Archive for category Blogs
So much to blog about! In Berlin the power of the past still moves me. We had a theme of the history of the Reichstag (above) as a constant connecting Imperial Germany to today – and the diverse episodes of war, fascism, division, etc. – can be linked when viewed through that perspective. I will blog about that – but not today. I also have started blog entries about the joy I still feel when I encountered unified, free Berlin! The changes over the last 25 years – a city in constant transition – excite and amaze me.
I have at least two blog entries to write on that.
Today after a train ride to Munich I gave the students a seminar that started at Odeonplatz, where Hitler’s “Beer hall putsch” of November 9, 1923 met its demise. I now joke with my students, I’ll be talking about something and I’ll say “give me the date” and they’ll yell “November 9!” That was the day the Kaiser abdicated and Germany was declared a republic in 1918, Hitler’s “putsch” attempt, Kristallnacht of 1938, and of course when the wall came down in 1989. Apparently, Germany is a Scorpio.
So we discussed Hitler’s rise, then went down the street not more than a kilometer to the memorial to Sophie Scholl, my personal hero (along with her brother and others in the White Rose). At Geschwister Scholl Plaza (meaning literally ‘Siblings School Square,’ though it doesn’t sound as awkward in German as in English) we talked about her story and its aftermath. I also talked at length about the film made, “The Last Days of Sophie Scholl.” As we finished I walked by a newspaper stand and the headline on Bild Zeitung was that Alexander Held’s wife (Held played the Gestapo interrogator in the film) died from internal bleeding, and he found her dead at home. Yikes.
I’ve got a big blog entry to write on that, and how cool it was to use place to connect history and emphasize both the evil and good expressed in Germany’s past. But not tonight.
I can’t blog and be a solo instructor at the same time. I don’t have time to craft a thoughtful blog about a subject of importance. So tonight I’m going to end with a short look at how hostels have changed.
My first time in Munich was 30 years ago. I recall going to the hostel, lining up and waiting over an hour for them to open the doors and assign rooms. It was first come first serve, the doors didn’t open until 3:00. We were in a barracks like room, and had a midnight curfew – then the doors closed. There were lockers for valuables at least.
In the morning one showered in a large shared shower, and then at breakfast I was handed a brotchen, slice of cheese, bad coffee, and that was it. It felt more like prison. We had to be out from 10:oo to 3 as they cleaned. But it was cheap!
Now at Hotel Wombats the place is open 24 hours. We’re warmly greeted by staff who tell students to get their bedsheets and make their beds (they don’t allow sleeping bags or your own bedding for sanitary reasons), there is free wifi, a bar on the premises (students each got a free drink voucher), a shower in every room (though rooms can have 8 people), and a fun atmosphere.
Their breakfast is a buffet style with brotchen (rolls), different kinds of bread, toasters, jams, different kinds of cheeses, salami, different kinds of meats, cereal, cukes, milk, juices, coffee, eggs, and more. Yet it’s still pretty reasonably priced!
I thought of that as I walked through Munich’s train station tonight, realizing that it is nothing like how I experienced it the first time. I could see how the old station fit generally in the structure, but everything was different. There’s a blog entry about that coming up too.
But not tonight – and maybe not until after the trip is done.
On a libertarian-leaning blog, a usually rational and interesting poster made this comment:
It’s all so pointless. We will never convince the majority of people to embrace liberty, instead of looking to government to be Mommy. At least not until government fails so badly that its incompetence is made clearly manifest. And even if that happens, I suspect that the majority of the electorate will look for a man on a white horse, rather than freedom, and the responsibility for their own lives. There’ll always be a cohort that thinks government could do everything for everyone if only the right people were running it. And, it seems, quite a lot of people will listen to them.
Arguing with progressives is pointless, too. It’s like arguing with people in a movie theater who won’t stop texting. It’s a waste of time to say anything to them, because if they had a shred of civility or decency, they wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you’re a Progressive, I just assume at this point that you’re too abysmally stupid to waste time with on reason or debate.
There are some breathtaking assertions there. Progressives are abysmally stupid, don’t use reason, have no shred of civility or decency…all because they have a progressive political perspective. That means, according to this blogger, that progressives refuse to embrace liberty, want government to be mommy, and don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives.
