No Longer a Party of Lincoln: The Racial Politics of the New GOP

by John Nichols

The Republican Party, founded by militant abolitionists and the political home through much of its history for committed foes of segregation and discrimination, has since the late 1960s been degenerating toward the crude politics of Southern strategies and what former Republican National Committee chairman Lee Atwater referred to as the “coded” language of complaints about “forced busing,” legal-services programs, welfare and food stamps. But the 2012 campaign has seen this degeneration accelerate, as the candidates have repeatedly played on stereotypes about race, class and “entitlements.”

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum told a crowd of supporters: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

Around the same time, Texas Congressman Ron Paul was scrambling to explain away old newsletters that went out under his name with sections suggesting that “95 percent of the black males in that city [Washington] are semi-criminal or entirely criminal” and describing the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as “Hate Whitey Day.” Order was restored in riot-torn Los Angeles, the newsletters suggested, only when welfare checks arrived.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who spent the fall talking about eliminating child-labor laws so that school janitors could be replaced with poor kids, and who regularly refers to Barack Obama as the “best food stamp president in American history,” arrived in the first-primary state of New Hampshire and announced that: “I’m prepared if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

All these remarks and revelations drew consternation. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leaders rebuked Gingrich and Santorum, with NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous saying of Gngrich: “It is a shame that the former Speaker feels that these types of inaccurate, divisive statements are in any way helpful to our country. The majority of people using food stamps are not African-American, and most people using food stamps have a job.”

Instead of objecting to the excesses of the other contenders, the “adult” in the race, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, picked up on the themes developed by Santorum and Gingrich to gripe about “the ever-expanding payments of an entitlement society” as “a fundamental corruption of the American spirit.”

Romney is arguably the most disappointing of the current candidates, as he surely knows better.

His father, George Romney, was one of the Republican Party’s most ardent advocates of civil rights, anti-poverty programs and investment in urban renewal during the 1960s. As the newly elected governor of Michigan, George Romney marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. Throughout the turbulent 1960s, George Romney argued, at considerably political cost to himself, on behalf of a Republican Party that would welcome newly enfranchised African-American voters and reject the coded language of Southern strategists and repurposed segregationists. In 1964, as one of the nation’s most prominent Republican elected officials, he refused to endorse Barry Goldwater’s presidential candidacy. He complained that Goldwater, who had voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was gearing his campaign toward disaffected Democrats in Southern states such as Alabama and Mississippi, had broken faith with party members who valued “basic American and Republican principles.”

While some Republicans responded to the outbreak of rioting in American cities by blaming Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s anti-poverty initiatives, Geoffrey Kabaservice recounts in his brilliant new analysis of the decay of the Republican Party, Rule and Ruin (Oxford, 2012), how Romney argued that government was not doing enough. Instead of squandering federal funds on the Vietnam War, he argued that the United States must change its budget priorities and focus on the “human, social and economic problems of its own people.”

George Romney’s was an honorable Republicanism, and that Republicanism remained alive long after the elder Romney left the political hustings. In the 1980s, when some Republicans openly opposed the creation of a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, they were called on the carpet by US Senator Charles Mathias, R-Maryland, who had in the early 1960s taken the lead (with then-Congressman John Lindsay and a handful of others) in forcing reluctant Democrats in the US House to consider civil rights and voting rights legislation. Mathias was horrified that any Republican would consider squandering what he correctly considered to be one of its finest legacies. In the late 1980s and 1990s, former Congressman Jack Kemp, a New York Republican who served as a cabinet secretary and the party’s 1996 vice-presidential nominee, repeatedly raised alarms when Republicans engaged in stereotyping of African-Americans and other minority communities. And for a time in the 1990s and early 2000s, it seemed as if a young Mitt Romney, as a Republican candidate for the US Senate and then a few years later as one of the nation’s most liberal Republican governors, was aligning with Kemp and revitalizing the best traditions of his father’s Republican Party.

But no more.

Unlike his father, Mitt Romney refuses to call out, let alone break with, the reactionaries who mouth slightly updated variations on the 1960s language of the “white backlash” against civil rights, social programs and the war on poverty. Indeed, with his crude complaints about the United States as an “entitlement nation,“ he embraces the rough outlines of their arguments.

Even worse, in many senses, is Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who has tried without much success to position himself as a moderate runner in the GOP race.

Huntsman had a perfect opening to distinguish himself in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary, when so many of his fellow contenders were objecting to “making black peoples’ lives better” and dismissing the first African-American commander in chief as the “best food stamp president in American history.” He could have been the leader that Mitt Romney was not. But Huntsman lacked the courage to do the right thing. Or, perhaps, and this is even more unsettling, Huntsman simply concluded that an appeal to “basic American and Republican principles” would not be recognized by what remains of a once Grand Old Party.

© 2012 The Nation

John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. His most recent book is The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again and Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy. Nichols' other books include: Dick: The Man Who is President and The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

Sh*t Republican Candidates Say

I thought I had a potty mouth, but you should hear the way this GOP field talks. For starters, they're obsessed with sex …

by Lizz Winstead

And then, there were six. [ Win McNamee/Getty Images)] The Republican presidential candidates debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. From left: Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry. (Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

After Iowa, we are left with a half-dozen halfwits who want to defeat Barack Obama and become leader of the free world. These are the Top Dogs, the Pick of the Kitty Litter, the Jewels in the Clown.

So, how did these masterful hatesmen earn their coveted place in the Cream of the Crap? With their unwavering obsession with sex. All kinds of sex. Same sex, opposite sex, sex with animals.

Oh, and Muslims. But not Muslim sex. Not yet, anyway. There is so much to talk about when it comes to gay sex that they probably just haven't gotten around to it. But they will. If they know nothing about something, they always make time to spout off about it.

So, after watching 15 debates, I can't help but ask myself, "Is this the only time in their lives they are allowed talk about sex?" and "Why do guys with no access to my lady junk spend more time talking about it than guys that do?"

If you haven't been following all the Republican pillow talk, good for you. You probably have access to better porn. Here are some highlights that stuck with me like a cactus vibrator.

Let's start with Rick Santorum.

Now, aside from believing same-sex marriage leads to man-on-dog sex, (yes, it has gotten so insane that claiming same-sex marriage leads to man-on-dog sex has been relegated to an aside), Sick Rantorum also believes contraception is pubic enemy No 1:

"One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It's not OK. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

Huh, I always thought the only thing sex was supposed to be was consensual. I will say, however, we may see an uptick in abstinence across the board if this sweater-vested Puritan with breeding hips keeps incessantly prattling on about it.

And Rick Perry, the poor dear.

This Dollar Store version of George Bush just keeps trying. He doesn't want the gays getting hitched, OR serving in the military. I mean, it is called the Strait of Hormuz, after all. But Rick has really got his manties in a wad over teaching the theory of evolution in schools.

"I am a firm believer in intelligent design as a matter of faith and intellect, and I believe it should be presented in schools alongside the theories of evolution.

"It's a theory that's out there. It's got some gaps in it. In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution."

Yes, he prefers the fact-based "snake convinces the bad lady to eat the apple" story. I'm starting to thing he doesn't believe in evolution because it simply passed him by.

Now, Newt Gingrich claims he loved his country sooo much, it lead him to cheat on his wives. Yes, wives. He is on his third. She seems healthy.

There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.

It makes me wonder whether, if he is not cheating on his current wife, this should call his patriotism into question, thus making him unqualified to lead. But Newt sees a few threats in this country that could make us all cheat on America:

"There is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment."

But it's not just the gays who are planning to violently harass us with wedding invitations. Oh no …

"I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time [my grandchildren are] my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

These two statements confuse me because I am not sure who I should be more afraid of: the gay secular fascists or the radical Islamists? Or worse, what if the gay radical Islamists took over? Those guys are vicious: they get gay-married at 10am and then they stone themselves to death in the town square at noon.

On to Ron Paul, the libertarian in the race who believes that the government should totally get out of people's lives – as long as their lives don't involve sex. Then, the government should be all up in that shit. He is unique in that his racist newsletters, coupled with his staunch antiwar stance, have won him the undying support of that coveted "racist pacifist" faction of the American electorate.

The smartest of this bunch – although that is like being the smartest Real Housewife of Beverly Hills – is Jon Huntsman.

"We have people on the Republican side too far to the right. We have zero substance. We have no good ideas that are being circulated or talking about that allow the country to get back on its feet economically so we begin creating jobs."

He currently is polling nationally at 2%.

But Mitt Romney still remains the frontrunner. He is not as sex-obsessed as some of his rivals. He is a man of the people. The people who run Fortune 500 companies.

Just ask him, he'll tell ya:

"Corporations are people, my friend."

He says it loud: "I'm in the black and I'm proud."

Now, the good news about this statement is that it should end the abortion debate once and for all: "Life begins at incorporation." The bad news is, if corporations are indeed people, we need Planned Parenthood more than ever.

Silver lining is that Americans are fed up and are seeing these guys for who they are: unqualified extremists and book hawking scalawags.

We would like to hear about jobs. Real jobs. Not the ones that involve the words "hand" or "blow".

© 2012 The Guardian and Media Limited

Lizz Winstead is an American comedian, radio and television personality and blogger. She was co-creator of the Daily Show, with Madeleine Smithberg, and served as head writer. Her book of essays, Lizz Free or Die, will be published in May 2012. Follow her on her Twitter @lizzwinstead


"On to Ron Paul, the libertarian in the race who believes that the government should totally get out of people's lives – as long as their lives don't involve sex. Then, the government should be all up in that shit."

I looked long and hard for anything that might back up this assertion. I didn't find it. Want to guess how surprised I am by that, considering that it comes from someone involved with The Daily Show?

Look Harder

It might not be of concern to you, but Paul opposes a woman's right to choose whether to become a mother or not. He also opposes Planned Parenthood. That's plenty to start with, I'm sure there's more.

No, that's not plenty.

She didn't say anything about abortion. She said people whose lives involve sex. Sex does not always lead to pregnancy. If nobody gets pregnant, I'm sure Ron Paul doesn't care what people do.

Abortion involves the death of a fetus. Not the same thing as sex. Not at all. But it hardly matters, since even if Paul was to become President, he wouldn't be able to outlaw abortion even if he wanted to.

The thing about Paul is, his antiwar position is actually sincere. This is something you've probably never seen before. Ron Paul is not like someone I could mention, who claims to be antiwar, but once he gets into office, bombs countries like Libya that have never harmed us and threatens countries like Iran.

You don't care, of course. You are a liberal, so you wouldn't care if the earth got swallowed up in a giant nuclear fireball, as long as your precious identity politics were safe.

Ron Paul hates invasive gov't, supports state-mandated sonogram

By Lori Stahl and Mary C. Curtis

WEST COLUMBIA, South Carolina — When GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul was asked today about Tuesday’s federal court ruling upholding an aggressive new sonogram law in his home state of Texas, the congressman said the requirement that women seeking an abortion first get a sonogram “should always have been a Texas state position.’’

“Like Roe v Wade should never have been heard in the Supreme Court,” he said after a midday speech and rally at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport at the Eagle Aviation Building .

Paul, who opposes abortion rights, has consistently railed against intrusive Big Brother government when it comes to other issues, especially health care reform. But it’s hard to imagine anything more literally invasive than a required sonogram.

In fact, Dr. Paul’s colleagues in the Texas Medical Association came out against the law last year, saying it “not only sets a dangerous precedent of legislation prescribing the details of the practice of medicine, but it also clearly mandates that physicians practice in a manner inconsistent with medical ethics.”

At issue are provisions in the law, upheld by this week’s ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, requiring patients seeking an abortion to first undergo a sonogram .

This is not a small thing. The majority of sonograms for women in their first trimester of pregnancy will be done by vaginal probe, The Dallas Morning News reports, because ultrasounds done externally don’t provide a useful image early in a pregnancy.

Women can, under the new law, sign a waiver choosing not to be presented with the image or heartbeat sound, but they can’t avoid the sonogram itself. And even if patients sign the waiver, the new law will require doctors to read a detailed description of the physical characteristics of the fetus revealed through the sonogram.

Then patients have to wait at least 24 hours before having the procedure.

Doctors who don’t comply with the law can lose their medical licenses.

Critics say the law impinges on doctors’ free speech rights by requiring them to say certain things to patients, even if the doctors believe it’s not in their patients’ interests.

But Paul’s supporters in South Carolina Wednesday seemed divided on the new law.

Kayla Crisp, a 23-year-old from Asheville, N.C., is a fervent Paul volunteer who drove 16 hours to work for him in Iowa. She’s a part-time nanny and student at UNC-Asheville in early childhood education who home schools her own 3-year-old daughter, Ember:

“I am personally pro-life,’’ she said, but added that she does not think abortion is “a federal issue. It should be state-regulated.”

When I asked her personal view on the sonogram law, she said: “It’s kind of invasive. It’s belittling to sit in a doctor’s office” waiting to hear “what’s going on in my body.”

Mary C. Curtis, reporting from South Carolina, is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Charlotte, N.C. Lori Stahl is a Dallas-based journalist who writes about politics.

On MLK Day, Romney Steps Up his Attacks on Immigrants

Romney Makes South Carolina Campaign Stop with Kris Kobach, Anti-immigrant Champion
- Common Dreams staff

Mitt Romney is set to reinforce his strict anti-immigration stance today in South Carolina with an appearance with recent endorser Kris Kobach. Kobach is known for his work on anti-immigration laws in both Arizona and Alabama, as well as his work with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), now referred to as a 'nativist hate group' by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Think Progress Reports:

On a day set aside to honor civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., Mitt Romney plans to tout his extreme immigration positions during a campaign stop in South Carolina today — with Kris Kobach, the author of Arizona’s and Alabama’s immigration laws, at his side. He will attack his competitors Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry for their softer immigration stances, which could resonate with South Carolina voters who support that state’s harmful immigration law. [...]

One of FAIR’s main goals is to overturn the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which “ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans.” FAIR’s founder John Tanton has said that he wants the U.S. to remain a majority-white nation through limiting the number of non-whites who enter the U.S.

When Arizona’s SB 1070, Kobach, in emails to then-state Sen. Russell Pierce (R), pushed for the law to be used to cast a wide net against Latinos. He helped write an even more harmful immigration law for Alabama, which effectively made it illegal to live as an undocumented immigrant in the state. And when Kobach ran for Congress in 2004, he lost by an 11-point margin after his opponent accused him of having ties to white supremacists. (While campaigning, he was working on a FAIR lawsuit against Kansas’ law granting in-state tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants; the suit was dismissed.) Kobach even once wrote a book opposing the anti-Apartheid boycott of South Africa.

Romney proudly said he “look[ed] forward” to working with Kobach on stopping illegal immigration, and Kobach has been equally effusive of Romney, saying, “Mitt Romney is the candidate who will finally secure the borders and put a stop to the magnets,” when announcing his support. Again and again, Romney has proven how hardline he is on immigration, and Kobach’s support continues to reinforce it.

The Hill recently reported:

“Mitt Romney stands apart from the others. He’s the only one who’s taken a strong across-the-board position on immigration,” Kobach told The Hill in an interview.

“Gingrich and Perry, with their pro-amnesty positions, are not acceptable on their issues to me or the vast majority of Republicans.”

Kobach also criticized Rick Santorum, another GOP candidate trying to win over conservatives, for voting in 1996 against a pilot program that turned into E-Verify, the national system which helps employers check the immigration status of their employees. But he did praise Santorum for more recently voicing support for the program.

“All of the other candidates stand to the left of Romney on immigration,” Kobach said. “This is an issue that people with weak backbones sometimes have trouble taking a position on, and Mitt Romney has shown some real backbone on this issue.”

TPM adds:

But that’s not entirely what Kobach is known for. Rather than secure the border, Kobach is the architect of a different approach. As is evident in the Arizona and Alabama laws he helped design, the goal is to drive Hispanics, and particularly immigrants, out of the country. As Kobach put it, according to The Daily Beast, “People often see federal immigration policy as a dichotomy between amnesty and deportation. But the most rational approach is a third one: you ratchet up the enforcement so that people make their own decisions to start following the law.” Or, as the legislation itself says, “attrition through enforcement.” The Alabama law — portions of which have been blocked in court for now — has been blamed for prompting children to drop out of schools and devastating industries that depended on Hispanic labor. He is involved in legislation and lawsuits across the country, including suing states for granting in-state tuition to undocumented students, and is planning anti-immigration effort in Kansas this year.

