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“Is GOP ‘Feeling The Bern’?”: Does The Republican Party Want Bernie Sanders To Win Democratic Nomination?

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has attracted unexpected support from millions of Americans, but one endorsement may be more surprising than any other. The Republican Party (yes, that one) seems to be “feeling the Bern,” if its press releases and publicly available “research” are any indication of the party leadership’s preferences.

While not openly admitting their purpose, party strategists apparently hope a Sanders ticket will galvanize their own voters to prevent his election and ensure Republican victory. With Hillary Clinton out of the race, a democratic socialist could also alienate conservative Democrats, who might either turn to the Republicans or simply stay home on Election Day.

The Republican National Committee has repeatedly, and quite surprisingly, propped up Bernie Sanders against both Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. In fact, recent noises from the RNC sound almost like dyed-in-the-wool-ultraliberal Democrats. “With only six sanctioned debates, the DNC is providing new opportunities for voters to get to know the candidates and see where they stand on the issues,” said a post by Team GOP in the run up to the second Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa.

Michael Short, the Rapid Response Director for the RNC, published an aggregated list claiming that Sanders performed better among focus groups and online polls than Hillary Clinton, who still remains the leading Democratic aspirant. “Hillary Clinton may be the stronger debater on stage — she was in 2008 too — but like Barack Obama in 2007 and 2008 it was Bernie Sanders that won the hearts and interest of Democrat voters,” wrote Short. Quite a glowing review for the candidate most likely to debate “the merits of socialism over capitalism.”

To the naive voters, Republican support for Sanders might seem contradictory. After all, most Republicans dislike any notion of wealth redistribution, public healthcare, and other socially progressive policies designed to help poorer voters, preferring “trickle-down economics” and tax cuts for the super-rich. So if Republican spokespersons are backing a democratic socialist against the “practical progressive” candidate, it’s because they hope moderate and conservative Democrats will so disagree with his platform that they will deprive their own party of a crucial voting bloc. Together self-identified moderates and conservatives still constitute just over half of all Democrats, although Democrats who identify with the liberal wing have grown to become the single largest voting bloc in the party.

The GOP clearly hopes to portray Democrats as led by a bunch of socialists and even communists (as Donald Trump puts it) who chose Sanders. Electing a socialist will mean “unending layovers of senseless government bureaucracy.” Or maybe it will mean “rich and decadent government spending.” (Some media intern probably got a pat on the back for that timely “The 5 flavors of Bernie Sanders” listicle.) Either way, Sanders’ election will result in bigger government, a cause the Republicans have vowed to fight in perpetuity.

Currently, however, there are reputable polls that show Sanders beating every leading Republican candidate in a general election. Trump loses. Cruz loses. Carson isn’t even competitive among Republican candidates, a decline that began soon after disclosing he believed the Pyramids were used for agriculture in the Egyptian desert. Sanders, on the other hand, has increased his support since launching his campaign in April.

Perhaps those clever Republican strategists should be careful what they wish for.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, January 19, 2016

January 20, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, GOP, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Disturbing Truth About Marco Rubio”: The Establishment’s Favorite Is Running An Extremist, Islamophobic Campaign

I’ve probably written at least one or two of them during my career, but I’m generally not a big fan of the “Moderate Politician X is actually not very moderate!” genre of Op-Eds. My reasons are both stylistic and substantive. It’s hard to do anything interesting on such well-trod ground, and these labels, by their very nature, are relative and in constant flux.

Put differently, the center in 2015 isn’t where it was in 1980. And while politicians have a role in shifting the Overton window in one direction or another, they are mostly reactive creatures. To paraphrase Marx: Politicians can choose which ideological space to occupy within the politics of their era. But the era itself, that’s no more up to them than it is to you or me. (I doubt that, say, Ronald Reagan would support gun control if he were running for office today.)

