Demographics and the Supreme Court Doom The GOP

Any parent can recall a time when despite irrefutable logic and undeniable facts you couldn’t win the argument with your child.  At that point we all retreated to the old standby, ” because I said so”.  Children, because they are developing physically and physiologically, can challenge us to our very core.  However, despite this, as parents, we understand that children require our guidance and protection because they are our children.  We are much less forgiving when we observe an adult behaving as a child.  We assume that there is something “wrong” with him and at most feel pity.  When groups of adults act inappropriately we fear them and call upon authorities to take control and protect us.  However, when an official institution such as a political party acts with total disregard for the facts around them, we must question their relevance, their leadership and most of all their future.

demise

The facts are irrefutable.  While for its entire history the US had been a majority white and Protestant nation, in the very foreseeable future that will change.  The fastest growing minority voting block is Latino.  The fastest shrinking voting block is white and 55 or older, a group the GOP could always count on.  The numbers are easily available.  Article after article has been written about these changing demographics.  Yet the GOP continues to support policies that are repugnant to not only the Latino population, but all minorities and progressives in the country.  Their attitudes towards immigration, education, healthcare, gun control, a minimum wage increase, pay equity, taxes and the growing gap between the “haves” and  “have-nots” are contrary to the interests of all but the very wealthy, the ideologically right-wing, or the religious right.  Combining these groups in a Presidential election does not a victory bring.  This is an irrefutable fact proven during the last two elections.  Thus, the demographics and the empirical experience of the last two elections prove that GOP behavior is self-defeating.  Yet, if we listen to the words of the current presidential candidate crew of GOP misfits, they are like petulant children who simply ignore the facts around them.

While this behavior, if it continues, guarantees that the GOP will likely not see a White House victory for the foreseeable future, another factor has come into play that places their very future in jeopardy.  Last Monday, in a little noticed decision handed down by the Supreme Court, the GOP’s hold on its majority in Congress was placed in question.  In that 5-4 decision, not surprisingly split along ideological lines, the Court ruled that a bipartisan commission established to oversee redistricting in Arizona was, in fact, constitutional.  By doing so, they took the politics out of this redistricting  process and plunged a fist into the gut of GOP Congressional control.  As an increasing number of states adopt this process the practice of gerrymandering, which has worked at different times for both Democrats and Republicans, will no longer be possible.  congressional districts will be drawn in a logical and rational way to reflect the real demographics of the state. With the demographics drastically changing in all but a handful of states this must raise a red flag for Republicans.  Yet, this childish petulant group of misfits that calls itself the GOP continues to behave as if nothing has changed.

While I abhor what the Republican Party has come to represent, I do feel that we are all well served by the existence of two political parties.  Just as our system of government was created with checks and balances, I feel that the parties, in an environment without partisan gerrymandering, serve to check each other and reflect voter preferences.  Today’s Republican Party is reflective of what is worst in America.  If it continues unabated down this route it is writing its own death warrant and I will say good riddance.  If that occurs, I hope another party, more reflective of the real hopes and dreams of America comes into existence to compete honestly with the Democrats.

Is Charleston The Straw That Breaks The Solid South?

During our lives we have experienced events that have altered the way in which we see the world and our place in it.  Most often they are traumatic occurrences that shake us to our very core and cause us to question the things we have taken for granted and accepted as normal our entire lives.    During my lifetime the moon landing, the assassination of JFK, the Vietnam War and 9/11 impacted on me and my generation in ways that changed our perception of the world and indeed the universe in which we live.  For many of us, these events stimulated a new-found appreciation of both life’s offerings and its obligations.  Additionally, it has been shown that traumatic events impact on voting behavior and personal ideology.  In so doing they cause a realignment and reconfiguration of party loyalties and institutional behavior.  The question for us to ponder at this time is whether the brutally racist killings of nine innocent victims in a Charleston church is such an event. Further, if it is, what impact will it have on what has been known for a political lifetime as the “Solid South”?

confederate flag

The current call for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State Capitol has begun to give us a clue.  Remember that this flag was first flown over the South Carolina State Capitol Building in 1962 as a symbol of resistance to integration.  A few years ago, in a compromise with those calling for its complete removal, it was moved from the Capitol Building to the capitol grounds.  Support for keeping this flag flying was strong and relentless.  It was a symbol of the “old south” and garnered great nostalgia.  The supporters have denied that it is a symbol of hate, but to a growing majority it has come to symbolize the kind of behavior that took the lives of nine worshippers in a Charleston church.