Kobach, with degrees from Harvard, Oxford, and Yale, approaches the immigration question from a legal perspective and puts on a measured air, but his rhetoric is extreme. Kobach currently serves as counsel to the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), recently listed as a nativist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Geriatric Obfuscating Pathology: Is The GOP Self-Destructing?

Or Could We Be So Lucky?
by David Michael Green

I took a busload of students to New Hampshire last week to observe the Republican primary campaign process up close and personal.

Alright, alright, I know what you must be thinking: “Damn, Green, you sure must be a dedicated professor to do that!” As it happens, you’d be partly right and partly wrong. In fact, the students are great, the trip is fun and a little unpredictable in nice way, and there really still is a wee bit of genuine candidate accountability remaining in the New Hampshire retail politics process.

That said, however, it’s absolutely true that the field of GOP candidates is stunning in its sheer capacity for selfishness, dishonesty, and plain old meanness, and that listening to them for too long without wearing noise-cancelling headphones could surely burn off both of your ears. It’s the political equivalent of staring at the sun, and the cult-like gaga-bots one can observe among these audiences seem to have spent quite some time doing just that. If you know just a bit about history, just a bit about context, or just a bit about the dark arts of rhetorical legerdemain, listening to a speech by Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney will leave you wanting to pop up just about every half-sentence and loudly disclaim “That’s a lie!”, “That’s wrong!”, or “That’s complete bullshit!” It’s a truly painful experience in that regard.

Moreover, given that American politics has now been reduced to a ‘choice’ between two gangs of nearly identical corporate water-carriers, yet still masquerades as a genuine election in a democracy, I feel more than a little complicit in the fleecing of the country just by attending these events and thereby implicitly helping to legitimize this kabuki process. It’s not like my individual presence matters a bit, of course. On the other hand, what if no one came, boycotting the entire process as an insult to our intelligence?

In any case, up we went, and we got ourselves an education. A good hot shower upon our return helped a lot at disinfecting the slime factor, as does a creeping sense of hope I’ve experienced over the last year or so, reinforced by New Hampshire. Indeed, reflecting upon the Republican presidential field does, oddly enough, provide one with reason to think things might actually be looking up a bit in America, notwithstanding the fact that one of the sick puppies we heard up there could actually be the next president of the United States. On reflection after returning from New Hampshire, I see multiple reasons to believe that the GOP – or, since parties can often be quite malleable, let us say the GOP as we know it today – might be headed toward implosion. What’s more, only some of that opinion is based on wishful thinking...

The most obvious indicator of the current state of the party is given by a quick look at the presidential field. Even Republicans – even, I think, the vast majority of Republicans – are dismayed by the quality of candidates they have to choose from. You could get several careers worth of stand-up material from the likes of Trump, Bachmann, Palin, Cain, Perry and the rest, but last I checked your party’s leading lights are meant for other purposes than cheap comic fodder. But – too bad for the GOP, and too good for the rest of the planet – they are what they are. And what they are is an endless procession of witless buffoons, shoddy charlatans and societal rejects. It goes without saying that you could do better in terms of intelligence and integrity just by randomly choosing ten individuals out of the phone book for any given American city. But I’ll go further. I think you could do better by randomly choosing ten individuals from any given sixth grade civics class. Or perhaps even ten crooks from the mellower wings of any given medium security prison.

Nobody epitomizes the scraping of the bottom of the GOP barrel right down through the Earth’s crust better than Newt the Gingrich, until just recently the candidate du jour among desperate Republican voters. He’s a big beached whale of an alleged humanoid, but it’s still almost unimaginable that anyone could’ve possibly stuffed so much hypocrisy within the confines of a single epidermal sack. One of my favorites concerns Gingrich’s recent lament that he was roughed up unfairly by his competitors in Iowa. If one were to make a list of the most destructive politicians and political operatives of the post-war period, Gingrich would certainly be among the top five, along with Joe McCarthy, Dick Nixon, Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. (Note that for all its other pathetic qualities, the Democratic Party can at least rightly claim that it does not begin to compete in that particular ugly contest.) It has therefore been amusing in the extreme to see him turn into a whining crybaby as hardball politics, funded by unrestrained corporate money no less, was used to unravel his presidential aspirations once and for all. Golly, it almost seems like Newt has different ethical standards for the practice of politics, depending on whether he is giving or receiving. But that would be disingenuous.

Nevertheless, that story is actually small potatoes when it comes to the competition for first prize among the panoply of Gingrich’s rampant hypocrisies. My favorite has to be the moral finger-wagging of the candidate directed at the rest of us, while he is on his third marriage (not to mention his third religion, about which we also have to be lectured by the candidate). His prior two marriages crashed over his infidelities. At the same time, of course, that he was impeaching a president of the United States and Leader of the Free World for the heinous crime of – wait for it now – infidelity. That’s a good one alright, although taking almost two million bucks from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for his services as an “historian” (Hey, you guys, look over here! I’m a really great political scientist, and I’ll provide my amazing academic wisdom to you for a mere one million!) while simultaneously lambasting these organizations for wrecking the economy surely rings in at a close second place on the Newtonian Hypocrimeter. And that’s just for starters. The truth is that, when it comes to the Gingrich Follies, we could go on and on forever here. There are the bald-faced lies, the government shutdowns, the temper tantrums, the money scandals and more.

But enough said. You can get most of what you need to know about the current state of Republican Party politics just by stopping for a second to realize that a month ago this fool was the favored candidate among GOP voters to be the next president of the United States. Before Rick Santorum, that is, a guy who doesn’t have a problem with the government outlawing birth control (no, as a matter of fact, I’m not joking), and who left Congress with no money but somehow miraculously became a millionaire with a couple of years. Now Gingrich came before Santorum, but after Herman Cain – stay with me here – who might have seemed to you a lot like a guy with a severe zipper problem, but of course that critique was just a ‘high-tech lynching’, don’t you know. And Cain’s 15 minutes of fame followed that of one Rick Perry, last seen skipping down the Yellow Brick Road whistling a certain tune about cognitive organs on holiday. And, of course, Perry came after Michelle Bachmann, who...

Well, you get the picture. But not quite. A little historical analysis suggests that the tawdry state of the Party’s current leadership choices is less anomalous than Republicans might like to believe. Ronald Reagan (The Name Which Must Be Spoken Every Thirty Seconds By Republicans Everywhere), who, like John Kennedy, was a lot less a great president than a subsequent fabricated religious icon for the party faithful, was at least a strong presidential candidate (though not one who was at all above the use of ugly tactics). Look at what the party has thrown up since then: Bob Dole, John McCain, and two guys (Whose Name Must Never Be Spoken By Republicans Anytime Anywhere) who go by the oh-so-appropriate appellation of Bush. Even leaving aside the abhorrent politics, these candidates are to national politics what Reagan was to acting: strictly B-rate.

But let’s be bold and actually talk about the Bushes, shall we? It’s ever so instructive to do so. Bush the Elder was the first victim of the wholesale sanity purge that has infected the GOP in the Age of Reagan. He broke the cardinal rule – in truth, the very raison d’etre – of the party by raising taxes, and so they turned on him and both destroyed and embarrassed him by helping Democrats show him to the door after a single term. That was Poppy. On the other hand, his son, the Boy Wondering, is actually guilty of precisely the opposite sin. Republicans these days can never stop telling you how conservative they are and how much they revere Ronald Reagan. Conservative, conservative, conservative. Reagan, Reagan, Reagan. Which makes for a bit of a mystery (for six seconds at least): If that’s true, how come they never, ever, mention the guy who was the most conservative president in American history, who was more Reagan than Reagan, and who happened to have been in office only just the other day? Hmmm. I wonder why that could be?

The answer, of course, is that Bush’s rodeo clown presidency demonstrates precisely what are the fruits of pursuing conservative (actually, kleptocratic) policies. Those choices were disastrous, and we are only beginning now to even realize how much damage was caused. So today’s Republican Party candidates have to pretend that Bush never happened, and that we’ve never had a very good and very recent empirical test of what would happen if we followed their identical policy prescriptions. Someday, of course – perhaps in a decade or two – they will try to give W the same makeover they’ve given to Reagan, but right now even the otherwise all too idiot-prone American public can’t yet be fooled into remembering how much they liked 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Katrina, No Child Left Behind, global warming, global hatred, torture, Constitution shredding, polarized politics, doubling the national debt, massive wealth concentration, global depression and TARP – all the gifts of a single president.

