It’s not as hard as I thought it would be to praise Congress for doing its job

The Senate took action first, agreeing on spending authorizations to keep the government operating until the end of the fiscal year; the House did the same the next day. Thing is, they both did what needed to be done more than a week before the drop-dead-line that would have seen the government start to shut down for lack of operating funds. How uncharacteristic of them.

In the past few years the American Congress has never missed an opportunity to run right up to the brink of any fiscal catastrophe; like the Road Runner being chased by Wile E. Coyote, it safely came to a screeching standstill in a cloud of dust just on the edge of the abyss (beep beep). To what do we owe this unusual display of fiscal responsibility? I don’t know, but I’d like to order another round.

It had become too easy and too predictable for the thousands and thousands of voices online and on air and in print to chastise House and Senate, Republican and Democrat, for failing/refusing to take care of business. I’d begun to think it was ultimately ineffective as well, but maybe–just maybe–there was still some shard of humanness left deep inside our elected representatives that was tired of being ridiculed and abused, that knew that the voices raised in criticism had a point. It’s not that I’m pleased with the details of the budget the government will operate under for the next six months, but that I’m pleased “the government” got off of its ass and made a decision with something less than the usual quotient of bluster and drama…the “sound and fury” that, as is often the case in our politics, signifies nothing.

So, good on ’em for what they done (there, I said it; are you happy?). And fine, let them go ahead and propose future budgets, have debates and secret meetings and public hearings and horse-trading and try to persuade us all of the virtue of their ideas; that’s the way we’re supposed to try to come to a consensus on public issues. Just because I don’t have the heart or the stomach for this circus right now doesn’t mean the rest of you should miss out on the fun.

So, the GOP is rethinking how it can appeal to a wider range of voters…

…and Mark Slackmeyer asks how it’s going:


thanks, Doonesbury and

Time to take the long view

In less than a day we’ll either know which candidate has won the election for president or we’ll be standing by at the starting gate to cheer the lawyers as they rush for the courthouse to file suits protesting the election of 2012.  Either way: good times.  If you’re like me and have subscribed to the mantra “please, for the love of God, make it stop,” you haven’t been thinking about the elections that come after this one; here’s a little food for thought when you do.

The demographics of the American electorate are in the midst of an historic shift that bodes ill for the future of today’s Republican Party and Tea Party and any other angry-old-white-people’s party, whether they win this election or not.  The findings of the Pew Research Center include that:

  • We are steadily moving toward the day when minorities will be the majority. In 1950, the country was 87 percent white. [Paul] Taylor says that number will dip below 50 percent by 2050.
  • “The people leaving are predominantly white. The people coming in are heavily nonwhite.”
  • The growing percentage of the population that is minority comes thanks to a fast-growing Hispanic population as well as a steady increase in the number of Americans of Asian descent.
  • “Republicans are 90 percent white. Democrats are only about 60 percent white,” says Pew Research’s Andy Kohut. “The Republicans have a white problem — or a lack of diversity problem. It’s not apparent in this election so far, but over time, the changing face of America is going to represent more of a challenge to the GOP than to the Democrats.”
  • Minorities overwhelmingly favor Democrats. That trend is likely enhanced by President Obama’s status as the nation’s first black president. In this election, African-American support for Obama tops 90 percent. Polls show Hispanics supporting the president by better than 2 to 1.
  • As for white voters, polls show they prefer Republicans. They went 55 percent for John McCain four years ago, and this year Mitt Romney is doing just as well or even better among whites.

(Surely is it just coincidence that the 90%-white party is proudly in the lead on issues of “immigration reform” and “securing our borders” and “preventing voter fraud.”)

Add to that calculus the fact that a growing number of people—now more than 40% of Americans—say they are not Republicans or Democrats, and that younger voters, the ones filling in the voter rolls as the older voters die off, are also more liberal in their attitudes on the GOP’s favorite social issue shibboleths.

When I cast my first vote in a presidential election and my guy lost, I was very worried that society was going to unravel.  It didn’t, of course, but I was only 18 and didn’t have the virtue of the long view.  The country has powered along in greased grooves for a few generations since then, just as it did for 200 years before that.  I don’t mean that everything has been perfect or that we can take national success and longevity for granted and lay back sipping daiquiris by the pool, but I don’t believe that today’s situation or the outlook for the future are as bad as the partisan zealots and the political-industrial complex make them out to be.  Not if we can finally get our leaders to take responsible action to pull the federal budget back from the cliff while there’s still time…that should become our focus between now and New Year’s; then we can worry about the cable news noise stations and their crises du jour.

For me, there’s really only one choice

Four nights of debates, finally over; I slouched in my comfy recliner with a determination to listen to what was said rather than make clever refutations or point out logical missteps (I was mostly successful) because I wanted to hear their arguments from their own mouths, to see if they could persuade me.

An American president has so many responsibilities to fulfill that no person can be expected to have expertise in all the necessary areas, so I’m looking for a candidate who can convince me that he or she understands what’s going on and what’s at stake, who can manage the day to day responsibilities of government, who has a plan for responding to current needs and the agility to respond to new crises as they develop, and who is willing to listen to new ideas and to respect and work in concert with members of Congress for the good of the entire nation.

