This Republican Decade: Snatching Victory from Jaws of Defeat

How have the Republicans – who took us into a war in Iraq under false pretenses, and basically caused the Great Recession – been able to grab so much power in the intervening decade? How did they snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? It isn’t all about backlash to global change. It also may be about a Party that seized a moment and a movement.

It seems as if the Republicans have been obstructing government forever but by the numbers the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress until 2011 (until the election in 2010 actually), then they still had control of the Senate until 2013 when Republicans took control of both houses until 2019.

Of course, we remember that Mitch McConnell swore to obstruct Obama in every way. People like to blame Obama for the Republican’s obstruction saying that he passed the ACA in secrecy in the middle of the night without any Republican votes and that the rest of the obstruction was just payback. But clearly this obstruction was the result of a nexus of Conservative activity by a number of different actors and we know this because every Conservative used the same reasoning right down to the same words. There were no original answers to media questions. Every Conservative had the same talking points reiterated to the same script and it was freaky, bizarre, and in the end, a sign of behind the scenes organizing on a grand scale.

So we ask again, how have the Republicans, who basically caused the Great Recession, been able to grab so much power in the intervening decade? They have done it by being willing to trash norms long accepted as informal protocols and even by boldly forcing Democrats to change rules like the filibuster threshold to try to get anything done. Although Dems technically had the numbers they did not have the 60 votes needed.

It seemed that everything Dems did backfired. When Harry Reid lowered the threshold for the filibuster to a simple majority it set up the future parade of approvals of Conservative judges that are the current daily agenda (and the only agenda) in the Republican-controlled Senate. (It is not like Dems didn’t foresee this possibility but they took the risk anyway for immediate gains.) The Hastert rule took hold in the House where no business hit the floor unless it could pass with all Republican votes.

I contend that Republicans got radicalized by the Tea Party and Talk Radio and Fox News. This is not exactly news. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh had a rabid audience for their constant propaganda demonizing Obama and the Democrats. Beck and Bill O’Reilly wrote popular books that reinterpreted history from a fairly extreme Conservative viewpoint. It was all a giant mash-up of Koch Brothers pushing Capitalism and fossil fuels, Confederate flags waving on the back of gas-guzzling trucks all over America, the patriotism of arming yourself because the communist, socialists, gangs, immigrants are coming for you. Add in a Fundamentalist interpretation of the Constitution (refight the Federalist papers), Evangelical expectations of the Rapture and a full-throated Biblical approval of rich folks and the Conservative Way. Then there was a pledge made to a Libertarian group (against their duty to the Constitution) to never raise taxes, and a celebration of the audacity of Republicans in Congress who showed their party “purity” by obstructing Dems in ever newer and more creative ways (with good-old-boy grins on their faces).

Today the highs of those giddy days have disappeared and there is just the mean tough slog of a government deadlocked by a Republican Party that no longer has any impetus to be at all bipartisan. They will have their way. The Republicans got to this place, and they also got us to this President Trump who tramples all our norms with impunity.

Dems seem much too polite to dig us out of this hole, but they do have policy on their side and they want to save our Republic. The modern Republican Party has no members in Congress who seem motivated to save the Republic as it was before the Tea Party/Conservative extravaganza. Conservative extremists are so far winning the tug of war to pull the whole nation to the right. But that frightening torch-lit white supremacist show of power in Charlottesville has put a much more serious light on where Conservatives might be planning to take America.

Progressives may have the energy to pull the nation back towards the left, even if they don’t make it as far left as they would like. If the Dems don’t win, where will four more years of “to the right, to the right” leave us. Perhaps in a dictatorship huddling together in the few places without extreme weather.

An article in Salon from 6/17/2019 echoes my sentiments, although with greater political depth.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search  – WKAR

Iraq War – Ten Years Ago – Some Thoughts

 
 
The Iraq War began 10 years ago. That seems impossible.
I
was not in favor of the Iraq War. I sided with those who said that there were
no weapons of mass destruction stockpiled in Iraq. Of course, I had to base my
decisions about this war on what was available in the media, as I must rely on
the media for all distant data. I did not admire Saddam Hussein and I knew he
did unspeakable things to some of his people, but we were supposed to be
hunting for and finding those who attacked America on 9/11 and it was clear
that they were not in Iraq.

I remember those days right before the war began because
they were dark days for America, at least in my estimation. If I had this blog
in those days I would have been afraid to speak my mind. It was the first time in
my life that I felt that if I exercised my First Amendment rights I might end
up in a CIA file or worse. The Patriot Acts were passed which gave the
government the right to, among other things, get access to our library reading
history. Since I read mostly fiction I’m not sure why I felt nervous about
this, but I guess it seemed as if someone (the government) had stepped over a
line. I worried that, in the name of fear, we would lose more and more of our
rights. People who did not support the war were considered to be unpatriotic.
What is the opposite of patriotic? That’s how it was; support the war or chance
being proved a traitor. I was not old enough when Joe McCarthy was hauling
suspected Communists in front the Un-American Activities Committee to have
experienced what it might feel like to be hunted down by our own government.
Now that I have felt that little frission of fear about my own freedom of
expression, I hope I am never in that position again.

I think Saddam Hussein pushed a lot of buttons around the
world with his arrogance and his swagger. He acted like the school yard bully
and made it seem like he was aching to be taken down. What we didn’t understand
was the delicate balance between sectarian groups provided by Saddam that kept
Iraq somewhat peaceful. Still, Saddam was a crude leader who used terror to
keep the various groups in line and I don’t think the world misses him. I’m
sure the Iraqi people do miss the security that allowed them to pursue a day to
day life that had some order in it, that allowed Iraqis to raise their children
in peace and enjoy their families and their businesses, as long as they did not
run afoul of their government. That is what Iraq lost and seems unable to get
back.

What we lost was men and women, American men and women. They
did sign up to defend America and it was their job, but it still seemed like we
abused these soldiers. They had to keep going back for one tour after another.
I think it finally made many Americans cringe to send them back so many times.
We also watched so many young men and women come home with terrible injuries,
both mental and physical. Yes we are better at keeping seriously wounded
soldiers alive and our prosthetics are better than ever, but they are still
nothing like having your own limbs. The brave way our soldiers deal with losing
limbs is an example to all of us and gives us hope that we would face such
injury just a bravely; although I don’t think that I would.

So I stand in my kitchen making dinner and I curse the snow
still falling from the March sky and then I remember Iraq. I remember that
people there live simply with few of the comforts of life that I take for
granted every day. And whether we were right or whether we were wrong is
perhaps a question we will never all agree on. But I believe we do all wish the
Iraqi people will get their peace back and that they will get a benevolent
government which, despite its wish to improve life in Iraq, knows how to firmly
keep the peace between all the sectarian groups of Iraqis. I worship the
simple, everyday rituals of a peaceful and productive life, I love when families
get to shop and play and nurture their children and work each day at whatever
trade they must to support the life they live. I guess I am like one of those
beauty queens (although only in this way) because if you ask me what I wish for
most I will answer, “World Peace”.

This is the view from the cheap seats.