If I could put the current crop of Republican presidential candidates on the spot and ask them a single question, I would have them rate the Bush presidency and indicate how theirs would be different. They’re all slick as an oil spill, of course, so they’d find a way to finesse the question. Surely they’d say that they’d balance the budget, but of course, so did Reagan and so did W. It turns out that trying to do so while cutting taxes, spending more on the military, and without borrowing is ... what did that one guy call it? ... voodoo economics. But here’s the central point, even if it requires multiple iterations for Americans to learn it: The so-called conservative policies advocated by the Republican Party today are manifestly disastrous. They have been precisely so under every president – most definitely including Clinton and Obama – since Reagan, and they will continue to be so in the future. Even KenDoll Romeny knows that tax cuts for billionaires, war with Iran, environmental destruction and putting Christ back into Christmas won’t revive the country. It’s just that he doesn’t give a shit. Getting to be president is all he cares about.

Beyond this nightmare of its pathetic leading figures, the GOP is also in trouble demographically. It has painted itself into a narrow corner such that its primary appeal is to pretend pious old white men who are fearful of everything (and thus constantly act as though they are fearless), but most especially afraid of independent women. It’s funny to watch these guys rail against Muslim religious fanatics in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, without the slightest sense of irony or recognition of who they’re looking at in the mirror each morning. No matter. They’re finished. The young generation coming up in America today is far less sexist, far less homophobic, far less racist, far less xenophobic, far less religious, far less conservative and far less Republican than the ones headed for P.T. Barnum’s “This way to the Egress” sign over the next couple of decades. The GOP will face some wrenching choices as it becomes increasingly unelectable with time. Likely there will be a civil war between those who demand ideological purity and those willing to compromise for electability. Quite probably the Romney-versus-the-rest motif we’re witnessing in the current cycle is already the opening salvo in that war.

One could argue that Republican Party orthodoxy is already under assault from the Ron Paul campaign. It’s truly amazing what Paul is saying on questions such as the astonishingly destructive war on drugs campaign, or American foreign and military policy, which he rightly describes as imperial in nature. He’s far to the left of any namebrand Democrat, let alone compared to the chickenhawk cowardly hypocrites (as he himself accurately calls them) of the GOP, like Bush, Cheney, Gingrich, Romney and all the rest. More importantly, much of what he says on the campaign trail is jarringly truthful for any prominent American politician circa 2012. If only his economic prescriptions weren’t so dishonest and just plain bizarro (and if only he didn’t have that stinky racist, Bircher, background), I could honestly get excited about Paul, despite even his party affiliation. But Ron Paul is far more a strange mutant aberration in the Republican Party today than the leader of one of the warring camps likely to define the party in the coming decades. That battle will be between (alleged) moderates and hard-liners – between Bush 41 and Bush 43, if you will – and Paul is neither. He is far more a Libertarian than a Republican, but he’s also strategically smart. Millions more people are being exposed to the Republican candidate’s radically heterodox and absurdly truthful critiques of American government than would never hear them if he was running instead for the Libertarian Party’s nomination. In any case, by telling such truths right in the belly of the beast, and by attracting so many votes, Paul makes life that much harder for an already besieged Republican Party.

In addition to its candidates and its demographics, the GOP has another problem, as well: Itself. I’m shocked that anyone else is shocked at what’s going on within the party right now as the various candidates scramble for advantage. Of course Gingrich and Perry and the others are saying anything in order to take down the front-running Romney. What the hell else would you expect from an ideology which has been peddling extreme individualism, unfettered greed, filthy campaign practices, and endless deceit at least since the era of Joe McCarthy? Of course they are eating their young. Why wouldn’t they? Because of moral qualms? Concerns about integrity? Putting the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the one? Very funny, people. Very funny.

The reaction to those Republican candidates criticizing Romney for his career as a vulture capitalist is extremely telling, of course, just as was the Catholic Church putting Galileo under house arrest. In neither case did the offended institution bother asking whether the ideas being floated had any merit to them. No, my friends, neither the Catholic Church nor the Republican Church have any interest in the dissemination of truth. Quite to the contrary, their interest is precisely the opposite. Hordes of Republican blowhards (pardon the redundancy there) have been savaging Gingrich and Perry for mounting ‘Democratic-style class warfare’ critiques of Romney, never stopping to actually inquire as to what Bain Capital actually did under his stewardship. Of course, they don’t need to ask. They already know. What’s critical is that you never do.

All in all, the GOP is in deep trouble, at least over the long haul. I think they know it, too. They’re all standing around at this point waiting for a Reagan to come rescue them. That’s not gonna happen, not least of which because even Reagan was never “REAGAN!”. Like Bernie Madoff, the Party’s lies and schemes are beginning to catch up with it. And as with Madoff, it is the rest of us who will principally pay the price. The real questions are why this hasn’t happened sooner, why the party was able to resuscitate itself relatively unscathed from the disaster of actually governing under its avowed principles this last decade, and why it has a good shot at the White House this year?

Those are, of course, easy questions to answer. If the top ranks of the Republican Party are of a quality that would be considered pathetic anywhere outside of Zimbabwe, the leading lights of the Democrats are equally dismal. You have Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and then there’s... Joe Biden? Harry Reid? Andrew Cuomo? It’s quite amazing really. Add up all the prominent Democrats in Congress, in the cabinet and in statehouses, and there isn’t a single one – regardless even of their politics – who remotely inspires. Moreover, if we’re honest about Obama and Clinton, it’s patently obvious that they are almost entirely notable for who they physically are, not what they’ve done or where they stand. Take away his skin tone and her genitalia, and you’re left with a pair of two-dimensional cardboard B-rate political nothingburgers. History will record Obama’s sole claim to fame as getting elected. No one will ever know what he really stands for, other than maintaining the status quo so that he can comfortably tuck the one percent into bed each night. Her only genuine political commitment in life (at least, that is, before she and her husband were completely coopted by the plutocracy), seems to have been a devotion to the controversial idea of taking good care of our children. Wow. Now that’s bold.

Obama and his party are failures for the same reason the GOP has been failing for so long. They all serve the same master, and I got news for you, pal: It ain’t you, me, or the 300 million people in America’s 99 percent. This isn’t complicated stuff. You can put away your slide rule. It’s simple: If you are governing to advance the interest of predators, and doing so at the expense of the people, the predators will prosper and the people will suffer. By design. What, you don’t like that? No problem, you can simply vote for the other party, the one that’s not in office. Just one problem, though. They have exactly the same economic policies as the one that is.

We live in the strangest of times. Our politics have hardly ever been more strident, and yet we fight over almost nothing. We have enormous problems facing us, ranging from rampant and structural unemployment to broken empire to climate holocaust, and yet we’re consumed with trivia. Our candidate running on the platform of hope and change could not possibly be more beholden to the special interests who have robbed an entire global economy of hope in order to prevent change and fatten their already bulging wallets. The political party that led the country and the world over the cliff for a decade came back to win a stunning victory just two years later, and is poised to possibly win another one again. The people who created a massive national debt can somehow plausibly score endless political points complaining about that same debt. One of the worst things you can be accused of is trying to turn America into a ‘European socialist state’ at exactly the moment when the true European socialist states are precisely the countries providing the best quality of life, most economic security, and the most stable economies for their citizens of any in the world. Here at home, we have very clear empirical evidence from two post-war periods – one each of liberal and conservative economic policy prescriptions – of what happens when you go either of those directions, and no one recognizes that the experiment was even conducted. The list goes on. Rod Serling, you’re way overdue on the set, baby. Dee dee dee dee, dee dee dee dee...

Hunter Thompson was certainly right. When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional. But we’re beyond all that now. America has fielded its All-Century Team when it comes to nutty politics. The good news, though, is that some people are finally starting to wake up to what we’re facing, and just who is diddling whom.

That can’t be good news for the Geriatric Obfuscating Pathology otherwise known as the Republican Party.

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

Newt Gingrich and the Art of Racial Politics

by Charles M. Blow

That’s the way I like to spend my Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: watching Newt Gingrich sneer at Juan Williams, a black man, for having the temerity to ask him if his condescending remarks about the work ethic of poor black people are indeed condescending:

Juan Williams: Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also say poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can’t you see that this is viewed as at a minimum as insulting to all Americans but particularly to black Americans?

Newt Gingrich: No, I don’t see that (applause).

