What “The Party Of Stupid” Might Become (Updated)

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Bobby Jindral, Governor of Louisiana, has caused quite a stir in Republican circles calling on the party to throw off the mantle of the stupid and prejudiced among us. Pleading for an end to dumbed-down conservatism, the former golden boy of the party (before a disastrous 2009 televised reply to President Obama’s address to Congress) begged the party to turn away from being the champion of the “haves” and, most importantly, jettisoning its appeal to the lowbrow of society.

It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that.  It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.

That sentiment is being echoed in many of the cloistered salons of the GOP. Even bomb throwing (but weirdly cerebral)  Newt Gingrich, responding to Mitt Romney’s childish comment that he lost the election to Obama because of bribes gifts to core Democratic constituencies, seems poised to make a philosophical change of course. “I just think it’s nuts,” Gingrich said on ABC. “I mean, first of all, it’s insulting. The job of a political leader in part is to understand the people. If we can’t offer a better future that is believable to more people, we’re not going to win.” Amen.

The transition appears broad-based and involves more than a little soul-searching for the political party whose victories in the 2010 mid-term elections seemed to leave it poised for a complete take over of the government this time around. The shock of November 6th seems sincere enough and could lead to something we haven’t seen in conservative circles for some time – a push to make the party one of  ideas and not just demagoguery.

Not so long ago — before the party was held hostage by that tax-pledging Rumpelstiltskin of the Right, Grover Nordquist, — Republicans felt free to represent conservative values and the nation’s interests. Imagine a Republican congressperson saying today, “I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.”  That was the late Everett Dirksen, the horn-rimmed Senator from Illinois, and one of the men directly responsible for the Herculean efforts to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Open Housing Act of 1968. Both laws decidedly liberal, decidedly unpopular, and decidedly needed to realize the American dream of social equality.

Voting for cloture against the southern Democrats who filibustered the measures, Dirksen told the Senate:

Victor Hugo wrote in his diary substantially this sentiment, ‘Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come.’ The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing of government, in education, and in employment. It must not be stayed or denied.’

That’s intellectual gravitas not seen in the GOP in some time. Compare it to the rhetoric from the current Republican intelligentsia, this time in the person of South Carolina Lt. Gov. André Bauer arguing against the Food Stamp Program and free school lunches for poor children:

My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.

It doesn’t take a physicist to see how far the party’s grip on the American soul has slipped or how fast.

What can a resurrected GOP accomplish? Here are some ideas:

1.  Less Government Intrusion Into Our Lives – The GOP has a traditional and noble role of  advocating smaller government with an eye on protecting the property and privacy of its citizens. It was Dirksen who said, “It is the expansion of Federal power, about which I wish to express my alarm. How easily we embrace such business.”  Few people would disagree that endless (sometimes mindless) government regulations and bureaucratic red tape are social ills that an effective government could end. Henry David Thoreau’s observation that,  “[t]he best government is that which governs least” is as true to the American psyche now as it was in 1849.

2. Strong National Defense — The world is still a dangerous place as Einstein used to say. Whatever you think about the military-industrial complex, it’s worth remembering it is that institution that’s kept us safe and free for decades although we can certainly debate the costs of that security. It’s also worth remembering that for all our flaws, America remains the only nation in the history of the world who having once conquered foreign lands promptly returned it to the indigenous people to govern. A strong America means some sense of justice in the world if only an imperfect one.

3. Protection of Privacy – A political party founded on conservative principles could be in the forefront of protecting the privacy of its citizens. Women’s issues should be the cutting edge of that philosophy especially those relating to control over their own bodies. True conservatism means less government interference in personal decisions and a rejuvenated Republican Party could lead on this issue with perfect philosophical consistency.

4.Advocating For Small Business – The backbone for the American economy remains small business. According to the SBA, fifty percent of all American jobs remain in small business (defined as any entity employing 500 workers of fewer).  Most importantly small business fill niches in the labor market that are under-served. For example small businesses employ greater proportions of Hispanics than large businesses (65% versus 35%). Also small businesses hire more high school degree or lower attaining workers as well as more of the elderly and disabled than large business. While  small business does not match large business in campaign contributions it is the largest growth area in the economy and worthy of  support from a party openly dedicated to capitalism.

