Author’s note: even at this stage of the game in late 2015, it was clear the Republican Party was a party of extremists, one intellectually unsound and not serious about policy.
The events of the past summer and fall have clearly shown that there is only one major political party for rational, thinking adults in America, and here you will see the eleven major events from this period that have shown beyond all reasonable doubt that the Republican Party is no longer a serious political party and that only the Democrat Party provides Americans with an actual ability to govern.
Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse November 13, 2015
AQABA, EILAT, HAIFA, and TEL AVIV — An extraordinary series of events has occurred over the past few months: more so than at any other time in recent decades and possibly far longer than that, the American people have been treated to an exceptionally clear, stark contrast between its two major political parties. The contrast clearly shows there is a moderately-left-of-center Democratic Party that is inclusive, interested in governance, and pursues data/study-informed policy competing with a far-right, being-pushed-farther-to-the-right Republican Party that is exclusive, hates government, and is increasingly basing its positions on fear, irrationality, emotion, and anti-intellectualism.
Several events of late have made this contrast absolutely clear:
1.) Trump and Trumpism
When Donald Trump exploded onto the scene this summer, he immediately catapulted to the top spot in the Republican race and has held steady nationally there and in most states ever since, only recently sharing that spot with Dr. Ben Carson. There is no equivalent to The Donald on the left, or anywhere else, for that matter. That a loud-mouthed, brawling TV personality and real estate magnate like Donald Trump could rise to dominate the Republican Party is a uniquely Republican phenomenon.
The contrast is clear: if there was someone like Trump running for president now on the Democratic side, he would be shunned as a fringe candidate by Democratic voters and would likely not have even been invited to participate in the debates. There is not a chance the Democrats would flock to a Trump the way Republicans have, and this is a glaringly obvious difference.
Furthermore, his style of trading playground insults, making grandiose claims without providing details, and constantly describing one’s self in an unending stream of superlatives (“HUGE” and “THE BEST”) is simply anathema to the Democrats’ style: they have preferred candidates who are more measured, wonkish, and specific for many years.
2.) Everything about the Iran nuclear deal
I have written about this before, so I will just reiterate here: on an issue of such momentous and historic importance as finally being able to thaw our-decades-long cold war with Iran, the Republican Party has shown itself to not only to be blindly ignorant of the real world consequences having this deal or not having this deal, but also of the very basics of how diplomacy and international negotiation work. As I wrote previously, there simply is no logical argument against this deal when it stacked up against the real-world feasible alternatives. Republican (and Israeli) opposition only takes us far closer to war, further instability, and nuclear proliferation. In addition, the Republicans showed they were far from above treating this issue in the most partisan manner possible. That the GOP is willing to play politics with global war and peace and issues of national security is not something lost on the experts, and even some major Republicans who have held significant security-related positions in the past, like Gen. and Sec. of State Colin Powell, Sec. of Defense and CIA Director Robert Gates, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, and NSA Director Zbigniew Brezinski, have come out for it. But the people in the driver’s seat of today’s Republican Party did not seem to notice this. Many others will.
3.) The Republican debates
One after the other, the Republican main-stage debates provided a juvenile attempt at kow-towing to the base and trading insults in an atmosphere of fantastical illogic, devoid of substance and reason. The most substantive candidates were relegated to the sidelines, while the least qualified and most foolish were front and center. The leading Republicans candidates tended to focus on issues that are hardly the main issues affecting the American people: a blatant distortion of Planned Parenthood resulting from some highly edited videos, thus returning to the culture-war issue of abortion, along with a heavy and illogical focus on illegal immigration and vague talk of “leadership” in international affairs. The first two debates, especially, had a real circus-like atmosphere, while the third saw the candidates behave as if they finally realized they looked like a circus in the previous two and then saw them unite to whine about the so-called “liberal media” asking unfair (i.e., tough) questions. This is from the party that says Obama is not tough enough to stand up to ISIS, China, and Putin, but who cry like babies because of a few low-stature cable news moderators giving them a tough time. Most recently, Dr. Carson has engaged in a megawhinefest just because the media is asking reasonable questions about his background and his rather shocking claims on everything from boyhood fights to the Egyptian pyramids. I have not seen the latest GOP debate, but from all the coverage I have seen, little seems to have changed.