Gingrich went on to say that the children would be “getting money, which is a good thing if you’re poor. Only the elites despise earning money.”

The first implication here is that elites are liberals, not men like Gingrich — whose net worth The Los Angeles Times has estimated to be $6.7 million, who was a history professor, who was paid $1.6 million dollars by Freddie Mac for “advice,” and who had a half million dollar line of credit at Tiffany’s.

If Gingrich isn’t among America’s elite, the word no longer has meaning.

The second implication about those “elite” liberals, like President Obama, is even more explicit. Gingrich said it outright earlier in the evening when responding to a question about how long former workers should be allowed to collect unemployment benefits:

It tells you everything you need to know about the difference between Barack Obama and the five of us: that we actually think work is good (applause). We actually think saying to somebody “I’ll help you if you’re willing to help yourself” is good (applause). And we think unconditionally efforts by the best food stamp president in American history to maximize dependency is terrible for the future of this country (applause).

The phrase “maximize dependency” is a particularly interesting one because it suggests a systematic, orchestrated campaign by the president and liberals in general to keep blacks poor and dependent on “big government” as a way of insuring their continued political support. This is a classic, right-wing, race-based argument in a new suit.

But Williams wasn’t finished. He came back at Gingrich:

Williams: Speaker Gingrich, the suggestion you made was about a lack of work ethic, and I’ve got to tell you that my e-mail account and twitter account has been inundated with people of all races who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities. We saw some of this reaction during your visit to a black church in South Carolina.

(Boos from the crowd drown Williams out as Gingrich smirks. When the boos subside, Williams continues.)

You saw some of this during your visit to a black church in South Carolina where a woman asked you why you refer to President Obama as “the food stamp president.” It sounds as if you’re seeking to belittle people.

(More boos from the crowd.)

Gingrich: Well, first of all, Juan —

(Crowd giggles. Talk about belittling people. “Juan.”)

The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history (applause). Now, I know among the politically correct you are not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable (more applause and laughter).

Gingrich went on to say that he was going to continue to “find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job, and learn someday to own the job.” (Roaring applause. As if poor people don’t work. As I’ve pointed out before, most of them do.)

These exchanges, and the audience’s response to them, underscore how Republicans’ gut reactions and their official rhetoric diverge, particularly in the south.

They also underscore the fact that a clever politician like Gingrich, who understands this cleavage and knows how to exploit it in subtle and sophisticated ways, still has a chance to cause Mitt Romney some headaches on his presumptive march to the nomination.

Gingrich seems to understand the historical weight of the view among some southern whites, many of whom have migrated to the Republican party, that blacks are lazy and addicted to handouts. He is able to give voice to those feelings without using those words. He is able to make people believe that a fundamentally flawed and prejudicial argument that demeans minorities is actually for their uplift. It is Gingrich’s gift: He is able to make ill will sound like good will.

Copyright 2012 The New York Times

CAIR Reminds Gingrich that All Faiths are Equal in America

January 18, 2012
8:12 AM

CONTACT: Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

CAIR National Legislative Director Corey Saylor, 202-384-8857, E-Mail:; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, E-Mail:
CAIR Reminds Gingrich that All Faiths are Equal in America
Republican presidential hopeful conditions support for Muslim candidate on rejection of Islamic principles

WASHINGTON - January 18 - A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization tonight called on Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and other GOP representatives to reaffirm their support of an American republic that treats citizens of all faiths as equals.

Gingrich today told a South Carolina town hall that he would only support a Muslim for the presidency if that person would "commit in public to give up Sharia."

Newt Gingrich: I'd Support a Muslim Running for President Only If They'd Commit to 'Give Up Sharia'

"Newt Gingrich's vision of America segregates our citizens by faith. His outdated political ideas look backward to a time when Catholics and Jews were vilified and their faiths called a threat," said CAIR National Legislative Director Corey Saylor. "The time for bias in American politics has passed and Newt Gingrich looks like a relic of an ugly era."

Saylor added that Sharia teaches marital fidelity, generous charity and a thirst for knowledge. It includes religious guidelines for praying, fasting, giving charity, helping the needy, feeding the hungry, and caring for the environment. "The last time I checked, that was called freedom of religion and it is all protected by the Constitution," said Saylor.

According to Saylor, Sharia literally means "path," and it is a set of interpretations that are dynamic and intended to accommodate the time, place and laws -- like the U.S. Constitution -- of a particular community. Sharia is interpreted differently based on its surroundings. Sharia mandates Muslims to respect the law of the land in which they live. Many familiar with Islam note that Sharia is similar to Catholic Canon law and Jewish Halacha law.

SEE: CAIR-Oklahoma, Understanding Sharia What It is and What It is Not

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit recently upheld a lower court's decision to block implementation of an Oklahoma state constitutional amendment that would prohibit courts from applying "Sharia law" and "international law."

CAIR: Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Blocking Okla. Sharia Ban

In its first annual report on Islamophobia, CAIR listed Gingrich as one of the nation's worst promoters of anti-Muslim bigotry.

CAIR's report stated in part: "A consumer of the Islamophobic narrative produced by others on this list, Gingrich's credibility and visibility as a former House speaker makes his decision to adopt an anti-Muslim line in his pre-2010 election rhetoric dangerous."

CAIR: Same Hate, New Target
Newt Gingrich Compares Mosque to Nazis

A number of other recent reports have documented the growth and promotion of Islamophobia nationwide.

Center for American Progress: Fear, Inc.

Southern Poverty Law Center: Jihad Against Islam

People for the American Way: The Right-Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Links:

Romney Calls Undocumented Youth 'illegal', Will Veto Dream Act

January 18, 2012
2:11 PM

CONTACT: DRM Capitol Group

Erika Andiola
(480) 278-6843
Romney Tells Undocumented Youth He Will Veto the Dream Act Because She Is "Illegal"

WASHINGTON - January 18 - Bracing signs saying “WE VETO ROMNEY”, undocumented youth gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in New York City to challenge Mitt Romney yet again about his promise to veto the Dream Act. They were there delivering a message to Romney during his fundraiser on how he needs to change his stance on this legislation if he is serious about attracting Latino voters, who will be a determining factor in the presidential race.

After being approached by Sheraton security as well as the NYPD and changing the demonstration around several times, Dreamers were able to make it inside the second floor Sheraton conference hall. Lucy, a Dreamer who was brought to the country when she was 10, made her way through a room full of Romney supporters to speak with Mitt Romney himself.

“Are you going to support the DREAM Act” Lucy asked. “I already said, across the country, I would veto the Dream Act” the GOP frontrunner answered. “I’m undocumented. I want to know then, why are you not supporting my dream?” Lucy inquired. “Because if someone comes here illegally…” Romney replied, however, was cut off with “But I didn’t come here illegally, and I have a 4.0 GPA” “that’s wonderful” he replied, his discomfort showing a bit. A Romney handler, perhaps a bodyguard, quickly inserted himself between them, pushing Lucy back.

Lucy made her way out while Romney supporters berated her. They booed and hissed, saying that she was illegal and not worth keeping in the country. As she made her way out, she heard one man yell “Go back to Mexico.” She turned around and replied “I’m not Mexican, I’m Peruvian.” Later, undocumented youth caught a glimpse of Romney getting into a large, black SUV to make his exit. They approached him, chanting "We Veto Romney".

DRM Capitol Group serves as a voice for undocumented youth. Our work ensures that undocumented youth are represented in the halls of power and are correctly and directly informed of the actions of Congress, Executive Agencies, and the Courts.

DRM Capitol Group Links:

Spanish Language Media Paying Attention to Romney’s Hypocrisy

January 19, 2012
1:08 PM

CONTACT: America's Voice

Michael Earls (202) 261-2388
ICYMI: Influential Spanish Language Media Paying Attention to Romney’s Two-Faced Campaign
La Opinión and Jorge Ramos Decry Romney’s Efforts to Run Different Campaigns in English and Spanish

WASHINGTON - January 19 - Mitt Romney’s attempt to simultaneously run very different campaigns in English in South Carolina and in Spanish in Florida has not proceeded as planned. In the past several days, both La Opinión and Jorge Ramos – the nation’s largest Spanish language daily newspaper and most influential Spanish language political journalist, respectively – have called out the Romney campaign’s two states, two languages, two faced effort. As these commentators and others have highlighted, there is a likely political toll to Romney’s attempts to highlight his hardline immigration bona fides to South Carolina primary voters while ignoring immigration issues in his direct outreach to Cuban-American voters in Florida.

La Opinión, the nation’s largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, editorialized earlier this week, “The Republican primary in South Carolina has turned into a race among the presidential hopefuls to show who is tougher on the undocumented, leading them to take positions that could hurt their chances in the general election when they will need a large percent of Latino voters in order to beat President Obama…Romney's strategy to win the conservative vote is short-sighted and myopic. Immigration isn't only a legal issue as suggested by Arpaio and Kobach. It is about people, something deeply felt and recognized within the Latino community. Romney's insensitivity, now also characterized by his repeated condemnation of the federal DREAM Act, and his new ally's aggressiveness towards immigrants can cost the Republicans in the November election unless they are able to re-position themselves ideologically in order to get more than a third of the Latino vote, which they needed to win.”

Similarly, Jorge Ramos, the Univisión anchor who is one of the most influential figures on Latino political issues to millions of Spanish-speaking voters throughout the country, wrote in a new La Opinión column titled "Politics: The love affair is over" (translated into English by America’s Voice), “For us Latinos, immigration is not an abstract question. We all know, live and interact daily with undocumented immigrants. They are our friends, our neighbors and our co-workers; they are our uncles and partners, they go to school with our children. We love them and they love us. That’s why attacking them is tantamount to attacking us. And that’s exactly what Republican candidates have done: attack the undocumented. This is synonymous with attacking (and not understanding) the Latino community in general… It would have been enough to soften their immigration postures a little – for example, by offering legal residency without citizenship – and emphasize that they share certain values with Latinos, like opposition to abortion, the importance of the traditional family, and suspicion of big government. But they’re not doing it. Republicans have ended the love affair with Latinos. And if they don’t fall back in love quickly, they’ll lose the next presidential election.

Perhaps Eliseo Medina, International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employee International Union (SEIU), best captured the illogical nature of Romney’s approach when he said on a press call earlier this week, “Apparently, Mitt believes that because he is speaking in English, Latinos will not catch on to his real agenda. Unfortunately for Mitt, Latinos do speak English and he is not going to get away with talking out of both sides of his mouth.”


America's Voice -- Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform. The mission of America’s Voice is to realize the promise of workable and humane comprehensive immigration reform. Our goal is to build the public support and create the political momentum for reforms that will transform a dysfunctional immigration system that does not work into a regulatory system that does.

America's Voice Links:

GOP Offers Immigrant Youth as Cheap Labor and Cannon Fodder

February 2, 2012
4:55 PM

CONTACT: Voces de la Frontera

Joe Shansky (414) 218-3331
The ARMS Act: GOP Offers Immigrant Youth as Cheap Labor and Cannon Fodder

WASHINGTON - February 2 - Last week Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) introduced the ARMS Act, H.R. 3823, in the House of Representatives. The bill is a diluted version of the DREAM Act which would allow certain undocumented youth to attain legal status through military service. The undiluted version of the DREAM Act offers youth both the option of two years in higher education, or military service to attain legal status.

The bill emerges on the footsteps of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s DREAM Act veto statement, in which he calls the DREAM Act “a mistake", a stance he has continuously affirmed. Immediately after the ARMS Act surfaced, Mr. Romney flipped his stance and in recent interviews has said he would support a version of the DREAM Act if it focused on the military component- in other words the ARMS Act. Fellow Republican presidential hopeful, Newt Gingrich agrees.

“Republican-backed immigration reform bills are becoming narrower and narrower,” says Maricela Aguilar, undocumented student at Marquette and board president of Voces de la Frontera. “It seems that the Republican Party still doesn’t understand the dire need for humane immigration reform. They keep offering band-aids to help with a gash.”

“With the current state of the nation, we need to be focusing on education and preparing the next generation of leaders, including undocumented Americans, to solve our nation’s most pressing problems," says Aguilar.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces added:

"The ARMS Act is an unacceptable piece of legislation that highlights the huge disconnect between the Republican Party and the Latino community and America at large. The DREAM Act is supported by 70 percent of likely voters and leaders in education, the military, business, and religious orders. In the Latino community nationally, that number jumps to 77.5 percent.

This bill is a blatant attempt by Republican presidential hopefuls to come off as pro-immigrant when in fact it treats immigrant youth as a source of cheap labor and cannon fodder, and not human beings with their own dreams and aspirations."

Voces de la Frontera is Wisconsin's leading immigrant rights group - a grassroots organization that believes power comes from below and that people can overcome injustice to build a better world.

Voces de la Frontera Links:

Children of Immigrants Targeted by Tax Warfare in Congress

by Michelle Chen

The fundamental injustice of the tax system grows clearer as tax day looms ominously over working people and a few horde more and more of the nation’s wealth. Short of a total collapse of capitalism, the primary redistributive remedy for this would be progressive taxation. But our tax policy gets it exactly backward, and its about to get a bit worse. And as with so many wars of attrition against the working class, this one begins by shafting disenfranchised communities, especially immigrants.

While the rich are rolling in tax giveaways, a few credits actually give poor folks a break. One of these, the refundable child tax credit (CTC), applies to middle-class and poor parents alike and was claimed by some 21 million taxpayers in 2011, “which averaged about $676 per child and totaled $26.1 billion,” according to Politico. For poor families, the CTC, together with its big sister the Earned Income Tax Credit, provides a lifeline to keep them from plunging below the poverty line.

Now some lawmakers advocate cutting off the child tax credit for tax filers who lack of Social Security number. The move is unabashedly aimed at making life harder for undocumented workers, even taxpaying ones, specifically by punishing their children.

Currently, the CTC is one federal tax benefit that people can claim using an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) instead of a social security number. This effectively makes it available to undocumented workers—those who lack formal authorization.

The debate centers on whether children of undocumented workers, who are in many cases U.S.-born, should have the same modest benefits afforded to other working families. According to the First Focus Campaign for Children, the policy “could raise taxes on the families of more than 5.5 million children, including 4.5 million of whom are U.S. citizens.” Children of immigrants are disproportionately Latino and poor, with an estimated two in five poor children growing up in the Latino community.

In addition to being cruel toward immigrant families in general, the proposal is inlaid with the pernicious stereotypes of children of undocumented immigrants, who have been demonized as “anchor babies.” In fact, the canard of immigrant hordes procreating in hopes of using US-born kids as a springboard toward legalization is a myth peddled by anti-immigrant groups to stoke Malthusian demographic panic. But hey, an election year means open season on immigrants and endless bloviating about securing the border. Undocumented workers and other immigrants who cannot vote (despite being breadwinners and taxpayers for their families) can only watch as xenophobic spew greases the campaign trail.

Noting that child poverty is already aggravated by the economic crisis, First Focus President Bruce Lesley, President told In These Times, “When a policy makes it harder for children—any children—to succeed, that policy undermines America’s future.”

Some might argue the government should bar “illegal” workers from a benefit intended for hardworking citizens. Leaving aside the sheer bigotry of that logic, it runs counter to the sense that the real dysfunction in the tax system is that it keeps ungodly amounts of wealth in the hands of a tiny portion of the population—and all ordinary workers, whether they have papers or not, suffer the consequences.

Moreover, contrary to the popular stereotype that undocumented workers are a burden on the social service system, First Focus reports:

President George W. Bush’s U.S. Internal Revenue Service Commissioner testified to Congress that undocumented immigrants paid nearly $50 billion in federal income taxes using ITINs, during an eight-year period ending in 2003. The American Immigration Council reports that ITIN filers’ paid more than $9 billion in payroll taxes (which fund Social Security and [Medicare] systems for which undocumented immigrants are ineligible) during 2010.

So now lawmakers want to further exclude undocumented workers from the fiscal system, which already culls their wages to fund many Social Security and Medicare benefits that they can't redeem.

According to Politico’s analysis of a Treasury Inspector General report, “in 2010, 2.18 million ITIN filers collected about $4 billion in child tax credit refunds,” but they also “reported $46.3 billion in wages or an average of about $21,240 per household.” In other words, about 2 million really poor households got a little bit back to help care for their kids, and it’s on their backs that some fiscal hawks in Congress have decided to curb “waste, fraud and abuse” in the tax code.

