Friday, April 13, 2012

SUNDRY POLITICAL REFLECTIONS

Parasites and Parties

Very few people know about a rare and bizarre condition known as fetus in fetu: one twin living parasitically inside the other. Most of these parasitic twins are absorbed or die in utero, but some are born inside their sibling. The common decision, before or after birth, is to surgically remove the parasitic twin, which invariably dies. Otherwise, the continued growth of the parasitic twin can kill the host twin.

Of course, these situations raise the usual questions about abortion; after all, those who believe that life begins at conception must give as much respect as a person to the incompletely developed and grotesquely shaped parasitic twin as to the otherwise normal one. They must also wrestle with the question about both the life of the mother during pregnancy and the life of the otherwise normal twin after birth.

This fascinating subject is not my subject here. Instead, mine is the fetus in fetu situation of the Republican Party. It contains a deformed parasite within its corporate membership. The difference is that the Tea Party can, in theory, be eliminated from its host and have a life of its own as an ultra-conservative party on the Right. I speculate that, if Mitt Romney becomes the Republican Party candidate in this year’s election, as seems likely, and loses, as seems likely, but less so, the Tea Party may say not only “I told you so,” but also “we cannot survive inside you, so we shall try to thrive outside you.”

I would encourage such a development. First, I believe—perhaps I merely hope—that most Americans across most of the political spectrum would reject an independent Tea Party. Second, I believe that its detachment from the Republican Party would allow the GOP to purify and improve its positions in ways which would permit two things: one, real competition in ideas to develop constructive legislation, and, two, real compromise in developing that legislation. The Tea Party would likely be vociferous in objection, but it would be outnumbered and thereby rendered ineffectual and thus likely to slowly die from ineffectuality.


Electrons and Elections

I cannot be the first to note the parallel tracks or trajectories of the emergence and deployment of electronic means to capture and communicate and, at a later day, recover news anywhere in the world, and the precipitous decline in respect for authority, especially elected officials and police or security personnel. Yesterday, what they said and what they did could be controlled, at least in large part; today, some of what is said and done can still be controlled, but less often and less effectively.

How much this copious supply of information matters is unclear. First, bad behavior by so many of the powerful, the rich, and the famous is so commonplace that standards of deportment—wonderful old-fashioned word (like the English and English-leaning Eastern-seaboard “marvelous”)—are plumbing the depths of coarseness. A Republican with customary respect for the office of the President and its occupant is an antique, older even than John McCain. Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly engaged in bad-faith dealings and weasel-worded insinuations that they are Obama’s fault. So this man, third in line to the presidency, has shown himself to be without courage because he has no convictions and no commitment to anything but his position. The man discredits leadership. Moreover, his fellow Republicans have made a ritual of disrespecting the President, from calling him a liar during a State of the Union address, shaking a finger in his face on an airport runway, refusing to accept the facts of his birth and religion, and insinuating that he therefore has an un-American, Islamicist, socialist agenda for the United States—and pretend that such behavior and statements are not smokescreens for racism.

Second, bad behavior by those who occupy positions once trusted as models of good morals and good manners, even when exceptions existed (but only to prove the rule), have further lowered standards of morality. For example, any number of TV preachers—Jimmy Swaggart, and Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, among them—involve themselves in improprieties, often financial, invariably sexual. Billy Graham, Jr., drawing down on respect earned by his father, shows, in his snide insinuations about the President along the same lines advanced by Republicans, just what it means to be a Christian hypocrite. But the stars of hypocrisy are the Catholic priests who molested children and the bishops and archbishops who concealed their misconduct and continue to try to prevent civil accountability under the law. Worse, in the unabashedly hypocritical mode for which the Catholic Church is becoming famous, it continues to dictate, not only to its followers, but also to all others, its teachings on abortion, contraception, and marriage.


Republicans and Race

It is a long way from the Republican Party 150 years ago to the Republican Party of the present. The party which opposed slavery and elected a president who ended it has become the party which exploits racism to win elections.

Of course, Republicans deny the GOP’s racism. Its virtually all-white membership—just the failure of blacks to understand that it stands for freedom and thus represents their interests. Its Southern Strategy since 1968 (at least)—that was then: history has no lessons from the past for the present or the future. Resistance to discussions of race—counter-accusations that those who discuss race are racist. Denial of racism—end of the problem; it does not exist.

Of course, the problem metastasizes into problems with most Hispanics, especially Mexican as opposed to Caribbean Hispanics. Thus, the illegality of Hispanic immigrants becomes a cover for racism; the transparency of this cover is the Republican refusal to promote a path to citizenship for about 12 million Hispanics who have entered the country illegally for decades and have lived as law-abiding, family-raising, hard-working, tax-paying, country-serving people. No other group of immigrants, legal or not, has been regarded and treated so abusively—and by Republicans.

If I were to go beyond race, to gender and sexual orientation, I would note that Republicans lead the way in withholding, or seeking to withhold, the full benefits of this society from those who are not white, heterosexual males. In short, the Republican Party is the home of the bigot. It is no surprise that the GOP opposes discussion of bigotry or, in a massive effort of projection, accuses others of its sin.


War on This, That, and T’other—especially Women

America’s political metaphors reveal it to be possibly the most military-minded country on earth. Everything is a “war,” a “campaign,” an “attack,” on or for something or other. We make “war” on poverty, drugs, pornography, child abuse, and, lately (or forever, depending on your point of view), women.

As long as parties, candidates, and commentators are mixing it up, let’s go with it: a “war” on women. So far, the best the Republicans have been able to come up with is Hilary Rosen’s words that Ann Romney “had not worked a day in her life.” Wow! What a slap in the face, what a staggering blow, to women. Count the poor dears down and out. How weak they are after all, so Republican would have us think. I have to think that Republicans will, at the end of the day, have hoist themselves on their petard.

Yet Barack Obama agrees. In his professorial manner, he disavowed Rosen’s words, which amount to 32 spaces in a tweet, fewer than one-fourth the maximum. Talk about snippets! Even the highest ranking (former) academic in the country, a legal scholar no less, could not put those words in the obvious context of Rosen’s following sentences: work as employment in a job or career for wages, and the challenges of making ends meet and balancing home and work. Talk about short attention spans! This kind of mindlessness deserves all of the criticism, however unjustified, which it has provoked. Rosen’s words were not ill chosen and, frankly, she stood have stood her ground (I hope that you do not mind my choice of words); Obama’s were, and all of the words of his administrative flunkies were, ill chosen. The proper response would have been to decry the Republican’s brain-dead effort to ignore context to create a big lie and a meaningless flap. But feints and diversions are parts of war, yes? Battle advantage to the GOP.

The real (that is the metaphoric) war on women is the Republican record of recent efforts—failed, proposed, enacted—to restrict women’s rights and benefits in many areas: abortion, contraception, medical assistance, insurance coverage, food stamps, equal pay—and more. Any woman who values this frivolous business about who more loves and respects working moms equally with the GOP’s record of deprivation of rights and benefits is, as they used to say about some members of minority groups, a disgrace to her sex. But, if some such women must value them equally, then the rest of us should expect them to demand that Republicans support pay for their work as mothers at home, as is the practice in other countries with advanced economies and enlightened politics. Betcha how far they get with GOP fulfillment of that demand; I can feel its great love and respect already. It might be worth a try if that is what it takes to make Republicans show themselves to be the chauvinist hypocrites who they are, have been, and will be. Why some women are traitors to the cause is baffling, but they have the right to their choices, too. They should be judged for their poor choices, not their betrayal of the good cause.

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