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“Donald The Sensible”: There’s No Centrist Superman To Save You

You’re all well familiar with Kubler-Ross’s famous five stages of death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Here are Tomasky’s five stages of watching a Republican debate: mockery, rage, double rage, boredom, despair.

I start, as I’d reckon most liberals do, with mockery, which was easy Wednesday night when most of them said in essence that their greatest flaw was that they cared too much (in fairness, Hillary Clinton had earlier said something similar). Then one of them says something unforgivably idiotic—and yes, there’s such a thing as forgivable idiocy—like Carly Fiorina pretending that the characters “401k” were handed down to the human race from God on Sinai and not created by the very federal government she was in that selfsame sentence traducing, and it’s rage time. And so on and so on.

But I end with despair, because the previous two (if we’re lucky) hours have revealed to me that these candidates and the citizens cheering them on just live in a totally different universe than the one I and most of my friends inhabit, and while there can be an occasional meeting of the minds on certain small matters, the sad fact is that we are going to be stuck with the current polarization for a long time yet. I think at least eight more years.

People in my position aren’t supposed to say things like this. We’re supposed to keep telling your sort that bipartisanship is in sight, shimmering in the gloaming just beyond the poppy fields. Now it’s true that Congress did just pass that budget on a bipartisan basis, but that of course is an aberration. And you know it and I know it, and everyone who writes sentences like “Perhaps this will usher in a new era of blahblahblah” knows it too.

I was reading David Brooks the other day, his column fantasizing about “a sensible Trump.” This hybrid ubermensch with “impeccable outsider status but also a steady temperament, deep knowledge, and good sense” would, in Brooks’s telling, bring together the leaders of both parties. He would sit them down and explain to them that we need to help people in the lower half of the income distribution, and that the answer is sitting right there in some research by a Harvard team led by the economist Raj Chetty.

Following the Harvard team’s example means doing some things Republicans like and some things Democrats like, so both sides get a little something but give up something too; but if we can do this, argues Donald the Reasonable, we will have started to solve our two greatest problems, stagnant wages and partisan dysfunction.

I happen to be familiar with the research of which Brooks speaks, and I’d be delighted for Raj Chetty’s work to serve as model for federal government action. But there is, unfortunately, no reason to think in real life that anything like this could happen.

Why? Because before he got elected, Donald the Reasonable would have to take a position on abortion. He would undoubtedly try to find some kind of nuanced lane, to use the au courant word, somewhere in between the standard Democratic and Republican positions. But this of course would just dissatisfy both parties. And as the Republicans appear to be moving toward a position that doesn’t even acknowledge the traditional three exceptions, any deviation from that by D the R will brand him just another baby killer.

He will have to take lots of positions, this fellow. On same-sex marriage. On whether insurers should be compelled to cover contraceptive services. On immigration and citizenship. On who his model Supreme Court justices are. On free trade. On a minimum wage. On how much he’s willing to mix it up with Putin. On whether Hollywood and the universities are ruining America. On climate change. He can’t run for president saying, “Well, sure, all those things are important, but what I’m really all about here is implementing the ideas of Raj Chetty.”

In other words, partisan choices are utterly inescapable. I don’t celebrate this, but I don’t necessarily lament it either, the way a lot of centrist pundits do. These are important things. They’re all worth fighting over, and for. There are plenty of compromises that Democrats and liberals should, and I’m pretty sure would, be willing to make in the climate-change fight, for example. A carbon tax vs. credits, how much fracking and drilling, the mix of renewables, the amount we should contribute to the UN fund—all these and more can be debated by two parties that have different views on the urgency of the problem and the proper role of government in addressing it. But when one party just denies the consensus of 97 percent of the scientific community, you can’t compromise with it. You just have to defeat it.

The hope, if there is one, is this. Hillary Clinton wins. That constitutes the GOP’s third loss in a row (and, in popular-vote terms, sixth out of the last seven). Maybe then the GOP takes a look in the mirror and at the data, which will show them if they study it honestly that they lost, again, because they failed to carry purple states that as a party they’d simply become too conservative to win.

