Tag Archives: GOP

The Truth About the GOP’s War on Rural America

rural AmericaThere are a lot of explanations for the unexpected rise of a crass businessman to the most powerful seat in the world. There’s the actual fake stories planted by kids with hungry wallets (versus the “fake” news that President 45 labels anything that doesn’t echo his propaganda machine). There’s misogyny. There’s racism. There’s the greatest coordinated international smear-job in history. There’s a healthy dose of pendulum effect. But one of the biggest sectors that gets the credit for delivering a Republican president (albeit one who has his party leadership wringing its hands) to a still-GOP-dominated Capitol Hill is rural America.

For a long time, rural America has been ignored, misunderstood and even at times downright insulted by urban (and especially coastal urban)(and especially liberal) America. Discounted as redneck rubes, animal-killing gun nut Jesus freaks who marry their cousins and aren’t educated enough to appreciate the New Yorker, or independent cinema, or the pansexuality of a new, neon-colored America. Of all the claims hurled at the left, this is the one that rings most true: having lived in big cities most of my life and now having chosen to make my life in a rural (though decidedly non-traditionally rural) community, I’ve seen the glaring disconnect echoed in such memes as the ones discounting middle America as “Dumbfuckistan” and calling for California secession; seen the smugness that refers to most of America (and, admittedly, most of the most beautiful parts of America) as fly-over states.

Citizens of the bread basket were angry as hell and weren’t gonna take it anymore. There’s been a slow-and-then-fast bleed going on in rural America for decades (see “Hillbilly Elegy“) as policies and attention turned to fighting urban blight while ignoring a dying way of life in the country. El Trumpo promised, among other things, that he was going to make the bleeding stop. So they voted for him, hoping that a New York/DC billionaire was going to save them from the other New York/DC billionaires.

Yet everything Trump and his Republican congress has proposed points to one simple fact: The hurting for rural America is about to get a whole hell of a lot worse.

The Trade Wars Against Rural America

Part 1: Sticker Shock

The face of the GOP’s shadow government is Paul Ryan, the Congressional head who just touted a proposal to increase border taxes on imports and whose inability to understand that most of America eats from spoons not made of silver is further proof that the people in DC out of touch with real Americans aren’t the Democrats. He claims his border tax will level the playing field, Made in the USA will bounce back, yes, absolutely. While a majority of economists don’t seem to agree — at the least, they’ll say that there simply isn’t enough empirical evidence — let’s just pretend it works. Let’s say that magically this tax on imports forces companies to bring their plants back home and socks are again made in Barnwell, cars are made in Lansing, auto parts are made in Sandusky and DVD players are made in Cleveland. That doesn’t do a damn thing for corn growers in Indiana, ranchers in Montana or grain farmers in Nebraska. If American manufacturing comes back, companies will re-purpose the rotting husks of post-industrial decline dotting the waterways and railstops of the big cities of America. Not the hollers.

The tax will affect the shopping of rural America, though. Walmart is one of the retailers protesting this tax. An addition of a 20% tax on imports will work out to products costing about 20% more. Walmart’s stores skew towards less-populated, lower-income areas. Which means that Walmart stores are a big shopping resource for rural America. So while not reaping job gains, the growers and ranchers will have to pay more for their goods; effectively, they’ll be losing buying power.

And if this affects Walmart, a company with trillions of dollars, a vast empire of outlets and massive global reach, imagine what it’ll do to small retailers that won’t be able to absorb such a blow by spreading out margin shrink. The other part of the border tax is a drop of corporate taxes (to 10% was the number I heard floating around). When Paul Ryan says everything will be evened out by this, he shows a wild lack of understanding of corporate finance. If a company pays less in taxes, it’s not going to  pump that back into consumer’s pockets, use it to absorb sticker shock; it’ll use that to line the pockets of those at the top, pockets that open less for consumption than to invest in real estate, other companies or exotic luxury travel (an industry which will be booming but, again, won’t benefit the rurals)(thus negating the tax reform darling of conservatives that says a flat tax on consumption would help everybody equally).

Trump, to his credit, had already expressed concern over Ryan’s border tax plan. But his trade skirmishes, both with China and more recently with Mexico (he even proposed an increase of 20% on Mexican goods) will not only similarly raise prices at such retailers, they’ll also hurt our farmers in another way: exports.

Part 2: Rotting Produce

For many rust belt states, exports make up a large percent of their state income.

The export industry is extremely important to what we do here in Clinton county and eastern Iowa and in the Midwest,” said Iowa corn grower Dennis Campbell.

And who are America’s top importers of agricultural goods? China, Canada, then Mexico. So if we impose tariffs backed by Congress and/or 45, likely the nations they’re proposed against, namely Mexico and China, will respond in kind. That takes out 2 of our top 3 international buyers.

“Agriculture is one area that’s truly benefited from NAFTA,” said Illinois Farm Bureau senior director of commodities Tamara Nelsen. And ol’ number 45 wants to end NAFTA. So look for a glut of produce to lead to fields left fallow and ag prices falling into the slagheap.

The Health War on Rural America

Health care is most expensive in rural communities. They just don’t have the volume that urban hospitals do. My wife delivered our son in a hospital that averages slightly less than one birth a day. We were the only patients in the ward, outnumbered by nurses 4 to 1. Contrast that with an average of 7,000 babies delivered annually at Cedars-Sinai in L.A.

For this reason, many hospitals and insured in rural America depend on and benefit immensely from federal subsidies. During the health care vote-a-rama that started this year, during which Senate dems forced the Senate GOP to say what exactly it would not support in its repeal-and-replace bid, the GOP flatly voted against subsidies for rural health care.

Of course the other big clause being toyed around with is the repeal of the pre-existing conditions clause. In many rural communities that focus on extraction, there are things like black lung (which has made a comeback in Appalachia) and other conditions that go hand-in-hand with explosives and dangerous labor (seen what a rock can do when it crushes a body part?).

So for rural America we’ve jacked up consumer prices without increasing jobs AND increased health care costs or, in some cases, negated health care completely. What’s next?

The War on the Rural American Sportsman

A big point of pride in rural communities is self-sufficiency. A key to self-sufficiency is the ability to feed one’s family with food harvested yourself. In rural America, this happens in two parts: 1. raising and growing your own food and 2. hunting.

I’ve only been hunting for a few years and the knowledge that I’m a participant in the oldest human activity and that I can put food on my family’s table swells me with pride. And I’m a lousy hunter.

America is one of the few developed nations with enough public lands that nearly anybody can find a place near their home to get their own dinner. In most of Europe, a majority of the land is privately-owned and hunters and fishers have to pay landowners fees to get on the grounds, and that’s if you can even get the landowners’ permission in the first place; over there, the hunt is truly a practice of the wealthy.

President 45 and GOP lawmakers agree on the idea to turn federal lands over to the states. At first this seems like a good idea for rural America. States should have a better idea on how to manage their lands than bureaucrats in D.C., right?

But there’s one problem: States wouldn’t be able to afford to manage those lands. The US Forest Service and Interior spent nearly $2B in firefighting in 2016. A recent university study in Utah predicted that a transfer of the federal lands being proposed for the transfer would lead to a Utah fire-fighting expenditure of $76.7 million, nearly a sixfold increase. Add in the costs of building and maintaining roads and access points and you’re talking a huge chunk of change. According to sportsmensaccess.org, total federal outlays nationwide for public lands are $646 trillion.