I did a good part of my growing up in Asheville, North Carolina.  It was not the Asheville of today with its openness and artsy environment.  The Asheville I lived in was a segregationist dream with school segregation and housing and job discrimination.  We used to sing Dixie at school football games.  The Confederate flag was a normal and accepted part of life.  Asheville was no different from towns throughout the South.  The Civil War, known in the South as “the War Between The States”, was still being fought.  The flag was, in fact, a symbol of white superiority and still is to this day.  While South Carolina has been blatant in its support of this symbolism, it is a fact that five Southern states have some element of the Confederate flag contained within their state flags.

The shooting  in Charleston seems to have awakened people from their nostalgic dreams of the “old South” and helped them to see what that mindset created.  A “son of the South”, a 21-year-old man who had grown up amidst the traditions of hatred and white supremacy that have prevailed for so long, felt it was just fine to brutally kill nine black worshippers in church.  He felt it was his “mission” as part of an effort to save the traditions of segregation.

The movement to remove the Confederate Flag has grown with incredible speed.  It has placed State government officials, including the governor, in a position in which they felt it necessary to concur and call for its removal.  It has placed pressure on Presidential candidates, some of whom had the courage and conviction to also call for its removal.  This symbol of hatred, a symbol of the old and Solid South is now hanging by a thread.  National retailers have announced an end to the sale of any Confederate symbol or clothing.  What will be next as we watch these symbols crumble?

The Southern states are no longer homogenous.  There are many who have moved into such cities as Charlotte and Atlanta from outside of the South.  Will what we have come to expect as Southern political behavior be altered by the events in Charleston?  If it does, it will be incredibly healthy for the country, but most importantly for the millions who call the South their home.

Trump, The Clown King Joins The Circus

I will be the first to admit that I am delighted that Trump has thrown his big hair and floppy shoes into the Republican Presidential ring.  Aside from the shoes and the hair I am particularly pleased that we will be hearing uncontrolled and uncensored words coming from his mouth. He will, no doubt, add great entertainment value to the Republican debates and the campaign in general. In recent years he has presented himself as undisciplined and unpredictable. Additionally, unlike most of us, he feels no need to base his statements and assertions on fact.  If he says it, it must be true.  After all, modesty aside, he has proven himself to be beyond reproach just by virtue of his wealth.  It is clear that he is absolutely convinced that he has the attributes, experience and intelligence, unmatched by anyone else, that make him the only viable choice to lead our country.   While I am not surprised that this egomaniac perceives himself in this way, I am concerned that others might come to agree.

TRUMP

Like many of you, I look forward to Trump’s brash and unapologetic accusations of naiveté, ignorance and just plain stupidity focused on his rivals. Yet I do feel the need to pull back and regain some perspective.  He is surely unpredictable and undisciplined, as I noted above, but he is also not beholden to anyone for financial support. This combination makes him particularly dangerous.  He can legitimately claim to be a Washington outsider, while at the same time show himself to be completely immune to pressure from any special interest.  His wealth, as did Ross Perot’s in 1992, allows him to present himself as a pure and independent candidate.  At a time when Americans are increasingly fed up with Washington and its inability to fulfill its obligations to govern this country, Trump may be more attractive to many than we would like to think.

There is no doubt that his statements are aimed at the right-wing base of the GOP.  The problem is that the GOP has moved so far to the right that Trump represents the attitudes and fears of a significant portion of that base.  He feeds those fears with his remarks about immigration and fed them with his off the wall campaign regarding Obama’s birth certificate and his legitimacy as both an American and a President.  He speaks to them regarding the economy and America’s role in the world.  His success in business and his worldwide notoriety provide him with legitimacy in these areas in the eyes of the very frightened and very ill-informed GOP base.  Fox, we must remember, is the primary source of news and information for this group.  Trump couldn’t ask for a more “perfect storm”.

