Tea Party or Know-Nothing Party

September 14, 2011

Anyone with an ounce of compassion or half a brain who witnessed the last two GOP debates has to be wondering what is happening in American society. The acid test of all Republican candidates was a repudiation of science (“no” to evolution, “no” to climate change). This is disturbing enough in a world where scientific innovation is the vehicle for economic prosperity, but what about the repudiation of such fundamental American Values as justice and compassion? When asked about the record number of executions in Texas, including the execution of innocent men, not only did Gov. Perry defend the slaughter, the audience cheered it! In the most recent debate, when asked if an uninsured man should be refused medical treatment and left to die, members of the audience shouted out “yes” and others cheered.

GOP events are being swamped by Tea baggers, errrr, Tea Party activists and to understand them, one need only look back into history.  The Know-Nothing party was a political party formed in the 1850s in response to the perception that immigration was threatening jobs and the fabric of American society. It was covertly funded by wealthy families who had an economic and political interest in maintaining the status quo and fueled by fear and conspiracy theories (e.g. the Pope was seeking to take over the government by flooding the country with Irish). They were called “know-nothings” even though they were officially the “American Republican Party” because when confronted about their secretive nature or violent attacks of immigrants, they responded “I know nothing”. However, over the years the label “know nothings” has come to reflect the judgment of history on their policies and beliefs.

The Tea Party began as an anti-immigrant, anti-government political movement funded by billionaires during a time of economic uncertainty, just as the original Know-Nothings were. Just as the predecessors were, the Tea Party is energized by fear and conspiracies (Obama is a Muslim, is not American, immigrants are threatening the fabric of American society, etc) and is anti-Muslim, if not anti-Christian, in its nature. The difference is that because of the media-political complex, their importance has been greatly exaggerated and their views moderated to seem main-stream. The fact that virtually all of the leading GOP candidates are pandering to their anti-science and anti-immigrant and Hobbesian bigotry,  is disturbing, even if it is insincere (except of course Perry and Bachman who appear to be genuinely bigoted).

One more historical fact: the rise of the Know-Nothings marked the end of the existing two party system of the time (the destruction of the Whigs).  Is this the end of the GOP as well?

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Who’s In Charge?

September 13, 2011

While listening to President Obama yesterday, I was struck by the many contradictions between theman giving the speech and the actions of his administration. Don’t get me wrong, I supported President Obama and will in the next election. I remembered a speech he made against “regime change” and “nation building”, and here we are engineering regime change in Libya and nation-building in Afghanistan. I heard speeches about “Wall Street Insiders” and see more Wall St. insiders in his administration than President Bush.  Maybe the most enigmatic of all, I remembered a speech about “transparency in government”, yet his administration has already prosecuted more whistle-blowers in three years that all Administrations before him.

The list can go on and on, so I wonder: who is in charge there? Does President Obama relegate so much that he is clueless as to what they are doing, or is there a different man who sits in the White House?  Is there a man behind the curtain? Can it be that we just wanted to hope so much that we have been blinded to some major faults? I don’t know about that, but I do know this: President Obama at his worst is far better for working families than any of the GOP candidates running right now.

BTW, wish you would have voted for Hillary now?


Leadership

September 12, 2011

When President Obama backed down on his request to speak to a joint session of Congress on a jobs bill I felt exasperated. For the first time in the history of the Country, the leader of the House of Representatives refused to invite the President at his request – and on an obviously false excuse. It was not only an insult to Mr. Obama, it was an insult to the Office of the President. I just can’t accept the style of leadership President Obama exhibits.

President Obama does lead, and not always by consensus. He made the right decision in Libya (it seems) and the right decision to get bin Laden. However, there are times when leadership style has to change to accomplish a mission. Simply making the right decision is not enough. You have to convince and inspire people to follow you as well. I seriously doubt that the war in Afghanistan is the right decision, but there is no doubt that President Obama has failed to inspire or convince Americans that it is worth the cost. There are also times when confrontation is necessary, and this is where I fear the President lacks what it takes. Yes, I know people think of me as too confrontational, but confrontations make the issues clear and produce clear choices for people.

Sen. Mitch McConnell made it very clear early on that the GOP will not follow President Obama wherever he leads, and he has proven this fact over and over again. The GOP leadership is less the “loyal opposition” as they are obstructionists who have hurt the Country. Even when the President offers their own policy suggestions, they refuse and force even more radical concessions. As the result, every attempt at compromise ultimately appears to be capitulation. Union leadership knows that confrontation is necessary and they are fighting for their lives (and the welfare of all workers) without leadership from the President.

Are we a ship without a captain?


Idiot Wind

September 12, 2011

All Irene – all the time.  That’s what we heard from cable news stations all weekend and it’s pretty tiresome. Cable news exploits fear. They take an issue and with relentless hyperbole speculate on how devastating the next disaster will be until the event actually occurs and nothing remotely close to what they predict happens. We were told that Irene could cause 6 foot sea swells in Manhattan, knocking out the subways and transit system while 100 mph winds would pound skyscrapers causing giant shards of glass to rain down onto the streets. It turns out that the biggest gusts of winds were coming from the cable news pundits.

We’ve talked before about how the politico-media complex creates and exploits fear for profit and power. It is a very destructive influence in our society. Fear is a parasite that feeds on itself and destroys the soul. I am not saying we should ignore warnings or not take practical steps to protect our families from natural disasters. I am saying that we should turn off the hysterical droning of cable news pundits who endlessly speculate about how the world will end… and maybe listen to a little Bob Dylan’s “Idiot Wind.” It’s a wonder that they still know how to breathe!.