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

Koch Clout – Distraction, Bill, Executive Action

On March 3, 2017 the New York Times reported that Koch backed organizations were ready to pitch a fit if Congress did not act to repeal the ACA. Obviously they have a lot of practice with pitching this particular fit because they have done this at least 60 times already. They plan to pull out their old action plan of shrilly stalking Republican Congressional representatives until they stop stalling.

Quote:  Saying their patience is at an end, conservative activist groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers and other powerful interests on the right are mobilizing to pressure Republicans to fulfill their promise to swiftly repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We’ve been patient this year, but it is past time to act and to act decisively,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, which is coordinating the push with other groups across the Kochs’ political network. “Our network has spent more money, more time and more years fighting Obamacare than anything else. And now with the finish line in sight, we cannot allow some folks to pull up and give up.”

The Koch groups are calling their campaign “You Promised,” and are prepared to spend heavily, they said.

“I think that the only way we get members of Congress to stay the course on this is with constituent pressure,” said Noah Wall, the national director of campaigns for FreedomWorks. If that does not work at first, he added, “I’m going to fill their offices with really angry constituents, and they’re going to listen.

“And if they don’t,” he continued, “I’m going to go back into their district and fill their district offices with angry constituents. And we’ll do this again and again.”

“Their rhetoric that has enabled them to stir up the far right is in collision with the truth,” said Thomas E. Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

“Congressional Republicans have promised an Obamacare repeal in unequivocal terms,” Mr. Phillips said. “It’s time for them to keep their promise.”  Unquote

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/03/06/us/politics/republican-obamacare-replacement.html/

 

Koch Clout

Well apparently we go from Koch mouths to Congressional ears, another sign of the outsized role of money and wealthy people (these two wealthy brothers in particular) in our nation’s politics. There seems to be no way to get these two guys to stop buying every level of our government. So two days after the New York Times article telling Congress to get a move on, my evening news tells me that the 66 page bill detailing the Republican health care plan was released. Now that is what I call real clout, or is it fear? Who knew eight years ago that all we had to do to get Congress to vote the way we want is to threaten to “primary” them and have the cash to back up our threat. There is no way these GOP reps want to see their ferocious constituents begin their assaults on GOP Congressional elections again.

Two Actions Come Out Right Quick

Not only did the new health care bill come out (which will once and for all defund Planned Parenthood, and we all know the level of anxiety the continued existence of this friend of females has been engendering in the ranks of the GOP), but, on this same day, we heard the details of the new Immigration and Refugee executive action which is just like the old one except it excludes Iraq as a banned country and if doesn’t begin immediately, it does not ban people already vetted or people with green cards, and the “pause” will last for 120 days while the “extreme” vetting program is designed. I would like to see a graphic in two columns. One column would list what immigrants and refugees must do to be vetted now and the other will show what will be involved in this “extreme” vetting of which they speak. The number of refugees accepted in a year will also be capped at 50,000.

A Distraction is Created

Under the smoke screen of their “trumped-up” charges about the Obama wiretapping at Trump Towers. (Whoever wanted to say trump or Trump this many times?). This tactic of creating a smoke screen by creating a fake big scandal is designed to draw we the people’s eyes away as these two developments are almost simultaneously released. They think Democrats and allies will be so protective of Obama that we will not notice the human rights violations contained in these two bills (like a health bill which will once again rob some people of health care, i.e. women and low income folks, and an immigration executive action that is likely as un-Constitutional as the old one.)

It is all happening so fast because they know they need to hurry. Why? Because the Smoke Screener- in-Chief may go off the deep end at any moment, or they may have to finally admit that we got him already broken, or they will lose seats in Congress next time around if they back these two actions, or the resistance may win. In fact the health care bill, if passed, does not go into effect all at once, but is rather phased in with the most onerous parts not going into effect until after the 2020 election. It is all happening so fast that we may just have to move out into the streets and live there for a while with our chants and our signs.