Wyoming, one sportsmen’s paradise, is already looking at having to dip into rainy day funds just to meet their education budgets. Add the extra weight of maintaining public lands and there will be only one solution: start selling. That land would then go to wealthy real estate investors and/or extraction companies. Which would benefit President 45’s wealthy friends and big oil and coal cronies. And ensure that the age-old tradition of taking your son or daughter out in the forest to hunt for food becomes a pastime for the well-connected and deep-pocketed. Rural America need not apply.

But What About Lower Regulations…

The heads says that Obama’s regulations are killing rural America. There’s the war on coal. And the war on farmers, claims that EPA clean-water rules have overstepped their boundaries, making it so ranchers can’t afford to raise livestock.

But Coal isn’t dying because of some leftwing conspiracy, any more than the manufacture of horse wagons was killed by some dastardly cabal of anti-equine government interests. Cars were the future of transportation; and renewables are the future of energy production. Can’t stop the future, no matter how you may want to try.

As for EPA laws hurting farmers, that’s a gray area. Some people claim environmental regs dictate what farmers can and can’t grow, how they plow and how they irrigate. But these rules hit feedlots the hardest. Without regulations, the Harris Ranch (with its 100,000 head of cattle) will have little to keep it from expanding to untenable levels. This will drive most smaller, family-owned ranches out of business, effectively killing rural America.

The other side to it is that money is nothing if your family can’t drink the water from the well because all the pesticides and methane and environmentally-harmful ag practices have rotted the soil. Still, there should be more study to the actual effects here. So far all I’ve seen from the anti-ag-reg side is conjecture that smells to me an awful lot like more of a landgrab, another case of smooth-talking honchos throwing their weight around to build their oligarchies. I haven’t seen anti-EPA data addressing the effectiveness of the regs; it all just says they’re bad and claims liberals hate farmers. The crush of rural America and its farmers was happening long before Obama and Clinton and the proposals from the supposedly “pro-farm” folks look like they would just exacerbate the problem.

Cannibalizing Rural America

In the end, this is a classic bait-and-switch. Both sides do it, but for the last few decades it’s taken somewhat of a rightward bend. When the GOP became the party of the wealthy, they had to find a way to convince a large number of Americans to vote against their own interests. So they painted a big, pretty picture of how they would bring back the golden days of rural America. And from the moment that today’s Republican party (and let’s not kid ourselves, this isn’t the GOP of Bush or Reagan and certainly not of Lincoln) took control, they’ve been doing everything they can to plunder their rural members for the sake of their own greedy, power-hungry peers.

And I haven’t even gotten into the claims by many growers that the mass-deportation of immigrant labor could turn their books from black to red. That’s a whole other article.

Still, I expected there to be changes from what direction I think America should take. That’s the give and take of democracy. When a party acts in the interests of its own constituents over those of the opposition, that’s always a victor’s walk and after 8 years of progressive growth and expansion, some retrogressivism is to be expected.

But when a party so egregiously acts to the detriment of its supporters, when the GOP elite cannibalizes rural America to strengthen itself enough to shit its agenda all over the liberals, that’s a betrayal that should incense righteous people on both sides of the fence.

I guess that’s to be expected as the status quo in President 45’s America, though. Take what you can and tell the meek they’ll inherit the earth so they don’t feel as bad when they’re ground into it. Sadly, today’s GOP seems bent on returning their big cheer section in rural America to the dust from whence they came.

Ryan Health Plan Is Simple: Let The Poor Die

Ryan health plan
Paul Ryan has been presenting plans to kill or at least ignore the poor since his wee days.

 

Our new Republican majority will move to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with commonsense alternatives.” – Eric Cantor, 2010

Obamacare has long been the biggest thorn in the GOP’s side, and that’s saying a lot considering the rose bush that has been arguably America’s most successful progressive in modern history. Perhaps it’s partially the idea that every American is entitled to health care, which is a step towards communism, especially since health is  just another commodity. Perhaps it’s partially the fact that it was put up and pushed through by a Democrat. Or perhaps it’s because the GOP has struggled to come up with an alternative ever since the ACA was first hammered out and then passed. So should go the preamble to the Ryan health plan.

Since its implementation, President Obama’s signature achievement has defied all the naysayers by not only surviving but thriving. It has delivered health care to 20 million people who previously had no insurance. And while still very flawed, it was the largest step towards universal health care since the ancient Medi- safety nets.

Of course this only rankled the Republican establishment, which claimed Obama’s new law would result in rampant death and a general deterioration of America (or at the least of the American health care system). Since before the ACA passed, the right has been promising an alternative, “repeal and replace” emerging as the newest R-alliteration slogan since “reduce, reuse, recycle.” But just like recycling has emerged as the poster-boy of acting locally, only one word out of the new slogan has taken hold: repeal, often backed with dire prognostications. In contrast, replace has been a hodgepodge of tax credits and merit-based care, a rehashing of the laissez-faire philosophy that says benefits for the poor and unlucky promotes laziness, with a healthy chaser of threats that subsidized health care will lead to the end of cancer research, a re-emergence of the Black Plague and eventually Marx’s ghost will take up the West Wing.

But Paul Ryan, the man who in just a few years went from out of touch right wing wack job to the GOP’s voice of reason, has finally presented the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. And like a shiny trinket whipped out at just the right moment to distract the kids from the most immediately pressing issue (i.e. the Democrats sitting on the floor of the House to try to press a discussion on gun rights as Ryan turns off the light and decides to take his July 4th vacation a week early) it’s got all the shine without any of the substance.

The Great White Hope

Paul Ryan emerged from the Trump-induced GOP wasteland a few weeks ago with a list of items to prove the GOP isn’t just a party of rejection and racism, no, we stand for much more. A new direction, a Better Way as it’s titled.

I even wrote about how his mission statement might actually provide a first step towards regaining a political Right that, if still somewhat disdainful of the indigent and lower-middle-class, at least isn’t an embarrassment to modern civilization. Then he made an about-face to endorse Trump, thereby losing all credibility for his claim of wanting to build a conservative block that isn’t built on a mixture of racism, xenophobia and men gone tumescent for boom sticks.

His most recent proposal — sorry, plan — is a list of moves to replace Obamacare.

So what exactly does his “plan” entail?

Obamacare Light?

When you brush over it, it seems innocuous. Almost a redress of the ACA. Especially when you look at the clauses that speak to the most-liked components of Obamacare.

There’s the “keep on your parents insurance until you’re 26” component.

Then the pre-existing conditions clause, the one that prevents a person from being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. And the clause that prevents the sickest people from being kicked off their insurance when their sickness goes chronic.

And the cap on employer-based write-offs similar to Obama’s “Cadillac Tax.”

Medicaid expansion will stay in place for states that embraced the Obamacare expansion and it would replace Obamacare subsidies with tax credits. And of course Medicare would be kept.

So this seems not too disastrous, right?

Read The Fine Print Of The Ryan Health Plan, Americans

There’s the rub, the dark secret. Ryan’s new GOP plan won’t keep those most-popular clauses as they currently exist. It will twist them into fucked-up mutants of limited health benefits for the most needy, Toxic Avengers of medical reform designed to trick the populist powers into embracing the modern GOP goal of punishing the poor for not being rich.

The pre-existing conditions clause? According to the Ryan plan you’ll have carte blanche to sign up AT FIRST. But should you miss initial enrollment, or lose your health care and have to start anew? You best hope there’s no history of cancer or debilitating illness or substance dependency in your past.

