Breaking Up With the GOP. A White Boy’s Lament.

After the election we were determined to contribute something meaningful to the pantheon of political discourse in America. To inspire other white guys who wondered, “what the fuck happened to the Republican Party?”

After election season, sickened by the toxic atmosphere we soaked in during an endless campaign of lies and betrayal of our ideals, my friend Billy and I pondered over the demise of the Republican Party. Personally, I grew up a Republican, believing in the mythology of our two-party system and living under the illusion that American governance resembles democracy. There were Republicans all around and they seemed like lovely people, so I blithely went about my business believing that I was a Republican as well. Monkey see, monkey do.

Billy is far more cynical and savvy. A street smart kid from Brooklyn, he has a keen ability to read between the lines. He’s skilled at the art of pantomime, reading people like tarot cards and “calling bullshit” frequently. I’m more philosophical, and am skilled at the art of politics. I believe that politics is indeed a bloodsport and I’m game to play all day, every day. Billy believes life is bloodsport and he too is game. He indulges my ramblings on the death of empire, the evils of inequality and importance of civil rights and he makes me listen to the Afghan Whigs and Mos Def.

After the dust settled from the election we were determined to collaborate on an important political project. To contribute something meaningful to the pantheon of political discourse in America. To inspire other white guys who wondered either privately, or aloud, “what the fuck happened to the Republican Party?”

So we recorded what you kids would call a “rap.”

(My wife wrote and performed the chorus. She has regretted it ever since.)

Lyrics:

I’m a white man. I’m your prime demographic.
Used to vote “R” down the line, just out of habit.
But I started listening, then I started thinking.
How did we get so far from the party of Lincoln.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT! Rolling in his grave.
He’d be very disappointed in the way that you behave.
You pushed me away more than you realize,
Voted for Obama (TWICE!) cuz I’m disenfranchised.

You wanna bring together your church and my state?
When your church says deliver even in the case of rape?
Legitimate rape? There’s a difference?
Go sell your hate somewhere else and focus on your own sins.

Chorus:
Liberty. Democracy. Made for you and me. Oh say can you see.
Liberty. Democracy. Made for you and me. Oh say can you see.

This republic can overcome Republicans
who say the rights of a women ain’t equal to a man.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH! IT’S THE FREEDOM TO TEACH!
To reach out and speak out these truths that we seek.

And these truths? They’re self evident.
Two hundred thirty years now we got a black president.
THAT’S CALLED PROGRESS, SON. Overcoming race.
Content of character, not color of face.

Cash from the Koch Brothers, Citizens United
Yeah we one nation, NOW WE DIVIDED
Footsie with Monsanto, taking care of Big Oil
Loopholes and tax breaks on the backs of the poor. COME ON!

Chorus

White upper middle class Republican.
But now these feelings come to pass.
And Occupy she’s got a sexy ass
So now I’m looking down a different path
It’s time for me to let my old earth go
I grab my thoughts and then I’m out the door
My heart pump truth and needs to keep it real
With a party that cares how people feel
So one last time before I walk on out
Silent middle finger I don’t need to shout

CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL. Tyrannosaurus roamed the earth.
There was life on the planet before Jesus’ birth.
Locking up Latinos, yell “Illegal Immigration”
And conveniently forget this was an Indian nation. WE STOLE IT.

NOTHING GRAND ABOUT THIS PARTY
Yo, rescind my invitation.
I’ll take Elizabeth Warren.
Ya’ll can keep Sarah Palin.

 

 

 

From Watergate to Occupy Wall Street

The men who brought down one of the most toxic administrations in American history were lamenting the toxic state of today’s political environment. That’s pretty terrible.

This column appears in the March 22nd, 2012 edition of the Long Island Press

“It’s a mess.” This was the sentiment offered by Bob Woodward at a Hofstra University luncheon on Tuesday when asked to describe the current political environment. After his flight was delayed by fog in New York for the better part of the morning, Woodward was late in joining the other half of the famous Woodward and Bernstein duo at the podium in the University Club. The hour prior to his arrival was the Carl Bernstein show as he regaled the packed room of attendees with stories of their travails in journalism during a road show marking the 40th anniversary of the Watergate affair.

The luncheon was part of a series of high-profile political events Hofstra is hosting for the student body, as well as the greater Long Island community, culminating in the second presidential debate to be held there this fall. For his part, Bernstein was also chagrined at the state of politics today and his anecdotes were didactic in this regard. He broke through the haze of mythology that over time has shrouded the Watergate story and boiled it down to the simple premise that no one is above the law and the entire system of democracy must function properly in order for this notion to be upheld. It was the latter sentiment that hung in the air like the fog that had held Woodward at bay on the tarmac for hours.

