Tag Archives: conservatives

Is Sarah Palin Coming to Your Neighborhood? (California, Here She Comes!)

palin.terminator1.If I’m correct that Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska governor in order to lead a right wing movement that is ostensibly independent of the major political parties, then the next question is: where will she establish her new home and base of operations?

The Northeast is too liberal, the South is too connected to racial politics (and there’s too much competition for conservative leadership and not enough big money), Washington, D.C., is too much of an enemy camp, and the Midwest doesn’t have enough access to the media.

Texas is certainly a possibility, but I don’t think she’ll want to compete for power with the Bush clan.

Florida also is a possibility, but I don’t think she’ll want to compete for conservatives with both Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.

Utah is solidly Mitt Romney and Mormon territory, and Arizona belongs to former running mate (and now political rival) John McCain.

And while Idaho might have the most ideologically receptive population, it is so far off the media radar that she might as well stay in Alaska.

That leaves California.

Specifically, Southern California.

And more specifically, Orange County.

Orange County is rich, conservative, and close to Los Angeles’ enormous media network.

And California has no nationally known conservative political figure (Arnold doesn’t count) to offer her any real competition.

In fact, the California Republican Party is so fractured because of the budget battle and the hang-them-all ideology of its tea party militants that the Republican establishment wouldn’t be able to offer any real competition to Palin’s brand of radical right-wing conservatism.

It might be very bad news for more moderate Republicans like Meg Whitman and for the statewide chances of the Republican Party, but you can bet that John and Ken would welcome her with open arms (and air waves).

Are you ready for the new Terminator?

California, here she comes!

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Sarah Palin Declares Her Independence

palin.flag.01Sarah Palin is not done causing headaches for the leadership of the Republican Party.

In fact, my guess is that she is going to cause them far more pain in the near future than they or the media could ever have imagined.

At this point, politicians and the press are trying to decipher Palin’s motivation for her stunning announcement yesterday that she is resigning as governor of Alaska.

The standard analysis is that she is resigning in order to concentrate her efforts on securing the Republican nomination for president in 2012.  As Bill Kristol told Fox News after Palin’s speech: “We just saw the opening statement of the 2012 campaign.”

Others — including NBC’s Andrea Mitchell — think Palin is stepping away from politics for good.

And some claim that Palin is resigning because of soon-to-be-announced scandals, including an alleged federal criminal investigation into the rebuilding of Palin’s home.

I think they’ve all missed the forest for the trees.

Sarah Palin isn’t done with politics.

But she might well be done with the Republican Party.

Rather than relying on alleged experts (who are not in Palin’s close circle) or taking the supposed word of unnamed sources, I suggest that the best indication of why Palin resigned – and what she plans to do – comes from Palin herself.

In her speech, she specifically states that she is not stepping away from politics.  On the contrary, she repeatedly emphasized that she going to continue to work to “effect positive change,” although it would be from “outside government at this moment in time.” She was, she said, following in the never-give-up tradition of General Douglas MacArthur.  “We’re not retreating,” she said, “we are advancing in another direction.’” (As the New York Times points out, Palin got the author of the quote wrong; it was not said by MacArthur, but by Maj. Gen. Oliver Prince Smith.)

She also was clear about the kind of “positive change” she planned to effect: she was going to continue to fight against “the heavy hand of federal government [intruding] into our communities with an all-knowing attitude,“ fight against “the obscene national debt that we’re forcing our children to pay because of today’s big government spending,” and “protect states’ rights, as mandated in the 10th Amendment.”

As she did during the 2008 campaign, Palin cast herself as the champion of the people: those  “hardworking, average Americans fighting for what’s right” and those people “who still believe in free enterprise and smaller government and strong national security for our country and support for our troops and energy independence and for those who will protect freedom and equality and life.”

In other words, Palin sounded much same as she did during the presidential campaign – and she certainly didn’t sound like a person getting out of politics.

But there was a difference from her speeches during the presidential campaign.

And the difference involves the political party that she supports.

In her resignation speech, Palin said: “I’ll work hard for and I’ll campaign for those who are proud to be American and who are inspired by our ideals and they won’t deride them. I will support others who seek to serve in or out of office, and I don’t care what party they’re in or no party at all, inside Alaska or outside of Alaska.”