If lawmakers are looking for “waste” in the tax code, they shouldn't look at child tax credits. The Center for American Progress points out that each $1 spent on the child tax credit yields $1.38 in economic growth. Meanwhile, extending the pro-rich Bush tax cuts would yield only about $0.35 on the dollar. And speaking of fraud and abuse, don’t forget that the same kind of tax warfare on Capitol Hill has stymied a proposal for a small surtax on income above $1 million, which would generate a cool $155 billion over a decade.

If you simply think taxpaying immigrants don’t deserve to live with the same dignity that others do, that’s one thing. If you are ideologically committed to punishing workers without papers through the tax code, you won’t be persuaded by these facts.

But reasonable hardworking people should understand that the real injustice of the tax system is that it’s rigged against the most vulnerable. While some in Washington try to exploit anti-immigrant sentiment for political gain, they’re ducking the problem that more and more of the 99 percent are confronting: the systemic fraud that feeds greed at the top and divides the poor against each other.

© 2012 In These Times

Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times. She is a regular contributor to the labor rights blog Working In These Times,, and Pacifica's WBAI. Her work has also appeared in Common Dreams, Alternet, Ms. Magazine, Newsday, and her old zine, cain.

Severe Conservative Syndrome

by Paul Krugman

Mitt Romney has a gift for words — self-destructive words. On Friday he did it again, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference that he was a “severely conservative governor.”

As Molly Ball of The Atlantic pointed out, Mr. Romney “described conservatism as if it were a disease.” Indeed. Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, provided a list of words that most commonly follow the adverb “severely”; the top five, in frequency of use, are disabled, depressed, ill, limited and injured.

That’s clearly not what Mr. Romney meant to convey. Yet if you look at the race for the G.O.P. presidential nomination, you have to wonder whether it was a Freudian slip. For something has clearly gone very wrong with modern American conservatism.

Start with Rick Santorum, who, according to Public Policy Polling, is the clear current favorite among usual Republican primary voters, running 15 points ahead of Mr. Romney. Anyone with an Internet connection is aware that Mr. Santorum is best known for 2003 remarks about homosexuality, incest and bestiality. But his strangeness runs deeper than that.

For example, last year Mr. Santorum made a point of defending the medieval Crusades against the “American left who hates Christendom.” Historical issues aside (hey, what are a few massacres of infidels and Jews among friends?), what was this doing in a 21st-century campaign?

Nor is this only about sex and religion: he has also declared that climate change is a hoax, part of a “beautifully concocted scheme” on the part of “the left” to provide “an excuse for more government control of your life.” You may say that such conspiracy-theorizing is hardly unique to Mr. Santorum, but that’s the point: tinfoil hats have become a common, if not mandatory, G.O.P. fashion accessory.

Then there’s Ron Paul, who came in a strong second in Maine’s caucuses despite widespread publicity over such matters as the racist (and conspiracy-minded) newsletters published under his name in the 1990s and his declarations that both the Civil War and the Civil Rights Act were mistakes. Clearly, a large segment of his party’s base is comfortable with views one might have thought were on the extreme fringe.

Finally, there’s Mr. Romney, who will probably get the nomination despite his evident failure to make an emotional connection with, well, anyone. The truth, of course, is that he was not a “severely conservative” governor. His signature achievement was a health reform identical in all important respects to the national reform signed into law by President Obama four years later. And in a rational political world, his campaign would be centered on that achievement.

But Mr. Romney is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, and whatever his personal beliefs may really be — if, indeed, he believes anything other than that he should be president — he needs to win over primary voters who really are severely conservative in both his intended and unintended senses.

So he can’t run on his record in office. Nor was he trying very hard to run on his business career even before people began asking hard (and appropriate) questions about the nature of that career.

Instead, his stump speeches rely almost entirely on fantasies and fabrications designed to appeal to the delusions of the conservative base. No, President Obama isn’t someone who “began his presidency by apologizing for America,” as Mr. Romney declared, yet again, a week ago. But this “Four-Pinocchio Falsehood,” as the Washington Post Fact Checker puts it, is at the heart of the Romney campaign.

How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? For it was not always thus. After all, that health reform Mr. Romney wants us to forget followed a blueprint originally laid out at the Heritage Foundation!

My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.

Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control.

The point is that today’s dismal G.O.P. field — is there anyone who doesn’t consider it dismal? — is no accident. Economic conservatives played a cynical game, and now they’re facing the blowback, a party that suffers from “severe” conservatism in the worst way. And the malady may take many years to cure.

Copyright 2012 The New York Times

How a Racist Email Reveals the GOP as a Petty Affair

by Kai Wright

It’s no great insight to point out it’s a tough election year for the Republican Party. The presumed front-runner is uninspiring at best; his rotating cast of challengers are wildly off-putting to wide swaths of the electorate. But for all the hours of analysis spent sussing out how the GOP arrived in this place, a federal judge in Montana offered this week what is perhaps the most succinct explanation.

On Wednesday, District Court Judge Richard Cebull admitted to sending around an email that jokes about President Obama being the mongrel child of a white mom’s drunken night of misbehaving. Some things can’t be paraphrased, so here’s the joke itself, courtesy of USA Today:

“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’ ” the e-mail joke reads. “His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’ “

Ok, we’ve already established that Barack and Michelle Obama make some white people very crazy. As Akiba Solomon wrote, one tires of having to learn the names and lives of each of “bumblef@#k politician” who makes a childish remark about the Obamas. But in this case, Cebull’s gross joke is less significant than his explanation for it.

“I can obviously understand why people would be offended,” Cebull has acknowledged. Rather than obfuscate on the racist content, he offered this explanation for why he’d forward something he knew to be offensive: “I didn’t send it as racist, although that’s what it is. I sent it out because it’s anti-Obama.”

And there you have it. His response illuminates the tragic story of today’s Republican Party: It stands for nothing. The formerly Grand Old Party has devolved into a small, petty affair defined by a thoughtless defense of greed, the cynical deployment of xenophobia and a blind hatred of Barack Obama.

We’ve seen all three ideas, such that they are, on the main stage of the GOP primary, too. Mitt Romney’s slippery positioning and repositioning of himself rightly creeps out many movement conservatives. But the real issue is that there remains no larger idea, no defining set of principles governing his life of both public and private work.

Frank Rich wrote recently that Romney does in fact have an animating core, but it’s one he’s horrified about revealing—being a member and funder of the Mormon Church. Perhaps that’s true. I’d add that the only core idea Romney has in fact articulated is greed. His signature achievement in life is amassing personal wealth for himself and for his colleagues at Bain Capital. Or, at least that’s the achievement he seems most proud of. Sure, he’s tried—failingly—to argue that he was creating jobs at Bain. But his wealth remains the most significant item on his resume. As he said last weekend, after the “couple of Cadillacs” gaffe:

“If people think there’s something wrong with being successful in America, then they’d better vote for the other guy,” Romney said. “Because I’ve been extraordinarily successful, and I want to use that success and that know-how to help the American people.”

We’ll skip past the long debate of whether wealth-creation through moving money around is either sustainable for the economy at large or terribly relevant to the needs of working families. The point here is that it speaks volumes about today’s Republican “establishment” that Romney’s the best candidate it could produce in 2012. The party and its leaders appear to be out of ideas that go beyond making sure government doesn’t get in the way of a small number of individuals amassing personal fortunes.

Meanwhile, the far right of the party lurches between the craven self-promotion of people like Sarah Palin and the deeply felt but deeply troubling ideas of people like Rick Santorum. The point isn’t that their views are too “radical”; the mainstream news media’s obsession with moderation isn’t actually shared by many Americans. Rather, it’s the substance of their radicalism that’s the problem. They promote a politics of fear and division, and they’re proud of it. From faith to race to sexuality—and certainly where all those sticky issues meet—the conservative movement inside the GOP doesn’t actually stand for anything. It stands firmly, loudly and frighteningly against letting people who think, live and look differently from themselves into the public square.

These two faltering sides of the Republican Party today are unified by one thin thought: hatred of President Obama. Some of that hate is driven by racism, to be sure. But I think Cebull’s onto something in his painfully honest guilty plea for his ridiculously racist joke. It’s also because they don’t have much else to talk about.

Post-Super Tuesday


Long before Super Tuesday, the Republican Party had cemented itself on the distant right of American politics, with a primary campaign that has been relentlessly nasty, divisive and vapid. Barbara Bush, the former first lady, was so repelled that on Tuesday she called it the worst she’d ever seen. We feel the same way.

This country has serious economic problems and profound national security challenges. But the Republican candidates are so deep in the trenches of cultural and religious warfare that they aren’t offering any solutions.

The results Tuesday night did not settle the race. Republican voters will have to go on for some time choosing between a candidate, Mitt Romney, who stands for nothing except country-club capitalism, and a candidate, Rick Santorum, so blinkered by his ideology that it’s hard to imagine him considering any alternative ideas or listening to any dissenting voice.

There are differences. Mr. Santorum is usually more extreme in his statements than Mr. Romney, especially in his intolerance of gay and lesbian Americans and his belief that religion — his religion — should define policy and politics. Mr. Santorum’s remark about wanting to vomit when he reread John F. Kennedy’s remarkable speech in 1960 about the separation of church and state is one of the lowest points of modern-day electoral politics.

Mr. Romney has been slightly more temperate. But, in his desperation to prove himself to the ultraright, he has joined in the attacks on same-sex marriage, abortion and even birth control. He has never called Mr. Santorum on his more bigoted rants. Neither politician is offering hard-hit American workers anything beyond long discredited trickle-down economics, more tax cuts for the rich, a weakening of the social safety net and more of the deregulation that nearly crashed the system in 2008.

There is also no space between Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum in the way they distort reality to attack Mr. Obama for everything he says, no matter how sensible, and oppose everything he wants, no matter how necessary. Rising gas prices? Blame the president’s sound environmental policies. Never mind that oil prices are set on world markets and driven up by soaring demand in China and Middle East unrest.

They also have peddled the canard that the president is weak on foreign policy. Mr. Romney on Tuesday called President Obama “America’s most feckless president since Carter.” Never mind that Mr. Obama ordered the successful raid to kill Osama bin Laden and has pummeled Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, all without the Republicans’ noxious dead-or-alive swagger. Now, for the sake of scoring political points, Mr. Romney, Mr. Santorum and Newt Gingrich, who is hanging on only thanks to one backer’s millions, seem determined to push Israel toward a reckless attack on Iran.

Republican politicians have pursued their assault on Mr. Obama, the left and any American who disagrees with them for years now. There are finally signs that they may pay a price for the casual cruelty with which they attack whole segments of society. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican of Alaska, said on Tuesday that the Republicans have left people thinking they are at war with women. Women are right to think that.

A new Pew Research poll shows that 3 in 10 voters say their opinion of the Republicans has worsened during the primaries. Among Democrats, 49 percent said watching the primaries have made them more likely to vote for Mr. Obama. That is up from 36 percent in December, which shows that Mr. Obama has risen as the Republicans have fallen.

But the president, who can be frustratingly inert at times, still has a long way to go.

Copyright 2012 The New York Times

Political Racism in the Age of Obama

by Steven Hahn

THE white students at Ole Miss who greeted President Obama’s decisive re-election with racial slurs and nasty disruptions on Tuesday night show that the long shadows of race still hang eerily over us. Four years ago, when Mr. Obama became our first African-American president by putting together an impressive coalition of white, black and Latino voters, it might have appeared otherwise. Some observers even insisted that we had entered a “post-racial” era.

But while that cross-racial and ethnic coalition figured significantly in Mr. Obama’s re-election last week, it has frayed over time — and may in fact have been weaker than we imagined to begin with. For close to the surface lies a political racism that harks back 150 years to the time of Reconstruction, when African-Americans won citizenship rights. Black men also won the right to vote and contested for power where they had previously been enslaved.

How is this so? The “birther” challenge, which galvanized so many Republican voters, expresses a deep unease with black claims to political inclusion and leadership that can be traced as far back as the 1860s. Then, white Southerners (and a fair share of white Northerners) questioned the legitimacy of black suffrage, viciously lampooned the behavior of new black officeholders and mobilized to murder and drive off local black leaders.

Much of the paramilitary work was done by the White League, the Ku Klux Klan and other vigilantes, who destroyed interracial Reconstruction governments and helped pave the road to the ferocious repression, disenfranchisement and segregation of the Jim Crow era.

D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film, “The Birth of a Nation,” which played to enthusiastic audiences, including President Woodrow Wilson, gave these sensibilities wide cultural sanction, with its depiction of Reconstruction’s democratic impulses as a violation of white decency and its celebration of the Klan for saving the South and reuniting the nation.

By the early 20th century the message was clear: black people did not belong in American political society and had no business wielding power over white people. This attitude has died hard. It is not, in fact, dead. Despite the achievements of the civil rights movement, African-Americans have seldom been elected to office from white-majority districts; only three, including Mr. Obama, have been elected to the United States Senate since Reconstruction, and they have been from either Illinois or Massachusetts.

The truth is that in the post-Civil War South few whites ever voted for black officeseekers, and the legacy of their refusal remains with us in a variety of forms. The depiction of Mr. Obama as a Kenyan, an Indonesian, an African tribal chief, a foreign Muslim — in other words, as a man fundamentally ineligible to be our president — is perhaps the most searing. Tellingly, it is a charge never brought against any of his predecessors.

But the coordinated efforts across the country to intimidate and suppress the votes of racial and ethnic minorities are far more consequential. Hostile officials regularly deploy the language of “fraud” and “corruption” to justify their efforts much as their counterparts at the end of the 19th century did to fully disenfranchise black voters.

Although our present-day tactics are state-issued IDs, state-mandated harassment of immigrants and voter-roll purges, these are not a far cry from the poll taxes, literacy tests, residency requirements and discretionary power of local registrars that composed the political racism of a century ago. That’s not even counting the hours-long lines many minority voters confronted.

THE repercussions of political racism are ever present, sometimes in subtle rather than explicit guises. The campaigns of both parties showed an obsessive concern with the fate of the “middle class,” an artificially homogenized category mostly coded white, while resolutely refusing to address the deepening morass of poverty, marginality and limited opportunity that disproportionately engulfs African-American and Latino communities.

At the same time, the embrace of “small business” and the retreat from public-sector institutions as a formula for solving our economic and social crises — evident in the policies of both parties — threaten to further erode the prospects and living standards of racial and ethnic minorities, who are overwhelmingly wage earners and most likely to find decent pay and stability as teachers, police officers, firefighters and government employees.

Over the past three decades, the Democrats have surrendered so much intellectual ground to Republican anti-statism that they have little with which to fight back effectively. The result is that Mr. Obama, like many other Democrats, has avoided the initiatives that could really cement his coalition — public works projects, industrial and urban policy, support for homeowners, comprehensive immigration reform, tougher financial regulation, stronger protection for labor unions and national service — and yet is still branded a “socialist” and coddler of minorities. Small wonder that the election returns indicate a decline in overall popular turnout since 2008 and a drop in Mr. Obama’s share of the white vote, especially the vote of white men.

But the returns also suggest intriguing possibilities for which the past may offer us meaningful lessons. There seems little doubt that Mr. Obama’s bailout of the auto industry helped attract support from white working-class voters and other so-called Reagan Democrats across the Midwest and Middle Atlantic, turning the electoral tide in his favor precisely where the corrosions of race could have been very damaging.

The Republicans, on the other hand, failed to make inroads among minority voters, including Asian-Americans, and are facing a formidable generational wall. Young whites helped drive the forces of conservatism and white supremacy during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but now most seem ill at ease with the policies that the Republican Party brandishes: social conservatism, anti-feminism, opposition to same-sex marriage and hostility to racial minorities. The anti-Obama riot at Ole Miss, integrated 50 years ago by James H. Meredith, was followed by a larger, interracial “We Are One Mississippi” candlelight march of protest. Mr. Obama and the Democrats have an opportunity to bridge the racial and cultural divides that have been widening and to begin to reconfigure the country’s political landscape. Although this has always been a difficult task and one fraught with peril, history — from Reconstruction to Populism to the New Deal to the struggle for civil rights — teaches us that it can happen: when different groups meet one another on more level planes, slowly get to know and trust one another, and define objectives that are mutually beneficial and achievable, they learn to think of themselves as part of something larger — and they actually become something larger.

Hard work on the ground — in neighborhoods, schools, religious institutions and workplaces — is foundational. But Mr. Obama, the biracial community organizer, might consider starting his second term by articulating a vision of a multicultural, multiracial and more equitable America with the same insight and power that he once brought to an address on the singular problem of race. If he does that, with words and then with deeds, he can strike a telling blow against the political racism that haunts our country.

Steven Hahn is a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration.”

Copyright 2012 The New York Times

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