Because he is not dependent upon anyone for financial support, he is free to say whatever he wants as he stands on the debate stage beside his fellow candidates. Combine this with a complete lack of concern with facts, and he has an incredible advantage over all of them.  After all, he can simply target rivals with assertions and accusations at will, whether they are fact or fiction.  As we all know, once you are placed in a position of trying to deny an assertion, you own it.  Trump can take control of the debate stage by simply throwing bombs in all directions and watching as they all try to defend.  Debates are about sound-bites, and Trump has become a master of this contemporary excuse for news. A sound-bite doesn’t have to be fact based, it just has to be titillating.

There is no doubt that the entry of Donald Trump into the GOP primary season will make for great entertainment.  However, while enjoying the entertainment, we cannot lose site of the fact that he represents a significant portion of that base. Strange things can happen in a Republican Party that is hungry for a White House victory and turned off to its establishment.

Liar, Liar, Liar- Ah, Campaign 2016 Has Begun!

When I was a kid there was a boy named George  that everyone hung around with. He was really liked by all of us kids because he always seemed to know what to say or do that made us happy. It was almost like he was reading our minds. Our parents really liked George also because he just seemed to know the right thing to say and do to make them trust him and feel that he was really responsible. Teachers loved George because he was academically successful and seemed to ggbe a natural leader. George always seemed to be just perfect to everybody with whom he came into contact. Looking back, as we got older, we used to joke that George would make a perfect politician. When we got a little older and a little more analytical we began to wonder just how George could be so perfect and admired by everyone. Then we began to ask who the real George was and what he really believed and thought. That’s when we realized just how right we were when we joked about that fact that George would make a great politician.

Unfortunately political campaigns today are filled with Georges. They have a finely tuned ear to the desires, dreams, attitudes, proclivities, prejudices and fears of their target constituency. The magic is in the candidate’s chameleon-like ability to take on those very sets of attitudes reflected by that constituency as their own. Like my friend George they seem to know exactly what to say and do to make the voters feel comfortable, confident and convinced of the rightness of their candidacy. What we really don’t know is the nature of their core beliefs. They take great care to keep anything that conflicts with their current posture out of sight and hopefully permanently buried. There is the total avoidance of transparency.  While this kind of campaigning and posturing was plausible and successful in the past, is it still a viable process today?

The important word here is transparency. While we as consumers and voters see this as a positive concept, to the politician, despite protestations to the contrary, they view it as their mortal enemy. Opposition research has become a major factor in any campaign for exactly this reason. If successful, it can lead to that diarist of all accusations—“flip-flopper”. It infers a gap between those views professed in public to one group compared to those articulated to another often just one day apart. While this practice was standard in the politics of old, it is a problem today.

Technology has had an earth shattering impact on the “art” of the political campaign. The instant transmission of information to millions of ready recipients makes consistency and adherence to a set of strongly held core values the currency of political success. While we may not agree with what they say, in fact we may abhor what they say, a candidate of conviction is one that can be respected.  At least we know where they stand.

conviction

Jefferson stated clearly that democracy requires an informed and engaged populace. It is up to us to heed his words and weed out the politicians of yesterday so that our choices are based on candidates of strong and consistent convictions not those of tenuous and all too easily changed convictions.  We have the tools. Let’s make sure we use of them.

The GOP – A Party For The “Privileged” Few

When we are young we are taught to respect and trust the institutions that surround us.  Teachers and policemen are symbols of positive authority that are there to help us.  Clergyman and government officials are there to intercede on our behalf.  Charitable and civic organizations exist to help those in need and make our communities better places to live.  We are also taught that our system of government ,the best in the history of man, provides us with the opportunity to be free in a society that encourages individual success and protects those in need.  To that end we select those who govern us through free and fair elections.  And finally, we accept the conventional wisdom that we ultimately have the uncanny ability to select those who will serve the greatest good.  Then we get older, open our eyes, live a little life and realize that much of what we have been taught is simply wrong.  Today’s GOP epitomizes that truth.

bush and friends

We often hear that the political parties are seeking to create an ever larger and more encompassing tent.  Ostensibly they are seeking to serve the needs and interests of as many of the different groups that comprise our society as possible.  They are trying to view our country through a macro lens and avoid the traps created by a micro perspective.  They are not subtle about it. Remember the report the Republicans presented as the result of a soul-searching process following the 2012 election.  They essentially said that they needed to grow their tent to become more inclusive and represent the needs of those groups from which they have received little support.  Then, true to form, following this “heartfelt” presentation from the Republican Chairman, Reince Preibus, the GOP reverted back to what they are best at, serve the narrow needs of the few.

