Column, 672 words

Bulwark of Ignorance

Republicans are calling for a "compromise" as they gear up for another knock-down-drag-out fight.

Donald Kaul

The other day, House Speaker John Boehner accused Barack Obama of being mean to the Republican Party. Our president, he said, was trying to “annihilate” the party and “shove us into the dustbin of history.”

Would that it were so. If ever a political party needed annihilation, it’s the current Republican model.

Having lost the November presidential election handily — by some five million votes — the GOP suffered a moment of self-doubt. At a meeting of Republicans later that month, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, one of the rising stars of the party, called for Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.”

He suggested that they broaden their appeal to include the rising minority groups in the nation.

The Republicans, especially those holding seats in the House of Representatives, thought about that for about 15 minutes, then said: “Nah.” And no wonder. In recent decades the Republican Party has served as a bulwark of ignorance whose mission is to hold back the nation’s progress. It’s the party of climate change deniers, creationists, anti-conservationists, tin-foil-hat collectors, and those people who dress in camouflage outfits hoping that someone will take them for war heroes. Get rid of that crowd and there wouldn’t be enough Republicans left to serve as pall bearers at the party’s own funeral.

Which is not to say Republicans don’t have a plan. They do. The technical name for their new electoral strategy is “cheating.”


Talk Radio News Service/Flickr

In swing state after swing state, Republican legislatures, having redistricted all semblance of democracy out of their congressional and state assembly districts, are contemplating doubling down on the Electoral College. They claim that it yields unfair representation in presidential elections. The Republican answer is to make it even more unfair.

Republicans in Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Virginia are working on plans that would allocate electoral votes by the number of congressional districts carried, rather than by statewide popular vote.

Here’s how it would work: My state of Michigan, for example, has 14 congressional districts and 16 electoral votes. President Obama, while he won the state by 450,000 votes, carried only five of the 14 districts. So Republicans, instead of getting no electoral votes, would pick up nine. (Some analysts have calculated that if similar plans had been in place last year, Mitt Romney would have won the election, despite getting five million fewer votes than his opponent.)

So yeah, Mr. President, if you get a chance to annihilate those losers you should take it. Do it to them before they do it to you.

While there’s a good chance Republicans will sober up before they take drastic election-rigging measures, there’s no doubt that they’re gearing up for another knock-down-drag-out fight. Only this time they’re calling it “compromise.”

I watched Paul Ryan, the failed vice-presidential candidate, on one of those Sunday TV talk shows and he said he was all about compromise.

Striking a theme that we are sure to hear again and again in the coming months, he said that the gridlock in Washington was Obama’s fault. “He’s looking to go farther to the left,” Ryan said, “and he wants to fight us every step of the way politically.”

He said that if someone like Bill Clinton were still president, he’d have had the country’s problems solved by now.

Even for someone like Ryan, who is always careful to keep truth at a safe distance, that’s a whopper.

When the freshly minted President Clinton raised taxes early in his first term, he did so without a single Republican vote. Not one. Neither did he get any support for his efforts to fix our national health care mess.

The tax boost increased revenue and allowed Clinton to balance the federal budget for the first time in decades. The grateful Republicans spent the next six years trying to impeach him. And that was when Republicans were reasonable, compared to what we’ve got now.

So I don’t think Obama is going to annihilate the Republican Party. I guess I’m just a pessimist.

OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

  • wayne from sheboygan

    The Republican base is comprised of the same crowd of John Birchers and flat earthers that Ike managed to keep in a box during the 50s. Who let ’em out….that’s what I want to know.

  • Dennis

    Don, you make my weeks every week. So glad you are still writing. We need you!

  • Daniel Stone

    This is the first time I have viewed this web site and guessing by the contributors, my last. It appears that you are a bunch of Obozo supporters. Enjoy your life

  • Mary J. from Tucson

    You explained the redistricting “plot” very well. I just wish some knuckleheaded rightwingers would listen, and realize how our very democracy is being threatened by it. Thank you for all your efforts.

  • TomRyann

    The GOP is desperate to find a way to win elections without winning a majority of votes. Their basic problem is that the ignorant-and-proud of it demographic that makes up such a large part of its base is shrinking.

    Cheer up Donald. Obama doesn’t need to annihilate the Republican Party. As Bill Maher put it, “The Republicans are like the Beach Boys–their fans are dying off.”

  • talferris

    Messaging, don’t forget messaging. Frank Luntz is using Faux News and the pretty blonde conservative mouthpieces to foment the notion that there is nothing wrong with the ideas, values, or policies of the Republican party, but how they are telling us about it. Yup, nothing wrong with the concepts, it’s merely a matter of how you tell people about it. Words only have the meanings you give them, what’s in those high browed dictionaries doesn’t count. No one will even know what that is in a couple of generations after we gut edukayshun and they’ll only believe and do what we tell them. Yeah right. Cow dung wrapped in gold leaf is still…you know.

    As an aside, maybe that’s what happened to Palin at Faux News. She wouldn’t die her hair blonde.

  • 4ever49

    Kaul – standard left wing name calling and word bombs in
    place of real analysis and thought.

    If he ever gets another Pulitzer nomination & actually wins
    perhaps he’d like to drag someone from the back of his pickup (as he recently
    suggested) on the way to the event to punctuate his persona.

  • Eric from Beaver Dam

    The Republicans lost the election because they could not compete with the “free stuff” offered by the opponents. Aside from your vitriolic comments about the Republican party: you boasted that President Clinton balanced the federal budget the first time in decades. I remember Clinton crowing: “I did it as Governor of Arkansas.” Sure, because there state law requires it. As far as the federal budget goes, Clinton balanced it by “borrowing” $192 billion from our Social Security trust fund. Big deal. Of course, you wouldn’t put that in the newspaper and bring it to the attention of the people whose saved-up money he used.

    • TomRyann

      What retirement fund of any kind, anywhere in the world, doesn’t put a good chunk of its money in the safest investment in the world, U.S. Treasury bonds? Right wingers claim that this is, “borrowing from Social Security.” Would you rather the Social Security Administration put its surplus money under a mattress? Invest it in credit default swaps?

    • talferris

      Couldn’t compete or chose not to compete…unless you belong to the same Country Club they do?

  • MJ

    thank you for saying it like it is – we love you OT! We recently moved to NC and are seeing the effects of redistricting first hand. The governor and the legislature are now in Republican control and we are bracing for a massive assault on the poor and middle class. If you want to see what the country would look like under the Republicans just watch NC in the next couple of years…….

  • JaylahP

    “While there’s a good chance Republicans will sober up before they take drastic election-rigging measures….”

    There is?

    You’re much more optimistic than I.