These are just a few of the areas where bona fide conservative principles aid rather than detract from the national dialogue. A return to them, and away from the religion-based rhetoric that got the GOP scorched in the last national election, would mean a stronger party and a stronger nation.

For the two-party system to work you really do need two viable political parties who are willing to both advocate and cooperate. The GOP has done a poor job of both. If demographics truly are destiny in politics, the GOP will have to change or die. For the sake of all of us, let’s hope they change.

Sources: Politico; CNN

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Update 7:46 p.m.: Is the dike breaking? South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has added his name the growing number of Republicans rebuking Grover Norquist’s no tax hike pledge. Graham joins Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) in disavowing the now almost two decade old pledge. “I’m willing to generate revenue,” Graham said on ABC. “It’s fair to ask my party to put revenue on the table. We’re below historic averages.” New York Republican Congressman Peter King has also refused to honor the pledge bushing off any  of Norquist’s threats of retaliation saying, “A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress.” Norquist was nonplussed and blasted Chambliss. “If he wants to change his mind and become a tax increaser so we don’t have to reform government, he needs to have that conversation with the people of Georgia,” Mr. Norquist said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” Chambliss retorted that “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.”  

This one is going to get good.

Source: CNN

131 thoughts on “What “The Party Of Stupid” Might Become (Updated)”

  1. “before the party was held hostage by that tax-pledging Rumpelstiltskin of the Right, Grover Nordquist,”

    What an excellent description of Grover.

    Couldn’t get it out of my head while watching Grover on CNN today.

  2. @Idealist: I believe, after this election, when hundreds of millions of dollars failed to move the needle toward Romney, that money will speak less loudly going forward.

    Billionaires are risk takers, but they also learn their financial lessons or they wouldn’t be billionaires. Their money did not do the work it was supposed to do; the SuperPacs let them down, money carpeted Ohio and the other swing states and they still lost 11 out of 12.

    They bet big on buying the election and they lost. This is NEW history, and they have two years to digest it, but I think eating this crow is making them sick and they won’t be making that same bid for an outright buy of an election again. Overwhelming marketing did not sway the voters; Romney had ten times the money on his side that McCain had, and he lost worst than McCain did.

  3. TonyC,

    History proves you right. Our framers were such ideal Republicans. The only problem is that money talks, and here it has only one language: greed.

    That island is like the cartoon one, condemned to no inhabitants, cuz you know. it has no caché. Where are the car elevators, etc. Oh you can be compassionate and rich, you propose. Rich men enter the kingdom of heaven too.

    Very good propaganda. But like your 25% R and 3 way split of the Dem 75%.

  4. One can only hope they will take your advice, Tony. I have a skewed perspective, having a Teapot congressman in Az., living in the reddest county in a red state. McCain/Palin gave their concession speech in my town.
    The identification with the religious right, even if they themselves do not attend church, is mind boggling.
    Its as if they feel guilty all the time so have to side with fairy tales in order to feel better.
    So glad I get to spend a lot of time in Vermont for my job, haha. Keeps me sane.

  5. @Shano: Darren is dreaming the same dream as Tony.

    That isn’t really my dream, or hope, or aspiration. I would actually like the Republicans (as currently constituted) to continue on their current course of self-destruction until their numbers in Congress reflect the 25% or so of the populace that actually agrees with their narrow-minded philosophies. You know, 25 senators, 110 House members.

    Then the Democratic party, at 75%, will split into factions that have to negotiate with each other; but with a much broader common base of philosophical agreement on the role of the common good.

    I am not dreaming. I am just saying, as an intellectual exercise, if the Republican Party was my client and I was trying to save their product on the brink of oblivion, this would be where my advice starts:

    Quietly and without any fanfare throw the religious right under the bus. Yes, they are your base now, but that island has sunk so close to sea level you cannot walk on it without getting mud all over you. This Mud Island cannot be saved, and you must abandon it to its fate.

    There is another island, it is populated but without leaders, and it is big. That island was almost claimed by Bush Jr, but that turned out to be just a ruse. It was a sighting on the horizon, perhaps, but he sailed past it and returned home: to Mud Island.

