The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Sat. Mar 26, 2005

Republican De-Evolution

I’ve had a request to “Please blog something else to get these scary pictures below the fold.” OK, how about if I post a lot of relevant quotes intermixed with futile disgust that will nearly eat up this whole page? Of course, the sole effect it will have is to drive those ugly pictures down the page, and maybe empty some of this dark nasty matter from my skull.

If you’ve been kept awake at night recently by an odd low rumbling sound that can only be heard when most of the world is asleep, it was likely caused by men like these, spinning in their graves:

When all government, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the Center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.

Thomas Jefferson, 1821

My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.

Barry Goldwater, 1964

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.

Daniel Webster

This idea that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power, is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

Ronald Reagan, 1964

There’s a whole lot of “Conservatives” and “Republicans” wondering if those two words have anything to do with each other any longer, and questioning the power drunk nature of recent Republican acts. Like John Cole: “The other day, in a conversation with my father, I stated that I was really afraid how far the radicals in my party would go to make sure that Terri Schiavo remains a bed-bound vegetable for the next 40 years.

Why, John, no worries, with that attitude, you’re no longer considered a part of the party. According to Peggy Noonan, you’re one of those people “In Love With Death,” one of those “pull-the-tube people.” And you’re filled with violence:

And why do those who argue for Mrs. Schiavo’s death employ language and imagery that is so violent and aggressive? The chairman of the Democratic National Committee calls Republicans “brain dead.” Michael Schiavo, the husband, calls House Majority Leader Tom DeLay “a slithering snake.”

Look at the polls, Ms. Noonan, at the 82% opposition, and explain to me how this wasn’t a politically “brain dead” act. I know, it’s a poor choice of words, and the truth often hurts, but it is the objective political truth: less than 1 in 7 support this. That’s not just brain dead, that’s political suicide, the kind of numbers you’d get for proposing raising income taxes 5% across the board. So excuse Mr. Dean for stating the obvious.

As for Rep. DeLay, he landed the first “violent and aggressive” verbal blow on Schiavo’s husband. He said Schiavo’s “abuse and neglect is outrageous” and repeatedly asked “what kind of man is he,” so it seems reasonable to call him out by his actions. If you dish it out, expect it slung back at you. And “slithering snake,” wow, that’s so violent I’m sure it left actual bruises on the Representative, who isn’t used to hearing such harsh language. Just speaking it.

Well, it could have been worse. Those “pull-the-tube people” could have said something like, oh, I don’t know, since “I do not understand,” they are red fanged and ravenous, and certainly continue the violent hatred seen in mass murderers and genocidal Nazis. Anyone could see that kind of “violent and aggressive” imagery as being a bit over the top … couldn’t they? Not Ms. Noonan:

Those who are half in love with death will only become more red-fanged and ravenous [...] When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz. Today that road runs through Pinellas Park, Fla.

We should always be careful that our passion does not make us into the very thing we hate. Because by the end of her column, Noonan had descended to the exact same verbally violent depths of which she accuses her opponents.

So, if I’m to believe what I’m told (HA!), I can choose between the folks headed down the path of Hitler and the world’s worst serial murderers, OR, the folks who want to control and define my life from the moment of conception to the moment they decide if I’m allowed to die.

Gee, can I get back to you on that one? Like, in 2006? And again in 2008?

There’s a lot of Americans asking those questions. While some have pooh-poohed the results of an ABC poll earlier this week as biased, there’s since been another by CNN. And another by CBS. Each of them with a successively larger number of respondents. And they all show the same overwhelming opinion (emphasis mine):

Public approval of Congress has suffered as a result; at 34 percent, it is the lowest it has been since 1997, dropping from 41 percent last month. Now at 43 percent, President Bush’s approval rating is also lower than it was a month ago.

An overwhelming 82 percent of the public believes the Congress and President should stay out of the matter.

Just 13 percent of those polled think Congress intervened in the case out of concern for Schiavo, while 74 percent think it was all about politics.

CBS News: Political Fallout Over Schiavo

Wow, 82% of Americans agree on something. Anything. Can you say “landslide”? Because the opposition has no boundaries: “There are no partisan political differences on this issue: majorities of Democrats (89 percent), Republicans (72 percent), liberals (84 percent) and conservatives (76 percent) are in agreement that the government should not be involved. 68 percent of white evangelicals think that Congress and the President should stay out of the Schiavo case.

