Paul Ryan is a coward, Trump is Racist, and the GOP is lost

When you’d take a racist over Hillary, you’re pretty much a racist too.

Paul Ryan is pathetic and cowardly. You know, if you’re pushing paper for The Man and keeping your head down to make rent and put your kids through school, I can accept some degree of moral flexibility. But if you’re the Speaker of the House and you don’t stand for something more than “hey let’s not make waves here I’ve got a great office” then you’re straight up despicable.

This guy believes that a racist President is better than a neoliberal one. I’m guessing he thinks a racist DoJ is somehow made up for by lowered taxes (or something similar), and that’s fucking amazing. It explains everything awful about the current GOP, just in higher contrast: they just don’t care about minority rights, and it isn’t even an issue of “not seeing color” and being post racist, whatever that is. It’s now, starkly clear it’s because they just don’t care: they’ll literally accept an outright racist with a long history of racism, someone who really does see color and doesn’t like it. And they’ll embrace it because Hillary Clinton is… what?

Among antiabortion folks, I could see why they’d like a GOP Congress and President and could endure a racist to achieve that end: from their perspective they’re fighting a holy war for thousands of innocent children. But Ryan? A near-libertarian hawk? Does he really love lowered taxes enough that he’d endure a racist?

… I can’t believe we know the answer to that question, and it isn’t even rhetorical. Not only that, but Ryan is joined by all kinds of folks in the GOP willing to turn their heads and just pretend like this isn’t a big deal even as they acknowledge it is very much a big deal.

UPDATE: I beat Vox by a day. They’re stealing my lines!

Playing to the Edge

Do What Thou Wilt (if Ye Can Afford It) is not a great model of governance

It’s no secret that there are two Americas in the legal system, and that if you can afford the better version you get to define all kinds of grey areas as your playground. The relative powerlessness of the SEC in the face of financial institution malfeasance drives this home the strongest, but the best example in American politics is in the operations of the Clintons.

Now, they’re not illegal! I don’t actually think the various scandals we’re told by the GOP to concern ourselves with has been illegal, but that’s more a feature of the two-tier American legal system than an outright measure. It’s the asterix next to Sammy Sosa’s records.

And the Clintons are great at this stuff, and I’m also guessing that they’re hardly the only folks mining their connections to make money and doing whatever the hell they feel like so long as counsel says it’s fine. But they are the most public, thanks to GOP efforts to dig up anything that’ll stick. And I have to feel that GOP frustration, because they keep alllllmoooost finding something and then HEYO WHAT’S THIS and it turns out nope that’s not illegal either. Over and over again.

I dislike Clinton as a Presidential candidate because of her terrible and bloody foreign policy judgment, but her comfort with Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law as a basis for professional conduct is also of an especially dangerous note in contemporary America, wherein Congress (thanks to the GOP) has written themselves out of the game and given the controller over to the President. Because Clinton is going to way too comfortable with that kind of arrangement. If you thought the Bush DoJ gave him and Cheney a pass to make shit up as they went along, Clinton is going to take that concept and use it as a sledgehammer against any kind of obstacle she finds, and just take the current problem and make it bigger.

America is headed for a rough time… and if Trump wins it’ll be even worse. This too will pass, but I hardly believe that things are going to go well for any of us.

Convention or Bust

The GOP is going to ride this into the dirt and they’re going to take conservativism with them

It’s no great secret that the GOP leadership is struggling. They couldn’t get their chosen candidate(s) off the starting block, the second place nominee was an odious reactionary, and the presumed victor is a mercurial narcissist fuelled by a white nationalism that crops up every six decades or so. So where do the leftovers go?

Well, in this piece from the Atlantic there’s a lot of hopeful consideration of third parties.

I get why third parties are attractive: they stand for something! Unlike the major parties, who are all mishmashed up. But there’s the issue: if you’re really REALLY driven by issues such that you can parse the difference between the American Party and the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party and the other parties, you’re not going to tolerate the OBVIOUS flaws of Party A; you’re going to choose Party B! And so on until there are a dozen minor conservative parties and none of them want anything to do with the other.

Robespierre was guillotined by his own revolution, and so it ever will be: revolutions eat their own, fragment, and fall apart. If these minor parties are already made up of people selecting party affiliation based on their minor differences as if they were major, they’re never going to see eye-to-eye.

The most confident way America could actually get a real, new major party – and the reasonable kind of conservativism that, for example, likes to legislate and appreciates that government has a function – is from a convention. It’d have to be all the minor conservative parties, and they’d have to agree to a common platform, and they could let the GOP keep the angry and neglected white lower classes… only until those whites realize they’d be better off with allies that actually legislate and fight for them, rather than just tagging along with a loudmouth asshole because he’s a voice for their anger.