The sickest people clause? Ryan says they’ll create a $25B pool for high-risk pools patients. Essentially this means there will be a limited fund ($25B is nothing when annual health care for the sickest amounts to well into the 6 figures for the sickest patients)(the top 5% of sickest patients make up 50% of our nation’s annual health care spending, that being $2.9T, so the top 5% of sickest people would have to cover $1.45T a year in health care needs). Even more, this will create a Lepers Colony in American health care where they’ll put the most at-need patients, a new twist on the beautiful old belief in “separate but equal.”

The caps on tax benefits for employer-provided health care? They will be combined with a push towards employers adopting HSAs. For those who don’t fully understand, a HSA is basically a savings account for health options. Essentially it’s a special account to save for out-of-pocket health expenses. The average hospital stay costs $10 grand. So you’ll have to  save $10 G’s in a special savings account for that one trip to the hospital. God forbid you get cancer, or a longterm illness like Krohn’s where meds cost tens of thousands of dollars. Basically, HSAs are only good for … wound treatment? No, even in that case should you get MRSA or some staph infection you’ll drain your account. And that’s if you can somehow put away thousands of dollars when many Americans are struggling to get a couple hundred ahead of their bills.

And Medicaid Medicaid. Oh man, where the bill really shines is in its gutting of health care for the poor and aging. Are you old? Paul Ryan wants to fuck you too.

If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: ‘Die quickly.'” – Alan Grayson, D-Rep Florida

Bring Me Your poor, Your Old, Your Sick… And Let Them Die Quickly

Paul Ryan will allow the states to keep their Medicaid enhancements. Except in his world, Medicaid will be in the form of state block grants and/or individual per-case alottments. So there will be more control given to smaller governments to oversee public facilities for the poor, which we’ve seen works out well. In some cases, states may need more money but in God’s country, to fight for more funds would be seen as sacrificing state sovereignty.  Refusing to request more federal funds during health emergencies will save face for them and buy into the Republican idea of cutting out Federal outlays but will leave millions of people without health care. That doesn’t even mention Ryan’s proposal of making Medicare based on population. So in my state of Wyoming, with a population of about 600,000, imagine how little money will go to the many people suffering from the adverse effects of coal-mining and natural-gas production, not to mention the simple effects of a life lived in extreme and rural conditions with few top-quality hospitals.

Speaking of life without health care, want to know Ryan’s greatest Medicaid clause? The crowning achievement of the Ryan health plan? The work clause. That’s right, since all people out of work are only in that condition because they’re lazy, if you don’t have a job, you don’t get Medicaid. This is literally saying “If you’re not employable, you don’t have a right to live.” Think Trump’s rural unskilled laborer-supporters will appreciate this? No, though they’re too enchanted by the idea of bounty hunting Muslims and standing atop the Game of Thrones wall and pissing down on starving Mexicans to read the fine print in any actual GOP proposals. Or seemingly, to read anything. Like ever.

But what about Medicare? Not everybody will be poor but surely most people will grow old. And they might want to pay attention to clauses such as the raising of the Medicare age to 67 from 65. And how the limit of benefits for LTSS claims (long-term health issues) will lead many people to head into old age with already-weak health (seemingly the idea is that they’ll die before reaching Medicare age) and then they’ll hit a mutated Medicare (Paul loves mutating shit, like Stan Lee but less talented and more out of touch with reality). What do I mean mutated? Well Ryan’s plan pushes for privatization of elderly care, with credits for private care taking front and center, giving old people choices to throw off the shackles of the US gubmint. But basically, this proposal is aimed at destroying Medicare.

His plan calls to “Give options for Medicare with private exchanges and credits” — a step to privatization. He would also cap federal spending and raise subsidies for lower-income elderly but lower them for wealthier ones, which almost seems egalitarian until you realize the main point is the get the most people off Medicare and into private insurance because, you know, you can trust big corporations to always put people first. Finally, Medicare recipients would get a capped amount for benefits instead of a percentage. Right now people on Medicare get a percentage towards their treatment. In Ryan’s plan they get a set amount. So if your drugs costs $100 or $5000 you’ll get about the same help. God help you when it balloons to the tens of thousands through federal loosening of regulations on pharma companies and hospitals (a cornerstone to any GOP proposal for anything, ever).

But that’s the big buzzword in the Ryan health plan, the beating heart to this magnificent beast of medical reform — credits.

Importantly, the tax credit would not be geared to the second-cheapest plan in a given locality, à la Obamacare, but rather to an actual dollar amount. That way, insurers and health care providers are forced to be accountable for the prices they charge, and for keeping those prices accessible to consumers and taxpayers.” – Forbes

What does “credits” mean?

Here is where it gets vague. The plan is constantly pointing to “credits” and other intangibles like “speed up FDA approval.” But mostly it’s a lot of (paraphrasing) “give tax credits instead of subsidies” or “give credits for private insurance to replace Medicare.” But it doesn’t mention how many credits. Perhaps that’s because there’s little substance or analysis behind this? Perhaps it’s because if they proposed too many credits they’d get eviscerated by “tighten-our-belts” Republican pseudo-economists and if they propose too few, they risk alienating the many millions of rural poor that have proven VIA Trump to be the majority of the GOP base and who can’t afford treatment for black lung out of pocket.

Another great vague statement? The plan will limit doctor liability. So does this mean that people can’t sue if Dr. Johnson has a drinking problem, goes into surgery two-sheets to the wind and leaves his Rolex where an erupted pancreas used to be? There’s something about not able to sue for charges above medical expenses so does that mean that if Dr. Nick Riviera amputates the wrong leg, the only punishment is that you don’t have to spend $50 grand to pay for the unnecessary surgery that made you a full paraplegic?

And there’s the many moral clauses. There will be “permanent protections for life and conscience.” For example, let’s say a woman has been in a braindead coma for years and her family decides to ease her suffering by pulling the plug? This clause says doctors and nurses don’t have to allow that. And of course there is a portion that specifically says taxpayer dollars will not be used for “abortion.” And since “abortion” is synonymous with Planned Parenthood for the GOP talking heads, this means a defunding of women’s health programs. Poor girl gets raped by her uncle? Fuck you, you’re a mom. Teenager has sex with her boyfirend and believes him when he says you don’t need a condom, you can’t get pregnant your first time? Fuck you, time to trade in Pre-Calc for “What to Expect.” Teenage boy gets genital warts? Get ready to be Typhoid Marty Papilloma Virus.

Life Without Conscience

The ultimate irony in this proposal is that it mentions a conscience clause. Because this “plan” speaks to a lack of conscience from Paul Ryan and anybody who supports it. Now it’s long been a part of American laissez faire economics that conscience has no place in fiscal matters. Apparently it does when it comes to women’s health but everything else? Nahhhhh.

For example, the idea that credits will lead to competition among insurance companies and in that way absolve Ryan from the death of anybody who simply can’t afford $400 a month even after a measly $40 tax credit (that’s okay, you’re not required to have insurance in Ryan’s plan, problem solved, now please don’t die anywhere too public)? Because it doesn’t work like that and everybody knows it. We had a system like that before — it was called the American insurance industry. And its high premiums, sketchy operations and policies that disinclined all except the golden few who could afford top-tier plans ensured that many Americans had to face dying physically from illness or dying financially from medical costs. There’s no benefit for insurance companies to compete for users. It’s much better to only cater to the people who can afford $600 a month, most of whom probably also live in nice new houses without asbestos or the threat of stray corner-boy bullets, and ignore the folks who can only pay $200.

