Friday, January 30, 2009

Leader of the Pack

As of this moment, two ballots have been cast in the battle for the RNC leadership position and the (current) top two candidates, Michael Steele and incumbent Mike Duncan, are tied with 48 votes apiece. You need 85 votes to win the chairmanship. So the official Republican party is still wandering in the wilderness without any clear leadership. But wait . . . Doesn't the behavior of the Republican congressmen in their vote on the stimulus bill show that leadership clearly exists? Who is the man behind the curtain? None other than Rush Limbaugh who openly wished for the Obama administration to fail and daily exhorts Congress to vote against any Democratic proposals at every opportunity. Congressmen John Boehner, House Minority Leader, and Eric Cantor, House Minority Whip, made it clear to their membership, even before the meeting with President Obama, that they were to stick together and all vote against the stimulus, while picking out a gripe list of small budget items in the bill to complain vigorously about to the media, which, of course just repeated these claims without further investigation. The results are in, zero Republican votes in the House for the stimulus bill. They all followed their leader behind the curtain, Rush Limbaugh, like lambs led to slaughter. Boehner and Cantor then stole the thunder from the 244-188 passage of the bill by cornering the media to announce their victory in maintaining perfect discipline among their members. And it is not just the stimulus bill that the Republicans are fighting tooth and nail. They have also almost unanimously opposed both the digital TV delay and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay legislation. Today Eugene Robinson writes that the vote on the stimulus bill was a "triumph of discipline over reason, of doctrine over observation." Here is Stephen Colbert's take on the "Audacity of Nope":



The Republican lambs must all have blinders on as well preventing them from reading the news, unfiltered by their "leadership." Apparently they remain unaware that they are now an extreme minority in this country. Nate Silver's analysis of the Gallup report on its survey of political party affiliation by voters at the state level shows that "just five states, collectively containing about 2 percent of the American population, have statistically significant pluralities of adults identifying themselves as Republicans." This is the base that the Republicans in Congress are aiming to please. Nate Silver has again put his ability to visualize data to good use to show exactly how this shift in American opinion and party identification has played out in recent elections. The Democrats have picked up large numbers of seats in the most "centrist" districts in the country.

The Republicans are so busy demanding that Democrats agree with them that they have not taken the time to look at what has happened to themselves. They are not a very self-reflective bunch, these lambs. They have a short list of party icons but they have been shortening the quotations used in sound bites for so long that they have entirely changed their meaning by removing them from their context. This situation is shown in detail by an Op-Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times by Mickey Edwards, former Republican congressman and a founder of the conservative Heritage Foundation, titled Reagan wouldn't recognize this GOP. Edwards gives as an example:
"Reagan, who spent 16 years in government, actually said this:

"In the present crisis," referring specifically to the high taxes and high levels of federal spending that had marked the Carter administration, "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." He then went on to say: "Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work." Government, he said, "must provide opportunity." He was not rejecting government, he was calling -- as Barack Obama did Tuesday -- for better management of government, for wiser decisions.

This is the difference between ideological advocacy and holding public office: Having accepted partial responsibility for the nation's well-being, one assumes an obligation that goes beyond bumper-sticker slogans. Certitude is the enemy of wisdom, and in office, it is wisdom, not certitude, that is required."
and
"The Republican Party that is in such disrepute today is not the party of Reagan. It is the party of Rush Limbaugh, of Ann Coulter, of Newt Gingrich, of George W. Bush, of Karl Rove. It is not a conservative party, it is a party built on the blind and narrow pursuit of power."
I think the American voter recognizes this. It may have been temporarily overwhelmed by the combative media blitz of right-wing talking heads but I think they have had enough now.

Update: They are into the 4th ballot for the RNC Chairman now. Mike Duncan, the incumbent, has dropped out as his support slipped, a black candidate, Fmr. Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, African-American, having overtaken him. So they results of the 4th ballot tell you a lot about the Republican party. Katon Dawson, the South Carolina GOP chairman who recently resigned his longtime membership in a white's only country club, has jumped into the lead now with 62 votes to Steele's 60. Now Ken Blackwell, Ohio African-American official, has withdrawn, throwing his support to Steele, but that gives Steele only 75 votes. Now we will see how Anuzis', the Michigan Republican Party chairman, 31 votes split. Well, not many abandoned Anuzis, so the 5th ballot results are Steele, 79; Dawson, 69; Anuzis, 20. One more ballot should decide this. Steele needs just 6 votes to "win" the chairmanship of the RNC. Let's see if he can get 6 votes out of the 20 Saul Anuzis votes (he got 4 of the 11 votes that moved from Anuzis on the 5th ballot.) Steele has won with 91 votes. Now the fun begins. Who will be the functioning leader of the Republican party, an East coast conservative black man or the radio talk show comedian? We'll wait and see.

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