4.) Relative position of more extreme candidates in terms of support in Republican, Democratic Parties
While I touched on this in the last section, this point is important enough to make it separately: in the Republican race, generally the crazier less serious the candidate, the more popular that candidate is with Republican voters: hence, Trump and Dr. Carson are vying to be #1. Rubio seems to be a semi-exception in the #3 spot, but the champions of irrationality and foolishness can be happy again with Ted Cruz solidly in the #4 spot. That’s right: 1, 2, and 4 are extremists who say the most outlandish things. One can accuse Bernie Sanders with some fairness being a relatively extreme candidate in terms of his rhetoric, and he is a declared socialist. And yet, Sanders has pretty much always been far behind Clinton nationally, and never been close to being supported by a majority of democratic voters. He has only led temporarily in two states (Iowa and NH) and has since lost ground to Clinton who now leads handily in Iowa and is neck-and-neck in NH. Clinton is a moderate, pragmatic, and practical politician who is focused on results and not ideology or crowd-pleasing rhetoric. So, with the Democrats, the electable, mature, more serious candidate has dominated almost entirely, while the on the Republican side the candidate who is a verbal brawler and has no political experience—Trump—has dominated the race national and locally since he announced his candidacy and now shares the top spot with Dr. Carson, who has zero political experience as well and is a virtual wind-up-toy that spews nonsense and offensive commentary non-stop. The contrast in the thoughts and composition and maturity of the two parties could not be clearer.
5.) The Planned Parenthood “scandal”
It is a well known fact that in general, Republicans oppose abortion. Less well known factually is that Planned Parenthood is not an organization whose primary purpose is to provide abortions and access to them, but, rather, focuses on a variety of other health services to women; abortion accounts for only about 3% of its activities for roughly 12% of its clients. But Republicans don’t seem to want to know such details, and seek to 1.) frame the organization as “an abortion factory” and 2.) to completely defund all government funding for the organization regardless of how it would negatively impact the 97% of non-abortion activities and how that would harm millions of women who otherwise have limited access to certain health services. The Republicans have made so much noise about this you would think it is both the #1 issue on the minds of Americans and the #1 issue in terms of importance (it is hardly either). They have also engaged in outright massive distortion of the issue, trying to portray Planned Parenthood as some sort of organization that is focused mainly on abortion and on harvesting organs from live babies to sell to research organizations based on a few isolated, misinterpreted anecdotes. Republicans even went to the extent of the threat of a government shutdown over the funding of this organization; basically, the House, controlled by the Republicans, would refuse to pass any spending bill that would include funding for Planned Parenthood, including routine bills to increase the debt ceiling (without which the United States would default on its debt payments and jeopardize its credit rating) and keep the government fully open and functioning; such bills completely defunding Planned Parenthood would not pass the Senate and would not come anywhere near enough the two-thirds support required in either the House or the Senate to overcome a presidential veto from Obama.
And as far as the Democrats distorting an issue and an organization that provides invaluable services to women’s health and trying to defund said organization by using the threat (on ANY issue!) of a government shutdown and/or the U.S. defaulting on its debt obligation? Yeah, that’s just the Republicans, 110%.
6.) The first Democratic debate
By the time the first Democratic debate occurred, the Republicans had made clear to the world what they were about and how they conducted themselves. In stark contrast, Hillary Clinton engaged with Bernie Sanders in a relatively substantive discussion that showed they had a command of the issues and that was mostly cordial, polite, and focused on problems that Americans are actually concerned about. The discussion was more about policy and less about rhetoric, slogans, and talking points. Even the “attacks” that came most often from the (distantly) second-tier candidates were low-intensity and far more civil than the insults being flung at the Republican debates. But even the fringe candidates came off as serious and able to discuss issues of substance in a way the Republican front-runners have generally been unable to do. Jim Webb, the conservative Democrat who dropped out after the first debate, would immediately be one of the more substantive candidates in a Republican debate.
So, on the Republican stage, you have a massive clown car stealing center stage, and the substantive people are kept of the car and struggle to be relevant in the race; on the Democratic stage, the most serious candidates dominate, and even the lesser candidates behave like relatively substantive adults. That’s about as different as it gets.
7.) The Benghazi hearing fiasco
I wrote quite a bit about this before, so I will just give a brief summary here: a bunch of junior upstart House Republicans decided it would be a great idea to investigate Hillary Clinton on Benghazi even though there have been eight previous investigations (one State, two Senate, and five Republican-led House investigations) that did not succeed in tearing her down. Their committee uncovers Hillary’s ill-fated decision to use a private e-mail server in her home for her work as Secretary of State and, rather than focus on Benghazi, it focuses on her e-mails. Several Republicans came out and admitted that this is a political witch hunt. The Republican upstarts then confront Hillary Clinton, one of the most seasoned and experienced and articulate politicians still in service in America, in an eleven-hour public hearing that totally exposes them for the ill-prepared, ignorant, imbalanced, rude, and partisan hacks that they are while practically turning the hearing into a campaign commercial highlighting Clinton’s many strengths. On top of that, her fellow Democrats on the Committee fully exposed the hypocrisies, falsehoods, and inconsistencies in the behavior of the committee’s Republicans. Basically, the GOP came off looking like total ignorant fools whose partisanship knows no bounds and in front of the whole nation and they succeeded in enhancing Clinton’s national position greatly by sending such underwhelming nobodies to take on the force of nature known as Hillary Clinton.