That said, though, the 2016 presidential campaign has already proven to be special, shall we say, in a few regards. And the one that’s been on my mind lately has to do with this whole idea of what it means to be a moderate. Because while it’s a little cheap — or at least unenlightening — to use the politics of a generation ago to slam a candidate as inconsistent or radical, I think it’s a different thing if the timeframe isn’t measured in decades but rather months and weeks.

Which brings me to Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida currently seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Despite at one point being seen as too right-wing to make it to the Senate (this was before the Tea Party really got going; a simpler, more innocent time) Rubio has been described throughout his presidential campaign as coming from the party’s supposedly reasonable, establishment-friendly wing. He is, we’re told, one of the “adults.”

Back when the campaign was largely concerned with the issue of immigration, and when Donald Trump’s rank demagoguery was the standard against which all the other Republicans were measured, this was a defensible characterization. But now that the campaign has, in the wake of the Paris attacks, become almost exclusively about ISIS and counter-terrorism, Rubio’s moderate label is wholly undeserved. Moderate? He is anything but.

Rubio has always aligned himself with the über-hawkish, neoconservative wing of the GOP when it comes to foreign policy. But while he’s long been almost John McCain-like in his willingness to drop bombs on other people — even once going so far as to chide his fellow Republicans for not wanting to bomb Libya more — it’s only lately that Rubio’s generic militarism, which he happily unsheathed against countries as dissimilar as China and Cuba, has drifted toward outright Islamophobia.

Take his response to Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments about closing down mosques, for example. Whereas Rubio has halfheartedly attempted to steer Republicans away from demonizing Hispanic people, when it comes to Muslims, it appears, his goal is to one-up “the Donald.” Rather than shoot down Trump’s flagrant disregard for the basic small-l liberal principle of religious freedom, Rubio criticized Trump for not going far enough.

“It’s not about closing down mosques,” Rubio told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on Thursday. “It’s about closing down anyplace — whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an Internet site — anyplace where radicals are being inspired.” The goal shouldn’t be to only shutter houses of worship, Rubio insisted, but “whatever facility is being used … to radicalize and inspire attacks against the United States.”

His complete lack of interest in the First Amendment notwithstanding, some journalists have argued that Rubio wasn’t making such a sweeping threat. Rubio was saying he’d go after radicals, they say, not Muslims! There’s a big difference! And, indeed, there is. But that reassurance would be a whole lot more reassuring if the distinction were one that Rubio, too, believed in. Judging by another recent utterance of his, though, it seems likely that it is not.

Here’s what Rubio said last weekend in response to a question about the phrase “radical Islam,” which most Democrats, for reasons both strategic and moral, try to avoid. The emphasis is mine and [sic] throughout:

I don’t understand it. That would be like saying we weren’t at war with Nazis because we were afraid to offend some Germans who may have been members of the Nazi party, but weren’t violent themselves. We are at war with radical Islam, with an interpretation of Islam by a significant number of people around the world who they believe now justifies them in killing those who don’t agree with their ideology. This is a clash of civilizations.

As Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall has noted, this comment has not received nearly the amount of attention that it should. Because while it’s nothing new to hear the violent extremism of ISIS or al Qaeda compared to Nazism, it’s much less common to hear someone of stature imply that all Muslims are morally equivalent to Nazis. Not Germans, mind you, but Nazis — which means, of course, that Islam is equivalent to the Nazi Party.

So in the span of about a month, Rubio has not only vowed to shut down any forum where Muslims congregate that he deems threatening, but also made clear that he sees all Muslims as inherently suspect; as equivalent to perhaps the most destructive, violent and evil organization in human history, in fact. They say Marco Rubio is a moderate. Does that sound to you like moderation?

 

By: Elias Isquith, Salon, November 21, 2015

November 22, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Islamophobia, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Drop These Silly Notions Of False Equivalence”: The Democratic Party Is The Only Home For Centrists

This is a letter to political centrists.

