Gray Old Party

The Republicans chose Mitch Daniels to rebut President Obama’s State of the Union speech. They chose Bush’s budget director to talk about the economy. The guy who inherited the Clinton budget surplus and transformed it into the largest budget deficit in American history. If you want to understand how clueless and out of touch the Republican Party has become, all you have to do is start with their having chosen Mitch Daniels to rebut President Obama’s State of the Union speech.Republican insiders are freaked out over the possibility of Newt Gingrich becoming their presidential standard bearer. That’s the technical term: freaked out. And that they are so freaked out over that possibility at least speaks to their not having completely lost touch with reality. They have completely lost touch with the American people, but they haven’t completely lost touch with reality. Not completely. At least not yet. But in light of their support for the personification of so much that is so wrong and so unpopular in this country as alternative to Gingrich, their prospects for retaining at least a partial grip on reality are not good. And they did choose Mitch Daniels to rebut President Obama’s State of the Union speech. Which speaks for itself.

The Occupy movement is not overtly political, at least not in the traditional sense of that word. It does not adhere to any political party or any individual political movement, but it is symbiotic with many political movements, and its goals align very well with traditional Democratic Party populism. The Democratic Party has been adrift from its populist traditions, and in many ways that made the Occupy movement necessary, but many Democrats seem to be recognizing what is happening. They seem to be rediscovering the Democratic Party’s populist tradition. The Republican Party has no link at all to populism. The Republican Party, since at least the Reagan era, has been the party of the economic elite, waging neoliberal class warfare and then feigning outrage at what Republicans consider to be the class warfare of merely calling the Republican Party on its actually waging class warfare.

 

Since the Reagan era, the income gap has exploded, the wealthy have grown wealthier, the poor have grown poorer, the middle class has all but disappeared, and the nation has grown increasingly segregated by income. And while President Obama’s State of the Union speech emphasized the degree to which he understands the importance of the Occupy movement and how it has changed the economic conversation in this country, the Republicans chose Bush Budget Director Mitch Daniels to speak on their behalf, thus demonstrating that they remain utterly clueless about what has gone wrong with the economy, how people feel about what has gone wrong with the economy, and how anything about the economy will ever again go right. While President Obama’s State of the Union speech emphasized the degree to which he understands the importance of the Occupy movement by announcing the appointment of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate the corporate crimes that neoliberal deregulation made inevitable, and that inevitably crashed the economy, the Republicans chose to demonstrate that they remain utterly clueless about what has gone wrong with the economy by having Bush Budget Director Mitch Daniels repeat the same stale failed Republican recipe of tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, and the class warfare of feigning outrage at the alleged class warfare of calling for economic fairness and justice.

No one will openly admit it, but part of the Republican rationale for having Mitch Daniels rebut President Obama’s State of the Union speech was that he is the choice of many supposedly serious Republicans to make a late entry into the presidential race, or possibly to prevail at a brokered convention. There are actually some Republicans who understand that neither the gruesome Gingrich nor the unprincipled Romney is likely to catch political fire with the voting public. What these Republicans haven’t figured out is why. Because Republican insiders haven’t figured out that the American people are angry at and fed up with a stagnating economy and increasingly obscene income and wealth disparities. The American people don’t want handouts, but they do want a social safety net. But more than anything the American people just want a fair chance. They want to know that if they work hard and obey the laws, they will do better than maybe scraping by. They want to know that if they are taken advantage of by unscrupulous, greedy, politically connected corporations, there will be justice. They want their children and grandchildren to have at least the same, and preferably better, opportunities than they had. In the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the known history of the human race, those goals shouldn’t be considered excessive or but unrealistic fantasies, but to the Republicans those goals not only are unthinkable; they are class warfare.

The Republicans continue to promote policies that hurt people. The Republicans continue to promote policies that will only enrich the already rich while making life more difficult for everyone else. Not many still believe that if the Republicans and their wealthy friends and owners throw a lavish feast, enough crumbs will trickle down to the floor to nourish everyone else. But that’s all the Republicans have to offer. And even their usual means of convincing people to vote against their own best interests won’t work.

Under President Obama, accused terrorists have been caught and killed; one war has been drawn down, if not quite ended; and while not perfect, there is an obvious basic competency in foreign policy and national security. Republican fear-mongering fails. On the domestic front, the Republicans are finding it no longer works to exploit and exacerbate hatred and bigotry. So they turn to the economy. Because no one is happy with the economy. But the problem for the Republicans is that the public well understands who is to blame for the economy, and that someone is named Bush. And then the Republicans decide the perfect person to rebut President Obama’s State of the Union speech is Bush’s former budget director, Mitch Daniels.

The Republicans assume people have very short attention spans. Maybe because so much of their base does. But the fact is that Mitch Daniels played an instrumental role in turning President Clinton’s record federal budget surplus into the largest ever federal deficit. Mitch Daniels disastrously underestimated the cost of Bush’s disastrous war on Iraq. Mitch Daniels helped Bush downgrade the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the years immediately before the Hurricane Katrina disaster. And with the American public increasingly focused on unemployment and income disparity, in his current job as governor of the state that once sent the execrable Dan Quayle to the U.S. Senate, Mitch Daniels is busy waging war on workers. Mitch Daniels played a key role in creating some the worst disasters created by any U.S. president ever, and yet when it comes time to rebut the State of the Union speech given by the president who is leading the tentative recovery from those disasters, it is to Mitch Daniels that the Republicans turn. Mitch Daniels played a key role in creating some the worst disasters ever created by any U.S. president, and yet when it comes time to find a candidate to run against the president who is leading the tentative recovery from those disasters, it is to Mitch Daniels that many supposedly serious Republicans would like to turn.

A lot of Republican insiders are frightened for their party’s future. They should be. But not for the reasons they think. Newt Gingrich is not what’s wrong with the Republican Party. Mitt Romney is not what’s wrong with the Republican Party. That New Gingrich and Mitt Romney are the leading candidates to carry the Republican Party’s standard against President Obama is not what’s wrong with the Republican Party. That Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are the leading candidates to carry the Republican Party’s standard against President Obama is but a symptom of what’s wrong with the Republican Party. The problem runs wider. The problem runs deeper. The problem is simple. The problem with the Republican Party is the Republican Party.

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Laurence Lewis

Laurence Lewis (aka: Turkana) is a native Oregonian, and recently returned after 25 years in California. A lifelong political activist, he first stuffed envelopes while in grade school, walked precincts for local candidates while in junior high, and his first paying job, in high school, was on a Congressional campaign. He was first paid for his writing when Rolling Stone gave him fifteen dollars for a five word poem. It remains the best rate he's ever received. He writes poetry, music, all manner of drama and fiction, and also spends a lot of time with cameras.

Laurence Lewis blogs at The Left Coaster and Daily Kos.  See his diaries at Daily Kos.