There’s something to be said for not interrupting your opponent when he is actively making a mistake. It is also generally frowned upon when we give “aid and comfort to the enemy.” So, why are progressives (and some moderate fiscal-conservative pundits) telling the GOP exactly where they went wrong?
One, I personally don’t see Republicans as a whole as “the enemy.” We disagree politically, but we are Americans and they are Americans. We are all in this together. Two, they have already been given all the information required not to make some elementary and easily-avoided errors, and I don’t see them paying more attention to me (or other progressives writing about the topic) than they gave people who ostensibly belong to the same political persuasion. If they won’t listen to their close friends, why would they start listening to strangers?
The GOP made a lot of mistakes, and entire books can and will be written about them in days to come. There are some mistakes more glaring than others, however.
1. Their “experts” are bad, and they should feel bad.
Listening to un-elected self-appointed experts is a serious problem for Republicans: Grover Norquist comes to mind. He came up with his “no-tax pledge” when he was a 12-year-old child, and apparently saw no need to revise it as an adult. His 12-year-old mind thought it was a great idea, and Norquist may possibly have never matured intellectually beyond that point.
This is a man who went on national television this week asserting that Romney lost because Obama called him a “poopyhead.” That actually happened. Republicans, Tea Partiers in particular, embraced Norquist’s pre-pubescent economic plan, and set about being obstructive asshats at every juncture. Again, American citizens never elected Norquist as a representative of their views. His ideas are roundly criticized (justifiably so) by people who just might know a little bit more about economics and tax policy than a 12-year-old ever did.
Even so, Republicans flocked to sign Norquist’s pledge, and, in doing so, demonstrated a lack of common sense.
2. They encourage, rather than stifle, their cranks, cretins, God-bothering Bible-thumpers and raging assholes
Ted Nugent is an aggressive, chickenhawk creep who has no background in politics, but feels free to opine about complex political issues, usually by screaming himself hoarse about phantom moochers. Victoria Jackson is a depressingly simple crank who clings to a Child’s First Bible worldview, where everything is simplified and illustrated with colorful cartoon drawings. There are probably hundreds of (mostly evangelical) religious leaders who openly defy the IRS’s rules about churches risking their tax-exempt status for meddling in politics, and they ignore the separation of church and state in order to threaten their flocks with hellfire and damnation if they don’t vote for the policies and candidates these religious leaders prefer. Donald Trump is a bloviating self-absorbed, self-promoting buffoon in a toupee who thinks he is much more important and useful than he actually is. Ann Coulter is arguably a smart cookie, but she values her status as a gadfly and proud jerk far too much to say anything useful about politics, instead relying on playground taunts and getting visibly desperate when her childish, pseudo-intellectual gibes are mostly ignored; she never apologizes for offensive things she says, perhaps sneering at the idea, as she seems to think that respect and tolerance are signs of weakness. Rush Limbaugh recently had the temerity to call Governor Chris Christie a “fat fool” (psychologists might call that “projection,” we can settle for “hypocritical”) and regularly manages to offend almost everyone with his rants.
Sean Hannity has been wrong about almost everything; he is, to be kind, not a very bright man. Bill O’Reilly announced one night to an incredulous guest that “tides go in, tides go out, you can’t explain that.” Actually, a third grade science education explains that. Michael Savage may literally have some serious, un-medicated mental problems. Andrew Breitbart raged and screamed his way into a fatal and premature heart attack. Matt Drudge is a self-promoting jackass who has little use for accuracy or fairness in reporting. Dinesh D’Souza released one of the biggest fact-challenged cinematic piles of poop known to mankind, supposedly calling Obama’s character into question, and then got busted for adultery. Dick Morris is the world’s worst political pundit, and is wrong on an even more predictable and regular basis than Hannity. Glenn Beck is going to rant himself into an on-air aneurysm one day. As Democrat Barney Frank once said, progressives aren’t perfect, but conservatives are nuts!
