Monday, February 29, 2016

Gone Old Party (cont.)

Today the Atlantic has a longish thumbsucker that eventually comes around to the point I made here, in far fewer words, a month ago, which I mention only to give a little unnecessary frisking-up to my ego, which has been lately on a roll.

That implosion of the GOP I predicted in '06, (and explained in greater detail back in '08)? It's on; in fact, it's almost over. Though it took longer than I expected to get here, it's now full-bore, and happening just as fast as advertised. I crow about this today because we can now date the death of the GOP specifically, yesterday it was, when a sitting United Sates senator, a member of the majority there, endorsed the candidacy of the rabble-rousing factionalist now making mincemeat of the political body on which his majority very much depends.

Done and dusted, folks. RIP GOP: March 20, 1854 to February 28, 2016. You people deserved everything you got, and then some.

The main thing I got wrong in timing my analysis was the assumption that the MSM would abandon the Republican project once it became clear it was accomplishing nothing, and was, in fact, an active agent, by its choices of national leaders and the issues it championed, in its own undoing. Power belonged to the Democrats, I reasoned, and the press would naturally follow the power. Turns out that assumption was very flawed.

Partly inertia, partly laziness, partly a fellow fondness for insider money and influence, for god's own number of reasons, the press stayed true to the GOP narrative just as the whole stupid exercise was coming apart; which, come to think of it, aptly mirrored the same implosive forces at work on the MSM. Each thought the other would be able to help it overcome a broadly-based, digital media crisis facing both.

The sturdiest myth the press enabled during the president's second administration, and one that even liberal bloggers were keen to accept, was that the GOP had power, when, in fact, it had nothing of the kind. Power to block is not power to control, and by pretending, in every dumb confrontation with the administration, and on every stupid TV news show, that it had the latter, it succeeded only in antagonizing a legion of not-especially-sophisticated people who bought its bullshit as gospel.

Ha ha.

The most laughable rhetorical trope that the GOP's had for sometime, a frame for nearly every block-headed pronouncement everyone of those ding-dongs makes now, is how the American people want this or that policy outcome that only the Gone Old Party can deliver. Well, a majority of the American people stand aghast and disbelieving at the mess that the senile, old, male elephant's made, and will put it out of its misery soon enough.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

DT on the TV

At the risk of sounding glib, I will observe that D. Trump is a loser's idea of a winner, being, in fact, the key to his GOP-killing popularity. Alas, the panic over the guy that has swamped controlling circles in the Gone Old Party has lately seeped into some precincts inhabited by Democrats, to which I am here to say: Enough.

Yes, there are a lot of idiots out there; and, yes, people are mad; and, yes, the man seems to draw from a spectrum of the hateful disenchanted; and hey! You never know!!

Look, the DT, well, the character he plays anyway, was created by TV, and has been promoted and advanced on TV, mainly to an indolent and dim population that is easy prey for god's own number of get-rich-quick, weight-loss, male-potency, get-out-of-debt, sports-betting, gold bug, Jezuz-sez schemes that have, in fairness to the rubes, been multiplying mightily in gov'ment-off-our-backs America these past few years. Unfortunately, lacking anything resembling a grounding in even the simplest philosophy (like, is the Sermon on the Mount so hard to grasp?) and the inability to judge shit from Shineola, there's a substrata of pretty lost citizens out there eager to drink whatever bracing koolaid is ladled-out by a big guy who smiles upon them.

But, as I'm fond of repeating, TV is not the real world, and TV fancies melt like sugar in the rain when made to live in the real world, away from the screen; that place where all our elections are still held.

Furthermore, I suspect the dumbbell vote is cover for a substantial "fuck-you" referendum directed at GOOP honchos by your better stratum of true believers who've been promised for years that their party is an uncomplicated and reliable delivery system for their often unrealistic ambitions towards achievement, affluence, and respectability.

For reasons too complicated and numerous to tally here, many fellow citizens, decent, hard working, and upright, have been raised in locales where for decades the Democratic party, rightly or wrongly, has not been seen as offering any good answers to their concerns. In some jurisdictions, many in early-primary states, Democrats have been demonized outright. As a consequence, the desire to sunder the only political body in sight is greater than the impulse to, y'know, maybe join the other one.

