Posts Tagged ‘filibuster’

Of Congressmen and Cockroaches

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

A scene from "The Walrus and the Carpenter," by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Sir John Tenniel in 1871. (Wikimedia Commons)

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things,
Of cockroaches and congressmen,
Of cabbages and kings.”

a paraphrase from Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter”

 

By Emily Theroux

Have you ever wondered exactly how unpopular Congress is, when stacked up against stuff people really dislike – say, traffic jams, telemarketers, or root canal procedures?

Just ask the president of Public Policy Polling, whose latest survey instructed respondents to compare their disdain for our elected lawmakers to a range of unsavory things. “The fact that voters like (Congress) even less than cockroaches, lice, and Genghis Khan really shows how far its esteem has fallen with the American public over the last few weeks,” said Dean Debnam.

A new PPP poll found that cockroaches rated higher among voters than Congress did, by a margin of 45 to 43 percent. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A full 85 percent of participants revealed during the January 3-6 poll that they view our legislative branch as creepier than cockroaches, crawlier than head lice, more obnoxious than the most tedious pseudo-metal band, and a bigger pain in the ass than a colonoscopy.

Bored with conventional surveys of congressional approval by the public, PPP resolved to try a novel approach: testing the esteem in which Congress is held against 26 different loathsome* people, places, situations, or things. The 9 percent favorability rating of our current federal legislators, as seen after they narrowly avoided the fiscal cliff, ranks Congress beneath the following unpleasant entities and experiences:

  1. Head lice (the possibility of whose removal, considering the GOP gerrymandering that’s made it almost impossible to dislodge entrenched Republican congressmen no matter how badly most voters want them out of office, boosted their score: Lice 67, Congress 19);
  2. Brussels sprouts (not as yucky to grown-ups) 69, Congress 23;
  3. The NFL replacement referees (for everyone but Packers fans) 56, Congress 29;
  4. Colonoscopies (which at least provide vital information after the fact) 58, Congress 31;
  5. Root canals (painful but mercifully temporary) 56, Congress 32;
  6. Used-car salesmen (the lemons they foist on unwary buyers, apparently, don’t leave as sour a taste as threats to “shut down the government”) 57, Congress 32;
  7. Traffic jams (you may get stuck in them, but not for 2-6 years) 56, Congress 34;
  8. France (because nobody’s saying “freedom fries” these days) 46, Congress 37;
  9. Carnies (who “may use loaded dice,” according to PPP, but still offer “a better chance at winning”) 39, Congress 31;
  10. Canadian band Nickelback 39, Congress 32;
  11. Genghis Khan 41, Congress 37;
  12. DC political pundits 37, Congress 34;
  13. Donald Trump 44, Congress 42; and, last but hardly least,
  14. Cockroaches 45, Congress 43.

The Canadian 'nu metal' band Nickelback, which one Urban Dictionary reviewer described as exemplary 'of why our art is in a state of stale, regurgitated darkness.' Another said lead singer Chad 'sounds constipated on a permanent basis.' Opined a third: 'This band is like cyanide for my ears.' (Photo from social media site Fanpop; membership 69% white, 89% non-college-educated)

Things could be more calamitous for lawmakers, although not by much. Most people prefer Congress to venereal disease, telemarketers, and a certain cheating presidential candidate, among the few other things they found viler than our current crop of elected pols.

What did 85 percent of voters judge worse than Washington legislators? Lindsay Lohan, playground bullies, telemarketers, the Kardashians, John Edwards, lobbyists, Fidel Castro, gonorrhea, Ebola virus, communism, North Korea, and finally, at the bottom of the stinking heap of horribles, meth labs.

 

The United States of Absurdity

When I first heard the results of the new survey on the comparative unpopularity of Congress, my thoughts turned wistfully to a simpler time, my early childhood, when my father used to read us Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, and Edward Lear. Daddy had a highly attuned appreciation for the absurd, which he set about to instill in his children as soon as we were old enough to listen to storybooks.

The March Hare and the Mad Hatter from Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “The Jumblies” and “The Pobble Who Has No Toes,” from Lear’s Nonsense Book; and “The Elephant’s Child” and Small Porgies (the Animal that came out of the sea) in Kipling’s Just So Stories, were my imaginary childhood friends.

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Army-McCarthy hearings (AP Wirephoto, 1954)

At least it seemed like a simpler time. Dwight Eisenhower inhabited the White House, a fact that greatly disturbed my mother, who adored Adlai Stevenson and campaigned for him twice (in the days before it was only Republicans who ran losing candidates a second time for president). She chiefly resented Ike for failing to denounce Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, perpetrator of the post-World War II “Red Scare,” during the notorious commie-hunter’s reign of terror in Washington. “I will not get into the gutter with that guy,” said Eisenhower, who privately likened a fight with McCarthy to a “pissing contest with a skunk,” according to Eisenhower biographer Piers Brendon.

