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The Poisonous Radicalization Of The Republican Party

The death this past weekend of former Oregon Gov. and U.S.  Sen. Mark Hatfield, was not just the passing of a good and decent man with a  strong sense of Western independence, but a realization that “this ain’t your  mother’s Republican Party anymore!”

Of course, it hasn’t been for some time. The era of Senators Hatfield  and Mathias and  Percy and Baker and Javits and Case and Brooke and  Scott and Dirksen and so  many others is long gone. The moderates  and  progressives were drummed out or retired long ago and were replaced with Republican conservatives beginning in the late ‘70s and ‘80s.

Even many of the hard liners who were replaced were still  pragmatic conservatives who often worked across the aisle. The Bennetts,  Hatches, Bonds, Grahams and  others are practical, serious conservatives.

But if you look at the collection of candidates for  president, if you look at what just happened with the debt  limit insanity on  the Hill, if you examine the inner workings of the  Republican caucus in the  House, you begin to wonder whether Washington  is governable and whether the  radicalization of the Republican Party is  responsible for this meltdown. Has the Republican Party become an  extreme  Nihilist party?

Let’s look at the current state of politics within the Republican Party.

The upcoming Iowa straw poll and the debate tomorrow night  will  further push the already extreme candidates more to the extremes . There are so many potential  nominees who have not only gone  hard right on the social issues but have decided  that they must call  for abolishing the Departments of Education, Commerce,  Energy,  and even the IRS. They still  oppose the TARP program, which kept the  world from a depression, and they are  proud to reject any form of  additional revenue stream by signing inane pledges  that handcuff  America.

The extreme agenda of cut, cut, cut without regard for the   consequences is backed up by statements that even Pell education grants  for  needy college students are “welfare.”   All the sound and fury  about the debt did not create a single job or  advance economic stability or growth. In  fact, the failure of Speaker John Boehner  and the Tea Party to agree to efforts by  President Obama to reach a $4  trillion grand bargain to right the economic ship  was an example of  radicals’ my-way-or-the-highway approach.

The American people, overwhelmingly, reject this  extremism. They are  fed up with the lack  of progress and the extremism that has become the  modern Republican Party. Their anger is across the board but it is   more heavily directed towards what has become of the Republican  Party—Tea  Party ideologues who lack  common sense and have no desire to  actually solve problems. In the campaign of 2010 the Tea Party was   more or less a Rorschach test, many people saw in it what they wanted.  In April 2010, the strong unfavorable was 18  percent; it has risen to  around 50 percent.

The scary market volatility, the lack of public confidence  in the  economy, and most important, the many Americans who are suffering the   disasters of unemployment and foreclosure should be front and center for   Republicans. Instead, we have a “get  Obama” frenzy and a pull to the  extreme right that precludes progress.

Speaker Boehner, who seemed close to negotiating the grand  bargain  with the president, was pulled back into the extremist fold. He even  said that he got “98 percent of what  I wanted” on the debt deal and  declared himself happy with it!  If he is happy, there aren’t many  Americans  who are there with him.

There are few Republican leaders who recognize that what  they did  with this budget deal led to Americans’ savings and retirements taking  a  severe hit, a downgrade from Standard & Poor’s that will ripple for   years, and a decline in confidence for businesses and consumers.

The old Republican Party wouldn’t have done it; Ronald  Reagan  wouldn’t have done it; even recent conservatives committed to debt   reduction and cutting spending wouldn’t have done it, if they had the  courage  to stand up to the radicals within the Party.

The time for the Republicans to rediscover their pragmatic,   governing side is now. The time to  reject the pledges, the ideological  straitjackets, the wave of Tea Party hysteria  is now. The public is  demanding it and  the country needs it. (And just a bit of  advice from  this Democrat: the overreaching and the extremism won’t win you many  elections either!)

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, August 10, 2011

August 11, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, Education, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Iowa Caucuses, Jobs, Lawmakers, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Standard and Poor's, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployment, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Did Anti-Abortion Radicalization Become Acceptable?

On Thursday, the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on the threats Muslim “radicalization” poses to America.

Meanwhile, a woman seeking healthcare at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Denver, or anywhere in the country, was screamed at as she walked through the door. How about some Homeland Security for her?

Every day in this country, reproductive healthcare providers at Planned Parenthood clinics, and abortion doctors at other facilities, and the patients who need them, are routinely harassed and threatened. When did this become OK?

Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Kansas, used to wear a bulletproof vest to work. He made the mistake of not wearing one to his church, which is where he was shot and killed. How many other civilian professionals have to wear a bulletproof vest to do their job?

We have so normalized the anti-choice extremism in this country that a certain level of mundane, daily ugliness has become unremarkable. It’s a yawner to policymakers, unfit for congressional hearings or regular news coverage.

And if the harassment inside the building isn’t enough, now policymakers are forcing harassment inside the building. Texas Republicans in the state legislature voted this week to force any woman seeking an abortion—even if she’s a victim of rape or incest—to undergo a sonogram and a lecture about the fetus. Similar laws have passed and are likely to pass in other states. Because, apparently, women are too dumb to think through the implications on their own.

This harassment even extends to ballot measures. Last fall I worked on the No on 62 Campaign, part of a broad-based coalition opposing an anti-choice amendment to the Colorado Constitution. Part of our training for the No on 62 Campaign included a briefing by Planned Parenthood security officers, many of whom have worked in law enforcement for years.