For those of you alarmed that Rep. Eric Cantor was not conservative enough for Republicans in Virginia’s 7th congressional district, I encourage you to read Charles Wheelan’s The Centrist Manifesto. Wheelan, a professor of economics at Dartmouth College, puts to words what we can all sense: Partisan gridlock is becoming more than a nuisance in our lives. It is threatening our economy, our children’s educations, the welfare of the planet, and every other national priority.

Take a read through Wheelan’s “Manifesto.” It’s a short read, published last year after it became clear that President Obama’s re-election would not bring a new age of bipartisanship to Washington. Wheelan calls for the center to step outside of the two major parties and stand up for itself. In noting that the fastest growing bloc of voters is Independents, Wheelan argues that both the Democratic and Republican parties have driven out moderates by standing only for their political bases — and that the only resolution to this is an organized movement of Independents.

Take a read, because Wheelan is wrong.

Wheelan’s vision may have made sense in 2013, but much has changed in the past year. We are now well past the time for quixotic visions of bipartisanship driven by centrists on both sides of the divide. To read “Manifesto” is to recall a time when Americans could reasonably believe that in spite of bitter partisanship in Washington, Congress could transcend the ideological gap to act on immigration reform, universal background checks, and tax reform. To behave, in short, like statesmen.

If we have learned anything from Eric Cantor’s demise, it’s that the Republican Party is no place for pragmatic centrists. It’s not even a place for relentless partisans who may stray from Republican orthodoxy on an issue or two.

So it’s time to just say it out in the open: The resolution to Washington’s dysfunction is a migration of Independents into the Democratic Party, because there is only one side that seems at all interested in welcoming centrists.

We should first note one of the most fundamental rules of political science: Duverger’s Law. This is the observation, made famous by French sociologist Maurice Duverger, that in winner-take-all two-party systems, voters inevitably gravitate toward one of two major parties. This is because voters do not want to waste their vote on a candidate who will not win. Recall how quickly liberal voters snapped back into the Democratic fold after wasting votes on Ralph Nader in 2000; they know Duverger’s Law well.

Given Duverger’s Law, it would follow that any potential “Centrist Party” would run into institutional obstacles not easily surmounted by even the most popular movement. And even those preaching the gospel of bipartisanship, nonpartisanship, and centrism must accept the reality that the current Republican Party is plainly interested in none of that.

This goes for the 501(c)(4) groups like Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us. If you want Congress to move “FWD” on immigration reform, under what circumstance could you expect a GOP-led House to buck the Tea Party and pass a bill that commands broad bipartisan support?

This also goes for moderate voters, whom Wheelan notes comprised 41 percent of the electorate in 2012.

Wheelan correctly observes that any centrist party should not simply meet both sides halfway on each issue, but rather take the best ideas from both sides. A rational observer, for example, would not conclude that climate change is “probably” happening because Democrats are sure it is, and Republicans are sure it’s not.

He also correctly notes that many Democrats have strayed from sensible policies in favor of myopic political interests. But it simply cannot be said that there is no home for centrists in the Democratic Party.

In fact, several prominent Democrats — including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) — are on record as supporting school choice. Congress passed free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama in 2011 with large numbers of Democratic votes, and President Obama signed them into law. The Obama administration and many of its congressional allies have supported lowering the corporate income tax from 35 percent to 28 percent.

In other words, Democrats often support centrist policies without reprisal. Such apostasy would never be tolerated in the GOP.

Wheelan examines the U.S. Senate in “Manifesto,” and proposes that if moderate members began asserting themselves as independent from their parties, the cogs of Washington may begin to turn again.

“With a mere four or five U.S. Senate seats, the Centrists can deny either traditional party a majority. At that point, the Centrists would be America’s power brokers…good things can start happening again,” Wheelan writes.

He’s right, but who might these four to five senators be? At the moment, they would almost assuredly be Democrats.

