Posts Tagged ‘Republican Party’

Grand Old Chutzpah

April 12th, 2012

Apparently in response to polls that show he is somewhere near 20% less popular among women than Barack Obama, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Romney has been claiming lately that 92.3% of jobs lost during the Obama administration have been women’s jobs.   In this context, a “woman’s job” is a job that was held by a woman.  The arithmetic whereby he arrives at this result is not entirely specious, in the sense that he divides one actual statistic into another actual statistic and the result is .923.  But I’m not here to talk about math.  There’s a Yiddish word – well, probably more than one – for somebody who makes such claims, and I want to talk about that.

The Bush Recession, if you will remember, started in the housing, construction, and manufacturing sectors, in large part as a result of the sudden scarcity of commercial credit that was part of the financial meltdown.  All this was well underway by the time Obama took office.  The jobs lost in this early phase were held primarily  by males.  State and local tax revenues were hit hard by the downturn, as businesses shrank and people lost income, but thanks to the much-maligned stimulus passed at Obama’s behest, which largely operated by passing funds down to state and local governments, the impact was softened for a while.  The stimulus might have been larger but for the Obama administration’s almost certainly correct political calculation that Republicans would block a larger package, even if the Democrats could be gotten to agree to it.  Then, when the stimulus funds began to run out, the state and local budget cutting began, led by Republicans devoted to downsizing government no matter what the cost.  The ax fell on teachers, social workers, health care workers, administrative staff – predominantly women.

“Chutzpah” is often defined as a quality best exemplified by someone who murders his parents, then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Willard Romney, who lays at his opponent’s door the baleful effects of his own party’s acts.

Cheese-eating intellectual oligarchs

January 22nd, 2012

A Fat Rich Elderly White Guy Who Wants To Be President

It is gratifying, for those of us who enjoy our schadenfreude warm, to watch the Republican presidential contestants expend upon each other the slyly ad hominem vitriol they normally save, to the betterment of our political discourse and in service of the nation’s preservation,  for the defacement of their electoral adversaries from the other party.  One can perhaps attribute this delightful leveling of the playing field at least in part to the recent return to prominence of Newt Gingrich, a character who sometimes seems to have sprung straight from the pen of Charles Dickens on one of that Master of Snark’s more sardonic days.   Newt has the gift of bringing others to his own level, just like what happens when you flush.  I’m prompted to these thoughts by the recollection that last week, television ads aired in support of Gingrich famously twitted Mitt Romney for the sin of speaking French.  Today we learn, from David Bromwich’s article in the New York Review of Books, that Newt’s Ph.D. dissertation relied on sources in that very language.   What a nice smile he has, though: a shark with a full belly.

Taking Tiny Tim’s turkey

December 1st, 2010

How Charles Dickens would have relished today’s GOP!  It is barely possible to imagine the refinements of scorn and sarcasm he would have lavished upon a party that declares itself prepared, when jobs are at their scarcest in decades, to terminate support for the unemployed at Christmastime (!) unless it can be continued without adding to the government’s debt, while at the same time the same party adamantly demands extending tax cuts for the richest 2% of taxpayers, which would increase the government’s deficit by $700 billion over the next decade.  It’s like taking away Tiny Tim’s turkey in order to give it to Frank Purdue.  What makes it especially delicious is that they justify the extended tax cuts for the rich as a way of creating jobs for the unemployed, as if the present, historically high levels of wealth were not enough motivation but more wealth will do the trick.

I am reminded of a joke that was current when I was working on the first draft of To Join the Lost.  I wanted to work it into the book, but couldn’t find a way.  I think Dante would have liked it.  Back in the day, the protagonist was President Dubya, but let’s update it:

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And my much-sought endorsement goes to…

October 4th, 2010

In our highly individualistic society, we sometimes have difficulty perceiving how tribalistic our politics is.  You’d think that progressives, with their sensitivity to issues of class and race, would be particularly aware of this, but even they have blind spots.  A very left-wing friend of mine, for example, is unable to understand what a big deal the election of Obama was.  “So what if he’s black,” he says, “he’s just another middle-of-the-roader.”  This friend doesn’t see much difference between Republicans and Democrats.  They all look the same to him.