Wow. If people on the right or libertarian side of the isle really believe that about progressives, no wonder they hate us so! Any one who knows me or reads my blog knows that I am a firm believer of people taking responsibility for their lives and choices – students hear that mantra from me all the time – your future is up to you, you can’t blame anyone else. I’m also for liberty – human liberation from all forms of oppression so we can live as freely as possible – as my primary value.
My biggest critique of government programs is that they can create a psychology of dependency which harms those receiving that aid. I don’t think the answer is to cut people off – often when children are involved that would be cruel. But rather right and left should create more effective social welfare programs which are built around community action. Community organizers should be the hub, and those who can should contribute to building community in order to get aid.
I daresay I’m not abysmally stupid either. Yet I’d describe myself as a progressive.
Why are we at a point in this country where the political sides can believe such caricatured images of the other side? I have no doubt that the poster, while perhaps recognizing that he is being a bit over the top and venting, truly believes that progressives oppose freedom and want the government to do everything.
And its not just progressives who get caricatured, the right is often portrayed as heartless, emotion driven nationalists who don’t care about the destruction caused by war, who would love to see the poor suffer, don’t care about pollution in our rivers, or the potential damage caused by global warming. They just want what they can get, selfishly consuming with no regard for others. I know lots of conservatives, and that caricature doesn’t fit any of them.
But how to get past this kind of rhetoric? One way is to think of the concept of freedom. I submit that both right and left generally have freedom as a primary value. Neither has it as the only value, otherwise they’d oppose all laws. For each having a stable and effective community is also important. So perhaps part of the difference is how they draw that line. Both might agree that a police force is necessary to maintain order, but they might disagree on health care.
From the left: not having health care denies the poor (nearly 50 million) true freedom because they are more likely to avoid seeking health care and may die or suffer, they are vulnerable to health cost bankruptcies, and their children are less likely to receive quality care, and thus do not have equal opportunity. Universal health care enhances freedom.
From the right: having guaranteed health care denies the wealthier true freedom by taking their tax dollars, and mandatory insurance does not allow them to opt out. Universal health care harms freedom.
OK, you know what – there are ways to understand where both sides are coming from. Yet the two sides usually shout at each other (I think the right shouts and ridicules the left far more than the reverse, but I understand that could be a biased perception) and don’t stop to think that their disagreement is not about core values, but how the system functions.
The left tends to view freedom in two ways: 1) negative freedom or freedom from external; and 2) positive freedom, or the possession of the resources and power to fulfill ones goals. Poverty, lack of education, lack of health care, structural barriers hindering the capacity to achieve ones goals (racism, etc.) all limit freedom. Often these limits come from the way society is structured, whereby the wealthy elite achieve more positive freedom at the expense of the poor and disadvantaged.
The right tends to view liberty as simply not being hindered by laws or external restraint. Maximum freedom is when external constraint is non-existent. Because people are not angels, you have to have some laws to prevent overt exploitation, but while the left sees structural exploitation as the problem, the right (or libertarians) tend to focus purely on actual physical violence. The religious right also sees a role for laws to protect basic traditions and customs.
Again, there are solid arguments for each. The right has an agent-based view of human relations – society is the result of individual choices that each actor is responsible for. The left has a structure-based view: society is structured in a way that empowers some and disadvantages others.
The fact is that neither extreme view can be correct. No one can deny that structure matters – it takes a lot more effort to make it out of rural poverty or a ghetto to be successful than it does from a wealthy suburban family. Even though its possible for both, one is more likely to be successful than the other. But it is possible for both – structure doesn’t determine everything, one can make choices to rise from poverty to become successful.
So reality is somewhere in the middle – and that means that disagreements on the nature of freedom are legitimate, one doesn’t have to dismiss the other side as opposing liberty. It’s too bad that as a society we’re more likely to ridicule the other side and caricature them than actually discuss these issues. Because frankly, the US is facing numerous problems and neither side has the power to simply implement their “solution.” We either sink or swim together.
Since the new semester has started things both professional and personal have left me no time to blog. I plan to be blogging again soon – but as days pass with nothing new, I expect it could be March before I get back to the usual pace.
