Jonathan Tobin Talks Sense about the Budget Deal

“Ideologues Shouldn’t Torpedo Budget Truce”
Jonathan Tobin

Commentary
December 11, 2013

We are starting to see more common sense coming from my fellow conservatives, and Jonathan Tobin at Commentary offers yet another example of the growing ranks of Republicans who are tired of playing juvenile ideology games with the governance of the nation. In an emphatically worded article, Tobin puts the Tea Partistas on notice that blocking the budget deal would be unadulterated stupidity.

Many on the right are also denouncing Ryan’s deal not just because it doesn’t give them what they want on taxes and spending but because they don’t see the need to compromise at this moment. They see President Obama’s poll numbers falling and think the time is right to push hard again for the kind of reform that is needed, not an agreement that merely kicks the can down the road. But this is the same kind of faulty thinking from groups like Heritage Action and Freedom Works that led conservatives to shut down the government as part of a vain effort to defund ObamaCare. Apparently they’ve learned nothing from that debacle.

That Tobin would name names, calling out the hardliners and risking open schism on the right underscores that we are in the advanced stages of a battle for the soul – and the future – of the Republican Party. The time for juvenile procedural games and emotional non-cooperation are over. Instead, it is time we won with ideas, intelligence, and logic.

Equally important, as Tobin points out, there comes a time in every debate where we have to compromise in order to allow the country to move forward, if nothing else to buy time until we have the legislative wherewithal to offer our own solutions (assuming we have some by then.) The country comes before our ideologies. Anyone who debates that is less a leader than a demagogue.

Alec Baldwin and Tolerance

Yeah, Alec Baldwin Really Is a Bigot”
The Atlantic

Ta-Nehisi Coates
November 27, 2013

English: to fill
Alec Baldwin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After long years fighting the battle for the soul of the GOP, it is a bit of a relief to look across the aisle and watch similar battles take place on the other side.

At a superficial level, it is fascinating to watch the American left try to find a way to reconcile Alec Baldwin’s vocal and active support of LGBT rights on the one hand, and his insensitive, ostensibly homophobic outbursts on the other. It echoes struggles we have on the right about some of the personalities in our own party.

Schadenfreude aside, though, Baldwin’s less-savory remarks hint at something darker, the possibility that there are those hiding among the ranks of celebrities and other notables whose professed values are at odds with the values they truly hold. How difficult it must be for such luminaries to live a life in contradiction of their values, merely because they fear the approbation of others who are less tolerant of viewpoints other than their own.

I do not know if this is the case for Baldwin, and even if it is I do not wish to defend his outbursts. He is a public figure and thus must live with the consequences of his public behavior.

But it does suggest that we need to remain vigilant against all forms of intolerance, not just racism, sexism, or religious chauvinism, but also intolerance of alternate viewpoints. We have become a nation where racial intolerance is unacceptable, but where it is still considered quietly appropriate to shun someone because his political viewpoints are different than yours. For example, fear of blacklisting has driven many Republicans in Hollywood all but underground, yet the industry that did much to celebrate the defeat of McCarthyism now seems to be cultivating the same sort of ideological intolerance from the other side of the spectrum.

We may never know whether Baldwin was just a closet conservative who was finally driven to extreme behavior by his own cognitive dissonance. We do know, however, that no American should cultivate or countenance political intolerance. We are all entitled to our views, however unfathomable they may seem to others, and if those views are arrived at honestly, without fear or enticement, they are legitimate. We must go back to the ethos that says that I may disagree with what you believe and say, but I will fight to the death for your right to believe and say that.

That is a good fight, and it does not just take place on a battlefield, but in the workplace an in our own hearts. This holiday season, we would do well to recommit ourselves to the sort of open-mindedness that allows us to believe good things about fellow Americans with whom we disagree vehemently.

Bull Moose of the Day: Peter Wehner

Peter Wehner at the Ethics and Public Policy Center is our Bull Moose of the Day.

Young bull moose in Cook Inlet, Anchorage
Young bull moose in Cook Inlet, Anchorage (Photo credit: Alaskan Dude)

In his essay “Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is No Virtue” in Commentary, Wehner fires an important shot against the forces that brought the GOP so far to the right and, if they had their way, would continue to drag us down that path. By harkening to Barry Goldwater‘s infamous speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention (a moment that GOP historian Geoffery Kabaservice flags as the beginning of the Republican lurch to the right), Wehner points us back to the kind of Republican Party and the kind of conservatism that is built on principle but ultimately dedicated to an America for all Americans.

