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August 07, 2011 10:50 AM The worst thing the GOP has ever done?

By Steve Benen

I was on a radio show recently talking about the debt-ceiling hostage standoff and was asked whether this was the worst thing Republicans — or any major party, really — have ever done. The more I think about it, the more the question resonates with me.

My mind quickly went to the war in Iraq and all that’s associated with it — the casualties, the lies, the torture, the many costs — as the worst thing Republicans have ever done, but for the sake of conversation, let’s stick primarily to domestic politics.

Where would the GOP’s hostage fiasco rank on the list of modern Republican misdeeds?

The list, alas, isn’t brief. We could go through Hoover’s failures of the late 1920s, or perhaps Joe McCarthy’s crusade in the 1950s. Nixon’s crimes in the early 1970s are legendary, as are the many Reagan-era scandals — Iran-Contra, criminal fiasco at H.U.D., the Savings & Loan debacle — of the 1980s.

The more contemporary offenses are no doubt fresher in everyone’s minds: the Gingrich/Dole government shutdowns, the Clinton impeachment debacle, the Bush v. Gore scandal, the politicization of the Justice Department, the Plame scandal, the fiscal recklessness, the financial industry negligence that contributed to the 2008 crash, etc.

And while I’m open to suggestion on this, I still think there’s something unique about the Republicans holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage, threatening to impose a catastrophe on all of us, on purpose, to achieve a specific (and unnecessary) policy goal. What’s more, note that no elected GOP officials — literally, not one — ever stood up during this process to say, “Wait, this is wrong. We shouldn’t do this.” They all just went along.

Michael Cohen had an item a couple of weeks ago, before the debt-ceiling agreement was reached, noting:

It’s hard to think of any other situation in American history where a political party has taken such a scorched earth approach to policy-making.

One should be dismayed about what that means.

Agreed. This wasn’t just another partisan dispute; it was a scandal for the ages. It’s the kind of thing that should scar the Republican Party for many years to come.

Indeed, consider the apparent consequences. This one radical scheme has helped lead to the first-ever downgrade of U.S. debt; it has riled financial markets and generated widespread uncertainty about the stability of the American system; and it has severely undermined American credibility on the global stage. Indeed, in many parts of the world, observers haven’t just lost respect for us, they’re actually laughing at us.

If we stick to domestic politics since the Civil War, can any other major-party scandal match this? Nothing comes to mind.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

  • Frankly on August 07, 2011 11:03 AM:

    "Its the kind of thing that should scar the Republican Party for many years to come."

    And yet it is not and it won't. Why is isn't and won't is a more interesting story then kvetching about it. Why can't we get to the bottom of this?

  • K in VA on August 07, 2011 11:06 AM:

    I'm always hesitant about making "best of" or "worst of" or "top ten" or "bottom 10" lists, because anything that's lower on the list, or left off, seems to be reduced in seriousness, which may or may not be accurate.

    That said, yes, these are all Republican awfulnesses of great and shamelessly shameful import and harm to our country and to the world.

    But we still have to parcel out blame to Democrats who don't do enough to prevent these things.

    It's hard to see that in the near term, so let's go back to, say, McCarthy. How many Democrats in the Senate stood up and spoke out against him? How many Democrats worked against him in Wisconsin?

    I fear every second spend in attributing past and present blame (e.g., "If only Obama had pushed to raise the debt ceiling last December") takes vital time away from the hear-and-now, and from the coming battles to save what's left of the country.

  • DAY on August 07, 2011 11:06 AM:

    America has long had a jingoist streak.

    ( extreme patriotism, chauvinism, extreme nationalism, xenophobia, flag-waving; hawkishness, militarism, belligerence, bellicosity. )

    We once had a "Know Nothing Party". (still do, they just selected a different name)

    It took a long time from TR's "Great White Fleet" to "Black Hawk Down", but here we are; the laughing stock of the rest of the planet.

  • Andy Olsen on August 07, 2011 11:10 AM:

    To the point, we also have the disregard for respecting the democratic process as they tried to ram through their sweeping agenda. It wasn't just holding USA good name and creditworthiness hostage.

    There was no time for deliberation, for a transparent debate that would allow the American people to weigh in.

    The same people who said we needed to respect the process and slow-walk the Affordable Care Act, who said that bill had too many pages now wanted to ram through in a short, secretive process, the billionaires' agenda.

  • Hannah on August 07, 2011 11:10 AM:

    In addition to all of the phone calls I made to my Congressman (R, Idiot) about the debt ceiling I contacted him by email.

    After the president had signed the debt ceiling bill, I received an email from him. The subject was "Congress Passes Bipartisan Plan to Avoid Default" (bipartisan, ahem), and the contents of the email? Absolutely nothing. Just blank.

    Feel free to draw your own conclusion.

  • Domage on August 07, 2011 11:11 AM:

    Nothing scars Republicans. Ever. Under any circumstances. That's due in large part to 30 years of cowing the media with constant cries of "LIBERAL BIAS!!!11!"

    It's also due to the fact that the vast bulk of the eligible electorate really doesn't give a shit about politics, government, or policy. They cock their heads slightly every four years, ponder the eternal question, "Am I better off now?", reach no coherent conclusion and then a small percentage of them go pull the lever for the party they perceive as least destructive at that instant.

    So, sure, Republicans can destroy everything about this country. And get away with it. Because the people are stupid, slow, and absolutely thrilled to remain as ignorant as possible.

    Always remember that Republicans LOVE America more than any other party could possibly love America. They love everything about this country except its government, its established political system, and about 3/4 of the people who live here.

  • FRP on August 07, 2011 11:15 AM:

    Aside from following the script of the Democratic Party and its members are not quite human , I imagine there will be responses between the callous and the pious .
    Should expectations rise to self awareness or shame , these are hallucinations bordering the hysterical , or , you are already in Elysium .
    Please call me if any thought , word , or deed , falls off the soft bigotry styling of Saint McCain's "That one" in examining responsibility for lockstep Republican hostage taking , or plain vanilla extortionist politicking ...
    Call collect , between , There must be some kind of way out of here , and the hours getting late -
    At
    1 800 I DON'T BELIEVE IT

  • MikeBoyScout on August 07, 2011 11:18 AM:

    I'd think nominating George W. Bush would make the list.

    Let's not forget that yesterday, August 6h, is the 10th anniversary of when that miserable failure of a president was forewarned in the CIA's President's Daily Briefing with the "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US" memo.

