat it too.

One of the talking points that Republicans have rolled out over the last several months is that any trial on torture will be in “show trial” or “a witchhunt”. For some reason, enforcing the law has now become no more than a show trial. Could it probably be that conservatives have embraced the wrong ideology (torture is good. torture works.)? Not in Bill O’Reilly’s mind. Instead, any trial will be an attempt to marginalize Republicans. Now, why would Democrats want to marginalize Republicans when Republicans are doing a great job of marginalizing themselves. You have Gov. Rick Perry of Texas who is talking about seceding from the union and less the week later is asking for federal funding to fight the swine flu. As long as Republicans continue to beat themselves why should Democrats do anything. So, O’Reilly sees this conspiracy in which Democrats, some Democrats are probably implicated in authorizing the torture, are trying to marginalize Republicans. He offers not one shred of evidence to support his premise. Somehow, exposing the ugly sore that is torture, in O’Reilly’s mind is a win for the Democrats. I’m sorry, I just don’t follow this illogical thought process. Americans torturing prisoners is a loss for all Americans. Independents or Republicans. Anyone who says anything else is simply being disingenuous or stupid.

O’Reilly begins to rail on the Obama administration about releasing photographs. The photographs are mischaracterized by Bill O’Reilly as military investigations into prisoner abuse when in fact there are photographs of prisoner abuse. The ACLU requested the photographs in the same freedom of information act request that released before torture memos last week. The Obama administration is trying to be transparent and try to comply with a court order. O’Reilly believes that the ACLU wants to “inflame the world against the USA.” Again, there is no evidence that the ACLU wants to do any such thing. Of course, in Bill O’Reilly’s world the ACLU is the enemy and therefore they must want to hurt the United States. Yet, when you look at the ACLU’s charter and look at the cases that they take up, they seem to be trying to uphold the Bill of Rights.
Now comes the good part, Bill O’Reilly puts a list of Bush administration officials on the screen and states that these officials have told us that tough interrogation methods work. He then puts up the lone picture of Robert Mueller, FBI director, and states that Dir. Mueller is “vastly outnumbered.” This isn’t a numbers game. We don’t have evidence that “tough interrogation tactics” work. “I said so,” it’s not a good enough reason to believe any of those Bush administration officials. Where is the specific intelligence that we have gained from these tactics? If there were specific intelligence that was gained from these tactics then the Bush administration, in my opinion, would have been more than happy to release that information to get people like me off of their backs. All of the evidence that I’ve been released so far including the four torture memos, the Senate intelligence committee report and the Senate armed services committee report refuting idea that these tactics were necessary.

Here is my problem with this line of thinking and questioning. Torture is illegal in this country. It really doesn’t matter what memos were written. Torture as defined in our laws is illegal in this country. If we are truly a country of laws then we must enforce the law. If I get arrested for stealing, I can’t tell the police officer or the judge that I stole because I needed the money. Stealing is illegal and I will get put in jail for that. Unless Congress removes the law from our books, and that was not done, torture is illegal.

Maybe it is just me but Bill O’Reilly does not seem to be fair or balanced in this 3:09 minute tirade. Maybe, just maybe, Bill O’Reilly may find something to talk about that Americans really cares about like the economy or the unrest in Afghanistan, Pakistan, job losses, manufacturing in this country or the foreclosure rate. These are real issues. A cartoon in the New York Times or the New Yorker or the Washington Post is not a real issue.

