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By Tom Cushing

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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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Belly Button Lint

Uploaded: Nov 20, 2012
It's navel gazing season again, as it is in the wake of every general election. Both sides are analyzing the results of this month's electoral festivities, from very different perspectives.

The Dems are relieved and impatient to get on with it, proclaiming a new American demographic that, they believe, portends a "blue" future for the nation. They are rallying behind the Administration, to the point of fearlessly facing the Fiscal Cliff. They are unlikely in the short run to do more than tinker with a winning formula. As conservative columnist Ross Douthat puts it: "Liberals look at the Obama majority and see a coalition bound together by enlightened values — reason rather than superstition, tolerance rather than bigotry, equality rather than hierarchy. But it's just as easy to see a coalition created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear." weblink: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/18/opinion/sunday/douthat-The-Liberal-Gloat.html?_r=0 A structuralist, he sees a serious long term threat in growing reliance on the welfare state, especially to the extent that it replaces local institutions of charity and good works. It's an interesting perspective, and one that probably ought to receive a full column's attention at some point.

To the limited extent that the Dems are in a conciliatory mood, they will nod across the aisle to acknowledge that loophole eradication may have a role in tax reform, and that senior entitlement spending will require further attention. The latter might include the GOP idea of maintaining current benefits for those who now rely on them, but making changes that lower expectations among future recipients, consistent with our collective ability to 'pay it forward.'

The much more interesting stuff is coming from the GOP's teeth-gnashing – something that every disappointed partisan group does as part of its morning-after regrets. The process is important, because the Two-Party system relies on governance via alternative ideas. Recently, the competition has been between those who would govern, and those who want to wound government into inaction ("Starve the beast!"). A positive conservative ideology would be a welcome development, allowing for reasoned debates that perhaps won't so quickly devolve into kill-the-messenger caricaturing of the respective Oppositions. (A guy can hope, can't he?)

Setting aside Mr. Romney's bitter offering of sour grapes that only confirmed his earlier expressions of tunnel vision, several others have leapt into the fray, hoping to help the Party reframe its essence from a leadership position.

First in the ring has been former Bush speechwriter ("Axis of Evil") David Frum, with an e-book titled "Why Romney Lost, and what the GOP Can Do About It." It is mostly a diagnosis of the former, laying blame on ideological Tea Party zeal, and a failure to address the crises of the middle class. Interestingly, he also suggests that the GOP has been victim of conservatism's evident successes:

"To lament that our freedoms are in peril," he writes, "is to reverse the truth. In most ways, Americans of the 2010s are much freer than the Americans of fifty years ago. If they manage an airline, a trucking company, a brokerage house, and oil or gas well, a railroad or a bank, they may set their own prices without the prior approval of a government regulator. No longer are rules passed restricting how much farmers may grow. Americans' tax rates have dropped far lower than they were a half-century ago. They top out at 35%...nowhere near the 91% maximum of 1962."

For the future, "the road to renewal begins with this formula: 21st Century conservatism must become economically inclusive, environmentally responsible, culturally modern and intellectually credible." Specifically, economic policies must promote free market principles to the benefit of all, not just the donor base. Environmental threats are real and rising, and must be addressed. The Party must avoid being perceived as anti-female (ultrasounds, unequal pay), immigrant (AZ model) and gay (nuptials), toning down its rhetoric in those regards, at minimum. As to intellectual credibility, he urges rejection of those who regard politics as warfare, and their opponents as enemies. Take THAT, Rush (and a few readers hereabouts, as well).

Trouble is, there's already a Party that stands for those things, having adopted relatively free market approaches climate change regulation and universal health care; that is pro-women, Latino and gay rights, and is perceived as focused on the many tribulations of the middle class. My sense is that larger distinctions could be found in matters of Defense spending, fiscal priorities and hawkish foreign policy, but it is seductive to revel in the prospect of a federal government so much less polarized and able to bridge narrower philosophical gaps.

The 30 Republican Governors also recently met, and weighed-in on the future. Chris Christie also seemed to downplay ideology in favor of competence and constituent service – that the GOP will be fine if it focuses on those areas, which are distinctly the realm of Governors not yet tarred with the DC brush. Bobby Jindal, for his part, was more blunt than Frum. "We've got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything," Jindal told POLITICO. "We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys."

"It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that," Jindal said. "We've also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people." He added: "Simply being the anti-Obama party didn't work. You can't beat something with nothing. The reality is we have to be a party of solutions and not just bumper-sticker slogans, but real detailed policy solutions."

He was also critical of what he called "donor-driven fiscal policies," including both tax fairness issues and regulation of financial practices. He would not seek to change the GOP's pro-life and same-sex marriage agendas, but he would "soften the tone" and de-emphasize those issues, presumably to hang onto the social conservative/evangelicals, without putting forth more effort than minimum necessary for retention. weblink: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1112/83743.html

These Republicans represent a more pragmatic, less ideological strain of Conservatism; the Tea Party and Evangelical ideologues are only now beginning to unwrap themselves from their apocalyptic fetal positions. They can continue to claim credit for the Republican House majority, but not escape blame for losing Senate and White House opportunities aplenty.

It remains to be seen whether the Pragmatics will reclaim the Grand Old Party, and it will take time to thrash-out the specific policy re-imaginings being called-for. It's a healthy thing that these meditations are underway. I think they will be driven by the nagging suspicion that this year's elections were lost by the GOP, more than that the Dems won them. Further, it's probably unhealthy to be as sure of Anything as the GOP seemed to be of most things. If the outcome of these internal meditations drags the GOP toward The Middle, they will be a future force to be reckoned-with. Even better for the Republic, they will be capable of participating in actual governance.

