Tag Archives: GOP

Explaining American Politics to Non-Americans – Part II: The Republican Party

Welcome again readers, to Culture War Reporter’s second installment of “Explaining American Politics to Non-Americans” [Part 1 here], in which yours truly attempts to explain the chaotic carnival that is our great democracy.

This week, we’ll be looking at the Republican party. Or parties, if things keep progressing as they do.

But let’s dive right in.

I won’t pretend I don’t have my own bias but I will try to be as fair as possible.

To say that the “Grand Old Party” has made itself unpopular abroad would be an understatement. The Bush-era wars, sanctions, and seemingly indiscriminate use of military force has created an international image of Republicans as blood-thirsty imperialists. While Obama has been far more liberal (pardon the pun) use of drone strikes, others point to the Republicans shaky relationship with environmentalism, science, and women’s issues to cast the GOP as backwards and puritanical.

But how fair are these assertions? If they’re true, where do they come from?

The History

The “Grand Old Party”, as it was once called was established in 1854, just prior to the American Civil War. Evolving from a number of groups, the Republican party came to stand largely for federal power and industrialization, contrasting with the emphasis on state’s rights and agriculture that the Democrats had (who we’ll get to next week). Indeed, while now struggling now to rid themselves of the accusation of being an “old, white guys’ party”, the Republicans of old were actually the more progressive, liberal and inclusive of the two parties. Although racism would remain an issue across the political spectrum, it was Republicans who could often count on the African-American voter demographic throughout much of the late 1800s.

Exactly when and why that stopped being the case is still a matter of heated debate.

Some would cite that the “Red Scares” (anti-communist witch hunts) of the 1950s pushed the party increasingly towards aggression, militarism, and social conservatism. Others might argue that as issues of civil rights, poverty, and the war in Vietnam caused many African-Americans to shift towards the Democrats, leaving the party almost exclusively in the hands of the white tycoons.

In spite of this shift, Republicans nevertheless have consistently managed to gain and often dominate American politics, the Reagan-era in the 1980s seeing massive cuts to government spending while increasing intervention in Latin America, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. The short-lived presidency of H.W. Bush, however, would see the abrupt end to the Republican Golden Age, with economic downturn and issues from within the party leading to Democrat victories in the 90s.

And then came “W”.

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Why Ben Carson Shouldn’t Be President

The past two decades has not been kind to American Christians.

In spite of the Bush presidency, largely supported by Evangelicals, the former administration’s efforts were focused on the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than at home. In 2000 only a single state recognized same-sex marriage. Today only 12 states do not, and gay rights have rapidly moved from a fringe issue to a widely accepted stance. Support for Roe V. Wade has seen a slow but steady increase, and belief in evolution has seen similar growth- even among conservatives.

With these defeats, it would be understandable if conservative Christians claim that their once mighty “Shining city upon a hill” has fallen into disarray, with the forces of secularism closing in for the final siege.

Enter Dr. Ben Carson, 2016 presidential hopeful, and, to hear many talk, one pale horse shy of the second coming.

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Shame Day: Todd Kincannon

There’s an old supposedly Scottish proverb that goes,

“The only reason some people are alive is because is because it is illegal to kill them.”

toddkincannon

This is perhaps truer of no one than former South Carolina Republican Party
executive director Todd Kincannon.

Now you’re probably all saying “Whoa there! Ain’t that more than a little harsh?

To which I respond: no.

This is a guy so twisted I feel perfectly comfortable with slapping the label “evil” on him and not losing a moment’s peace of mind. Let me break it down for you.

This guy makes Rush Limbaugh (the guy who came out in support of the genocidal, child-rapist “Lord’s Resistance Army” terrorist group in the Congo) look like Gandhi by comparison. Here’s what Kincannon posted regarding Trayvon Martin during the Superbowl:

And just to be sure there was no confusion as to his meaning, Kincannon continued on to post this:

Yeah, I’m going to give you all a moment to try to wrap your head around just how vile of a thing that was.

Ready?

Well, we’re moving on anyways.

Now I could spend the entire post breaking down Kincannon’s assumption that some high school kid gunned down by a gung-ho neighborhood watchman was a “thug” or that had he grown up, he inevitably would’ve resorted to “sucking dick” for “drug money,” but there’s oh so much more still to see!