    That brief sighting was the island of “Compassionate Conservatism”, but to lead from there, you must become a full fledged citizen. It is the island where you can be a fiscally conservative steward of taxation and spending, while preserving the compassionate programs that level the playing field for the less fortunate, that care for the elderly, feed and educate the poor, and ensure health is not tied to wealth.

    You cannot do anything for the doomed souls on Mud Island. Organized religion is dying, and the organized votes it once brought have diminished to the point they are no longer enough to get you elected. Pursuing them splashes mud all over you: The mud of bigotry, racism and homophobia, and that excludes the extra votes you need.

    If you want to be a leader, you need to be a leader from the new island. The people there hate waste, and fraud, and abuse, and back room deals. They have compassion for those in need, and disdain for the cheaters and free riders and layabouts. They like law and order but dislike bullying and abuse by police and authority. They will tolerate high taxes if they think they are necessary to accomplish their communal goals, but they want to see that money used wisely and transparently to benefit everybody, not a few wealthy insiders. That disintegration of organized religion means they don’t want you pretending to be their religious leader. They are tolerant and expect you to be; they accept abortion and homosexuality and global warming, and they expect you to do the same. What worked on Mud Island does NOT work on the island of Compassionate Conservatism, that is the whole point. These are different places.

    Yet there are hundreds of ways you can redefine what it means to be a “conservative” and prosper politically, and be loved, respected, honored and rewarded as a leader on the island of Compassionate Conservatism.

    Or, you can stand where you are, and die a member of the grumbling, shrinking and disregarded remnant population of Mud Island, a footnote of history, the last defender of a backwater nobody cares about anymore.

    That would not be my “dream,” shano, it would just be my mercenary pitch. I don’t really care if they live or die; if I did help them it would only be if I could transform them into something more useful to society that is currently missing from our political landscape.

  6. @Elaine: This election gives us reason to believe the words of Blankfein and his ilk will be empty. We can get it, if we demand it.

    I am sure the numbers are still being arranged, but the story they will eventually tell, and the lesson that will be eventually learned, is this:

    Citizen’s United was a bust.

    Decamillion dollar donations by billionaires did not get Mitt elected, NOT EVEN CLOSE.

    Hundreds of millions of dollars did not move Ohio, or any other swing state. Nate Silver was right, the intent to vote swayed very little. The best boost Romney got all along was absolutely free; Obama’s poor performance in the first debate, and that faded.

    Pundits can say Mitt was a particularly flawed candidate, he had a posse of clowns to deal with early on, he was forced to the right, back to the left: All of that misses the point entirely, the belief that Citizen’s would let the billionaires and corporations buy the election with massive advertising campaigns no matter who their candidate was. They tried, and failed. Adelson’s money could not get Newt any traction, and it did not change the polls.

    The lesson that will be learned is a simple one; that there is a limit to the power of money in an election, and it was exceeded, and it is much, much lower than the billionaires ever thought it would be. Obama crushed Romney, even in counties where Romney outspent Obama ten to one.

    Although I would still like to see Citizen’s United overturned, I think this election, where it was in full force, proves it isn’t the bogeyman we feared. The Republican’s secret weapon misfired.

    When politicians get to grips with this lesson (and it is supported by many a story where under-funded candidates get elected anyway), campaign cash will loosen its grip on them: More campaign cash does not mean a better chance of being elected. That will free them to take actions that are contrary to the deep pockets funding their campaign but benefit their constituents and DO increase their chance of being elected.

    We see the same thing in business marketing. There is not just a point of diminishing returns as we increase the marketing budget, there is a point of vanishing returns; a point where adding $5,000 to the marketing budget would not result in a single new sale.

    The same thing is bound to be true in political marketing, at some point anybody that can be swayed has been swayed, and more money won’t matter.

    Citizen’s United may be a blessing in disguise, for politics. It opened the door the rich were dying to have opened, that they poured through in droves, that led directly to a dead end, an empty room. Well not quite empty; it had a toilet in it. They flushed a billion dollars down that toilet, and Mitt did even worse than McCain.

  7. rafflaw,

    Speaking of SS and Medicare–here’s an interesting article for you:

    CEO Council Demands Cuts To Poor, Elderly While Reaping Billions In Government Contracts, Tax Breaks
    By Christina Wilkie & Ryan Grim
    Posted: 11/25/2012

    WASHINGTON — The corporate CEOs who have made a high-profile foray into deficit negotiations have themselves been substantially responsible for the size of the deficit they now want closed.