I speak from experience to the flaw of expecting conscience to propel private companies to take care of folks because I’m one of the few middle-class Americans who was royally fucked by a similar policy in Obamacare. You see, there’s a “glitch” in there that if one person in a family is insured through his or her work, the remaining members can’t qualify for subsidies. And while my personal insurance is covered by my workplace, to add my wife and son is costing me $700 a month. The idea, I think, was that this would push people to push their jobs to add their spouses and even more it would make companies add the spouses as a recruitment tool. But the President overlooked the greed of private insurance interests and corporations, just as the Ryan health plan would. But instead of there being one small subsidy loophole, there would be a massive loophole affecting everybody looking to get health care.

Here’s the thing: Obamacare isn’t perfect. But it’s as perfect a plan as could be pushed with insurance lobbies dominating congressional buffets and a political class that believes our acquiescence of the universal healthcare offered by every other developed nation (which, might I add, all have better health rates than our own). And Hillary will be pushing it forward, no doubt addressing the family care glitch and a few other glaring shortcomings that will be small beans after getting the ACA passed in the first place.

On the other side, while the Ryan plan is short on details, the broad strokes point to one simple fact: this insurance “Overhaul” isn’t a step forward. It’s a return to life before 20 million new people got insured. Actually it’s worse because it guts all safety net programs. So this is a move not to before Obamacare but to before Medicare, before Medicaid. And if the GOP can refuse any discussion about gun control on the grounds that it’s all just an excuse to take away Americans’ guns, it’s not a big leap for the Dems to see this as a move towards a primitive world when only the richest could get adequate medical care, but man will they live for-fucking-ever. A return to a world where the average American lifespan was a decade-and-a-half shorter than that of the wealthiest (see: the 1950s).

Paul Ryan’s plan is so short on details it won’t move beyond the sniffing butt stage. But as a mission statement it shows everybody advocating for the poor and sick that the scariest thing about Trump isn’t his intolerance or his lack of governance experience. It’s that he’s made behavior previously seen as the soulless apathy of the right seem “moderate.” And Ryan has  shown that the GOP is just as ready as ever to see the poor die as long as the rich can live longer, healthier lives.

President Trump Takes Fear and Loathing To The Next Level

President Trump

When men can hate without risk, their stupidity is easily convinced, the motives supply themselves.” – Louis-Ferdinand Celine, “Journey to the End of the Night”

Donald Trump is now the Republican presidential nominee. President Trump. Good God.

After months of rational people saying it could never happen; after countless jokes and, when Trump’s hate-fueled rallies grew violent, countless laments, it HAS happened. A reality star whose family money began with hotels in the wilds of the Yukon (some of which were known as being dens for prostitutes); a son of a slumlord who eschewed his father’s ruthlessness for over-the-top architectural theatrics; a blowhard with a dead cocker spaniel combed over his forehead and as many wives as have inhabited the White House for the last 24 years; Donald Trump now represents one of the two parties that will decide the American president.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Republican party is dead, the only hope for a respected conservative voice is for the remaining GOP doers to strike off on the Libertarians tick, and how Paul Ryan’s plan presented a good platform from which to launch such an exodus. His hopeful shadow campaign failed to bring the GOP back to its supposed values, and Speaker Ryan even has said he’s “not ready” to support Trump but hopes the Donald can embrace the tradition from Lincoln to Reagan, with that very establishmentarian statement playing into the hands of a man who has promised an erasure of all that came before him, a mighty populist conflagration that will only end with the disenfranchised white dinosaur returning to his rightful place atop the American hierarchy.

Meanwhile, the Republican-led Senate is playing into Trump’s hands — Mitch McConnell’s senate is on pace to work a total of 124 days this year, or just barely over 1/3 of the year, the fewest workdays of any Senate since 1956. The GOP-led Senate is so hamstrung between tea party radicals, Trump-touting anti-liberal bigots and the few sensible establishment pachyderms left in the building that they’re rendered immobile. If they were to not call a recess, then they would have no excuse for not voting for Obama’s Supreme Court choice and then they might get deposed even if Obama’s choice was a Scalia zombie, if only because Obama nominated him. Or they would have to vote on the thorny issue of what to do with Puerto Rico. So instead they do nothing, a risky choice, what with Congressional approval ratings around 15% and falling every day. The only logical explanation is that they’re hoping popular anger will push the Republican candidate to the White House and hopefully then all will be right —

Yes, Republicans are now regrouping, pointing out every Hillary Clinton lie (while on the other side it’s much easier to point out the few times Trump has told the truth), trying to convince the electorate and themselves that a hateful man with absolutely no political leadership experience will be a better leader than a Democrat, even if she’s the most centrist of all the nominees and once upon a time was one of them, a Republican that is, back before America’s rightward creep.

Trump meanwhile is regrouping for the general by going against one of his biggest campaign claims. He and the GOP leadership have organized a new fundraising committee, Trump finally revealing that he CAN’T actually fund this whole election by himself, especially if he wants to defeat that broad and assume his rightful throne as King, er, President Trump.

This is a weird, sick era in American politics. The Republican party has never so transparently been the party of the bigots, the rich and the redneck (and all the overlap that entails). Congress has never before been so spitefully inactive. Doubtless it’s partly out of fear — fear that they’ll be replaced by even more extreme leaders if they don’t fulfill the dream posited by the tea party, that is, the stubborn rejection of any and everything approaching progressivism. But regardless, the amount of populist loathing being spewed into the atmosphere is enough to create a general cloud of menace all over the nation even as Mt. St. Helen’s reloads for another explosion (“It’s gonna be huge.”)(As a side note, how do you think the businessman will do in the case of a national emergency?)

Forty-four years ago Hunter S. Thompson wrote about “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail.” But the fear and loathing he referred to couldn’t hold a candle to the fear and loathing currently infecting American politics.

International interests are scared of the ramifications of “President Trump”. America’s exploding Latino population couldn’t be more afraid of President Trump if he was threatening the gas chamber for everybody with a “ez” at the end of his or her name (but he ate a taco bowl from Trump Tower Grill, making sure to remind everybody it’s the best and he loves latinos). Every rational, logical American couldn’t be more afraid of Trump as the possible American leader if Kim Kardashian herself was running for the White House.

Dark times indeed. Not since Strom Thurmond’s legendary 24-hour filibuster against the Civil Rights Act has a top politician stirred up so many white haters into such a frothy, vindication-fueled frenzy.

As we march towards the general, it’s time for some real soul searching. Do you hate Democrats so much that you would elect an unprepared egomaniac? Do you hate people different from you so much that you would erase America’s legacy as the land of the free? Is your hypocrisy so boundless as to oppose a highly-qualified woman for lying and flip-flopping (the top arguments against Hillary) in favor of a wholly-unqualified man who has lied and flip-flopped as a principle, even in this campaign (see: previous point about self-funding the campaign)? Would you really trust America’s infrastructure in the hands of executives and generals more than politicians? Would the Oval office even FUNCTION as an executive boardroom?

