Gary Wills: GOP Tactics Echo Antebellum South’s Secessionism

Gary Wills has a very enlightening new piece in the New York Review of Books about the debt-ceiling/shutdown crisis manufactured by the Tea Party wing of the GOP. I can’t add anything to it, Please just go and read it. It’s an opinion of the American present deeply informed by the American past.

Here’s a taste:

Republican leaders in Congress are too cowardly to say that the voting restrictions being enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures are racially motivated. They accept the blatant lie that they are aimed only at non-existent “fraud.” They will not crack the open code by which their partners claim to object to Obama because he is a “foreign-born Muslim” when they really mean “a black man.” They will not admit that the many procedural laws adopted to prevent abortion are in violation of the law as defined by the Supreme Court. They go along with the pretence that all the new rules are “for women’s health.” De facto acts of secession are given a pseudo-legal cover.

Thus we get people who say they do not want the government in control of women’s health under Obamacare—just after they order doctors to give women vaginal probes the doctors do not consider medically necessary. Or that they do not want the government telling Americans what they should do about their health—just before they prohibit “navigators” from even discussing choices about their health. The same people who oppose background checks for gun purchases now want background checks for anyone the government authorizes to explain the law to people. This is a gag rule to rank with antebellum bans on the discussion of slavery.

So we have one condition that resembles the pre-Civil War virtual secessionism—the holding of a whole party hostage to its most extreme members. We also have the other antebellum condition—the disproportionate representation of the extreme faction. In state after state in the 2012 election, there was a large vote for President Obama, but a majority of House seats went to Republicans. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Obama won 52 percent of the votes cast, but Republicans got over twice as many seats (13 to 5), thanks to carefully planned gerrymandering of districts by Republican state legislatures. This advantage will be set in stone if all the voter restriction laws now being advanced block voters who might upset the disproportion.

The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule.

(My only comment on all this I said a little over two years ago,)

Memo to Rand Paul: Condescension Won’t Win You the Hearts of the “Rest of America”

Sen. Rand Paul

From the Huffington Post:

At a sold-out New Hampshire Republican Party dinner Monday night, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) encouraged the room of GOP supporters to embrace diversity and outreach if they want to take the White House in 2016, the Courier-Journal in Louisville reports.

“We need to be like the rest of America,” Paul said. “We’re going to win when we look like America. We need to be white, we need to be brown, we need to be black, we need to be with tattoos, without tattoos, with ponytails, without ponytails, with beards, without.”

Paul urged New Hampshire Republicans to reshape their party’s image and become the “party of opportunity.”

“We need to be that party that can express it in a way that shows that we care about people,” Paul said, according to the Concord Monitor. “We need to care about people even if they are on government assistance.”

Paul may be playing coy about his plans for a presidential run, but there’s no doubt at all about his plans to influence the Republican Party’s national chances for the highest office in some way. In addition to his high-profile and principled filibuster of drone attacks on Americans in March (principles that he seemed to have walked back a bit in April), Paul has also caught the press’s attention visiting Howard University,  the storied “Black Harvard” located in Washington, D.C.,  and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where he spoke in favor of amnesty for undocumented workers in some cases  in opposition to his own position pre-Election 2012. Paul has been putting quite a bit more sweat into outreach to non-Republican demographics than any of his peers since, maybe, Jack Kemp in the 1980s.

So why is it almost certain that Paul will fail? It’s not just that he’s dealing with the Sisyphean task of making the Grand Old White People’s Party attractive to young multiculturals. I mean, that’s a difficult enough task, for sure, especially given the way the party’s hardcore rank-and-filers and its most visible politicians are able to undo all Paul’s efforts with just a little bit of  talk about the issues that matter most to Paul’s alleged target audiences (if his audience isn’t actually just more moderate white independents), and the way many on the right resist threats of outreach as betrayal of fundamental principles. No, I think Paul is going to fail unless he finds another way of talking about his aspirations for the party–and to really try to understand if his aspirations for the party are genuinely appealing to non-Republican groups. It’s one thing to want more diversity in the party; it’s another thing entirely to know how to build it. You do not build diversity by making speeches that scream how little you understand the audience you’re trying to appeal to. Continue reading

The Secret Seizure and “Progressive” Democrats’ Failure of Heart

Attorney General Eric Holder with Deputy AG James Cole, who made the call to seize two months of phone records of 20 AP reporters.