Any candidate put forth by today’s Republican Party starts at a disadvantage in my eyes. The party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon—the one that believed in a strong defense, in law and order, in limited government that still supports the weakest among us, in free market capitalism with common sense regulation to encourage broad growth that strengthens us all—that party has been eaten alive from the inside, leaving a shell that still wears a nametag reading “GOP,” but the ideas in its head and its heart today are foreign to that legacy.

To win the support of today’s Republican Party, candidates must bow to a combination of economic extremists who don’t believe in raising taxes to pay the bills but refuse to cut back the programs that are running the bills up, and evangelical extremists who are working to make America the Christian nation they claim it was always meant to be, despite the evidence of the First Amendment to the contrary; they must deny objective fact and scientific evidence when it doesn’t support their position, and cast aspersions on the sanity and motives of anyone who dares object; they must be encouraging of those who insist their “conservatism” is an indication of greater virtue as a person and a citizen, albeit ones who must bravely shoulder the burden of the so-called Americans who are just waiting for their entitlements to roll in.

Mitt Romney wants to be president; that much is clear. He says he wants to save our Mitt-Romney-2756economy and create jobs, but he refuses to let me in on the details of how he plans to do that. And it’s not that I expect him to have a perfect plan he can turn on and walk away from; I know circumstances will change and he will have to adapt. But I need more than a knowing wink and a “just trust me on this,” particularly when the record shows Romney’s vibrant history of changing his positions on issues—and not changing just because he’s become wiser with age, but changing in order to win popular support…and later changing back again if need be. I don’t know what he really stands for, what he really wants to do, and I have no reason to trust that he has any other core interest at heart beyond his desire to win an election.

I believe Barack Obama wants to do what’s best for America, and that he has done good in his first term evenobama though some of that has led to an increase in the national debt—he had to try something to stem the economy’s slide into the worst recession of most of our lifetimes. I don’t buy the argument that he’s a failure because he didn’t do all the things he promised four years ago, because I know he’s had an immoveable object in his way. Since before he took office Republicans in the House and Senate have been in opposition: not just opposing ideas they don’t agree with but opposing ideas they do agree with, because they declared quite publicly, and with no little glee, that preventing Obama’s re-election was their top priority; they would go to any length at all to ensure that he had no achievements of which to boast…and then argue against his re-election because of his failure to work productively with Congress.

Think I’m overstating the case? Courtesy of The Daily Show, click the pic for a reminder of a small part of the catalogue of plagues that the Right has warned us were inevitable if Barack Obama was elected (none of which came true). And keep in mind: either these people really believed everything they were saying, or they thought we were just scared enough or stupid enough to believe anything they said…then imagine what might happen if these Republican obstructionists operating on behalf of their American Taliban brain trust were to have a president of their own party, one carefully crafted to avoid any pesky checks and balances…


“American Taliban”

From time to time I find something I think is worth recommending that other people check out; I found such a thing last week.

This is about politics; this is about the people I’ve accused of hijacking the Republican Party and turning it into a secular curtain that they hide behind in their fight to impose their religious beliefs on all Americans through civil law, despite what the First Amendment says about that in this country (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”); this is about us all getting a clear look at what’s going on back there behind that curtain.

Political parties are not mentioned in the United States Constitution; they don’t exist as a part of government to promote the common good, they exist as private organizations to promote themselves and those who support them.  In the last generation, the Republican Party of Lincoln and Reagan has been take over by people who played the political game according to the rules, who participated and organized and worked their asses off, until they were in a position to control the outcomes of party primaries.  Today, anyone who wants to be the Republican candidate for anything has to please a small group of religious extremists, even when doing so means abandoning their own political heritage.

Some Republican candidates these days are true believers; others sell a bit of their soul in hopes of winning an election so they can do some good, and maybe someday move beyond the control of the extremists.  But make no mistake, the radicals are in charge of the GOP.  And they are now passing “voter ID” laws in most of the country to prevent voting fraud, laws that, arguably, have the real world effect of limiting voter participation by people in groups that have historically been reliable voters for Democratic Party candidates.  Pretty smart, and sneaky: no one can be in favor of voter fraud…but what they don’t like you to realize is that the incidence of actual voter fraud is on the order of 4/100,000ths of one-percent, or just 86 cases out of 196,000,000 votes cast over a five-year period of the early 2000s.  Thirty-three states have passed voter ID laws; in 32 of those states, the laws were proposed by Republican lawmakers and passed by Republican-controlled legislatures and signed by Republican governors.  If there’s no significant voter fraud to stop, then what are they after?

The people who control today’s Republican Party have been as successful as they have because (1) some Americans agree with their goals, (2) most Americans aren’t paying attention, and (3) the news media is too occupied with what David Shaw in the Los Angeles Times called “the four horsemen of the journalistic apocalypse: superficiality, sensationalism, preoccupation with celebrity, and obsession with the bottom line.”  So, we have to rely on fictional journalists to do the heavy lifting:

“American Taliban.”  Yep; that’s perfect.  Spread the word.  And thanks to for the tip.