Wehner notes that we can all envision moments when extreme measures would be justified, but they are rare. However:

That said, my concern about those who endorse extremism is that it is by its very nature militant, a break with the kind of moderation that is essential for a free society. Extremism, of course, characterized the French Revolution, which (unlike the American Revolution) so unnerved Edmund Burke. It leads to dogmatism and distorted thinking, to viewing politics in apocalyptic terms.

He has captured in a single paragraph the problem of the Tea Party, and of those Republicans who find themselves sucked into the apocalyptic dogmatism of the Tea Partistas, whether by inclination or compulsion.

And in so doing he has, I hope, begun a process that will lead the GOP not just away from the reactionary leanings of the Tea Party, but back to its roots as the party of wise, practical, balanced progress typified by Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ike Eisenhower, and (on their better days) Dick Nixon and Ron Reagan.

There is always a role for the ideologue in any political organization. But we cannot govern the nation as prisoners of absolutes, whether they be radical or reactionary. Wehner, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, gets this, to his lasting credit.

Will Palin Begin the Tea Party Exodus?

English: This is an alternate crop of an image...
English: This is an alternate crop of an image already uploaded. See http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Gov._Sarah_Palin_in_Dover,_NH.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is now dangling the idea that if the Republican Party doesn’t do things the way she wants to, she could entertain the idea of bolting the party for a new party called the “Freedom Party.” The catalyst was a Tweet to Palin read to her on Fox News asking whether “you & [Joe Scarborough loathing conservative talk show host] Mark Levin be willing to build a “Freedom Party” if GOP continues to ignore conservatives?”

via Sarah Palin Raises Possibility of Leaving Republican Party | The Moderate Voice.

If Mrs. Palin’s feelings are representative of the far right wing of the Republican Party, the best thing to do for the GOP at this point might be to open the door and wish them the best. The Republican Party can survive a schism of this nature. It cannot survive irrelevance.

Arnold’s Big Tent

“Schwarzenegger: California’s GOP should take down its small tent”
Arnold Schwarznegger
The Los Angeles Times
May 6, 2012

It is true that Arnold Schwarznegger was probably not the best governor California ever had (nor the best actor-turned-governor that the state ever had, either), but he was far from its worst. His most important contribution, I think, was his vision that state government can be post-partisan yet idea-driven, and conservative yet progressive. That his legacy did not live up to this vision was not entirely his fault.

Schwarznegger was something of a Bull Moose, a Republican who believed that the state could no longer lay congealing in the juices of the status quo, that like a Great White Shark needs to continue to move forward or die. He understood – and still understands – that the key to the state’s future lies with leaders who can build trans-party coalitions, regardless of which party they come from.

To his credit, since he left Sacramento, some of the Governator’s harshest criticism has been of the GOP. In a superb L.A. Times op/ed in May, Arnold writes words that should stir the heart of every thinking Republican.

Being a Republican used to mean finding solutions for the American people that worked for everyone. It used to mean having big ideas that moved the country forward.

It can mean that again, but big ideas don’t often come from small tents.

It’s time to stop thinking of the Republican Party as an exclusive club where your ideological card is checked at the door, and start thinking about how we can attract more solution-based leaders like Nathan Fletcher and Anthony Adams.

Hear, hear.

Now, how many of my fellow Republicans have the courage to take Schwarznegger’s words to heart and put them into action?

And how stupid is it that Nathan Fletcher should feel compelled to run as an independent, rather than a Republican?

Priorities, Priorities

Mitch McConnell: Top Priority, Make Obama a One Term President – YouTube.

As readers of these pages will attest, the Bull Moose is no particular fan of our current president. Nonetheless, it is distressing to hear the leader of any major party declare that the Party’s top legislative priority is political, rather than governing.

Though it will likely come as a shock to our distinguished Solons, we elect them not so that their first and second priorities are personal reelection and promulgation of party goals. We elect them so their first goals are the governance of the nation.

McConnell has his priorities out of whack, as does any politician who has become so focused on the opposition that the opposition is the target rather the improvement of the country and the prosperity of its citizens.

A Better GOP, Not A Third Party

U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman listens ...
Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (Pete Souza) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jon Huntsman Criticizes Republican Party, Compares Actions To Communist China.

I’m glad Jon Huntsman is speaking out like this, and I wish more Republicans would. To me the key graf is this one:

“Gone are the days when the Republican Party used to put forward big, bold, visionary stuff,” Huntsman said during the February interview with MSNBC that got him disinvited from the RNC fundraiser. “I think we’re going to have problems politically until we get some sort of third-party movement or some alternative voice out there that can put forward new ideas.”

I think too much has been made of the “third Party” comment. The real issue is not the creation of some rump third party that will split the vote, but a unified effort to take the Republican Party back from the Neocon/Social Conservative axis that has yanked it to the reactionary right and let it ossify.