AG Eric Holder with Deputy AG James Cole, who made the call to secretly seize two months of records of 20 phone lines of AP reporters in search of a  leaker in the Obama administration.

My first instinct when I heard Monday’s revelation of the DOJ’s secret seizure of certain AP reporters’ work and home phone records was to say to myself, I’m glad I voted for Jill Stein.

My second was to fume over how infuriating this story is, what ham-handed ineptitude it displays. If there’s only one area of Obama’s administration that progressive Democrats who voted for him twice should agree with me about it’s this nauseatingly phony tougher-than-Bush approach to questions of national security. I mean, if I were the same person I was in, say, 2004 and had voted for Obama’s second term, I would be having some serious cognitive dissonance issues to deal with today. On the other hand, these are the same people who boasted loudly for half the campaign season about Osama bin Laden’s death (rather than his capture, which would really have been something to boast about), so chances are they won’t be too upset over anything Obama does in the name of national security. Continue reading

Circumstances of Jill Stein’s Hofstra Arrest: “Symbolic” of What CPD Has Done to Democracy

Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the Green Party’s candidate for President and Vice President, you may have heard, were arrested a little over a week ago as they attempted to confront representatives of the Commission on Presidential Debates on the campus of Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on the eve of the second official Presidential debate between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. What you may not have heard about are the actual circumstances of the arrest.

In a suit for injunctive relief filed on October 22 in Circuit Court in Palm Beach, Florida, to prevent that night’s third official debate from occurring at Lynn University in Boca Raton without inclusion of third parties, Stein’s attorney related the salient details of that arrest:

24.  On October 16th, 2012, less than one week ago, the United States Presidential Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, and her Vice-Presidential running mate, Ms. Cheri Honkala, were arrested for being on the grounds of the site of the Presidential debate which was scheduled to take place approximately seven hours later.

25.  Dr. Stein arrived on the grounds of Hofstra University at approximately 2:00pm in order to speak with defendant Commission for Presidential Debates to request that she and other “third party” candidates be allowed to participate in that evening’s Presidential debate. Fifteen minutes after making that request to a representative of defendant Commission, Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala were approached by local police and the Secret Service, at which time they were handcuffed, taken to a remote detention facility/wharehouse/ especially set up to house “protestors”, where they were forced to remain for over eight hours while tightly handcuffed to metal chairs until such time as the debate between the only two candidates “invited” to participate in the debate was over.

26.  When Dr. Stein and Ms. Honkala were finally “un-hancuffed” from the metal chairs and released, they were sent out into the cold night in a remote location with no notice to their lawyers or staff of their release.

27.  Dr. Stein’s comments concerning her arrest, handcuffing, and incarceration are, in essence, the basis for this injunction. Upon her release, Dr. Stein stated: “It was painful but symbolic to be handcuffed for all those hours, because that’s what the Commission on Presidential Debates has essentially done to American democracy.”

We know the suit failed in its primary purpose to stop the debate.  But I hope you will take a minute and think about what happened to Stein and Honkala on the afternoon and evening of October 16. Think about these two women, candidates for president and vice-president,  on the ballot in 38 states with their Republican and Democratic opponents, handcuffed with plastic restraints to metal chairs for eight hours in an “undisclosed location,” like common criminals or terrorists.

This is what American democracy in 2012 looks like.

This Was a Foreign Policy Debate?