If you want to read the text of the Health Care Bill here is a link”

https://housegop.leadpages.co/healthcare/

Back to the Kochs

Both the bill and the executive action channel the “Conservative Way” and they will both, eventually, be totally disastrous for we the people. Will we ever be able to put America back together again once the wealthy win so many of their battles? Will the middle class become poorer and poorer? Will the wealthy winners stick it to their “loyal” followers who have been bullying them a bit too much, as if they truly had any power except the power of numbers? Will they cut these folks loose and also kick them out of the middle class? Will our Democracy “live” through the long game assault of the Koch brothers?

Voldemort Squared

The other
night on Hardball with Chris
Matthews, Chris almost blamed two ‘someones’ for something. Then he changed his
mind and referred to them as “you know who”. I’m pretty sure that the “you know
who’s” are the Koch brothers and I also think that they have threatened to sue
the media if news people accuse the Koch’s of random acts of rip-off-ery (like
ruining the American environment and the air we breathe)  and election hijinks (like buying elections)
without concrete proof.
But it is
ironic that the Koch brothers have now become, collectively, “he who must not
be named”. Haven’t they read the Harry Potter books? Well, probably not. But
these things have been quoted again and again and have become part of American
culture, albeit imported from England (also ironic), so these phrases should be
on their radar. We all recognize that in the Harry Potter stories “he who must
not be named” is Voldemort, the most powerful wizard we loved to hate. Voldemort was also sometimes referred to as “you know who”.
This seems
like the perfect way to refer to these two brothers who refuse to stop grabbing
money from the use and production of fossil fuels while the world gets dirtier and
dirtier. We can’t help but see evil in their plot to take over America and
remake it into the country of their dreams, a country that big business can
plunder as it wishes.
Perhaps the
way Chris Matthews spoke about these two had no actual relationship to the way
I interpreted it, but I think the nomenclature is appropriate and we should
continue to use it to refer to these two guys who have no compunctions about
turning middle class workers into serfs and turning our Democracy into the
company store.
By Nancy Brisson

Ode to Koch Industries

Election time equals political ad time. It drives us crazy
but it’s the American way. The Koch brothers have a new ad in which their
employees pledge allegiance to Koch Industries. It is a poem, a corporate
anthem, and, as a base line, beneath it all, we hear – be nice to these wealthy
brothers, America, because of them some of us have jobs. There is an underlying
threat there, totally unstated, supplied by recent manufacturing history, about
how dangerous it can be to bite the hand that feeds you.
The video shows one lovely frame after another showing how
Koch Industries make our life better. Nowhere in the video is that dirty pile
of pet coke deposited as waste on the waterfront in Detroit. There is no
footage of the so finely-textured gritty pet coke blowing over the beleaguered
city of Detroit making the air gray and unbreathable. Koch Industries, in Mad Man-style
1950’s tradition, looks, in its video, like a middle-class friendly, apple-pie
America, we’re-your-rural-neighbor company.
But the Koch brothers are fighting to save their fossil
fuel industry. They are climate change deniers. They hope that alternative
energy sources prove to be a pipe dream and the pipe they dream of is the
Keystone pipeline. They do not have clean hands and they really care very
little about the American middle class except that they plan to cut our wages.
These two brothers are meddling in our Democracy by going
into red states and even purple states and spending millions to make sure that
Republicans win every office and have a majority in every political entity in
the state. They are sponsors of or the chief donors to many PAC’s and SuperPAC’s.
They actually are connected to ALEC, a group that writes legislation that
favors the interests of the Koch brothers and this legislation is often
introduced and approved in state legislatures without being revised in any
detail.
When the rules for campaign finance were too restrictive,
fortunately for the Kochs, we got Citizen’s United and McCutcheon approved by
the Supreme Court. Do we really think this is just a coincidence? Some states
still have restrictive election financing rules but the Kochs are organized to
get around them. They have the deepest pockets in America and can keep reaching
in, pulling out the money, applying it as needed, and reaching in for more.
If you are a Democrat this deluge of money is distressing
and disheartening. There is no way we can equal it. In any race which the Koch
brothers want the Republicans to win (and they want them to win them all) they
make sure a candidate is picked to run and that a blizzard of money and ads will
tilt that race towards the right. They even pursue this process in blue states
and they are successful often enough to make it a worthwhile strategy.
The Kochs do not just play their shiny new
blow-their-own-horn ad on Fox or other right wing media. I have been seeing
that Ode to Koch Industries during Meet
the Press
; I have seen it on MSNBC; I even saw it during the John Stewart show. Do you think any
of these shows are shows that the Koch brothers would back? I don’t. It’s all propaganda
plain and simple, meant to look like a pure American plain song by true blue
Americans who, against all odds, continue to conduct their business in America
and employ everyday Americans. (Yes, I really did mean to say America that many
times.)