One can’t help think of the Nazis: Most of the Nazi citizenry didn’t necessarily want to kill Jews; they just didn’t think they had any alternative. It’s frightening how many formerly level-headed Republicans (or at least Republicans who you wouldn’t think want to open the 7th seal of the apocalypse) are now jumping on the Trump bandwagon because voting Democrat is anathema to them.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting A Trump Election

Even more, for the sensible and relatively human of you out there, it’s time to gird your loins for what will no doubt be one of the ugliest general elections ever, especially if Hillary wraps up the Dem nod that’s all but hers. Among the moves we can expect from the hopeful President Trump based on previous tactics:

It’s about to get real ugly real quickly. As the GOP’s war on women and minorities heats up via its commander in chief, and Hitler’s businessman doppelgänger President Trump (complete with bad combover) gears up for what will be no doubt the sleaziest general election in the universe, remember one thing: It’s only a battle to determine the future leader of the free world. No pressure.

The Best Way For Paul Ryan to Fix Conservatism is Let the GOP Die

Paul Ryan campaign
Can Paul Ryan raise the GOP from the dead? Or is it time to just start over?

Remember the Whigs, Larry [O’Brien]? They went belly up, with no warning at all, when a handful of young politicians like Abe Lincoln decided to move out on their own, and fuck the Whigs … which worked out very nicely, and when it became almost instantly clear that the Whig hierarchy was just a gang of old impotent windbags with no real power at all, the Party just curled up and died … and any politician stupid enough to ‘stay loyal’ went down with the ship.” – Hunter S. Thompson, FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL ’72

The Paul Ryan Campaign

There’s an old slogan you see on those Successories posters and activist coffee mugs: “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.” Paul Ryan recently made a statement by running a shadow campaign and presenting challenges and agenda points, trying to show what the GOP stands for, hopefully creating a vision for rebuilding the party after this abortion of a Republican primary finally ends in the two worst Republicans ever getting beaten by either a woman or a socialist. But given the fact that he’s not one of the two men who made it through a packed field to be considered the top representatives for the party in the presidential run, it begs the question: DOES the Republican party actually stand for what the Paul Ryan campaign is claiming it does? Is it just a philosophy that informs its people or is it a living organism responsive to the human elements that make up its constituency?

Right now the Republican party has descended into a fetid pit of hatred and atavism. There are a few ways out but none will be easy, nor will any of them lead to an assured restoration of the Grand Old Party’s once-vaunted station. There is only one assurance any loyal conservative can bank on: the Republican party, as it currently exists, has no future in America.

Republican, tea partier, Libertarian

The remaining two Republican presidential candidates (no, Kasich isn’t a candidate, he’s simply a tool in the conspiracy to try and prevent a Trump candidacy) are a joke ripped out of a Mike Judge movie.

  1. A blowhard leading the populist vote not by presenting any real policy stances except for an institutionalized prejudice carefully-cultivated to elicit the strongest response from a racist, bigoted white trash constituency that, finally inspired to come out of hiding, is frightfully strong in the GOP.
  2. A creepy leftover from the “better America” of 1950s sitcoms who won establishment support only because he’s the lesser of two evils in the eyes of the GOP powers that be though it should be noted he’s almost as hated among the rank and file as Trump, having become the poster child for the most schismatic sect of the Republican party ever, a scorched-earth “my way or the highway” group of radicals that caused the ejection of the GOP’s two Congressional leaders and began the party’s mad descent to the do-nothing party. The only advantage he has is he’s not as embarrassing as El Trumpo.

It’s so bad that House Speaker Paul Ryan felt forced to run his third campaign, including overseas visits and a non-presidential video, basically saying “I know these are the two people who are representing us in the presidential race but they don’t actually represent us.”

But that’s what he doesn’t get. These are the two men the American citizens who make up the majority of Ryan’s party think best represent them as a group. It would seem, then, that it’s not Trump and Cruz who don’t represent the GOP; it’s Paul Ryan and his ilk. Trump and Cruz aren’t aberrations; they’re what the party has become. And the sooner the level-headed, the intelligent and the thinking conservatives — aka people I’ve come to see identify themselves increasingly as Libertarians — realize that, the sooner we can get back to the tough act of bipartisan governing.

But seriously, how did we get here?

Conservative vs. Conservative Round 1: Fiscal vs. Social

The Republican party wasn’t always the party of the rich. As Bernie pointed out, Eisenhower was much more socialist than him, what with 70-some percent taxes and huge union love. It wasn’t really until the lowering of taxes became the conservative war cry in the 70s that it started catering to the wealthy because, let’s face it, lowering taxes may help a lot of people but it mostly helps the wealthy, who have the most taxable income which could make its way into government coffers instead of being spent on vacation homes and expensive toys, and it mostly hurts the poor and lower-middle class, who often have to depend more on government-funded programs and facilities (from Medicare and Medicaid to education credits). Since there aren’t enough rich people to win an election, and there are lots of rich liberals who won’t vote Republican despite its fiscal benefits to them (thereby lowering the amount of rich people a GOP candidate could depend on), the Elephants in charge had to figure something out. Namely, how do you convince a large amount of Americans to vote against their own financial interests (or at least for policies that don’t really benefit them but allow the richest man in town to take that sailing trip around the Caribbean in his private yacht)? Bump up the social conservative angle. The problem is, fiscal and social conservatism are incompatible.

Fiscal conservatives believe in taking less money from private citizens and in turn funding less public programs. Social conservatives believe in enforcing laws that uphold traditional moral norms. Enforcement of possession of drugs and the continued classification of marijuana as a dangerous controlled substance has been a huge factor in overcrowded prisons; as of 2010 each U.S. prisoner costs $31,037 a year on average. And as of 2014 close to 100,000 people, or half the prison population, was in jail for drug offenses. The decriminalization (or straight up legalization and regulation) of maryjane and possibly a few others (psychedelics come to mind) would also cut down on law enforcement expenditures and let’s be real, potheads and acid freaks cause no threat to society except for maybe providing a market for too many talentless jam bands. In fact, if it weren’t for mind-enhancers, America would likely be without two of its most valuable companies, Apple and Facebook.

Another huge money-saver for government programs? Provide as much access to abortions and other pregnancy-planning services as possible. This issue, of course, is anathema to every social conservative and therefore has to be on the lips of every national right-wing politico on the stump. Something about god, though nobody who speaks logically has ever been able to explain how flushing out a fertilized zygote is the same as killing a baby, just like nobody can explain why God is so strongly against men marrying other men though He’s cool with divorce. But and so, back to the abortion tick.

According to the CBPP in 2014 the US government spent $370B on safety net programs and another $511B on Medicare. These make up the bullseye for fiscal conservatives. According to a recent study, women making 200% or more below the poverty line make up 70% of the population getting abortions. However, social conservatives have done everything they can to shut down places that offer low-cost contraception and abortion options.

From this point, admittedly, there can be no way to quantify “what ifs.” But let’s say we had a society that unquestionably supported nonprofit women’s health organizations like Planned Parenthood. Since poor women are almost twice-as-likely to seek abortions right now, the allowance of these orgs would no doubt lead to more low-income women having abortions. Why do they get abortions? Because they are either in bad situations from the father standpoint (they’re raped, molested, make a mistake with an untrustworthy man), they’re young (a lot of which overlaps with case 1) or they simply can’t afford a child with their current career prospects. So more abortions would lead to less unwanted/unaffordable children which would lead to less federal assistance programs since they’re often based around giving priority to families and larger families eat up more of the benefits (there’s also the theory that more abortions leads to a drop in crime, thus saving money on jails and cops). And more free education and resources for birth control would also likely lead to fewer children and smaller families. Now let’s add in the families where fathers are serving time in prison for dealing small amounts of drugs or in some cases simple possession which puts even more financial stress on the families and these two big discrepancies I’ve mentioned find a sickening nexus:

Social conservative policies against contraception and abortion, combined with a zero-tolerance policy for drugs that punishes small-time dealers and users with overly-harsh prison sentences have led to more families that need federal safety net programs to eat, live and go to the doctor as well as more spending on law enforcement and incarceration.

