Republicans

The chief business of America….

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The chief business of the American People is Business.  They are profoundly concerned with buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.  —  Calvin Coolidge 1925

Well?  Is it true or isn’t it?  America created history’s greatest mercantile empire.  We believe in Capitalism so much its nearly a self-destructive religion.  But in light of recent events, one wonders if that’s really what we believe in at all.  Particularly Republicans.  The hue and cry in the name of Capitalism, the flocking to shrines to Reagan and Ayn Rand those patron saints of Capitalism, would all give one false hope that Republicans have anything at all to do with the philosophy.  Yet, time and again, they act against it.  One wonders if they do not understand, or if they do not believe.

If they believe in the power of capitalism to reshape a society to bring prosperity, then why do they resist using capitalism in just that capacity?  All around the world in our bloody history, we have fought wars, embargoed nations, in order to bend them to our will.  Why?  If our ideals are so powerful will they not naturally dominate those other cultures?  More importantly, why do you care?  Cuba has an autocratic brutal dictatorship.  So?  It’s not our problem.  What can we do about it?  We can invade overthrow the government and institute a puppet state, because that’s worked really well for us.  We could embargo the Cubans because after 53 years they’re sure to crack any day.  We could throw a giant hissy fit which will get Republicans re-elected but it serves no one’s interest.  For political and social conditions to change in Cuba, it’ll have to be Cubans who will do it.  The US can do nothing in this regard.

So, let’s use the one thing we’re really good at.  Making money.  Maybe normalizing relations and opening trade between our two countries will bring about modernization and moderation.  Maybe it won’t but at the end of the day you have to have a fundamental respect for the choices people make.  You could argue that socialism and communism is doomed to failure.  Again I ask, So?  Again, not our problem.  Ideally you’d want other countries to be as prosperous as socialism will let them to be, because a prosperous country is a better trading partner.  It doesn’t matter if their socialist.  A complete non sequitur.  If it works for them, great! if it doesn’t, we’ll be there with IMF loans, fiscal policy reforms, and foreign investments to help get them back on track.

I believe in Capitalism.  I truly do.  I see communist countries adopting capitalist reforms and trying to modernize.  And it works.  Growth and prosperity have transformed places like Vietnam and China and the transformation is on going.  Even if it is a slow painful process.  That’s fine with me.  I’m not in a place to dictate to another country what the pace of their progress should be.  But this cold war era mentality was toxic.  It was toxic for 50 years.  That’s why they called it a war.

The business of America is business.  We shall not fight useless battles toward unprofitable ends.  Normalize relations with everyone who will talk to us. Remember, consent of the governed is not a right given to a people, they already have it.  It’s natural law.  We are not to govern them, and their own tyrants do so at their peril. Let’s put our faith in the power of ideas, and the resolution of the people to govern themselves.

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Dear Huckabee,

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Gov. Huckabee, I urge you to leave the GOP party as you’ve recently threatened to do for the following reasons.  First, you’re contributing to the GOP being the stupid and ignorant party.  You wish to be stupid and ignorant by all means, start your own party.  The issue of gay marriage is not one of science, and what science there is doesn’t support your positions, just like on evolution, global warming, sex ed and others.  Ignorance pours from you like water from niagara.  This is fine.  Your an American and entitled to your opinions, but those opinions are increasingly at odds mainstream Republicans.  Honestly, we’d rather you join us in our fight for sensible policies rather than this rigamarole.  We want to be the party that isn’t constantly at war with reason and science for the sake of a few social conservatives.  Quite frankly, we don’t need you anymore and you’re hurting more than your helping.  Especially if we want to have a chance of surviving the 2016 elections.

Secondly, As I’ve just alluded, social issues are a major distraction.  Honestly, no one cares what consenting people do.  Let them find what happiness they can in this world.  Goodness! that you care is creepy and weird.  That you would legislate on non-issues take time from solving real problems.  How does vilifying gay people help us solve issues with taxes, foreign policy, oversight of President Obama, and the business of government? There’s a lot of stuff we need to do and fighting this fight just isn’t worth it.

Thirdly, social conservativism is not the victim of judicial activism as you suggest, but against our nation’s laws.  If something is illegal it doesn’t matter how popular it is, it needs to stop.  This is why we have a court system in the first place.  As Republicans we value the constitution.  If there’s a core American value among Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, Democrats, Republicans, Black, White, green and everything in between it’s the value of our Constitution.  Right now your position that we mandate restriction on marriage are blatantly unconstitutional.  How do you know? wave after wave of judges have ruled it unconstitutional.  This issue just got an underhanded bitchslap by the supreme court.  It’s done.  This fight is over.  You and a few conservatives will eventually take it all the way to the Supreme Court.  They’ll rule against you and you know what? We’ll be glad.  This issue will be done.  and we can put it behind us and stop alienating voters with our bigotry.  If you want to overturn this eventual ruling you have a Constitutional option. You can do like the Democrats are doing and start trying to push for a Constitutional amendment, but we’ve got to warn you.  We’re not going to support you on this.  Your on your own.  As you should be.

