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The Polls Are Tight, but the GOP Is Collapsing

“I just love a man in magic underwear.”

Does anybody get what’s happening to the Republican Party? Superficially they look okay – Mitt Romney’s getting ready for his coronation next week in Tampa, and he’s not far behind in the polls – but the reality is the party is falling apart. And this has been apparent for some time now.

The clearest indication was last winter as the primaries got started. They had a bunch of cartoon characters running for president – remember Herman Cain? – but this has been going on for years. Michelle Bachmann always reminded me of that former secretary of state of Florida, Katherine Harris, who liked to do remote stand-up interviews on TV (“Hannity and Colmes”) in profile so men could see her breasts. She ran the worst campaign imaginable for the U.S. Senate in 2006 – then when she’d get in trouble she’d just make stuff up:

In late August, Harris lost another key staffer, Rhyan Metzler, in the wake of a disastrous political rally at Orlando Executive Airport. Only 40 people showed up for the event, and Harris blamed the paltry turnout in part on a last-minute change in location. She claimed that a tree fell on the hangar that was originally scheduled to hold the rally, forcing her campaign to switch to another hangar. Airport officials, however, stated that not only had no trees fallen, but also that there are no trees as they get in the way of the airplanes; further adding that the event in fact took place in the hangar that Harris’s campaign had originally booked. Harris’s campaign blamed Metzler for the comments Harris made after the rally. (Wikipedia)

Remember Christine O’Donnell of Delaware, running for Senate in 2010? She had to go on TV and tell the world, “I am not a witch.”

Spouting off earlier today on CNN; Phyllis Diller’s ghost would have made more sense. And been funnier.

Now we’ve got Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, yet another GOP Senate candidate, saying he “misspoke” about “legitimate rape” last weekend. He opposes abortion for any reason, including rape, incest and the life of the mother, and he got caught telling a TV interviewer that when a woman’s raped, her body can “shut that down.” And therefore she doesn’t get pregnant, and therefore there’s no need for a rape exception while men like him try to make abortion illegal.

“If it was a legitimate rape,” Akin said – as opposed to what, a phony one?

Indiana has Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer, running for Senate this year; he ousted Richard Lugar, a Rhodes Scholar and the respected foreign policy leader of the U.S. Senate. The Indianapolis Star editorial board asked Mourdock for the solution to partisanship and polarization in Washington, and he answered, “More partisanship.” He’s one of those do-not-compromise Tea Party guys.

Seems more like do-not-resuscitate the Republican Party to me.

They have no candidates. They’re fresh out. When a political party runs out of candidates, it’s finished.

In the presidential primaries, the Republicans did everything they could think of to nominate someone besides Mitt Romney. No one wanted him. Michelle Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll a year ago – then sank like a mobster thrown into the East River. Herman Cain was going to be the savior – Newt Gingrich – Rick Perry, remember him? – Rick Santorum, who lost his last race in a landslide – Ron Paul, the author of racist newsletters and promoter of “Austrian economists” – there was no end to the “anyone but Romney” parade. So now they’re stuck with the last guy standing. And who did he pick for his vice-presidential nominee? Rep. Paul Ryan, co-sponsor of Todd Akin’s bill to overhaul the Hyde Amendment, which for 30 years has prevented government funding for abortion except in the case of rape.

Ryan, they say, is an “intellectual” who “really understands the budget.” But it isn’t true; his numbers don’t add up, he won’t say what tax loopholes he’d close while giving the rich another tax cut, and without that his budget increases the deficit, not decreases it.

Oh and by the way, no more Medicare, no more Pell Grants or food stamps, no Medicaid – but he’ll sure protect the military from any cuts, even though the United States spends more on “defense” than the next 60 nations combined.

This stuff’s just weird. But the media and the big thinkers don’t seem to get what’s going on.

The old professional Republicans are caught between two monsters they unleashed – unlimited campaign contributions, which allow billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers to control the candidates and the agenda, and a Tea Party that’s full of extremists.

When even Dick Lugar goes down, there’s no hope for the old Republican Party. Meanwhile, the Democrats are barely hanging on themselves, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re next.

Remember when Bobby Jindal was going to be the GOP savior? He didn’t make it past one disastrous appearance on TV. Or Marco Rubio? He lied about his résumé, how his parents got to Florida from Cuba. Chris Christie? He can’t open his mouth without ticking people off. (And he’s got a scandal on his hands with private prisons.)

Who else do they have? Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was the logical veep choice for Romney – Ohio’s a big swing state – but Portman would have put everyone to sleep, when that’s Romney’s only specialty.

