Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is History on the Side of Conservatives? In Their Dreams

   Why do conservatives believe history is on their side?
   From the Founding Fathers to slavery to the Great Depression, they continually draw false conclusions or simply ignore the facts altogether.
   The Tea Party started out as an ode to the Sons of Liberty's Boston Tea Party of 1773. They deluded themselves by thinking their protests were in the same vein of the exploited American colonists. The colonists' central argument was the fact that they were taxed by a foreign Parliament in which they had no representation. They fought because they could not vote, a right that the modern Tea Party has had from the beginning.
   It is also a tendency of the right to fictionalize historical figures. The fact is that some of our most revered Founding Fathers made mistakes, they contradicted themselves and each other, and they had relatively little understanding of the eventual consequences of their actions. In other words, they were human beings. They totally flubbed the issue of slavery, setting up close to a century of petty political games before an inevitable Civil War. The Sons of Liberty committed heinous acts upon British tax collectors and peacekeepers, often burning them to death in their homes or tarring and feathering them on the docks. John Adams, future Second President of the United States, successfully argued the case of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre in 1770. He proved that the supposed massacre of the innocent was actually incited by the mob, who threw ice, oyster shells and clubs at the soldiers and screamed at them to shoot. The founding of our nation was not a pretty portrait of a conservative people standing up to an unfair government. It was a largely-improvised affair led by conflicted men, and was fueled by the sacrifice of people who envisioned a better future for their children, but not the children of slaves.
   If we are to rise above current economic woes, we have to look at the lessons we learned from the Great Depression. Namely, that government spending combined with a private-sector boost in domestic manufacturing creates jobs, protects livelihoods and strengthens the middle class. Republicans in Congress refuse to permit either of these, arguing that increased government stimulus will wreak havoc on our debt situation and higher taxes on corporations that manufacture overseas will hurt consumers in the U.S. The only possible result of this concoction is a widened gap between the rich and poor, and eventually, the dismantling of the middle class.
   Michelle Bachmann praised John Quincy Adams as a Founding Father, even though he wasn't, then said that his position as his father's secretary (John Adams had his own, professional secretary) qualified him as an influential figure. The puzzling thing was that she made no mention of Abigail Adams, widely considered the most influential woman of the Revolutionary Era. Perhaps historical examples of female empowerment don't support modern conservative positions on abortion rights or an Equal Rights Amendment.
   After the 2010 Midterms, the new Republican majority had the U.S. Constitution read aloud on the floor, apparently in an effort to remind the Congress of their original duties. Unfortunately, they chose to omit certain portions deemed "unnecessary", like the one that said that slaves were to be counted as three-fifths of a whole in representation, even though they couldn't vote. The Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution that slaves were slaves, not citizens, they couldn't vote or hold property, but they did count them in their districts in order to fatten Southern influence in Congress. This goes to show that conservative revisionist history has no limits, and they will edit even the Constitution if it doesn't fit their fiscal or social agenda.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The GOP's California Conundrum

   With the new Congressional districts drawn out  (plus a few minor changes in the near future) and the shrinking percentage of registered Republicans in California, experts from both parties and from non-partisan groups are saying what many of us have known for a long time, that if Republicans want to compete in this state, they are going to have to move toward the center. But this raises a few important questions for the party in California and in Washington, D.C.: How can California Republicans successfully become more moderate while the national Republican Party becomes more and more conservative? And is California worth all the trouble for Republicans?
   For a very long time, Republicans could reasonably rely on California to vote their way when it counted. Richard Nixon is the only California-born American President. Ronald Reagan governed the state for two terms in the late-60's/early-70's. The thing is, both of them were fairly moderate at the time, Nixon through his limited support of the Civil Rights Movement (if not his notorious red-scaring) and Reagan through his legalizing abortion in California.
   Nowadays, things have changed. Many conservatives, lauding Reagan as the father of new American conservatism, have become more conservative than Reagan himself. No Republican Governor today would even look at a bill that were remotely pro-choice.
   Even worse, Republicans have a history of alienating Latinos in California. They underestimated the political power of Latinos, especially in southern California. They also underestimated the majority opinion on immigration, and just how far from the norm they were in their positions. Latinos accounted for 90% of California's population growth in the last ten years, so obviously, Republicans will have to try to garner some substantial amount of Latino support.
   And even worse than that, "illegal immigration" seems to be an issue on which the national Republican Party refuses to budge. None of the Republican candidates for President have a moderate stance on documentation for students or on paths to legalization for immigrants living in the U.S., and Republicans in the House recently voted down the DREAM Act. The few Republican Congress members representing southern California now find themselves with districts containing more Latinos than they had before, raising concerns that Democrats will unseat them next year.
   California is the most populous state in the nation by millions, it sends the most members of Congress to the House, and it has the eighth-largest economy in the entire world. It's simply too big a whale for Republicans to just give up on. They have no choice but to take up more progressive positions on a variety of issues, including immigration, budgets, taxes, and social safety nets, or become politically obsolete.
  But they have something bigger to fear than their new constituents. And it turns out, the call was coming from inside the house. It's their fellow Republicans, in Washington and in the multitude of conservative PACs, who will fight them in primaries, sending vital campaign cash to their far-right challengers.
   Throughout the 2010 election cylce, the recurring theme of Tea Partiers and conservatives was "principle over party." For Republicans in California, neither principle nor party offer hope of further influence.