Inside The Pubble

CruzLast week, in the well of the United States Senate, a man began talking, he announced, on the subject of freedom, specifically the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.” He said he intended to keep talking for as long as he could stand, which was the first lie of his speech: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had already scheduled a vote for debate on the bill in question the next afternoon, whether the orator was finished or not. The speechmaker likened Obamacare to life in Nazi Germany and the Bataan Death March; attacked members of his own party as Chamberlain-like appeasers, a “surrender caucus”; quoted author Ayn Rand, actor Ashton Kutcher, country singer Toby Keith, and the father of conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh; shared how much he enjoyed White Castle hamburgers; imitated Darth Vader; and read an entire children’s book, Dr. Seuss’s GREEN EGGS & HAM, to his young daughters, since he couldn’t read it to them in person because he was otherwise engaged in delivering this puzzling address. More than 21 hours later, he finally relinquished the podium, declining Leader Reid’s offer of an additional hour in which to dig his bizarre hole just a bit deeper. The garish display wasn’t even a true filibuster, since the babbler was only forestalling debate on a piece of legislation he didn’t like, but when the time came at last, he switched the position he had been putatively arguing and the action was carried on a unanimous voice vote, officially recorded as 100-0. This whole maniacal publicity stunt had been an utter and abject waste of time, a fleabag circus sullying what was once considered the world’s greatest deliberative body, where ten or so supportive members in attendance were reduced to a group of groundlings forced to binge-watch The Ted Cruz Show.

The Texas senator, who had been in office for only nine months, frequently complained about how Obamacare was harming the economy, costing jobs, destroying freedom. An amazing swath of destruction, that, considering that the core provisions of the law hadn’t even gone into effect; the part that did simply allowed young people to remain covered by their parents’ health care plans until age 26. Americans will be able to sign up for health care “exchanges” beginning tomorrow, and they can receive services under Obamacare starting on Jan. 1, 2014. Furthermore, this learned solon rose to demand that other Senators stand with him to either defund Obamacare – a law duly passed by Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court – or refuse to pass a budget at all, thus shutting down the entire federal government, an action that would not only destroy jobs (800,000 immediate furloughs), but also delay or eliminate payments to millions more, including soldiers and retirees. His marathon rant was nominally before a Senate controlled by Democrats: even if they decided to pass such a measure – fully as improbable as replicating cold fusion – it would then be up to President Obama to decide whether or not to gut his most significant legislative achievement, one that will finally bring health care to millions of uninsured Americans. A veto would be all but certain, a simple layup for the Hoopster-In-Chief. Even Sen. Cruz’s silly choice of literature, GREEN EGGS & HAM, was baffling: the whole point of the story is that you shouldn’t criticize something new before you’ve even tried it! But irony escapes this Harvard Law graduate and Princeton debating champion. To call Ted Cruz’s excruciating performance “Quixotic” is to insult Cervantes.

As expected, the Senate amended the budget bill after first restoring funding for Obamacare (specifically, a 2.3% surcharge on medical equipment intended to help finance the program) and sent it back to the House, with these words from Leader Reid: “Here’s a president who less than a year ago won the election by five million votes, five million votes. Obamacare has been the law for four years. Why don’t they get a life and talk about something else? People deserve better.” House Republicans originally demanded the following “concessions” (the list is incomplete because more demands were constantly being added) in exchange for permitting the government to continue functioning past midnight tonight: increase oil drilling on federal lands, roll back regulations on greenhouse gases, construct the Keystone XL oil pipeline immediately, defund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, make it more difficult to sue for medical malpractice, and one last item: postpone the Obamacare rollout by one year. It’s a colicky tantrum from an infant, or maybe a ransom note from hapless C-movie gangsters: nice country you got here…be a real shame if something happened to it. Barring an eleventh-hour miracle, some federal kneecaps are going to get broken on the same day Obamacare exchanges (the ones controlled by individual states, that is) begin accepting members. This from the party that lost the 2012 elections, except for its intractable gerrymandered majority in the House – which, as we will see, actually represents fewer voters than does the “minority.”

Are these people crazy? It’s as if they actually want the country to fall back into recession!

Where did this topsy-turvy world come from, a land where the defeated minority in a democracy can grip the nation by the throat and seriously threaten to reverse its limping recovery from the worst recession in half a century? Why would anyone who truly cares for our country even consider doing damage like that? In fairness, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), no friend to health care reform, did seize the Senate floor to denounce the Cruz debacle – it only took him ten minutes – but by then the Texan’s tired tonsils were already, incredibly, being lionized by his party’s extreme right wing, the daffy tri-cornered-hat crowd, starting with a fawning interview on Limbaugh’s own radio show.

What in the name of the Founding Fathers is going on?

Despite all propaganda to the contrary, America is not a right-wing nation. An interesting piece by Elizabeth Drew in the New York Review of Books doesn’t really cover any new ground regarding what she calls the Republican “stranglehold on our politics,” but it sure does connect lots of dots. In her view, Pubs have paid better attention to elections in off-years (the next midterm election’s only a year from now; usually about half as many voters turn out than in Presidential years, but nearly all the fanatics do, giving them outsized influence through apathy) and at the state and local level (there will be 36 governorships at stake next year, several of them in key swing states whose guvs, as Pubs have long understood, control everything else). But when more people are more engaged, it suddenly doesn’t look so hot. Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six Presidential elections; the sole exception was 2004, when Dick Cheney played the fear card so clumsily that he nearly gave up the game. “If we make the wrong choice,” he warned, “then the danger is that we’ll get hit again – that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.” In other words, vote for me or die. That’s desperation, friends. The Republicans are the party of rich white men and those it can persuade to help them become richer. Its base is already outnumbered, and it’s getting weaker every year as the Reaper continues to chip away at the diehards. (Hard they may be, but they die nonetheless.) The GOP’s natural hegemony is over.