A few recent events have reminded me just how tribal it is.  One is the triumph of the appalling Carl Paladino over Rick Lazio in the New York GOP gubernatorial primary.  Paladino is a favorite of the Tea Party.  During the campaign, it was discovered that his email traffic included blatantly racist “jokes”, conventional hard-core porn, and what the media have described as images of bestiality.  I’m sure we all get weird emails.  But if someone sent you a video of a woman fucking a horse, would you forward it to your friends?  Now, let us conduct a little thought experiment.  Imagine if such material were discovered on a Democrat’s computer.  Paladino’s supporters would demand that Democrat to be tarred and feathered and burned in the public square.  Yet polls give Paladino a credible shot at winning the election.  What, except that Paladino and Andrew Cuomo lead different tribes, and a tribe forgives conduct of its members that would not be tolerated from an outsider, can account for the fact that Paladino has any adherents at all?

Then there are the TV ads with which Brian Dubie and the Republican Governors’ Association have recently favored us.  According to them, Peter Shumlin is a monster of iniquity. He “always goes too far,” he is utterly unethical and unprincipled and will do anything to make government bigger, up to and including unleashing drug dealing pedophile pornsters on your neighborhood.  Dubie doesn’t explain how the unleashing of drug dealing pedophile pornsters on your neighborhood will make government bigger, but clearly it’s not a good thing, and only someone with the ethics of Jabba the Hutt would do it.  The thing is, nobody could possible really believe this stuff.  Vermont is a small enough state so that an attempt to depict an unusually adept wheeler-dealer such as Shumlin as the Greatest Monster in History, like the campaign a few years back that caricatured Bernie Sanders as a wannabe commissar who is going to make us all wear Stalinist grey and call each other “comrade,” simply will not fly.  We know who these guys are.  By most accounts, Dubie and Shumlin, while not close buddies, had mutual personal respect before the campaign, so I am sure that even Dubie doesn’t believe his advertising.  But the substance of it is not the point.  The point is to dehumanize Shumlin, to make him the “other,” the representative of bizarre and incomprehensible evil – not a member of our tribe.  A vote for Brian Dubie is a vote in favor of the tribe that makes effigies of its opponents, paints them black, and burns them in the public square.

I was asked the other day to allow my name to be used in an ad endorsing a Democrat for the Vermont House of Representatives.  It is a bit mystifying why they would want my name.  I’m not a Democrat.  I’m not a Progressive.  I’m not well known.  Perhaps it is a ploy to capture that all important demographic, indie poetry lovers.  After all, if you have the support of the unacknowledged legislators of the world, it doesn’t really matter if you win the election, does it?  More likely, it is because I had endorsed in previous years a neighbor whom I know and respect, who is also a Democrat.  But I digress.  I don’t know this guy.  I’ve never heard of him before.  But I do know and respect the person who asked me to endorse him, and I know and respect the person who she says introduced the candidate to her, and I prefer this candidate’s tribe to the tribe of his opponents.  What to do, what to do?  Here’s my solution: if it seems to you that your choice on election day is between Bert Munger and a member of a tribe that makes effigies of its opponents, paints them black, and burns them in the public square, by all means please cast your ballot for Bert Munger.

Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and Barnaby Rudge

July 24th, 2010

I was reading Barnaby Rudge, Charles Dickens’ novel set in the London of 1780, and thinking of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.  The novel centers on the Gordon Riots, an outbreak of mob violence instigated by the anti-Catholic agitation of Lord George Gordon.  The entire city was paralyzed, many Catholics were killed or injured, and many Catholic homes, businesses, and places of worship were destroyed, as well as Newgate Prison.  Gordon’s mob briefly besieged and almost invaded Parliament itself.  Eventually the military had to be called out to restore the peace, killing 285 of the rioters in the process.

Dickens characterizes Lord Gordon as a weak-minded, physically striking, passionate, flamboyant politician, not taken seriously by his peers, heavily influenced by bad advisers, with a gift for inflaming that part of the population inclined to be inflamed by someone like him, excited to be leading a popular cause and soon addicted to that sense of power, mistakenly believing he directed the movements of the wave on whose crest he actually was riding.  Dickens observes that if Gordon’s policy proposals had been spelled out in dispassionate, clear language – mainly, maintain the crippling legal disabilities to which English Catholics of the time were subject, against parliamentary proposals to remove them – he might have won a few adherents but would have remained a figure of marginal significance.  Instead, he adopted a rhetoric in which the soul of Protestant England, its very existence, was imminently threatened by the purported papist machinations of its Catholic minority, and he terrorized the nation.  Dickens also observes that Gordon’s followers ultimately didn’t care what their cause was said to be about; they were motivated by their own rage, which Gordon fanned, providing a convenient outlet and direction for its expression.

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