The GOP is looking at a decades-long decline, a la the Federalist Party, unless something drastic changes. America is going to be a two-party country for a while yet, and if the GOP is irrelevant and at least one of destructive and/or ineffective when they are relevant, this country is going to suffer greatly. The Democrats need worthy competition, and if they don’t get it it’s going to be Hillarys all the way down.

The Problem isn’t the Presidency

Worrying about who is President makes sense, but it’s been accentuated by the abysmally incompetent Congress.

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Bernie Sanders is making the case here that he’s the right guy for the Presidency, owing to Hillary Clinton’s weaker prospects against Trump. That’s a legitimate concern if you’re a Democrat, because Trump with a GOP Congress is about as disruptive a combination I can imagine to run the American federal government.

What’s unfortunate is that the narrative of a supreme President calling the shots misses out on some key points about what the American federal system ought to be, which is “only slightly dysfunctional”. As it is, we are historically at “highly dysfunctional”: Congress is, in historical terms, the most inactive it’s been in over a century. We’re at war in a half-dozen places under a Congressional authorization that’s over a decade old and in another half-dozen places which are only pretending to be under that authorization. The intelligence services and FBI are so empowered to be playing games with Congress that Congress can’t get itself together to outlaw or sanction the agencies for their criminal activities. Judges aren’t getting approved by the Senate.

America needs a revised Church Committee and a revised War Powers Resolution. The Dodd-Frank Act was passed in the midst of crisis and managed to chip away at out-of-control financial power in the US, but that was probably the last hurrah for big Congressional acts to address systemic dysfunction in America. The Affordable Care Act was the best we could do to control America’s broken healthcare system, and in essence it’s a giveaway to insurance companies which is only going to slightly un-break the system, basically ensuring that no one goes without the ability to receive high-end health care in exchange for everyone not making $300k+ a year from getting screwed with low-end medical costs and higher insurance premiums.

The country needs some serious help, and if Clinton wins she’s going to be facing an even more hostile Congress than Obama faced… and I don’t get the impression she’s going to be half as restrained as Obama was in the face of Congressional torpor. Leaving aside her policies, yet another eight years of an expanding executive and Presidency isn’t going to do a damn bit of good to create a more functional Congress; it’s going to exacerbate the situation so far as I can tell. We all know Clinton is going to do what she wants – she’s had decades to get tired of GOP bullshit – and considering Congress is probably going to be worse than useless the country will need that kind of attention to get anything done, with the inevitable backlash and deepening GOP intransigence to follow. I doubt that in such an environment that the party could mount an effective resurrection and resurgence.

It took the Federalist Party a few decades to die out. While it lingered on, it was irrelevant and basically handed the non-judicial reins of government over to the Democratic-Republican Party. I can only hope that the GOP’s apparent atrophying is sped along by the faster pace of modern life and that something new and powerful emerges. The country will not functional well with a one-party system any more than it has done through the current one-and-a-half party system.

The North Carolina GOP Fears the Gays

North Carolina’s GOP candidate for Attorney General has some interesting ideas about being gay, and by interesting I mean dumb.

‘”Go home, tell your friends and family who had to work today what this is all about and how hard we must fight to keep our state straight,” [Buck Newton] said to applause.’ – from Reuters

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COMMUNISM and/or homosexuality is coming for us all!

What a terrifying world it must be to believe that culture is disintegrating in front of your eyes, being torn apart by forces you cannot comprehend and that terrify you with their openly decrepit ideas. It’s generally the same feeling I get when I think about what life would be like with a guy like Buck Newton as my state’s attorney general. Luckily I live in Massachusetts, where our flavor of oppression is much more neoliberal.

Anyhow, imagine the mental gymnastics required to be the state’s representative of the law and also have a literally ignorant disregard for civil liberties. It’s not peculiarly American, but it certainly is the most common kind of fear-driven pearl-clutching reaction to a world confronting you with some kind of strange change you never considered before. The Other! They’re going to destroy us!

It’s such a well-worn trope that it’s easy enough to spot once you’re on the outside of it, but when you’re on the inside – say, when a terrorism victim’s family supports an unhelpful war or the expansion of security at airports or what-have-you – it’s a very, very hard sell. I have compassion for those folks; I’m sure I’m on the inside of some struggles myself, such as my position as an upper-class white male making me more amenable to capitalism than presumably a lot of other people. This is a democracy, and that means that sometimes what you or I might consider to be bad ideas are still the majority will and the representative’s will as well, and while screaming at people can be helpful for various reasons in a larger social context, I’ve always considered compassion and patience more effective in my personal life.

So, let’s just say a prayer for North Carolina that the GOP doesn’t get the Attorney General’s office, and helpfully remind people that being gay is almost certainly not a choice and that laws barring transgender folks from peeing where they’re most comfortable isn’t going to keep anyone straight.