Now, if you can no longer win elections on the issues, you have two simple alternatives: rig the game so you can’t lose, or if that’s too tough (as in statewide races), then prevent your opponents from voting. The right wing has found ways to do both, and their methods are based in what was formerly progressive territory: the grass roots.

Ms. Drew points out that though President Obama won the 2012 election with 51.1% of the vote, due to redistricting in key states after the 2010 census (you may recall that Tom DeLay in Texas couldn’t even wait that long to redraw his state and add five shoo-in Republican seats to the delegation; he did this just before the 2004 election), House Republicans represent only 47.5% of the 2012 electorate. The Democratic “minority” represents 48.8%. Put another way, well over a million more Americans elected Democratic House members in 2012 than voted for victorious Republicans. But the current Congress is 234-201 Republican.

Four examples of gerrymandered Congressional districts. Computer analysis has this sort of election-fixing down to a science.

Four examples of gerrymandered Congressional districts. Computer analysis has this sort of election-fixing down to a science.

How in the world does that work? Let’s look with Ms. Drew at Ohio, a state the President won with 51% of the vote. Because of redistricting – heck, let’s call it by its proper name, gerrymandering, or deliberately (1) lumping likeminded voters together, no matter where they live, or (2) splitting the enemy among several districts, a bit of power dilution known as “cracking,” which, for example, has emasculated “liberal” Columbus – today’s Ohio House delegation is three-quarters Republican. It doesn’t represent the general Ohio electorate at all, only the guys who did the redistricting. Now, in fairness, both parties press their advantage through gerrymandering. There are some funky-looking districts in Maryland, for example, that were drawn up by Democrats. But if this “false equivalency” – an argument that claims it’s OK because the other guys act exactly the same, featured nightly on Faux News – were genuine, we’d have a more closely divided Congress. The fact is, Pubs have simply been better at this for at least twenty years. It’s not equivalent. They’ve gamed the system. But, as we will see, they should have been careful what they wished for, because they got it. (In code for evangelical Christians: I’m saying thou hath reaped the whirlwind.)

The other significant tactic which keeps a minority in power is voter suppression. Whenever you see the term “voter ID law,” you’re looking at a baby step toward the heinous poll-tax laws which threatened true freedom for most of the 20th century. Pubs will tell you that they’re trying to defeat the scourge of rampant “voter fraud,” a malady they’ve never been able to demonstrate. That’s their moral cover for what’s turned out to be a 21st-century version of Jim Crow – only this time, it includes those seditious traitors, college students. In our ole pal Texas, for example, a gun license is acceptable ID for voting, but not a student ID, presumably because gun owners tip Pub, and college kids think too much. The law went into effect instants after the Supreme Court recently invalidated the critical portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the one that made partisan horseshit like this subject to prior federal approval in the several states with long histories of voter suppression.

Why not show ID at the polls? You have to do it for almost anything else: to get a bank loan, to get a driver’s license, etc. But what about people who don’t have bank loans, credit cards, driver’s licenses, or any kind of photo ID? What about voters who are temporarily away from home because they’re in college, or who don’t have the means to drive across town, or who live out in the country? What about people who can’t afford photo IDs? Wait: they get to vote too? We can’t have that: poor people tend to vote for the only folks who know they’re alive! Yet simply having lawfully voted in every election since LBJ isn’t enough these days. Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) ticked off part of a laundry list before a group of Pubs in summer 2012: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” (Fun fact: The President won Pennsylvania, 52% to 47%, but he had to fight uphill over voter ID, not to mention rich-guy super-PACs.)

What would a Pub America really look like? To observe a conservative wonderland first-hand, a place where the right-wing id is suddenly leading a joyous ideological slamdance, to see what unfettered Teabag rule would actually produce, simply turn to poor North Carolina. Once it was the jewel of the Deep South, its Research Triangle a glittering star that attracted bright people from around the world. As Ms. Drew recounts, President Obama won the state in 2008. But the Pubs took over the legislature in the decennial year of 2010 (immediately redistricting the state in their favor) and the governorship in 2012, attaining unassailable “supermajorities” that could pass anything they liked without even consulting the other side. Now they wasted no time in cutting unemployment insurance and tax credits for low-income workers, banning Sharia law (whew, just in time!), restricting abortion and voting rights (their war on student voting borders on the laughable, but it’s the frickin state law), and transforming a once beautiful state into North Pubistan in only three years. Nancy McFarlane, the horrified mayor of Raleigh, could barely get a sentence out: “It’s hard to get people to understand the impact of what they’re doing is going to be.” Thinking people are going to think twice about moving to the Tarheel State, and there goes your Research Triangle. Sorry, Ms. Mayor.

Why would well-intentioned people subscribe to such madness? It’s because they talk to each other, and only to each other. They live in a different world, a right-wing echo chamber, the Republican bubble: the Pubble. Ms. Drew cites the tumultuous 1994 midterms, which restored Pub House control after forty years and handed Prof. Newt Gingrich the tiller, but I would suggest an earlier flash point: 1987, when the Reagan-era FCC repealed the Fairness Doctrine, which held that opposing views should be granted equal time on the public airwaves. In that instant, baldly partisan broadcasting, immune to any “equivalency” whatsoever, was born. Anybody in radio will tell you that Rush Limbaugh saved the AM dial when he went on the air in 1988, and back then there probably was a progressive bias in mass media. (Although news organizations did strive for objectivity.) But Limbaugh’s immediate sensational success spawned dozens of radio imitators, and, in 1996, the Fox News Channel on television. Nowadays “the liberal media” is a fictional construct that preserves conservatives’ ability to paint themselves as victims, or to “work the refs” so that actual news organizations fall all over themselves to present the right-wing point of view even when they know the earth is more than six thousand years old and that man did not coexist with dinosaurs. El Rushbo is still the hottest thing on radio, and Fox News tops the cable ratings. When I lived in Georgia in the early Seventies, I loved Atlanta’s WRNG, “Ring Radio,” which was 24-hour call-ins; the station would entertain me during long drives. Their best “jock” was a guy named Neal Boortz, a Colbert-like improvver, you loved his quick mind. Post-Rushbo, Boortz re-invented himself as a conservative raver, and now he’s a syndicated big-shot; his verbal effluvia sometimes make their way to THE DAILY SHOW. Based on long stints spent inside Boortz’s radio-expressed mind, I know this particular guy is now only acting, but he heard the trumpets sound. If anything, the loudest megaphone these days belongs to the conservative media.