Conservative vs. Conservative, Round 2: Hypocrisy

According to fiscal conservative philosophy, what you get is what you get. There should be no government aid. You don’t make enough money at your job at the supermarket register? Get a second job. So it should follow that NOBODY gets supplementary government funding for their chosen industry. Yet a large swath of citizens in America live in this hodge-podge of plains called the “Midwest.” And these people are for the most part socially conservatives and thus vote Republican. Ironically, most of them would not be able to keep their farm running without government subsidies. So the lesson: If you grow the food, the government will help you; if you work for the people who grow the food, you’re on your own. Let me add, by the way, that I support farm subsidies. I also support daycare subsidies, health insurance subsidies, safety net programs, unemployment insurance, and various other subsidies that lead to the well-being of American citizens who otherwise could not afford to live safely and (somewhat) comfortably.

But let’s look at some other industries given subsidies for producing things that should not need subsidization:

  • The 2005 Energy Act gives subsidies to oil, gas, coal and other industries that allow us to power our many gadgets by killing the world that our great-grandchildren will inherit
  • Weapons makers like GE and Boeing that benefit from America’s endless entrenchment in Middle-eastern wars
  • Carmakers

(For a more in-depth list, check this out.)

And this doesn’t include all the tax breaks for things like corporate health insurance and workforce training. So the next time a giant company claims that raising the minimum wage is unfair government regulation, look into whether they get any tax breaks for the very job creation they are claiming as the reason why they should get preference over others. This becomes even more outrageous when said company claims that organizations are people.

Basically, when you stand for something but there are a bunch of loopholes and exceptions for the people who you’re friends with and who vote for you, you’re kind of a hypocrite. You need to redefine what you mean by laissez-faire economics and the free market, or at least not project an air of the world being black and white when your actions are so gray. Such things turn people off politics and put them on the path of consuming rhetoric while screaming that the system is screwing them over simply because nobody is honest with them about HOW the system works.

If You Stand for Nothing, You’ll Fall for Everything

This leads to the most-referenced dynamic that led to the current state of things, a party currently unified not by what it’s for but by what it’s against.

Take George Will, vaunted right wing voice who won a Pulitzer four decades ago but has spent the last few years writing either book reports of whatever he’s reading or slippery-slope rants in which he sneaks in an unfounded connection to Obama at the end to drive home his point that any and everything wrong in the world is BO’s fault. Now he’s changed his tune — in December the bespectacled geek went so far as to say a Trump nod will spell the end of the GOP. Ironic since his anti-Obamaism is exactly what fomented the wave of populist hatred for different ethnicities and beliefs that Trump has surfed to the top.

Ted Cruz was a nobody before he attached himself to a populist movement that misappropriated  America’s most famous dockside act of rebellion and found a bunch of people left behind by modern society who were ready for somebody to topple the system. They didn’t know what they wanted; they only heard they used to be on top (a myth) and they wanted to be on top again (an impossibility). So other than passing a bill that denied terrorists representing nations in the UN from entering America, Cruz became best known for opposing the establishment. James Dean with the face of a televangelist crossed with the village geek in some bible belt “Our Town” revival, fighting not to revolutionize the system but to move it backwards. He opposed the establishment; opposed Obama; opposed gay marriage; opposed government funding for anybody; opposed reproductive health. Basically, he whipped up Congress to a fever pitch screaming “nay,” so much so that they literally accomplished nothing in the past 3 years except for close all federal offices (meaning office clerks and forest rangers and DOT workers were on unpaid furlough, though the solons kept getting paid) and yet the party STILL wasn’t anti-Democrat enough.

Before this election, I said the only candidate who would scare me more than Trump if he became president is Cruz. Despite all his rhetoric, Trump is a businessman and any half-decent businessman knows it’s one thing to talk big but ACTUALLY discriminating based on race, religion or sexual preference is just bad business. You think Trump’s buildings were built without immigrant labor? You think Trump Hotels doesn’t hire gay concierges, that his entertainment empire wasn’t staffed by gay men somewhere in the development and production process? Trump owns a golf course in fucking Dubai; do you seriously think he has anything against Muslims? No sir, he’s interested in that cashish and this president thing is just an egocentrist trying to see how far his mojo can take him. Cruz, on the other hand, he can use God to justify whatever makes him uncomfortable. He’s never had to compromise for things like “profit” or “shareholders.” I’ll take business interests over religious interests any day of the week. You can rationalize at least somewhat with business interests; people have been using religion to justify the unreasonable since sacrifice was all the rage in Mesopotamia.

One has to take notice that Paul Ryan is essentially trying to rebuild the GOP by making proposals and showing what the party stands FOR, not what it stands AGAINST. Yet in the end, politicians are servants of the people; and in the GOP’s case, the people want either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. Every Republican I talk to who has ideas and visions for the future of the country along their philosophical plane, who can espouse conservatism while also admitting similarities with and even adopting some aspects of liberalism, who truly believe in limited government not just when it comes to welfare but also when it comes to human rights (i.e. why waste money and time outlawing gay marriage that will simply pump more money into our economy and create more healthy families)(or why prevent women from having the education and the ability to keep children from being born into adverse situations); that is, every Republican who wants to see their party not as the enemy of the Democrats but as the weight balancing it on the other side of the spectrum, they are cringing at who is left to represent them.

Libertarian Rising

The Republican party is a brand that’s become too diluted to be useful again. The old standard bearers have been reduced to ancillary roles either as the doddering “elitist problem with the system” (McCain, Bush) or hate-filled cranks who are now reaping what they sowed and still can’t admit they’re assholes (Krauthammer, Will); the current big names have embraced a populist angle that’s uniting the white people against the whittling down of their former favor in the eyes of authorities and employers at the hands of people different from them (and therefore scary). And then there are the Republicans of the future, like Paul Ryan (who at least is trying to create alternatives for Obamacare and the Democrat budget instead of just decrying them) and Ross Douthat (who may be disgustingly religiously conservative but not to the point that he denies others rights under American law; who may have predicted many Obama failures but has also admitted when he was wrong about those) or Kathleen Parker (who is fervently for fiscal conservatism but also is fervently for women’s rights and, again, can admit times when liberals might be right). In these people I don’t see the crowds of hate-filled white people who have been left behind by a better-educated society that values diversity. And I certainly don’t see some pasty creep who has built a career on screaming how bad things are without ever presenting a plan for how to improve the way this government works, who seemingly supports nothing but gas and oil companies, guns and anti-government-land militias and sees compromise and deal-making as a weakness.

The Republican party is broken. The Libertarian movement is the future for a conservative voice in America that is fueled by logic and compassion; that believes in governance instead of blank obstructionism; that hates both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The only real solution I can see for rebuilding conservatism is leaving the GOP to the aging haters and establishmentarians (who are dying and weakening more and more every year) and the poorly-educated bigots who prefer to complain that America has passed them by because of ethnics instead of because they refuse to go back to school and learn a trade that is useful in our nation’s current economy. Leave it to the atavistic blowhards who forget that our nation was founded on separation of church and state and open immigration as much as it was founded on the ideas of a national moral fabric and the dream of Horatio Alger individualist opportunity.