Kincannon’s spent the past few days attacking Iraq war veteran Mike Prysner for his views on recently deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, offering such reasonable and level-headed comments as:

https://twitter.com/ToddKincannon/status/315693128914989056

And:

https://twitter.com/ToddKincannon/status/315697254180728832

Again, it’s kind of hard for me to feel guilty about my statement above when it has to compete with even the mildest of things this guy has to say.

https://twitter.com/ToddKincannon/status/315571885620473856

https://twitter.com/ToddKincannon/status/315673713553059841

https://twitter.com/ToddKincannon/status/315677582668468225

https://twitter.com/ToddKincannon/status/316410543760084992

What makes it all worse is that when this guy is confronted over his statements, he resorts to “free speech” arguments to evade any responsibility. He is correct in that he has the freedom to say whatever he so chooses, just as I have the freedom to stick forks in my own eyes or kick a grizzly bear- just because I have the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. As far as trying to play off his statements.

In one interview, Kincannon out rightly stated that “If you say something that’s borderline offensive or if it is offensive, the people that attack you and say just the awfulest [sic] things about you, they do the very thing that they accuse you of.”

Evan does try to keep the blog relatively profanity-free, but this was really the only gif I could find that quite captured the feeling…

For anyone wondering, that’s the equivalent of punching a guy and calling him a hypocrite when he punches you back. But there’s more to it than just that.

Even if Kincannon truly does believe he’s nothing more than a witty prankster, he does have a following and his statements do get reactions out of people, including such gems as:

So we’ve effectively jumped from “This vet deserves to have died for holding political views I disagree with” to “every soldier who has come back alive is a coward and a disgrace to the fatherland.”

Again, if this is all some elaborate prank being played by Kincannon, we can’t ignore that it’s not being taken to lightly by his followers. I don’t think J.D. Salinger should be blamed because a nutcases took Catcher in the Rye to be code for “Kill John Lennon,” but when most everyone reading your work is coming away with homophobic, racist, sexist, and generally reprehensible messages, it’s time to rethink your medium.

If Kincannon’s playing some prank. Between you and me, I don’t think this is all that funny:

https://twitter.com/ToddKincannon/status/316410079152857089

What’s there left to say?

Todd Kincannon, you are an evil human being. Shame on you.

Evan, if there was ever a time to break Culture War Reporter’s no-profanity rule, it is now

Republicans, Marriage Equality, and Inevitable Social Change

Freedom to Marry has set up the Win More States Fund with the goal of influencing legislation in Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Washington. Interestingly, the fund’s largest donors so far have been a group of major donors to the Republican party.

Freedom to Marry is one of the many organizations in the US that support and fight for the legalization of same-sex marriage

And this isn’t just excitement over a few novel Republicans donating insubstantial amounts; the group collectively donated $1.5 million, which is half of the fund’s stated goal. Ken Mehlman, the former chair of the RNC (Republican National Committee) (I’ve heard that they’re a big deal). The group of donors, including Mehlman, has founded a Super PAC (American Unity), which defines itself as a PAC that “supports GOP political leaders committed to advancing the rights of gay and lesbian Americans”. The PAC’s first donation was $1 million from Paul Singer, hedge fund CEO and major donor to the GOP.

This shows quite the shift, especially compared to popular (if slightly under-informed) consensus about party alignment on the gay marriage debate.
Freedom to Marry quotes Mehlman talking about his decision to donate:

“Supporting the right of adults to marry the person that they love is consistent with Republican and conservative principles. A party that ignores reality and demographic change is a party that loses a lot of elections and becomes less relevant.”

Freedom to Marry’s Win More States Fund targets Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Washington State

There were a lot of predictions that opposing gay marriage would just cease to be a respected opinion in the US, and it seems that that’s what’s happening now. Mehlmen’s statement is practical – he does say that the position “is consistent with Republican and conservative principles,” but this issue would not be being addressed if not for the huge social movement over the past few decades. That IS sort of how democracy is supposed to work – but I think that we will always hear more people saying things like “Those people have to change in order to survive politically” than things like “They can take the job and shove it … I’m trying to do the right thing.”

But that’s how things work, I guess. People have a tendency to distrust things that are different and strange, and so social change with respect to accepting and adapting to differences usually has more to do with social pressure (and shame) than with lots of miraculously-timed personal insights. The fact that our opinions and actions are inseparably intertwined with the popular sentiment is not news. And while political moves responding to trendy or controversial social issues might be occasionally disingenuous, there’s no arguing that they can instigate actual change.

GOP 2012: Why Competence and Communication are Important

NB: I’m a registered Democrat, but not a terribly leftist one. I’m a Democrat the way most college students are Democrats, I suspect – by default.


I’ve been thinking about the circus that is the Republican nomination race. You should know that I’m not a politics nut, nor do I plan on being one – but the state of my society does interest me sometimes. The GOP right now is both amusing and extremely sad. A series of caricatures who have served their time as one-month fads leaves me wondering about the state of American politics. The string of slip-up clips zooming through the internet and the idiotic things that these candidates have said might receive too much focus, according to some – but I think that the dismal communication and public speaking skills of the candidates this year is itself something to be concerned about, before even delving into their political views (too complicated for me to do any justice).

