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March 27, 2005 - The Republican Party Self-Destructs Before Our Eyes













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Something is going on.  There’s been a shift.  Early Monday morning, March 21 of this year, the Republican Party jumped the shark.  The end began, the great unraveling.  Everything shifted against them.

 

You read it here first.

 

Andrew Sullivan in the Times of London here (March 20, 2005) - says there change in the air.

 

His title?  “Bush’s triumph conceals the great conservative crack-up” - and he’s not kidding.

 

Excerpts?

 

It should be the best of times for American conservatism. Republican majorities in the House and Senate, a re-elected Republican president, an increasing number of Republican governors and a rightwards tilt in the judiciary. While the British Tories and German Christian Democrats flounder, America’s right seems to flourish.

 

Well, that’s the cover story. Beneath the surface, however, American conservatism is in increasing trouble. The Republican coalition, always fragile, now depends as much on the haplessness of the Democrats as on its own internal logic. On foreign and domestic policy alike the American right is splintering. With no obvious successor to George W Bush that splintering will deepen.

 

Oh, really?  Could it be that this latest effort to keep the woman with no cerebral cortex “alive” has turned the tide?  Really?

 

What about foreign policy – as we had election in Iraq that went swimmingly?

 

… At the moment Bush is riding high as his democratisation push seems to have made some modest progress in the Middle East. But the Iraq war was deeply controversial among conservatives before the war and it has become more so since. Old school conservatives — or “realists”, as they call themselves — had no time for nation building or for wars of liberation among cultures they viewed as irredeemably undemocratic.

 

Neoconservatives — many of them former Democrats and liberals — saw spreading liberty as integral to a successful foreign policy. The Iraq war brought the two wings together on the threat from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

 

When the WMDs failed to appear, the insurgency grew, and the commitment of 140,000 troops to secure freedom among Arabs seemed to stretch endlessly ahead, restlessness on the right revived. It was suppressed for political reasons before polling day but Bush’s re-election and his lack of any obvious successor have allowed the divisions to blossom. …

 

… The National Interest, saw a slew of editors quit because it published a tough realist article criticising the Iraq invasion. The neocons left to form a rival journal, The American Interest. Francis Fukuyama of “end of history” fame, was one of them.

 

Interesting.  And things are no better with fiscal policy, as after a discussion of all the new spending, and matching tax cuts no none of it can be paid for, only put on the tab, Sullivan adds this –

 

Bush’s social security reform plan appears all but dead in the Senate, because he is now trying to flatline some minor but sensitive domestic spending, veto any attempt to rein in the far more expensive entitlement explosion while keeping his tax cuts. Moderates and fiscal conservatives are finally saying no.

 

Unless the Republicans are going to add even more trillions to the national debt, something has to give. Tax rises are off the table. And the divisions are so deep among Republicans that they may not be able to pass a budget this year at all.

 

Sullivan quotes Ronald Reagan- “The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”  Sure, and he adds this –

 

The Republicans have plans to intervene directly in many people’s lives — spending billions on sexual abstinence education, marriage counselling, anti-drug propaganda, a war on steroids, mentoring programmes for former prisoners, and on and on. Got a problem? Bush’s big government is here to help.

 

Where Republicans once believed that states should have priority over the federal government, Bush has pushed in the opposite direction. Last week the religious right wanted a federal ruling to prevent a Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state from having her life-support cut off. This is a job for the federal government?

 

Well, Ronald Reagan is dead.  But some conservatives don’t want to give up.

 

How these contradictions can be resolved is hard to see. Is conservatism now paternalist, spending huge amounts of federal money to guide people into more moral lives? Or is it about restraining government so people can make up their own minds how to live?

 

Andrew is one unhappy conservative!  And here he’s not happy with this Florida business.

 

The Florida courts have clearly wrestled with this issue many, many times. I haven't seen an argument that they are behaving outrageously beyond the bounds of their legitimate authority in a very complex case. And George's appeal to "civil rights" depends, of course, on what you mean by "civil rights." Where gays are concerned, George's belief is that gays have no fundamental civil rights with respect to marriage or even private consensual sex. George even believes that the government has a legitimate interest in passing laws that affect masturbation. But when he can purloin the rhetoric of "civil rights" to advance his own big government moralism, he will. The case also highlights - in another wonderful irony - how religious right morality even trumps civil marriage. It is simply amazing to hear the advocates of the inviolability of the heterosexual civil marital bond deny Terri Schiavo's legal husband the right to decide his wife's fate, when she cannot decide it for herself. Again, the demands of the religious right pre-empt constitutionalism, federalism, and even the integrity of the family. When conservatism means breaking up the civil bond between a man and his wife, you know it has ceased to be conservative. But we have known that for a long time now. Conservatism is a philosophy without a party in America any more. It has been hijacked by zealots and statists.

 

For someone on the left like me, this is odd reading.  And by the way, Dahlia Lithwick here offers the same point on marriage and what say the spouse has, legally 

 

The best evidence of a patient's desires in a right-to-die case is an express statement of the patient's wishes—a living will. There is none in Schiavo's case. The next best is the substituted judgment of a spouse—which has been proffered in the Schiavo case and accepted, over and over, by numerous courts. With each successive legal step away from the patient herself—to a guardian ad litem who never knew her, to a judge who never knew her, to an appeals court, then another court, and then to hundreds of members of Congress who know less about her than they do about grazing policy—any understanding about what Schiavo would have wanted becomes less and less possible.

 

This is not a matter of national policy, and the legislation passed on Monday doesn't even attempt to craft new federal right-to-die policies. This case is about a reluctant state court making its best effort to unearth an individual's most private wishes and using the intimate relationship with her spouse in order to do so. Yet Schiavo's family—the Schindlers—her governor, and Congress have totally disregarded these presumptions about the sanctity of marriage. To them, the marriage is immaterial.

 

Why? Because they don't like her husband? Because they don't like that he has a girlfriend? Or because they don't like the decision he made? "I don't know what transpired between Terri and her husband. All I know is Terri is alive. ... Unless she has specifically written instructions in her hand, with her signature, I don't care what her husband says," snarled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay the other day. Can this be true? In DeLay's worldview, is my grocery list more binding than promises made to and by my husband about our deepest wishes? Can Bill Frist and Tom DeLay and George W. Bush really be attempting to shred up the very institution they most want to protect?

 

Well, yes.

 

See if you believe this - “The lunacy of Bushco is becoming apparent to all, and perhaps the revolution is afoot.” 

 

A revolution?

 

Actually that comes from an item about a new coalition being formed – among the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform and the Free Congress Foundation – called Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances — to lobby Congress to repeal three key provisions of the USA Patriot Act.  Say what?  (The Associated Press story is here if you’re interested.)  I think the idea is that, if they raise issues, this time around they don’t want to be called terrorists and no better than the Islamic fundamentalist who murder thousand of innocent Americans for Allah.  So the left and right are joining forces.  How odd.

 

Well, something is happening.

 

Via Progressive Blog Digest we get these headings and links -

 

Conservatives revolting against the DeLay wing of the party. They realize that Social Security and Schiavo could bring them all down.

 

http://dailykos.com/story/2005/3/22/142815/577

http://dailykos.com/story/2005/3/23/171/06297

http://atrios.blogspot.com/2005_03_20_atrios_archive.html#111155582080731322

http://www.first-draft.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2539

 

The “Islamization” of the GOP

http://www.first-draft.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2533

More: http://www.juancole.com/2005/03/schiavo-case-and-islamization-of.html

 

So, are things cracking up on the right?  Ah, probably not.

 

Adding to his previous post more on the Republican Party falling apart from Andrew Sullivan –

 

I'm beginning to wonder if the Republican party will soon oppose the whole concept of an independent judiciary. Just read William Bennett's screed in National Review. It contains the sentence: "It is a mistake to believe that the courts have the ultimate say as to what a constitution means." Bennett and his co-author argue that Jeb Bush should send in state troops to reinsert the feeding tube and break the law if necessary. Screw the science. Screw the court system. Screw the law. I disagree with Jonah [Goldberg] that this is a minor spat with no long-term consequences. We are looking directly at the real face of contemporary Republicanism. Sane, moderate, thoughtful people are watching this circus and will not soon forget it.