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Denver where we often met—and this is a pro-choice city in a pro-choice state—is ringed with a 10-foot-high fence, cameras, and manned by a guard at the gate. Every day, a group of about a dozen people parks outside with grisly pictures and bullhorns and screams at anyone—patient, provider, visitor—who enters the clinic. Even our campaign headquarters were the object of nasty phone calls—our pregnant admin person, who answered the phones, got called some ugly names at least a couple times a week. It became a humorous game of epithet bingo—“Have you been called a fornicating whore today?”

Our press conference in Colorado Springs was hijacked by the opposition, who shoved people out of the way to grab the microphone and start yelling. Our Facebook page was hijacked by the opposition posting gruesome pictures and accusing us of being  “No on 62 Nazis,”  and put up their own Facebook page stating the same. And when I accompanied one of our spokespeople, Jeremy Shaver from the Interfaith Alliance, to a debate, there were armed guards in the room keeping an eye on the other side.

It’s not the posturing about “outside agitators” that worries me. It’s the acceptance of a level of hatred directed at women, especially poor women, seeking reproductive healthcare and abortions. And it’s the acceptance of threats and violence directed at the doctors, staff, and healthcare workers trying to provide it to them.

By: Laura Chapin, U.S. News and World Report, March 11, 2011

March 13, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Anti-Choice, Planned Parenthood, Politics, State Legislatures, States, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Are Peter King’s Hearings So Loathsome? Let Us Count The Ways

Some people seem to have great difficulty in understanding why U.S. Rep. Peter King’s hearings on radicalization of American Muslims, set to open this Thursday, are seen as so loathsome by so many. Let me try to explain.

Imagine, for starters, if another congressman — say, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a Democrat and the first Muslim elected to Congress — decided to hold hearings on the Christian fundamentalist community and the radicalization of some of its members. After all, it is undeniably fundamentalists who have formed the bulk of the extremists who have burned or bombed hundreds of abortion clinics and murdered eight providers or their assistants. The vast majority of these people have been motivated, as most have said themselves, by their interpretations of Christianity.

Well, I think you can see where this is going. You wouldn’t have time to snap your fingers before outraged Americans, metaphorically speaking, surrounded the Capitol carrying pitchforks and torches, demanding the heads of their representatives. Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, to mention just a couple of the far-right talking heads, would erupt before their Fox News audiences. After all, just think back to the self-righteous hullabaloo that broke out when a leaked 2009 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report on the radical right suggested that hate groups were interested in recruiting returning veterans with military skills. Conservatives around the country went into outrage mode, shouting to the skies that the perfectly accurate report was calling all veterans potential Timothy McVeighs. The political right is the first to scream “demonization” when it feels it is being targeted.

There’s another very good reason why the hearings organized by King, a Republican from New York who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, amount to what an editorial in today’s New York Times called “Mr. King’s show trial.” Peter King does not come to the question of radical Islam with clean hands.

This is a man who has said that 80% to 85% of American mosques are run by extremists — jihadists — and who told a reporter that “unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country.” He says that Al Qaeda is aggressively recruiting Muslims in this country. Last month, he was the first guest on a cable television show hosted by Brigitte Gabriel, the founder of the aggressively anti-Muslim ACT! for America group and one of the more obnoxious Muslim-bashers around (the Times reported Monday that she claims radical Muslims have “infiltrated” the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and more). He claims that the vast majority of American Muslims and their leaders have refused to cooperate with law enforcement investigations of jihadists — but then says he can’t reveal his law enforcement sources.

In fact, like virtually all King’s claims, that last is baloney. As a study last month from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security revealed, 48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting terror attacks in the United States since 9/11 were turned in by fellow Muslims. What’s more, leaders of virtually all responsible law enforcement groups report that most Muslims are highly cooperative.

King is holding his version of the McCarthy hearings at a time when extremist groups in the United States — hate groups, antigovernment “Patriot” zealots and extremist vigilante organizations — are expanding dramatically. Just last month, a new Southern Poverty Law Center report showed that the number of three strands of the radical right went from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 last year. In January, authorities arrested a neo-Nazi apparently planning a bomb attack on the Arizona border; found a powerful bomb set to explode by a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade; and seized a man apparently about to bomb a Michigan mosque. And  just last week, a large group of Muslim-haters screamed a litany of insults against Muslims at a California fundraisers, terrifying their cowering children, as can be seen in video of the event.

But King has no interest in these threats. To him, Islam is the enemy.

The reality is that King’s hearing are about demonizing Muslims, and they are, unfortunately, very likely to accomplish that goal. After all, they come in the midst of a renewed bout of Islamophobia — a round of hatred and fear that began last summer when other opportunistic politicians ginned up alarm about the Islamic center planned for lower Manhattan. They follow by just a few months the adoption of an absurd Oklahoma law designed to prevent the introduction of Islamic religious law in the state’s courts — a law that is now being emulated elsewhere.

Ultimately, this kind of demonization leads to violence against the targeted minorities. President George W. Bush understood that, and that is why, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he gave a number of speeches saying that Muslims and Arabs were not our enemies — Al Qaeda was. As a result, anti-Muslim hate crimes, which had spiked up an astounding 1,700% after the attack, dropped by two thirds the following year. Bush may have made many mistakes as a president, but he clearly understood that demonizing minorities ultimately leads to violence.

Words have consequences — unfortunately, even Peter King’s.

By: Mark Potok, Southern Poverty Law Center, March 8, 2011

March 9, 2011 Posted by | Islam, Islamophobia, Muslims, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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