Take a look at the vote scoring of the 112th Senate (which ended after the 2012 election,) done by political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal. The NOMINATE scale, an abbreviation for Nominal Three-Step Estimation, is immensely complex, and explaining it is well beyond the scope of this piece. Please accept for a moment that -1 on the scale is the score of the most liberal senator imaginable, and 1 is the most conservative. Zero is the perfect middle.

You may note the slight asymmetry of the distribution. I would mark the area between -0.25 and 0.25 as centrist territory. Thirteen of these centrists were Democrats, and only five were Republicans. Of these five, only Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Susan Collins (R-ME) remain in the 113th Senate. Murkowski, it should be noted, held on to her seat in 2010 only after a miraculous write-in campaign overruled GOP primary voters, who nominated fringe Tea Party candidate Joe Miller.

You might also note that NOMINATE scores President Obama as being as liberal as Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN) was conservative. Obama commands the approval of nearly 80 percent of Democrats, while Lugar was dismissed by GOP voters in favor of a man who believed that “God’s intent” was for women to bear the children of their rapists.

A Pew Research Center poll released this week found that 82 percent of “consistently liberal” respondents said they would like elected officials to make compromises; only 14 percent said they would prefer that elected officials stick to their positions. When offered the same dichotomy, “consistently conservative” respondents said they would prefer elected officials hold fast to their views by a 63 to 32 percent margin.

This Republican intransigence left Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein, two of the most prominent scholars of the Senate, to place the blame for Washington’s dysfunction squarely on the GOP in their 2012 book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.

“When one party moves this far from the center of American politics, it is extremely difficult to enact policies responsive to the country’s most pressing challenges,” Mann and Ornstein write.

Of course, we recently had two years of almost unfettered Democratic control in Washington. Was the record of the 111th Congress, which reigned in 2009 and 2010, perfect? Of course not. But it got things done, including passing a markedly centrist health care bill that has expanded coverage to more than 10 million people to date.

It got done because those four or five senators Wheelan speaks of cooperated. Those senators were all Democrats.

On the issues, I have no apparent disagreements with Wheelan. He’s a brilliant author and public policy expert.

But he, and others, has to drop these silly notions of false equivalence. I too hope for a day when Republicans in Washington are ready to rejoin mainstream political thought. But it does no good to pretend that they exist in that space now. And given the message that GOP voters just sent us from Virginia’s 7th congressional district, they aren’t coming back anytime soon.

Until the GOP is ready to return to rationality, centrists are left with no choice but to organize and vote for Democrats, and work within the Democratic Party to advance centrist goals.

 

By: Thomas L. Day, an Iraq War veteran and a Defense Council member of the Truman National Security Project; The National Memo, June 17, 2014

June 20, 2014 Posted by | Democrats, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“No Country For Old Moderates”: In The GOP, One Side Is Fighting, The Other Side Is Rolling Over

The more I think about this Republican “civil war,” the less it looks like war to me. It often gives the appearance of being war because these Tea Party people march into the arena with a lot of fire, brimstone, and kindred pyrotechnics that suggest conflict. But what, really, in hard policy terms, are these two sides arguing about? Practically nothing. It’s a disagreement chiefly over tactics and intensity. That’s a crucial point, and so much of the media don’t understand it. But I’m here to tell you, whenever you read an article that makes a lot of hay about this “war” and then goes on to describe the Republican factions as “moderate” and “conservative,” turn the page or click away. You are either in the hands of an idiot or someone intentionally misleading you.

What’s going on presents many of the outward signs of political warfare. Insurgent radical extremists are challenging already very conservative incumbents whose thought and deed crimes are that they are conservative only 80- or 90-something percent of the time instead of 100 (or 110, preferably). Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), American Conservative Union 2012 rating of 92, being challenged? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell? He got 100 percent in 2012!  Hey, I was joking about that 110!

So sure, running primaries against people like this can be called warlike acts. But a real war has two sides who believe different things and are willing to fight to the death for them. In this war, that description applies only to one side.

