Is "system" really the word for our two-party, er, arrangement?
It's not exactly news that here at DWT we don't have a whole lot of hope for either of our major political parties. And since Howie has, as usual, been keeping us up to date on the horror shows of both, I haven't felt the need to chime in. (Not much anyway.) But a pair of items that have jumped out of the news hole into the opinion pages -- in one case, a Washington Post editorial, in the other a NYT column by Gail Collins -- and it struck me that they kind of sketch out the boundaries of the hole we're in.
AMERICA, MEET YOUR 2014 REPUBLICAN TEAM
You remember "Cuckoo Ken" Cuccinelli, the super-exreme right-wing wacko who got himself elected Virginia's attorney general and is now the Republican Party's candidate to succeed fake-moderate far-right-wing Gov. Bob McDonnell?
And you remember the ironic turn of events by which his handlers are forcing him to pretend to be a tad less crazy than he is in order to throw less of a scare into the non-wacko portion of the state electorate. After all, all he has to do is defeat perhaps the most loathsome candidate the Dems could have come up with: Mr. Moneybags, Terry McAuliffe, and he gets to move into the governor's office and unleash his full crazy.
And you remember the still more ironic turn of events by which the Cooch is now saddled with a running mate possibly even crazier than he is. (Yes, it's possible. As I like to say, you never want to put something like that in the form of a challenge.)
Well, it takes a lot to get the Editorial Board of the Washington Post worked up to the point of bluntly dressing down war-whooping right-wingers. But harken unto the start of this editorial, "Va.’s Cuccinelli plays fast and loose with the facts on abortion":
E.W. JACKSON, the fire-breathing pastor who stunned the Republican establishment by storming the party convention in Virginia and snatching the nomination for lieutenant governor, has been roundly mocked for saying Planned Parenthood has been “far more lethal to black lives” than has the Ku Klux Klan. In fact, the idea that Planned Parenthood is a racist, even genocidal enterprise, while scurrilous and estranged from the truth, is an article of faith among some right-wing Republicans — among them Herman Cain, the flash-in-the-pan presidential contestant in last year’s GOP primaries, and Mr. Jackson’s running mate, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, the party’s candidate for governor.The Post editorial writer, bless him/her, goes on to actually investigate the "charges" the loony tunes have come up with, updated to include the idiotic notion "that Planned Parenthood targets African Americans for abortions today by concentrating its clinics in black communities." There's something preposterous about dignifying these imbecilities with "fact-checking," but I guess it has to be done.
And even the Post editorial writer gets there in the end.
Mr. Cuccinelli has written that Planned Parenthood’s sex-education programs in the nation’s schools are “a loss leader” for the organization, whose real goal is to hook youngsters into seeking “abortion on demand.” That conspiratorial view does not align with reality, but it does square with Mr. Cuccinelli’s general disdain for any facts that pose an obstacle to his ideological agenda.Still, the problem isn't really the loony tunes' command of facts. The point is that they don't care about facts, and this is across the board, not just single-issue. It's as if they believe that facts are part of a liberal-socialist conspiracy. Instead of facts, they have, as the editorial writer put it, their ideological agenda, what I would describe as their warped, delusional primitive brains, saturated with ideological delusion.
I bring up the Virginians, not as a side show, but as part of the main event. Although voices of caution are finally being heard around the margins, the Republican Party remains in thrall to its farthest-right crazies. Howie has been tracking them here, so I don't need to review the list. Arizona Rep. Trent Franks's loony resurrection of Republican rape craziness should serve as a reminder that 2012 poster crazies Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana differed only in their nutty bluntness from their more circumspect colleagues like whiz kid Paul Ryan.
(I should add that there is, of course, another party dallying in the Republican tent: the people who view it -- in a good way -- as the Party of the Rich, who expect to use all those poor dumb sumbitches as tools toward enabling the party to personally enrich them. They are, again of course, bolstered by all those rich-guy wannabes who will settle for being lackeys to the elites, beneficiaries their largesse. I'm not including these people in my argument because, after all, they have correctly identified their own interests and are correctly pursuing them.)
THEN THERE'S YOUR DEMOCRATIC LINEUP
In today's column, "The Revenge of Magic Mike, the NYT's Gail Collins surveyed the fallout from the latest electoral initiatives of New York City's Michael Bloomberg, the man who, she imagines, has us all asking ourselves, "What would I do if I had $27 billion to toss around?"
As we all know, Mayor Mike has made illegal guns his immediate cause, and he and his fellow Mayors Against Illegal Guns have targeted the four Democratic senators who this year voted against the exceedingly modest gun regulation bill, despite heavy popular support. She points to the $350K Mayor Mike poured into ads in Arkansas targeting Sen. Mark Pryor, one of the two out of the apostate four running for reelection this year, along with Alaska's Mark Begich. And now there's Mayor Mike's letter to the thousand biggest New York Democratic donors encouraging them not to contribute to the campaigns of the Dem Four.
"Some gun control advocates," Gail writes, "regard this as a disastrous example of tone-deaf politics: the war on Big Gulps writ large." Pryor and Begich, she points out,
are going to be opposed by Republicans who are even more averse to weapons regulation. Right now it looks as if Begich’s opponent will be Joe Miller, a Tea Party stalwart who would be an improvement only to people who believe that the one thing this country needs is to bring back Sarah Palin.Meanwhile "Democratic leaders" are going bonkers because they have so many candidates in tight races this year. While it's true that Mayor Mike has no stake in the care and feeding of the Democratic Party, being an "issue guy" here, still, even on those terms, those Dem leaders are apoplectic.
They argue, with absolute accuracy, that if the Democrats lose control of the Senate in 2014, there will be no gun bill to vote for, because Mitch McConnell, as majority leader, would never allow one to get to the floor.Now it's an article of faith among a lot of us on the progressive side of the spectrum that one thing we need urgently to do is to upgrade the quality of Dem office-holders, that while Republican obstructionism is indeed an important reality, too many important fights are being lost because of Democratic, not Republican, nonsupport. And isn't this just how you might go about holding the apostate Dems to account? By making sure their voters know what they're doing, and why it's bad?
Well, yes, but . . . .
We've been living with this argument for decades now: In any given instance, are we better off with a Republican or a Democrat who's not much better? And we all know the arguments on both sides.
In presidential politics, were we really (or would we really have been) better off with [fill in the name of any of the Dem candidates of the last several decades] than with [the R each was running against]> Or rather would we be enough better off to justify supporting so flawed a candidate? The Senate version goes like this: On the one hand, Rs who replace Ds will be voting for Mitch McConnell for majority leader, while on the other hand we can't go on indefinitely rewarding Ds who, when the chips are down, are likely to vote with the Rs.
(The latter is sometimes accompanied by the argument that maybe by t'rowing da bums out, we can hope for a resurrection, the dawn of a more enlightened-by-purge party and candidates. It was the argument of the people who voted for Ralph Nader. But I'd like to that that especially in the shadow of George W. Bush this argument isn't going to regain much currency.)
My point tonight is not to come down on one side or the other, but to step back and suggest that the very nature of this perennial dilemma is why there's so little to be hoped for from the Dems. I will still continue to vote for them, mostly, just as I've been voting Dem in pretty much each of the above-referenced instances. I have no doubt, for example, that we would be significantly worse off with a President Willard than we are with what we've got. But if someone wants to insist how much better?, beyond saying "a fair piece better," I don't think I want to talk about it.