Bachman's disastrous Newsweek cover

Michele Bachmann was kind of the first fad of the GOP, and was slammed repeatedly for her bizarre and factually inaccurate comments in public – waxing poetic about New Hampshire, calling it “the state where the shot was heard round the world in Lexington and Concord,” while Lexington and Concord are actually in Massachusetts. She commented on the census, saying that “[My family] won’t be answering any information beyond [number of people in our household], because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that,” which also isn’t true – the Constitution mandates citizens to fill out census forms. Or this gem about carbon dioxide: “carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural. It is not harmful. It is part of Earth’s life cycle…And yet we’re being told that we have to reduce this natural substance and reduce the American standard of living to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occurring in the earth.” The woman is not a good speaker – she is clearly grasping for patriotic straws when she calls forth grand images of the Revolutionary War, and clearly grasping for Tea Party straws when she pigheadedly and uneducatedly dismisses the idea of global warming. This kind of saying-anything-to-please-a-crowd is not, not at all, a quality one should accept in a presidential candidate.

Rick Perry: Oops

Rick Perry was always too much like GWB to stand a chance. Not terribly substantial – seemed like the kind of guy I’d like to have a beer with but, like W, doesn’t even seem like he’d want to be the president, at the end of the day. I think the stress of even the race was too much for him.

Screenshot from Cain's abysmal campaign commercial

When Herman Cain was declared frontrunner of the Republican Party, it was the last time that I was surprised/horrified at the state of the GOP candidates. Herman Cain, who attended Glenn Beck’s rally in Israel. Herman Cain, who said: “When they ask me who’s the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I’m going to say, ‘You know, I don’t know. Do you know?'” Herman Cain, who said: “I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration.” Herman Cain, who is a terrible, terrible candidate and appears to be willfully ignorant of foreign policy – or, at least, he imagines that that image is more desirable than utilizing his education.

So once Newt Gingrich was declared frontrunner, the GOP picking terrible candidates was sort of an expected pattern. Newt Gingrich was disgraced in the ’90s for having the worst Speakership in history – he suggested that the government shutdown was a personal attack against him, was the first Speaker of the House to receive ethical sanctions, and resigned in disgrace, commenting: “My only fear would be that if I tried to stay, it would just overshadow whoever my successor is.” I remember his name being the punch-line of jokes when I was a kid.

Also, he calls himself Newt, and he runs under “NEWT 2012”. Even without his ludicrous political career, no president should have an animal name, I’ve decided.

So why, why is the GOP choosing candidates whom I can mock by just quoting things that they actually said? Why are voters sashaying from Neo-Sarah-Palin to Neo-George-W. to Foreign-Policy-Knowledge-Have-Not to Only-Slightly-More-Desirable-As-A-President-Than-An-Actual-Newt?

An attack on the speaking skills of candidates might seem petty, but the speech- and communication- related responsibilities of the United States President are nothing to be neglected. I do suspect that the pressure on a candidate is more intense than in any other political position, and that slips in speech are widely a result of that pressure combined with the rabidness of the amusing-slip-up-snatching-and-amplifying media, but I also think that our standards for the public speaking skills of our president should be high. The pressure on candidates to not commit to anything – to sound good without making any promises – has caused the degeneration of political debates into a rhetoric-slinging festival resembling arguing grade schoolers.

These people are politicians – they have college degrees – they were popular enough to make it into the political scene and be elected to (in most cases) at least one high government office and run it with some level of competence. At least, that’s what I stubbornly assume, as I am afraid to allow myself to abandon all my hope in the political system. So let’s assume that the candidates are fairly competent and can sometimes speak without sounding like grade schoolers. Why, then, is everything about the GOP race so ridiculous?

I think that the 2012 GOP race so far demonstrates the logical extreme of a system built on fear of commitment and fear of offending even the most idiotic constituents. Noncommital and pretty-sounding political doublespeak is ridiculous in itself and always has been; in this year’s race, the insipid rhetoric has been deconstructed to reveal its logical core: nonsense. Politicians have been trained to say nothing for a long time; instead of learning what they need to know, they only need to be able to appear to know it; we are beginning to see the evidence of this more obviously. And with it, the apparent neglect of the American public to remember that the President is not only a likeable face, but the Commander in Chief of our army; not only a spearhead for conservative/liberal policy (depending on his/her affiliation, obvs.) but a position with the opportunity to encourage negotiation between the two sides of Congress and a key communicator with heads of state of other countries. And that is why the state of the GOP leanings isn’t just amusing – it’s dismal. Discouraging. One can only hope that the nominee will be someone we can take seriously.