    The companies represented by executives working with the Campaign To Fix The Debt have received trillions in federal war contracts, subsidies and bailouts, as well as specialized tax breaks and loopholes that virtually eliminate the companies’ tax bills.

    The CEOs are part of a campaign run by the Peter Peterson-backed Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, which plans to spend at least $30 million pushing for a deficit reduction deal in the lame-duck session and beyond.

    During the past few days, CEOs belonging to what the campaign calls its CEO Fiscal Leadership Council — most visibly, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein and Honeywell’s David Cote — have barnstormed the media, making the case that the only way to cut the deficit is to severely scale back social safety-net programs — Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — which would disproportionately impact the poor and the elderly.

    As part of their push, they are advocating a “territorial tax system” that would exempt their companies’ foreign profits from taxation, netting them about $134 billion in tax savings, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies titled “The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks” — money that could help pay off the federal budget deficit.

    Yet the CEOs are not offering to forgo federal money or pay a higher tax rate, on their personal income or corporate profits. Instead, council recommendations include cutting “entitlement” programs, as well as what they call “low-priority spending.”

    Many of the companies recommending austerity would be out of business without the heavy federal support they get, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, which both received billions in direct bailout cash, plus billions more indirectly through AIG and other companies taxpayers rescued.

    Just three of the companies — GE, Boeing and Honeywell — were handed nearly $28 billion last year in federal contracts alone. A spokesman for Campaign To Fix The Debt did not respond to an email from The Huffington Post over the weekend.

    The CEO council recommends two major avenues that it claims will produce “at least $4 trillion of deficit reduction.” The first is to “replace mindless, abrupt deficit reduction with thoughtful changes that reform the tax code and cut low-priority spending.” The second is to “keep debt under control over the long-term by focusing on the long-term growth of entitlement programs.”

    CEOs are encouraged to present a Fix-The-Debt PowerPoint presentation to their “employee town hall [meetings and] company meetings.” To further help get the word out, the campaign borrowed a page from the CEOs this fall who wrote letters encouraging their employees to vote for Mitt Romney, or face job cuts. This time, the CFD has created two templates for bosses to use at their companies.

    But in the past week, in order to make their case to the millions of Americans who don’t work for them, CEOs fanned out into television, to convince the rest of the country that slashing the social safety net is the only way to reduce the deficit.

    In an interview aired Monday, Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein said Social Security “wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30 year retirement after a 25-year career.” The key to cutting Social Security, he said, was simply a matter of teaching people to expect less.

    “You’re going to have to do something, undoubtedly, to lower people’s expectations of what they’re going to get,” Blankfein told CBS, “the entitlements, and what people think they’re going to get, because you’re not going to get it.”

    Blankfein and Goldman Sachs don’t have to worry about lowering expectations. After receiving a $10 billion federal bailout in 2008, and paying it back a few years later, Goldman Sachs recently exceeded Wall Street analysts’ expectations by announcing $8.4 billion in third quarter revenues for 2012. On the heels of a great year, Blankfein is expected to take home an even larger salary than he did in 2011, when he made $16.1 million.

  8. There was a discussion of irony the other day. This is ironic:

    While votes are still being counted, they are from heavily Democratic precincts where there were a lot of provisional and absentee ballots. As of right now, in a curious twist of karma, Romney’s vote total is at 47%. To be exact, his current total is 47.49%, which rounds down to 47%, but the final total is likely to be less than that.

    Oh, the Schadenfreude is delicious in this one.

  9. Darren is dreaming the same dream as Tony.

    The Nixonian GOP is dead as far as care of any environmental protections.

    They are still complaining about the new light bulbs.
    that was a big freakin’ deal for the Republicans.
    Drill baby drill. Frack, frack, frack, They are cheerleaders for the old industrial monopolies.
    Does any leader in the GOP drive an electric car? Their constituents would howl about that, certainly.
    This is a party where candidates are afraid to say they believe in basic science.

