Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Battle for the Republican Party

   There's trouble brewing in the Republican Party. For decades, wealthy fiscal conservatives have run the show, using the devoted masses of social conservatives for voting power. With the Tea Party uniting social conservatives, they have begun to see the non-Tea Party Republicans as just as bad, if not worse, than the hated liberals. In two places is this divide manifested blatantly.
   The first is the debt limit crisis. The United States government has incurred some 14 trillion dollars of debt over many years, debt that it promised to pay back. Debt that the Constitution says "cannot be questioned." The congressional Republican leadership knows that defaulting on government debt and ruining the nation's rock solid credit would be enough to sway voters to the left in next year's elections.
   The Tea Partiers, however, feel obliged to their misled constituencies to enact what they see as fiscal responsibility. Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, has announced a plan to give President Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval. House Speaker John Boehner tentatively supported the plan as a last resort. The freshmen, of course, have roundly rejected this plan, as they would anything that gives a shred of power to the President. Meanwhile, Standard & Poor's rating agency has put the U.S. credit rating on "negative watch" due to the lack of progress in Congress.
   The second divide will become more and more evident in the coming year. It will determine who controls the Republican Party. It's the GOP Presidential primaries, and whether Mitt Romney will hold on to win the nomination or be kicked to the sidelines by Tea Party band wagoner Michele Bachmann. He will undoubtedly raise more money than her, but she has much ammunition against him when it comes to social conservatives.
   Romney was governor of the first state to legalize gay marriage. He passed landmark healthcare legislation that is now seen as the biggest drawback of any of the legitimate Republican candidates, among them a pizza mogul, the architect of a government shutdown, and a man whose name is synonymous with filth, thank you Dan Savage.
   Romney's only possible route to victory is to convince Republicans to forget the social issues and focus on the economy. The only thing standing in his way is the question of whether social conservatives can sacrifice their extremism for the long-term viability of their party.     

Sunday, July 10, 2011

USA Soccer: Why the Women Can Compete, and the Men Can't

   The USA Women's National Soccer Team defeated Brazil this morning in an incredible, exciting, legendary match. The Americans scored the latest goal in Women's World Cup history, in the 123rd minute, to tie the game and send it to penalty kicks. After a phenomenal save by U.S. keeper Hope Solo and five straight goals by the United States team, they eliminated Brazil from the tournament and now move on to the semi-finals.
   But why can the USA Women's National Team compete with the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Germany, England, France, and Spain, while the Men's National Team had to fight tooth and nail to beat Slovenia in last year's World Cup?
   The answer turns out to be, unsurprisingly, talent. The best male athletes in the United States end up playing football, basketball, baseball, and hockey, with a few here and there going into the MLS. Soccer is the most popular sport among high school females, and youth soccer organizations like the AYSO boast millions of female athletes. The USA Women's Team is an international powerhouse because of hard work by players, encouragement and guidance of coaches, the wholehearted devotion of countless fans, and every woman and girl who play the game from the backyard to the World Cup.
   The way to get the Men's Team to be as competitive globally as the Women's is to replicate in America the emotion and investment that fans everywhere have in their teams. We need to fall in love with the game of soccer, just like the whole world.
   And to do this we need to prove that America has the talent and the endurance to make exciting plays and win big matches in extraordinary fashion. Ladies, thank you for showing the nation and the world what we can do. With our 300 million people and our love for sports, we can win every Men's and Women's World Cup for the rest of time, but only if we make soccer the sport that binds us to the world.