More than two thirds of “white evangelicals” are against this! After all that hard work Karl Rove did, he’s got to be sputtering (note, by late Tuesday the White House seemed to be effectively washing its hands of the matter). Congress has the lowest approval ratings in eight years, and the President now has the lowest numbers since he entered office.

I know it’s a particularly poor choice of words, but how could you call this anything but politically brain dead?

But don’t believe me, a lowly Militant Independent. Listen to conservatives and Republicans; from Congress, to the media, to the blogosphere.

Sen. John Warner (R-Va.): “This senator has learned from many years you’ve got to separate your own emotions from the duty to support the Constitution of this country. These are fundamental principles of federalism.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.): “This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy. There are going to be repercussions from this vote. There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them.

Bob Barr: “The final legislation pays lip service to the notion that it does not set a precedent. But if it does anything at all, it sets a precedent. In fact, it sets a precedent potentially more far-reaching than most others I can recall, in terms of legislative policy and process, equal protection, federalism, state’s rights, separation of powers and family law.

James P. Pinkerton: “...whenever the Democrats retake power and resume their own ambitious national agenda, they will happily trample on ‘states’ rights,’ citing the Schiavo legislation as their precedent. But maybe by then Republicans won’t care as much, because the traditional conservative belief system, which grounded its politics in the original intent of the Founding Fathers, has been superseded – the Constitutional Right now being the Religious Right.

Americans are now learning that the social-issue core of the newly energized, Southernized and Christianized Republican Party cares a lot more about its faith and its values than about the old verity of small government.

Ryan Sager: “In coming years, political historians might look back and try to pinpoint the day or week or month that the Republican Party shed the last vestiges of its small-government philosophy. If and when they do, the week just past should make the short list. For it was in this last week that the Republican-controlled Congress made it clear that it sees no area of American life — none too trivial and none too intimate — that the federal government should not permeate with its power.

Not a few people — especially boomers with aging parents — are going to see themselves in this case, and they are going to picture Rep. Tom DeLay in the hospital room with them, standing between them and their loved ones. But, of course, this means nothing to a national Republican Party increasingly impervious to the logic of its own prior positions.

Michael Totten: “An excruciating philosophical and moral conundrum, one for which there are no easy or even right answers, has been turned into yet another partisan ‘culture war’ bitch-fest. It’s all so degrading and corrosive.

Andrew Sullivan: “So it is now the federal government’s role to micro-manage baseball and to prevent a single Florida woman who is trapped in a living hell from dying with dignity. We’re getting to the point when conservatism has become a political philosophy that believes that government — at the most distant level — has the right to intervene in almost anything to achieve the right solution. Today’s conservatism is becoming yesterday’s liberalism.

Andrew Sullivan: “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.

Glenn Reynolds: “I thought conservatives were supposed to care about the law, but I see a lot of people being as result-oriented as, well, liberals are supposed to be [...] I’m quite astonished to hear people who call themselves conservatives arguing, in effect, that Congress and the federal courts have a free-ranging charter to correct any injustice, anywhere, regardless of the Constitution. And yet my email runneth over with just those kinds of comments. And arguing that “it’s okay because liberals do it too” doesn’t undercut my point that conservatives are acting like liberals here. It makes it.

Michele: “There are others out there like me. I talk to them at work. I talk to them in the parking lot of schools, waiting for our kids. I talk to them in email or instant message, people from across the country who feel that twinge of regret. What we all have in common is this: we feel used. We feel taken advantage of. We feel manipulated.

Dahlia Lithwick: “Let’s be clear: The piece of legislation passed late last night, the so-called “Palm Sunday Compromise,” has nothing whatever to do with the rule of law. The rule of law in this country holds that this is a federalist system—in which private domestic matters are litigated in state, not federal courts. The rule of law has long provided that such domestic decisions are generally made by competent spouses, as opposed to parents, elected officials, popular referendum, or the demands of Randall Terry. The rule of law also requires a fundamental separation of powers—in which legislatures do not override final, binding court decisions solely because the outcome is not the one they like. The rule of law requires comity between state and federal courts—wherein each respects and upholds the jurisdiction and authority of the other. The rule of law requires that we look skeptically at legislation aimed at mucking around with just one life to the exclusion of any and all similarly situated individuals.