For now suffice it to say that my life is undergoing a kind of transformation, and overall it is a very good thing. But it is cutting into my blogging time, probably for the next three weeks.
So I’ll end with two thoughts:
1. I really loved President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night; and
2. My new favorite quote, a great way to approach life, from Anthony Hopkins: “My philosophy is: It’s none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.”
It does! I’ll post when inspiration strikes, but it may not be until into March!
Rachel Maddow of MSNBC said that many on the far right are getting rich on “impotent rage,” firing up their listeners to be angry about Obama’s re-election but unable to do anything about it. Well, you might say, that’s Maddow, she always chastises conservatives. Yet conservatives William Kristol and Joe Scarborough have also decried the way some on the right — talk radio, especially — are getting rich off a style that pushes for an uncompromising and unrealistic stand on absolutist “principles.”
The problem in the GOP is that the reasonable people of the party are having to deal with a large, media savvy group of conservatives who have fostered a cult like thinking.
That is not only un-American, it is also un-Conservative and irrational.
It is un-American because our system is based on the idea that no individual or group has an absolute claim on truth. Democracy is a way to get people to debate, learn from each other, and try to figure out the best compromise. We learn as we go based on what works and what does not. The idea that we should focus simply on ideology or principle would be foreign to the founders. Their principles were broad based and open to diverse ideas.
It is un-Conservative because conservatives value tradition, social stability and a sense of community. Conservatives have adopted a strong free market perspective but have always recognized that markets have limits and that the good of the country trumps any ideological stand point. And, given that tradition involves compromise and deliberation, the extremism of Neil Boortz and Rush Limbaugh is distinctly anti-conservative.
It is irrational because it focuses on pushing a party line with the vehemence of a religious extremist. The “true” conservative values are XY and Z. Those who seek compromise and moderation are “RINOs” (Republicans in name only). This desire for conservative purity has cost them the Senate. Ideology-based thinking leads them to embrace clearly false claims – that there is no human caused climate change, the earth is 9000 years old, women’s vaginas magically shut down the possibility of pregnancy when they are raped and other such non-sense. Truth is not based on science and evidence, but on what would be true if their ideology was infallible.
Here are some questions. Answer yes to any of them, and you just might be a conservative cultist:
1. Do you believe Obama has a secret agenda to push the US towards socialism and away from a market economy?
2. Do you believe that Obama hates America and wants to give our sovereignty to the UN?
3. Do you know who Alinsky is, and do you think somehow Obama is following some kind of plot of his making?
4. Are you convinced that the Democrats simply try to buy votes by giving people stuff?
5. Do you secretly (or even openly) wish women couldn’t vote because they aren’t truly rational?
6. Do you think votes should be weighted by wealth, since the poor have ‘no skin’ in the game?
7. Do you believe that Obama is an incompetent narcissist who has no leadership capacity?
8. Do you believe there is a nefarious “agenda” out there that gays, internationalists, liberals and other types are following, which would stab America in the back and move us away from our core values?
9. Do you think the country is on the road to collapse, and figure the GOP should just let Obama have his way so the Republicans aren’t co-responsible – the “let it burn” argument?
If you said yes to more than one of these, you just might be a member of a cult!
I’ve even read blogs where someone seriously posts that people should keep any pledge they have made (meaning the Norquist pledge) no matter what, because you never break a pledge. However, what if they decide that under current conditions the Norquist pledge would lead them to actions that do harm to the country? Should our elected representatives really be more concerned about keeping a pledge than doing what’s right? Or is Peter Parker aka Spiderman right – sometimes the best promises are those we are willing to break? After all, many German soldiers didn’t turn on Hitler even when they saw what was happening because they took an oath to Hitler. I think its simple minded blindness to keep an oath just because you took it, no matter what.
True conservatives won’t play that game. They recognize that they have something to bring to the table and they can force Obama to compromise (and Obama has shown a willingness to compromise). They don’t demand strict adherence to “principles.” An uncompromising devotion to absolute principles is for the narrow minded. Principles are simplified general ideals, but in the real world those simplification break down. Blind adherence to principle is the mark of someone unwilling to embrace real world complexity – a cultist, in other words.