William F. Buckley, Jr., in 1985

My mother curtailed all unnecessary housework to sit rapt in front of our first TV set throughout the Army-McCarthy hearings in early 1954. After the Senate voted 67-22 to censure McCarthy that December, far-right wingnuttery simmered down for awhile. In 1962, conservative visionary William F. Buckley denounced founding “Bircher” Robert Welch for his extremist view that the entire federal government was infiltrated by communists, including Eisenhower and members of the Supreme Court. As Buckley wrote, in a 5,000-word “excoriation” of Welch’s delusional thinking, published in National Review:

“How can the John Birch Society be an effective political instrument while it is led by a man whose views on current affairs are, at so many critical points . . . so far removed from common sense? That dilemma weighs on conservatives across America.”

In 1964,  conservative GOP candidate Barry Goldwater lost the presidential election in a landslide. In 1980, Ronald Reagan tacked hard right again, and a steady, 30-year progression began toward conservative “limited-government” policies and culture-war social fundamentalism.

 

Our politics enter ‘a state of stale, regurgitated darkness’

Since Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, however, congressional Republicans appear to have lost their ever-lovin’ minds. Since the reactionary mid-term contests of 2010, the Tea-Party-bewitched House has abandoned any notion of compromise, and the once-staid Senate (which George Washington described to Thomas Jefferson as a “cooling saucer” for legislation passed by the House, used as if to cool one’s tea) has gone filibuster-crazy. Now, we’re stuck in a vortex of far-right recalcitrance and ideology. Together, they’ve led Democrats into a maze of gridlock with no apparent escape route.

Obama may have won reelection in 2012, but the balance of power hasn’t substantially shifted in 2013. The GOP continues to hold the House, with an ineffectual John Boehner still at its helm. The Republicans in the House, two years away from another campaign, entrenched in their gerrymandered districts, and beholden to powerful corporate donors, are beginning to forget the party’s post-election angst over what new direction it should take in light of its devastating election losses.

The Republican Senate minority under Mitch McConnell, currently digging in on obstructionist tactics against Obama’s cabinet nominees, acts as if the 2012 election never happened. The president has a traditional prerogative to appoint the cabinet he wants, barring influence-peddlers, convicted ax murderers, or proven zombies. (Chief obstructionist John McCain even said so, back when Dubya swaggered where Obama now stands as tall as possible, given the carnage done to our Constitution by total whack-jobs.)

The cockroaches, in this case, have nothing to do with cabinets, with cabbages or kings. This new, psychotic breed is scurrying out of the chamber pots, the ones with the Rs on their lids – both sets of them.

* * *

* I personally exempt Brussels sprouts and France, which I find unobjectionable, except for the fact that, during an excellent European adventure in 1972 (during which my first husband and I carried our belongings in backpacks and were thus considered “dirty hippies” by disapproving Parisian hoteliers), we were not offered continental breakfast. And don’t call me paranoid, but I swear, a chambermaid strategically rearranged the pieces on a chess board we had left in our room mid-game.

Whither the Grand Old Prevaricators?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

Everyone’s carping about it on cable, retweeting it on Twitter, and regurgitating it on talk radio’s endless propaganda loop.

Is the Republican Party really undergoing a post-election “makeover”?

Will Southern-state “secession” incite spiritual intercession? Is “Grover over”? Will Mitch pull the switch on the filibuster? Can Cantor cease his banter over tax cuts? Will Jan call a ban on Arizona’s “papers capers”?

And will John McCain ever shut his cantankerous piehole about Susan Rice — and admit that the Vietnam War has been over for almost 38 years, the 2008 presidential campaign’s in the history books, and it’s way past time for him to retire from politics and join his fellow “ancient mariners” at the local VFW post, where he can park himself in a porch rocker and swaddle his voluminous bitterness, antipathy, and rancor in well-deserved oblivion.

Immediately after the election, Republicans seemed genuinely chastened by the expressed will of the people — at least the ones who would own up to it. But their policy prescriptions weren’t a lot more generous than I would have expected, incorrigible cynic that I am.

“Republicans must start over again,” declared George Will — with “a more likable candidate.” Charles Krauthammer ventured that “a single policy change” should fix what ails the Republican Party: Extending an olive branch to Latinos on immigration policy. “Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe — full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.”

Along came Louisiana Gov. Bobby”Jindal, shilling at warp speed. “Kenneth the Page,” who’s got his eye clearly affixed on his 2016 chances, told Politico the GOP “should stop being the stupid party.” Extremists within the ranks had made far too many “offensive, bizarre comments,” said Jindal. “We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism,” he added. “We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people, and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

Then former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour had to go and dump the party poohbahs back into the deep end of the latrine, declaring before the Republican Governors Association that the GOP’s “political organizational activity” needed “a very serious proctology exam.” (You’d think Watergate would have taught these good old boys never to excuse “organizational” flaws by blaming them on the plumbing.)

Even Rush Limbaugh was initially contrite (before lurching immediately afterward into a racist diatribe about “getting stuff,” redistribution of wealth, and what he called the lack of “a work ethic” among Obama voters). “This should have been a slam dunk,” Rush said, the day after Mitt Romney’s loss stunned a party that had convinced itself that Romney would win in a landslide. “But it wasn’t. There are reasons why. We’re gonna have to dig deep to find them, and we’re gonna have to be honest with ourselves when we find the answers to this.”