Neal Boortz: “Where do your concerns truly lie, with the eternal soul of Terri Schiavo, or with her earthly body?” Yes, Neal Boortz, making perhaps the deepest religious argument heard in this debate. That’s the inverted reality we have entered.

Neal’s more a Libertarian than a conservative or Republican. And there’s been a fair amount of talk lately about the Libertarian-Republican alliance, asking “can this relationship be saved?” Well, this case has been the equivalent of Mrs. Libertarian coming home and finding Mr. Republican in bed with the pool boy. Take it from Nick Gillespie:

This case is so rare, strange, and sui generis that I don’t think it’s worth discussing much as a precedent in terms of medical ethics, euthanasia, etc. In fact, the House law (and its Senate counterpart) are specifically tailored to impact only the Schiavo case.

It’s wider import? Quite possibly as yet another marker that discourse about federalism and proper limits to federal power more generally is just bullshit, situational ethics at its worst.

That helps explain why Republicans — whose entire rise to power was based upon rhetoric about devolving power and authority from Washington to state and local governments, to exhorting decentralized “laboratories of democracy,” etc. — have consistently worked to augment the federal government since taking it over.

That helps to explain GOP policies such as federally prosecuting medical marijuana clubs that are legal under California state law; passing the No Child Left Behind Act, which centralizes educational policy in D.C.; pushing federal laws, if not Constitutional amendments to prohibit or invalidate gay marriage in individual states; calling Major League Baseball on Congress’ carpet; etc…

The Republicans may feel like they control it all right now, but they got there via a fairly slim margin. That was certainly true for the White House, and the Republican National Committee believes it’s true for the House as well. Libertarians may not be a massive part of the Republican constituency, but they’re a few percent, at the very least. About the margin of victory in 2004? And, Boy Howdy, you sure hit some Libertarian hot buttons on this one! Plus, that doesn’t address moderate Republicans who are fed up with fringe dominance. Or Conservatives who see few of their values being reflected in Republican actions. Or the 27% of Americans who declare themselves neither Republican or Democrat. Like me.

Congressional Republicans and President Bush have seized upon the Terri Schiavo case with such fervor that they may find themselves out in front of an American public that is divided over right-to-die issues and deeply leery of government intrusion into family affairs, according to analysts and polls.

In another sign of the priority that the GOP has placed on the Schiavo matter, they have let it trump their traditional calls for a limited federal judiciary and respecting the “sanctity of marriage.”

Washington Post: Analysts: GOP May Be Out of Step With Public

Some are even calling it The Ultimate Flip Flop, based on reviews of the 2000 and 2004 Republican platforms.

But let me try to explain this in a bipartisan manner. I am indeed most peeved with Republican politicians, and not just because of the Schiavo bill. There’s the refusal/inability to pass a budget and deal with the deficit. And while they stubbornly refuse to get their own catastrophic debt problem under control, they made even the most stigmatized options more difficult for an individual facing a similar catastrophe. They rammed bankruptcy reform through when the number of people in this country who supported it wouldn’t fill Yankee Stadium (but their money would). They are pushing Social Security reform when the polls show that the more they talk about it, the less the public likes it, with support dropping to 30%. And then they slam danced all over the Constitution with the Schiavo bill, thinking it would fire up their base and triangulate the Democrats, only to find themselves with a whopping 13% support.

And that doesn’t even mention the fact that the Georgia Legislature has a Republican majority in both houses and a Republican Governor for the first time ever, and they’ve been running roughshod over all opposition there, too. So, yeah, I’m not happy with any Republican politicians right now.

But… did you notice the vote total on the Schiavo bill in the House? 203-58. That doesn’t exactly add up to 435, does it? What was the breakdown?The measure was backed by 156 Republicans to 5 who voted against it and 71 who did not vote; 47 Democrats voted in favor, 53 against and 102 did not vote. The lone independent in the 435 member house did not vote.

So. About a quarter of the “Yea” votes were Democrats. And about half of the Democrats in the House … didn’t even show up! In fact, 40% of the 435 Representatives were so concerned about Terri they couldn’t even be bothered to show up and cast a vote on the record. 173 of them.