 

Eric Alterman here

 

Is the party that exploded the deficit the party of fiscal responsibility?  Is the party that overturns doctors' orders and tramples on state constitutions the party of limited government?  …  Is the party that cries “racism” for those who vote their honest disapproval of an Hispanic attorney general who defends torture or an African-American Secretary of state who displays an uninterrupted record of clueless incompetence leavened with dishonesty?  Is the party that complains of special treatment for “victims” the same one that demands it for true believers?  [Referring to all this calls this month for Affirmative Action for university professors who are conservative Christians  - and for Affirmative Action for a set quota conservatives to be represented in newspapers] … The right-wing demand for all forms of affirmative action is one that has received insufficient attention in light of all the above.  Where, to quote the guy who wrote the lyrics to “Love Story,” do I begin?

 

Was this whole save-the-brain-dead business a “jump the shark” moment for the Republicans – or part of a grander plan?

 

Put on your tinfoil hat and read this – 

 

Suddenly it occurs to me that the Republican fight against the courts on Terri Schiavo has been, among many other things, a perfect set-up for the Republicans' next major congressional initiative: packing the courts with President Bush's conservative judicial nominees. Just take a look at how George Bush reacted this afternoon, after a federal appeals court refused to re-insert Schiavo's feeding tube:

 

"I believe that in a case such as this, the legislative branch, the executive branch, ought to err on the side of life, which we have," the president said. "Now we'll watch the courts make their decisions."

 

Combine that with the fact that Mark Levin's Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America is right now on the best-seller lists, and you have a recipe for a mobilizing a hurt and highly motivated constituency in defense of the president's coming effort to transform the courts so that they more closely hew to the perspective in the White House and Congress.

 

- Garance Franke-Ruta

 

AH HA!  See this -

 

“The whole POINT was not to grant relief. This would enable the Republicans to say that a "runaway federal judiciary" was ignoring the will of Congress.”

 

Now it all makes sense.

 

But our Wall Street Attorney differs -

 

"The whole POINT was not to grant relief. This would enable the Republicans to say that a ‘runaway federal judiciary’ was ignoring the will of Congress."

No.


The point that is being missed here is that, to the judiciary, the will of Congress is irrelevant.  The judiciary is not the servant of any other branch of government.  Checks and balances are not the same as appeasements and capitulations.

 

The judiciary is not the servant of any other branch of government?  That’s the trouble.  Time to eliminate it – or castrate it.  That seems to be the Republican idea.

 

Oh yeah – here’s some overheated rhetoric on the larger issue here – can one just drown the judiciary in the bathtub?  Curious.

 

See this

 

I'm struck that many on the left blogosphere have focused on the details of the Schiavo case rather than its larger meaning. That meaning is stark and disturbing: The Bush administration demonstrated in public - not in secret, as with the Gonzales torture memos - that they have the will and the means to overturn any law they disagree with. Regardless of what happens now to the Schiavo case, the right wing extremists who control our government have made their point. Openly, they have asserted, and proven, that they are literally above the law of the United States. They are now unequivocally beyond any judicial control. Only a fool would believe that they won't do this again on a different issue. And again. And again.

 

It is equally striking that two major newspapers, often chided by the left blogosphere as slow to the punch and timid, hit the nail pretty darn close to the head. The Los Angeles Times wrote:

 

[Repulican leaders] brushed aside our federalist system of government, which assigns the resolution of such disputes to state law, and state judges. Even President Bush flew back from his ranch to Washington on Sunday to be in on what amounts to a constitutional coup d'etat.

 

The New York Times editorial on the bill was equally outraged:

 

The new law tramples on the principle that this is "a nation of laws, not of men," and it guts the power of the states. When the commotion over this one tragic woman is over, Congress and the president will have done real damage to the founders' careful plan for American democracy...