    With that information the George W. Bush administration did nothing. Thousands of Americans were killed. The deadliest attack on continental US soil since the war of 1812.

    When questioned about the existence of such a warning to the George W. Bush administration they repeatedly claimed the CIA's PDB did not warn the President of a specific new threat but "contained historical information based on old reporting".

  • R. Porrofatto on August 07, 2011 11:19 AM:

    A real problem here is how the aptly described "low-information" voter will perceive this. Yesterday, my local headline news radio station described S&P's reason for the downgrade was that the "debt deal didn't go far enough," and that this was aimed at the White House & Obama. That was the amount of detail in its entirety -- no mention of S&P's criticism of lack of revenue or congressional intransigence, or any mention of Congress at all. The impression was that it was somehow Obama's responsibility that the deal "didn't go far enough."

    The story is similar on local TV news. People who read liberal blogs may know that the GOP/Tea Party is most to blame for the downgrade, but this is not how it's being portrayed to everybody else.

  • k l m on August 07, 2011 11:19 AM:

    Didn't Lindsay Graham point out that the whole process was screwed and that the GOP had made a big mistake?

  • sherifffruitfly on August 07, 2011 11:25 AM:

    "Its the kind of thing that should scar the Republican Party for many years to come."

    Unfortunately we white folks are still doing the voting, and it's unlikely we've changed our minds about certain things.

  • bleh on August 07, 2011 11:27 AM:

    Gotta admit, I've come down to the "democracies get the governments they deserve" PoV.

    I'd like to hear a little more fight out of the White House -- good article in the NY Times today about this BTW -- but I also understand what seems to be their belief that the "low-information voter" who hasn't already made up his/her mind will vote on the basis of simple emotional impression rather than facts, and that no amount of haranguing will create a more favorable such impression -- on balance -- for Obama.

  • SPrintF on August 07, 2011 11:27 AM:

    Steve, I think you moved the goal posts a little by excluding the Civil War era.

    The behavior of the current Republican party is strikingly similar to that of the pre-Civil War era Democratic party. For years prior to the War, the southern Democrats had used the threat of secession, the threat to actually dissolve the Union, to hammer through legislation that promoted slavery. (Compare the recent debt ceiling deal to the Compromise of 1850 and the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act.)

    The southern Democrats wielded their power by holding the entire country hostage.

    Another similarity: the actual process of secession began because the southern Democrats refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the newly elected president. Not by any policy enacted by Lincoln, mind you, but the mere election of a president not fully aligned with their interests. Seven states seceded during the interval between Lincoln's election and his inauguration.

    The current Republican party has demonstrated repeatedly that they simply do not recognize any Democratic president as legitimate. They would prefer to prevent a Democratic administration from governing at all than to work with it.

    The current political crisis in this country is the worst since the pre-Civil War era. I think we would do well to keep the Civil War, and its terrible cost, in mind as we ponder our present situation.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 07, 2011 11:31 AM:

    And yet,

    - the media blames in on both sides
    - Democrats won't go on attack

    We're fucked.

  • walt on August 07, 2011 11:34 AM:

    The question I ponder is whether we're in a situation now analogous to Weimar. Historical comparisons are always problematic but there's something about the zealotry and mendacity of current Republicans that reminds me of extremists in another era and country. As bad as previous Republican scandals have been, I never feared for my nation's well-being. We knew Nixon was a SOB but we didn't think he would stage a coup. We remember the Republican demagoguery of the Clinton impeachment but knew that they were overreaching. What's different today is that they're succeeding. Maybe the previous scandals lit the path to this particular hell, that we finally arrived at a point where the bad stars aligned and our last defenses were breached.

    I take no comfort in saying Republicans are traitors. I know Republicans on a personal basis who are fine people. But the toxicity of their cult has finally poisoned the taproot of democracy. I really think we're finished as a republic. I have no idea what's next.

  • John Groves on August 07, 2011 11:38 AM:

    Off topic, but: the biggest add on main page is a link to Newsmax - the Aftershock Survival Summit (or something close to that). WTF?!

  • David Tiffany on August 07, 2011 11:38 AM:

    If one were to follow the philosophical thread from the 1850's through today, one would consider that the current debt ceiling crisis is merely an extension of the attitudes and hostilities from the Civil War. The Tea Party is the 'new Confederacy,' anxious to overcome the Unionists.

  • jlt on August 07, 2011 11:40 AM:

    Interesting that the polls are showing that the repubs are to blame and if you add the baggers the the totals are in the 70% range...Keep to the truth ..they voter is getting it!

    Repub bagger hostage takers = terrorists!

  • truthbetold on August 07, 2011 11:45 AM:

    All that has been written by Mr. Benen are fine examples and let us not forget the right has just as long a list against the left and Democrats. The absolute worst thing that Republicans have done is installed an unreasonable sense of fear into the American psyche. They have systematically snuffed out hope and reason and well being.

  • stevio on August 07, 2011 11:47 AM:

    "It's the kind of thing that should scar the Republican Party for many years to come."

    Once you fall to the level of torture of other humans to achieve murky or no actionable results, you have finally lost the way, with your soul.

    After torture there IS no top ten worsts, no "can't imagine it getting any worse". When Obama and his team decided to turn a blind eye to torture and hold no one accountable, the soul of this country was lost.

    That it continues it's tumble into oblivion should surprise no one, least those among us lamenting that grievously inhumane decision.

    Obama and the rest deserve what they have begotten by letting the very people who are perpetrating this latest fiasco get away with the former. Not being held responsible for such insanity lit the way for more of the same. they knew they could get away with almost anything.

    Buckle up people. We are in for a hell of a future. Nauseating...

  • Grumpy on August 07, 2011 11:48 AM:

    Like MikeBoyScout, the first misdeed that comes to mind is what Al Franken called "Operation Ignore." But that looks bad mostly in retrospect, whereas you make the case that the GOP is now ignoring its misdeeds in real time.

  • Meah Bottoms on August 07, 2011 11:50 AM:

    The arm twisting in the middle of the night passage of Medicare D comes close.

    The worst scandal in American history is the theft of the presidency in 2000, with the Supreme Court debacle crowning King George.

  • Kathryn on August 07, 2011 11:53 AM:

    Having recently read Civil War history book "1862" by Adam Goodheart, I wholeheartedly endorse post by SPrintF, recommend book to all.

