Monday, September 20, 2004

Compassionate Conservatism

In my last post, I included a link to some talking points to use when discussing the differences between our two presidential candidates with people on the fence, reachable Republicans, or even hardcore right-wingers who need a wake-up call.

Tonight, I'd like to highlight the other side of the talking points with which we all need to acquiant ourselves, showing how there's nothing traditionally "conservative" about the contemporary Republican party. Yes, there are still plenty of good, decent, well-meaning people with an (R) after their name. But the party's mission and apparatus have been hijacked by some right-wing ideologues who wouldn't know the planks of the party's traditional platform -- things like fiscal discipline and personal responsibility -- if you whacked them over the head with them.

The Religious Right gets plenty of attention, as well it should, for dragging the country along on a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride of intolerance, moral hectoring, and eschatology. But despite all the lip service he pays that faction (much of it in verbiage that's under the radar of Americans who aren't "aware" the second coming is nigh...) George W. Bush's true base consists of the well-to-do who resent having to pay one dime towards social programs for the weakest and meekest in our society.

The Prime Mover of that particular religion is one Grover Norquist. Though he's well-known inside the Beltway, he's been a behind-the-scenes figure for many years, only recently stepping out of the shadows to make a name for himself with remarks to the effect of wanting to shrink government down to a size where he could drown it in a bathtub. Or equating the imposition of the estate tax solely on the rich with the logic that led to the Holocaust.

It's no coincidence that Norquist has become more prominent and more vocal as the Bush administration has grown more brazen pursuing its hard-right agenda since 9/11. On the one hand, it's sickening to think we now live in a country where someone as selfish and nihilistic as this can spout off without having to worry about condemnation (outside of isolated, traditionally liberal circles).

On the other hand, let's be thankful for what we've got, which is someone on the right who doesn't say one thing and do another. Norquist is a lot of things I revile...but I'll give him this: he's honest. He recently ran down the ultra-conservative governor of Ohio, Bob Taft, for not being conservative enough. Kudos to the person who happened to catch it on tape...

The modern Republican party knows how to get its members to fall in line (there's a reason Tom Delay is called "The Hammer") so you'd think someone would have given Norquist the order to fall in line. But apparently he's untouchable -- which says an awful lot about the party -- because he felt perfectly comfortable making the following statement, regarding the future prospects of the Democratic party in America, just a few days after the Taft flap:

"Yes, because in addition their demographic base is shrinking.  Each year, 2 million people who fought in the Second World War and lived through the Great Depression die. This generation has been an exeception in American history, because it has defended anti-American policies.  They voted for the creation of the welfare state and obligatory military service. They are the base of the Democratic Party. And they are dying. And, at the same time, all the time more Americans have stocks. That makes them defend the interests of business, because it is their own interest. Because of that, it's impossible to bring to the fore policies of social hate, of class warfare."

Lemme get this straight: the "Greatest Generation" defended ANTI-AMERICAN policies?!! And Norquist is gloating over the deaths of WWII veterans because it means the Republicans can shore up their hegemony?!!

Let's think about the traditional definition of fascism. It's come to be known as goosestepping allegiance to a nationalist dictator (for good reason, I should add) but as Mussolini envisioned it, it was ruling by a confluence of government and business. Go back and re-read Norquist's statement, and ponder his remarks about WWII vets defending "anti-American policies" and his opinions regarding the "interests of business."

Now I'm not callin' nobody nothin', but...think about it.

Norquist is a MAJOR player in current policy-making. He convenes a weekly breakfast meeting to hash out policy that is a Who's Who of the Republican power machine. He sends out daily faxes that delineate the day's talking points for right-wing media. He is, in short, at the eye of the Republican storm.

And he's never been elected to anything. But he's playing a major role in running our government.

Nice work if you can get it.

Republicans need to be reminded CONTINUALLY, between now and November 2nd, that support for "their" party and "their" candidates is support for this kind of bullshit. Sensible liberals seem to get it thsi year, that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush. Republicans who can be reasoned with need to get it too: a vote for Bush is a vote for Norquist. In other words, a vote against every single thing this country is supposed to stand for.

The left has its share of kooks, to be sure. But as any good party should, we do a decent job sending the biggest whack jobs off into the wilderness. Bush/Rove on the other hand, are counting on their whack jobs to turn out in November.

When they're not trying to get them elected. Just to put things in perspective: the keynote speaker at the Democratic Convention was by the young, thoughtful, and inspiring Barack Obama; the RNC turned to the Strom Thurmond-wannabe Zell Miller for theirs. And who did the Republicans finally field to challenge Obama in Illinois? Alan Keyes.

Alan Freakin' Keyes.

Pathetic. Yet I know plenty of sensible, decent people who feel this party does a good job of representing their interests...

Sleep tight,


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