I used to think that Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly and the others were, like Boortz, just entertainers, performers; they couldn’t possibly believe half the stuff they were spouting. But now I honestly wonder. The Pubble is opaque and soundproof. Barack Obama is the worst president in history, a Kenya-born socialist who hates America. If government would just get out of the way, the invisible hand of the market would regulate itself – except for the military, which merits ever-rising budgets. America is the greatest country in the world in all respects, and those who don’t think so should leave. Other nations hate us because we’re so free. Poverty is caused by laziness, and people lounge on their welfare payments rather than looking for work — but raising the minimum wage to subsistence level will destroy small businesses. Immigrants are stealing our jobs. Evolution and climate change are only theories, therefore we should disregard them. Health care is a privilege for those who can afford it. Any limitation on a private citizen’s firearms will turn us into a police state. CEOs deserve to make hundreds of times what their employees do because of competition for top talent. Tax cuts stimulate growth; spending dampens it. We should keep our hands off the big banks: they know what they’re doing. This is and always has been a Christian nation, with instructions for righteous living found in the Bible. The Israelis are freedom fighters; the Palestinians are terrorists. The government should lay off our personal liberties, unless it involves abortion or our sex lives. There is, of course, an opposing view on each of these issues, but inside the Pubble it’s all received wisdom.

Nothing illustrated the Pubble’s sturdiness more starkly than Election Night 2012. I have a friend in Mississippi who had laid in a nice bottle of champagne to celebrate Mitt Romney’s victory, and he wasn’t alone. Though statistician Nate Silver had been warning for weeks that the President was likely to earn re-election, the Pubble dismissed it as rubbish from the “liberal media.” The greatest moment of the night was watching an exasperated Karl Rove, once the Sultan of Stats, dispute the numbers coming in from his own network, Fox News Channel. To her credit Megyn Kelly, the anchor, defended her statisticians, at one point even acknowledging the Pubble’s existence. “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better,” she asked Rove, “or is this real?” The Pubble was flabbergasted, like Pauline Kael in 1972: she only knew one person who’d voted for Nixon! Rove’s confused bluster provided welcome schadenfreude for those who remembered the catastrophic Bush years. (A few days later he had the gall to blame voter suppression, but by then nobody was listening, because his American Crossroads Super PAC had infamously blown through $100 million that we know of on the 2012 election cycle, only to lose 10 of its 13 targeted races. Oh yeah, and the White House too.)

If you don’t think there’s room inside the Pubble for racism – “we’re not racists, we just think Obama is un-American!” – consider the amount of disrespect and sheer hate this President has been forced to endure, more than any other in my lifetime, more than Bill Clinton, more than Dubya. After all, nobody screamed “YOU LIE!” at 42 or 43 during a speech to a joint session, like the oafish Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC). Nobody held up huge signs saying WHAT PLAN? like the pathologically dim Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). You don’t see others angrily pointing fingers in POTUS’s face like Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ). And just consider what happened when someone observed that Sen. Cruz was not born in this country, but in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to a Cuban father and American mother. The Constitution states that a Presidential candidate must be “native-born,” but it doesn’t define the term. Cruz’s response? My mother was American, therefore I am too, and by the way, I’m renouncing my Canadian citizenship. The accompanying sound? Crickets. Now compare that to the President, who actually is native-born, also to an American mother, but was still being visited by annoying unhinged “birthers” well into his second term. What could possibly account for the difference? When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, just after the 2008 election, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” he was acknowledging that there was something wrong that needed to be set aright, and inside the Pubble the dog-whistle message was quite clear. Of course the legislative minority is expected to loyally oppose the majority – but to call deposing Obama “the single most important thing”? Jobs? Infrastructure? Health? Here, now, was the Pubble’s ultimate Other, that literal dark force that threatened the American way of life. We will now, McConnell said, foreshorten his presidency by denying him any achievement whatsoever, and Pubs have done their worst ever since to do just that: the current 113th Congress is on track to be the least productive in recent history. That’s why such events as the passage of Obamacare and the killing of Osama bin Laden — any achievements at all — are so disturbing inside the Pubble.

The “Tea Party” was nowhere to be seen when George W. Bush spent eight years busting the budget. It emerged almost instantly to bedevil the Obama administration. (I’m only half joking when I tag the origin of the Tea Party at about, oh, noonish on Jan. 20, 2009.) But a funny thing happened on the way to “liberty.” Egged on by Fox News and the rest of now-mighty conservative media, plus PACs and “think tanks” financed by the likes of the Koch brothers, the tri-cornered set crashed “town meetings” of legislators, following carefully scripted orders to assemble way down front so it would look like they represented the whole room, and thus, the whole country. Old pros like Dick Armey and Jim DeMint helped fan the flames and work the grassroots to produce actual candidates – the only surefire way to seize power. But they ran into an unintended consequence. They’d intended Tea Partiers to be rabble-rousers and not much else. But the radical right hunkered down deeper inside the Pubble, and before you knew it, the liberty baby was being thrown out with the freedom bathwater.

The Tea Party concluded that we had mistakenly elected a socialist Kenyan president not because Pub candidates were too conservative, but because they were not conservative enough. So you had the spectacle of thinking senators like Bob Bennett of Utah, as right-wing as they come but still earthbound, tossed over the side for Tea Party candidates, while others simply quit in disgust. That chilled Pub incumbents in both Houses: if you didn’t hew to the tri-corner gang’s extremism, if you didn’t keep the customer satisfied, even if you were in a district that was super-safe in any general election, you could still be “primaried” from the right! This wave of zealot candidates, and intensified zealotry among fearful incumbents, has had two deleterious effects.

First, it turned away reliable Pub Senatorial candidates, some of them incumbents, for the likes of Sharron Angle in Nevada (“People are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness, what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out!”), Christine O’Donnell in Delaware (“I am not a witch”), Richard Mourdock in Indiana (“Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that…is something that God intended to happen”), and Todd Akin in Missouri (“From what I understand from doctors…if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”). Each of these candidates proved too icky for the electorate, but each of the Senate seats they sought had been eminently winnable by more sensible Pub candidates. The wacko-birds simply threw those opportunities away, and thus potential control of the Senate for at least two election cycles.

Second, yo-yos like this actually started to win House races in districts so tightly gerrymandered that you could wear a tinfoil hat to your own fundraiser and feel right at home. John Boehner, the most ineffective Speaker of the House of modern times, has lost control over his caucus because so many of them are newly elected Tea-Party bombthrowers who see nothing wrong with bringing government to its knees, or failing to make good on obligations the country has already made (that’s what “raising the debt ceiling” means). They literally don’t know any better. Dr. Frankenstein’s monster has broken loose, and not even Dick Armey knows what to do now.

Why all the hue and cry, the garment-rending, the Cruz clowning, over Obamacare just this minute? Simple. It’s because inside the Pubble, folks never expected to be sitting here right now. Romney would stomp the Kenyan, Pubs would retake the Senate, and Anycare would be D.O.A. It’s not that Pubs actually fear the country will be wrecked by the ACA (a term many of them have now gone back to employing; ever since the President shrewdly embraced the term “Obamacare,” the “person-you-don’t-like-care” usage, which dates back to Hillary Clinton’s efforts twenty years ago, has lost most of its fizz). If that were so, then why not just let it happen and preside over the post-apocalypse? No, to the contrary: they’re afraid the country will like having affordable health care. This is why they continue kicking and screaming, now urging young people in TV spots to “burn your [nonexistent] health care cards” (isn’t that rich, Pubs invoking draft-card burning? Younger folk have noticed too) and doing everything possible to scuttle health care reform by any means necessary. They’re afraid it will work, that Big Medicine will be reined in just a tad, and universal health care will become yet another “entitlement” for the “takers.” They should be afraid.

Deep down in Karl Rove’s mind has to be a thought that would torture him to madness if he actually cared, and boy, I wish he really did. It’s this. If the fear-fueled Tea Party had never emerged, Republicans would have long since controlled the Senate, and today there would be no such thing as Obamacare – and, just possibly, as a little sweetener, no such thing as Senator Ted Cruz.

Ah, Senator Cruz. Back to our star of the moment. It doesn’t take an Ivy League degree to understand why he staged his narcissistic spectacle: he was only trying to attract cameras. (The biggest whopper of his entire blabathon came in Hour 18: “I would be perfectly happy if not a single story coming out of this mentioned my name.”) On March 6, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) unwound a 12-hour corker on unmanned drone strikes that actually stalled an Obama nomination – and people started taking him seriously as a Presidential candidate. Then, in June, Democratic Texas state senator Wendy Davis successfully ran out the clock on the legislative session with a 13-hour speech against an omnibus abortion bill – and unlike the two gentlemen, she was required by Texas law to remain on topic the whole time, and she could not be “spelled” for a break, as Cruz himself did for Paul. She became not only a statewide but a national sensation, and in a few days she’s expected to announce her candidacy for governor; if elected she would be the first woman, and first Democrat, to hold that position in twenty years. Well, Sen. Cruz thinks he is also fit for higher office. And that alone is why he embarked on his pathetic fauxlibuster. But, as with his tin-eared choice of Seussian morality lessons, he had no actual substance to offer, only windbaggery on which he even turned his back himself. He claims he’s “listening to the American people,” but all he can really hear are the people on his own Twitter feed. He’s affected nothing, proved nothing, and achieved nothing more than the winner of a beard-growing contest. It makes perverse sense that they love such a man inside the Pubble.

11/2/14: THE DAILY SHOW spent last week in Austin, Texas, a proudly progressive oasis in a very red state. One of their field pieces showed how Tom DeLay & company’s savage redistricting has disenfranchised, even nullified Austin. Here’s what happens when you live under Pub rule: Austin’s population of 885,000 is represented by no less than five Congressmen, four of which are not simply Pubs, but preening members of the party’s loony wing. Some of their districts, which each edge into different portions of Austin in order to dilute its Democratic vote, stretch for two hundred miles. Austin has been “cracked” down to the neighborhood level, so that it can be “represented” by wingnuts who don’t really represent it at all.

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13 Responses to Inside The Pubble

  1. onewithclay says:

    You tell ’em, Dupree. Thank Goodness for clear-eyed watchdogs like you!

  2. Anne Peery says:

    Well done, my friend. Serious research, strong refutation of many, many issues that should concern us all.

  3. Doug Ross says:

    Your perseverance is impressive. My brain starts to shut down long before I can coherently slog through that much bizarre material. Without some humor and sarcasm such patent absurdities are too hard to deal with. Nice job. (Perhaps you are in a deprivation tank trying to recover.) Is this one of the chapters on the Tea Party in your new book?

  4. Ok. So if I understand your take correctly, because more people voted for democrats and President Obama, those who didn’t, even if they might have a legitimate disagreement with his or the Democrats polices are supposed to just lie down and move on? I think Cruz is nutty, but I seem to remember in civics class that the Constitution put in place checks and balances to protect everyone from the ‘tyranny of the majority.’ So when poll after poll says the law is unpopular and unwanted by the majority of americans, the solution is to say, oh well. Too bad. Take your cute little ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flag and go home. A federal bureaucrat will always know what is best for you.

    Why is it, whenever the President is criticized or questioned everyone screams racist or “Tea Party Conspiracy”? Why can’t it be that you might just have a legitimate beef. Just like I did with Dubya because he spent money like a drunken sailor? Here’s a couple of personal facts. Under the “Affordable Health Care Law” here in Michigan, I’m going to be paying about 30% more for worse coverage than I did under my old employer sponsored plan. In a family that has a variety of very serious health issues. I could have gotten a cheaper plan, but my doctor doesn’t accept it. So, in fact, no, Mr. President “I can’t keep my plan or my doctor” like you said I could. Unless I pay through the nose. We were sold a pig in a poke.

    My brother-in-law runs a small plumbing company. Even before the “Affordable Care Act” he always tried to give his employees the best health coverage he could afford. Because it was good business and he ended up with a better quality of employee. His premiums are going up $2600 per month under the new law. So much so that he had to let a plumber go. But he called around to other companies in his area and got the guy a job with a competitor. Needless to say he’s opposed to the law for very practical reasons. But I guess he’s an anti-Obama, racist, because he complains that the new law is costing jobs and raising his prices which he of course must pass on to his customers.

    Voter suppression. Why did Indiana and Georgia, states who enacted voter ID laws have higher turnout in the ’08 election after the ID laws were enacted. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/02/us-usa-campaign-voterid-idUSBRE8A10UJ20121102) States give free photo id’s to people who don’t drive. How easy would it be for me the ‘evil voter suppressor’ to commit voter fraud in my home state of Michigan? I don’t have to show an ID just my registration card. So couldn’t anyone register someone, take their card and give it to someone else and let them vote for chosen candidate? It would be so simple. I could almost buy and election if I had the money. Fifty bucks a head to take these voter registration cards and vote for my candidate. So if someone did vote fraudulently in such a manner, because they don’t have to prove who they say they are, like I do when I buy allergy medication, does that not disenfranchise me?

    Media bias? Can you honestly say with a straight face that MSNBC is not attempting to follow the same business model as Fox? Only without the ratings. (and I don’t watch either). Isn’t this the very essence of the ‘fairness doctrine’? Whatever happened to Air America and Current? Didn’t they have the same opportunity to succeed as any of the conservative shows? But they didn’t. Thems the breaks. Or else it’s racism and voter suppression. I forget.

    I tend to get a chuckle out of people who rail against the O’Reilly’s, Hannity’s, Maddow’s, Olbermann’s etc. Here’s a clue. They’re not journalists. They’re like columnists in a newspaper. They’re supposed to have an opinion. Change the channel.

    Crickets? Rush Limbaugh calls a woman a sl*t and is rightfully castigated for it. Bill Maher, who is a failed actor and stand up comedian (he does just enough ‘stand-up’, so that he can call his show a comedy show) advocates sending Elisabeth Hasslebeck to Egypt to be raped and tortured and calls conservative women the most misogynistic names you can call them and does anyone on the left condemn him? Only Kirstin Powers of the Daily Beast to my knowledge. And she was practically blackballed by her own people. But to Maher, they’re public figures and he’s a ‘comedian’ so it’s okay. My daughter works in politics. I guess that makes her a ‘public figure’. I’d like to seem him call her some of those names to my face. After all. It’s just comedy right? If Sandra Fluke has the grades to get into Georgetown, which someone as smart as her, most have known is a Jesuit institution, couldn’t she have gone elsewhere? Since the average GTown Law grad makes $164,000 a year, am I really supposed to buy the “I can’t afford contraceptives” argument. If you work someplace like a church institution that doesn’t pay for contraceptives aren’t you free to get a job somewhere else that does? Or is their no freedom of religion in this country? And I happen to be pro-choice. But I am anti-hypocrite.

    Surprisingly those of us in fly over country that don’t live in the liberal enclaves of the coasts are actually capable of understanding complex issues. Take gay marriage for example. As a mostly Libertarian, I follow the Ann Landers credo that what two people do in the privacy of their own home is nobody’s beeswax. As long as neither is being hurt. I couldn’t care less who marries who. Not even on my radar. But according to the media, it’s right wing conservatives that are stopping gay marriage from being adopted. When it’s on the ballot, that is clearly not the case. In 2010 when the amendment was on the ballot in Michigan what were the two largest demographic groups voting against it. Evangelical African-Americans (over 40% of those voting) and Hispanics. (Also in Michigan, muslims as we have a very large muslim population, including two daily newspapers published in Arabic). So if you win ‘issues’ by changing hearts and minds, why don’t I ever see gay marriage advocates protesting at black churches in Detroit or at mosques? Is it because it’s just easier to yell at the Republicans? What about the gay Republicans? What do they get yelled at for?

    I’ve never been a love it or leave it American. We’re a country that bears many scars. We haven’t always done everything right. But this ‘we don’t need to be #1 anymore’ is part of the pervasive ‘we’re all winners’ and ‘here’s your trophy for 10th’ place mentality. About 95% of all commerce in this country, whether it is oil, raw materials, parts, imports or exports travels to and from our shores by sea transport. Since the end of WWII who has kept the sea lanes free and open? Do you really want to turn that job over to Putin? I really don’t. I believe him to be untrustworthy and not entirely forthcoming. I disagree with his policies (especially his treatment of gays and other minorities) I guess that makes me a Xenophobe.

    I remember when I was a kid and my dad and his VFW buddies would sit around complaining about the anti-war protestors and the ‘peaceniks’. They didn’t call them racists or anything like that. But they were all unanimous in their belief that most of them needed haircuts and baths. But they were a bunch of people that got together to protest something. Policy’s they disagreed with. Hell most of them wanted Johnson’s head on a platter. Now they’re celebrated. Lionized almost. The Occupy Wall Street movement is all warm and fuzzy (except when we find out their ‘leader’ stayed in a $700 a night suite at the Westin. But if you belong to the Tea Party or some other group that has the word ‘Liberty’ it its name, because you oppose a policy or, yes, dare to criticize a sitting President, you’re targeted by the IRS and labeled a racist.

    How easy.

  5. Doug Ross says:

    Mr. Spradlin, though I suspect we may have more political differences than similarities, I respect your right to weigh in and and the fact that you did. I think you made some good points.

    I do think MSNBC, Olbermann, and Bill Maher have a kinship with Fox news, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, and Hannity. I elect not to listen to them. Though from the little I’ve heard from Rachel Maddow she seems more reasoned than the others. Oh yeah, I need to throw Michael Moore, who is from my home town, into my discredited list also.

    As for the Affordable Care Act I see it as akin to the Civil Rights Act legislation. When first passed the Civil Rights Act was not a good piece of legislation. It took 3 or more decades and 2-3 major legislative changes for it to become so. But like the Affordable Care Act, by the time we got around to doing something it was many decades overdue. Equal protection under the law and providing for the basic needs of citizens to include health care is just what civilized societies do.

    So, the Affordable Care Act is certainly not perfect or fair for everyone at this point, nor like most laws will it ever be. But with more iterations on the concept we will get to a good point. The important thing to me is that we finally started.

    As a fellow Michigander (help me think of a different moniker for us), I know the citizens of Michigan need no further hardships. So, I’m truly sorry that premiums for you and your bother-in-law are going up. Mine may too. But, I do find it somewhat consoling while we work to refine health care for our citizens that we at least have options, albeit perhaps more expensive. Millions of Americans have had no reasonable option for health care.

    So do I think anyone who does not like or want the Affordable Care Act should just lie down and take it, as you asked? Certainly not. We passed the Act through normal legislative means and it is everyone’s right to legitimately use those channels to try to change or eliminate it. However, I find nothing legitimate or respectable about the efforts currently underway in Congress, by conservatives, and particularly the Tea Party, to try to remove the Act. Shuttering the Government and defaulting on our debt are irresponsible and could have a devastating effect on jobs, the world’s economy, and our worker’s pensions. I find no honor in individuals who would bring about suffering for others when they don’t get their way.

    As for racism with respect to Mr. Obama, I have never seen the Office of the President nor any U.S. President EVER treated with such public disrespect as now. Disagreeing with the President does not make someone a racist but I find no credible reason for the continuing public disrespect other than racism.

    We could also discuss voter suppression for a long time, but I hope we don’t. What you wrote does not resonate with me. Mr. Dupree is correct that there is no evidence of significant (ability to change the outcome of an election at the state or federal level) voter fraud. President George W. Bush attested to as much after he won election and directed the Justice Department to conduct a lengthy and expensive national investigation into voter fraud only to conclude there was none. Given that, plus the fact that the new voter ID laws seemed to be restricted to red states suggests voter suppression to me.

    • First of all, I’m dying to know which Michael Moore ‘hometown’ you are referring to. Flint, the one he claims as his ‘hometown’ as opposed to Davison, which is his actual hometown and a fairly white bread bedroom community to Flint (I live in Lapeer a few miles away). Or the home on Torch Lake in N. Michigan where he somehow was able to build his giant house on a wetlands.

      As for a Michigan moniker the official state position is that we are Michiganians, but I coined the term Michigangsta several years ago because it just sounds more hip.

      As to your argument about voter suppression is a red state problem, therefore ‘suggests’ suppression, I’m afraid I can’t agree. As I mentioned, there is no redder state than Indiana. I actually read the judge’s summary judgement in the Indiana case and while I don’t claim to understand legalese and I’m not a lawyer, from what I understand the ACLU and other organizations that brought suit in 2006 were unable to find even one citizen in the state that was denied, prohibited or interfered with in voting. They also have incredibly liberal rules when it comes to securing an absentee ballot. And voter turnout was actually higher in the 2008 election after the photo ID law was passed. As Tom mentioned there is/was a great deal of money and time has been spent determining that there is very little if any voter fraud occurring so I’m a little confused as to why it’s become such an issue. (Unless were worried about something like a repeat of Daley stealing the election for Kennedy 53 years ago). And again, if someone votes illegally you and I are both disenfranchised. I don’t understand why proving I am who I say I am before I vote is a violation of my civil rights.

      As to the debate over the Affordable Care Act you make a valid argument concerning the comparison to the Civil Rights Act. It was not perfect and long overdue. But is a 2700 page monstrosity that not even the Speaker of the House at the time even read the best we can do? Is a President sitting in the Oval Office handing out executive orders like lollipops to convince members of his own party to vote for it the best we can do? No one remembers that after the President was elected the republicans offered an olive branch with compromises they’d be willing to accept in Health Care reform. They were rejected out of hand. It was my way or the highway. Ever other piece of major social legislation had bi-partisan support from Ciivil Rights to Social Security to Medicare. And yes passing a law by reconciliation is a ‘legitimate’ legislative process, it has never been used before on legislation of this scale. To me that indicates a no-compromise, win at all costs mentality and that is where I think the problem lies. Add in the fact that they waited until they had the votes and then let the democrats in vulnerable districts vote against it, indicates it’s nowhere near what’s best for people or the country.

      Today moderate republicans have offered a perfectly valid compromise. Since the President is selectively enforcing his signature piece of legislation (delaying the mandate for businesses by one year. And on a side note Isn’t the President sworn to uphold the law? How to you get to pick and choose which parts of the law you want to enforce if not for political gain?) Now we have a compromise to delay the individual mandate for the same length of time and force members of congress, their staffs, and the White House staffs to be required to go on the exchanges like the rest of us seems perfectly reasonable to me. I think it’s perfectly valid for Nancy Pelosi to wait a year and half for her hip replacement just like I will have to once the law is enacted. Why is she due special treatment or any is any congressperson? But Harry Reid has pronounced it DOA. And should enough Blue Dogs cross over and vote for it so it passes the Senate, the president has vowed to veto it. Isn’t this compromise offer a legitimate legislative process? After all, most of these even moderate congressmen were sent to congress in 2010 by their constituents with eliminating Obamacare as the singular issue. So why are they at fault for serving the will of their constituency? Because more people voted for the President? See my argument about the tyranny of the majority. And I forget. They were elected in gerrymandered districts anyway so, their constituents don’t matter.