    This morning Rachel Maddow who is, to my way of thinking, a national treasure, along with Austin Goolsbee were excellent on Meet The Press. John Kerry labeled the S%P downgrade the Tea Party Downgrade earlier in the show. That said, the impact of their clarity will be negligible as the MSM goes to their fallback position of "both sides" ignoring, the plain as the nose on your face, conclusions in the S&P report. It's difficult to see a path forward that is sane. My vote for most treasonous action by fellow Americans goes equally to the secessionists of the Civil War (Dems at that time) and the current Republican Party of McConnell, Cantor and Boehner. I doubt history will judge those three well but that is cold comfort at the moment. Of course, they could be seen as heroes if the Texas School Board chooses the books.

  • SW on August 07, 2011 11:54 AM:

    I guess that the topic of the day is the debt debate, but I see no reason to limit ourselves to domestic policy. And when it comes to evil, the body count of the 2004 Republican presidential re-election campaign was the bloodiest re-election campaign since Richard Nixon's in 1972. It's the dead people really. You can limit yourselves to America dead if you wish. I find that somewhat repugnant. But it still stands.

  • kevo on August 07, 2011 11:54 AM:

    Informative post!

    In a free and liberty minded society, your post, Mr. Benen should be the lede of most major dailies! But, alas, some of the media is still searching for a "fair and balance" way to info-feed the masses!

    An open and honest dialog would lead many a person, no matter one's personal politics, to the simple conclusion the Republican brand has engaged in very bad behavior over the years, damaging our national interests along the way!

    The other side of this lede could focus on how, and even though, Democrats have provided nation-changing policy over these same years, their response to Republican "dirty tricks" has largely been ineffectual! -Kevo

  • TCinLA on August 07, 2011 12:00 PM:

    The behavior of the current Republican party is strikingly similar to that of the pre-Civil War era Democratic party.

    That's because it's the same bunch of Southernists doing it. Back before 1966, the Southernists were allied with the Democrats and attempted a complete takeover in the 20 years leading up to the Civil War. After the Democratic "treason" over civil rights, after 1966 the Southernists allied with the Republicans and then began taking them over, to where today they now run the party - and they are heading it in the same direction (over the cliff) that they did with the Democrats in 1850-61.

    The Southernists never learn. And we didn't smack them hard enough when we had the opportunity (an opportunity that could not be repeated today).

  • Big Mike! on August 07, 2011 12:02 PM:

    Just curious! What radio show were you on? I would have like to hear the interview. Thanks!

  • Anonymous on August 07, 2011 12:08 PM:

    Does the GOP have any new ideas at all?

    Does it exist only to direct federal money into the pockets of the wealthy white people, locally as well as nationally?

    Does it hold any hope for the future for young people?

    Show me one instance of 'disinterestedness' on the part of this white-minority rule party and I'll literally eat my hat.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 07, 2011 12:23 PM:

    @Anonymous: I had been saying for so long that Republicans had only two ideas for solutions: 1) tax cuts, and 2) deregulation.

    But clearly I've been wrong as Rick Perry has shown us recently. They now have another solution to the nation's problems: mass prayer.

    Repubicans are a resourceful bunch.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 07, 2011 12:25 PM:

    @Anonymous: I had been saying for so long that Republicans had only two ideas for solutions: 1) tax cuts, and 2) deregulation.

    But clearly I've been wrong as Rick Perry has shown us recently. They now have another solution to the nation's problems: mass prayer.

    Repubicans are a resourceful bunch.

  • Daniel Kim on August 07, 2011 12:46 PM:

    OK, I am sounding like a tinfoil hat kinda guy, but can you imagine a Republican president in the near future, maybe Rick Perry or (shudder) Bachmann, saying that we must cut the budget in half, or she will launch nuclear weapons?

    It used to be unthinkable, but now, I'm not so sure.

  • JM917 on August 07, 2011 1:06 PM:

    I fully agree with the commenters above (TCinLA, Kathryn, David Tiffany, SPrintF) that we are seeing a rerun of the crisis of the Union, 1850-1861. Only now it's not a sectional conflict but an ideological and social division that spans most parts of the country. (OK, the Tea Party and the Republican political base is mainly in the South, Midwest, and Rockies, but no region is exempt.) That relative lack of geographic focus makes the conflict all the more dangerous.

    The Republican Party that once used to share a common vision of national "ends" with the Democrats but differed mainly over means to achieve these goals is for all intents and purposes dead.

    Even before *the* Civil War, we went through this kind of ideological civil war between the 1790s and 1815--and we barely survived. Then, the struggle was between those who believed in extending the democratic promise of the American Revolution and those who feared democracy as the last stepping stone to anarchy, "mob rule," the "horrors of the French Revolution" (very much including "atheism"), and social and economic "leveling."

    And before THAT, we had the American Revolution, which was a civil war between those who came to believe in (small-r) republicanism and those who feared "anarchy" and "tyranny" if the American branch of the British monarchy was torn down.

    Getting back to the present, the Tea Party/Republican Party of today stands squarely in the historic tradition of the slaveholding secessionists of the 1850s, the democracy-fearing Federalists of 1790-1815, the fear-wracked and locally-oriented Antifederalists of 1787-89, and the Tories/Loyalists of the Revolutionary era. (Tricorn-hatted Tea Partiers who claim to revere our revolutionary and small-government "Jeffersonian" forebears literally don't have a clue of what was really happening back in those days. The nostalgia of many southern teabaggers for the Confederacy and for the "benign" institution of slavery is at least less hypocritical.)

    So in answer to your question, what kind of a record does the present-day Republican/Tea Party rack up in terms of historical "worstness"? What we're now seeing is a reversion to the some of the most dangerous and explosive conflicts that have torn America apart over the past 250 years--and the GOP stands squarely on the side of destructiveness and turmoil.

    How long--if ever--will it be before the majority of Americans wake up to this danger?

    Given what passes for historical understanding and responsible behavior by the mass media in today's America, I am terribly pessimistic.

  • Goldilocks on August 07, 2011 1:09 PM:

    The worst thing the GOP has done is to propagate the myth that cutting taxes increases economic growth and job creation.

  • neil b on August 07, 2011 1:11 PM:

    Maybe the plutocracy said they'd never let their claws out of the Republican Party after Theodore Roosevelt (whence the term "progressive", an irony lost on todays teahacklicans.) Of course they hated the other Roosevelt, but for one of their own to turn traitor ...

