Republicans Must Hang Together, or One By One

“We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Didn’t Ben Franklin say that in the dawning days of our nation?  Back then, the King of England could really use the noose.

Today, the Republicans in congress might need some reminders that they’ll still die election deaths if they keep going down the road they are on.

Last week’s vote in the House to impose a 90% tax on those getting AIG bonus money is a good example of Republicans failing to vote against a brainless but popular idea of the majority — and miss an opportunity to explain why the majority might be making bad law.

Eighty five Republicans joined the “public outrage” instead of engaging their brains and asking, “What should principled Republicans suggest?”

Hint: we are against taxes.  Especially confiscatory taxes: no matter how bad a guy we are chasing.  And we are against making laws, especially tax laws, to punish.  And we think the House should stay millions of miles from any legislation that even might be unconstitutional.

Last week there were lots of tagets beside AIG employees: Senator Dodd, among them.

You dogs chased the wrong car.  You joined ACORN in vilifying AIG employees who had signs reading “Capitalism is organized crime.”

And Republicans in the House, you added your names to a witch hunt that was border-line lawlessness.

ACORN activists at the homes of AIG executives on Saturday

Arch liberal Bush hater Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was on the conservative Fox News Channel awhile back to say, “Our country is being looted.”

If he can get this: so can all Republicans.

This is time for Republicans to stand united or die trying.  And for some that are on the fence like Maine’s Snowe and Collins and Arlen Specter of the Keystone state: we say adieu or seppuku.

Looks like Specter will leave the GOP anyway….

Health care?  Good luck: but try to stand united. If we can’t afford it, maybe we can’t afford it.  But make your care.

Schools should be federalized and the White House is writing the legislation?  No brainer.  Money has rarely made schools better but has often enriched bad teachers and entrenched unions.

Spending at the rate of $1 billion an hour?  Unsustainable generational theft.  Even China is worried.

Energy: are you with Al Gore or against him?

Foreign policy?  Do you believe Iran, China, North Korea and the Taliban will play nice?  Sending videos will do, do you think?

Terrorism: a word Obama has removed from the lexicon, is still maybe a threat?  What say you?

What happened to drill, baby, drill?  Too hot to even discuss now?  We shall ignore all our natural resources and be the wind powered nation?  When? At what cost and when will the grid be ready?

Corruption: Republicans want an end of corruption and total truth and honesty in government.  Right?  Pass a new Dodd Law that prohibits his kind of conduct.  Better yet: pass a law punishing those that don’t even read legislative proposals and then vote for them.

Time to ressurect the Newt style contract with what’s remaining of America before it is too late guys and gals….

DO NOT allow Rahm Emanuel to define you.  You are not Rush and maybe you are not Steele.  Abortion still matters?

Time to unite.

Or hang one by one.


Politico Defines Republicans

Watching the various spats among conservatives, it’s difficult to tell whether one is witnessing a series of lively political disagreements or an episode of “Monday Night Raw.” 

In one corner, there’s former Bush administration speechwriter David Frum versus talk radio king Rush Limbaugh. In another ring, Limbaugh is taking on former House speaker-turned-conservative guru Newt Gingrich. And in the Royal Rumble, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is battling, well, pretty much everybody in the GOP

Liberals have shown no small measure of delight in this fracas, and understandably so. Taking political advantage of conservative fratricide makes perfect sense, as it’s the strategic execution of Henry Kissinger’s observation about the Iran-Iraq War: “It’s a pity both sides can’t lose.” Fueling the intra-party fire weakens the GOP from within. Even the White House has gotten in on the act with senior figures like spokesperson Robert Gibbs and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel launching attacks on administration critics ranging from Limbaugh to CNBC personalities Rick Santelli and Jim Cramer

But as liberals engage in multiple rounds of schadenfreude over conservative wrangling, what’s noticeable is that the burgeoning civil war we’re witnessing on the right could not play out on the left, at least not rise to the level of gravity that would attract front-page articles in Newsweek or the instigation of partisans on the other side. And that’s because liberals — unlike conservatives — do not have a “movement” over which to fight. 

Given the Barack Obama phenomenon, the rise of the liberal blogosphere and overwhelming Democratic congressional majorities, the proposition that liberals lack a movement might sound strange. But while the Republican Party comprises three steadfast pillars (free marketers, defense hawks and the religious right), the Democratic Party remains a coalition of a vast and diverse assemblage of interest groups (minorities, labor unions, academics, trial lawyers, etc.) rather than an ideological enterprise. As such, the Democrats, up until very recently, have long had more intense internal squabbling than the Republicans, whose various factions learned to reconcile. 

The conservative movement began to take form in the 1950s as a reaction to the then-regnant statist consensus. It was firmly anti-communist, opposed the New Deal and the further expansion of government programs, and later launched a harsh critique on many of the social changes that took place in the 1960s and 1970s. What further distinguishes the conservative movement from the liberal coalition is that conservatives built an array of institutions to sustain their ideological apparatus. In Washington and across the country, there exists a constellation of think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. In the 1980s, conservatives took to the airwaves and now attract tens of millions of listeners every day on talk radio. Perhaps the most important feature of the movement was its recruitment of young people through organizations like Young America’s Foundation, which identifies and trains conservative students on campuses across the country. 

To see the vitality — if not reasonableness — of the movement, one only had to visit last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual ritual that attracts conservative activists, politicians and celebrities from across the country. There is no liberal equivalent of this confab. Indeed, the relative influence of the conservative movement on the GOP versus any liberal parallel on the Democratic Party can be seen in the vast number of Republican politicians who proudly call themselves “conservative.” By contrast, few Democrats publicly identify themselves as “liberal,” opting for the more vague and voguish “progressive,” if at all.

Liberals are belatedly constructing themselves a movement akin to the one crafted by their ideological adversaries. In 2003, John Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, a partisan think tank explicitly modeled on Heritage. Media Matters aggressively attacks any perceived anti-liberal media bias in the same way that conservative watchdog groups have been monitoring the mainstream press since the 1980s. POLITICO’s Ben Smith has reported on the daily conference call in which the heads of more than 20 major liberal interest groups participate to shape a coherent message for the day, as well as Unity ’09, a coalition of groups ranging from to the American Civil Liberties Union “aimed at helping President Obama push his agenda through Congress.” Never before have the disparate organizations of the American left been so well-coordinated.

Does the nascent liberal movement portend good or ill? Judging that question depends in part upon whether or not one agrees with the agenda. If scaling back American commitments overseas, increasing the power of unions, and building a more left-leaning Supreme Court, among other goals, of course, are your thing, then the means by which these ends are achieved will presumably matter less than their attainment.

But the answer also lies in whether or not movement politics is itself a healthy feature of the American electoral system. There is something ironic in the tendency of liberals to denounce the staleness and conformity of the conservative movement and relish in its apparent demise while constructing something of their own that is just as ideologically rigid.

James Kirchick is an assistant editor of The New Republic.

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