So he picked Ryan, hoping for another Palin-style “game-changer.” You remember her, right? The one who reads so many newspapers and magazines she can’t name any of them?

Palin is proof this has been going on for some time now. The GOP is out of candidates. They not only don’t have a bench, they don’t have a starting lineup.

This is the perfect time for a fresh face to replace Todd Akin in Missouri.

I know this sounds strange, because other people aren’t saying it much yet, but the United States is trading democracy for government by the rich. And it’s not just individuals like Adelson and the Koch Brothers, or Karl Rove and Dick Armey; it’s the corporations and Wall Street, it’s Facebook and Google. Without them Romney would be tying his dog to the car roof and heading for Canada again.

They know where you are, who you are and what you think, 24/7. Thanks to that tracking device in your pocket or purse, the GOP marketing machine can tailor an ad just for you.

We’ve signed away our privacy rights because our toys are entertaining. The ballot box is our last, most sacred private place – but it’s not private anymore either, and that’s assuming you’re allowed to cast a ballot. All over the nation Republicans have led efforts to restrict ballot access. They don’t want young people voting, or poor people, Blacks or Hispanics. Republicans now openly admit this; the sponsor of Pennsylvania’s voter ID law predicts Romney will carry the state now, and in Ohio election officials openly admit they’re not going to accommodate Black voters.

Imagine: the Republican Party’s only road to the White House is by openly suppressing the vote!

Do you hear outrage about this? Not really. Everyone’s too busy on their cell phones to notice.

The only cure for these trends is a Democratic landslide. But that doesn’t look at all likely.

If it were to happen, the professional Republicans would retake control of their party, by attributing their defeat to the Tea Party. They’d have to find a way to stick that genie back in the bottle.

If President Obama squeaks by this year, and maybe hangs onto the Senate thanks to Todd Akin, nothing much will change, which is really bad for the country. There’s a reason Rush Limbaugh said four years ago he wants this president to fail; it’s because Republicans don’t know what else to do!

My sense is that Democrats are even more clueless about the 24-hour news cycle than Republicans are. They still think Twitter’s something you post statements to and raise money on, instead of a giant loudspeaker that magnifies every half-witted criticism – or bold-faced lie – someone makes.

All politicians have thick skins, but they need rhinoceros hides these days. Obama has been too fearful of criticism and too cautious, and we’re paying the price for it; unemployment lingers because he can’t stand not being loved.

President Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Obama can’t stand the heat, but he won’t leave the kitchen either. The government is paralyzed. And the people are too busy texting to notice.

I don’t know what the future will bring, but the world is becoming a more dangerous place, and our military won’t be able to protect us from it. Our enemies are internal and work in skyscrapers.

If America stops functioning, what’s to become of the world? Europe is teetering, the Chinese are still paranoid and authoritarian; where will leadership come from?

Congress recently voted down a bill to protect our electronic infrastructure. You’d think Republicans and Democrats could agree that the internet and our computer systems are worth protecting. But no – even though everything we do as an advanced nation depends on those computers.

If you want to attack the banking system – the electrical grid – planes, trains, highways – shipping – communications – you don’t need to shoot down satellites à la “Star Wars.” Just get a bunch of hackers together. In a sense, the future belongs to this guy or someone like him:

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks (AP)

Assange himself, holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, is screwed. But there are surely thousands like him, waiting to bring down “the great Satan.”

The professional Republicans have long since sold their souls to the devil; here’s a picture of the transaction.

This year Texas Republicans have forbidden their schools to teach “critical thinking skills.” Logic might lead a person to doubt God, or do something about global warming, or even let Gay people get married.

The end result is that Republican candidates now think a raped woman never gets pregnant.

America can certainly survive without the Republican Party, but it can’t afford to lose the Democrats too. Yet here’s a picture that looks a lot like the one of Reagan and Falwell.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Sen. Charles Schumer. (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

Those two both represent Wall Street, and Democrats need money too or they won’t win elections.

Is there a silver lining to all these clouds? I don’t really see one, but I notice that Sen. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) was the first GOPper to call for Akin to resign from his campaign. Brown is afraid that anti-abortion insanity will make him lose to this woman.

God forbid anyone calls her a savior, but she’s the only one I see with a chance to help turn things around.

I’ll give the Democrats this, they do have candidates. They haven’t entirely sold out. But they’re going to have to do a much better job of rallying and governing the country, or I’m afraid we’ll just watch it slip away on YouTube – then wake up one day and wonder why there’s no electricity. Or banking, or transportation, or anything.

If that ever happens, the next thing to go is the food supply. If that goes, expect the Army on every corner. They’ll be reluctant, but they won’t have a choice.++