This…skirmish, let’s call it, is between radicals and conservatives. (It certainly doesn’t involve moderates; there are roughly four moderate Republicans in Congress, depending on how you count, out of 278.) The conservatives, the more traditional conservatives such as John McCain, Orrin Hatch, and many others in the Senate, and House Speaker John Boehner, could be a force if they wanted to. But by and large, they’ve refused to be. If the GOP had two warring factions, then you might expect that on all major high-profile legislative votes, the schism would evince itself in the roll calls. But when you look back over the list of high-profile measures that have come before them while Barack Obama has been president, the conservatives and the radicals only really split on two occasions.

One was the fiscal cliff deal as 2013 started. In the House, 85 Republicans backed that deal and 151 voted against it.  In the Senate, the vote was 89-8; 40 Republicans backed and five opposed. (Three Democrats opposed it because the tax-increase threshold went too high, from the expected $250,000 per household to $400,000.) The second was the vote we just had to reopen the government and raise the debt limit. That, of course, passed the House by a comfortable margin, with the support of 87 Republicans, while 144 opposed.  The vote in the Senate was 81-18, with 27 Republicans voting aye and 18 nay.

That’s it. Interestingly, those two votes show us a radical caucus in the Senate that grew in 10 months from five to 18, while in the House, the radicals have outnumbered the conservatives in a remarkably consistent way. But those are the only diversions from party unity. On all other major matters, matters of policy—Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, cap and trade in the House—there is no disagreement. Everyone, or nearly everyone, votes no. The only really important votes on which these two sides disagree are the votes that threaten fiscal calamity. So that’s all the conservatives stand for. Elect me, and at five minutes ’til midnight, I’ll stand courageously against global economic cataclysm!

One could add one more basis of disagreement. Occasionally, the conservatives cast votes conceding that the government ought to be able to function as designed; you know, with agencies having people run them. But that happens only once about every two years.

Now is the time for them to stand up and say “enough.” An October 7 Washington Post-ABC poll found that just 52 percent of Republicans approved of how Republicans were handling the budget negotiations. That’s margin of error to 50-50. So half of the Republicans in the country disapprove of what the GOP just did.

But they might as well be zero, for they effectively have no representation. The regular conservatives—most conspicuously the craven Boehner, but all the others, too—did nothing to represent these people until the last possible second, and until the radicals demonstrated conclusively that they couldn’t pull off defunding Obamacare.

Think about that. Half of one of our major political parties, constituting many millions of citizens, barely has a voice in Washington. If they did have a voice, none of this late madness would have happened. But the legislators who ostensibly represent them are cowards, kittens, balled up in the corner. The radicals may be fighting a war. But the conservatives are executing a classic rearguard action. At best. And that’s not much of a civil war. And it says a great deal about the character of the Republican Party, and especially of the conservatives. History will remember.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 24, 2013

October 25, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Appearances Are Deceiving”: Vastly Overblown, Susan Collins Is No Independent Moderate

I have always thought that Maine Senator Susan Collins reputation as a moderate voice of bi-partisan reasonableness was vastly overblown. That prejudice was confirmed again this week as Collins prostituted her credibility as a centrist to the gang bang Republicans, led by John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are waging against UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

According to Think Progress, the presumably independent-minded Collins repeated GOP talking points when she announced she’d have a hard time supporting Rice as the next Secretary of State if President Obama nominated her after comments she made on the Sunday talk shows two days after the Sept. 11 Benghazi terror attacks.

“It’s important that the Secretary of State enjoy credibility around the world, with Congress and here in our country as well,” said Collins, “and I am concerned that Susan Rice’s credibility may have been damaged by the misinformation that was presented that day. That’s one reason, as I said, that I wish she had just told the White House no, you should send a political person to be on those Sunday shows.”

Collins had no misgivings about confirming Condoleeza Rice when she was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the nation’s top diplomat, as Think Progress notes, despite the political role she played misleading the American people during the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq.