Repeatedly referring to her course of action as “unconventional,” “a new direction” and “no more politics as usual”  — and comparing her actions to those of William H. Seward, (Lincoln’s Secretary of State who negotiated the purchase of Alaska  — ”Seward’s Folly”), who took the “the uncomfortable, unconventional but right path to secure Alaska, so that Alaska could help secure the United States” — Palin dropped clue after clue that, like Seward, she too was going to take an “uncomfortable, unconventional but right path” to “help secure the United States.”

I think Sarah Palin told us what she is planning to do.

Yes, she is running for President.

But not necessarily as a Republican.

Sarah Palin has declared herself the leader of a movement, not merely a political party.

It was not a coincidence that Palin gave her speech on the weekend of Independence Day.

She just declared her independence from the Republican Party.

Rush to Judgment: Dems Fight Back Against Limbaugh

I’ve had fun listening to Rush Limbaugh’s tantrums since Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The right-wing radio windbag has practically exploded with rage and frustration — not only at Obama and the Democrats, but also at Republicans who might try to find areas of agreement with the popular president.

limbaugh

It was even fun watching spineless Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) — who had dared to defend the Republican party leadership against Limbaugh’s attacks — grovel the very next day and beg Limbaugh for forgiveness.

But apparently some Democrats are not amused.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has launched an online petition to repudiate Limbaugh — especially his saying that he “hopes” that President Obama fails.

In an email sent along with the petition, DCCC Executive Director Brian Wolff  writes that “Jobs, health care, our place in the world — the stakes for our nation are high and every American needs President Obama to succeed.  Creating real change requires every American stand strong against Rush Limbaugh’s attacks — and all of the other partisan attacks from desperate Republicans that are on the way.”

This little flap might be giving Limbaugh too much credit.

But what the heck —

It feels good to fight back.

Especially when we’re winning.

Rush Limbaugh Offers New Hope for Progressives Nervous about Obama’s Cabinet

Rush Limbaugh, of all people, has offered renewed hope to progressives, such as Frank Rich, Tim Carpenter and others, who are nervous about the centrism of Barack Obama’s cabinet picks.

limbaughpig

According to Limbaugh, Obama’s centrist cabinet selections are merely a smoke screen for his plans to radically reconstruct America along progressive economic and social lines and finish the job that Franklin D. Roosevelt started in his New Deal.

Forget about the middle-of-the-roaders, recycled Clintonistas and (even) Republicans in Obama’s cabinet, Limbaugh says.  What Obama means to do is lead America to a new, bigger and more sweeping New Deal that will embrace and revitalize the progressive governmental activism of the early years of the Roosevelt administration.

To this end, Limbaugh insists that Obama actually wants the economic crisis to get worse before he takes office.  That’s why, and not because of an abstract belief that America has only one president at a time, Limbaugh says, Obama has not moved more forcefully to influence economic policy prior to his inauguration.  Limbaugh claims that Obama figures that the more desperate the country’s economic crisis, the easier it will be for him to achieve his goal of transforming the government into an engine of progressive economic and social activism.

What Limbaugh suggests is that Obama is planning on a progressive version of Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine” of disaster capitalism, in which “‘only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change’.  When that crisis occurs, the actions taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. Some people stockpile canned goods and water in preparation for major disasters; [Milton] Friedmanites stockpile free-market ideas. And once a crisis has struck, the University of Chicago professor was convinced that it was crucial to act swiftly, to impose rapid and irreversible change before the crisis-racked society slipped back into the ‘tyranny of the status quo’. ”

Except that in this instance, it won’t be conservatives and Friedmanites who are employing the disaster capitalism shock doctrine, but progressives.

The irony, of course, is that it was the use of the shock doctrine of disaster capitalism (in the Reagan years and beyond) — in which corporations systematically exploited the state of fear and disorientation that accompanies shock and crisis to remove regulations and government oversight of their activities — that produced the economic mess were in now.