...President Bush and his Congressional allies have begun to enunciate a new principle: the rules of government are worth respecting only if they produce the result we want. It may be a formula for short-term political success, but it is no way to preserve and protect a great republic.

 

A coup d'etat. The rules of government are worth respecting only if they produce the results they want... There's no reason to be coy about it.

This is fascism.

 

Folks throw around that word too easily, I suppose.

 

The morning congress first acted the same fellow wrote this – 

 

Well, it happened.

On March 21, 2005 12:44 am, the extremists in charge of the US Government showed the world that when they don't like a law or a legally valid court decision - ANY law, ANY court decision, for ANY reason, no matter how carefully adjudicated - they are prepared to rip it up. There is a word for this.

The word is fascism.

As of early this morning, America can no longer maintain the slightest shadow of an illusion that it is a Republic with a flexible and somewhat benign, albeit hegemonic and imperialist, stance towards the world while enjoying a modicum of democratically established liberties for its citizens. Today, my fellow Americans, we woke up in a new United States, a fascist America in which a citizen's rights and liberties are inscribed not in a set of laws but are entirely subject to the whims of the extremists running the Federal legislative and executive branches. A fascist America which barely tries to disguise either its thirst for oil or its demands that all countries must kowtow to its leaders' demands.

Oh, c'mon! They can't DO that, they can't take away our rights without hearings, without extended open discussions, can they? We have laws! They can't just ignore them!

Well guess what? They just can ignore them and they just did. That's what the awful personal tragedy of the Schiavos mutated into: the perfect excuse for extremists to come out of the closet and swagger about, smirking, basking in the full extent of their fascist glory.

Nineteen judges examined the details of a heart wrenching medical case, numerous expert witnesses on all sides were called. The judgment was affirmed and unequivocal. No matter. In an entirely unprecedented move, and merely to demonstrate its overwhelming power, the extremists in this government told the American judiciary to take a hike. We're doing it our way from now on.

The extremists said to the courts and state legislatures of the land, "For heaven's sakes, there's a war on, don't you know? Give up those quaint, naive, too-subtle-for-my-mind notions of ‘Justice’ and take a break, don't bother judging anymore, that's not your job, never really should have been, frankly. From now on, we'll simply tell you what justice has to be. It'll be easier on everyone."

When you're the fascist...  Oh, the usefulness of those "just this one time" vital intrusions into cultural, political, issues!

Information about the identity of the traitor who leaked Valerie Plame's name getting uncomfortably close to disclosure? Convene an emergency session in the dead of night; authorize "just this once" a pre-emptive enemy combatant arrest or two for the good of the country. Mission accomplished. Are you a whistle-blower with important information that the CIA has far two few decent Arabic translators and that some of them are paid operatives of foreign governments? Convene Congress, amend the PATRIOT act, and you'll disappear like Padilla for several years.

Think fascism can't happen here? It already has. That's right. It already has. Today was just the first, truly normative display of the amount of control this fascist regime has. One party, fully in power that can, on a whim, overturn any law of the land. Without limit or control.

But since Bush first took his oath in 2001, American and foreign citizens have been held without trial or communication so many times it's almost routine. Torture is ubiquitous, all but official US policy; one well-respected pundit even suggested amending the Constitution to allow retributive torture of those convicted of capital crimes.

Meanwhile, the traitors who outed a CIA agent evade the law; and dollars to donuts at least one of those traitors is still working in the White House. "Open government" is a laughable oxymoron (remember Cheney's energy hearings?) And everywhere, fake news telling us George Bush knows all, is almost a holy force for good. And everywhere, a media so corrupt and incompetent it took something like a year for anyone to learn that a "reporter" who was a regular attendee at numerous White House briefings was not just a media whore, but an actual whore, and nothing but a whore who'd done a little typing, a whore with an explicit web site advertising his charms at the same time he was addressing a question to the president of the United States. Christ...

Now what?

