The banana Republicans

Latest from the Banana Republican Party: bribing a Democratic State Senator in VA to quit.

If they can’t offer policies that a majority of voters will support without relentless brainwashing, they free up the billionaire beneficiaries of the policies they actually offer to help them buy elections.

If buying elections won’t give them a majority, they rig the districting so they can hold a minority of seats with a minority of votes.

If they can’t win even in gerrymandered districts, they try to keep Democrats from voting.

If they still lose, they resort to outright bribery.

In the latest case, they offered a Democratic state senator in Virginia – whose vote resulted in a tied chamber, giving the Lieutenant Governor the deciding vote – a cushy job for himself and a judgeship for his daughter if he’d resign, giving the GOP 20-19 majority.

Similar deals have been done recently in New York and Washington State, though in those cases the bribes were legislative leadership positions rather than external jobs.

I can confidently predict that a not a single elected Republican, and few if any Red-team pundits, will speak out against this grossly corrupt deal.* If the state AG or the U.S. Attorney decide that it’s a prosecutable quid pro quo, Fox News and the National Review will howl about the “criminalization of policy differences.”

“Puckett” deserves to enter the language alongside “Quisling.”

The appalling content of its policies aside – the latest dirty trick is part of an effort to deny medical coverage to the working poor –  the modern Republican Party is a threat to the principles of republican government. Even when they’re not torturing, they lie, they cheat, and they steal.

Footnote And note the way the Washington Post uses the morally neutral “outmaneuver” to cover the payment and acceptance of a bribe. Did the Communists “outmaneuver” Jan Masaryk? Did the House of Guise “outmaneuver” the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day?

 * Update Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, who’s about as Red as they come, expresses his disgust:

Virginia Republicans are claiming that the jobs for Puckett and his daughter are unrelated to his resignation and the sudden seizure of control of the state Senate, but only their publicists will buy that. They undid the results of an election and made someone a judge for a payoff. Even those who both support their policy goals and oppose McAuliffe’s tactics have to admit that this debases politics and public policy.

Good for Morrissey!

 

 

David Brooks says the thing-that-is

A call to arms against the lunatics who have taken over the party of Lincoln, and a Jeremiad against the spineless mainstream conservatives who have let them do it.

The most important fact about contemporary American politics is that the Republican party has become an extremist organization, in which what used to be the fringe is now the base.

The most important problem facing political journalists and pundits is whether to report that fact as fact, or to remain even-handed as between (in Churchill’s phrase) the fire-fighters and the fire.

The biggest disappointment of the three and a half years since the 2008 election is the extent to which journalists (both reporters and pundits) have chosen a false ideal of even-handedness over the obligation to Say The Thing That Is rather than treating it as on an equal footing with The Thing That Is Not. Barack Obama’s “sweet reason” strategy had two chances to work: some Republicans could have chosen to be reasonable, or – given that the GOP went as far off the rails as it has – the reporters could have called them on it. Neither happened, and the result was the 2010 election outcome.

So I’m somewhat cheered by the evidence that journalists are waking up and smelling the crazy. But I have to admit that I didn’t expect David Brooks to help lead the charge. Why, the man who seemed to embody the reborn spirit of David Broder sounds positively reality-based as he rages at the spinelessness of his fellow conservatives:

The wingers call their Republican opponents RINOs, or Republican In Name Only. But that’s an insult to the rhino, which is a tough, noble beast. If RINOs were like rhinos, they’d stand up to those who seek to destroy them. Actually, what the country needs is some real Rhino Republicans. But the professional Republicans never do that. They’re not rhinos. They’re Opossum Republicans. They tremble for a few seconds then slip into an involuntary coma every time they’re challenged aggressively from the right.

Without real opposition, the wingers go from strength to strength. Under their influence, we’ve had a primary campaign that isn’t really an argument about issues. It’s a series of heresy trials in which each of the candidates accuse the others of tribal impurity. Two kinds of candidates emerge from this process: first, those who are forceful but outside the mainstream; second, those who started out mainstream but look weak and unprincipled because they have spent so much time genuflecting before those who despise them.

Just as the Terri Schiavo affair helped push some people across the aisle in the mid-2000s, the anti-contraception jihad, along with Santorum’s virtual call to religious warfare, is doing so today.

The Economist on the Republicans

They see what we see: a party increasingly dominated by cranks and by cranky ideas.

The Economist – despite its unerring judgment about  books on crime control and drug policy – cannot be justly described a Democratic or liberal publication; it identifies itself as “pro-business, right-of-centre.” But, unlike the friends of plutocracy on this side of the Atlantic, the folks at The Economist believe in principles other than deregulation of enterprise and low taxes on the rich. Moreover, they remain largely reality-based, eschewing wingnut postmodernism.

In the contemporary Republican Party and the increasingly misnamed conservative movement, The Economist sees just about what our local branch of the reality-based community sees:

* “ideas that are cranky, extreme, and backward-looking”

* “the party has been dragged further and further to the right”

* “as the Republican base has been become ever more detached from the mainstream, its list of unconditional demands has become ever more stringent”;

* The individual mandate to purchase health care is a reasonable, and indeed conservative, idea, controversial among Republicans only because the Democrats passed it;

*  the hard-right “fatwas explain the rum list of candidates: you either have to be an unelectable extremist who genuinely believes all of this, or a dissembler prepared to tie yourself in ever more elaborate knots (the flexible Mr. Romney)”;

* “compassionless conservatism (slashing taxes on the rich and expenditure on the poor) comes with little thought as to which bits of government spending are useful. Investing in infrastructure, redesigning public education and maintaining unemployment benefits in the worst downturn since the Depression are hardly acts of communism.”

* Mitt Romney “seems several vertabrae short of a backbone.”

In wishing for a Republican candidate they could support in good conscience – a re-backboned Romney, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie – the editors engage in the wishful thinking of imagining that the candidate of a Tea Party-dominated party can avoid being a Tea Party candidate. Might as well imagine someone who drinks all day but is never drunk.

The Republican Party is what it is: plutocratic, irrationalist, nativist, theocratic, tolerant only of bigotry, eager to disenfranchise its opponents. The Whigs – such as the editors of The Economist – will have to choose their side. They can either support increased inequality at the expense of Enlightenment values, or they can say, as the leading article says, “We didn’t leave you; you left us,” and fight for Whig principles of “businesslike pragmatism” (which has been the leitmotif of the Obama Administration) efficient and limited government and personal liberty inside a Democratic Party by no means implacably hostile to those principles.

Self-destruction

The Tea Party is unpopular, but Mitt Romney has to pretend to be “in synch” with the movement. And that’s the box the GOP finds itself in.

The Tea Party is unpopular (though admittedly less unpopular than the Republicans). The NYT poll shows 20% of the voters favorable to the movement, while 40% are unfavorable, while CNN shows an even worse 31%-51%.

So what does Mitt Romney, who supposedly wants to be President, think he’s doing when he claims (falsely) to be “in synch” with the yahoos? Answer: seeking the Republican nomination. And there you have the box the GOP finds itself in. Even with a thoroughly rotten economy, the positions someone has to take to become the Republican nominee will make it almost impossible to get elected President.

Footnote Coincidentally, a new op-ed by David Campbell and Robert Putnam (drawn from the same research that produced their magisterial American Grace) discredits the Tea Party promoters’ origin myth about politically naive folks coming together to oppose “big government.” In fact, Tea Party supporters are characterized by long-standing Republican affiliation, religiosity, opposition to abortion, and hostility to blacks and immigrants. Putnam also claims that TPers are now less popular than Muslims or (shudder) even atheists, but doesn’t provide the actual data.