These guys would run for the hills just like all our other
employers if it was in their best interests. I don’t like them subverting
Democracy and making our government and its offices commodities to be bought
and sold. No matter how many times you show that pretty video, I will see the
piles of pet coke blowing over Detroit because no one cared enough to put tarps
over the filthy stuff.
Here’s a link to the video in case you haven’t seen it:

By Nancy Brisson

The End of Democracy – The Koch Brothers

Did you watch Rachel Maddow last night? She followed
the bucks and the negative Health Care ads, appearing both nationally and in
some states, to two groups, the Foundation for Government Accountability
(sounds quite official and serious doesn’t it) and the State Policy Network
(which also sounds like it is part of actual government). Apparently neither of
these groups has any connection whatsoever to either our federal government or
the governments of our state. In spite of their ad hoc roots these two groups
are traveling around America serving as witnesses against the ACA in states
where there might be a bit of wiggle room, where a state may be considering
signing on to the expanded Medicaid that is part of the ACA (the part that gives
insurance to the uninsured). They post internet ads that suggest that signing
on to Obama’s health care act will get you in tax trouble. They have another
site which attempts to get the residents in the states where they operate to
sign a Grover- Norquist-style pledge that says they will never sign up for
health care.
Once the money trail was unraveled it led to those
billionaire Koch (pronounced coke) brothers who have more money than the rest
of Americans-who-are-not in-the-top-1% combined. These brothers who inherited
their money from the oil and chemical industry established by their Daddy are
solid backers and play-callers in the right wing of the Republican Party. They
have their fingers in just about every one of those “we-are-the-true-Patriots
pies”.
We have long suspected that our country is not
controlled by the American people. We have suspected that monied people (who
now include corporations, since corporations are people) call the tunes that
our elected “representatives” march to. From time to time proof of meddling has
been offered up to us by one party or another and we are temporarily shocked.
Then we shake it off and move on. But the machinations of these two brothers
seem to be similar to the tentacles of a jelly fish which has twined its way
throughout all aspects of our government. The right wing Conservatives don’t
just have lots of organizations working to make sure their policies become part
of American governance, but these organizations talk to each other. They are
not isolated entities. In fact most of them have, at the top, a few names of
very rich sponsors, and almost all of them have been traced to the Koch
brothers.
How can the average American fight a steamrolling,
bankrolling political machine like this? How can we counteract the influence of
wealthy power-brokers on our states and on our federal government?  If you add up all the issues that we the
people favor by over 50% (issues like immigration laws, gun control laws, laws
to raise the minimum wage and more), issues we favor actually by over 60%, and
then see how many of these issues are being taken care of by our Congress, you
can see how much power “we the people” actually wield. If anyone needs to “take
back our government” it is “we, the people”, but I guess you can see why we
feel terribly out-gunned (double meaning intended) and out-maneuvered and
out-classed (meaning out-spent, since class equals money in America). How on
earth can we root out this pernicious patch of weeds that has spread out like a
giant taproot under America? It all feels pretty hopeless. Obamacare is the
only thing we have apparently gotten past these people and they are mad (and
yes, mad is the correct word here); they want vengeance; they will do anything
to stop this law from becoming a successful part of the social safety net in
America. Obama did an end run around these secret manipulators, he mowed the
grass, and that is not allowed. One thing we can do, therefore, against these
rich polluters is support the Affordable Care Act; be patient about its
roll-out; sign up for it as soon as we get a chance. We could also repeat over
and over again how we want Congress to approve Obama’s court nominees. We can
insist that the minimum wage should be raised. I don’t know if we can have much
effect on immigration or gun control right now because these bills have very
entrenched enemies, but there are probably some other areas where we can be a
big, old, nasty, squeaky wheel. Can we win out over all this money? The outlook is
not good, but if we just lie down and play dead that may be the end of
Democracy.

