The news is all about how John McCain “blasts unjust attacks” by Michele Bachmann on Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton in the Department of State. What the news should be about, however, is that once again the tea party has gone for the bigot vote.
It is despicable that the tea party represents bigotry. The tea party rallied around Donald Trump only after he made bigoted remarks. The tea party rallied around Herman Cain only after he made bigoted remarks. The tea party rallied around Rick Santorum only after he made bigoted remarks.
And now Michele Bachmann is trying to get the tea party (whose caucus she leads in the House) to rally around her – by offering egregiously dishonest and bigoted remarks!
Where is the rest of the Republican party? Why haven’t they stood up to Bachmann’s bigotry? Why? Because the Republican party has embraced the bigots in America. Their nominee, Mitt Romney, rather than speaking out against bigotry is cozying up to Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh while they spew bigotry. Without the bigots the Republicans cannot win. After all, the Republican party has waged war on immigrants, gays, women, Muslims, minorities, and pretty much anyone who isn’t a white male evangelical Christian. They figure that since they have disdained everyone else they have to encourage the bigots to come out and vote for them.
You can see the bigotry and dishonesty of the tea party in full neon here on Gather.
It’s disgusting. And it is NOT America.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum officially began his candidacy for
Vice President of the United States on Monday. And no one seemed to notice. It seems Santorum just can’t catch a break – first his name was given some rather campaign-unfriendly connotations, and then on the day he makes his announcement the press seems more interested in New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s…um…tweeting habits.
It is the policy of PGH not to splash in the gutter so I apologize for the references in the first paragraph. With that unpleasantness behind us let’s move on to the substantive issue of the day – Santorum’s presidential ambitions.
Not that Santorum’s presidential ambitions are all that substantive. Santorum kicked off his candidacy with
a great deal of no fanfare in his home state of Pennsylvania, from which he served two terms as Congressman and two terms as Senator before being soundly defeated in 2006. While always a social conservative, it was in the 2006 election that he first entered the realm of bigotry. That may sound a little harsh, but there is no real way around the attitude that he began espousing at that time and apparently continues today. In short, he hates fascists. Especially “Islamic fascists.” And worries about Sharia law somehow overtaking US law. He likes to think of himself as Churchill reborn, warning us of the impending Muslim invasion. A bit hyperbolic for normal Americans, but the tea party loves it.
A quick run down of his beliefs puts him in the range of Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and other tea party folks, though he cuts a stunning corporate image in his well-tailored suit so lacks the wild-eyed crazy look that others seem to have. He actively courts the tea party and has a cute
little big patriotic photo of the liberty bell on his official campaign web site. He is adamantly anti-gay rights, pro-gun rights, believes creationism (and its new name, intelligent design) should be taught in schools as science, denies climate change, wants to restrict a woman’s right to abortion, and like everyone else it seems these days, claims to be a fiscal conservative. With his long-time marriage and seven kids, he definitely fits the conservative tea party mold. Including some convenient hypocrisy regarding his Pennsylvania residency.
So what are his chances of becoming president? In a word – None.
Okay, better than none. But not much better. His name recognition is not up there in first tier candidate list, though he is fairly well known in some circles (e.g., Fox News watchers). The problem is that he just doesn’t seem to excite anyone except the far right wing social conservatives, science deniers, and xenophobes. For someone who is known as an “in your face” kind of confrontational guy, he doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact on mainstream voters. That could change of course, but PGH would expect him to be more of a VP afterthought than a likely presidential nominee. Basically he fits to the radical right of someone like Tim Pawlenty, who also seems not to instill much passion in the Republican voters. Still, there are those who say there might be a path for Santorum to get picked for the VP running mate of Mitt Romney – with Romney appealing more to moderates and the hopes that Santorum might bring in social conservatives. PGH thinks this is unlikely, as it is those social conservatives that are now working so hard to topple Romney’s chances at the nomination, so Santorum is likely to be burning bridges with Romney before they even get built. And the fact that he is just a slightly more Washington DC/corporate version of right wing extremism isn’t likely to be palatable to Independents, moderates, and, well, most Americans.
Only time will tell, of course, how viable will be Santorum’s candidacy. He participated in the first Republican debate (yes, there was already a Republican debate), during which he was upstaged by Herman Cain (and everyone else). There will be another debate coming up soon in which Santorum will try to get some news coverage, but given that he made his announcement in Pennsylvania and not Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, he seems to already be acknowledging that he has a pretty big hill to climb if he wants to even be still in the race before the first Republican primary polls open. Not that it will matter much.
Considering that we have about one and a half years before election day, it might seem odd to be saying that time is running out for getting into the 2012 presidential
sweepstakes election. But it is. And the Republican party is about to finalize its roster of horses candidates for the Belmont nomination. Within the next few weeks we’ll know who will be making a serious, and not so serious, run for the roses. [Okay, I think I’ve played out the Triple Crown references, so I’ll stop now.]
Next week will see the formal announcements for two contenders who we already knew were in the race – Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney has already pre-announced that he will make the official announcement (didn’t he do this already?) in New Hampshire (hmmm) on June 2nd, with Santorum making his announcement from his home state of Pennsylvania on the 6th. Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann looks very likely to announce her candidacy for
Vice-president in the next week or two as well.