According to Think Progress, Collins “hammered home various GOP talking points” about concerns that Rice may have acted overly political in providing an overview of the Obama administration’s knowledge in the aftermath of the attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and said that damaged Rice’s credibility to be the top State Department official.

Susan Collins is the political equivalent of the Great White Hope – that ever-elusive Republican who at least appears to be open towards working with Democrats on the other side. But appearances can be deceiving, and in our rush to anoint Collins as another Great Compromiser in the tradition of Webster, Clay and Calhoun we may fail to recognize the partisan wolf who resides in a moderate sheep’s clothing.

I learned that the hard way two years ago when I attended an awards dinner in Boston honoring historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and Maine Senator Susan M. Collins.

I’d gone to the dinner along with 1,400 of New England’s movers and shakers to hear Goodwin, one of my heroes, reminisce about the joys of historical story-telling. But it was Collins who left the biggest impression with remarks that opened a window into the civil war currently raging for the soul of the Republican Party.

Collins has a reputation as an independent-minded moderate in a party that’s become ever more extreme over the past 15 years, a distinction she will briefly share with the two other New England “moderates” departing the Senate in the next Congress — Olympia Snowe of Maine and Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

Collins said all the right things to this New England audience about what makes our region’s politics unique: the retail style of living-room campaigning, the Town Meeting history of direct citizen involvement, the premium New Englanders place on no-nonsense Yankee problem-solving, and the hands-across-the-aisle tradition of bi-partisanship.

I did find it telling, though, that the only senators Collins mentioned by name were Lieberman, Dodd, and Kennedy: a turncoat, a lame duck and the dearly departed.

Given Collin’s reputation “as a thoughtful, effective legislator who works across party lines to seek consensus on our nation’s most pressing issues” (as the dinner’s program intoned) it was not surprising that Collins would be introduced by our evening’s host as the person who had followed in the footsteps of that other famous free spirit from Maine, Senator Margaret Chase Smith.

Smith, who detested Senator Joseph McCarthy from the start, is perhaps best known for the ringing “Declaration of Conscience” she delivered on the floor of the Senate on June 1, 1950, which earned her the epithet “Moscow Maggie” from McCarthy and his staff.

Her gauntlet was thrown less than four months after McCarthy’s own infamous Wheeling, West Virginia speech, in which he announced he had in his possession a list of Russian agents in the employ of the US government.

Smith’s Declaration attacked both the HUAC communist witch hunts then underway as well as laid out what Smith believed were the basic principles of “Americanism:” the right to criticize; the right to hold unpopular beliefs; the right to protest; and the right of independent thought.

Smith was a loyal Republican who said the Truman Administration had “lost the confidence of the American people” and should be replaced. But in words that now form an indelible part of American political history, Smith also said that to replace Truman “with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny – Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.”

In her speech, Collins showed she has a long way to go if she wants to wear Maggie Smith’s mantle of patriotic, public-spirited statesmanship. Collins complained about the toxic partisanship poisoning politics in the nation’s capital, the loss of civility eating away at personal relationships, the extremism overtaking both major parties, and the vilification that awaits anyone (a.k.a. Collins herself) who tries to walk and work across party lines.

“I don’t know who first described politics as the ‘art of compromise,’ but that maxim, to which I have always subscribed, seems woefully unfashionable today,” said Collins. “Too few want to achieve real solutions; too many would rather draw sharp distinctions and score political points, even if that means neglecting the problems our country faces.”

Noble sentiments, all. But then you realize that the person who wants to “draw sharp distinctions” and “score political points” while neglecting “the problems our country faces” is Collins herself.

Rather than leverage her moderate standing to call out the bad behavior she claims to loathe, as Maggie Smith once did, Collins would rather trade on her reputation for evenhandedness in order to advance the Republican Party’s partisan prospects — whether it was in the 2010 mid-term elections two years ago or to pile on against Ambassador Rice today.

The great tragedy in America today is that there are so few leaders — in politics, the media or public life — who have the credibility to stand above the fray and be heard across partisan lines.