I made a comment to Washington Post Associate Editor Robert Kaiser in an online chat this afternoon about the debate last night:

It’s likely that Romney’s limitations [in last night's debate], which kept him trying to drag the subject back to domestic politics, owe to real limitations and inexperience. I don’t know why Obama was so ready to oblige Romney’s fallback to safety and follow him there. Nor do I understand why Bob Schieffer restricted most of the discussion to the Middle East and the military, as though that’s all the foreign policy worthy of being discussed or that Americans are capable of caring about. What about climate change, energy and geopolitics, immigration, drug war policy, the Eurozone and currency wars? This was the least informative debate in memory, except it did tell us almost too much about how vacant the discourse in the US has become, especially among the political class.

Kaiser replied:

Good comments, thanks. But I think both candidates are convinced that domestic issues will be much more important in voters’ final decisions than any concerns about foreign affairs.

The discussion is over, but here is how I respond to Kaiser:  Why have a foreign policy debate at all if it’s understood that the candidates and their campaigns don’t think it’s important to the voters and the media are willing to go along with them on that? Who was this debate for? Who are any of these debates for?

If you want to hear candidates actually talk about the stuff of foreign policy–how politics and economics in the US relates to politics and economics in other countries around the world–you have to watch democracynow.org’s Expanding the Debates, in which Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman allowed the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Justice Party’s  Rocky Anderson to respond to questions Bob Schieffer put to the president and Mitt Romney. (Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson declined Democracy Now’s invitation. )  It’s doubtful, if you watched the official debate only, that you’ll have learned very much at all, given the extremely limited subjects discussed and the frequent derailments with domestic politics. But it’s almost guaranteed you will learn something watching the expanded format.

Underdog Democratic Opponent to Entrenched CA Reactionary Responds to Homophobia Charge

David Secor, who is running as a Democrat in California’s 50th Congressional District based in San Diego against Republican stalwart Duncan Hunter, has replied at length to my previous post. I’ve decided to highlight it as a blog post unto itself rather than hope it will be read in the comments section. I recommend reading the previous post  first to get a sense of what exactly the candidate is responding to.  I won’t comment on Secor’s response here but will, rather, yield the floor to him and respond later.

Before I turn the blog over to Secor, I want to thank him for taking the time to explain himself. I also want to say a word about why I think this dialogue is important. This conflict interests me because it points to some of the less visible strains running through progressive discourse in the US. Here are two “opponents” (I refer to Secor and Mike Flynn) who inhabit more common ground than this personal antagonism between them would suggest, notably on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) that Secor refers to here. But beyond the personal disagreement is a political one, over the notion that the system as it stands is capable of change or whether a new counter-system is required to effect real, meaningful change.  This is a conflict that has raged on the left for a long time–and on the right, as well–but only recently has it come to be a vital, relevant debate beyond the merely academic.

So thank you, again,  to David Secor for his contribution to this dialogue. It follows in full after the jump: Continue reading

Homophobia in CA District 50

I’m shocked and a little shaken by something going on in a Congressional district far, far away from my own, here on on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t decided a couple of weeks ago to follow @MikeFlynn14. I don’t remember why I chose to follow Mike, or how our paths crossed, but it was clear to me his politics were sympatico to mine, in the #occupyWallStreet domain of the spectrum. A couple of nights ago, this Tweet from Mike caught my eye:

That certainly looked like a slur to me from this David Secor, whoever he was. I clicked through to Secor’s Twitter page expecting to find a Tea Party member and was surprised to find a Congressional candidate instead. For some reason, Secor doesn’t make his party affiliation terribly clear in his self-description (“House Candidate CA D-50.” You can easily miss the D there, as I did) but the politics he promotes there (“End Gridlock, Xtremist Control. GetMoneyOut! I take NO $ over $100! JOBS, ProtectRights4ALL,Women+,Vets+,PubEd+,Build USA RTs a +”) were confusingly left of center for someone who seemed to have just sent a homophobic taunt over Twitter.

I tweeted to Secor:

@davidsecor2012 @mikeflynn14 You’re really running for Congress? From CA? With an attitude [like] that? So you even have a chance?

Continue reading