Time has benefitted both men by allowing them to evaluate Watergate through the backward lens of history. Stepping away from their youthful selves (they were in their late twenties when they broke the story that catapulted them to the top of their newspaper careers), they even reevaluated some of their own beliefs such as the pardoning of Richard Nixon by his VP/successor Gerald Ford, a move that arguably cost him the election to Jimmy Carter. Bernstein recalled telephoning Woodward early that morning in 1974, saying “the son of a bitch pardoned the son of a bitch.” What he once viewed as ignominious Bernstein now considers magnanimous as Ford believed this was the best way to heal the nation from its “long nightmare,” no matter the consequences to his presidency.

Subtle reflections and anecdotes aside, the afternoon offered a glimpse into the thoughts of two devout Washington insiders who have witnessed a sea change in American politics. To be clear, these are not two old curmudgeons touting the “things ain’t what they used to be” line. They deftly fielded questions about new media and the surge of information as well as our ability to process the constant onslaught of news and commentary today. And while they were genuinely hopeful that their efforts four decades ago could be replicated by today’s reporters, they were less sanguine about whether the political climate existed to allow journalism to flourish and find its natural audience.

The men who brought down one of the most toxic administrations in American history were lamenting the toxic state of today’s political environment. That’s pretty terrible.

Bernstein spoke eloquently about the support their reporting received from The Washington Post but was careful to point out that the entire democratic machine had to function properly at every stage of the investigation in order to yield the historic results that it did. From the judicial system that forced President Nixon to hand over his personal tapes to the legislative branch that carried the articles of impeachment against the president, to the protection afforded the journalists in shielding their sources, democracy in all of its glory won the day. But Bernstein argued that it was the people who ultimately played the most critical role in judging the Nixon presidency as even staunch supporters of Nixon and the Republican Party were open enough to review the facts before them and draw their own conclusions.

Ultimately, partisanship among the elected and the electorate was cast aside for the greater good.

Bernstein went on to argue that money has corrupted the political system beyond recognition. He excoriated the Citizen’s United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which allows unlimited contributions from corporations and wealthy individuals in campaigns. Furthermore, he believes the glut and immediacy of information has had the unintended consequence of allowing people to reinforce existing beliefs rather than exposing them to new ideas or multiple sides of a story.
The rancor that exists in Washington is a reflection of this phenomenon, and it has created a vicious cycle of partisanship with politicians pandering to the most extreme elements of our society. It’s mob rule. As to how the system could be fixed, no solutions were offered by either man. Perhaps this is because there are none.

The system is broken and I believe it to be irreparable. And that’s okay. Sometimes it’s easier to build anew than to salvage a diseased and crumbling infrastructure. I’m not being pessimistic here, either. To the contrary, I’m fairly optimistic about our chances because I believe the foundation and principles that have guided us to this point are strong enough to endure the collapse and rebirth of a functioning and more equitable system no matter how painful the process may be. This hope derives from the fact that the older generations are the ones who are fixed in their ways and reinforce their existing belief systems no matter how dangerous or antiquated they are. And quite frankly, the answer to this is rather simple math: They have far less time left on the planet than we do.

It’s true that they have hoarded the world’s money and resources and polluted the Earth. It’s also true that they have left those in my generation and younger to foot the bill for their greed and consumption. They have “engineered” our food and contaminated our water and established a culture of pharmaceutical addiction. They’ve started wars around the globe in the pursuit of oil by blaming bogeymen while selling themselves as false prophets.

Now they have a credibility problem because we no longer believe. And as sure as these are the truths they bequeath to us, so too is the truth that they will all soon be dead. Even the good ones like Woodward and Bernstein cannot escape the inevitable. We can take solace, however, that although we must someday lose them, so too will we rid ourselves of people like the Koch Brothers. Death is funny that way; forever indiscriminate.

The youth of today, such as those in the Occupy movement, are wide awake and watching. Six months ago I didn’t believe this to be the case, but it’s real. So to you, Mr. Bernstein, I offer my thanks and some comfort as you and your venerable collaborator enter the winter of your lives. Your wisdom and work have better prepared us for the long, difficult task ahead.

Fat Cat Manifesto

Dorian Dale examines the success of Grover Norquist’s No Tax Pledge and argues that the benefits should extend to everyone. Why waste perfectly good tax cuts and loopholes just on the rich?