      My argument is not that Health Care reform is not needed or even desirable. The problem is as a Libertarian, I’ve learned the Federal Government is not very good at solving complex social issues. States and localities are much more efficient. Let the Federal Government serve as watch dog. And we can’t even define the debate. Can anyone define ‘Health Care’? Define access to Health Care? What is Affordable Health Care? Is ‘access to health care’ a physical and a colonoscopy every year? No one would deny that a child with cancer shouldn’t have treatment. But what about a smoker? What about someone genetically predisposed to heart disease but who chokes down a Big Mac every day? Is there no personal responsibility any more? I would also argue that more competition in the marketplace for insurance and sensible tort reform would go a long way to lowering costs. As I mentioned, in my own case, my premiums are going up 30%, with no prescription coverage, and about $1000 a month in prescription medication a month in addition to my premiums. Are there millions of people who don’t have insurance? No argument. But is this really the best we can do? And do thousands, if not millions of people like me have to bear the burden while it’s hopefully someday, in the future maybe, effectively gets ‘fixed’? But hey at least it’s a start. Now reports are coming in that on some of the exchanges you can’t even calculate the premiums. Because no one knows what is in the law.

      As for the vilification of the President, I’m not sure how old you are, but remember people wanted Dubya charged with war crimes. Clinton never got even a simple majority of the popular vote and was impeached in the house. I would argue that Nixon was far more hated than President Obama (and rightfully so). But it’s this fixation on his race and not his policies, his scandal plagued administration, his complete mishandling of the “Arab Spring” his lowest approval ratings in Israel of any American President ever, that makes the ‘race card’ so disingenuous for me. It can’t be that he is just a bad president or that we’re in a “Milliard Fillmore” period of mediocrity in our recent presidencies. It has to be racism. From a historical perspective, I would argue Abraham Lincoln was far more vilified since several states actually seceded from the Union upon his election. And let’s not forget that ‘The Great Emancipator’ trashed the constitution, suspended the writ of habeus corpus. and put opposition newspaper editors in jail. The French purchased a US newspaper purely to discredit Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800. Andrew Jackson accused John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay of a ‘corrupt bargain’ in the election of 1824 and threatened a military coup and a government in exile in the west. Having a congressman shout ‘You lie’ and a Chief Justice shake his head during a State of the Union address, might be disrespectful but I hardly think they’re racist.

      I guess we will see what happens. We are headed toward a shut down. I actually am not so sure that shutting down the government is such a bad idea. Remember the sequester was going to bring everything to a screeching halt. We weren’t going to survive it. I don’t think it will damage the economy in the long term. The markets actually went up during the 94-95 shut down. I think it will be short lived. The Republicans will fold and pivot to where the real fight is and should be which is the debt ceiling and where the President and the Senate will have no choice but to negotiate. If you’re a politics junky it’s going to be interesting at least.

      Enjoyed the back and forth.

  6. What did you think of Wendy Davis’ pro-abortion filibuster? See ya!

    • Tom Dupree says:

      I don’t know anybody who’s “pro-abortion.” I guess there could possibly be a woman out there who enjoys having abortions, but do you really think so? Like most supporters of women’s reproductive rights, I’m with Bill Clinton: I believe abortions should be safe, legal and rare.

      Of the three multi-hour speakers I mentioned in the piece (the Cruz Show was not even a filibuster, just the coddling of a shameless narcissist), only Sen. Davis was legally required to remain on topic the whole time. She spoke against a bill that prohibited abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, regulated first-trimester abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical centers, restricted access to medication abortions, and forced nearly every clinic in Texas to close. She spoke until the legislative special session ended by law, at midnight. She forced Rick Perry to call a second session to pass the law, then a third one to take up a transportation bill that got sidetracked over the abortion fight. Some annoyed Texas Pubs want Sen. Davis to pay for the session! It is to laugh.

      I think Sen. Davis, unlike Cruz, actually accomplished a little something. She made it that much harder for anti-choice forces to steamroll Texas, and shone a national spotlight on the legislative body and the issue. It’s unlikely that she’ll become governor, but she refused to be pushed around, and served as a role model for the next generation of Texan (and American) women.

      Since you asked, that’s what I thought.

  7. Tom Dupree says:

    Imagine that: a respectful discussion on some issues we really ought to be discussing, and nobody’s writing “u suk, u pu$$y!” Thanks, Mike and Doug, for demonstrating how you can disagree but remain civil. Wish our Congress could learn it.

    Mike, you make some worthy points, but a few of them seem rather selective to me. For example, if we should be listening to popularity polls showing that more people don’t like Obamacare than do (47 to 45%, according to a Quinnipiac poll released this morning, but they’re also opposed 58-34 to Congress cutting off funding to stop its implementation!), then why should we dismiss on the other hand the fact that more Americans voted for Democratic Congresspeople? Or that the overwhelming majority of Americans, almost all of them, tell pollsters they want stricter gun regulation? Polls don’t create policy, sometimes to our sorrow. One or the other’s gotta give. Similarly, if the Speaker of the House didn’t even read the ACA (was he basing his opposition on what he was told by others?), then couldn’t it also be that most ordinary Americans don’t understand the act well enough to judge it amidst the spin they’re fed by Pubs (e.g., nonexistent “death panels”)?

    Look, I have problems with Obamacare too. Any big sprawling piece of legislation is going to need some tinkering (I think Doug’s comparison to the Civil Rights Act, also a bureaucratic mess at first, is of interest). I myself – along with the President – would have preferred a simpler, easier-administered “single-payer” system, but that wasn’t gonna get through Congress. So what we have is an unwieldy, jerry-rigged beast that was built to satisfy lots of different interests, and I’m never surprised when somebody points out a chink. But it’s at long last a start at badly-needed reform, it’s already helping kids to stay longer on their parents’ plans, and more benefits will kick in as two big dates pass: this morning, when exchanges opened, and then January 1, when services begin. The Pubs don’t want to “repair and replace” Obamacare. They want to take us back to square one, in the hopes that nothing will be done. They want to postpone the immense good it might do until they have a chance to kick it out as “ineffectual” at the next election – thus the “let’s delay it for a year” ploy. I’m very sorry about the rising costs in your family – for six years I was an independent writer/producer myself (in the era of St. Reagan!) with only one other employee, so I know firsthand the onerous burden tax policy heaves onto small businesses – but do you really think your health costs wouldn’t have risen anyhow unless we could finally come to grips with this out-of-control monster?