Fourthly,  What kind of “Small government Conservative” are you?  You want to pass laws that dictate what people can do in their own homes?  No.  Our party, like other parties, is about promoting personal freedoms and responsibilities.  We’re not going to say what people can and can’t do in this area.  You say it hurts children. Your wrong, but even if you were right, it’s not our job.  We’re not going to tell parents how to parent, we’re not going to tell schools how to teach.  We are going to give people the freedoms to live there lives however they see fit.  This is what the GOP stands for, or should stand for.

In short, make good on your threat and please leave the Republican Party.

The #GOP and the #SOTU

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Dear GOP,

In his State of the Union speech, Obama has promised to use his executive office to make changes.  Your first instinct is to call him a dictator and fight him on this.  I would advise against this for a couple of reasons.  First, you can only fight him in two ways.  Pass a law over riding his executive order, (good luck with that) or take him to court.  Unless he steps wildly outside his federal purview,  you’ll lose.  Badly, publicly, and embarrassingly. Very much like every last one of your recent court battles.  But I doubt you’ll do this.  Your second go-to option is to call him names for media attention and to be randomly inflammatory.  Again, I advise against this.  Because the country is going to call your bluff.  You don’t want the president taking action, but you yourselves won’t, or can’t.  So the hypocrisy here is a little intolerable.  The more you fight, the more blatant your hypocrisy will become.  Eventually you’ll start saying or doing something on camera you’ll regret and here comes the mid term elections.  Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if Obama’s long term game was to provoke you into exactly this sort of scenario.

Here’s the other problem and this is more global than specific.  It’s your persistent inability to formulate a coherent, actionable legislative agenda.  You keep saying you’ll repeal and replace, but you’re horrifically vague on the replacement aspect.  Same with taxes and spending.  You say  you want to cut taxes AND balance the budget by cutting spending, and yet you never say which taxes, by how much, for whom, and which spending programs are being cut.  On almost every  legislative policy agenda, you run into the exact same problem of vague useless plans.  I say this only because, while your welcome to criticize the President for his actions, its your inaction on every substantive issue in  the country that is he’s going to hit you with in the fall.

There’s another reason you need to be careful.  Obama hasn’t issued all that many executive orders especially relative to recent Republicans.  You run into more overt hypocrisy if you call him out on executive privilege.  So calling him out for exercising power he’s both entitled and obligated to use in order to solve problems that you won’t touch isn’t going to end well for you but your welcome to try.

I hate independents!

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It’s popular to be an “independent voter”.  About 40% of the electorate describes themselves as “independent”.  You’ll find them into all walks of life and political niches.  In every news broadcast, talk show, and political discourse, “independents” seem to be the new key political demographic for politicians.  So many people are calling themselves “Independent” that political wonks are considering the death of the two party system.  “Independent” is the new political “cool” and I hate you all.

Ok, so I don’t hate all independents, just the 70-80% of independents that are really closet partisans.   In many respects, centrist leaning organizations have done  a wonderful job of advertising independence in voting.  Who doesn’t want to think of themselves as “independent”?  It’s a la carte political positions for one and all.  Republicans have done a wonderful job with their self-inflicted political sabotage.  Republicans are near universally hated on a national level.  They’ve utterly failed to do anything of note, and have succeeded in bringing this country to the brink, crossing over that brink, and otherwise grinding to a halt the normal everyday business of government.  Not only THAT but they’ve fielded some of the most notoriously bad candidates for political office I could possibly imagine (Mr. Todd “legitimate rape” Akin springs to mind).  So it’s no wonder the GOP have lost members to “indepedency”.  They’re image is pathetic right now.  I wouldn’t want to be associated with them now either.

I know voters who call themselves “Libertarian” and vote for non-libertarians candidates.  You are a useless waste of political capital.  If you like libertarian ideals, don’t vote GOP and don’t call yourself an independent.  The GOP are not libertarians, they will never be libertarians.  You are setting your own cause back, because, (if I can speak in the language of Libertarians for a paragraph) you’re only going to advance pro-corporate, pro-statist, non-personal autonomy philosophies and policy.  Listen to me Libertarians, you will never move the GOP.  At best, they’ll superficially shift their positions a little to better market to you, but it’ll never happen.  I’m sorry.  You need to vote 3rd party.  This is the only way, the ONLY way, you will get a clear message past the mainstream corporate interests and the GOP establishment.  It’s also the only way to hold elected officials accountable to your values.

There are other reasons for voting “independent”.  Quirks of your state primary laws can make it tricky to be one or another party.  You think it’s no one’s business what your party is.  You don’t want to get harassed for support every few months by your favorite political party.  You like to think of yourself as an independent, even though the odds suggest you really aren’t.  Because you don’t agree with everything on what you imagine your party platform to be and don’t want to sound like you do.  I suspect that the last one resonates with a lot of people.  But here’s the thing, if you have always voted one way, and always will, tell people that’s what you are.  And no, “that one time” doesn’t count.  Remember all those “Reagan democrats”.  Yeah they’re not “independents”.  They’re Dems that changed their mind for one election.  If you converted from one party to another don’t say you’re “independent”.

