BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
The term “moderate Republican” has become increasingly outdated and has reached the dubious status of oxymoron. The party has become increasingly dominated by the hard liners – now those who are even right of right. The “tea bagger” element appears to have taken over.
The titular head of the party, its national committee chair, is unafraid of any Democrat in the universe. Just listen and he will tell us so. But he skitters in the wind if it blows from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News or “rushes” in from the radio voice of the great Limbaugh.
Does anyone remember when John McCain was a maverick, a moderate Republican who co-sponsored a comprehensive immigration bill, or the one who worked across the aisle with Democrat Feingold to craft what might have been a phenomenal campaign finance law?
Now, he grimaces during the State of the Union speech at the negative mention of the Supreme Court decision allowing corporations unlimited funding of political issues and campaigns. He is having trouble with a right wing opponent in Arizona.
McCain went right as he started his own campaign for his party nomination more than two years ago. His accepted party dictates for a dizzy glamour girl from the right to spice up his lagging personality appeal. His general campaign rhetoric was almost totally negative, including personal attacks on his Democratic opponent and allowing his minions to disseminate known falsehoods. McCain no longer has real leadership status either within the party or with the far right.
Mitt Romney set a similar example as he went from moderate to arch-conservative for the campaign and ever since. Although he had sponsored some enlightened moves in health care as governor, generally he ran away from his own social accomplishments in working with Democrats. Trying to woo a party element that was his inferior, he lost his own credibility with all.
Poor Charlie Crisp in Florida, apparently a good man and a good governor, is being swamped by the right winger candidate opposing him in the party primary for Senate. Has everybody in that party gone crazy? Why do they cannibalize those among them with most promise? Has that party’s base listened to Limbaugh for so long that they have become equally irrational? Is there now a party of “ditto-heads?”
President Obama has on occasion told his opposition in Washington, “I will call you out!” Such remarks were normally made as a polite warning to stop demonizing his proposals with lies and distortions, as has become the custom in political circles. Partisan news media and pundits have joined leaders of the “party of nope” to raise public suspicion of all actions and proposals of the Obama Administration. They said openly, “If we defeat any health care bill, we defeat Obama,” putting politics above people.
They have succeeded to the point where rational Republicans have lost control of the party. Now they are seen chasing after the out-of-control “tea bagger” mob they created. It reminds us of the story from the French revolution of the man running down the street tailing the mob to storm the Bastille saying to a friend, “I cannot stop to talk. I am the leader of this mob.”
President Obama “called them out” in his State of the Union speech. They squirmed. They sat on their hands. They grimaced. They made snide remarks to one another, or for the cameras. Diplomatically but directly, he chastened those who have used falsehoods and distortions to frighten Americans. He reiterated the problems encountered as he entered the presidency a year ago, for which most Republicans seek to blame him. He laid out their refusal to work in any bipartisan fashion, but rather to caucus and agree to unanimous “No” votes on everything.
The President called into question the wisdom of the Court in granting corporations “free speech” rights as persons, and with their decision to allow corporate money without limits into politics and elections. He called for Congress to correct the problems foreseen. He stopped short of saying that we will now have the “best democracy corporations can buy.” Republicans remained sullen. Why? Do they really favor further corruption?
One is reminded of a quotation from a 1936 speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Government by organized money is just as bad as government by organized mob.” Proving once again its political partisan base, the court ruled on unlimited corporate money by a five-to-four vote, just as it elected George W. Bush to be president by that same vote in 2000. Such action also confirms the party’s posture as the party of business, while the Democrats stubbornly maintain their claim as the party of the people.
Following the State of the Union, the Republican Party made a couple of huge mistakes. Feeling a momentum shift from their win in Massachusetts as a result of the State of the Union address to the nation, they invited Mr. Obama to come to their House Caucus retreat in Baltimore. He agreed, with the caveat that cameras would be allowed both for his speech and for the question and answer session. Gleefully they accepted those two conditions, thinking surely 140 to 1 were really great odds for a televised encounter. Not so.
In his speech the President continued some of the themes of his State of the Union speech, reiterating the need for genuine bipartisanship, a halt to playing politics with reform proposals, the factual success of the stimulus bill, need to regulate errant banks, and so on. Republicans came to the meeting question and answer period armed with “questions” buried deep into long discourses repeating their party talking points often heard before.
One after another, a knowledgeable and skillful president swept them away, and nailed them with the truth. He suggested that if they continued to “demonize” him and everything he proposed, then there was no way that their base would support them working in any bi-partisan fashion with him on anything. And so it has been.
The president’s artful debating skills, augmented by truth, made a huge impact within the media community and perhaps some with the observant public. Interestingly enough, Fox News interrupted coverage of the debate and substituted their pundits criticizing the president. Taking their own Republican meeting off the air was a sure sign of a losing game.
Mr. Obama may very well be competitive as the most skillful president in recent times at handling crowds, and even hostile groups. President Clinton was outstanding extemporaneously in front of a group, friendly or hostile. He was a policy wonk and could handle all sorts of questions, just as Mr. Obama does. The current president has maybe just one edge, a quick wit with a disarming smile.
This past weeks were good for Democrats. News of fourth quarter economic growth at a remarkable 5.7% validated the effects of the stimulus bill, so often attacked. After the disappointing loss in Massachusetts, Democrats recovered some of their composure – and perhaps just a bit of their swagger.
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer