Tag Archives: GOP

Dirty Deeds and the GOP

A brief history of the recent Pennsylvania race summarizes the moral bankruptcy of American conservatism

✎  Wayne K. Spear | March 15, 2018 • Politics


I

T MUST HAVE BEEN a let-down for the President when Rick Saccone lost his Pennsylvania seat to Democrat Conor Lamb, earlier this week and in a Republican district Trump himself had carried by 19 points. But there was consolation. Paul Ryan claimed that the President had in fact helped Saccone, in a race that he described as even more dire before Trump’s rally, and on Fox and Friends the hosts re-cast Conor Lamb as a Republican supporter of GOP policies. Fake news, they call it. Anyways, Steve Doocy added, Lamb’s PA18 district won’t even exist after November, so no biggie.

PA18

What Doocy didn’t mention was that PA18, a suburb of Pittsburgh, has been redrawn by order of the state’s supreme court. It’s the first time a state court has abolished district boundaries ruled to be the work of partisan gerrymandering. PA18 was engineered to make Democratic wins impossible, and for a while the effort paid off. So, yes, PA18 won’t exist after November, but the reasons ought to shame rather than encourage the GOP, assuming they are capable of shame.

The rise of Rick Saccone corresponds with the fall of David Levdansky. For twenty-five years Levdansky represented Pennsylvania’s 39th, but the Democrats went into the Obama 2010 midterm with a narrow, one-seat majority. The Republicans made no secret of their plan. They would pour campaign money into the state legislatures and, if victorious, re-draw the state districts in ways that favoured the GOP’s congressional ambitions. The work was handed to something called the Republican State Leadership Committee, under Chris Jankowski, and is the subject of a 2016 book, Ratf**cked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy. The Republicans code-named the operation REDMAP, the Redistricting Majority Project, and as I said made no secret of it.

The first step, ousting Levdansky, was simple enough. On Saturday October 9, with three weeks left in the race, the Republicans began a saturation campaign, filling the airwaves and the mailboxes each day with attacks on the Democratic candidate, claiming he had championed a $600M Arlen Specter Library. (Specter, as you know, had recently defected the Republicans to run as a Democrat. Thus by association Levdansky was labelled as not only a liberal, but a traitor.) The smear worked, the Republicans took over the legislature, and madly off in all directions went the gerrymander.

The redaction of PA18 was even messier than the GOP’s midterm assaults. The new congressional district excised Pittsburgh, and its urban Democratic voters, and produced a delirious map where one side of a street was in one district and the other side of a street in another. As I recall it, one of the candidates lived in a house that became the only house on the street in its district. The overall effect of this dog’s breakfast was to produce reliably Republican blocs in the southwestern suburbs of Pittsburgh, which was what the REDMAP operation had set out to do and what the state’s supreme court has now undone.

And let’s not forget what was special about this month’s special election. Rick Saccone was after the seat vacated by Republican Tim Murphy, a pro-life politician with a lover, an extramarital affair, and a “pregnancy scare” on his CV. Bad as that may be, it’s not what brought him down. Once the bad news started, it kept coming. Murphy’s staff provided the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with astonishing and lurid stories of an office culture spinning out-of-control, and soaked in abuse, hostility, and corruption, where there was 100% turnover and where it had become impossible to recruit and retain competent staff. (Sounds familiar, right?)

Down went Murphy, like the PA18 gerrymandering project, and up came Saccone. In a statement about the court-mandated map, he said he would run and win, regardless of the district, “because it’s not about the lines that are drawn, but about the values I represent.” Haha, and yes, the lofty values of the GOP—we’re all experts on that now, living as we are in a moral universe where Republicans hold Roy Moore godly and where President Donald Trump champions an abstinence-only curriculum. Saccone likes to brag that he was Trump before Trump, but the voters have now weighed in on the GOP’s values and there’s nothing to be proud of. Let the Trumpists fall, let the conversation turn to life after this administration, and may the work soon begin of undoing the GOP’s dirty deeds.