You see it on blogs and talk radio especially. I’ve been in many debates, sometimes heated, with conservatives. But usually we don’t take it personally, nor do we ridicule each other and say the other person is somehow evil or bad. In fact in most cases we find we agree on core values — Americans are more united than divided. Go to a cultist blog and try going against their party line and they respond with ridicule and personal abuse (and yes there are cultists on the left too). That’s how cultists protect their message, they don’t allow it to be questioned, especially not by people who may have good arguments.
Republicans have tolerated the cultists because they brought energy and a solid voting block to the party. As long as party leaders (whom cultists deride as the hated “Republican establishment”) could control the real policy actions of the party, the cultists were an asset. But in 2010 they crossed that line.
The most recent example – rejection of the UN People with Disabilities treaty even as John McCain gave his support and Bob Dole was on hand to persuade skeptics to vote for it. Senators who recently supported it voted no, fearful that the cultists would put up hard core conservative primary opposition.
Republicans need to purge the cultists from their ranks, or at least render them ineffective. They inspire rage, but a rage that cannot win – you’ll never have a pure Demint style conservative government any more than you’ll ever have a pure Kucinich style liberal government. Or if we do it’ll only be a gradual change reflecting the whole culture. Our system is designed to avoid sudden lurches to such extremes. It’s designed for compromise and loyal opposition.
I started this blog “World in Motion” back in May 2008, with my first blog post about comparing cyclone Nargis with hurricane Katrina. That meant I was blogging through fall election campaign so I decided to look back at how I was describing the last days of that campaign.
Some posts were light. The world series was going on, and it reminded me that in 1980 I was rooting for the Phillies and put a big “Tug McGraw for President” sign on my door (he was the relief pitching ace for the Phillies, if you never heard of him). 2008 felt a lot like 1980, Americans were ready for a change.
I didn’t keep track of all the polls, but exactly 11 days before the election I wrote about the polls which showed a clear lead by Obama over McCain, usually by 4 to 6 points. A few polls had a double digit lead, and IBD/TIPP showed Obama up only one. The state polls had comfortable leads for Obama, though one (Strategic Vision) had McCain up in a couple swing states and in striking distance of others. That company still exists, but focuses on marketing. It was one of those partisan polls that tried to make the race seem closer than it was.
On October 27th I wrote about “Democratic Gloom and Angst,” about how Democrats were convinced that negative tactics and dirty tricks in the waning days of the campaign might give the election to McCain, here’s part:
“Moreover, many are convinced that the negativity will be ratcheted up, perhaps with new video from Rev. Wright, or some false but yet believable rumor that will be pushed out at the end of the campaign, without Obama having time to effectively respond. It doesn’t have to change the whole dynamic, just win enough votes to win the “red” states they need on November 4th. Indeed, some are convinced that the faked attack on a McCain worker, who claimed a black man attacked her and carved a “B” in her face, was part of some kind of dirty trick. She’s from Pennsylvania, the state McCain hopes to flip by scaring those in the western part of the state to think Obama is too strange and risky. Even if they don’t like McCain, perhaps they can be persuaded not to vote for Obama.”
In hindsight that election looks like it was an easy victory for Obama – a country in economic turmoil with a young candidate promising hope and chance alongside an old out of touch McCain. At the time, it didn’t feel like a sure thing to most people. I also had a post about early voting and the ground game, which hit on some of the same themes I wrote about yesterday.
I’d forgotten one post “Desperation Breeds Stupidity,” bemoaning the fact Elizabeth Dole, a woman I’ve always admired, had an ad attacking her opponent Kay Hagan, an elder in the Presbyterian church and a Sunday School teacher:
“In the ad a tough narrator notes that Kay Hagan held a fundraiser that was ‘hosted by the Godless Americans PAC,’ showing clips of people from that group calling for God to be removed from the pledge of allegiance and from money, and in general dissing religion. ‘What did she promise them’ in exchange for the fundraising, the ad asks. It ends with a close up of Kay Hagan and a voice saying ‘There is no God!'”
It didn’t work, North Carolina’s junior Senator is now Kay Hagan.
