Sunday, April 26, 2009

What Can The Right-Wing Party In The U.S. Learn From The Tribulations And The Disastrous Defeat Yesterday Of The Right-Wing Party In Iceland?


My first trip to Europe started in Iceland. Air Iceland would fly you from JFK to Luxembourg, a banking center nestled between Germany, Belgium and France, for $100. The catch is that you had to stop in Keflavik. I was delighted; it was summer and I was out to discover the world. My girlfriend and I met another couple of adventurous Americans on the plane and the 4 of us decided to rent a car and drive around the island for a week. If I can remember that far back (1969) let me ask you to remember a party you probably didn't go to but surely heard about. It was November, 2005 and the host was notorious war profiteer David H. Brooks who was celebrating his daughter's bat mitzvah at the Rainbow Room. The event cost upwards of $10 million and featured Aerosmith, Nelly, Tom Petty, the Eagles, Kenny G. and 50 Cent. Aerosmith was paid $1 million and there's no way on earth Tom Petty or the Eagles would have played for less; they share the same manager. Brooks was a big macher; he had just donated $25,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee a couple of month earlier. So what's all this got to do with Iceland?

In this morning's NY Times it was reported that Iceland had just elected it's first left-of-center government... ever. The bankster crisis hit that country early and hit it hard, very hard. I was drawn to a quote by Finance Minister Steingrimur Sigfusson (a former truck driver and geologist who heads the Green Party, a partner in the new ruling coalition):
“What are the people of the United States mad about now?” he said in a recent interview. “It is the same poisonous philosophy that we had here, based on a lack of moral awareness and greed, and people who thought nothing of flying Elton John into Iceland for their 50th birthdays and paying him 70 million Icelandic kronur.” [$600,000]

The unrestrained "free market" greed and avarice that swamped Iceland resulted in the toppling of the Republican-like right-wing government and it's replacement with a caretaker government led by Johanna Sigurdardottir, the first openly gay woman to head a national government. Yesterday's election gave her party 22 seats, the Greens 13 seats and the right-wing Independent Party 14 seats (23% of the vote).

23%? For the political party that has dominated Icelandic politics since independence from Denmark? The number sounded familiar and I racked my brain trying to remember... and then I did. Going into the 1934 congressional elections we've written about so many times here at DWT, Republicans found themselves in the minority for the first time in decades. Two years earlier Franklin Roosevelt had swept to power promising massive change from the reactionary, corporate policies the Republicans had used to bankrupt the country and cause the Great Depression. About half the Republicans in the House had been defeated, leaving them with just 117 members from mostly hard-core GOP districts. They had learned nothing from their 1932 drubbing and greeted FDR's first two years with an unrelenting obstructionism and invective, doing their best to persuade the American people that Roosevelt and his congressional allies were a bunch of socialists. The result came in the 1934 midterms-- 23%. That's the portion of seats the GOP held onto after they were smashed down by the voters again. The Republicans lost another 14 seats, for a grand total of 103-- 23.6%.

This morning Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin at Politico have the worst possible news for the Republican Party. It's own base, driven mad by years of hate-filled propaganda, is rebelling against any Republican politicians who move towards the mainstream. The base wants the pre-adolescent, obstructionist behavior radicals and extremists like Limbaugh, Beck, Coulter and Hannity extol to gain cable ratings points. It works in the ratings game but most Americans hate the extremism and see through the obstructionism.

The far right now utterly dominates the GOP base. That's OK in most of the Deep South-- although even there the GOP is on the defensive, losing red congressional seats in Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia last year-- but it is pure poison north of the Mason-Dixon line and in the West, where states that had supported Bush in 2004, like Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, went for Obama in 2008.
Within the party, conservative groups have grown stronger absent the emergence of any organized moderate faction.

There is little appetite for compromise on what many see as core issues, and the road to the presidential nomination lies-- as always-- through a series of states where the conservative base holds sway, and where the anger appears to be, if anything, particularly intense.

"There is a sense of rebellion brewing," said Katon Dawson, the outgoing South Carolina Republican Party chairman, who cited unexpectedly high attendance at anti-tax “tea parties” last week.

We watched that rebellion on tape 2 weeks ago as Gresham Barrett, a right-wing congressman who had hoped to become South Carolina's next governor, was mercilessly booed at the Greenville teabagger party. And Barrett has dedicated his entire political career to far right extremism-- except when it got in the way of his ability to raise "donations" from the now unpopular banksters. The Republican Party, devoid of respected leadership, and stuck with the flotsam and jetsam of opportunistic hacks like Boehner, Cantor, Ryan, Hensarling, McConnell, Kyl, and Cornyn, has no choice but to embrace the paranoid hate, ignorance and bigotry of its base-- and race towards... well losing another dozen or two congressional seats in 2010.

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At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Down with Free Markets! Capitalist Right Wing Pigs! Socialism and Communism have historically proven to be successful! Oh wait ...

At 8:04 PM, Anonymous me said...

This is not at all surprising. The GOP has stirred up the rabble with hatred for years; what else should they expect would happen?

We'll be fortunate indeed if this does not result in widespread violence.

At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We didn't learn our lesson of unfettered capitalism in the 1920's, and it came back to bite us again.

At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a difference between capitalism and butcher capitalism.

In the 19th century in the US we had the robber barons, and had to deal with that which meant regulations and laws to curb the greedy, the rise of unions, wage laws, etc.

This continued into the 20th century at cost to society at large. In one case, well known, JP Morgan deliberately bankrupted the genius, Nikola Tesla (who is considered the father of AC current, the current electrical system in the US) because he was worried that a Tesla design for wireless electrical transmission would hurt Morgan's profits in the electrical transmission business, which could be metered.

It is NOT socialism to enact laws against people taking unfair advantage of their positions and power to rob from or block the progress of others. To fail to do so runs the risk of a two caste system, "them that has, and them that don't." Talk about a glass ceiling!

We did not learn from history, so we are back to where we were, fixing again what was previously fixed until the republican party disassembled it through de-regulation -- claiming the market will regulate itself.

That's about as sensible as a teacher leaving a classroom of 6th graders on their own and expecting them to sit perfectly still and quiet. It won't happen.

Someone made plenty of money this time around, more than likely of republican persuasion, and now is complaining through the republican party because the days of unrestricted bounty at the cost of others are coming to an end.

When ever did a hardened criminal admit to a crime? It's always the victim's fault.

At 7:40 AM, Anonymous john b, miami said...

It will take time for Pres. Obama and the Democrats in Congress to self destruct. Many of the programs that Obama is getting credit for now such as the Stimulus Bill, The Housing Mortgage Modification Bill, the Spending Bill with 9000 earmarks and al the increased spending in the budget will come back to haunt him within the next 2 years. It will take that long for inflation to start and then we will have the worst of both worlds, a sluggish economy, out of control inflation, higher oil prices and a falling dollar. Then the American people will reject both Obama and the Democrats. Just be patient.

At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is the same old liberal BS; when I was a kid, the left felt it was "better Red than dead," their wimpy, gutless demands for appeasement of communist Russia.
Conservatism is principles, and we will not become a rubber stamp for socialist, communists, anarchists on the left.

At 8:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GOP is a freak show and you can just look at the "socialist" cries on this post to see how foolish they have become. Keep on going for that 23% that makes you happy. 77% will be glad your petty reactionary obstructionist voice is gone. The sad part is after the trouncing in November the GOP is looking at the USA like we are the enemy. No quiet mature introspection but blame and outright hatred wishing the USA to fail.

At 10:32 PM, Anonymous me said...

Hey, Anon! Eat shit and die.


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