Jindal Presents Tax Cuts As The Answer

The best thing about President George W. Bush was that he was a pure red-blooded Republican. He is a conservative’s conservative. He allowed the American people the opportunity to see what the Republican Party truly believed. He was Reagan on steroids. The problem wasn’t just big government. It was government.
This brings me to the new darling of the Republican Party Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Jindal has an impressive personal story. He went to college at Brown University and was accepted to Harvard Medical School and Yale Law School but instead got a Masters degree in political science. In 1996 he was appointed Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. From then through 2003 he was appointed to multiple different agencies at a state and national level. He lost a bid for governor in 2003. In 2004 he ran for Congress from Louisiana’s first Congressional District. He won this election overwhelmingly. He ran for governor in 2007, again, and won. This brings us to the present.
The reason I mentioned President George W. Bush (in the first paragraph) was that Bobby Jindal’s response (full text) was the typical conservative Republican response. He offered no new ideas (as I expected). He served up a smorgasbord of tax cuts, suggesting we “… create jobs by lowering income taxes for working families… cutting taxes for small businesses… strengthening incentives (tax credits) for businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new workers… and stabilizing homeowners by creating a new tax credit for homebuyers.” Wasn’t this the exact plan that George W. Bush proposed and passed in 2001 or was that his 2003 tax cut plan? This is more of the same.
The Republican hatred of government was on full display. The governor told us a story about Hurricane Katrina, the moral of which was that we don’t need government to help us with anything. (This is kind of surprising since the governor’s mother used to work for the government.) That was a lesson that he and other Republicans learned from Hurricane Katrina. They learned the government just can’t function. I may be wrong but if you’re running an agency in which disaster management expertise is called for from an agency and it is headed by a guy that has no experience in that field, it would seem to me that the agency may not function as well as it should. President Clinton and FEMA evacuated over a million people from Florida ahead of Hurricane Floyd. Now no one is comparing Hurricane Floyd to Hurricane Katrina. What I am saying is that the government can work if you put competent people in charge.
Watch the Republican response:
Finally, I was surprised at how poor the governor’s presentation was. His gestures were wooden and his speech was halting. He never seemed to flow. I can get over the mechanical gestures if he only had something of substance to add to the discussion. Not one new idea. Not one new theme. Not even a direction where we can find an idea. He is simply the latest new, young face that the GOP has thrown in front of the American people.
Update: Could Governor Bobby Jindal have been mistaken about his touching story about the Louisiana Sheriff during Katrina? Did the Governor lie? Could it be that he wasn’t in New Orleans until days after the Hurricane had passed? It sure seems like his story is very similar to President of Jefferson Parish Aaron Broussard’s story that he told on Meet the Press. Then again, I might be mistaken. I’m sure that a Governor wouldn’t go on national TV and make up facts. No way.
Update 2: America loved Obama’s speech!!

Conservatives Running Out Of Oxygen

How desperate are conservative hacks for talking points in the Obama Era?
Witness “Republican Strategist” Leslie Sanchez on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, paired with James Carville, try to find something negative to say on Obama’s latest cabinet picks.
The complaint? Two-term governor Janet Napolitano, long dealing with border issues in Arizona, doesn’t have the right experience to be Secretary of Homeland Security.
This, from the people that brought us Brownie.
Sad transcript follows:

SANCHEZ: You know, the one appointment that’s going to get some pushback is probably homeland security with Governor Napolitano with the respect a lot of people were hoping it was somebody maybe that had military experience to bridge all those intelligence agencies together and now new that you department of homeland security is a mammoth job. It’s not that she is not capable. It’s just the experience level.
BLITZER: Remember at the same time, Leslie, much of what homeland security is about, dealing with the aftermath of disasters like hurricanes, Katrina … she’s a governor of a border state.
SANCHEZ: But Wolf that’s one portion. I also have people say she’s somebody who comes from a border state and immigration issue. There’s compromise ports of entry, air, land, sea and northern border. There’s a lot more depth to that position if you talk to anybody. I was talking to a lot of folks when that first started, department of homeland security. There’s a lot there.
CARVILLE: There is one of the most talented; I don’t know exactly, one of the most popular governors in the United States. If anything, when she was picked at homeland security director, I was sort of hoping Governor Napolitano would be get the very senior position in the government and I’m delighted she took it and going to be very surprised if her confirmation vote is anything short of overwhelming. She’s a remarkable.
SANCHEZ: Let’s be very clear. I think people are going to be cautiously optimistic if they were looking for different types of qualifications and credentials and now it’s something to be seen.
BLITZER: Remember the first homeland security secretary was also a former governor, Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania. So governors are pretty well positioned to deal with this kind of stuff.
SANCHEZ: He had tremendous military experience.
BLITZER: But military, there’s a difference between military and homeland security.
SANCHEZ: Absolutely.
BLITZER: There’s a Pentagon that deals with military.
SANCHEZ: But you can’t act as if one doesn’t have anything to do with the other.
BLITZER: I’m not saying it does or doesn’t. Remember what the [Secretary of] Homeland Security’s really responsible for [is] dealing with the homeland security and the aftermath of man-made or natural disasters.
SANCHEZ: I think we can continue to debate that point, Wolf. I’m saying that people are going to be watching this particular appointment with great interest.