One Nation Under Theocrats

In Trump’s America everything depends on the manner in which Republican factionalism is resolved. In Alabama we may have come closer to a resolution

✎  Wayne K. Spear | September 28, 2017 | waynekspear.com

HOURS AGO, as of the time I write these words, the President of the United States deleted his endorsements of Luther Strange from the Twitter account @realDonaldTrump. Now, in the untidy corner of social media he alone controls, let the record show that the President is and always has been a Roy Moore guy.

The likelihood has increased that Alabama will send a theocrat and conspiracy theorist to Washington in December. There he’ll join fellow-travellers Trump and Co. in the work of stirring a witch’s brew of fake populism, culture war, and white resentment. (I can’t resist observing that, if Trump had won the day, it would be a Strange Brew.) An irony of the Strange-Moore contest is that Trump backed the lesser-Trumpist candidate and the more-Trumpist contender won. Moore is just what the Republican party needs in 2017—another Bannon-and-Mercer-backed extremist who loathes the government and who comes to Washington not to build but to destroy.

Alabama Capital Steps | Photo by sunsurfr (Creative Commons)

Across his career Roy Moore has agitated to “bring the knowledge of God back to the United States,” whatever that means. Eighty-six percent of Alabama voters self-identify as Christian, half of them as evangelical Protestants, and still Mr. Moore deemed his fellow citizens sufficiently god-stupid that he commisioned a 5,000-pound Ten Commandments granite memorial for the state’s Supreme Court building. Ordered to remove it by unanimous resolve of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, Moore refused. This was the first occasion of two dismissals from public office—in 2003 and 2016—for (among other things) disregarding a federal injunction, abusing administrative authority, and demonstrating an unwillingness to follow the law. And so, to return to the theme of fellow-travelling, one can hope that if Moore goes to Washington, he might well go at the moment the President is facing dismissal on similar charges.

The only law Mr. Moore recognizes is the law of God. Under the law of God same-sex marriage is “the ultimate destruction of our country” and homosexuality is “an inherent evil” and the deaths of September 11, 2001 and Newtown, Connecticut are deserved punishments for America’s waywardness. Under the law of God Muslims are not fit for office and lesbians are not fit for parenthood and the laws of mere mortals may be ignored. It’s worth noticing that the victorious Alabama Republican primary candidate for the US Senate holds views that would be unremarkable in a Wahhabist-jihadist training camp. Also, why do these God people always have sex on the brain?

Beginning in the 1980s the Dixiecrat Alabama of George Wallace slowly morphed into the Republican Alabama of today. Here political diversity does not take the form of parties, but rather of Republican rivalry. It is easy for outsiders (and especially for northeastern urbanites) to sneer and condescend at Alabama, but what is happening in Alabama matters because it is happening everywhere. One need look no further than Washington, D.C. for confirmation. Conservatism has split into two principal factions, one grounded in political norms and institutions and the other in theocracy and resentment and the culture warfare of ethnic-nationalism. Everything depends on the manner in which this factionalism resolves, and in Alabama the nation just took another step closer toward resolution.

The Ones Who Know Jesus

Trumpetsound, a fissure of sky. A midnight darkness visible yields to His glory. The firmament echoes of angelsong. Jesus has come, and the many see and fear.

Hallelujah! He has come!

For centuries He has tarried. For millennia His people have waited, reciting His words. “Soon,” they whispered. In the streets they declared: He will return! The people of Jesus have held to His promises, lo these passing generations, and now He is returned.

Thy Kingdom, come.

The people of Jesus behold his greatness. The people of Jesus rejoice. A time of greatness has begun.

The first to speak is the Holy Press Secretary.

“Hello everyone,” says the Holy Press Secretary. “This is a massive crowd, the greatest crowd ever. Much larger than the crowds of Satan, our adversary. Look at this crowd! And now, I would like to introduce your King, the Son of Man, Jesus.”

The Host of Holy Angels parts, and Jesus floats into view. He wears a business suit and a red tie. He smiles, waves to the adoring crowd. He gives a thumbs-up to someone in the audience. He claps, just as they are clapping. It is a good day, and Jesus is smiling.

“It’s great to be here,” says Jesus. “I love Florida,” says Jesus. “Tremendous people. The best people.”