Republicans seem to have no problem welcoming the intellectually feeble, offensive, and foul into their ranks. Many conservatives thought it was hilarious when Clint Eastwood rambled and ranted at an Invisible Obama on stage at the RNC; everyone else felt emotionally pained with empathy for the once-great elderly actor who was suddenly starring in a Simpsons parody sketch: Old Man Shouts At Chair.
There are smart, educated, thoughtful, articulate conservatives who can share Republican talking points with clarity and who are capable of constructively criticizing not only progressives, but also their own party members; folks like David Frum, Michael Steele, George Will, and David Brooks aren’t stupid people. Even conservative pundit Bill Kristol, who is frequently wrong about many things, is surprising everyone by being a voice of reason and telling his fellow Republicans to stop being stupid and stubborn because the Bush tax cuts for the 1% can and should expire.
Megyn Kelly, one of Fox News’ most popular talking heads, rolled her eyes so hard at Karl Rove after Rove steadfastly refused to believe Obama won re-election that viewers at home could almost hear her optic nerves twanging: Is this, Kelly asked Rove, some sort of Republican voodoo mathematics that you’re doing in your head to make yourself feel better?
One after another, Republican men–and a handful of women–stepped up and unapologetically said ignorant, offensive, appalling things about reproduction, abortion, birth control, rape and a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions without a vaginal probe, superfluous multiple ultrasounds, intrusive “counseling” and a Rape-ublican diktat being issued first. Republican women said women shouldn’t vote. Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives openly and enthusiastically called women “sluts.” Sarah Palin still thinks people care about her political opinions. Big name politicians (including Mitt Romney) even hung out and partied with an alleged serial rapist.
Why, then, do Republicans allow the braying jackass contingent of their party to out-bellow their intellectual spokespeople? Braying jackassery must hold more appeal to the base…and perhaps Republicans should ask themselves why that is. Do they want to cultivate a base that thrives on snide snark, messages of misogyny and homophobia, some not-very-subtle racist subtext, and, frankly, some alarmingly paranoid and fact-free fantasies…with the juiciest bones thrown to the pig-ignorant theocratic Paleoconservative Tealibangelical horde?
Is it really worth inviting absolutely every raging, ignorant dumbass into your political tent–in hopes of a few more votes for your politicians and policies–if the nutburgers and Troglodytes are just going to wind up kicking you out of it and taking over?
3. Republicans do not like–and thus refuse to believe–facts.
Fox News is regularly proven in study after study to leave its faithful viewers more misinformed than any other network; some random guy off the street who doesn’t own a TV, watch news programs or even pay much attention to politics is better-informed than a Fox News viewer. The frightening thing is that Republicans may have actually started to believe their own misinformation: Karl Rove’s shock when Obama won re-election seems to indicate that he really, truly did not know how it happened.
Republican Rep. Peter King announced that he was not interested in what fact-checkers had to say. Mitt Romney’s campaign staff spokesperson likewise said that they were not going to let fact-checkers influence their campaign decisions or messaging. Romney refused to bother to compose a concession speech, had a “President-Elect Romney” webpage set up and ready to go (and leaked before Election Day) and had planned an expensive fireworks display over the Boston Harbor to celebrate what he felt was a sure win.
We had Republicans who think scientific advancement and theory is all “lies from the pit of Hell” and have bizarre ideas about how human reproduction works. Two, Rep. Paul Broun and Rep. Todd Akin, served on the House Science Committee. Texas Republicans released a platform statement decrying “critical thinking” like that was a bad thing.
Teabaggers insist that President Obama is a fascist, socialist, Marxist, communist, atheist, Muslim, Kenyan, racist Nazi who knows nothing about the Constitution despite being a Constitutional Law scholar and head of the Harvard Law Review.
Republicans scoffed at poll-aggregators and statisticians who ran the numbers, by pretty much ignoring the brains at Princeton University (who had as much success with their research and predictions as did Nate Silver at his 538 blog) and other highly-educated experts and wonks, and focused on what they desperately wanted to believe: that polls, many (like Rasmussen and Gallup) which used flawed or outdated or skewed (towards Republicans) data and which measured popular vote trends and not electoral college vote stats (which actually elect presidents), were showing Romney and Obama in a tight race.