  • Goldilocks on August 07, 2011 1:17 PM:

    Sorry, that should have read:

    The worst thing the GOP has done is to propagate the myth that cutting taxes on the wealthy increases economic growth and job creation.

  • rrk1 on August 07, 2011 1:26 PM:

    Seen from an external perspective in Europe, the debt scam that has just been perpetrated on the US by the Rethugs, the Demowusses, and Republican Barack Obama, is marvelous political theater. The entire American political system is dysfunctional, the term democracy no longer applies to this country, nor is there any real sense of patriotism among the chattering classes.

    Those of us who thought we were voting for a progressive/liberal in Obama now know that he is neither. He isn't even a Democrat. He isn't even a Rockefeller Republican, which is what Clinton was. Obama will preside over the demise of what is left of the New Deal, enabled by a cloke of racism and apologists who prefer the Emperor's new clothes to reality.

  • Elie on August 07, 2011 1:44 PM:

    So what are WE going to do about it? Yeah, blame Obama, blame the Democrats, but what are WE going to do. Big talkers like rrk1, troll, just nicely lays it at Obama's feet like the right hired thug he is, but what are those who care about progressive values going to do?

    In Europe and Iran, Egypt and now Syria, people got into the streets to express their beliefs. Anyone here done anything (me included), except send heated emails or letters? Do you see a sea of thousands of progressives demonstrating our support for progressive policy? Sure, the tea partiers would show up, but who cares? They have the Republicans and to some extend Democrats, bending to their will in fear.

    What are WE going to do about it. Mailing it in no longer counts as citizen action...

  • j on August 07, 2011 1:50 PM:

    Why do people like John McCain (on Meet the Press) say the President did not put forth a plan?
    What was it then that Boehner walked out on with cold feet because it contained revenue?
    Of course David Gregory would never push back on anything like that.

  • Alan Wilkov on August 07, 2011 2:01 PM:

    I'll go with the Watergate scandal, breathtaking in the scope of corruption and the lack of regard for our Democracy. The outright theft of the 2000 election, stopping the count by force, and the politically motivated Supreme Court decision. Right up there with those two travestys would be this current hostage taking situation over the debt ceiling. Incredibly , brazen and downright stupid.

  • Lee A. Arnold on August 07, 2011 2:13 PM:

    What a difference a downgrade makes!

    Before: Obama caved and didn't stick to principles; most of his party furious with him.

    After: the Tea Party is so uninformed and politically uncompromising as to be un-American.

    If they had accepted Obama's offer, all would have been well (S&P report, page 4, bottom).

    It will soon be realized by everyone with a functioning brain that the Boehner-Cantor-Teas own the debacle.

    Only 2 questions remain: (1) How long before senior Republicans start leaving their party; and (2) How long before the Limpbagh-Murdocracy enters a terminal psychological crisis.

    Historically, the end of Republican Party.

    Next up, for those concerned about the future of the United States: SHORT-TERM SPENDING IS NOT THE LONG-TERM PROBLEM. Government planning is necessary for healthcare.

  • Elie on August 07, 2011 2:17 PM:

    Seriously folks, is anyone seeing the S&P move as a very aggressive attempt to take control of our political system? Who cares whether they think its sloppy or this or that? Are they saying we now need to account to them for how the system functions and its outcomes? What's next? They don't like an electoral result and threaten to downgrade. What they did is to me, a very very iffy and dangerous precedent and I believe that they should be strongly called on it. Its outrageous to me on its face, to downgrade our country's credit rating due to polical sausage making.. by what right do they interfere? They are not elected, they are invisible and unaccountable to the public and yet insist on the process to go a certain way -- even to naming goals -- to cut spending... they doing that to other countries in the west?

  • Kansachusetts on August 07, 2011 2:27 PM:

    You can't say anything too strong in condemnation of the Republican Party. The GOP is despicable today.

    But I'm looking at my party, the Democratic Party, and my president, Barack Obama, and the real tragedy here is not that the Republicans are mad, it's that Obama and party leaders don't know how to fight madmen.

  • lou on August 07, 2011 2:28 PM:

    McCain selecting Palin for VP make the list? Shoulda.

  • PTate in MN on August 07, 2011 2:40 PM:

    What is the worst thing the GOP has done? Wow, such a long list to choose from, so little space....

    Certainly, their willingness to refuse to raise the debt ceiling is high on the list, but for me, serious contenders would include Nixon's cynical and vicious "Southern strategy" or the day when Ronald Reagan declared that "government is not the solution to our problem; our problem is the government" and people applauded.

    Every destructive thing that the Republicans have done in the last 30 years can be traced back to one of these. Democracy? Government of, by and for the people? Constitution? HA! Government is the problem! We're the good guys, the heroes, because we want to destroy the problem.

  • j on August 07, 2011 2:44 PM:

    Right after the debt ceiling vote passed, there was a dinner for the tea baggers, they celebrated what they had done and laid out the next targets, they did not seem to understand the seriousness of the whole debacle.Let's hope the country wakes
    up to who has taken over the country, the tea baggers did not do this alone they are very heavily financed by the corporate shadow groups and are too stupid to know how they are being used.

  • Lanco Yokel on August 07, 2011 2:48 PM:

    The question is invalid on its face. It's as if you paid too much for a car and then asked if the deal was the worst thing the car salesman had ever done. If you were stupid enough to take the deal why are you trying to blame the guy who offered it? Obama and Democrats in Congress took the deal when Obama had the power to stop all the nonsense, invoke the 14th Amendment and thereby render all the Republican demands meaningless. His political cowardice created the situation just as much as the Republican "hostage-taking" strategy.

  • PTate in MN on August 07, 2011 2:48 PM:

    Lee A. Arnold: I think you are correct. Even the slow-learning Americans will figure out that the downgrade has to be blamed on Republicans. Add to that, the Republican's openly thuggish behavior as governors and, I agree that "Only 2 questions remain: (1) How long before senior Republicans start leaving their party; and (2) How long before the Limpbagh-Murdocracy enters a terminal psychological crisis."

    All we need is a simple majority of people in every Congressional district in the country, 51%, to vote for the Democratic choice.

  • P.H.I.L.L.Y on August 07, 2011 3:23 PM:

    You would think lying us into war and the 100,000 different reasons they had for that war would scar them for a generation.

    Unfortunately America has a population of 50 million stupid people in it.

  • joel hanes on August 07, 2011 3:35 PM:

    I'm with steveio:

    deliberatly instituting a national policy of physical torture is the worst stain on our nation since chattel slavery.