That will be something for which we can all give thanks.

Comments

Posted by Heaven 17, a resident of San Ramon,
on Nov 21, 2012 at 9:49 pm

You, Mr. Cushing, are a clown. No, I take that back. You are a sophist. No matter what the point, your inept way, or ways of spinning yarn for the sake of a tall tale is... Boring. I think you argue for the sake of argument. Nothing compelling seems to dribble out of that hole beneath your nose. True, you do have the right to speak as you see fit. The problem is that you attempt to write in a way that appears scholarly, snobby and a great deal conceded. Instead of trying to impress the reader with what I assume is your poor excuse for academic brilliance, may I suggest you tone it down a notch and speak to the masses in a language that they can all understand.


Posted by Dave, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Yes, Tom, let's all follow Heaven 17's lead and take the spelling "down a notch," too, while we're at it.

Or maybe Heaven 17 should just go back to school and learn how to spell "conceited."


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 22, 2012 at 7:47 am

IK, R?

I'm surprised that someone who uses "sophist" in a sentence has difficulty with the any of the words in my column. But it's probably true, to paraphrase the philosopher Dean Martin, that everybody's somebody's boring pedant. Tough grader, that H17.

That said, while he's right that I'm free to write this stuff, it's also true that no one is compelled to read it. Seriously!


Posted by Thirdeye, a resident of another community,
on Nov 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Trouble for the GOP is, they stopped being fiscal conservatives when they endorsed the Reagan and Bush deficits. Now they're the big-borrowing party of special interests. It's a cynial alliance of the super-rich, neocon imperialists, and religious and racial bigots. The Democrats are now the fiscally conservative party. A Republican party espousing true individual liberty a la Gary Johnson would be useful as a counterforce against the Democrats' propensity for ham-handed social engineering, but that is not the Republican Party we have today it seems at least a generation away. Jindal's belief that "softening the tone" of agendas that are fundamentally backward, vicious, and stupid will be enough shows that he still doesn't get it.


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Thanks for your comment, Third Eye. What to do about/with the folks who ID and vote primarily as Evangelicals is a central GOP dilemma.

I don't know if they personally "get" it, but I think what Frum and Jindal are both saying is that the Religious Right has become a bit of an embarrassment to the GOP, and a barrier to attracting the new people the Party wants to grow with. That said, their continuing Influence is demonstrated by Marco Rubio's recent refusal to call bs on the Age of the Earth, and his characterization of that question as a "debate among theologians" (might there be a place for scientists at that table, Marco?).

If Evangelicals constitute about 25% of the Republican base, you risk a lot if you boot, try to muzzle, or even ignore them. And they will certainly weigh-in on important issues like climate change (mankind's dominion over the earth, and all that). I think that's a tough call.

It's also interesting how the GOP's reputation for fiscal discipline continues to endure, despite Mr. Reagan's downright Keynesian stimulus package, centered on the Defense infrastructure, and Mr. Bush2's what-was-he-thinking? The Tea Party wing certainly stands for that, to a fault in my view, but they can't command a Party majority, and their zeal makes them difficult partners in a coalition.

Anyway, thanks again for chiming-in in a way that invites discussion of the column -- I hope we get more of that.


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Nov 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Tom wants to help the Republican party??? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

Wait a minute. Let me catch my breath. Ok.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Help the GOP? Where's you get that idea, S-P? I really just want to see them reclaim their Party from the Far Right. I'm very much in favor of reasonable opposition, because I think it's healthy to have a reasonable debate. I could've voted for the reasonable Jon Huntsman, I think, and I hope he accepts another role in this Administration " Secretary of State would suit me fine. I was also hoping to encourage a conversation among Republicans about their Party's future as they see it. Honest.

Maybe a personal story will help.

I was walking on the Carmel beach with my dogs over Thanksgiving weekend. A bottle washed-up, with a Genie inside -- he granted me a wish. I looked out over the beautiful ocean colors and thought about how I've always liked Hawaii -- but I hate to fly, and I get seasick.

“So," sez I, “I'd like you to build me a bridge to Hawaii." The Genie looked sad, and talked about all the difficulties of constructing such a bridge " the distance, the ocean depth, the tides and currents, storms, etc.

So I said, “Okay then, I want to understand how Republicans think. I want to know what the Tea Partiers think they're doing, what the obstructionism is really all about, why they hate Mr. Obama with such a passion and why they think it's their business to deny gay people full social participation. I also wonder how they think they can survive on mostly old white men."

To which the Genie replied ...

“Were you thinking two lanes, or four?"


Posted by Mike Jilth, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on Nov 30, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Were you talking to yourself on that beach too? And by the way, please do something about the format/file type that you use; .doc vs .docx perhaps?


Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Dec 1, 2012 at 9:24 am

Pretty much, yeah.

As to the "typeset" problem, it's a major PITA. I compose these things in M$Word 2010, then save them as a plain text document, then cut-and-paste them into the blank the DX provides to upload content. Usually they a fine for a few days, and then that funky punctuation shows up -- sometimes, but not always. I've also tried notepad, to no better avail.

Madame Editor has tried to get their IT person to solve it, as well, but so far no luck. Any specific suggestions would be worth a try, short of composing the whole article in the blank -- tried that, but got interrupted in the middle and it disappeared. Some long-suffering readers might consider that an improvement, it's not my "deliverable."


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