Tag Archives: Republican

What are we worried about?


I haven’t paid much attention to the primary season. It’s all a forgone conclusion, as far as I’m concerned. That’s because I’m aware of some basic facts:

  1. The media prioritize profits over truth. Let’s face it: That’s called capitalism. It’s the logical outcome of our entire system. Public figures can say absolutely anything without being challenged by journalists. We may have their previous, contradictory remarks on tape, but it’s as if they never occurred. Reporters are loath to call out politicians on their lies for fear of losing access to them. If you don’t land the interview, then you don’t get the viewers and the network starts losing money.
  2. Rallies don’t mean much. Who attends them? Students, young people, and hard core supporters with the time and energy to devote to them. Most working people (the majority of voters) are too tired, too busy, and too disinterested to attend, especially if they have children at home.
  3. Open primaries are undemocratic and unrepresentative. Letting people who don’t belong to a party select the person who will lead that party is akin to inviting the French to vote in American elections. They will vote their own interests, which have nothing to do with ours. If you want to vote in America, you have to move here and become a citizen. Similarly, if you’d like to vote in a closed primary, you need to establish residency in that state; it makes sense that you should have to join the party, too. I can think of no other organization that allows outsiders to vote for its leadership.
  4. Most voters don’t vote in primaries. According to Pew Research, as of March, only 17.3% of registered voters had been turning out to vote in Republican primaries. Even fewer of them – 11.7% – had so far voted in Democratic primaries. Meanwhile, Gallup says over 40% of registered voters are Independents who can’t vote at all in closed primary states. Since they don’t care much for either party, this strikes me as fair. Still, they’ll take a side in the end. But while media outlets discuss Democrats and Republicans exclusively, the fact is that both parties together represent just over half (about 55%) of registered voters.
  5. Demographics are destiny. In 2012, 7 million more white women than men showed up at the polls on election day; they represented about 43% of the total vote. White men made up about 38%. That means that you can’t win a Presidential election by appealing exclusively to white men. You need to pull votes from women and people of color. It’s really that simple.

So yes, I’m confident about who’ll be our next President. In the meantime, enjoy the bread and circus.

Prebut of the Rebut: 2013 SOTU

2012 state of the union

I can save you a lot of time tonight, when the President will deliver his State of the Union Address. The entire affair is completely predictable.

First, the President will tell us that the State of the Union is strong. He will then go on to address its points of weakness: jobs, immigration, education, voting, and guns. He will offer practical strategies for addressing all of these, and he will go out of his way to do so in a manner that studiously avoids offending anyone.

Next, the GOP will tell us that the President is a socialist who represents the worst of “big government” intrusion into our private lives. His economic plan will hurt small businesses.  His immigration policy amounts to nothing more than a free ride for illegals on the backs of hard-working Americans. He’s taken God out of the classroom – which explains both poor test scores and school shootings. He’s coming to take your guns away and his wife wants to outlaw corn syrup.

Then they will go home to their districts, where they will proceed to manipulate the democratic process to a state of near-inversion wherein one man has $1 billion votes and most of us have none. Their gerrymandering at the state level will give sparsely populated white Republican districts each their very own representative, while starving the more densely populated urban districts down to just a few. They will change the way their states vote to eliminate the possibility of Democratic victory.

They will continue their prodding – literally – of women along The Handmaid’s Tale path toward losing all reproductive autonomy. They will work to overturn Roe v. Wade, to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, to revive Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and to constitutionally prohibit gay marriage. They will scale the clock tower and turn the hands of time back at least half a century, and they will do it all while proclaiming themselves to be “the party of small government.”

An unwilling coalition of Ayn Rand capitalists and Christian fundamentalists, they are the New Theocracy. The only thing small about them is their minds.

It’s time for President Badass!

President Obama strikes a boxing stance

Well, Mr. President, you did it. Much to the surprise of your opponent and his backing billionaires, you triumphed.  So now that your second term is secured, I’d like to speak to you on behalf of your liberal voters.

Many of us who voted for you the first time did so with the knowledge that your actions would be constrained by the requirements of your seeking re-election. In other words, we knew better than to expect big things from you during your first term. We figured the payoff would come during the second.

Needless to say, you accomplished a hell of a lot anyway, especially considering the fact of complete Congressional obstruction; for that we are grateful. Now, however, is the time for a change in strategy.

We have seen you reach your hand “across the aisle” to achieve bipartisan consensus, only to have it spat upon by opponents who despise you more than they actually disagree with you. We have seen you embrace their ideas, contrary to the desires of your base, only to have them disavowed by their proponents. We have seen you give ground at the beginning of negotiations, fully expectant of reciprocal concessions which were never forthcoming. It’s time to stop trying to meet them in the middle, because they are far to distant from it.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that the Republicans are suddenly going to become cooperative. They will never do anything that threatens to make you look good.  They hate you.

We know that you are a good man in a difficult time who is sincerely doing his best to do right by his country. We know that your are playing what has always been a white man’s game and are amazed at and proud of your ascent. You make us proud of our country. You more than make up for the embarrassment caused us by your predecessor.

Sir, we require no more convincing. We know that you tried, we know that your opposition is intractable, and now we just want you to go back there and haul out President Badass. It’s time to start dominating.

Fear of a Black President

Sarah Palin

Palin accuses president of ‘shuck and jive’ on Libya – Erik Wemple – The Washington Post.

Excuse me, “shuck and jive”? WTF, Sarah Palin? Who uses that kind of language these days? Are your bedsheets doing double duty at KKK rallies?

Let’s just call this the racism that it is: the racism of Sarah Palin’s America.

We heard the McCain-Palin campaign blowing the dog-whistles of racial hatred during the last election, when a huge and ignorant swath of the American public convinced itself that then-Senator Obama was a Kenyan Muslim. We heard it even in the so-called compliments paid him: He was so “articulate” for a – well, you finish the sentence. We hear now it in Newt Gingrich’s characterization of Obama as the “Food Stamp President.” By that logic, we ought to christen Reagan the “Crackhead President.”

The level of hatred directed at this President is unprecedented. I have looked and cannot find any campaign imagery comparable to the 2008 posters of Obama in white-face, Obama as The Joker, Obama as Hitler. I can’t recall anyone putting a Hitler mustache on George W. Bush.*

I have looked and cannot find a previous Congress so specifically dedicated to denying a President a second term, such that it votes against its own ideas to avoid making him look good. Even Bill Clinton had greater cooperation from the opposition.

It’s only been about fifty years since the official end of Jim Crow, when African Americans were fully enfranchised as voters. There are plenty of white folks still around who remember the days of segregation fondly, when they didn’t have to compete with non-whites for jobs or college admissions. There are lots of people who have never worked or socialized with African Americans and who would be happy to keep it that way. They are simply not comfortable with people who are not like themselves. They never have been, going back through the generations. There are plenty of white folks who resent the handouts of welfare without knowing that they are its primary beneficiaries.

When you live in the Northeast or on the West coast of the U.S. – the blue states, yes – you tend to see the world a certain way. Your point of view is inflected by the diversity of the population. You grow up with Americans whose families have come from all over the world, with people of all faiths and colors, and this to you is normal. It’s true, to a large extent, of any port city or point of entry for immigrants; they often remain where they land.

When you live in middle America, however – in the red states, yes – you are more likely to spend your entire life in a small town surrounded by people who are a lot like you. You are rarely exposed to a point of view that differs from your own and when you are, your peer group shoots it down.

If we held an election where the popular vote alone determined the outcome, the result would always skew to the political left. That’s because the great majority of the population lives in cities, which provide employment and transportation and which therefore attract outsiders.  These places are always necessarily more diverse and more progressive. The fact is, we could hold the election exclusively in America’s largest cities and obtain a representative vote.

Rural middle America has too much say. It is numerically over-represented in the Senate (2 Senators per state, regardless of population) so it has disproportionate power over policy. Relative to urban America, rural America is less diverse, less progressive, and less comfortable with the 21st century global culture that city dwellers deal with every day. Rural America has barely come to grips with the 20th century.

Mitt Romney is counting on two types of voters to make him President: People who believe he’ll be a better leader than our current one, and people who will vote for anyone but a black man. I believe there are far more Romney voters in the latter category – and so does Sarah Palin.

* While I have recently been corrected by a reader and directed to some photos of Bush with a Hitler ‘stache (see Comments), I stand confidently by the rest of this essay.

47%? 30%? Let’s make it 100%!

King George III and George Washington

According to Mitt Romney, 47% of Americans believe that the government should take care of them in some way. Paul Ryan, the numbers guy, says it’s 30%. They say it like it’s a bad thing. It’s not. The number should be closer to 100%.

Let me explain: We had a revolution quite some time ago which freed us from the tyranny of a kingdom and established a democracy. Whereas a king rules by right of inheritance, a president is elected through the will of the people. A king stands above all others; a president is first among equals.

A king typically inherits his right to rule through a line of ancestry that connects him to a figure recognized as important to the establishment of the country.  His power is legitimized by his biological connection to the birth of the people and of the culture, and his authority is conceived in paternal terms. The country is his; it belongs to him and he may do with its land, its people, and its army as he sees fit. He is, however, obliged to see to it that his lands are farmed, his people are fed, and his armies are supplied.

Did these responsibilities of government just fade away when we replaced a king with a president? Clearly we are still subsidizing our farmers and supplying our armies, so what happened to the other piece of it?

Remember this: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .”

Was this not what Jefferson was talking about? How can one be entitled to life but not medicine? Liberty but not food? A shot at happiness but not the benefit of shelter?  Don’t these things all go together? I believe that Jefferson thought his language was broad and inclusive: Let’s see, he reasoned; what three words can I use to represent all “unalienable Rights”? Oh, yes! I’ll say, “among these,” and cite the big ones! “Life,” for crying out loud! How much more inclusive can I be?

Conservatives deride an American sense of “entitlement” (oh, the irony!), where people think they deserve government assistance for which they should not have to work or pay. They think a lot of us are stupid, irresponsible, and lazy. The truth is, we are all raised to believe that life is meaningless without work – which includes raising children – and that we are useless without it. Most of us want to make an honest living. That, it’s patently obvious, is not always possible.

It has always been the job of the government to see to it that people’s basic needs are met. From chiefs to kings to parliaments, the primary charge is to keep the peace and provide the food – the latter being necessary for the former. As long as there has been government, that has been the case.

Democracy didn’t change that; capitalism did.

Agnorant in America

GOP debate

“Agnorant.” I love this word because it so completely encapsulates the essence of what it means to be a Republican today:  That special combination of arrogance and ignorance that stands behind everything from American Exceptionalism to Snooky and The Situation. That way of plowing straight ahead through life with perfect conviction that you are always right in the face of constant proof that you are utterly wrong.

Agnorance: Perfect composure as you offer your opinion on something you know nothing about.  Perfect faith that you know what is right for everyone and damn it, there should be a law.   Perfect confidence in your own genius, which only you can see.  Perfect blindness with regard to your own faults, mistakes, and history.  Perfect command of the three facts that you know.

Every Republican on stage at a debate stands there as an icon of agnorance.  Their histories hold only heroic deeds and good intentions; they forgive themselves their own mistakes without even acknowledging their occurrence.   They all know what is best for America despite the fact that none of them knows that people didn’t coexist with dinosaurs.

They bought themselves a reality show to satisfy their narcissism; does that make us voyeurs?

I feel dirty, America.

Mormon Mitt

Joseph Smith Translate the Book of Mormon by Looking into his Hat

Joseph Smith Translates the Book of Mormon by Looking into his Hat

I know I’m going to be out of line here, especially for an anthropologist, but why is talking about the fact that Mitt Romney is a Mormon off limits? I have a problem with this.

First of all, there’s the tithing thing. I’m not comfortable with the idea that 10% of the President’s income would wind up in the hands of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That’s the people’s money. That’s my money. I’d sooner see him spend it on another private jet than have him hand it over to a church. Any church. Something feels vaguely unconstitutional about it.

Second, anyone who believes in the literal truth of any religion is  intellectually challenged in a manner that should disqualify him from seeking higher office.  I’m sorry,  but it has to be said: The miraculous foundations of every deist faith are patently ridiculous.  This is easily explained by the fact that these things date to a time before the advent of science and technology, when humans beings were still in the intellectual Dark Ages.  First they thought that the sun was pulled across the sky by an immortal charioteer; later, they were certain that a man had parted a river to allow his people to escape their captors.  Still later, a virgin gave birth to the child of God, who then went on to turn water into wine.

Yeah, sure.  Tell me another one.  That’s what passed for knowledge in those days, before the scientific revolution.  Before anyone was aware of the facts of reproduction, at least as far as the ovum was concerned.  Back when people believed in alchemy and were busily trying to turn lead into gold.  Back when being left-handed or epileptic was the work of the Devil, for crying out loud!

The Mormons are a special case because their faith dates to the 19th century, long after our intellectual awakening; they have no excuse for their ignorance.  In the 1820s, an established con artist claimed to have received a series of revelations including the “fact” that Jesus Christ traveled to the New World after his resurrection, where he ministered to the Native Americans — who, by the way, were a lost tribe of the Jews who migrated there several hundred years before the birth of Christ.  Never mind the fact that people have been present on this continent for a minimum of 10,000 years.  And while the Old and New Testaments at least contain elements of history and records of real places, the Book of Mormon has a cast of characters acting in locales that do not actually exist.  Joseph Smith wasn’t big on fact-checking the crap that came out of his hat.

It’s one thing to be a religious literalist, but it’s another thing entirely to base your politics on it.  Politics cannot be faith-based; they must be reality-based. This does, of course, disqualify the entire Republican field at the moment. Mr. Romney, however, has the special distinction of membership in a Church that baptizes Holocaust victims and tells its people that they can themselves become gods.  God himself, by the way, is an alien man from another planet.

As an anthropologist, I want to say that all religions are valid, legitimate and deserving of respect, but they do not represent a reality on which everyone can agree.  They are composed of metaphors, allegories, histories, and outright fictions intended to bind a people together in a specific time and place, and they are not applicable outside of their own particular temporal, cultural, and geographic boundaries.  They are best understood as products of and exclusive to the cultures that create them. They have no place in the politics of a modern, multicultural nation.  You might as well go put your face in a hat.


quit blaming the Jews

A Cartoon from Akhbar al-Khalij, June 9, 2008

A Cartoon from Akhbar al-Khalij, June 9, 2008

When progressives and others protest the pro-Israel policies of the US, they typically assign blame to the Jews, a.k.a., the “Zionist Lobby.”  This is depressingly true to historical patterns:  The Jews are consistently perceived as controlling everything from the media to the government.  Well I’ve got news for you: It’s not the Jews. It never has been.  They’re just such an incredibly convenient scapegoat in a world dominated by Christians.

Jews make up something like 2.5% of the general population of the US, and the great majority of them are secular and non-practicing.  They are also typically highly educated, liberal, and progressive.  I’m convinced that most secular American Jews are horrified by Israel’s settlement activities and disgusted by its suppression of Palestinian rights. They are embarrassed by association with it.

The small minority of pro-occupation Jews make up less than 1.5% of the American populace – do you really think they have enough money between them to pull the puppet strings on foreign policy? That’s just ridiculous.  Rupert Murdoch is not Jewish; either are the Koch brothers.   The 111th Congress was 8.4% Jewish and 84.8% Christian, and the Tea Party Caucus in the House alone is currently 45% evangelical.  So who’s really running the show?  Clearly it’s the conservative Christians. Just look at the legislation they’ve been working on: Not a single jobs bill, but lots of renewed interest in outlawing abortion.

Christian conservatives have taken over the American government.  Republicans since Reagan have used their faith as argument and justification for their policies.  Lately they hold suspect any among them who do not express both a belief in creation and the firm denial of science, particularly where it applies to climate theory.  A good many of them, men like former attorney general John Ashcroft, are biblical literalists who fully expect the rapture to occur during their lifetimes and see current events in the Middle East as the fulfillment of biblical prophesy.  Simply put, the Jewish homeland must exist if conditions for the rapture are to be met.  Men like this don’t worry too much about the future because the world is ending anyway, but they do need to assure the survival of Israel.

From the very beginning, it has always been Christians who felt connected to the holy land as a site for pilgrimage and were loathe to see it in the hands of Muslims.  While to them, the Old Testament is the source of original truth, the Qur’an is a post-Christian heresy.  The state of Israel was in fact made possible first by the Balfour Declaration and later by the UN partition of Palestine.  While Britain had from its very beginning a tradition of religious pilgrimage to Palestine and a desire to see it avoid Muslim control, the UN was moved to do something after the Holocaust drove home the fact that Jewish safety could not be assured in anything but a Jewish land. Were it not for this commitment by Christians to support and preserve the Jewish state, it likely would not exist.

Today conservative Christians continue the traditions of pilgrimage and Islamophobia.  Missionaries went into Iraq before the smoke from our bombs even cleared, claiming humanitarian missions while their supporters spoke of the war as a “crusade.”  Because we live in the shadow of the millennium, some Christians are genuinely puzzled as to why the rapture has not yet occurred; indeed, they anticipate its imminent arrival.  They attribute earthquakes and dead birds to the wrath of God, as if the scientific revolution had never occurred.  The Republican party is now dominated by people who think like this, despite the fact that they actually constitute a small minority of the country.  They are, however, the majority block of primary voters.

It is in fact the minority of a minority that is currently steering the ship of American foreign policy, but it’s not the Jews.  It’s the apocalyptic Christians who aren’t just waiting for the rapture, but are actively working to assure it.

I have a theory: The rapture has already happened; it’s just that they all got left behind.

Survival of the richest

At the Republican debate the other night, the audience showed its blood lust.  When Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul if the government should  let the uninsured die, several people in the crowd yelled out “Yeah!”  While this was not Congressman Paul’s preference, the crowd pulsed audibly with libertarian zeal.  Yes America, you have neighbors who wouldn’t spend a buck or shed a tear if you – or your child – were about to die for lack of insurance. Their vision of America leads to a future where only the rich have lives while the rest of us get death sentences. Social Darwinism is alive and well, but you may not be so lucky.

Support at GOP debate for letting the uninsured die – latimes.com.