The Ted Cruz “we weren’t conservative enough!” wing will still argue its position. And of course the Republican-led House (or House and Senate, the GOP retains control) will start out by blocking President Clinton in every way it can. But she’d probably win re-election in 2020, simply because most incumbents do, and then the Republicans would be looking at 16 straight years of being locked out of the White House, and the country will be that much more Latino, and Clinton will take Georgia and come close in Texas, and finally they’ll run up the flag. So in 2024, we might have a choice between a liberal-moderate Democrat and a conservative-moderate Republican, which the Republican would probably win, and the party’s conservative wing would be somewhat tamed.

That’s the only hope for the country, really. There are extremists. They need to be defeated enough times so that their less extreme comrades can outmuscle them and guide their party back to a place where we’re all at least agreeing on basic evidentiary propositions. There is no Donald the Sensible who can save us.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 30, 2015

October 31, 2015 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Donald Trump, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Enemy Number One For The Republican Party”: CNBC Created The Tea Party. Now The Right Wants To Destroy The Network

After Wednesday’s debacle of a debate, CNBC is now the most-hated cable network among conservatives. The fury has grown so intense that on Friday the Republican National Committee broke off its partnership with NBC News for an upcoming February debate hosted by the news titan.

Fun fact: Six years ago, CNBC started the Tea Party movement.

On February 24, 2009, while reporting for Squawk Box from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Rick Santelli (who was briefly featured during Wednesday’s debate) went on a dramatic rant against President Obama’s Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan, a stimulus package aimed at helping homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

“The government is promoting bad behavior,” he said. “How about this, president and new administration, why don’t you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages.”

Santelli drew rapturous applause from the floor traders—the “silent majority,” as he described them—when he added that the government should “reward people that can carry the water instead of drink the water.”

A true showman in his element, Santelli then turned around to face his audience. “This is America!” he shouted. “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?” The traders erupted in boos.

The moment read like something straight out of the many Tea Party rallies seen during the 2010 election season.

“President Obama, are you listening?” Santelli boomed. “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July,” he continued. “All you capitalists show up to Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organizing.”

Further cementing what would become the Tea Party’s dominant motif, Santelli added, “I’ll tell you what: If you read our Founding Fathers—people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson—what we’re doing in this country now is making them roll over in their graves.”

And so history was written. Santelli’s call to verbal arms was echoed by conservative commentators and leading activist groups like FreedomWorks, who made the video their rallying cry.

Organizers shifted into gear and within 10 days of Santelli’s theatrics, the first official Tea Party rallies were held in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and other cities. A year-and-a-half later, Tea Party candidates won 40 U.S. House elections, taking back power from the Democratic Party.

And conservatives have CNBC to thank.

 

By: Andrew Kirell, The Daily Beast, October 30, 2015

October 31, 2015 Posted by | CNBC, Rick Santelli, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Don’t We Grow Up?”: Kasich Slams Carson And Trump; ‘Do You Know How Crazy This Election Is?’

At a rally Tuesday in his hometown of Westerville, Ohio, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich gave a possible preview for his performance in Wednesday’s national debate — calling his far-right competitors in the race, particularly Ben Carson and Donald Trump, completely crazy.

Kasich did not directly name the other candidates, but he listed their proposals in ways that would leave no doubt about whom he was speaking. And if either of those two men were to end up as the Republican nominee, you can pretty well expect that Kasich’s attacks will end up in Democratic campaign ads in Ohio.

Kasich began by talking about all the people he’s met on the campaign trail, particularly in the early state of New Hampshire. “But you know, I want to let you all know: Do you know how crazy this election is?” he said, to laughter from the crowd of his local supporters. “Let me tell you something: I’ve about had it with these people.”

Kasich continued:

And let me tell you why: We got one candidate [Carson] that says that we ought to abolish Medicaid and Medicare. You ever heard of anything so crazy as that — telling our people in this country who are seniors, or about to be seniors, that we’re gonna abolish Medicaid and Medicare? We’ve got one person [Carson again] saying we ought to have a 10 percent flat tax that’ll drive up the deficit in this country by trillions of dollars — that my daughters will spend the rest of their lives having to pay off.

You know, what I say to them is, why don’t we have no taxes? Just get rid of them all, and then a chicken in every pot on top of it.

