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Pretty much since mid 2006 I’ve found schadenfreude in the face of the GOP’s problems to be a very satisfying source of entertainment. It seems the party is no less willing to oblige as it seems to slowly but surely self-destruct, much to my somewhat conflicted delight. While I do have disagreements with conservatism as a political philosophy, I do not find all republicans inherently detestable. That said, the current incarnation of the party, born out of 8 years of unfettered neoconservative leadership, must die. If the party is to survive, it must evolve past rigid orthodoxy, both in terms of it’s makeup and its policies.

Let us begin with the issue of the makeup of the party itself: Jindal and Steele are both good politicians in their own right, but seem somewhat cheapened given the way in which the GOP insists on using them as window-dressing, an excuse to be able to claim to be diverse without actually having to do anything about it, like say, changing their policy objectives to be more in line with the political goals of minorities who aren’t cuban exiles. It sounds less like “we share your goals and aspirations” than “LOOK WE HAVE BROWN PEOPLE, TOO!” This is especially the case in light of Steele’s aforementioned (and exceedingly condescending) plans for a hip-hop PR outreach. Until the republicans truly break with their precious orthodoxy and actually address issues in a way that resonates with minorities, women, and young voters, their outreach attempts will amount to nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Which leads us to my next point: the Republicans need to remember that they actually have a platform. Trumpeting “we’re not the democrats” was great in 1994 when the party was bloated and stagnant, and was even useful as recently as 2004, when they were whiny and obstructionist. Continuing to do so now, however, is suicidal given that being a democrat is no longer a bad thing. As Michael Scherer points out in an article on Obama’s forthcoming non-State of the Union (which I will also hopefully post on tonight), simply being not the majority party does not a successful opposition make:

By almost any measure, the stimulus bill was not a bipartisan success. Only three Republicans backed the bill in the Senate, and none did in the House. While there is debate over why this occurred, there is no doubt that Obama has scored big with his very public gestures aimed at bringing Republicans into the conversation. A new poll by the New York Times and CBS News found that 74% of Americans think Obama is “trying to work with Republicans in Congress.” By contrast, only 31% of Americans think Republicans in Congress are “trying to work with Barack Obama.” If these numbers keep up, they could spell an electoral disaster for Republicans in 2010.

As it stands, nods to bipartisanship, which Americans have long supported, is a clear winner for Obama, so expect to see more of it in the speech. With Democratic control in the House and Senate, Obama has the ability to set the terms of the bipartisan discussion. He wins by talking about the need for bipartisanship — yet he has enough votes in Congress to largely determine when too much bipartisanship would hurt his agenda. “On the one hand, the majority has to be inclusive,” he explained on Monday, during an afternoon discussion with lawmakers. “On the other hand, the minority has to be constructive.”

Obama’s own words from the inaugural address also ring true here: “We will reach out a hand, if you will but unclench your fist.” In the public eye, Obama’s outreach is being met with the GOP’s whining over tax cuts, and it isn’t doing them any favors. Nor is playing political games with what is perceived to be a very controversial, but also very important, peice of legislation. Boehner is probably taking the 10 democrats who peeled off from their bretheren in the first stimulus vote as a vindication of his strategy to divide and conquer the democratic caucus. And this may even be a good strategy: the democrats as a party have their own serious flaws, cheif among them one Nancy Pelosi, who is actively delighting in taking revenge for Bush raining down famine and pestilence upon her for the entirety of his presidency. And of course I’ve oft stated the problems the blue dogs have had with the party’s current fiscal objectives. Of course the GOP has to be equally wary of their own divisions: not only did three republican senators (Snowe, Collins, Specter) break with the party and vote for the stimulus, but Jim Bunning (R-KY) is threatening to sue the National Republican Senate Committee if they attempt to run a primary challenger against him, and Mitt Romney is basically buying his own faction of the party. Steele has of course already promised vengeance against the aforementioned “Three Amigos”, but then even if they don’t get reelected all this does is further silence the party’s moderates, who in the current climate are its salvation, esp since Snowe and Collins are the most prominent women left in the party following Liddy Dole’s most unfortunate departure.

In closing, the party has to figure out what its new image and message is going to be, and do it fast, and the current trends are not encouraging. Slapping a new coat of paint on what is basically a further retreat into Reaganist orthodoxy is going to lead to the destruction of the GOP entirely, and I worry that there’s almost no one left in the party able to see it.


Joe Klein writes of the public rebuke to the republicans turning the stimulus bill into another political game, and is technically correct: broadly speaking, polling data in general does bear out that the people still love Obama and hate the GOP. The difficulty is that the polls he cites, namely WaPo and the New York Times, aren’t exactly bastions of partisan objectivity. Shaky foundations aside, though, he does make a good point: as Obama moves into different policy areas he’s likely to find more moderate republicans to stand with even as John Boener furiously attempts to play whack-a-mole with his own party, a task that will only grow more difficult as moderate republicans facing difficult races may seek an electoral boost by tying themselves to a still very popular president. Granted it may be coming from the Times, but it’s no secret that the public is rather displeased with the games that were played with the stimulus, and being viewed as the obstructive minority the GOP bears the brunt of blame for it. Hedging their bets and hoping for the bill’s failure may be good politics, but it ends up being a classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face: if the stimulus succeeds it further discredits republican economic philosophies and shoves the party ever deeper into the wilderness; if it fails, they’ll gain politically but will inherit an economy no less (and possibly more) diseased. The GOP needs to find something to stand FOR, rather than against, and soon, lest they fall into the same trap the democrats succumbed to in 2004 and become seen as obstructionist rather than simply a loyal opposition.