    Second would be the brazen theft of the 2000 presidential election.

    Third: Iran-Contra was much worse than Watergate, because maintaining a rump military force in defiance of direct Congressional legislation forbidding such action and with extra-Congressional funding is a violation of the oath to protect and preserve Constitutional government.

  • Anonymous on August 07, 2011 3:44 PM:

    @ Lee A.

    Before: Obama caved and didn't stick to principles; most of his party furious with him.

    After: the Tea Party is so uninformed and politically uncompromising as to be un-American.

    Well said.

    Let's not forget that the Before was made up of Dems and their circular firing squad. All this talk of how Obama should have invoked the 14th amendment would have led had he done so to a constitutional crisis and impeachment proceedings.....the very things the S&P is railing against.

    When will Dems trust Obama's judgement and get that he's two steps ahead of them.

  • Goldilocks on August 07, 2011 3:53 PM:

    What @Elie says about S&P: ".. by what right do they interfere? They are not elected, they are invisible and unaccountable to the public.." - is an exact description, when multiplied ten-fold, of the American Legislation Exchange Committee (ALEC) and its extremely shady and disturbing activity.

  • Kansachusetts on August 07, 2011 3:57 PM:


    Anonymous says: When will Dems trust Obama's judgement and get that he's two steps ahead of them.

    Hey, Anonymous, you just keep marching two steps behind Obama. He'll keep marching two steps behind Boehner, who is one step behind the Tea Party.

    The rest of Democrats feel this way: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/opinion/sunday/what-happened-to-obamas-passion.html?pagewanted=4&ref=opinion

  • James in LA on August 07, 2011 3:57 PM:

    The tea party was formed for 2 reasons:

    1. To distract us from the previous criminal enterprise posing as a presidency, the former head of which has admitted on national television he gave the order to torture. He remains free in Dallas;

    2. To disassemble our democratic institutions such that the waiting theocratic oligarchy can be ushered in. The creation of multiple sets of facts in place of our shared reality sets the stage for the charismatic that will bring it about.

    Focus on these if you want real, lasting change.

  • Lanco Yokel on August 07, 2011 3:58 PM:

    All we need is a simple majority of people in every Congressional district in the country, 51%, to vote for the Democratic choice.
    Obviously a commenter who is unfamiliar with the concepts of "gerrymander" and "safe district." How many Republican controlled state legislatures are redistricting for the next round of elections?

    All this talk of how Obama should have invoked the 14th amendment would have led had he done so to a constitutional crisis and impeachment proceedings.....the very things the S&P is railing against.
    Rather one impeachment fiasco than the repeated "what do we get for this increase in the ceiling?" we can expect for the foreseeable future. Impeach, fine, no conviction in the Senate (although who knows, Obama might cut a deal with McConnell for his own conviction), then done. I don't recall any downgrade threats when Clinton was impeached, do you?

  • BBlanford on August 07, 2011 4:01 PM:

    It seems to me, the ultimate Republican position is "Government is bad ..." (except in the bedroom of course ...). So when the US credit rating is downgraded -- they can point to it as proof that they are right -- and people will join their cause. They can point to corruption and incompetency (under Republican administrations) -- and people will join their cause. They can point to deadlock and people voting against positions they advocated for 5 minutes earlier -- and people will join their cause.

    Democrats have a harder position -- that "Government serves the greater good." D's have to make sure that government actual works, so in the face of our latest deficit discussion, of course it was the D's that caved -- otherwise we would have defaulted & the R's would have said, "Government is irresponsible ..." and people would have joined their cause.

    In the battle of good versus evil, I give odds to evil. All evil has to do is to suggest that the status quo doesn't work.

  • Bobfr on August 07, 2011 4:02 PM:

    My letter to the President, 7 August 2011. For those of you who have twitter accounts, perhaps you will find the suggested tweet worthy of attention. I've forwarded copies of the letter to VP Biden, Leader Reid and Leader Pelosi. As always, no pride of authorship or need for attribution - feel free to use any or all of it as you think useful for our just cause.
    Onward!

    -----------
    Good day Mr President,

    Once again thank you for your bold, persistent, empathetic and productive leadership - despite the blatantly obvious intransigence of the Radical Republican Party.

    That intransigence, as you know, is highly motivated by two things - you being President, and 40 years of their unrelenting pursuit of crushing the social compact that makes America great.

    That intransigence is their creed, a creed born of avarice and nurtured by an unquenchable desire to have government of the few, for the few. The few being the wealthy.

    We all know that.

    What to do about it - besides re-electing you and a strong Democratic Congress.

    Well, perhaps its time to start asking all Americans to call those they pay - their Congressional Representatives - and demand that they take zero tax payer paid vacations until the unemployment rate in America is below 7 % and the 180 tax exemptions identified by the Bowles Simpson commission are rescinded.

    The fact is that linking jobs with closing tax exemptions for the wealthy and super successful corporations are coherent economically and politically.

    And, its an economic and political concept that any American can understand and its even tweetable - '7% or less unemployment, end welfare for the rich, then you can vacation, Congress.'

    I'm sure you've already thought through all of this, so please accept the suggestion as nothing more than a citizen offering their albeit limited perspective.

    Yes.We.Can. ... DO.More.Together!

    Bob

  • joel hanes on August 07, 2011 4:14 PM:

    Interesting that no one has yet mentioned Karl Rove's brazen defiance of Congressional subpoena. I'm not aware of a precedent.

    Far worse than lying to Congress, no matter what the subject of the inquiry.

  • ifthethunderdontgetya on August 07, 2011 4:17 PM:

    My letter to the President:
    -----------------

    Dear Right-wing A-hole,

    Thanks for nothing. Although I know you can successfully rely on low-information voters like Bobfr for your reelection, please be aware that this voter, who voted for you in both the 2008 primary and general elections, will not do so ever again.

    Without right-wing enablers such as yourself, the G.O.P. would never have been able to damage this nation to the extent it has.

    And I'll never forgive you for putting the looting of Social Security on the table, Mr. Alleged Democrat. That's just domestic policy. Your foreign policy justly deserves the moniker "Bush's 3rd Term".

    And that's not good.
    ~

  • Kane on August 07, 2011 4:31 PM:

    The worst thing the GOP has ever done?

    There are so many scandals to choose from and the list is quite long.