We got one guy [Donald Trump] that says we ought to take 10 or 11 million people and pick them up, where the — I don’t know where, we’re gonna go in their homes, their apartments. We’re gonna pick them up and we’re gonna take them to the border and scream at them to get out of our country. Well that’s just crazy. That is just crazy.

We got people proposing health care reform that’s gonna leave, I believe, millions of people without adequate health insurance. What has happened to our party? What has happened to the conservative movement?

Here are some more choice bits of Kasich from the rally, as he rails against other candidates for offering no constructive ideas, but lots of irresponsible promises that would wreck the country.

“Why don’t we grow up?” he asked. “Why don’t we get a reality check on what the heck needs to be done in this country?”

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, October 27, 2015

October 28, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, John Kasich | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Settling The Issues Of Honor At 40 Paces”: Forget Debates; The Republicans Should Have A Duel

The possibility of fisticuffs breaking out at Wednesday’s GOP debate is not an entirely fanciful one. (Indeed, it could be the solution for Jeb Bush’s flailing campaign.) The Republican presidential campaign has focused all along on matters of honor more than matters of policy. Sure, all the major candidates are offering right-wing fantasies of one sort or another, ranging from Jeb Bush’s promise of 4 percent growth to Donald Trump’s huge border wall to be paid for by the Mexican government. But thanks to Trump, even farcical policy proposals have taken a backseat to a much more personal contest to prove who is the toughest hombre in town.

The Republicans desperately need a way to resolve these disputes so they can talk about something else. I’m here to make a suggestion: Why not resolve the personalized differences by fighting old-style duels? Otherwise, as long as Trump’s in the race, the insults will continue to fly—and threaten to suck up all the oxygen in the debates.

Trump is a master of the schoolyard taunt, and many of his jibes carry with them the suggestion that his opponents are less than virile. Trump’s jeers that Jeb Bush and Ben Carson are “low-energy” and “super low-energy,” respectively, have certainly carried that connotation. While Trump’s male rivals have been stung by these rebukes, the only time the real-estate magnate has been dented is when he’s challenged women—most notably Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina—with a different set of insults, focused on menstruation and personal appearances. Those attacks backfired, suggesting that that the front-runner is at a loss when an argument isn’t about comparative manliness.

Trump’s male competitors have tried to answer in kind, with little luck. Before he dropped out, Rick Perry challenged Trump to a gym contest: “Let’s get a pull-up bar out here and see who can do more pull-ups,” said the former Texas governor. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Carson implicitly responded by calling attention to how tough he was before he became a surgeon and politician. “As a teenager, I would go after people with rocks, and bricks, and baseball bats, and hammers,” Carson told Chuck Todd. “And, of course, many people know the story when I was 14 and I tried to stab someone.” (If you don’t know the story, read here.)

But pull-up bars and tales of youthful brawls won’t hack it. The Republican candidates need a more formal way of settling the issues of honor that Trump has placed at the center of GOP politics. They should look back at the history of Europe and the United States. Traditionally, matters of honor have been settled not by discussion but by a contest of arms. When someone insults your family, as Trump has with his snide comments about Jeb Bush’s brother and wife, the normal response isn’t to continue politely debating, but rather to ask the creep making the remarks if he wants to step outside.

Duels are the ideal solution. It’s true that duelling fell out of fashion after the end of the Civil War, because the slave South was the last place in the United States where the institution was valued. Still, duelling has a venerable place in American political history. Most famously, Alexander Hamilton was killed by Vice-President Aaron Burr in a duel. Andrew Jackson loved challenging men to duels, and survived at least 13 of them. When a famous marksman named Charles Dickinson insulted Jackson’s wife in 1806, for instance, the future president had no choice but to challenge him to a duel. The battle left a bullet permanent lodged in Jackson’s chest, causing persistent pain for the rest of his life, but he was still glad for the outcome. “If he had shot me through the brain, sir, I should still have killed him,” Jackson averred. If Bush had responded to Trump’s gibe about having Mexican wife in the same manner, we’d already have a very different nomination race for 2016.