The last graphic was drawn by Muckety and reproduced in the Daily Kos
This is the view from the cheap seats.
This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com

Basically A Rant

 

The correct strategies for America are not always
the most selfish ones. It’s not all about us all the time. Sometimes we must
look at the big picture because everything is interconnected. Some string that
is pulled somewhere else can unravel or re-knit our future.

And, then there is the truth that, at this point in
time, the Republicans will not allow Obama to pass any new laws that improve
the economy, the infrastructure, or jobs. If we don’t elect Democrats in 2014
we have almost 3 long years to concentrate on foreign affairs. If we truly do
not want to get involved in any more wars, I would trust Obama much more than I
would trust the Republicans to admonish a dictator without getting us involved
in a foreign war. The only way the war in Syria can escalate and suck in the
world is if a powerful force like Russia joins in. If Putin is serious about
helping get rid of the chemical weapons in Syria, then he probably is not
interested in starting World War III. If we stay civil and Russia stays civil
then perhaps we can pull this off. Americans do not appear to be too fond of
civility right now, sad to say. Instead all the little voices fall in line
echoing the charge that Obama is a weak President. I repeat; if Obama can end
the use of chemical weapons in Syria without starting a new war, then he is
anything but weak.

If there is anything this President does that is
weak it is to give Republicans another opening to tout his weakness and force
him to bargain when these Republicans know all along that they will say “no” to
him again and again and again. This does not make Obama seem weak to me. It
makes him seem like a President who respects the Constitution and who tries to
give Republicans every opportunity to cut out the partisan politics and do
their jobs as outlined in that very Constitution that describes how our
government is supposed to work. Nowhere in the Constitution I read does it say
that people outside the government should be promised a stronger allegiance
than is given to a fair consideration of the laws that build a stronger
America.

Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist and the
Koch brothers should be like the rest of us. They are citizens with one vote
each. But they have found ways to pull the strings of large numbers of
Americans turning them into disenchanted citizens and puppet voters who repeat,
like mantras, arguments drummed into them by skillful pundits. These pundits
know the fears some Americans hold in their hearts and minds and they stoke the
fires lit under these fears, bank the coals, and then stoke them again. They
have fostered a bunch of conspiracy junkies and they will ruin America if we
let them. These pundits have been primed to serve the interests of Grover
Norquist, the Koch brothers, the Tea Party and whatever other shadowy figures
are in the Conservative Cabal.

So we have plenty of time to take the big view, the
long view, while we wait for America to wake up and throw off the strings of
the mind controllers who have taken over the GOP.

What would we like to see happen in the Middle East?
Perhaps we would like to see strong, healthy Middle Eastern countries where
government and religion are separate. Perhaps people in the Middle East will
chose peaceful coexistence and tolerance over hate and aggression; these
nations’ peoples will find a balance that will allow the citizens to live
stable and productive lives in which there is no dictator holding on to all of
the nations’ wealth. What can we do to encourage this? Wouldn’t such an outcome
have a profoundly positive effect on us and the world? Playing a bit of referee
doesn’t seem too much to ask from the rest of the world community. After all we
have plenty of time right now to keep an eye on the violations of war behavior
which result in the horrors of genocide. If we allow these practices we will
never achieve that real peace, tolerance, and prosperity we wish for the Middle
East and the world.

If you want Obama to accomplish our goals for our
domestic future then you had better raise your voice and tell Republicans to
stop obstructionism in Congress, to stop encouraging red states to pass laws
that challenge the current laws in America, and to stop brainwashing and
scaring gullible Americans. We need to elect Democrats in 2014.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

 

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com