    Perhaps a better question to ask is, What is the best thing the GOP has done in the past 40 years? What single policy are they entirely responsible for that Americans wake up to everyday and give great thanks for?

    These are far more difficult questions to answer, but at least the list to choose from is much smaller.

  • John on August 07, 2011 4:41 PM:

    I'd agree the debt ceiling fiasco is a disaster for the ages, one that, if our media functioned properly, should have destroyed what's left of the Republican party.

    However, even taking that and the illegal Iraq "war" into account, for sheer, catastrophic monetary waste, human misery and sheer ineptitude I'd vote for the Republican-created, 40 year long War on (Some) Drugs. Not only has it utterly failed in its "mission," it was in large part responsible for the police state the U.S. has become.

  • Southern on August 07, 2011 4:44 PM:

    The modern Republican party has repeatedly demonstrated that it is hostile to the United States as a nation, to its values and to its success as a going concern. Therefore, for our nation to succeed, it is imperative that the Republican party, as an institution, be destroyed. The one silver lining to the Tea Party is that it may lead to a split within the Republican party, and its ultimate replacement by something else. That "something else" may not be better, but it could hardly be worse. But significant political pressure from the President and from Democrats must also be exerted. They wanted a war--let's make it a war, fight a fierce political game and destroy them!

  • DJ on August 07, 2011 4:44 PM:

    So, wouldn't failing to vote for Obama in 2012, as opposed to the right-wing maniac the Republicans put up, make one a "right-wing enabler?" Or merely a spoiled smart-ass who takes his ball and jacks and goes home?

  • delNorte on August 07, 2011 4:48 PM:

    Call me cynical, but I think the GOP still has a ways to go before we see the worst they have to offer. Pair the evils of racism and the love of money, and you have a pretty potent and destructive machine.

    My only hope is that they turn on themselves and self-destruct before they take the country down with them.

  • Grumpy on August 07, 2011 4:54 PM:

    lou... McCain selecting Palin for VP was the *best* thing a Republican has done for the country. At least, as of Nov. 2008, it had paid off. It's itched a little since then, and might bite us in 2012, but on balance, it worked out for the best.

  • Speed on August 07, 2011 5:15 PM:

    Maybe someone has said it already, but the worst thing the GOP ever did was not letting the South secede from the Union back in 1861. They shoulda let the bastards go.

  • T2 on August 07, 2011 5:21 PM:

    I'm with Kane............what exactly has the GOP done of value?
    Watergate?
    Reaganomics?
    Two iraq wars?
    Looking the other way as Bin Laden attacks?
    Tax cuts for Rich ?
    Great Recession?

    Not much in the way of success, huh?

  • b on August 07, 2011 5:26 PM:

    I think what distinguishes this debacle from the other scandals listed is that it was so utterly unnecessary. Never before have we had a party so willing to pointlessly sink the ship of state over what is, after all, an imaginary crisis. Yes, McCarthy was willing to go ape-shit over imaginary Communist subversion, but he wasn't risking the nation (and world's) economy over it. Yes, Shrub was willing to attack imaginary WMDs, but you could see there was tremendous upside in war profiteering for his cronies involved. Hoover didn't have the benefit of decades of macroeconomic theory since, and the work of Keynes.

    The deficit didn't matter to the GOP until it could be used as a political weapon, and it still doesn't matter except as a political weapon, which is why revenue increases are unacceptable to them. They don't really want to solve the problem. But they ARE willing to use it as the pretext for destroying the international financial credibility their forebears worked so hard to create in the post-war era.

    With the possible exception of the Clinton impeachment, none of the past scandals has been so purely about political power, and even then the stability and safety of the world's economy was off-limits.

  • joel hanes on August 07, 2011 5:33 PM:

    what exactly has the GOP done of value?

    Clean Air Act extensions 1970 Nixon
    Clean Water Act 1972 Nixon
    EPA 1970 Nixon

    Title IX 1970 Nixon

    I would have to say that Title IX may in some ways be the most important: an enormous and under-appreciated progressive strideover the course of a generation, it has broadened our cultures gender role norms dramatically.

  • ifthethunderdontgetya on August 07, 2011 5:41 PM:

    DJ on August 07, 2011 4:44 PM:

    So, wouldn't failing to vote for Obama in 2012, as opposed to the right-wing maniac the Republicans put up, make one a "right-wing enabler?" Or merely a spoiled smart-ass who takes his ball and jacks and goes home?

    Remember when Bush tried to sink Social Security by privatizing, it, DJ?

    Now watch Hopey McChangeless get the job done. He's relying on you to vote for him even while he pays off his Wall Street pals with your Social Security.
    ~

  • JoAnn C on August 07, 2011 5:50 PM:

    Worst thing GOP has done: apparent government involvement in 9-11 to create a "false flag" attack - excuse for attacking in the Middle East. The more believable things I've read about 9-11 occurring with government knowledge/cooperation: demolition explosives in the 3rd World Trade building, which fell the same day; possible missile attacking Pentagon instead of plane; the convenient stand-down of air protection that same day; many discrepancies.

  • Mike Lamb on August 07, 2011 6:19 PM:

    iftheunderdontgetya--so if Obama wants to gut Social Security, why isn't it done yet? He's got a House that is more than willing, and enough Blue Dogs in the Senate, plus the GOP to easily get it done. Or maybe you are full of it?

  • Bob M on August 07, 2011 6:49 PM:

    Brilliant series of posts, Steve. Your voice should be heard at the national level in the US.

  • Bonnie on August 07, 2011 7:18 PM:

    When you look at the hostage taking and its results, it is tantamount to treason. It was at the very least unpatriotic.

  • PTate in MN on August 07, 2011 7:24 PM:

    Lanco Yokel: "Obviously a commenter who is unfamiliar with the concepts of "gerrymander" and "safe district." How many Republican controlled state legislatures are redistricting for the next round of elections?"

    You're referring to me, there, and let me assure you that I am completely familiar with the concepts of "gerrymander" and "safe district." I also am completely aware that Republican legislatures are trying to secure Republicans seats forever...not to mention suppress voter turnout and disenfranchise as many Democratic voters as they can. They are thugs.

    But what we are seeing in the Republican party right now is such a lurch to the wacko fringe that even Ronald Reagan couldn't get elected as a Republican. Given this poisoning of the Republican brand, a lot of people who have been voting Republican may not vote Republicans in the future, even in gerrymandered districts. They are not all idiots. I repeat, all we need is 51% in every congressional district in the nation.