So what has any of this to do with my antipathy for “Independent voters”?  Because you needlessly confuse the conversation.  Who is talking is as important as what is being said.  “What does it matter”, you ask.  “if I’m one thing or another, does that change the value of my opinion to my elected official?”  It shouldn’t but it does.  When the national party talks to the electorate and they see the only people crazy enough to still call themselves Republican, you’re going to get crazy policies and candidates because they think that’s what you want.  Moderates and centrists need to stand up and yell  over the crazies. People need to say, “I’m a Republican and I think you’re NUTS.”  “I’m  a Republican and your candidates are so crazy I’m going to vote for the other guy”.  In a weird way, DEMs have the opposite problem with their independents.  Your policies get artificially pushed towards the center.  Admittedly that’s where my own comfort level is, so I might have a bias in that direction.

Strictly speaking I shouldn’t really be poking solely at Republicans in this piece but Dems have a different set of issues.  But the same issues of message and clarity are still in play for them too.  Independents, as they are now, are like a crowded stadium everyone yelling for their favorite policy.  What you want is a bunch of smaller conference rooms that voters can tour where you can calmly advocate for your position.  “Hello, I’m a ________ and I want ________)”  “To thine own self be true”  — Shakespeare.  It works for politics too.

What I hate about the poor

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Do you know what I hate about the poor?  That the juxtaposition of true suffering and my own comfortable lifestyle makes me confront my own mortality and a place in a universe composed of a cruel and bitter irony.  I hate that my discomfort with the poor is miniscule compared to their own discomforts and yet I’m still selfishly worried about my own feelings. I hate that my selfishness equates to enormous hypocrisy in the area of David-is-basically-a-good-person style of thinking.  I hate that there’s nothing I can do to fix poverty on my own.  I could beggar myself and still not make a difference, I could run for political office and lose, I could set up a charity and even if it was more wildly successful than any other charity in this history of the world I’d still only make a small dent in the levels of poverty.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that poverty is an unsolvable problem, I just don’t think the world cares enough to solve it.  Including me and being confronted with my own apathy makes me uncomfortable.  That’s what I hate about the poor.

What I hate worse than the poor, is poor bashing.  We think of the poor as a black hole of fiscal irresponsibility, drug use, and insanity.  We, ourselves, are vastly superior in comparison.  Because unlike the poor, my insanity is safely medicated thank you, my fiscal responsibility carefully hidden behind a crumbling wall of credit card debt and student loans, and only the poor would ever do drugs.  There’s this subtle (or not so subtle) belief that you can’t help the poor because by doing so they’ll breed.  They’ll multiply like vermin requiring ever more resources to funnel into their destructive appetites.  That’s  Malthus. A  18th century writer who correctly identified the correlation between exponential population growth and arithmetic increase in food production.  Just a bit later you had Social Darwinists.  People who believe that it was their literal God given talents that made them wealthy.  If the poor weren’t disposed to drugs, insanity, and making poor choices they wouldn’t be poor now would they?  Quite frankly the poor are undeserving.  They are the takers.  That’s Ayn Rand.  Rand was a popular author in the ’50s whose colorful tales were filled with people whose unquenchable thirst for more eventually brought down civilization.  It’s also the modern Republican party.  Obsessed as they are with givers and takers.  Half this country are takers they say, the other half — the virtuous, god-fearing, half — are givers and taxpayers.  They are the untiring folks upon whom stand all the rest, parasites, just eating and growing, and somehow not dying.

The poor are not the lowly incompetents that will spend money on nothing but drugs and alcohol.  Addicts will yes.  If you believe that all poor are drug addicts then you are ignorant scum of the earth.  No offense.  Ok maybe a little offense, because I’m tired of the poor bashing.  Because even when drug addicts get their basic needs met they’re far more likely to get treatment and reenter society.  We have a taboo about giving directly to the poor because they’ll waste it.  Probably doing something immoral.  Except that that’s all wrong.

There is a burgeoning field of work that say the exact opposite of popular anti-poor sentiment of poor shiftless losers.  I don’t know how to reform the social safety net.  I’m not a socialist or a communist (If you think so you need to go do some research on basic economic definitions) but I am fed up with this notion of givers and takers; of the poor being caricaturized as Ayn Rand style economic leeches that will bring down civilization.  I don’t know if we should give money to the poor, but I do know that, if we did, it won’t have Malthusian style repercussions or be a Soviet-style drain on the economy.  Because that’s the worry.  Isn’t it.  That a little of the poor will rub off on you.  That a generous government will reduce all the good upstanding folk to a state of destitution and penury while the poor lounge about on government sponsored holidays.  Like I said just a few sentences ago I don’t know how to reform the social safety net.  Obviously some programs are better than others.  But this time around let’s try a modicum of courtesy and respect shall we?