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“On July 4, A Message For Patriots Of All Persuasions”: We Need To Remind Ourselves, There Is No Monoply On Patriotism

When the flags fly proudly on the Fourth of July, I always remember what my late father taught me about love of country. He was a deeply patriotic man, much as he despised the scoundrels and pretenders he liked to mock as “jelly-bellied flag flappers.”  It is a phrase from a Rudyard Kipling story that aptly describes the belligerent chicken-hawk who never stops squawking – someone like Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh.

Like many who volunteered for the U.S. Army in World War II, my dad never spoke much about his four tough years of military service, which brought him under Japanese bombardment in the Pacific theatre. But eventually there came a time when he attached to his lapel a small, eagle-shaped pin, known as a “ruptured duck” – a memento given to every veteran. With this proof of service, he demonstrated that as a lifelong liberal, he loved his country as much as any conservative.

Would such a gesture resonate today? Right-wingers have long sought to establish a monopoly on patriotic expression. On this holiday, when we celebrate the nation’s revolutionary founding, we need to remind ourselves just how hollow that right-wing tactic is and always has been. Only our historical amnesia permits the right – infested with neo-Confederates and other dubious types — to assert an exclusive franchise on the flag, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the whole panoply of national symbols. In the light of history, it should be plain that progressives are fully entitled to a share of America’s heritage; indeed, perhaps even more than their right-wing rivals.

Let’s begin at the official beginning. Although “right” and “left” didn’t define political combat at that time on these shores, there isn’t much doubt that behind the American Revolution, and in particular the Declaration of Independence, was not only a colonial elite but a cabal of left-wing radicals as well.

How else to describe Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, the revolutionary idealists who declared their contempt for monarchy and aristocracy? It is true that many of their wealthier and more cautious comrades in the Continental Congress disdained Adams as a reckless adventurer “of bankrupt fortune,” and Paine as a rabble-rousing scribbler. Of course popular democracy was a wildly radical doctrine in colonial times, only tamed in the writing of the Constitution by the new nation’s land-owning elites and slaveholders.

The right-wingers of that era were the Tories — colonists who remained loyal to the British crown, opposed to change, and, in their assistance to George III’s occupying army, exactly the opposite of patriots. Only after two centuries of ideological shifting can Tea Party “constitutionalists” claim that the republican faith of the Founding Fathers is “conservative.”

The Civil War was just as plainly a struggle between left and right, between patriots and … well, in those days the Confederate leaders were deemed traitors (a term avoided since then out of a decent concern for Southern sensibilities). Academics dispute the war’s economic and social basis, but there is no doubt that the 19th-century left sought to abolish slavery and preserve the Union, while its right-wing contemporaries fought to extend slavery and destroy the Union.

Reverence for the Confederacy remains an emotional touchstone for right-wing Southern politicians and intellectuals (not to mention the Ku Klux Klan, assorted neo-Nazis, and many activists in the Tea Party). All of these disreputable elements denigrate Lincoln, our greatest president, and promote nostalgia for the plantation, sometimes known as “the Southern way of life.” The latest example is Chris McDaniel, the defeated Tea Party candidate for the Senate in Mississippi, a flag-waver if ever there was one – except when he was delivering fiery speeches to the secessionist Sons of Confederate Veterans. At the risk of offending every “conservative” who runs around with a Stars and Bars bumper sticker, it is hard to see how his conduct qualifies as American patriotism.

Still another inglorious episode in the annals of the right preceded World War II. The “America First” movement that opposed U.S. intervention against Hitler camouflaged itself with red, white and blue but proved to be a haven for foreign agents who were plotting against the United States. (Philip Roth brilliantly depicted this sinister campaign in The Plot Against America.)

Although Communists and pacifists had opposed American entry into the war for their own reasons, the broad-based left of the New Deal coalition understood the threat from the Axis very early. After Pearl Harbor most conservatives honorably joined the war effort, but some continued to promote defeatism and appeasement. And the historical roots of postwar conservatism — the “Old Right” of Joseph McCarthy and Pat Buchanan, the Buckley family and yes, the Koch brothers — can be traced to those prewar Nazi sympathizers.