 

Rachel isn’t buying the ‘course correction’ crapola, either

If El Rushbo snorkeled back up from the depths of the sewer with answers of any kind, he hasn’t been letting on lately. For that matter, neither have many voices that aren’t quite as far right as he is on the wacko spectrum. And if you think about it, why didn’t Jindal, Barbour, Rupert Murdoch, Sean Hannity, or Erick Erickson experience their “epiphanies” on inclusiveness before Mitt Romney ran for the presidency and lost the brass ring for them?

Rachel Maddow says only the Beltway bobbleheads think the Republican Party has “learned its lesson” and is now genuinely following the pathway to reform.

“You know, it’s funny. If you listen to the Beltway talk about what’s going on in American politics right now, the major narrative … is about the sort of ‘course correction’ happening in the Republican Party, right? The Republican Party has ‘learned its lesson.’

“If only in the interest of self-preservation, Republicans are right
now giving up on these policy stances that cost them so much in the last election, that made their party seem essentially pre-modern — all of this stuff that alienated women and young people, and non-white people and gay people. I mean, if you listen to the Beltway media, the Republican course correction on this problem — post-election, a course correction is totally under way.”

But what are Indiana state legislators focusing on, now that they’ve “taken the proverbial post-election cold shower” that Maddow says a political party usually endures after it gets “shellacked” the way the GOP did on Nov. 6? Only three weeks after a stinging electoral rebuke of its culturally extreme Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, the Hoosier State GOP resolved that “what they really need to do is doubly, triply, extra ban gay marriage,” she observed.

Never mind that same-sex marriage is already illegal in Indiana. The party has proposed a constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions — an amendment that may affect more than 600 existing provisions of the Indiana code, which currently grant numerous connubial rights and conflict-of-interest protections to unmarried, opposite-gender couples.

 

Will GOP mutineers really ditch Norquist’s sacred pledge?

“Mutiny! Dissension in the ranks! A break in vows to the almighty Norquist!” wrote Jena McGregor earlier this week in The Washington Post.

Four GOP stalwarts — Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rep. Peter King of New York, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee — stepped up over the weekend to declare that they aren’t afraid of Big Bad Grover and his hallowed Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a document he has brandished over the heads of elected Republicans since founding Americans for Tax Reform in 1986. The apostates say they’re willing to consider scuttling the pledge (whose signatories vow never to raise taxes, eliminate tax cuts, or even increase revenues) in order to reach a deal that would reform “entitlements” (at this point, defined as Medicare and Medicaid) and forestall the much-ballyhooed “fiscal cliff.”

Grover, who “dabbles in stand-up comedy,” isn’t laughing now, however, as more and more defectors swell the ranks of tax-policy renegades — even though he felt it necessary to point out that nobody has violated the pledge by actually voting for a tax increase. (Norquist studiously avoided uttering the word yet.) “We’ve got some people discussing impure thoughts on national television,” Norquist sniffed dismissively on CNN.

Will these trash-talking, inveterate obstructionists really deliver on their braggadocio about abandoning “self-deportation,” ditching the permanent 1 percent tax cut, and stooping to compromise with “the Democrat Party”?

I’m afraid I’ll believe that the day Mitch McConnell cashes in his chips and shuffles off to his old Kentucky home, and he doesn’t show signs of capitulating any time soon. Likewise with John Boehner — although I think he actually intends to follow through on his post-election concessions at the moments when he issues them. Things get prickly, though, when he returns to Congress to face those Tea Party dead-enders, who I’m almost certain give him ultimatums instead of the other way around.

This pack of “old, angry white guys” realizes that the GOP can’t win without the support of America’s fastest-growing demographic — but anyone who wants to give the Republicans  a second chance on immigration should beware their duplicity. (Please note that none of them is extending this sudden pro-Latino magnanimity to African-Americans.)

Right-wingers like Krauthammer and Hannity, who view amnesty for undocumented immigrants as both a palatable half-measure and “a Latino-winning electoral silver bullet,” in the words of conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, think they can sweep the 2016 election by “embrac(ing) amnesty and nominat(ing) Marco Rubio.”

Here’s the new, “reformed” GOP program thus far, in a nutshell: “Repeal and replace” the racially divisive talking points — and try to be a little more subtle about  ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class inequality, and religious tolerance. (Don’t be so strident on issues like food stamps, “unwed” mothers, welfare cheats, speaking English, lesbian TV hosts, lapel flags, rap music, and birth certificates.)

Strive whenever possible to sound more engaged, charitable, affirming, and humane. Speak the language of empathy. Persuade Latinos and women how much you truly care about and champion their concerns; pretend that you, like Romney said of Obama, want to lavish them with “gifts.” Make your words as syrupy and ingratiating as you can stomach, and you just might find that Dubya’s old “compassionate conservative” ploy will work for you, too.

If the GOP actually learned anything from the defeat of Willard Romney, it wasn’t how to “listen better” to the hopes and dreams of ordinary people. It was how to tell an ever-more-convincing lie.