On the weekend before the election I had a post “Is McCain Surging?” The Drudge Report and right leaning media tried to create the sense that the race was tightening and McCain might pull it off:
“To look at the Drudge Report, you’d think McCain has been steadily inching closer to Barack Obama, and is within striking distance of taking the popular vote lead and running the sweep of toss up states necessary to come from behind and win the election. Last week it was a “shock Gallup poll” which showed the two within two points using the ‘traditional model’ for likely voters. By Sunday it was a ten point race in that group again. But no matter, Rasmussen showed it narrow to three points, so that was cited — well within the margin of error! Alas, it expanded back to five points, and Rasmussen declares the race “remarkably stable” with Obama at about an 85% chance for victory.
Then it was the IBD/TIPP poll which has always showed a tighter race. And finally on early Saturday morning Drudge screamed out that ‘McCain leads in overnight polling!’ Wow! He must be zooming back. For the Obama fans, this is their worst case scenario, another defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, an unexpected comeback. For the McCain faithful this plus slightly tightening polls in Pennsylvania and Ohio shows that their come back scenario is on track — they can do it!”
Watching the current race, which is much much closer, I’m reminded how hindsight has 2020 vision. Now it appears as if after September 15th when McCain suspended his campaign and then seemed to flail around helplessly in trying to respond to the economic crisis, Obama was a sure thing. Nobody is talking about the “Bradley” effect this year. That was a big deal in 2008, a belief that people tell pollsters they’ll vote for Obama because they don’t want to appear racist. That led many on the right to discount Obama’s lead, sort of like the “skewed polls” this year.
This year is much different. The election is closer, the dynamic is uncertain. Yet a lot remains the same – polls give information but can be used to mislead. The Drudge Report often seems to be occupying an alternate universe. And it’ll be an intense final days with rumors, hopes and fears on all sides causing partisans to experience a full range of emotions. Get ready for the ride!
I do not do this sort of thing. I don’t go for blogger awards and lists, I don’t cut and paste things into my facebook status, I don’t even use Facebook to wish people happy birthday. Yet when Larry Beck of Woodgate’s View honors me with this, I have no choice but to put past practice aside and join in. As Larry put it: “As a part of this nomination I am expected to answer 10 questions about myself and then nominate 10 others who I feel have inspired me in kind.”
Favorite Color: Blue green. I have my office painted with that color – it’s been my favorite since I could use crayons.
Favorite Animal: Dolphin. As a Pisces, I have to stick with sea creatures.
Favorite Number: 2012. I kid you not. If I have to go with a single digit it’s been “2” for as long as I can remember. Yet I had a crush on a girl who lived at ‘2012 Main St.’ at one point in the distant past (I must have been 12) and I remember looking at her house and thinking, ‘wow, 2012 is the perfect number.’
Favorite Drink: Schneider Hefe-Weizen (a white beer). Best enjoyed at the Schneider Brewery restaurant in downtown Munich. They have eight varieties (even the alcohol free one is pretty good), but the original classic is still the best.
Facebook or Twitter: Tried Twitter but I don’t have time for two forms of social media. I really enjoy Facebook, and am glad now that my 74 year old mom is finally on board and posting! It’s also fun to see what students are posting, and to follow former students as they go into the world and have a career. If you like my blog and want to connect on Facebook, here’s my page: https://www.facebook.com/scott.erb.733?ref=tn_tnmn
Passion: Teaching. I love my job. I teach at a four year public liberal arts university, and there is nothing else I would rather do. It’s a joy to help students learn to think creatively and critically. I teach courses on international relations and politics in other countries, so I feel like I’m helping young people learn more about the world. With our large education major, many of them are future teachers too! I also love an honors course I’m teaching about intellectual history. Today I’m prepping for tomorrow’s class on Petrarch. The fact I can keep learning and growing while doing my job is a joy!
Travel is another passion, and I often get to mix my passions and lead travel courses whereby students discover a new culture. This coming May I’m heading off to Italy along with colleagues Steven Pane (Music History), Sarah Maline (Art History) and Luann Yetter (Literature) and probably with about 40 students (I blogged about the last such trip).