What does true patriotism mean today? Do you truly love your country if you are a corporate leader hiding billions of dollars in profits offshore or insisting on the declining wages that have ruined the American dream? Do you love your country if you demand the right to pollute its air and water and despoil its countryside, no matter the cost to future generations? Do you love your country when you scheme to deprive your fellow citizens of the right to vote, which so many died to preserve?

Somehow the wingers righteously wrap themselves in Old Glory, as if our heritage belongs to them alone. On this holiday, and every other day, it surely does not.

 

By: Joe Conason, Featured Post, The National Memo, July 4, 2014

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Founding Fathers, Fouth of July, Patriotism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The ‘Conspiracy’ In Mississippi”: A Perilous Challenge Based On Mississippi’s Silly, Unenforceable And Probably Unconstitutional Law

Three days after his upset defeat in the MS GOP SEN runoff, Chris McDaniel is still keeping his counsel on what he might or might not do to challenge the results. All but one of the national conservative groups (the Tea Party Patriots being the exception) have written off the contest and moved on. And while there is some anecdotal evidence–much of it not necessarily credible–of plain violations of the law (people who voted in the Democratic primary on June 3 being allowed to participate in the runoff), it seems unlikely it’s sufficient to close a 6,000-vote deficit or mount a legal challenge to the outcome.

If that’s all accurate, that means what McDaniel may be pondering is an extremely perilous challenge based on Mississippi’s silly, unenforceable and probably unconstitutional law limiting primary participation to those who “intend” to support the party in the next general election. Here’s what he told Sean Hannity earlier this week:

McDaniel says Cochran’s campaign brought in Democrats to steal the GOP primary. He told Hannity he might launch a court challenge on “a civil conspiracy to violate state law.”

Sounds like given the inability of anyone without divine omniscience to establish individual violation of the “intent” law, McDaniel may claim that the open Cochran campaign appeals for crossover votes amount to a conspiracy to encourage violation of that law.

Legal niceties aside, this will come down to a toxic claim that by appealing to Democrats–which in Mississippi mostly means African-Americans–Cochran was “stealing the election.” Given Mississippi’s history, I don’t think this would redound to the benefit of a Republican Party struggling to overcome its reputation as a sort of national redoubt for Old White People, or of a conservative movement whose denizens become crazy furious (as my Twitter account can attest) at any suggestion “race” ever enters their minds.

As the days go by and Team McDaniel’s accusation that black people voting in “their” primary constitutes voter fraud hangs in the air, you wonder if he’ll be able to walk any of this back. Mark my words: if McDaniel does move forward with a conspiracy charge, “Establishment Republicans” may ultimately wish he had won the runoff after all.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 27, 2014

June 29, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Mississippi, Tea Party | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Crashing The White Primary”: Not An Argument Consistent With Broadening The Appeal Of The GOP

Right before the votes started rolling in last night, elements of Team McDaniel started complaining of “illegal Dem votes to steal the election.” As it became obvious that turnout in heavily African-American areas was up sharply from June 3, with Thad Cochran the overwhelming beneficiary, the cry of “theft” grew louder, to the point that McDaniel himself refused to concede after all the experts had declared the incumbent the winner.

Cochran’s win wasn’t all about “crossover” voting; he seems to have beefed up both turnout and his percentage of the vote in Gulf Coast counties where he campaigned personally, reminding voters of the defense contracts he had brought to the area.

It also appears from McDaniel’s enhanced votes in the pineywoods sections of the state that there may have been a backlash to Cochran’s appeals to African-Americans.

In any event, the kvetching from the Right last night sounded an awful lot like southern seggies during the civil rights era complaning about “The Bloc Vote” (though there really never was a Bloc Vote in Mississippi at that time because black people simply weren’t allowed to vote). The unfocused talk of a legal challenge to the outcome either is or isn’t based on documented examples of (a) voting by people who already participated in the Democratic Primary on June 3, which contradicts a lot of anecdotal evidence about people being challenged and excluded on those grounds, or (b) some sort of illegal inducement to vote. If it isn’t, then McDaniel supporters are really going to embarrass themselves and Republicans everywhere if they contest an election on the basis of some ridiculous and patently unconstitutional “intent to support the party in November” law, or some general principle that “crossover” voting is inherently illegitimate.