But I will at least give those 156 Republicans and 47 Democrats who voted for the bill credit for having the courage to make that vote with their name attached. Unlike the 173 no-shows. And unlike their brethren in the Senate, who didn’t even have the balls to make it a roll call vote: “The measure passed in the Senate Sunday by voice vote with only three lawmakers present. Had any senator objected, a roll call vote would have been required.

Any Senator. Ted Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, John Kerry … any of them.

But in the end, three out of one hundred senators were present for a mockery they called a “voice vote,” and 208 out of 435 Representatives passed it in the House. At most, 211 active “Yeas” out of 535 members of Congress. That’s 39.4%. To get a law passed in America, you no longer have to have the support of the majority of the people. Hell, you no longer even have to have the support of the majority of Congress. You just have to persuade enough of them to stay silent, or stay home.

And the virus spreads, overwhelming all, even a lowly Democrat in the Georgia Legislature like Sen. Douglas Dean (D-Atlanta): “The day will come when we will outlaw smoking in its entirety. This is a beginning.

Never mind that they said the same thing about alcohol some 85 years ago. Listen to him. Can you hear the power lust? It’s catchin’, ain’t it? “The day will come when voters will stuff my pockets with cash as I walk down the street, because I have a mandate as a Political God who knows what’s best for everyone. This is a beginning.”

In my opinion, this is “the end,” i.e., where this is likely going. Historic trends point to a loss of seats for Republicans in 2006, and given the power drunk behavior of Republicans in just their first three months of this Congress, it’s not hard to see them losing their majority in the House. If the RNC is warning of 25 seats lost, I’m going to guess at least 30, based on current behavior. The DeLay Backlash may be even greater than the Gingrich Backlash was. Because Gingrich at least came across as smart, if heartless, but Delay increasingly appears to be a raving paranoid, driven by images of his own persecution.

And all of this has shown the fractures within the Republican party (with more to come), fractures that have been held together by having a two term President and control of both houses of Congress for the first time in, I don’t know, forever. I think it was the goal that kept them together. Now, they’re a bit like the dog who’s chased cars his whole life, and now has finally caught one. What exactly are you going to do with it? And in 2008, with no “heir apparent” to Bush, I think we’ll see all these fractures erupt. Viciously.

It seems that politics in America has always been one big pendulum, and there can be no denying that it has swung to the right over the past five years or so. But the danger is those that see the pendulum swinging their way, and then put their weight behind it in an effort to push it further.

Invariably, this is when the pendulum starts swinging back, and eventually it will crush those who were trying to push it too far.

But here’s all I can say for sure; after witnessing the Constitutionally blasphemous results of a mere three months of this 109th Congress, barring a major miracle, I cannot see myself placing a single vote for a single Republican for state legislature or Congress in 2006.

And they earned that all by themselves.

Peanut Gallery

1  John wrote:

As I clicked over here this morning, I was thinking, “Gee, I hope Reid has posted something to push those darned pictures off the screen.” Indeed! I guess I can be grateful to the GOP for that much.

2  Paul wrote:

Hell, you no longer even have to have the support of the majority of Congress. You just have to persuade enough of them to stay silent, or stay home.

I’ve long told people that you never need a majority to do something, you only need “enough”.

Anyway, I doubt this farce will have any real lasting effect. For all the talk and hot air amongst conservatives and libertarians, when it comes down to it, they will vote Republican simply because they cannot countenance voting for a Democrat. They talk a lot now, but I saw their true face in November of 2004. This is the bed they made. This is the government they wanted, and they should get what they want good and hard.

3  emcee fleshy wrote:

But I will at least give those 156 Republicans and 47 Democrats who voted for the bill credit for having the courage to make that vote with their name attached. Unlike the 173 no-shows.

I think a non-vote and failure to attend that session was not only excusable, but admirable.

The fact that there was a special session at all was a farce. No representative should have even showed up. If the representatives who voted no had not voted at all, the matter wouldn’t have passed, because the house would have lacked a quorum.

Were I in congress, I certainly would not have been in attendance. On the other hand, were I in the leadership, I would have made sure that at least one person was in the room to demand a roll call vote.

Comment by emcee fleshy · 03/26/2005 04:44 PM
4  Scott Chaffin wrote:

The political party monocular is a very poor one. If you’re looking at party-line chatter only, you’re seeing about 1/5th of the story.

But you did push the pictures down.

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