The people of Jesus are ecstatic. The Chosen One is among them and the time has come to fulfil the Promise.

“Blessed are the businessmen,” says Jesus. “The CEOs, the hedge fund managers. The heads of companies, tremendous people, the best people. They are going to help Me make the Earth great again. That is why I have appointed them to lead you during the transition.”

Then a voice among the crowd: “Blessed are the weak and the poor!”

“Get him outta here,” says Jesus. Two angels comply. They take the man by his arms and walk him to the edge of the crowd, where they shove him to the pavement.

Later, the Holy Press Secretary will explain that Jesus did not say “Blessed are the poor” or that “the meek shall inherit the earth.” The Holy Press Secretary will explain that these words are the product of the lying media. These words are fake news. What Jesus said and what was written about Him are two different things, the Holy Press Secretary will say.

In the meanwhile Jesus tells them there will be streets of gold and rivers flowing of milk. “Our hard-working dairy farmers, tremendous farmers, are the best. My infrastructure plan will put gold on every street. You’ll get tired of seeing gold, there will be so much gold.”

The people of Jesus are thrilled by these promises. Jesus says they will live forever, and that all tears will be wiped away. He tells His followers that He will build a mighty kingdom, and He will smite their enemies. And it will happen fast, He says, so fast. You won’t believe it, He says. Believe me, He says.

The people of Jesus believe. They are, after all, believers. They believe in Jesus and they believe in believing in Jesus and they believe in belief. It is by faith that they live and are are saved. Believing in belief in belief, hungering and thirsting for things unseen, fingers in the darkness.

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Jesus has come with a sword. Those who question Him are deserving of fire. His people gird for war. The unbelievers, the doubters, the naysayers, the blasphemers—all are deserving of their perdition. “We are the persecuted,” say the followers of Jesus. “But no longer. The time has come for battle against our enemies.”

In the kingdom there is bottomless provision for war, abundant provision for force. Provision for weapons, provisions for the squadrons of angels who now patrol the streets, provision for displays of threatened violence against dissenters. Jesus reminds them each day that they are one People under God, one in thought and in belief and in nature. They are one nation under the Leader, and the Leader is leading them to greatness.

“No one gets to the kingdom except through me,” says the Leader. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The people know that their Leader speaks the Truth. There ought to be no room for dissent or challenge, no opportunity requested for clarification, no court of appeal. Those who question the Leader are unpatriotic traitors, and the vile filth of their nature will be remembered.

The Leader withdraws to His mansion. He delegates His work to minions. He makes occasional appearances where He basks in the adulation of His people. He becomes obsessed with the doubters and non-believers, issuing threats against them. “They treat Me so badly, so unfairly,” says the Leader. “But I will prevail.”

The months pass. Somehow the streets remain paved, not of gold, but of dehiscent tarmac. There are no rivers of milk. The tears that were supposed to be wiped away instead wet the faces of children. The Leader tells them that greatness is coming, that the Kingdom will be the best kingdom they have ever seen.

“The Leader said nothing about milk,” reports the Holy Press Secretary. “The greatness is coming, only our many enemies encircle and frustrate us. The ones who are against us are and against you. Look to the enemy!”

It doesn’t matter what happens, or what does not happen. It doesn’t matter what the Leader says, or does not say. Nothing matters, save that the people believe in Him. Fear and loathing of their enemies keeps them strong. What the Leader hates, they hate also. They have built their church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Leader enjoys His throne yet He is restless. He is a jealous Leader, desirous of universal adulation. Every knee must bend or be cast into a lake of fire. When the Leader is not enjoying the repose of His many stately properties, He broods over the resistance. Why are there some who do not believe? Why do they take His name in vain? Why do they not honor Him?

The frustration and anger of the Leader grow. He dismisses every Judas among Him, but another Judas soon rises. He cuts down every obstacle, but another obstacle springs from the earth. This work of His will take longer than He realized.

Once again, He appeals to His people. “I am your Leader,” He says. “And our enemies are against Us. We must wage war against Our enemies.”

“Yes,” they say. “We must fight our enemies. And then the Kingdom will come.”