Well, we can't sue them in court 'cause the courts are rapidly being packed with extremists and anyway, even if we managed to sue, they'd just pass a law giving us no standing ("just this once" as in Schiavo) and we're back to square one. We can't elect anyone to oppose them because they are busy gerrymandering district after district to make it all but impossible for anyone except a right wing kook to get elected. We can't make our views public in any coherent way because they own the best microphones and cameras and carefully ban effective spokesmen opposed to right wing extremism from important media appearances and events.

Oh, and by the way, don't bother with those "living wills" as some have suggested. Did you actually listen last night to what the crazies were saying? They couldn't have been clearer. Their goal is is to ban living wills if they request a do not resuscitate under conditions they don't happen to like. So sure, pay the 15 bucks for a LW and pretend your last wishes will be respected by Tom Delay and his fellow fascists, one of the most corrupt and stupid men in the history of Congress, quite an achievement. You never know, he could change into an honest, compassionate man (joke).

So,

Should we move to another country and watch safely from afar as the nation we grew up in and love so much disintegrates before our eyes, as it surely will from the behavior of such extremists? I'm sure it will tempt many, but few will actually do it, for logistical, personal, and/or political reasons.

Should we work within the Democratic Party? Oh, please. Did you read Lieberman and Biden in the New Yorker, on the meaning of Dean as chair? Said with a sneer: "It never made a damn bit of difference who was Democratic chairman." Ok, maybe Dean can knock heads together enough to make a difference someday. But we're confronting real, genuine, fascism -the ugly kind- today. The incompetent clods who are still in charge of the Democrats not only let a genuine war hero and exemplary patriot get tarred as a lying traitor. They also permitted a drunken, stupid, ignorant and amoral WAR DESERTER be portrayed as a man of courage, stern conviction, and military mien. They should have raised holy hell. But they didn't.

Nah, the Democrats got a long, long way to go until anyone could even pretend with a straight face they're a nationally important party again.

Revolution and radical struggle? A second Civil War? The very notion sickens me. First, I'm a liberal. Political extremism and absolutism, of all sorts, revolts me. It is anti-liberal, i.e. anti-freedom. Furthermore, no sane American who truly thought about the consequences of the revolutionary overthrow of an American government, even a fascist one, could support such madness. The human consequences would make the first Civil War look like a collegiate wrestling tournament in comparison.

And guess who would win? Hint: Ken Lay's on their side. No. When you talk about destruction, you can count me out. (Where have I heard that before?)

So.

Now what?

 

This fellow should calm down.  Who would oppose The Culture ‘O Life?

 

But something is afoot.  A new meme is born.  Early Monday morning, March 21 of this year, the Republican Party jumped the shark.  The end began, the great unraveling.  Everything shifted against them.

 

You read it here first.

 

 

______________________________

 

JUMP THE SHARK 

 

Jumping the shark is a metaphor used by television critics since the 1990s. The phrase, popularized by Jon Hein on his web site www.jumptheshark.com, is used to describe the moment when a television show or similar episodic media is in retrospect judged to have passed its "peak" and shows a noticeable decline in quality. Hein also uses the "jumping the shark" concept to describe other areas of pop culture, such as music and celebrities, for whom a drastic change was the beginning of the end.

 

This:

 

Jon Hein says he took the term from the episode in Happy Days, an ABC television which ran from 1974 to 1984, in which Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler, water-skied over a shark in a bay.

 

Jon Hein said that other jump the shark moments were caused by a cast member reaching puberty or a new actor starting to play an existing character. The phrase might seem to resonate with the image of network bosses circling in the water waiting to pull a failing show, though the real problem is that the bosses let long-running and once-successful shows continue well past their sell-by date in order to milk a little more revenue from them, or to reach the magic episode count at which syndication becomes practicable.

 

… the phrase has already become modified in the spoken language to refer to any serious error, not specifically a TV downturn. After this piece appeared in the newsletter, several subscribers said they had encountered it in the political arena in reference to a politician whose policies (to borrow another allusion) were past their sell-by date, or to an event in a candidate’s campaign that marked the effective end of their hopes of election. …

 































 
 
 
 

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
 
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