Another way to look at Limbaugh’s argument it is that Obama is using the current economic crisis as his own 9-11, hoping that the fear generated by economic disaster will force his opponents to capitulate to fundamental changes that in other, safer times they would have obdurately refused to accept.

Thanks, Rush.

I hope you’re right.

Do You Know More American Civics than Sarah Palin? (A Lesson in Conservative Hypocrisy)

Do you know more about American civics than the famously ignorant Sarah Palin?

palin2

Or more than the 71 percent of Americans who failed a basic civic literacy quiz?

According to a recent report called Our Fading Heritage: Americans Fail a Basic Test on Their History and Institutions by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), “Of the 2,508 Americans taking ISI’s civic literacy test,” the report said, “71% fail. Nationwide, the average score on the test is only 49%. … The results reveal that Americans are alarmingly uninformed about our Constitution, the basic functions of our government, the key texts of our national history, and economic principles.”

The test consists of 33 questions on American history, the workings of the U.S. government and free market economics.

Some of the report’s findings:

  • Less than half could name all three branches of the U.S. government.
  • Only 21 percent knew the source of the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
  • Less than one in five knew the origin of the phrase “a wall of separation” between church and state.

Civic ignorance was remarkably consistent across income, age, educational, racial, marital status, church attendance, ideological and party affiliation groups.  No group scored a passing grade, and no group knew more than 55 percent of the correct answers.

Elected official scored even worse than ordinary citizens, with only 33 percent scoring a passing grade. 

Based on these results, the ISI concludes that “America’s institutions of higher learning [have failed] to transmit to their students a basic understanding of the fundamental history, texts, and institutions of the American republic.”

The ISI then “calls upon administrators, trustees, faculty, donors, taxpayers, parents, and elected officials to reevaluate collegiate curricula and standards of accountability” and urges “leaders inside and outside of the academy with a stake in the future of American higher education to roll up their sleeves and get to work addressing the shortcomings documented in ISI’s civic literacy reports.”

From my own experience as a college professor, I have no doubt that the findings of the ISI regarding basic civic illiteracy are accurate. 

But I have questions about the ISI itself, and it’s own responsibility for the civic ignorance that it documents.

The ISI’s National Civics Literacy Board of Directors is comprised of conservative academics and policy advocates from the Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, the New Criterion, the Wall Street Journal, the National Center for Policy Analysis, Civic Enterprises, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Center for Creative Leadership and the Philip M. McKenna Foundation.

In other words, the people who run ISI are the very same people whose policies and favored candidates have destroyed the public education system on which our national civic literacy depends.

The ISI report focuses its attention and criticism on American colleges, but as anyone who has taught at the college level knows, what can be accomplished by colleges largely depends on the basic knowledge that students bring with them – that is, on what they’ve learned (or not learned) in grade school and high school. 

By advocating policies that slash funds to public education, increase class sizes, reduce teacher salaries and benefits, and eliminate early childhood and after-school educational programs, the board members of the ISI are themselves responsible for the civic illiteracy they now hypocritically bemoan.

Here’s a civics test for the board members of the ISI:

1. Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy have resulted in:
a. Increased class sizes.
b. Elimination of educational programs.
c. Reductions in educational resources.
d. All of the above.

2. In practice, conservative (Republican) educational theory means:
a. Increased class sizes.
b. Elimination of educational programs.
c. Reductions in educational resources.
d. All of the above.

3. The members of the ISI board are in large part responsible for
a. The failed educational policies of the Bush administration.
b. The collapse of our nation’s grade schools, high schools, and community college systems.
c. The widespread civic illiteracy the ISI laments.
d. All of the above.

The correct answer for each of these questions is “d. All of the above.”

In my civics class, I’d give ISI — and the conservatives who run it — a failing grade.

How Conservatives Created the Party of the Mob

In today’s New York Times, David Brooks writes an elegy for the modern conservative movement that was founded by William F. Buckley, Russell Kirk and George F. Will. 

police-beating

Brooks observes that modern conservatives like Buckley, Kirk and Will shared a disdain for the violent, ignorant masses as articulated in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and the Federalist Papers, coupled with “a celebration of urbane values, sophistication and the rigorous and constant application of intellect.”

They detested the Mob.