In the wake of the Big, Bad Debt Deal, Grover “No Tax” Norquist declared victory.  We should all concede.  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  Every Man & Woman a Fat Cat!  Warren Buffet keeps griping that his secretary shouldn’t be paying taxes at a rate 67% higher than he and his fellow billionaires. So level the playing field.  The Fat Cat Manifesto proposes to extend billionaire/ corporate breaks, subsidies, loopholes and deductions to everyone:

ESSENTIAL POINTS OF THE FAT CAT MANIFESTO:

  1. Any wage earner will avail themselves of the same 15% capital gains rate heretofore available only to hedge fund managers the likes of Bain Capital’s Mitt Romney.
  2. Cars, ATVs, jet skis, bicycles etc. will be depreciated at the same rate as corporate jets.
  3. Backyard gardens will be subsidized at levels comparable to “genteel farmers” like Dave Letterman and the Waltons of Wal-Mart.  The cost of looking for vehicular and housing fuel will also be subsidized.
  4. Joe & Jo Q Citizen will get to incorporate and catch all the breaks of corporations. This follows the logic of the Citizens United v FCC ruling delivered by the activist majority on the Supreme Court in 2010 declaring that corporations are just like citizens and will have unrestricted First Amendment rights to lavish unlimited amounts of money electing their quislings.

Who is this Grover Norquist, Patron Ain’t of taxation misrepresentation?  First, know that he is a Harvard grad, not the effete, elitist type of Harvard grad like Obama and the Winklevoss twins, but the regular-guy type like George Bush and Bill O’Reilly. After his Americans for Tax Reform pitched in to help Reagan chop the top tax rate from 50% to 28% in 1986, Grover declared he was out to “reduce government down to the size where it’s small enough to drown in a bathtub.”  Drowning the Federal government in the tsunami of debt that swept over America in the first decade of the new millennium is not exactly the same principle, but the result is the same. 

To date, Grover has gotten 336 congressmen, 41 senators, 13 governors and 1,247 state legislatures to sign his Taxpayer Protection Pledge otherwise known as the “No Tax” pledge.  Stephen Colbert pressed Grover on whether there were any circumstances under which he would accept a tax increase:

“Terrorists have kidnapped all of our grandmothers and they’ve got them in a subterranean burrow and all of them have been slathered with honey and they’re going to release fire ants into this burrow that will bite them to death.  Their only demand is that we increase the marginal tax rate for the top 2% and they will release them.  Do we increase the tax rate or do we let our grandmothers die from ant bites?”

“I think we console our self with the fact that we have pictures,” quipped Grover

Momentarily jaw-drop speechless, Colbert blurts “That’s the right answer!”

A few years back, Grover served up a bigger whopper of a jaw-dropper to NPR’s Terry Gross.  At the time, Grover was representing for another one of his noble causes – elimination of the estate tax which he had renamed the Death Tax while successfully convincing many average folks that it applied to far more than the top 1%.  Never one to shy away from over-the-top metaphors, Grover was claiming that arguments for higher taxes on rich people echo the ones Nazis used to single out Jews for gas chambers.

“I mean, that’s the morality of the Holocaust,” said Grover.  “‘Well, it’s only a small percentage,’ you know. ‘I mean, it’s not you, it’s somebody else.’” 

It took Terry Gross twenty-six seconds to lift her jaw off her microphone and say, “Excuse me. Excuse me one second. Did you just …”

Norquist: “Yeah?”

Gross: “…compare the estate tax with the Holocaust?”

I ran into Grover’s dad at a fraternal gathering in Langley soon after Gross’ interview and suggested his son might want to reign in the Holocaust Tax metaphor, particularly when he is talking to a Jewish host.  Unbeknownst to me, at that point, was that papa Norquist was the one who had given little Grover his first taste of anti-tax fervor.  Copping bites from his son’s ice cream cone, he labeled each bite “sales tax” or “income tax.”  But was the ice cream loaded with loopholes and subsidies trickled on top?

America has come full spiral since Louisiana’s Huey ‘Kingfish’ Long delivered his ‘Every Man a King’ speech during the Great Depression proposing to ‘Share Our Wealth’ (SOW): “It is not the difficulty of the problem we have; it is the fact the rich people of this country – and by rich people I mean the super-rich – will not allow us to solve the problems.”  Within a year, 7.5 million Americans had joined ‘Share Our Wealth’ clubs. A year later the Kingfish was assassinated.

Today Grover Norquist & Co has convinced the descendants of SOWers that the acronym stands for Spare Our Wealthy.  Super-rich job-creators are the solution, not the problem.  Their cause is everyone’s because we all aspire to be wealthy.  Who Wants to Be a Millionaire then Pay Taxes?  Soon the average Jersey Shore Fat Cat wannabes who get hit with 50% higher tolls to drive over the bridges into Manhattan to maybe glimpse Donald Trump gnawing his way through  rib eye at the ‘21’ Club will be able to deduct those tolls from their taxes.  Got that Grover?