    And, truth to tell, we don't even need 100% of the 438 Congressional districts. We just need 51% of those, 61% in the Senate. I'm not saying it will be easy, but it needs to be our goal.

  • Neil B on August 07, 2011 8:15 PM:

    The GOP would have brought it all down, some admitted in effect they did act like terrorists. Here, from http://campaign2012.washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/wp-how-conservatives-turned-world-upside-down:

    "More on that from a Tea Party perspective, from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah:
    Chaffetz, who voted against both Boehners first proposal and the final bill, said he was well aware of how the leadership had used his and others willingness to let a default happen as a negotiating chip, and said he didnt mind at all. We werent kidding around, either, he said. We would have taken it down.

    Upside down, indeed.

  • Cybrguy on August 07, 2011 8:42 PM:

    Fortunately (in this way only) the teaparty is doing everything it can to make sure we get back the House. Being caught up in their insular world where they only listen to each other and faux news they seem to be missing the fact that they are being rejected in the polls better than 2 to 1. They seem to have no concept of the damage they are doing themselves.

    Now if the Democrats could just use the gifts of ideological vomit coming from the teaparty while whatever is left of the real republican party remains paralyzed and cowering in fear, we could get a good head start on this campaign. The ads have been writing themselves for weeks with great art and soundbites. All it takes are some Democrats with some balls.

    If you need some help with the ads, contact Alan Grayson.

  • J. Frank Parnell on August 07, 2011 9:19 PM:

    When it comes to worst historical crimes of the Republicans, don't forget the pro-fascist Hitler friendly isolationism of the late 30's/early 40's.

  • T2 on August 07, 2011 9:51 PM:

    Joel, points well taken. However, those things were done 40 years ago, by a president that will go down in history as a criminal, a Republican criminal. But as GOP criminals go, I'm not sure he outranks George W. Bush.

  • The Oracle on August 07, 2011 9:56 PM:

    Republican supply-side economic policies almost crashed the U.S. and world economies in 2008. Republicans tried to finish the job last week. And Republicans aren't done yet. Further hostage-taking situations will surely arise. Last week, fanatical Republicans got 98 percent of what they demanded...and still weren't satisfied. America is living on borrowed time.

  • jcricket on August 07, 2011 10:12 PM:

    the biggest 'scandal' of the republican party is, in my mind, the SC decision to put GWB in the White House.

    Without this, there would have been no 9/11 because of a complacent asshole as president and a know-nothing as National Security Advisor, no WMD lie to try to take over the oilfields of Iraq, no torture memos, no FISA, N Korea would not have gotten Nukes, Wall Street may not have been so unregulated that it nearly took down the world economy in 2008.

  • gonzo on August 07, 2011 10:26 PM:

    House and Senate since 2006 = Democrat
    Presidency since 2008 = Democrat...
    Problems with the U.S. =Republican?

  • julie newalmar on August 07, 2011 10:32 PM:

    Here's an excellent summary of how our Teabag Republic is viewed in Berlin and they're not laughing:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,778396,00.html

  • yellowdog on August 07, 2011 10:35 PM:

    So many you left out...
    -Teapot Dome
    -Spanish American War
    -FHA scandals of the 1950s
    -Nixon - just Nixon in general (I know - you mentioned him, but, really, he deserves a list all his own.)
    -Clarence Thomas
    -providing a home for relics like Strom Thurmond, and all they stood for
    -Sarah Palin
    -Katrina response
    -Greenspan - Dems share the blame for him, but he belongs here
    -Cheney - another guy worth a list of his own
    -Just for variety - Mark Foley, Larry Craig, John Ensign, and Bob Livingston

  • Paul Papanek on August 07, 2011 10:41 PM:

    Regarding other historical examples where one party deliberately pushed an initiative for political gain, knowing it would hurt America -

    Agree, hard to think of anything in the recent past quite like the debt ceiling debacle. Going back before the Civil War, however, we had the "Tariff of Abominations" -- the brainchild of one of America's wickedest leaders (Martin Van Buren) - who pushed the Tariff, knowing it would hurt the economy. He didn't care. He figured to get political juice out of it.

    And did.

    Are there parallels to the present? Looks that way: if the Republicans hurt the economy, they figure to improve their chances to retake the White House.

  • C. P. Zilliacus on August 07, 2011 10:42 PM:

    PTate in MN wrote:

    You're referring to me, there, and let me assure you that I am completely familiar with the concepts of "gerrymander" and "safe district." I also am completely aware that Republican legislatures are trying to secure Republicans seats forever...not to mention suppress voter turnout and disenfranchise as many Democratic voters as they can. They are thugs.

    I don't dispute any of the above, but I think that many of the voters who came out to vote for then-Senator Obama in 2008 did not bother to go to the polls in 2010. According to this site, the turnout in 2008 was over 132,500,000. In 2010, the turnout was somewhat over 90,500,000. Keep in mind that the NRA members, the Bible-thumpers and the followers of Limbaugh and Beck always go to the polls, and it becomes pretty obvious why the Republic Party scored such a large victory in 2010.

  • PeterDC on August 07, 2011 10:57 PM:

    I remember when the old 'worst thing'was living by the dictum "Rule or Ruin". The refinement - Rule AND Ruin - seems worse to me.

  • Grumpy on August 07, 2011 11:04 PM:

    joel hanes... Good effort, but what good deeds have Republicans done *by themselves*? This would have to be something where a liberal would say, in retrospect, "Oops. They were right; I should've supported them at the time." I'm drawing a blank. My first thought was the ADA, but Dems supported that.

    JoAnn C... "many discrepancies" do not a coherent conspiracy theory make. Indeed, there are even more discrepancies with the "false flag" theory. To wit, why demolish WTC7? Wouldn't the conspirators have been satisfied with wrecking the Twin Towers? Did they think the extra destruction would add extra rhetorical oomph in the case for war? Unlikely, since nobody went to war over WTC7. Nobody even remembers that it fell, except for conspiracy theorists looking for discrepancies.

  • Mike Lamb on August 07, 2011 11:11 PM:

    Gonzo--Correction, House = Republican since Nov. 2010. Otherwise you got it right--US problems come from the GOP. Thanks for confirming what we already know.

  • Kenneth Almquist on August 08, 2011 12:40 AM:

    Grumpy: "Good effort, but what good deeds have Republicans done *by themselves*?"