A certain sort of liberal now feels insulted by the ascendance of the DT and his unwashed: How dare HE, and how dare THEY, mock the system and disturb our sleep with this violent, nativist crap. HUH?? To which I, speaking broadly and philosophically, say: it's America, this stuff happens a lot, so get t.f. over it.

In the real world, where elections are held, the DT has so far absorbed the adulation of a solid plurality of a minority party, while bitterly antagonizing a strong majority of its votives and tribunes (Though part of the worrywort caucus, Martin Longman does a nice job enumerating the people so irritated.) This is not a recipe for long-term national elective success.

Once the DT wins the championship round, the practical exigencies of a national campaign will certainly prove onerous. For one thing, he is not a team guy. The choice of running mate alone will be fraught with spite and farce after the candidate is told to share the stage, if only nominally, with someone else. My feeling here, as stated earlier, is that a fair percentage on the center/right will have no difficulty voting for (yes) Mrs. Clinton, in enough numbers to make a difference, when the time comes.

In the real world she'll need only Ohio, or Florida, or North Carolina to move into the White House, the math for the GOO candidate is much longer, and made far more complicated by all the bile and ill will Republicans, washed and unwashed alike, just cannot help spewing at young people, woman, and minorities right now.

Call me mad, I say (again) the Senate flips back to the Blue side, and President Clinton nominates Barack Obama to the Supreme Court. So have a little compassion for the afflicted, some faith in your fellow citizens, and show up at the polls, and this will all be over, to the satisfaction of a large majority of voters, very shortly.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Bush Wacked

Republican-ID voters have taken a lot of hits from disbelieving quarters, of both putative allies and rivals, so far this season but, Credit-Where-Credit-Is-Due Dept., they have resoundingly humiliated what remains of the rancid Bush dynasty.

Oceans of digital ink on the subject are tossing elsewhere; the Guardian's postmortems are especially good, as is P. Beinart's, to which I have nothing to add but this: this will not be the only GOP dynasty this cycle to collapse of it's own pride and rotten assumptions.

Which one's are left? you might well ask. And I would answer: statewide fiefdoms largely hidden from the national lens but rife enough with their own internal contradictions and faced with tidal shifts in the electoral demographic to be cracking apart as we speak.

Specifically, I'm looking to N. Carolina, the congressional districts of which have just been pulled down for being abjectly racist, and the Lone Star State itself, the once and future Democratic bastion.

Lost in the hubbub and dumb received wisdom of late is the indeed transformative nature of Mrs. Clinton's candidacy, something she herself has been soft-pedaling in favor of her assured style of policy-heavy competence. I believe she will run surprisingly well down South against any one of the reckless dunderheads currently on tap for the GOO ticket, and if anyone can turn some Red states Blue for the first time in a generation, it'll be her.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

An Ass of You and Me

Your occasional correspondent would like to make clear that the opinions and observations expressed here at H&J are my own, and based on sturdy personal assumptions about the electorate and how it is perceived by a calculating and compromised news media.

Assumption numero uno is that the GOOP does not have a prayer to retake the White House in November, will very likely lose the Senate, and will probably have its House majority drained to, for them, unworkable levels.

The above is predicted on assumption #2, that the Democratic candidate will not stumble badly, that the Democrats run solid candidates down ballot, and that party voters turn out in good numbers.

So, yes, while everyone needs to do their part for a solid landslide victory, and Fate can always intervene, the notion that our nation is somehow poised on a knife's edge for a coin flip to choose between Hil/Bern and whomever the Repubs cough-up, is ludicrous. At this writing the GOOP is a minority party, riven by profound conflict, in which none of the actors polls a majority of membership. Complicating the raw numbers is a journey to the bottom in racist and violent appeals to aging white male voters on backward social issues that the rest of the population seems ready to move on (Ha!) and away from.