Every game needs it umpires and politics is no exception. However much we might genuflect to the Will of the People, we still need those adults who stand ready to mediate our disputes and differences, whose commitment to honesty, impartiality and disinterestedness is so obvious and so deep that we trust them implicitly to call balls and strikes and tell us “and that’s the way it is.”

Susan Collins was among those few we looked up to for an unbiased appraisal of current conditions – or as unbiased as is humanly possible in these hyperpolarized times. And that is why it was so dispiriting to find her making such patently self-serving remarks.

The far right of the GOP obviously got to her. That’s the most charitable explanation I can give for her obscene assertions that she’s never seen such “divisiveness and excessive partisanship” in the Senate before – ever. Or that partisan rancor is why the American people are so angry with incumbents — “particularly those who are in charge.”

Or that the reason Republicans “overuse the filibuster” is that Republicans are routinely shut out in a Senate that “used to pride itself on being a bastion of free and open debate.” Or that the way to promote greater harmony between parties is with “divided government and a more evenly split Senate.”

That’s right, to get along better what the county needs most is to elect more Tea Party Republicans who would see their own party spontaneously combust rather than see someone other than a far right extremist get elected. And those are South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint’s words, not mine.

Collins devoted her speech two years ago to New England’s political values and traditions. So, it’s only fitting, I think, to point out that while New England may indeed be the home of the elitist East Coast Establishment, with its Blue Bloods and Boston Brahmins who care more for the pedigree of one’s forbearers than the pedigree of one’s ideas, the New England ruling classes were also able to develop, however grudgingly, a tradition of public-spirited public service that contrasts sharply with the kind of narrowly ideological leadership historically found in other regions of the country, most notably the hierarchal, self-serving plantation-owning South, whose feudal ways have always made it the natural antagonist of scrappy, inventive New England.

New England’s WASP establishment did react with alarm, if not horror, to the invasion of Irish Catholics and others in the middle decades of the 19th century. And the nativist Know-Nothing Party that sprung up in reaction at that time (much like the Tea Party today) remains a black stain on the region’s legacy.

But from that experience, and the simple need to get along, New England’s conservative political elites gradually adopted the habits of a responsible leadership class, one rooted in the genuinely conservative values that promoted social peace and harmony by mediating differences between their community’s competing ethnic groups and classes.

The fact that New England is now considered the most liberal region of the country shows how easily certain American understandings of liberalism and conservatism can overlap. And this is the origin of New England’s liberal, nobblesse oblige brand of “Rockefeller” Republicanism that is now virtually extinct, whose leadership traits were unlike those habits developed by the ruling elites in other regions of the country, like the South, where the political establishment there found it expedient to preserve its privileges and power through divide and conquer politics that, rather than mediate differences, sought to provoke antagonisms within the population instead.

Much the same dynamic is playing out within a Republican Party today as it finds itself divided between those few moderates who see the connection between the responsibilities of national leadership and the need for cooperation and compromise — understanding that the only sustainable society is an inclusive one — and those rigid ideologues of the radical right who view compromise as a sign of betrayal to both cause and party, while they wall themselves up in their gated communities of body, mind and spirit.

Extremism is on the march everywhere, wrote Walter Lippmann during the calamities of the 1930s as civilization itself seemed to be coming apart because the liberal democracies had been tried and found wanting – both in their “capacity to govern successfully in this period of wars and upheaval but also in their ability to defend and maintain the political philosophy that underlies the liberal way of life.”

Yet, who is ready to stand up for the liberal way of life now? In 1950, a Republican Senator from Maine stood on the floor of the US Senate to denounce her own kind for shamelessly exploiting “the Four Horsemen of Calumny – Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.”

Sixty years later, her successor stood before New England’s elite and embarrassed her region, its governing traditions and herself when she shamelessly exploited impartiality and civility itself for a few more votes.

 

By: Ted Frier, Open Salon, November 30, 2012

December 1, 2012 Posted by | Senate | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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