Friday, March 29, 2013

Can the GOP learn that pretending to be inclusive isn't the same thing as being inclusive?


The result of this deception is very strange to tell,
for when I fool the people I fear, I fool myself as well. . . .
Make believe you're brave, and the trick will take you far.
You may be as brave as you make believe you are.
--  "I Whistle a Happy Tune," from The King and I

"The spectacle of the Republicans, like teenagers longing to be invited to the prom, floundering about in search of more popularity with American voters, would be comical if it didn’t present the sad picture of a once great and proud party—the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower—working its way into near irrelevance."
-- Elizabeth Drew, in "Are the Republicans Beyond
," in the March 21 NYRB

"“Republicans like [Alaska Rep. Don Young] will soon be extinct, and that's a good thing for the GOP. But in the meantime, when they make these remarks, it makes it harder for those of us who are trying to grow the base of our party."
-- GOP consultant John Weaver ("who has worked for moderate Republicans in recent years") in The Fix's "Don Young and the Archie Bunker Problem"

by Ken

Sorry about the performance of "I Whistle a Happy Tune," but after sampling 20 or 25 "real" performances on YouTube, I was kind of relieved to settle for this one. (Do the people who post these clips really not know how wretched they are?)

You see, we're going to be talking tonight about pretending to be things you aren't. It's a strategy being pressed on 2013 Republicans by consultants as well as voices within the party, and I'm getting the weird feeling that they don't see the difference between pretending to be something and being it. And I couldn't help thinking of Anna in The King and I, and the lesson she tries to teach her son Louis at the top of the show. But the point here, surely (she makes it pretty explicitly), is that in the act of pretending to be brave, you may actually wind up being brave.

I'm not as optimistic about the strategy being pressed on depressed R's.

"Bemused" is what I've been, watching from the sidelines as those R's -- coming as close as they're apparently capable of coming to self-reflection -- at least consider the possibility that their 2012 electoral disaster was self-inflicted, that Republicans had come to be viewed by alamring numbers of U.S. voters as a party of exclusion, as a party whose only mission is to defend the interests of the 1%.

I had occasion to wonder the other day about the claim of some of these self-accusing elements in the party that they need to hearken back to the days of their old "big tent." The Republicans had a big tent? When was this? Even when Richard Nixon was fashioning the new Republican Party by adding Southern racists to the seething Silent Majority of Americans sick to death of challenges to orthodoxy and the status quo, it was a gathering of people housed in a number of modest-size tents coexisting on the same campground because they were all so mad at all those damn commies and hippies and assorted other riffraff out there.

The only difference, really, it seems to me, is that the tents have gotten even smaller. But the purpose of the little tents was always to exclude the people who weren't inside them, even if for strategic purposes they voted in multi-tent unison on a lot of issues, especially when manipulated with the finesse of a Nixon or a Ronald Reagan or even a George W. Bush for as long "Chimpy the Prez" could hold his coaltion of excluders together.


Rather obviously, you have to wonder how long it's going to be before they start excluding one another. Already, for example, there's a deep fissure between right-wing excluders who worry that they've been somehow perceived as too exclusionary and right-wing excluders who believe that 2012 happened because they weren't exclusionary enough.

I'll leave that to them to slug out. And among many considerations of the implications for Republicans if they don't come to grips with their exclusionary tendencies, I can recommend Elizabeth Drew's "Are the Republicans Beyond Saving?" in the March 21 NYRB, whose opening I quote atop this post. I just want to register a modest note of bemusement about this notion that the R's' problem is being perceived as too exclusionary. As too hating of (take your pick) women, immigrants, Hispanic voters, LGBT voters, etc.

What bemuses me is this apparent notion that the problem is perception. I look at it differently. If you get all huffy about being unloved because mean people keep saying you're bigoted, changing the perception may required that you be less bigoted.