Giving or Receiving Gifts: I prefer giving, but I’m a bit turned off by the commercialization of Christmas. So much stress about what to buy, and then others inevitably give things that aren’t really what I like, but I can’t say that since they meant well. The best gifts are unexpected, not obligatory. That’s why I prefer Halloween — as do the kids. We have a huge annual party, decorate the house and the sugary treats flow freely.
Favorite Day: Monday. I love my work, and like getting a new week started. The kids aren’t yet tired from a long week, so they go into school well and are energized when I pick them up. They go to school very close to the university and I managed to get my schedule such that I can drop them off and pick them up every day. I like that!
Favorite Flower: Marigolds. I don’t know why. They were my favorite when I was a kid they remain my favorite.
Favorite food: Pizza. I’ve worked in various pizzerias, made my own pizza as a cheap staple food all through grad school, and to this day am not tired of it. There are so many things you can do with pizza. I love experimental pizzas, though a basic pepperoni and sausage pizza with a good red sauce and not too much mozzarella cheese is the ultimate comfort food. I do tend to appreciate Italian pizzas more than American ones – they have fewer toppings, are less greasy and don’t go so heavy on the cheese.
Honorable mention: Gelato. When I lived in Italy I became addicted to it, and when Wicked Gelato opened in Farmington my quality of life index soared!.
Blogs I nominate:
I won’t copy any of Larry’s, though I’m discovering a few going through his list. Note: do not feel compelled to continue this chain blog. I will not be upset if you do like I usually do and ignore such awards. (But, Larry, I do thank you!)
Empathy 2012: Empathetic guidance/Empathy 2012 is a great blog by a woman who is a self-described empath, with an inspirational outlook on life. She seems to have shifted attention from blogging to facebook, so like her Facebook page too!
Norbrook’s blog: A political blog by someone who is definitely a progressive, but irritated by the “frustrati” – those on the left who want ideological purity over compromise and pragmatism.
The Third Eve: Jungian psychology anybody? An interesting blog that mixes psychology, academic reflections and religious themes. A very thoughtful blog by a strong, principled and open minded woman who has experienced a lot in life.
Juan Cole: Informed Comment: OK, this is a big time blog by a noted academic, but his insights on politics and the Mideast are extremely valuable. He’s a progressive and is often attacked by the neo-conservatives and foreign policy hardliners.
Families are Built With Love: The experiences and daily life of a non-traditional family, well told.
Tarheel Red: I like to think of myself as a thoughtful progressive, not demonizing the other side and willing to listen and discuss issues without taking it personally. Pino at Tarheel red exemplifies those traits from the conservative side. We often disagree, but I like the guy!
Notes along the Path: I tend to get busy and stop following blogs daily, even though I really like them. I’ve done that with this one, and I’m the poorer for it. It’s an interesting blog mixing bits of spirituality, religious faith, experience, politics, and everything from Pam, an insightful and interesting woman with a lot of life experience.
Blue Skies Over New England: An eclectic, personal blog, it has a very positive vibe to it and is enjoyable to read.
Bucket List Publications: Everyone wants to read about someone who undertakes adventures and lives boldly. A cool website, and one with over 8 million hits!
Life as I know it photography: Yes, it’s a business, but one just started by a UMF grad whose photography is amazing. Read about her journey building a life and a business just out of college.
List of X: Some humor in the form of lists – lists of ten items for such topics as “Ten reasons why Mitt Romney choose Paul Ryan as his running mate.”
OK, now I have to go engage in my passion of teaching!
The Republican party is doing its best to distract people from high unemployment, high gas prices, and general uncertainty in the country. They are doing this through a series of bizarre controversies and statements involving women, reproductive rights, and anachronistic attitudes that are sure to turn off independents and moderates. I feel like I have entered an alternate reality programmed by Democratic operatives to have the GOP destroy its chances in the 2012 election.
It’s only March so they can bounce back, but Limbaugh’s bullying slur of a Georgetown student cannot help but make conservatives look mean, vicious and petulant. Moreover his refusal to apologize or admit being wrong adds to the notion that people like him have low self-esteem and believe that admitting error somehow makes them look weak. We’ve all known people like that, people who can’t admit they are wrong even when it’s obvious. Their bluster is usually a sign of low self-esteem and self-loathing. Given Limbaugh’s past addiction to pain killers (no doubt trying to escape from his internal conflicts), one can’t help but feel he’s a deeply troubled soul. But this incident was so bizarre — and he doubled down on the air even after massive criticism — that I have to wonder if he’s not back on pain killers or something else. It’s not rational.