For all the talk last night of “liberal Democrats” being allowed to determine a Republican primary, there’s actually no way to know the partisan or ideological identity of voters in a state with no party registration (as David Nir pointedly asked this morning, why hasn’t Chris McDaniel sponsored a bill to change that in his years in the state legislature?). So what these birds are really complaining about is black participation in a “white primary.” This is certainly not an argument consistent with broadening the appeal of the GOP or the conservative movement.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 25, 2014

June 26, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Mississippi, Tea Party | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sane Is Better Than Insane”: Thad Cochran Wins One For Sanity Over Tea Partier Chris McDaniel

I know, I know. Fellow liberals, you were rooting for Chris McDaniel to beat Thad Cochran on Tuesday night in Mississippi. I understand. Just a few days ago, I was, too. Put more crazy in the national GOP. Make them look that much more embarrassing. Bring one more nut to Washington who talks about hot Latino babes and all the rest of it.

Besides which, if McDaniel had won, the Democrat, Travis Childers, would have had a shot. Childers would scarcely qualify as a Democrat in about 17 or 18 states, but the Senate is the Senate, full of weird senators, for better or worse. Every state gets two. Why not have one be a guy who’ll vote (we presume, shakily) to make Harry Reid the majority leader of the Senate?

Nah. First of all, the idea that Childers ever had any kind of chance of winning a Senate seat in Mississippi was a pipe dream. The voters of Mississippi aren’t going to send a Democratic senator to Washington, D.C., in the era of Barack Obama. I don’t care what the circumstances are. Remember that old joke about incumbents being safe as long as they weren’t caught with a live boy or a dead girl? During the Obama presidency, a Mississippi Republican could be caught with a dead Bichon Frise, and the only question he’d be asked is why he favored a dog with such a gay-sounding Frenchie name. Childers wasn’t going to beat McDaniel.

As to whether Democrats would prefer to have Cochran or McDaniel in the Senate, this takes us back to the old Marxist dialectic, “The worse, the better.” That is, the worse things get for our enemies, the more extreme and crazy they get, the better things are for us, because the worse things get for them, the more quickly the public will see that the other side has lost its freaking mind.

This was the stratagem of leftists everywhere for a long, long time. Not that I’m making any direct comparisons here—OK?—but this is what the socialists and communists thought in Germany in 1933. The right, they were sure, is going to discredit itself. And they were correct. But it took 12 years and around 9 million or 10 million dead human beings. That’s enough collateral damage to prove the theorists wrong.

No, sorry. Boring as it may seem, be glad that Cochran eked out his win. Be happy that sane won. Here’s a little political truism for you: Sane is better than insane. We don’t need more Ted Cruzes in the Senate. We don’t need more candidates endorsed by Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum. We just. Don’t. Need. Them. We don’t need one more extremist GOP candidate who is going to make those cowardly Republicans in the Senate conclude that they have to live in fear of losing to some certifiable, fact-bending jelly-head of the extreme right. We really don’t.

Cochran will never vote for anything Obama wants. No minimum wage hike, no carbon tax, no nothing. I understand that. But he’ll be in there, assuming he wins and stays alive, until January 2021. That is, through what might be Hillary Clinton’s first term. If the GOP intra-bloodbath happens in 2017 after she’s won, Cochran, who won’t be running again and just won’t give a shit, might actually vote for one or two things Clinton asks for. McDaniel, obviously, would not.

And consider this. The Tea Party people are furious about this outcome. A very prominent Tea Party activist tweeted Tuesday night: “If Cochran wins this #mssen race, the GOP is done. They teamed up with Dems to steal a race. Kiss the base goodbye.”