The Republican Party seems to be the antithesis of all that we learned when we were young.  They embody the characteristics of an institution that is not to be trusted.  Their motive is not the betterment of society but rather the betterment and enrichment of the few.  I am aware that the Democrats are not always motivated for all the right reasons.  Certainly the goal of any political party is to obtain power and that process is not always pretty.  It sometimes exhibits the least likable and admirable nature of those that are seeking that power.  But while the process is often unpleasant, it is what those we place in power do after the election that is most telling.  Whose interest are they serving?  Is it the narrow interest of the few who provided the financial support to place them in this position of power and responsibility?  Or do they understand and appreciate their obligation to make decisions that serve the best interests of their constituency and the nation? It has become the unfortunate reality that those placed in positions of power and responsibility representing the Republican Party most often view the world through the micro lens of their financial supporters. Without subtlety or apology they do the bidding of the few and sacrifice the interests of the many.

If you have been reading my blog since I started writing it in October of 2011 you don’t need me to illustrate or explain the narrow interests served by the GOP.  If you question that their approach to governance is self-serving and myopic just examine their position on any number of issues including immigration, gun control, abortion, minimum wage, pay equity, marriage equality and voting rights.  Also look at their approach to government regulation, particularly the kind that protects the average citizen but tends to cut into the profit margin of business.  This is a party that boasts of their prowess in fiscal responsibility and national security, yet during their watch characterized by deregulation and undisciplined spending the economy of this country was placed in the greatest jeopardy experienced in more than seven decades.  It is also responsible for possibly the most egregious foreign policy blunder in recent history, creating a Middle East fraught with threats to our national security unimaginable before.  The motives of the GOP are not to be trusted and certainly not to be supported.  In 2016 we can do something about it.  We MUST do something about it.

The GOP’s Race To The Right Is On

There was a time when the positions held by today’s GOP were considered extreme and inhabited the outer right-wing boundaries of the party.  Yet with each election cycle what was once considered the Republican right-wing fringe has come to represent the Republican mainstream.  The group that has long been considered the “establishment” of the GOP is finding itself a minority, struggling to maintain its legitimacy as grounded and mature leaders of the party.  Even those candidates once considered to inhabit the center-right of the party have been forced to pull up stakes and build their home base further and further right.  But how far right is right?  The GOP “race to the right” is going to answer that question in the coming months.

right wing

In the past few cycles the right was identified mostly in relation to social issues.  Abortion, gay rights, gun rights, and equality under the law were some of the prime issues that separated the right-wing of the party from the center-right.  While the GOP has always taken a fiscally conservative approach to economic issues, they were not typically anti worker.  While they were not the darlings of the union movement, they learned to co-exist and understood that the unions helped to create and sustain the middle class of America.  Yet the past few years have shown us a more vicious and self-serving GOP regarding issues of pay equity, worker protections, the minimum wage and consumer protections.  While there has always been a segment of the party pushing for the elimination of all of these rights and protections, it was never before the mainstream.  Yet today one of the symbols of the Republican establishment has publicly and without apology refused to allow his state to adopt a law requiring all businesses with 15 or more workers to provide seven earned paid sick days a year.  He has also blocked the minimum wage legislation.  The right-wing of the party is creating a powerful force pulling all of those who were once considered right of center further and further to the right.