It’s time for the future of the conservative voice to create a new more powerful party filled with the passionate and the intelligent, the men and women who have convictions but are also open to debate and compromise, and who respect everybody’s right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, not just people who are exactly like them.

Because while I am, always have been, and likely always will be a hardcore bleeding heart liberal, borderline social anarchist and just left of every Democratic president we’ve had, I can also respect the fact that other people believe differently and understand that the key to a successful democracy is the give and take between opposing sides. There needs to be a conservative voice to keep us idealist left-wingers from turning America into Cuba light. While I will always oppose the ideas and ideals proffered by the other side, I at least would like to respect the logic that fuels them and the character of the man or woman across the aisle who believes in them.

It’s time for Paul Ryan and everybody who believes in Lincoln’s original vision of Republicanism to reasses what their party has devolved into and either fish or cut bait. And at this juncture, it’s looking more and more like the only real solution is to cut bait. Use Ryan’s shadow campaign as a new evolution of conservatism following in the footsteps of the great emancipator himself. And leave the blowhards, the oldies and the anti-ists to sink with the Elephant ship.

Rand Won Last Night’s Debate

Rand
Yesterday was Rand’s time.

As there are so many candidates, I will only discuss the ones that left an impression on me. Unfortunately, the way these debates are being conducted with numerous candidates all supposedly being allotted a certain amount of time will make it virtually impossible to rule out any candidates.
 
John Kasich signaled to moderates and the left that he was not a right wing nut job. He questioned Trump on the feasibility of deporting 12,000,000 people, and questioned Cruz on letting major banks and financial institutions fail.
 
I respect Ted Cruz’s resume and academic credentials. I don’t see why people think he can win though. He’s a sitting US Senator trying to solidify his position as an “outsider”. This could only happen in America I suppose. Being hated by Republicans and Democrats alike means he’s nothing more than an insider with an abrasive personality who doesn’t play well with others having an affinity for throwing tantrums within that insider’s sandbox known as the U.S. Senate.
 

Rand Paul

Rand won the debate though by pointing out how policies being advocated by his fellow conservatives on stage were not conservative. In a poignant exchange with Marco Rubio, he pondered why the conservative base is rightfully skeptical of bureaucratic government bloat, but then sound like left-wing technocrats when anyone questions the largest bloat of them all, the Department of Defense? The truth is, no fiscal reform can be taken seriously without looking at Pentagon spending. In other words, conservatives and Republicans are not rational in your beliefs in military spending.
 
Defense spending is nearly $600 billion. If that isn’t enough to maintain a strong global presence then what is?
Is “maintaining a strong global presence” the equivalent of entering conflicts with an undefined mission and/or no American interest?
 
It’s ironic that the candidates uphold Israel as a beacon of wisdom in foreign policy, yet argue against Russia’s presence in Syria, which the Israelis support. If Israel welcomes Assad as their own next door neighbor, why are we afraid of him from 6000 miles away? What’s the better, realistic alternative, and what US interest is served? If the GOP wants more money for expensive military bureaucracy and toys, they need to more coherently articulate who our friends are and what US interest is met in entering more wars of choice. Score one for Rand Paul.
 

GOP 2016: Still Predominantly Old, White, Christian and Male

white
Cuban Ted Cruz has decided to ignore the Latino vote.

I have been told that in spite of earlier proclamations, the Democratic Party has got a handful of decrepit, old, white career politicians running for President while Republicans have a couple of young Hispanics, a brilliant Indian American, a black neurosurgeon, a woman former CEO, and a reality TV star billionaire running. This is another example of the needle moving for I remember when having older, white, politicians would be the status quo for the GOP, and they would defend to the hilt why that was fantastic. Diversity, once a bad word to conservatives like taxing hedge funds and trade protectionism, is now being celebrated. Alas, when looking at Congressional representation, the new GOP still looks like the GOP of old.
 

White, Christian and Male

In the House, the Democrats have 65 female officials while Republicans have 23. There are 23 Hispanic Democrats where there are only 7 for Republicans. There are 44 Black Democrats and 1 Black Republican in the house. There are 10 Asian Democrats, there are no Asian Republicans. There are 7 LGBT Democrats. There are no LGBT Republicans though I suspect there are and they are just in hiding. Finally, there are 12 non-Christian Democrats and no non-Christian Republicans. To be clear, the numbers of representatives need to increase in both parties, but the Republicans have a long way to go before shedding that image though there are 2 Native American Republicans, while there are none for Democrats. Even looking at the presidential candidates, it’s clear to see where they stand on issues affecting their race, ethnicity, and gender.
 

About Those Diverse Presidential Candidates

Ted Cruz does not speak Spanish and has articulated a campaign strategy to turn out non-hispanic white people without college degrees to vote. Marco Rubio is actually pretty decent highlighting the need to address the concerns of Black Lives Matters, and the willingness and necessity to speak Spanish to broaden conservative support. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, in an ode to how proud he is of his Indian heritage, changed his name to “Bobby” and preaches assimilation to the point of subordinating one’s culture. Ben Carson feels Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery which is a change of pace as more white people have gained access to it than anyone else. Carly Fiorina is pro-gestation at all costs and against equal pay for women as well as mandated paid maternity leave. The most honest “Republican” is the guy whose leading. He’s rich, white, male, claims to be Christian, and wants to make America Great Again, harkening to a time in the past that was not “great” for many Americans including women and various minorities. He promises that he loves them all and that they are fabulous nonetheless. This is still Reagan’s Republican Party. There are just way less white people now nationwide then there was in 1980. That’s the problem the GOP faces in national elections.

When Muslims Used To Overwhelmingly Support Republicans

republlcan
Why do Republicans think these women are not Americans?

“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about,”

– President George W. Bush a week after 9/11
 
What the hell happened? You will never confuse me for a supporter of George W. Bush, but he was spot on there.
 
There have been Muslims in the United States since our founding, and their right to practice their faith, as well as all faiths, has been enshrined since 1786, with the passage of the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. This act became the basis for the First Amendment protections of freedom of religion. Thomas Jefferson, the law’s principal author, wrote that it was “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan (Muslim), the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.” Seriously, what’s the problem?
 

Obama

The widespread belief amongst conservatives is that President Obama is secretly a Muslim concealing his true beliefs for nefarious reasons, most likely to impose sharia law on the nation. The last public poll on this belief showed that 86 percent of Republicans are warm to it, with 54 percent believing that Obama is a Muslim and 32 percent saying they are unsure. Only 14 percent of Republicans correctly describe Obama’s religion as Christian. In other words, the belief that Obama is a Muslim is an entrenched “fact” on the right, much like the belief that global warming is a hoax or Planned Parenthood is a for-profit company that makes its money selling fetal parts.
 

Another Lost Constituency

After 9/11, American Muslims largely switched sides to the Democratic party, noting that Republican policies had made their lives more difficult than they were before the attacks. A 2011 Pew survey found that Muslim support had flipped in just over 10 years after 78 percent of Muslims backed Republicans in the 2000 election. By 2011, 70 percent of Muslims identified as Democrats, and 11 percent leaned toward Republicans. An informal exit poll conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in 2012 determined that 85 percent of Muslim voters in the election broke for President Barack Obama over his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
 
Muslims represented 0.4 percent of the population in 2007, according to a Pew survey, and rose to 0.9 percent in 2014. The Christian population dropped from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent during that time. Muslim voters may be a small portion of the American population, they are concentrated in some of the states that could play a decisive role in 2016, including Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
 

Muslims In America

In a 2012 poll by the Arab American Institute, about 60% of Republicans had negative views of Muslim Americans. Muslim Americans actually polled less favorably than Americans of every other faith, among respondents of all political persuasions. Muslims have replaced Hispanics as the focus of verbal attacks on the US campaign trail.
 