So there we are. Be for sanity. Be against insanity. The dialectic never worked, even back in the glory days. Chris McDaniel belongs where he belongs—chasing ambulances in Pascagoula, or wherever it is he’s from. And his election would not hasten the Republican apocalypse. If anything, Cochran’s would. More Tea Party losses in races like this are what’s needed.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 25, 2014

June 26, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Mississippi, Tea Party | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Year Of Living Negatively”: The Tea Party’s View Takes Precedence Over Majority Opinion Among Republicans.

Republicans feel good about this fall’s election even though their party is sharply divided and its brand is badly tainted.

The House GOP last week elected a balanced ticket of leaders in a relatively harmonious process. Nonetheless, the party’s right still complained that its voices were not heard.

And a party leadership that thought it had quelled the tea party rebellion faces a runoff in Mississippi on Tuesday that will end either in a victory for the insurgent challenger or in claims that the establishment candidate prevailed only because Democrats, particularly African Americans, crossed into the Republican primary to save him.

Is it any wonder that the GOP’s governing game plan for the rest of the year is to do as little as possible? Since the party can’t agree to anything that would pass muster with President Obama and the Democratic Senate, it will bet that Obama’s low poll ratings will be enough for Republicans to make gains in House races and, potentially, give them control of the Senate.

All of this is why 2014 will be the year of living negatively.

The prospect of months of attacks and more attacks reflects the depth of disillusionment with Washington. This is the best thing Republicans have going for them, but it might also provide Democrats with their clearest path to holding the Senate. Consider the findings of last week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The number that got the most attention was the president’s depressed 41 percent approval rating. But the survey also found that only 29 percent of those surveyed had a positive view of the Republican Party while 38 percent had a positive view of the Democrats. Democratic candidates have remained competitive in many key races because so many voters find the GOP alternative unpalatable.

The survey also showed that Republican divisions are not the invention of right-wing talk-show hosts or bloggers. Republicans who support the tea party are well to the right of others in their party. As NBC’s First Read reported, 68 percent of tea party Republicans said that immigration hurts the United States, compared with only 47 percent of non-tea party Republicans and 42 percent of all Americans. And a PRRI/Brookings survey (with which I was involved) found that while 41 percent of tea party members favored identifying and deporting illegal immigrants, only 26 percent of non-tea party Republicans preferred this option.

By a 74 percent to 23 percent margin in the NBC/Journal poll, tea party Republicans disapproved of requiring companies to reduce greenhouse gases, “even if it would mean higher utility bills for consumers.” By contrast, 57 percent of Americans and 50 percent of non-tea party Republicans backed the idea.

The Republican congressional leadership thus continues to be caught between an aspiration to appeal to middle-ground voters and a fear, reinforced by Eric Cantor’s recent loss, that efforts to do so will be punished by the party’s right, which plays an outsize role in low-turnout primaries. On policy — notably on immigration — this often means that the tea party’s view takes precedence over majority opinion among Republicans.

In electing Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) as majority leader over the more conservative Rep. Raúl Labrador (Idaho), House Republicans were actually trying to avoid ideology altogether. To replace Cantor (Va.), they picked a pragmatist focused on winning elections and an extrovert known for making friends across factional lines. Policy ambition is not McCarthy’s calling card.

The victory of Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana as whip pleased many conservatives and Southerners, but not all — and especially not the most ardently conservative bloggers and talk-show hosts who influence rank-and-file tea party opinion. Erick Erickson of the RedState blog, for example, accused Scalise of having worked “behind the scenes to marginalize conservatives.” Rep. Justin Amash, a young libertarian from Michigan, said the result of the leadership races showed that the House GOP “unfortunately hasn’t heard the message loud enough.”

There will be more loud commotion on Tuesday in Mississippi’s Republican runoff between the tea party’s Chris McDaniel and Sen. Thad Cochran, a six-term incumbent. McDaniel is seen as having the momentum, but his supporters are already attacking Cochran’s campaign for encouraging Democrats to participate in the Republican contest.

Cochran, a McDaniel e-mail insisted, “is so desperate to keep his seat that he’s going to use Democrats to steal the Republican primary.”

So the next stop in the battle for the Republican soul could see either a victory that emboldens the tea party — or a defeat that will be blamed on Democrats and infuriate the movement.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 22, 2014

June 25, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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