In truth, Romney was never even once projected to earn the necessary 270 electoral votes required to be elected. The convention didn’t give him a boost. He got a little bump after the first presidential debate, but that was as good as it ever got for Romney. Again, he never came close, not even for a minute, to being projected to get 270 electoral votes. And liberals knew that.
Sure, progressives were swept up in the “it’s so close” chit-chat a little bit, too, much of which was no doubt pushed by news networks hoping to keep viewers interested in the election and to boost ratings, but much more serious concern was directed at dozens of cases of Republicans doing their best to keep legitimate voters from voting, encouraging Democratic “ringers” to run to siphon votes away from their real opponent, or the possibility that electronic voting machines might be tampered with. Whether some of those concerns were reasonable or not, progressives weren’t worried about the statistics. It helped that they were going our way. Consistently.
It also helped that–thanks to Republicans deciding that facts weren’t really important to them–their candidate, Mitt Romney, told a whopping 900 lies in less than ten month’s time. He didn’t even try to hide it, and made sure to flip-flop on every political issue possible, while hiding most of his tax returns, his proposed policies and budget plans from public view. The GOP nominated a man who had no use for facts. This is something a political party does when it has contempt for the truth. It is not a winning strategy long-term. In fact, it failed to help Republicans win even in the short-term, as they got a royal shellacking at the polls on Election Day.
4. Insulting fellow Americans while demonstrating ignorance about fiscal issues
Republicans are supposed to be the “fiscally responsible” political party. Unfortunately, facts do not bear this assertion out. Republican administrations worsen our deficit. Republican presidents under-perform compared to Democratic presidents when you examine stats like number of jobs created and the unemployment rate, the health of the stock market, housing values, and overall economic growth.
Meanwhile, Republicans are still waffling about “takers and makers” and “job creators” and other right-wing bovine excrement. The idea is to engender inter-personal hostility between the middle-class and poor, and to direct it away from the wealthy and corporations, and it often works. The middle-class buys into right-wing talking points that blame the poor for our economic woes while corporate welfare in the form of tax shelters, subsidies and tax loopholes means we pay out approximately twice in corporate welfare than what we pay to help our fellow human beings.
Further, the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities is frank: 90% of all welfare goes to the elderly, the disabled (including veterans), dependent infants and children getting food assistance, people who are confined to institutions, survivors’ benefits (like what Paul Ryan and his mother received when he was a child), and the working poor (for instance, a large percentage of Wal*Mart employees are forced to apply for food assistance and other welfare programs to make ends meet because Wal*Mart is hostile to unions and pays as low an hourly wage as it can get away with; we would have fewer people relying on welfare assistance if corporations like Wal*Mart paid a living wage).
Listening to Republicans, though, they bad-mouth the poor, perpetuating the old and oft-debunked Welfare Queen stereotype, and encouraging people to be resentful of our poor and needy neighbors, and pretending that welfare recipients have a tolerable standard of living. In some ways, this is understandable. We, as human beings, make snap judgments about strangers, and may actually believe we have seen someone who appears to be taking advantage of welfare assistance (and maybe we have, on occasion, but the actions of one bad apple should not subject all the honest and genuinely needy to punishment and starvation). It is sad that these judgments tend to focus on minorities, especially as the average welfare recipient is a white, middle-class mom with two kids actively looking for work, and who is only on welfare rolls for about two years.
It is harder for us to see corporations defrauding us, but there are corporations who make record profits and pay their CEOs ever-increasing salaries, but do not pay taxes, due to subsidies (mostly for fossil fuel industries and factory farms), and which off-shore American jobs to foreign countries where they can pay slave labor pennies per hour to do back-breaking drudge work. Corporations–and the wealthiest people in America–can afford to purchase lobbying power, and can throw a lot of money at people willing to pretend that the poor are America’s biggest financial problems. The poor consume very, very little of our nation’s budget.