If it were just Limbaugh, the GOP wouldn’t be in that much trouble. Scott Brown (R-Mass), in a tough election campaign, has condemned Limbaugh’s remarks and called on him to apologize. Other Republicans have distanced themselves from them as Limbaugh loses sponsors. He’s already past the prime of his career, this could be what pushes him over the edge.
Yet it isn’t just Limbaugh. GOP efforts to exempt Catholic institutions from including birth control coverage in their health care plans feeds into the narrative that Republicans are anti-woman. After all, many of the same policies cover viagra. Considering the Santorum quotes I discussed in my last blog entry the GOP appears to be waging a full blown culture war around the issue of birth control and sexuality. Add to that the numerous state initiatives around birth control, abortion and “personhood,” and Republicans are pleasing their base by driving away independents and moderates.
Some in the Republican party blame the Democrats, but given the scope and intensity of these efforts it’s a self-inflicted wound. This is the result of a tea party movement that has overtaken the GOP with such zeal at turning back the clock to ‘retake America’ that they forget that they represent about 30-35% of the population. The tea party activists, like many on the far left of the Democratic party, believe so fervently in their ideals that they ignore the fact that the US is a centrist country. It’s not even center-right, it’s moderate/centrist.
Any political strategy aimed to changing the country has to appeal to independents and moderates. By driving them away, the GOP risks losing the House, giving up a chance at the Presidency, and blowing a chance to win the Senate.
It’s not that the country believes in the Democratic vision. The 2010 election, while driven primarily by a bad economy, shows that there is concern that the Democrats spend too freely, don’t want to make needed entitlement reforms, and are too beholden to special interest groups. Any Democrat wanting to push the country leftward has to address these concerns, either allaying them or finding creative policies to convince the center that they understand the critiques.
Perhaps the most common cognitive bias in political discourse is the belief that more people agree with ones’ point of view than actually do. Inbred blogs (by that I mean blogs/websites where only like minded people post — and then gang up and personally attack those who dare whisper heresy against the dominant perspective) reinforce that. That leads them to think “everyone is agreeing, how can the rest of the world not see the obvious truth?! All we have to do is get the word out and not surrender on principle!”
President Obama suffered criticism from the hard core left early in his term, though even the ideologues who call Obama “Republican lite” seem to be coalescing around the President in response to the over the top policies and rhetoric coming from the right. All of this has helped the Democrats recruit good candidates for the 2012 Congressional elections, turning what some thought would be another major Republican victory into a potential Democratic comeback.
Even George Will now asserts that the Presidency is likely beyond Republican reach and the focus should be on not losing the House and if possible gaining the Senate. That certainly would limit the President’s capacity to bring about change. Yet at this point with the primaries raging and red meat rhetoric dominating, the Republicans risk digging themselves a hole too deep to escape from. If they moderate to regain the center they’ll dampen the motivation of their base. Perhaps they need a constructive defeat to purge the party of the shrill negativity and prepare the way for a more positive conservative message.
Democrats should be heartened but not confident. It is still early March; a lot can change. Romney could sweep super Tuesday and start recovering from the mud fight. Democrats have to recognize that even if the Republicans push independents away, Democrats still need to lure them back in order to close the deal, especially if they want to win the House back.
The Republicans have squandered an opportunity. After the 2010 election President Obama was willing to deal and compromise, but due to tea party pressure and a weird “commitment” to Grover Norquist, they decided to hold out and demand things be done their way or no way. Instead of using the election to force Democrats to accept Republican policies and tweaks of health care as a quid pro quo for Democratic priorities, they hunkered down. And now, with Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum leading the way with inane, bizarre and even offensive quotes, they may be on the verge of handing power back to the Democrats.
UPDATE: I was wrong – he did apologize. He did not do so unequivocally, and many think it still didn’t go far enough. I think the lose of sponsors at a scale unprecedented for Limbaugh despite numerous controversies convinced him he had to start damage control.