OK Republican senators, who wants to start the pushback? Who wants to try to keep her confirmation vote in Senate below 90 votes? Anyone, anyone…

Please, Take Rove’s Advice

Looking at the same data I did when diagnosing the conservative “secular problem,” Karl Rove concludes:

Then there were those who didn’t show up. There were 4.1 million fewer Republicans voting this year than in 2004. Some missing Republicans had turned independent or Democratic for this election. But most simply stayed home. Ironically for a campaign that featured probably the last Vietnam veteran to run for president, 2.7 million fewer veterans voted. There were also 4.1 million fewer voters who attend religious services more than once a week. Americans aren’t suddenly going to church less; something was missing from the campaign to draw out the more religiously observant.

Rove’s recommendation is for Republicans to do more “to draw out the more religiously observant” — in other words, suck up more to Christian conservatives.
But that is a very narrow, politically foolish reading of the data.
I had also noted that the secular vote had become larger than the weekly churchgoing vote. But Rove ignores two other key pieces of data.
1) Obama earned more support from weekly churchgoers than past Democratic candidates.
2) McCain earned less support from secular voters than George W. Bush.
Obama built a stronger religious-secular coalition by offering ideas that appeal to both camps, not by crude pandering on religious matters.
Bending over backwards to pander to conservative Christians will only further worry secular voters that conservatives don’t properly prioritize issues that are most important to good governing.
But trying to come up with conservative ideas that can appeal across religious lines is a much harder task than staying in the conservative comfort zone of telling their base what they want to hear.
UPDATE: One final thought:
Obama got 8.5 million more votes than McCain in beating him 53% to 46%. Squeezing 4.1 million more votes out of your base doesn’t solve your problem.
To put a fine point on it, if you only count the states where Obama received 53% or more, he still gets enough electoral votes to win — 290, 20 more than needed.
Goosing the base won’t get those states back.

The Conservative “Secular Problem” Deepens

On Fox News Sunday, leading House conservative Mike Pence looked at the success of ballot initiatives that deny equal marriage rights as evidence that conservatism remains healthy in America.
Discussing how the Republican Party should move forward, Pence told host Chris Wallace:

…you build those conservative solutions, Chris, on the same time-honored principles of limited government, a belief in free markets, a belief in the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage. You look at those social issues, Chris — you know, there were three state referendums on marriage. All three of them carried — I think in Florida, California and Arizona. You know, the vitality of the conservative movement around the country is very real.

Which told me, conservatives still don’t accept the depth of their “secular problem” — a problem that just got worse.
Before the 2006 midterm elections, I wrote in Wait! Don’t Move To Canada! that “…there are an equal amount of voters who attend services at least weekly as there are voters who seldom or never go. It is true that regular churchgoers trend Republican and the ‘seldom of never’ group trends Democratic, but that means you could just as easily say Republicans have a ‘secular problem.'”
At that time, to the extent that both problems existed for both parties, they were roughly equivalent problems based on the presidential exit polls in 2004 and 2000.
But after the 2006 elections, the conservative “secular problem” became the bigger problem. Based on Pew Research Center exit poll data, I then wrote:

Democrats crushed Republicans among secular voters, broadly defined as those who attend church seldom (favoring Democrats 60% to 38%) or never (67% to 30%). Republicans retained strong support among those who attend church more than weekly. But among those who only go weekly — the larger portion of the religious vote — the Republican lead shrunk from 15 points to 7.
In short, Republicans failed to be competitive among secular voters, while Democrats were at least competitive among regular churchgoers. And since the secular vote is roughly equal to the regular churchgoing vote, according to the last several national election exit polls, that means Republicans and their conservative base have a far bigger secular problem than their rivals have a religion problem.