8.) Pope Francis comes to America
Pope Francis came to America recently. Besides moving Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner to tears (repeatedly!), Pope Francis reminded Americans that Christians can at least have the ability to be loving, kind, inclusive, open, warm, and fun. In other words, cool. Like Pope Frank. We even found out that the Pope did not want to meet right-wing intolerantand religiously crazy Kim Davis and that his people distanced the Pope from herafter the “meeting” was made public. Basically, Frank was letting America know that he did not endorse her views, actions, or brand of Christianity. Yet Kim Davis’s Evangelical version of Christianity—intolerant, hypocritical, imposing, harsh, exclusive, judgmental, and white ethno-centric/nationalistic—is the version that the Republican Party has embraced; Francis’s Catholicism, on the other hand, was a stark contrast as he surrounded himself with the poor and people of color and all nationalities during his visit. A Republican Francis ain’t.
9.) The exit of John Boehner
Partly moved by the Pope’s visit, partly frustrated with being one of the only pragmatic, practical, and realistic voices in the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and getting little love on the right or the left for his heroic and taxing roles in preventing government shutdowns, longtime conservative and Republican leader and Speaker of the House John Boehner surprised Washington with his resignation. The Republican base cheered, making it clear they felt there was no room in their party for pragmatic compromisers. As a parting gifts to America, Boehner avoided a shutdown and then rammed through a spending bill to prevent further shutdown fights for the next two years, with mostly Democratic and only modest Republican support. When the Republican party base and many of the Republican presidential candidates complaining that Boehner isn’t conservative enough and cooperated too much with Obama, it’s clear something is rotten in the state of Denmark…
10.) The rise of Carson and Carsonism
Add the inexperience of trump, but take away Trump’s brawling approach and the desire to actually govern and add a whole lot of right-wing Christian religious gibberish, and you get the soft-spoken Dr. Ben Carson. Carsonism combines the lack of political and governance experience of trump with an even higher level of irrationality and the big addition of the Evangelical Christian worldview, based wholly on nonsense. His unexpected rise to the tophas confounded all stripes of pundits and is even more shocking than the rise of Trump (I personally predicted Trump would be a force to be reckoned with but dismissed Carson almost immediately and was definitely wrong about his ability to gain voter support). Together, he and Trump speak for half of Republicans, and when you add in support for the super-Christians Cruz and Huckabee, you get closer to two/thirds of Republicans that are for Trumpism, Carsonism, or a governing style awash with Evangelical Christianity. Carson is a combination of Trump and Cruzism/Huckabeeism, which can be said to make him worse because there is even more content undeserving of respect in governance. Like Trump (and like Cruz and Huckabee), there is no equivalent on the left that has any real support. Just another crystal-clear contrast.
11.) The fall of Bush
Finally, we have the failure of the Bush campaign. Yes, I am already calling it a failure because I just don’t see how he comes back from where he is now(and where he’s been for some time) to win the nomination. I come to bury Bush, not to praise him, to paraphrase Shakespeare’s Mark Antony, so I’m not saying Bush is great. But especially in this field of Republicans, Jeb Bush speaks with a moderation in tone and language the leaders of his field do not, and has some moderate policy positions to back that up that they do not. He has years of experience in politics and governance, and while not a good governor, it is hard to argue he was awful in the mold of, say, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, and at the very least, he stakes out reasonable positions on immigration and on not using the threat of government shutdowns to achieve political goals. This makes him a dramatically more reasonable candidate that those leading the Republican field, and yet, even with $100 million in PAC money, Bush is at best in the middle of the second-tier candidates, polling in single digits; he is also in fifth-place even in Florida, where he was governor for eight years. Just like Boehner not doing well with his own party, if a man like Bush is losing to the likes of Trump, Carson, and Cruz, that says a heck of a lot about the party.
Yes, when all this is added together, it is clear: we have one party with a strong majority ready to project a strong, experienced, accomplished, mature, and moderate candidate to the American people, and you have another party with a majority of voters ready to project weak candidates devoid of relevant experience, who engage in either brawling public spats of a childish nature or spew irrational conspiracy theories and extremist Christian theology as a substitute for an actual political campaign. The majority of the top Republican candidates and a majority of their voters are committing seppuku (Japanese samurai ritual suicide), disemboweling themselves in front of all of America. Hillary is looking with bemused disdain at the mess to her right, and is marching forward past the mess, along with the majority of her party and what should be a clear majority of the American public come November 2016. The nearly certain inevitable result—the return of the Clintons to the White House—will belong to Hillary and her coalition, but it will in no small part also come about because of the insanity of the Republican Party and in all the many ways this was made obvious in the summer and fall of 2015.
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