    Given that Republicans have been able to run government by themselves for only six of the past forty years (2001 through 2006), that's pretty restrictive. Even if you drop the requirement and just look at all Republican initiatives, there doesn't seem to be much. Post Nixon, the only one I could come up with is the Americans with Disabilities Act. which you already mentioned.

    I suppose that if you asked a Republican, she might credit Reagan with ending stagflation or winning the Cold War, but Carter deserves credit for the former (he appointed Volker), and George F. Kennan deserves more credit than anyone else for winning the Cold War. Airline deregulation is a policy that you might have expected Republicans to implement, but it was Carter who made it happen.

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  • boatboy_srq on August 08, 2011 5:03 AM:

    I had to do some long hard thinking after reading this before I posted anything.

    It seems to me that what is most egregious about the Right's behavior is not one single act in particular, a but an ongoing trend. That trend has two facets: 1) the deification of ownership and all the (presumed) rights thereunder; a fixation on Divine support and approbation.

    Let me explain. As prior posters have noted, the current atmosphere is merely a revision of antebellum Southern strategies: requirement that their demands be met, obstruction of any policies except their own and general cries of "harassment" and "discrimination" if their requirements are somehow not met.

    Prior to the Civil War, those behaviors were countered by the threat of secession; following the Civil War that ultimatum has not been available or useful. One can point out the many moments when one Southern state or other - usually Texas - has talked about seceding since then, but the talk has been empty rhetoric for two reasons: 1) the South now knows that the Union wouldn't stand for it now any more than they did 160 years ago; 2) the South is far too depedent on federal largesse to attempt an independent existence.

    Since the Civil War, however, though the political dynamic has changed, the attitudes that fostered earlier arguments have not. The South remains fixated on both the accumulation and aggregation of wealth by those most able (or at least privately least moral) and the Divine Rightness of their cause. One hears in the "States' Rights" language of the region echoes of the defenses of slavery and the presumption that capital has the right to own the labor it employs outright. One only need look at the arguments used to shred "entitlements," minimum wage laws, employee protections and the like to see how much Rightwing society and Rightwing business yearn for the good old days when one bought one's workers - or else when one was bought by one's "employer." "Voter fraud" is the current iteration of the mindset that made slaves 3/5 of a vote and gave their franchise to their owners. Race and gender are but secondary considerations to the primary concept that a(hetero Caucasian)n individual has the right to own those (s)he employs and that free persons who fall into the categories formerly associated with slavery are valueless and unworthy simply because of that freedom.

    Conversely, the modern "Free Market" economics are a rebranding of the concept that property (land, materiel, means of production and the labor necessary to produce commodities) is paramount. This - the "deification of ownership" if you will - drives much of Rightwing policy. It is instrumental in the taxation debate; it hampers discussions of regulation for the common weal; and it is the subtext of every pro-business and pro-capital proposal the Right presents. Again, key aspects are the "death tax" meme, the "anti-business" arguments against EPA, OSHA and other regulatory bodies, and at the moment the budget debate.

    The budget debate in particular has special resonance for the Right: debt is a sign of unworthiness, especially when used to support those "unworthy" of aid (see my first point); for a nation to be truly Righteous it must first be self-sufficient unless it has need to defend itself from outside threats. This is the foundation for the tax-cutting mania alongside massive Defense spending: preserving those parts of the Union they revere whilst starving those among us they deem unworthy of support. It is also the foundation of events such as the Katrina recovery effort or the (initial) Indonesian tsunami relief, and the driving force between the simultaneous dependence on illegal immigration for agricultural, service and technical labor and condemnation of that labor pool.

    The "Rightness" of their cause has equally existed throughout this struggle. There is no other logical explanation for the perpetuation of the same Southern-centred Xtian philosophies that supported slavery and the aggregation of wealth to the landowners of the antebellum Confederacy. The change we have seen of late - the "personal salvation" so many attest - is at once a polite veneer over the underlying assumption that only the Elect (read: wealthy) are worthy, and crass marketing to those accepting that "personal salvation" as bait for them to accept the larger narrative. This - the "Divine" inspiration of their philosophy - immediately and irrevocably diminishes the foundation of the Republic to the creation of Man, who, being fallible, is unable to attain the perfection they seek. That the "perfection" they seek is fatally by itself own very definition is invisible to them simply from the immediacy of its Source and its presumption of PWE-inspired nomination of the Elect promoting it.

    The Right seeks the same things it always has. The difference over the last century or so is that secession - and thereby the power to enact those visions it cherishes - is no longer available as a realistic option. Instead, abandoning the "us for ourselves" perspective, they seek to subvert the entire Union and remake it in its entirety in the image of what they desire. It is no longer a North v. South struggle, with one side seeking its own liberty to follow its own principles on its own soil. It has become, rather, an all-or-nothing struggle for the possession - "salvation," if you will - of the Union as a whole. Any single act - however egregious - pales when compared to the struggle - and the goal.


    ... and Captcha says "tortie else." That seems right in line with the Congressional GOP these days.

  • Bartender on August 08, 2011 8:40 AM:

    The worst thing? I would still have to go with the Bush vs Gore SCOTUS ruling - a Republican led ruling. This just set into motion a spiraling downfall of the US both domestically and internationally that will take years if not decades, if ever, to recover.

  • max on August 08, 2011 8:58 AM:

    The worst thing the GOP has ever done is the eight years of the George W. Bush administration. As Lindsay Graham once said, the Tea Party is unsustainable. Its popularity was low and now its in the toilet as most Americans realize what it is and the effect it just had on all of us. Bush and his neocon buddies were the real GOP disaster.

  • JM917 on August 08, 2011 9:15 AM:

    @ boatboy_srq:

    Thank you for a very careful and penetrating analysis. Living as I do in the South, I can say that the evidence for what you diagnose is all around us--but not just down here. The "southernization" of the United States is a fact of growing (and, I would add, ominous) significance.

    That shift is manifesting itself in our current politics (with the southern-based GOP spreading its influence far beyond this region), in de-industrialization and the decline of union labor, in the dumbing-down of educational standards and the growing contempt for scientific expertise, in the ever-growing cult of violent mass sports and fawning celebrity-worship (of course not invented just by the South, but certainly central to southern life today), and in the dominance of religion by an especially ignorant and self-righteous variety of personal-salvation religion (as opposed to any religious impulses with a social conscience or that criticize the worship of Mammon).

    The South is indeed rising again. And that is driving many of the worst excesses of today's Republican Party.

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