Now, after the 2008 presidential election, the conservative “secular problem” looms even larger. Why?
1. The secular vote Is bigger.
Unlike the previous two presidential election, the secular vote — defined as voters attending religious services seldom or never — is bigger than the weekly churchgoing vote.
Secular voters were 44% of the electorate in 2008, a touch higher than the 43% from 2004.
Meanwhile weekly churchgoers composed 39% of the electorate, down from 42% in 2004, and now trailing the collective secular vote by 5 points.
2. The secular vote has moved even farther away from conservatives.
In 2008, Sen. John McCain received 39% support of voters who seldom attend religious services, and 30% from those who never go. Both numbers represent a 6-point drop from what Bush received in 2004.
3. Liberals have a stronger religious-secular coalition.
President-Elect Barack Obama, whom more than 60% of voters consider to be “liberal,” ran stronger among weekly churchgoers than Vice-President Al Gore or Sen. John Kerry.
Obama received 43% of the vote from voters who attend religious services weekly or more than weekly. For Kerry, those numbers were 41% and 35%. For Gore, it was 40% and 36%.
Obama’s positions on hot-button social issues are no different than what Gore and Kerry ran on. In fact, he talked about ending division between “gay and straight” more regularly than his predecessors.
But Obama’s outreach to religious voters was more consistent. And Bush’s failed conservative policies hurt religious voters just as much as secular voters, providing an opening for Obama’s message of active government, and proving that you can forge common ground between religious and secular voters without sacrificing liberal progressive principles.
For conservatives to cling to the slim victory of California’s Prop 8 as evidence that America is a “center-right” nation is more self-delusion.
Yes, gay marriage remains a bridge too far for most Americans as of today. But the basic principle of equal rights for gays is embraced by the majority — in the 2004 exit poll a broad majority supported either gay marriage or civil unions.
Further, if conservatives want to prevent young voters — two-thirds of whom support Obama — from remaining liberal Democrats for their rest of their lives, hating on gays is not exactly the best way to do it.
Most importantly, for conservatives to cling to opposition of gay marriage exposes their strange prioritization of issues.
The economy is reeling, we face a myriad of foreign policy threats — problems created or exacerbated by conservative policies — and instead of owning up to your failures and coming with new ideas to fix the problem, top of your list is stopping somebody else from getting married?
That sends exactly wrong signal to secular voters, as did the comical attempt by conservative congressional leaders in 2005 to meddle in the affairs of Terri Schiavo — that conservatives consider writing their specific religious views into law as more important than doing something to improve the quality of life for all Americans.
The first step always is admitting you have a problem. Conservatives clearly have not gotten there yet.

10 Hours Left For an October Surprise

No strike on Iran.
No giant homecoming of troops from Iraq.
No incendiary videotapes.
No new trumped-up scandal (though a very silly attempt at one.)
Republican political operatives may be underhanded, but they are not omnipotent.
…There is stepped-up activity in the Pakistan border region, but as going into Pakistan militarily is Obama’s position and not McCain, it’s not readily apparent that a last-minute seven-years-too-late raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout would be in McCain’s political interest.

Don’t Call It a Comeback

Dramatically out spent. Horse race coverage crowding out any substantive message. Weak message coordination between president and vice president. (Weak message period.) Open infighting from inside and outside the campaign.
For once, it’s the Republican campaign suffering from these indignities.
Comebacks in presidential campaigns are quite rare. Because when a candidate is behind with a week to go, it’s for a reason.
But if McCain is going to have a comeback, the above litany are not exactly the ingredients he would need.

Older posts