Which brings me to the other piece from which I quoted atop this post, the post "Don Young and the Archie Bunker Problem" by Aaron Blake and Juliet Eilperin today on's "The Fix." It begins:
Less than two weeks after the Republican National Committee unveiled its 2012 election autopsy an emphasis on broadening the party's tent, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) used an ethnic slur for Latinos in a radio interview Thursday. Young's comments served as the latest wake-up call for Republicans in their nascent effort to woo a more diverse cross-section of America.

The message: whatever effort they make toward modernizing their brand, there will always be a few Archie Bunkers out there -- people, like the lead character in the 70's sitcom "All in the Family," who are unconcerned with or unwilling to moderate their tone. And these days more than in the past, their offhand remarks can derail the most carefully orchestrated PR campaign.

Young, 79, set off a fresh round of recriminations and hand-wringing among Republican leaders while talking about the people his father employed on his California ranch years ago.

"We used to hire 50 or 60 wetbacks and -- to pick tomatoes," Young said in the interview with KRBD. "You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine."
Oops!!! Or should I say: Whoops!!!

Now Don Young is an old DWT fave, not so much because he's an excluder and hater as because he's a crook, a man who seems capable of sizing up any situation that comes to his attention from the standpoint "What's in it for me?" (As a result of which, he tends to find himself facing far more than even the normal congressional share of big-league "What's in it for me?" opportunities.)

A constant thread in Aaron Blake and Juliet Eilperin's "Fix" piece is that R's are unjustly associated with louts like Don Young, or singled out for unfair heightened scrutiny, or subjected to a double standard -- the suggestion being that a Democrat could get away with reminiscing about "wetbacks." It seems to me, though, that on the contrary R's get away with far more than they're gotcha-ed for.

Various and sundry Republicans are quoted to the effect that Don Young isn't their guy, and they're all being tarnished by the same brush. And in the particular case of immigration, it's true that some Republicans are less exclusing than "Wetback Don." However, most of the Rs who are "enlightened" on immigration merely have a more "enlightened" view of the importance to the U.S. economy of all that cheap labor, which comes doubly cheap because so many of the immigrant workers -- directly contrary to the myth of being benefits sponges -- don't claim any benefits at all despite all the taxes they pay.


In addition, Republicans who happen to be "includers" with respect to one unfavored group tend to be extra-exclusive with many of the others. So those who may hold arguably inclusive views with regard to, say, immigration, or LGBT equality, are apt to be viral excluders when it comes to, say, the "47%" of so-called "takers not makers." It's a weird world indeed where cynical paper-pushers who produce primarily "deals" that don't produce anything except big profits for themselves and their cronies are considered "makers" while people who do the actual work in our society are dismissed as "takers."

A favorite GOP-apologist theme, for example, is that they're victimized as the perpetrators of a "so-called" War on Women. But again, the best way to answer such objections is to stop waging war on women. During the 2012 campaign, for example, when R's found themselves stuck with the obscenely frothing abortion imbecilities of Senate nominees Todd Akin (Missouri) and Richard Mourdock (Indiana), Howie and I pointed out frequently that there was no difference whatsoever between their beliefs about abortion and the law and those of right-wing darling Paul Ryan. But Ryan, unlike the neanderthal Akin and Mourdock, knows how to put a smiley face on his ignorance and savagery.

If Akin or Mourdock were to try whistling a happy tune, the effect would be creepy. (I think it's important, thought, that we not ignore their pre-2012 electoral successes. They were every bit as creepy before, just not as indiscreet, or perhaps more important, no so brightly spotlit when they were being creepy.) To me, Paul Ryan and the less visibly crackpotty R's are even creepier when they pretend to be wise or just or courageous.

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At 7:58 PM, Anonymous me said...

"I'm running for office for Pete's sake, we can't have illegals."

- Mitt the Twit

Despite republicans' best efforts, most non-republicans are still allowed to vote. And to the party's horror, many non-repubs are neither white, nor male, nor straight.

They hate it, but they know they have to change (appearances at least). Even that ignoranus Bill O'Lielly can see the writing on the wall.

I'm certain that they intend the change to be temporary, but I doubt that they can pull it off.

Now if we could only cut back the power of the corporations...


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