While the GOP is doing everything possible to somehow erase responsibility for the current debacle in the Middle East from the doorstep of the Bush White House, it is promoting new and more dangerous adventures.  The race is on to see which candidate can propose the most devastating and potentially disastrous American incursion into the Middle East.  It is true that the GOP has always presented itself as the protector of national security, however its credibility in this area took a major blow as a result of the failed Bush policies.  Yet, the right-wing is again taking over the party as it sees the need for the US to flex its muscles as the only way to assume its rightful place in the world.  The candidates view negotiation as a sign of weakness and seem to derive some kind of personal machismo when discussing the need for military action.  The last time they succeeded in bringing their delusions of military victory to reality it cost hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars.  However to the right this remains a near orgasmic experience.

All of this would be amusing to watch if the potential reality of it wasn’t so scary.  There are virtually no moderate voices coming from the GOP.  While there are some differences among the candidates, they seem to agree on all of the key issues-the issues that move them further and further to the right.  We may view them as more a regional than a national party, and indeed in some ways they are.  However, as a regional party they have taken control of both houses of Congress.  Not bad for a party that is loosing demographically.  We may not be able to see how they can possibly build a road to the White House, but let’s not become arrogant and be blind sided in 2016. Let’s do what it takes to assure that the right goes back to the fringe where it belongs.  Let them race into obscurity.

The GOP’s Frightening Strategy

Memory is a strange thing.  If you ask two people to describe the same event the odds are that the descriptions will be decidedly different.  This is because our memories are influenced by the very specific variables that make us the unique individuals that we are.  Eyewitnesses in a criminal trial often have their credibility attacked by pointing out that their memories are being influenced by their preconceived notions.  Therefore, when a group of individuals miraculously has the same memory of an event, it is appropriately suspect.  So it is when a large number of GOP candidates in the presidential sweepstakes have the same erroneous memories of the factors that lead to the US invasion of Iraq.  They all blame it on faulty intelligence.  However, history confirms that the intelligence was not faulty, but rather the decision-making.

What is also particularly interesting about the approach of the GOP candidates is the fact that they are making this an election that is focusing on international affairs, not domestic policy or the economy.  Could it be that they realize that for all of their accusations to the contrary, the economy is growing, the Affordable Care Act is achieving its goals, and they are on the wrong side of history on issues such as marriage equality, gun control and immigration?  Yet, the polls show that most people view the bread and butter issues as prime, with international affairs down on the list.  It would seem that if the GOP candidates continue to move in this direction they will appear irrelevant. They will not be speaking to the issues of greatest concern to the electorate.

However, this might be a smarter strategy than it seems at first blush.  If they recognize that, in fact, they are out of step with most Americans on issues such as marriage equality, pay equity, immigration and gun control why would they display that fact front and center?  Why not move in a direction that is less controversial within their own ranks and focus their sights on their perceived failures of the Obama Administration and in particular ex-Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton.  In this way they are not shooting themselves in the foot but they are targeting the presumed Presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. The talking points on Iraq are obviously not an accident.  They are part of a clear policy to transfer the blame for the current disaster playing out in the Middle East to the Obama Administration and in particular Hillary Clinton.  In this way they are attempting to make this an election focused on national security issues and away from Obama’s domestic successes.

bad GOP

Yet, try as they might the tide is rising and will ultimately down them if they continue to attempt to alter our memories.  It is a fact that there are two groups of voters that are growing at a very rapid pace that won’t buy the GOP line.  The Latino population is altering the equation all around the country and will punish a party that refuses to act with honesty and integrity on the immigration issue.  Regardless of how the GOP tries to spin it, they have vocally and publicly blocked action in this area.  Secondly, the millennials are quickly becoming an engaged and active group in the social issues of our day.  In particular they are active in the areas of marriage equality and income equality.  They will not support a party with an official position that opposes or blocks action on either of these issues.

It is no accident therefore that the GOP has been extremely active on the state level in areas such as voter suppression and the reduction of abortion availability.  I have said for a long time that the  GOP is running on two clearly visible tracks.  First is to obstruct any meaningful legislative action on a national level.  Second is to move as many laws through state legislatures that they can that conform to their conservative social agenda and restrict voting rights.  The Democrats need to actively work to take control both nationally and locally or the conservative agenda will be enacted as we applaud our success in holding on to the White House.  If that is all that we achieve in 2016, it will be an empty victory.