As Globe and Mail editor Gerald Owen noted in an informative 1989 essay for The Idler magazine, duels were not mindless displays of violence but helped regulate disagreement. “The duel is not, as its enemies have often said, a mediaeval remnant, but a fashion from the Italian Renaissance, and no older than the protests against it,” Owen noted. “It is not to be confused with several related institutions. It is not the same as single combat in the course of war, for it is concerned with personal honour. It is not a sport like jousting; only in the Southern United States were spectators permitted. It is not a feud or vendetta; it is between individuals, not families; instead of festering, it settles disputes finally, giving rise to what lawyers call res judicator. It is not a spontaneous brawl, as in a bar or hockey game, for it has its rituals and conventions.”

As Owen’s remarks suggest, the duel has much to recommend it for precisely the type of disputes that are tearing up the Republican Party. As the main candidates are divided primarily along issues of honor, the ritualistic combat to decide who is the better man (or in Fiorina’s case, the better woman) is the best way to go. And surely a party as firmly committed to NRA dogma would have no objections.

A modest proposal, then, for the remaining GOP debates: Make them open-carry. And if (or when) Trump insults Jeb or any of the others, settle the dispute at once at 40 paces. The two combatants would of course have to agree on weapons and seconds, but this could be arranged through the same negotiations that go into making up the rules for the debates. (As a bonus, this would also provide a test for Trump’s self-proclaimed mastery of the art of the deal.) Depending on how good a shot he proves to be, this might be the only way that Trump can be defeated on his own terms, allowing the reminder of the debates to edge into actual policy arenas.

 

By: Jeet Heer, Senior Editor at the New Republic, October 26, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Human Society Has Begun To Work Against Itself”: If Republicans Cared About Families, They’d Stop Blocking Paid Leave

Several participants at the Republican debate last week spoke fervently about putting Rosa Parks’ image on the $10 bill. They also spoke fervently in support of a decision by Congress to defund Planned Parenthood—an organization that counted Rosa Parks among the members of its national board.

The contradiction would have been obvious and painful to Ms. Parks. Like many of us, she’d have been bewildered by the priorities of candidates who have held vote after vote on shutting down vital health services for women, but won’t even schedule a hearing on the FAMILY Act, a bill to provide affordable family and medical leave. It’s impossible to care about families and leave communities bereft of services for contraception, mammograms and other cancer screenings, and dozens more critical health services for women. It’s also impossible to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose a badly-needed, common sense program to make family and medical leave affordable to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member.

In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act passed Congress with bipartisan support. The FMLA provided up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for care of a new child or a serious personal illness or that of a child, spouse or parent. Republicans as well as Democrats saw that valuing family meant making sure people could care for family members without losing their jobs or health insurance. Many of the state and local campaigns within Family Values @ Work’s national network have leaders from both parties—including the numerous Republicans leading the charge for the Family Care Act in Georgia.

So what’s the problem in the nation’s capital today?

The FMLA is now 22 years old. While it constituted a major breakthrough and established the principle that having a family shouldn’t cost you your job, the leave remains out of reach for millions—some because they’re not covered by its protections (two-fifths of the nation’s workforce), and many who are eligible because they cannot afford to take unpaid leave. According to a study done for the Department of Labor (DOL), nearly one in four employed mothers who are pregnant go back to work within two weeks of giving birth—with disastrous results for maternal and infant health. Others who take the time they need to heal and bond with a child often face financial hardship.

A new report from the DOL highlights the high cost of doing nothing—lost family income, lower earnings and weaker job security for women, more stress and worse health, worse outcomes for children and seniors, and fewer men taking leave. Businesses also sustain losses in replacing experienced and skilled staff. Our nation suffers in comparison to all our economic competitors.

The lack of paid leave adds to the growing inequality in our nation. A mere 5 percent of low-wage and part-time workers have any pay during leave. And, as the report points out, there are costs harder to calculate: “We are compromising the needs of our children and our parents. We are sacrificing the fundamental value of spending time with one’s family.”

Pope Francis called the family “a great test bench” for how we organize work. “When the organization of work holds it hostage or, in fact, places obstacles in its way, then we are certain that the human society has begun to work against itself!”

If elected officials are serious about promoting family values, they need to stop wasting time on frivolous bills that are a detriment to women and their families and pass the FAMILY Act, a bill that actually helps families everywhere.

 

By: Ellen Bravo, Director of Family Values @ Work; The New Republic, September 24, 2015

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Family and Medical Leave Act, Family Values, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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