Conversely, Gallup released a poll in June which showed that 60% of American adults would support a Muslim for president, but that number fell to 44 per cent when the people polled were protestants. In contrast, 73 per cent of respondents said they would back an evangelical Christian and 74 per cent said they would support a gay candidate, an increase of almost 20 points from eight years ago.
 
Today, the GOP is basically a regional party whose members are mostly older, whiter, angrier men refusing to accept that the country is becoming younger and more diverse. Their dreams of living in a homogeneous society, controlled entirely by them, were indeed crushed on Tuesday, November 4, 2008. There are certain factions in the GOP who are determined to “take back Ah-murika and return her to the real Ah-murikans”, but somehow, they don’t mean American Indians. Go figure.

Trump’s Rise Is The GOP Demise

GOP demise
Whatever. I do what I want.

Donald Trump loves Donald Trump. This has been made clear over the course of almost 50 years. He will not adhere to any political party or ideology. For this reason, RNC Chairperson Reince Priebus should have disqualified him from the debate for Trump does not support the Republican Party; therefore, is under no obligation make any kind of pledge to support the party’s nominee. Huge mistake, but great for media as the splash was made in the debates last Thursday with Trump’s all too predictable answer to the question of supporting the GOP candidate no matter what. It was the opening volley in the GOP’s demise in 2016.
 
Trump probably has said many unflattering things about all people, let alone women, but he packs houses. 24 million tuned in to watch the debate. Republicans own the political coverage as the GOP dominates news cycles (Hillary and her possible indictment says thank you), and the GOP has several candidates who were increasing their profile. Now, instead, the GOP has to deal with “The Donald” who will not back down to anyone and attack everyone.
 
The media will cover Donald all day long, and as a liberal, I hope Trump stays in and prompts more questions at the next debate hosted by CNN such as, “Candidate X, do you think Donald Trump’s comments about Megyn Kelly and other women make him unfit to be President?” Tough to stay on message as a candidate if you are constantly being asked about trivial issues created by Donald Trump. You don’t wait for a cancer to metastasize, you cut it out immediately. If the GOP were smart, Trump would be gone as he is ruining their already dwindling chances of obtaining the White House.
 

Too Late, GOP Demise Ensured

The time to have ensured against this scenario was two years ago, well before the 2016 cycle began. Signing a loyalty pledge as part of filing to participate in debates is not normally par for the course, but there is nothing par for the course in this golf course designer’s candidacy. What would hold him to this pledge? Fear of retribution by the GOP? This is the problem with having someone represent your political party who isn’t supposedly representative of your party.
 
This is certainly not the first time someone has threatened to blow up the process just to satisfy his own ego (Perot 1992, Nader 2000), but kicking Trump to the curb now (or any time after he announced) would play right into his hands. It allows him to play the role of martyr and easing a third party run. Again, I personally think he is working for either Hillary or Jeb, but if he’s serious, Republicans wanting to win the presidency in 2016 should look to 2020 no matter who the nominee is.

The GOP and The Ayatollah Have Common Cause

common cause
Senator Tom Cotton opposes the Iran deal because it won’t allow us to bomb the hell out of them.

 

Just because Iranian hardliners chant “Death to America” does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe. In fact, it’s those . . . (APPLAUSE)
 
In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hardliners chanting “Death to America” who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican Caucus.

– President Barack Obama
 
Peter Brennan sums up the Republican response to this part of the speech the President gave today at American University lobbying for support for his Iran deal:
 

Directly accusing your opponents of allying with wannabe-genocidal, anti-Semitic, authoritarian nutjobs. Very presidential, that’s the way to win ’em over.

The problem? We’ve been here before.
 

Common Cause

Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

– President George W. Bush
 
Not wanting to go to war or not believing that war is a solution does not mean someone supports terrorists. On the other hand, Republicans and Iranian hardliners share a common cause being to stop the Iran deal from taking hold. That is in fact what “common cause” means. That you have a shared goal, and that goal is to defeat the deal.
 
The goal of P5+1 wasn’t to “negotiate sanctions” but to improve oversight of Iran’s nuclear program without war. A deal was struck, and based on the terms of the deal, the pro-western, modern people of Iran support the deal while the hardliners in Iran oppose the deal. The GOP has joined with Iranian hardliners in their opposition for both groups have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo in the Middle East.
 
If the GOP stops the deal, the hardliners who have come out strongly against the deal would be getting exactly what they want as well. When recently asked, the spokesman for the Supreme Leader said he neither supports nor opposes the Iran deal. In pulling back his support, the Supreme Leader opened the door for hardliners to speak publicly about their opposition, which is exactly what happened as many of the leaders of their revolutionary guard have come out in opposition.
 
The Iran deal is supported by every major nation, the UN, and those with extensive knowledge of the deal. The opposition does not seem to be able to articulate specifically what they disagree with and why. Perhaps it’s because any negotiated deal short of complete Iranian capitulation would have been unsatisfactory.

Looks Like A Bush: Jeb! Is In

Jeb
John Ellis Bush is running for president.

 
The Republican “autopsy” after the 2012 election suggested Mitt Romney’s line about self-deportation was his downfall. It was recommended that the GOP promote more Hispanic immigration as well as the standard pro-business agenda. Additionally, Romney’s background, demeanor and secretly taped comment about the 47% signaled to America’s working and middle class that a President Romney would do nothing to improve their condition.
 

Jeb

Acknowledging the fervor and rancor of the conservative base on these contentious issues, Jeb Bush said at the outset of his run for President that he’d be willing to lose the primary to win the general. While conventional political wisdom says to secure the base and expand your coalition from there, I think he can win the primary without the base. Open primaries allow Democrats and Republicans to vote in primary elections, and per usual, many other candidates are diluting the conservative vote. That’s what Jeb’s counting on.
 
It’s clear Jeb has interpreted the results of 2012 to indicate that social conservatives are an obstacle in the nomination contest and a liability in the general election. Strong opposition to Jeb’s positions on immigration and education standards will have to be overcome. He starts his campaign on defense with the right, not offense. The question for Jeb is whether it’s a major conceptual problem within the GOP to see the base as a political burden.
 

Immigration and Common Core

Jeb’s positions on Common Core and immigration are not a reaction to the Obama presidency. In 2000, the conservative base was not nearly as hostile to Latinos as they were deranged by Clinton’s success. W ran as a “conservative” but had a similar immigration philosophy to Jeb’s, only less personal (Jeb’s wife is Latino). Both Bushes have promoted school standards and state leadership in education, but W nationalized education further by No Child Left Behind, and he tried to force the right into an immigration compromise.
 
Now 10 years later, although everyone hates the status quo, the conservative base distrusts any immigration reform. Worse, Jeb’s governor led educational standards movement has been nationalized by President Obama making it anathema to the conservative base. Both issues have left Jeb having to react to the base on issues that W did not have to deal with prior to his 2000 election. I still think he wins the nomination though as he is a fundraising dynamo.