And here’s an interesting development (maybe) – Sarah Palin is starting a bus tour this weekend from Washington DC up I-95 to New England. All the media pundits are abuzz that this might be the kickoff of her own presidential candidacy. A propaganda film about Palin is also set to open shortly in, of all places, Iowa. Hmmm, I wonder why Iowa? PGH has previously predicted that Sarah Palin won’t be entering the race, so if she does that either means PGH needs a new line of work or is just like every other self-described pundit (i.e., wrong most of the time). Since PGH hasn’t been wrong yet in his predictions (it’s early), he’s
pretty confident hopeful that Palin is just trying to rekindle her recently failing marketing brand.
Notwithstanding what Palin ends up doing, and with the possible entry of Jon Huntsman, the Republican cortege is ready for its
death walk run for the White House. PGH has previously evaluated the potential Republican field, and will continue to give up-to-date occasional expert analysis on key issues, prospects, and who might still be around by the time the triad is completed. [By triad I mean the traditional first states – Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. That said, this year will be different and there are at least two more states that can be added to the all-important “first out of the gate” states that are “must” wins.]
Stay tuned. To terribly misquote Bette Davis, this may be a bumpy ride.
Today I spoke with a man who attended the Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party rally near the capitol in Washington DC. He was an honest man. With honest concerns. Most of which were based on faulty information. He told me his thoughts, and I listened.
He had traveled to Washington DC from Tennessee, along with his mother and 86 year old father (which he proudly told to everyone in sight). They had come to DC the day before and had taken in the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial (his Dad’s favorite), and of course, the Bachmann Rally today. He was proud of the service his Dad gave in the second world war, and his own 17 years of service in the Tennessee National Guard. He was proud of his life of labor as a wood cutter. He was proud to be an American. He told me there were “100,000 people at the rally” (best estimates were less than 3 or 4,000).
He said he was in DC to “stop healthcare.” His basis of opposition – that “he didn’t believe anyone else should have to pay for his health care.” That’s it. That’s how he saw the entire health care debate. [I didn’t mention that we already pay for the health care of others through increased insurance premiums.]
On Afghanistan, he called it “Obama’s Vietnam.” He felt that when General McChrystal came asking for 40,000 more troops Obama’s only response should have been, “I’ll give you 100,000, now go get them.” He felt that “it’s been two months” [since McChrystal’s initial report] and Obama needed to do something now. Again, that’s it. He saw the entire decision-making process about Afghanistan to be simply a matter of saturating the area with hundreds of thousands of troops because the general wanted them. He did understand that bin Laden and al qaeda are in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that Pakistan wasn’t doing its job (and he even understood why it was so difficult for Pakistan to do so). But to him it all came down to some variation of “fish or cut bait,” with his preferred action to be “fish…and do it with lots of poles.”
So why am I telling this story? Mainly to draw out the following take-home points.
1) There are real people with real concerns out there.
2) Much of that concern is based on misinformation.
3) Details aren’t that relevant, what matters is the big picture message.
4) These are the people that the White House and the Congress need to reach.
So, how does the WH and Congress reach out to average, every day, honest Americans who base their feelings on their gut and the simple messages (even if the messages are often based on incorrect details)?
First, politicians need to stop talking only to themselves. They need to start listening better to the people. And by people I mean to real people like the guy I spoke with today, not the professional instigators with lobbyist talking points. Not other Congressman who come armed with nothing but their party’s political talking points. And not the pundits, who mostly don’t know diddly but play like they are informed on TV. And when I say listen, I mean listen. Not stand quietly while someone talks and then respond with their own prepackaged talking points. Listen. Ask questions. Learn. Think about what really matters to the people, even if they mess up a few details or mime some talking points they heard on their favorite cable propaganda station.
Second, ensure that the misinformation is corrected in people’s minds. Put the facts online so people can fact check for themselves, but remember that many people rely more on word of mouth at church and in their neighborhoods and just don’t trust anything politicians say. So find a way to get the facts out there.
Third, speak to the people. Tell them why health care reform 1) will not do what they most fear it will do, and 2) will benefit them and their families and their children. Tell them why it isn’t wise to “just send 100,000 troops when the general asks for 40,000,” for example, because 100,000 troops (or a million) won’t help us reach our goals because x, y and z also need to be fixed. Oh, and tell them what are goal(s) actually are in Afghanistan. Tell them why dealing with climate change is important to them and to their grandchildren. And if you aren’t ready to make a decision, tell them why it will take a little longer.
Fourth, keep the minority party honest. Not surprisingly, the minority party tends to think that their best route to winning back seats is to keep the majority party from getting anything accomplished. They often lie. Don’t let them. Call them out for lies. There is plenty of room for honest ideological differences, but our elected officials are elected to represent our interests, not their own reelection interests. And lying serves no one’s interests but the liars.
Fifth, “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” The state of the economy, real or perceived, is the driving force behind much of the angst right now. It matters not that the economy tanked last year, well before Obama was elected, the perception is that he needs to fix it…and he needs to fix it fast. Fiscal responsibility is the common thread for everyone no matter to which party they belong. Health care, climate change, finance reform, and other major legislative pursuits actually should improve the economy in the long run, but people tend to have a very short time horizon, and even shorter memories of how we got here. So make the tough decisions, and follow rule 3 above.
I learned a lot from my conversation today with an honest man. We should listen to each other more often.