Because, assumption #3, Americans are as a whole and by nature a deeply practical and fair people. Admittedly, this isn't exactly apparent in our politics right now, at least as seen on Capitol Hill on TV, but blame here mostly falls on the entertainers and marketeers, the networks and local stations, who all soak-up increasing billions of dollars every election cycle by trivializing the spectacle and scolding us at every opportunity.

Now, some voters think they deserve this behavior and have come to expect and enjoy it. Media executives have therefore grown cynical about the rest of us. I have not.

Assumptions now aired, let me venture regarding the not-so-distant future. Bernie, who began as a novelty and caught the other end of that same wave propelling the DT, is beginning to weave under increased probing. He'll have a difficult time defending his assumption of 5.3 percent GDP growth his first budget year in office, along with the magic savings his healthcare plan will produce, and the righteous uprising of the people needed to make it law. He is also old, and it remains to be seen if his faltering bronchial health holds up under the exigencies of endless talk and travel.

So, yes, Mrs. Clinton shall be the Democrats' nominee. I can't begin to venture to say who'll carry the standard for what's left of the Republican party, but it seems clearer by the day that the DT will bolt from its rotten system, feeling insulted and betrayed, and run a classy third-party campaign.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Pathogen to Power

I want to pivot just a bit to the notable statements made at the GOOP debate th'other night by the constantly interesting D. Trump, regarding that squalid little man lying us into an unnecessary Iraq war and the misery that has devolved so naturally from it since then.

In an earlier post, I offered a strange analysis of political players based on the notion of interior conflict. In brief, my theory states that the candidate with fewest internal contradictions in any long and public contest will be the one elected. I am now prepared to say this holds for political parties as well.

Now parties are, or should be, vehicles for internal conflict, something we are in fact seeing play out nicely on the Democratic side. What was once the Republican Party, however, is now paying the price, in the person of the DT, of ten years of steadfast denial of the gargantuan errors of the pervious administration, and seven years of furious resistance to every offer to deal made by the current one. One outcome of this has been to sew internal conflicts in neat rows across the field of party consensus.

The denial of possibly criminal culpability (and here I add "possibly" only to appear even-handed in what is still a think piece) in the run-up and prosecution of the Iraq war, was of course aided mightily by our president's stout refusal to consider anything resembling an Iraq Truth and Reconciliation hearing on Capitol Hill. It has been, to my thinking, his largest error, a decision to move on that set an unfortunate tone under which even his greatest accomplishments are considered today. Yet, I digress . . .

By denying Republicans their, so to speak, day in court, something they would have screamed about anyway, the rotten war has rested unreconciled ever since in the damp and dark back benches of the Conservative theater, always nagging, and, what with so many military families now clearly riven by loss, physical handicap, and mental breakdown, increasingly loud. Some pundits insist that bringing the war up that way in South Carolina, so keen on its armed forces personnel, was a mistake. We shall see.

No, D. Trump, who has no apparent internal conflicts whatsoever, is a pathogen now tearing up a party system weakened by a steady ten-year diet of fatuous, patriotic junk and no intellectual exercise, while pretending all the while it was in fantastic shape. Ha ha.

Which brings us to the price the Gone Old Party has paid for seven years of snide intransigence to Obama administration policies, viz: a very narrow policy spectrum, with few popular features, on which to run a national campaign. By some interior logic, they seem to presume that the whole nation resembles Mt. Vernon, OH, a fine enough town in its own right, but very white and Christ-haunted, hardly representative of our broad American mosaic.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

There Goes the Judge

I'm pleased to say that the sudden transit of Nino Scalia could not have come at a worst time for the wretched actors in what was once the Republican Party, and leaves us much to unpack in our time together here.

The news, of course, landed in the midst of what has been for the former GOP a horrible nominating season. I don't think it's a coincidence that last night's soi disant debate was widely seen as their worst shitshow yet. A Supreme Court vacancy is just one more thing, and a big one at that, for the animals to fight over, and the sight of all those knives and strings of saliva flying among their hopeful standard bearers does no good for the brand. Considering this alone should have been enough for Mitch McConnell to avoid the maximalist pledge he dropped so quickly yesterday afternoon, and offer instead a sober, precedent-abiding way forward.