Corporate welfare costs us twice as much as social welfare, but you rarely hear conservatives railing about how corporations and the rich are “takers”…no, they call them “makers,” pretending that they offer an overall benefit to us. This, even as they offshore jobs and duck taxes and demonize the voiceless hungry, sick and needy Americans who can’t survive without a hand up. A corporation denied welfare continues to turn a profit, pay big salaries, avoid taxes and ship jobs overseas; a human being denied welfare–because the poor are almost always the first to feel any financial pinch–might get sick and die.
What if we spent more on people and less on corporations? We spend the bulk of our budget on defense, actually, outspending other countries by a minimum of ten to one. The thing is, people are starting to hear the racist and classist dog whistle element of these talking points that attack the poor and suck up to the rich. More and more people are realizing that trickle-down / supply-side economics do not work. Republicans continue to insult the 99%, the 47%, the struggling, the poor, the working class, and implying that non-white people are sponging off of “us,” and whereas there will always be a resentful white audience for that kind of crap, it is dwindling. Perhaps we are starting to realize that we actually know some people on welfare and they are just as hard-working as we are. Perhaps we have even learned the lesson first hand, relying on food stamps to eat, even as we look for work every day or work one or more part-time jobs that do not pay a living wage.
Republicans are making a lot of mistakes, but demeaning minorities, the poor, the middle class and the working class, clinging to the comforting lies they like to hear within their conservative infobubble and raving over historical revisionists and comforting GOP-slanted polls while ignoring or arguing with facts or statistics they don’t like (Princeton stats wonks and Nate Silver’s 538 election predictions, the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment figures, the Congressional Budget Office stating flatly that supply-side economics is a failure and that the rich need to be taxed fairly, what Occupy Wall Street said were their issues and concerns versus right-wing talking points painting OWS as a bunch of jobless, unwashed hippies with no real message, evolution, reproductive science, climate change, demographics all come to mind), and shutting out their talented intellectuals while promoting the nutjobs and kooks all rank high on the GOP Faux Pas List.
If I had to narrow it down to one thing hurting Republicans, it is this: Absolute refusal to pay attention to facts that contradict what Republicans WANT to be true. They would rather cling to false information that appeals to their carefully-nurtured–but oh, so wrong!– opinions which are based on deliberate misinformation and propaganda campaigns. Republicans don’t want to hear it. They want to believe in the “liberal bias” of all media other than Fox News.
They want to believe that the United States was founded as a Christian country (and it wasn’t). They want to believe that the 1% create jobs, though they didn’t create any during the ten years they got a tax cut. They want to believe that Obama voters are predominately people of color, but the majority of Obama voters were white. They want to believe women’s bodies have ways to “shut that whole thing down” and not get pregnant when raped. They want to believe that insurance companies which cover Viagra and other erectile dysfunction treatment medication should not also cover birth control. They want to believe that there is a serious in-person voter fraud problem, when the real fraud is almost always revealed to be Republicans tampering with or discarding voter registration forms, telling people the wrong day and location to vote, trying to disenfranchise voters, suspicious malfunctions and problems with electronic voting machines, and so on.
Again, I could go on, but it comes down to Republicans kicking, screaming and having tantrums when confronted with facts and stats that do not conform to their cherished talking points. That’s why I don’t worry overmuch about sharing my point of view with conservatives. I know that the smart ones are already well aware of the problem, and despairing over the loud and stupid people infiltrating their political party.
The Republicans’ problem children will probably never read my opinion…but if they do, they will refuse to believe any of it is true. That’s why I’m not worried about “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” Conservatives as a whole aren’t the “enemy,” and the Republicans who are the source of the problem aren’t going to have an epiphany based on anything I say or do. They will have to learn the hard way. Too bad the sensible conservatives are going to continue to get dragged along in the Fox-poisoned toxic wake of the dittoheads among them, at least for the conceivable future.