Take it from an expert in the field: at some point, the whining must cease. Granted the media wasn’t exactly FAVORABLE to her, but then it didn’t help that she kept giving them such good material. Tina Fey’s now almost universally celebrated caricatures wouldn’t have been half as effective had Palin not made quite so many spectacularly hilarious flubs. So yes, the media may not have been fair, but the time has come (came, and several months ago at that) to stop blaming the “liberal elites” and start practicing your interviews before a mirror.

The Reckoning has apparantly become so severe on the state level that the sunday blue laws are now under threat, as states seek new revenue sources, and people tend to enjoy buying liquor. I agree with repealing them, since selling liquor doesn’t “tear families apart” any more than doing so on saturday or wednesday or any of the other 6 perfectly good days. And there’s no reason to deny a perfectly legitimate income source based on what is essentially an arbitrary distinction. So people of america, I exhort you to get out there, do your patriotic duty, and buy some schnapps.

It seems people really really like Michelle Obama.

Stealing an idea from my colleagues at Saint Superman, where studies trumpeting common knowledge are displayed and mocked, I’ve decided to run the political equivalent. Today’s hits of “well, DUUUHH” include:

The US, despite the Reckoning, is still doing better than everyone else.

The RNC doesn’t much like Obama.

Conversely, Obama doesn’t much like CEOs.

And while not strictly political, this is still hand-to-forehead material: dressing up animals in ridiculuous outfits pisses them off.

After weeks of waiting, the obvious result has come: President Shimon Peres has asked Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government. This was the only real likely outcome due to several factors:

1: Israel’s hard right-turn in the last election leaves Likud more equipped to form a government than Kadima. Hard right parties made significant gains, Kadima only came out on top by literally one seat, and Labor is pretty much in the toilet. Also either party would have to make an unholy alliance with Yisrael Beiteinu, and having them under Likud’s roof is (ideologically, if not practically) somewhat less unholy.

2: Livni took a crack at forming a government after winning leadership of Kadima and Ehud Olmert stepped down as PM with an approval rating that would make George Bush look like Barack Obama. She failed spectacularly, mostly because the religious parties she needed to join her took the opportunity to lay out a list of demands she couldn’t meet, which led to the current election. Peres chose the party leader more able to form a coalition, and in addition to being favored in the current political environment Bibi also has a pervious tenure as PM under his belt.

The biggest implications of all this in our hemisphere is the extent to which this is likely to complicate Obama’s foreign policy plans for the mideast: Bibi is famously hawkish, and basically campaigned on bringing the already crippled peace process to a complete halt. This is especially disappointing given the peace feelers that were being exchanged between Israel and Syria, and especially dangerous given the still delicate and complex diplomatic tango the US is dancing with Iran. Unless George Mitchell is given the authority to outfit Bibi with a muzzle, expect the mideast to remain as delightfully fucked up as we’ve all wearily grown to expect.

It’s really saying something when, more than 4 months after election day, we have not one but two states with embattled senate delegations. In addition to the Coleman/Franken tug o’ war in Minnesota, it seems Roland Burris has lost the smug sense of job security he had prior to Blago’s sacking. Or if he hasn’t already he will shortly, as Governor Pat Quinn is asking for his resignation. He states the obvious about there being a cloud over Burris’ head and it being a mistake to accept what could only ever have been a tained appointment, but this is only coming to a head now since the senate ethics committee is investigating him after he admitted to talking to Blago’s brother about raising money for the now fallen governor. On top of the Obama Administration’s cabinet misadventures, this seems to mark the biggest scandal parade since the Republicans’ Summer of (forbidden) Love back in 2006. The only difference here, aside from the party affiliations involved, is that the current string of misdeeds is somewhat unspectacular: unpaid back taxes and inappropriate money raising don’t grab headlines or ignite moral outrage quite like gay sex and underage solicitation. Blago himself only got so much attention both because the right was slavering over possible connections to Obama and everyone was generally fascinated by the tapes making Blago sound like a guest on Jerry Springer. Also keep in mind it’s more than a year and a half until the midterms; the last great waves of republican misfortune managed to break just as election season was gearing up. Take home message for everyone: the current wave of Democratic malfeasence is no more forgiveable than any of the republicans’ misadventures, but don’t be surprised if they end up paying less of a price for it in the long run.

GOP Chair Michael Steele announces that, as part of the party’s PR overhaul they’ll be undertaking, and I quote, an “off the hook” PR offensive. While it’s universally understood that the republicans need to attract younger and minority voters soon or perish, these kinds of attempts to get more “edgy” in order to attract younger generations rarely seem to go well. I’m suddenly picturing Mitch McConnell and John Boehner attempting to rap about supply side economics and pro-life policies, and I find myself filled with a deep and abiding horror.

For the second time since its inception, Facebook has been forcibly bitchslapped by its own users. Some of you may remember the previous furor, which was dubbed the millenials’ first true revolution, over the addition of the news feed, which has been the first in a series of privacy concerns on the site that have ignited firestorms of outrage. In most cases this is contained to a few usergroups wherein the righteous outrage burns itself out after awhile. In rarer instances the outrage is powerful enough to escape the confines of the internets and spills over, resulting in the deadliest motivating force in America: national media coverage. Such has thankfully been the case with facebook’s recent attempt to basically claim ownership of  everything you post on there. Of course this victory for information privacy may be short lived, as even now Mark Zuckerberg, dread lord of the nerds, is slowly but surely drawing his plans against us.

February 2009
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