  10. A friend of mine has been stomping for the Republicans for years now; it is something she wanted to do because she was looking for an activity that didn’t expose her to a certain kind of people she would definitely meet in the Democratic campaign. She was frankly sick of them. Anyway, she got working for the Repubs but maintained her intelligence in other ways. After the failure of their recent campaign, she was surprised at their ridiculous reactions to having lost. I said, “First, Mitt tells the country that he doesn’t care about 47% of them because he can’t get their vote anyway. Then he allows this and that loose cannon Republican to insult women, talk trash, make racist attacks against this country’s president, and alienate another 20% of the people who might have considered him a possible candidate. Then he tries to manipulate the situation so the ones who want Obama can’t vote. Half of the people he has already insulted know somebody who’s overseas fighting the wars HIS GUYS STARTED and many of THEM can’t even get respect from the government that threw them in harm’s way. Why didn’t they expect to lose?”

    She nodded slowly. “They don’t think outside the box and they don’t think INSIDE the box; they just figured they could take the box.”

  11. There are two political questions to which I add a third:

    1. What can Obama accomplish with this hand he was dealt?

    2. When does the next Presidential campaign begin? As Buffett says, it is now. No time to waste. Obama is a lame duck, and where the reins go next is important.

    3. What the Phuck are we going to do to change this skit? Disorganized or not.

    We need to organize. What won for McGovern in Wisconsin (and Axelrod said for Obama’s sake nationally) was a
    ground organization, who had canvassed every voter in Milwaukee. What lost for McG in Ohio was the black district in central Cleveland under the competent hands of a party boss who had sold to Humphrey.

    Is it going to be the Republicans who are better organized than we will be? It is up to youse.

  12. The RepubliCon Party will never revert and do a 180 degree return to the Party of Lincoln. Right now it is the party of White Guy and Blackwater. Those folks itchinBay about individual people living off of the public troff but think nothing about their corporate mouths sucking the public tit. That does not occur to them. The Whig Party eventually disappeared and this party will go the way of the white elephant. What will probably eviolve is a party of fiscal discipline and no hunger for war. We could have three parties but this RepubliCon Party as it presents ittself now will just be a side party with a strong base in the House and Senate but never win the Presidency for forty years. The reason is they dont learn and that is coupled with the fact that they know everything. Tha tag line of this article is spot on. Stupid. The Southern Strategy was pruposely pursued for the past fforty years and now put them into their redneck red state minority in the Electoral College.

    [Music] Went in dumb, come out dumb too, hustlin round Atlanta in their Alligator shoes, they are keepin the negros down.
    -Jerry Jeff Walker from Good Ol Boys album.

    And Romney is a bum.

  13. Anonymously Yours 1, writes I don’t think the election results were a mandate for the demon-crats either…..Why was it a mandate for Bush when Mr. Obama won by a larger number then Bush?
    (Obama’s win was bigger than John Kennedy’s in 1960 (303 electoral votes, popular vote margin of 112,827), bigger than Richard Nixon’s in 1968 (301 electoral votes, popular vote plurlaity of 512,000), bigger than Jimmy Carter’s in 1976 (297 electoral votes, popular vote margin of 1,683,247), bigger than George W. Bush’s in 2000 (271 electoral votes and a popular vote loss of 543,816). (http://www.thenation.com/blog/171085/obama-bigger-win-kennedy-nixon-carter-or-bush# )

    To me the party will never change as long as it refuses to call out its backers who wore the put the white back in the white house T shirts, hung the pres/empty chairs in effigy, talk about secession, suggest killing the president, etc. As long as they do not disavow that their words are hollow.

  14. TonyC.,
    “If there is going to be a “third party,” I think it will be the transformation of an existing party.”

    Realpolitik is just that. In 1972 Dem campaign, the liberal, in June frontrunner, McGovern, had to waste time declaring how he was NOT FOR abortion, marijuana, socialism ,but WAS FOR stopping the Vietnam war.

    So who leads the society? Is it really the politicians?

    Let’s hope the people continue. Because the Reps and Dems are where they are and won’t change unless forced.

    State’s rights does permit local pilot projects, of which some prove worthy, like Mass. health reform. We’ll see if a sea of potheads invade Washington with attached welfare problems. Meanwhile, the rest solid citizens won’t go to prison.

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