But the GOP leadership is mainly made up of half-bright, venal hucksters who can be counted on to fuck-up every time. And this time their options span from, for them, not great to disastrous. The best they can do Senate-wise is to ignore their stupid presidential candidates, bite the bullet, and confirm the President's highly-qualified nominee. From a wise policy standpoint alone, McConnell should have heard the oafish demands of Ted Cruz and announced a diametrically opposite course.

Because here's the deal, kids: however the Senate does or does not act, the conservative era of the Supreme Court is over. Hung decisions, which seem the likeliest outcome of our now evenly-balanced high court can neither reverse lower court rulings nor set precedent. As most of the cases up for review this season are conservative assaults on more enlightened decisions and legislation (see: Mayhew and Silverman), the Obama status quo ante maintains.

The President lost no time in honoring Scalia's life and service, and stating his intention to put forward his nominee for the vacancy in a timely way. Mike Tomasky has a good rundown of the likely candidates, each one sober, accomplished, and previously vetted. So the question is: Does Republican leadership (presuming there is any) really want to make their stoney and angry obstinacy an issue in the general election? As has held since the administration of that squalid little man, they may think they do, but they really don't.

For the life of me, I can't imagine any cogent observer on the Republican side thinking any of those ding-dongs has a tinker's chance of winning the November election. What they should consider is that once Hilary (or Bernie) is sworn in, the most qualified high court candidate becomes B.H. Obama himself, a possibility raised by some, most recently at a Clinton town hall in Iowa, long before Nino left us.

Two broad points before closing: One, the nature of the conservative machine seems based, more so than what holds in Liberal Land, on dominating, outsize personalities; your Limbaugh, Murdoch, Ailes, and, yes, Scalia. The consequence of such power so closely vested is that once the ruler in question is carried offstage, there's no one to command the same loyalties, to pull the same levers, if you will, the same way. Smaller men, and it is mainly men in that dreary and backward camp, end up fighting over the vacancy, while sensible life goes on around and without them.

And, Two: what satisfaction I felt at Scalia's passing, and here John Cole did a fine job kicking the guy into his grave, was tempered by the former regard I had for the man. Yr. Obdt. Svt., to brag a little, is the product of several Italo-American families distinguished in business, law, medicine, and, yes, politics, and I was very proud when Scalia was appointed to the court (in spite of the paisano act put on by Sen. Cazzo D'Amato in introducing the judge before the judiciary committee, typically cafone behavior that Scalia rightfully appeared embarrassed by). Let's say I know the type very well: whip smart, sharp-tongued, opinionated, prudent, and fair.

Gradually that judge went away. His important role in the increasingly hostile culture war, the fawning attention of powerful people with a fraction of his intellect, and frustration at the limits of his influence all took its toll; as did, I suspect, that Italian disease arterial sclerosis. As Obama's presidency advanced, Scalia appeared increasingly capricious and angry, or, worse for a judge, petty. Certain remarks from the bench, and uncharacteristic sloppiness in citing his opinions had recently raised some whispering as to his fitness. I am sorry to say that Scalia's death has made the arbitration of our nation's laws automatically better, which is a damn shame.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Midnight in the Garden of Goobers and Weasels (cont.)

Waaay back on Sept. 22nd, in the wake of Scott Walker's hasty exit from the race for the GOP nomination, yr obdt svt, had this to say about the junior senator from Florida:

You know who else looks dim? Marco Rubio. Just something about the eyes appears unengaged, timid and wary, as if he's afraid someone is going to ask a question he can't begin to understand. So I suspect we'll see his cards tossed back sooner rather than later. (Yes, I know how he's being hepped now more than ever, but my prediction holds).

 Man, how come I'm not getting paid at least a retainer by one of the many orgs sucking mightily at the corporate political election-year teat? I guess they can read it here for free, but precious few do that anyway, and I'll gladly reserve my better judgements for paying clients if it came to that. I don't even watch TV, and damn if I don't get more stuff right than the boys and girls dishing this stew daily. Though, come to think of it, that's probably the problem.