    Here’s what happened from my point of view. Obamacare opponents tried to defeat it in Congress and failed. The President signed it into law. They brought suit in the Supreme Court and failed. They turned 2012 into a referendum and failed. The House voted more than 40 times to kill it and failed. They tried to de-fund the law and failed. They tried to convince people that Obama wouldn’t “negotiate” with them while enacting a duly-passed, duly-affirmed law and failed. Pub governors tried to derail Obamacare by refusing to set up exchanges – they turned away Federal money and ceded exchanges to the Feds – and failed. Pubs stamped their feet, held their breath till they turned blue, and shut down the government if Obamacare wasn’t delayed, and failed. Now they are attempting to sabotage the law by encouraging young people not to sign up (no responsible parent would advise his child to go without health care) and running bizarre tv spots with a huge Uncle Sam puppet-head conducting a gynecological exam – and they’ll fail.

    Significant voter fraud in the present day. Just show it to me. Anywhere. Also, re suppression, you misunderstand me. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have to show ID at the polls. I’m saying the Pubs who have the power are allowing certain forms of ID over others, to unfairly self-select for right-wing voters. Seriously: gun-carry is OK, but student ID isn’t? Many poor and rural voters have only one way to prove who they are: a birth certificate. Good luck, Ma & Pa Kettle. Hey, you really want to make everybody use photo ID? Hire some workers to go around to rural houses, see the certifs, snap the photos, and deliver the ID later. Just like they do for the census. Wow, I’m a job creator! Suppression goes farther than cutting back on early voting and same-day registration. There’s also deliberately undermanning targeted precincts, causing hours-long lines in “select” spots: how does that prevent fraud? Let’s take a college student. S/he’s gonna vote on campus, then drive – or fly – hundreds of miles to vote again at home? Really? There’s a point where this “voter fraud” canard just frickin breaks down, which is how that PA guy, caught bragging about a voter ID law last summer, unwittingly let you see the true face.

    Media bias: if you read my piece closely, you saw that I still suspect those Faux News talking heads to be entertainers, not journalists. However, the Megyn Kelly/Karl Rove dustup was one for the ages. I think FNC was honestly trying to present true numbers that night (unlike 2000, when they called early for Bush), but only because they fully expected Romney to win. As you say, there are left-wing media too, but, also as you point out, they’ve been fairly ineffectual (Rachel Maddow is an American treasure, but these days, Keith Olbermann is a sportscaster again). I stand by my statement: today, the loudest media megaphone belongs to the conservatives. And by the way, I’ve called out Bill Maher when I thought he deserved it. I’m not a knee-jerk anything.

    Racism contributing to Obama hatred: Pubs always question the legitimacy of every Democratic president, the Pauline Kael syndrome I cited: How could he have won fair and square? I don’t know a single person who voted for him! This time it was ad hominem, though, from the git-go. By the way, it wasn’t Roberts who shook his head at that SotU, it was Alito, and he also mouthed the words, “Not true.” But that wasn’t racist at all: in Godfather terms, it’s not personal, Mike, it’s just business. However, “birthers” are fueled, energized by racism, and just what was it that gave Joe Wilson the gall to shout at a POTUS during a joint session address? (1) Obama was the Other, and (2) it would play well down to Jimbob’s Barber Shop in Hooterburg, South Carolina. Bush was indeed considered a war criminal by some, but do you remember Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, waterboarding, “extraordinary rendition”? When did that become our country? Yet his high office was never denied the basic respect of his colleagues. Even Nixon, that paranoid polecat, only gave up the ghost during the Watergate hearings, when his sordid, petty, profane nature became evident to one and all on magnetic tape.

    For a quick mind-experiment, imagine if some scruffy Occupy guy had shouted “YOU LIE!” at Dubya one day. They would have dragged him out by the hair and tased him into a potato chip. Now imagine it was an actual Democratic member of Congress. No tasing (maybe; I’m assuming for this mind-experiment that Cheney wasn’t there), but we would still be hearing the remonstrative sermons on patriotism from FNC. But now, flipped around, hardly anybody remembers the gauche outburst of this Congressional douchebag. Prodded with the name, they might only dimly remember: wow, wasn’t he married to that hot CIA blonde?

    Well, we’re shut down now. In my view, for the President to give an inch yesterday would only be to invite more in a couple of weeks when we hit the debt ceiling. Or has everybody on the right suddenly changed their minds on how he should have handled Assad? We do not negotiate with terrorists, even if they’re Republican members of Congress.

    I’d hoped the post might be provocative without actually making anybody mad. I’m glad it provoked comment from you guys, and would be happy to hear more from you or anyone else. Thanks again for responding, while remaining the gentlemen I already knew you both to be.

  8. Doug Ross says:

    Happy to find out the official term is Michiganian. In the Flint public schools I was taught that I was a Michigander, which always sounded like a goose. I always wished we had something that rolled off the tongue easily like Texan, but my understanding is that is already taken. Michigangsta works for me.

  9. Tom Dupree says:

    Now it can be told: I went to kindergarten in East Lansing while my dad was earning college credits in Food Distribution. [You had to have em to advance in the grocery chain that employed him back in VA.] Our family, of which I was then the cute tiny all-love-sucking dear [wrenchingly interrupted by my brother John…grrr!], spent a year on the MSU campus. But I can clearly remember being taught by my folks that I was a “Michigander.” That word has stuck with me ever since. Mike, when did they go back to “Michiganian”?

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