They were anti-populist and anti-egalitarian, in culture as much as in politics. 

In short, they were elitists in the literal sense, and proud of it.

These Edmund Burke-inspired conservative elitists became the intellectual leaders of the mid-20th century Republican Party, critiquing not only the Democratic Party’s foreign and domestic policies, but also its post-Chicago Convention embrace of the youth culture of the 1960s. 

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke

Unlike their counter-parts on the Left, they wore their hair neat and short, they wore ties and jackets not tee-shirts and jeans, they preferred classical music to rock and roll, whiskey to marijuana, and John Milton to Allen Ginsberg.  In George F. Wills’ words, they valued “the sober side of the Enlightenment.”

Now, Brooks notes, the Republican Party has rejected these urbane and elitist values, as well as the class of urban and sophisticated people with whom these values are associated. 

DS001872As Brooks acknowledges, “the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts” and has become the party of the uneducated, the rural, the crude and unsophisticated.

In other words, the Party of the Mob.

“Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking,” Brooks writes. “Now those attributes bow down before the common touch” and “a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole.”

David Brooks is not the only conservative of the Buckley, Kirk, and Will mold who is in mourning because of the current state of the Republican Party, as indicated by the selection of self-described hockey mom and friend of Joe Sixpack, Sarah Palin. 

George F. Will has called Palin“obviously not qualified to be President.”  Similar, or more severe, criticisms of Palin have come from conservatives David Frum, Charles Krauthammer, and Kathleen Parker.  On television, you can see the same despair that Brooks articulates in his Times column on the face of David Gergan and in the stupefied expression of Tucker Carlson.

Brooks attempts to fix the blame for the ugly transformation of the Republican Party and the death of his urbane, sober, and elitist version of conservatism to the Party’s tactical decision to engage in “class warfare” against the wealthy and sophisticated. “This expulsion has had many causes,” he writes, “But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare.”

I think Brooks has let the Republican Party  — as well as his fellow conservatives and himself – off far too easily.

In my view, the end of modern conservatism and the triumph of the mob rule in the Republican Party began with the “Southern Strategy” – which capitalized on white rejection of, and hostility toward, the Democratic Party’s embrace of the civil rights movement.

After a Democratic Congress and Democratic President forced the Southern states to integrate in the early 1960s and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the Republican Party warmly welcomed into its ranks every racist in country, from Strom Thurmond to Jesse Helms to Trent Lott, along with their white resentment and anti-elite populist rhetoric.

Politically, the result was a Republican stranglehold across the South and a series of Republican electoral victories in national elections.

But the Republican Party paid a steep cultural price to become the political home of the nation’s white racists -– because the culture of white racism and resentment eventually took over the Party and became not only its “base” but its defining core.

looting3And so when George W. Bush’s ratings tanked, the Republican Party had to “energize” this core to overcome its falling popularity with other groups.

Yet as this base was “energized” -– for example, by the selection of Palin as vice president and by Palin’s inflammatory rhetoric –- other groups were driven away.  As Brooks points out, “Republicans have alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, Northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone. The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1.”

And as the Republican Party ever more desperately relied on the “energy” of its base, it lost control over the racism and resentment that made them become Republicans in the first place.

David Brooks’ mourning for conservatism and the Republican Party is based on his fear of the mob that the Republican Party has become. 

He knows that the controlling emotions at McCain-Palin rallies are now fear and rage.  He knows that people have yelled “Terrorist!” and “Kill Him!”  when Obama’s name is mentioned.

He also knows that McCain cannot control the mobthat the Republican Party has become, and that the demagogue Sarah Palin would like to inflame its rage and resentment even further.

As David Gergan said on CNNon Thursday, “This — I think one of the most striking things we’ve seen now in the last few day. We’ve seen it in a Palin rally. We saw it at the McCain rally today. And we saw it to a considerable degree during the rescue package legislation. There is this free floating sort of whipping around anger that could really lead to some violence. I think we’re not far from that. … ‘

In the end, what is so profoundly disturbing for Brooks — as well as for George F. Will, David Frum, Charles Krauthammer, Kathleen Parker and David Gergan — is that they are now all members of the Party of the Mob — that they helped to create.