There is something rotten and wrong with a political culture, and in this I include the beltway press in its symbiotic relationship with the former GOP, where patent nitwits like Eric Cantor, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz gained reputations for being among the smartest guys in town. It is now down to those last two goombahs, and their shelf lives, I am here to say, are mighty short.

Cruz clearly has a kind of mental facility effective in an Ivy League setting, a linguistic calculation that might impress creatures of essentially the same confident and ambitious stripe as himself. But, Jesus, no genuinely intelligent person works to be as widely loathed as that man has. True, useful, intelligence opens avenues of inquiry and understanding, seeks to constantly broaden itself and, though categorical, is fundamentally sympathetic in approach. By all accounts, the natal Canadian is proudly opposed to all of that, and thinks his gimmicky brain is all that's necessary to guide him to the Oval Office. He is, in fact, a dead man walking, something he will discover soon enough; a sudden revelation that will probably be televised. I'm sure there'll be a vine of it I can watch later.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Dem Bones

It is probably uncontroversial to observe that somewhere around 95% of Bernie Sanders' supporters, and all of his staffers, own smart phones or other touch screen devices, even though the things are made by essentially indentured Chinese servants living under strict industrial dormitory conditions in severely polluted locales. And a similar super-majority of Berners surely own clothes or shoes made in the up-to-date sweatshops in Southeast Asia or Pacific islands; that most of them even now rely on gas-only vehicles to get around, or are pleased enough to order products from Amazon, and an Uber ride to go somewhere.

This is NOT meant to accuse anyone of hypocrisy, or narcissism, or false dealing, only to say that we are, all of us, surrounded by compromises and rationalizations all the goddamn time, that it can be really hard to lead an integrated moral life, especially with so many temptations towards self-achievement and personal power, some real, others merely amusements, before us every goddamn day. Furthermore, that it is important to recognize these inevitable gaps in our personal moral universes, and not overcompensate failings in the private realm, no matter how unavoidable, by a preachy intensity in the public.

My dear sister is pretty conservative, and I doubt there's much we agree on politically. There is one thing, however, where we absolutely see eye-to-eye: the recognition that what is good for me may not necessarily be good for the nation, and vice versa. My sister, who lives in Georgia, does not skip voting, either, and I am 99% certain that, given the choice of any one of the current leading GOP candidates and Mrs. Clinton, she will in the privacy of the voting booth cast her ballot for Hilary.

One way of leading life with a certain integrity is to be regular in your civic habits: pay your taxes, show up for jury duty, and vote in every election in your district.

And here I will veer somewhat towards criticizing the perfectly hypothetical, perhaps stereotypical Sanders supporters, the cohort greatly white and under 35. From a statistical standpoint, dudes, your voting record is abysmal. What percentage of Sandernistas could not be bothered to cast a vote for the boring, compromised Democrat running for Senate, or the U.S. House in their district two years ago, or four years before that? Kudos to those young people who voted Green, or Family, in 2012 and who now see the Senator from Vermont as the great hope of their political ideals. But a hefty number of the young set, I'll wager, did not go to the polls at all.

Which is to say I sense a certain specialness-of-design in much of Sanders' support, at least as it appears in social media; the notion that a candidate must first grasp the dearest of their wishes and details of their perspective; that if they're going to vote once every four years, it's going to be for someone fucking special, not some boring and compromised insider with powerful connections and pragmatic worldview who's been around forever.

Now it can be fairly stated that parts of Mrs. Clinton's coalition, on the whole poorer and darker than Bernie's, also has, statistically, a less-than-stellar voting record. It is the Democrats' disease, and it has cost them dearly in off-year elections. I guess what I'd like to see going forward is some recognition by the optimistic and transformational wing of the party, which seems to get angrier each news cycle, that results cannot be counted to fall out of the sky to crush our opponents, that steady and persistent application is needed on the ground, and that a necessary part of political progress, as well as gaining some personal rectitude, is showing up as required each time, even when there isn't that much in it for you.