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mattbrowne's avatar

Frightening GOP behavior - How committed is the Republican party to the core principles of freedom and democracy?

Asked by mattbrowne (31595points) March 23rd, 2010

Another question might be: How committed is the Republican party to upholding core (Christian) values such as honesty, trust, respect, integrity, love, kindness, temperance and fairness?

I’m worried. Debate is good of course. Even heated debates are good. But there are limitations. Health insurance for everyone is going to cause Armageddon? Obama wants to pull the plug on grandma? Excuse me?

Of course laws and bills can never be perfect, but often they are good enough or better than inactivity. Humans are never perfect. This includes lawmakers. But should this lead to such blatant hostility and hatred? Has the GOP mutated into a party of anger?

The American democracy used to be a role model for the rest of the world. Contemplating what seems to have happened to the political culture these days makes this more and more doubtful. Is this really what the United States of America stands for? Portraying political opponents as witch doctors or worse? I think there’s more at stake here than finding the best health care reform. And I’m not saying that the Democrats are flawless, but to me they seem to be more committed to upholding the core values of humanity which do include respect and solidarity. And they do not see their fellow Americans who support the Republicans as enemies. I have serious doubts whether the reverse is true as well.

Here’s a quote from Franz Neumann: “If the concepts enemy and fear constitute the energetic principles of politics, a democratic political system is impossible, whether the fear is produced from within or without. If freedom is absence of restraints, the restraints to be removed are many, but the psychological restraint of fear ranks first.”

And an article written by James Zogby

What are your thoughts?

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20 Answers

BhacSsylan's avatar

Well, just to say, quite a few democrats are also rather crazy in this regard. Case in point Nancy Pelosi, who has seemed to do everything in her power to keep republicans from decision making in congress. However, the republicans do seem a little more united in their intense anger for anything from the other side. But no, I don’t know why.

jfos's avatar

The GOP is going to shit. They remind me of a spoiled brat child who doesn’t want to listen to his parent, so he starts throwing his toys around. How committed is the Republican party to the core principles of freedom and democracy? I’d say they’re committed to the principles of freedumb and democrazy.

talljasperman's avatar

Even the GOP is full of humans

Fausnaught's avatar

Only as so far as it gets to their political ends. It used to be their battle cry because that is what their base wanted, now the base is a total fringe group of evangelical Christians and neo-cons. They want God everywhere and science no where… except in hospitals so they can be saved when they are sick, but it’s still EVIL!

In all seriousness. This is bad news for the GOP. They have no populist message anymore. They are a party on the edge of extinction. All they have is the gall to do what ever they feel they need to do to win elections and stop democratic legislation. They have even taken to erasing Thomas Jefferson from the history books in the state of Texas. It’s the beginnings of fascism, but the American people are smarter than that. It won’t stick.

We tend to lose our heads in times like these. We do things together that we would be ashamed to do on our own.

mattbrowne's avatar

@talljasperman – Yes, but there’s a difference between a flawed human meaning well and a hatemonger.

Fausnaught's avatar

Conservatives in America have always been the party of denial and hatred. They’ve succeeded, tried to deny emancipation, the stood against civil rights, medicare for the old, welfare for the poor, rights for gays & obviously they have now stood against making health-care more affordable for regular Americans.

The only thing keeping them alive is their swarming nature. They are united. American’s like that. They respect it. But now that the Dems have showed such back bone and grit through out the health reform, American’s will be able to embrace liberalism without feeling like they are losing some of their bark.

Bye-Bye Grand Old Party. History will remember you as the representation of all that is wrong with American politics.

liminal's avatar

This is when I wish I knew my political history better. I didn’t start paying attention to politics until Clinton switched seats with Bush. It seems any politician, regardless of party affiliation, is capable of things that make me go “ew”.

When the GOP was in majority I felt like they were constantly trying to scare me. When I see coverage of the GOP engaging with Democrats, including Obama, there seems to be an almost vitriolic hatred at play.

I saw an interview with Dan Rather the other evening and he stated that there has always been contention in politics, but now it is the worst he has ever seen, even worse than the vietnam era. Is this something others are aware of?

I can’t help but think that today’s contention is stirred by the GOP’s vitriol, and not desire for democracy. I am willing to say they still support the idea of freedom, unfortunately, I think they want to define how that happens.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fausnaught – What party will replace the GOP? Surely, you’re not in favor of a one-party nation. Opposition is important.

Strauss's avatar

@mattbrowne, in answer to your original question, I think the GOP, as a whole, is more committed to the fear-mongering and the destruction of President Obama than it is with its core values you mention.

@liminal “I saw an interview with Dan Rather the other evening and he stated that there has always been contention in politics, but now it is the worst he has ever seen, even worse than the vietnam era. Is this something others are aware of?”

YES! That is why I posted this comment a few days ago.

What follows is a brief history of US politics over the last 40 years as seen from my point of view. I am not an historian, other than the fact that I lived it, and I have made no erffort to hide my political biases.

I was a young man during the VietNam crisis, and I did not like many of the Nixon policies. I campaigned against Nixon for George McGovern, who was defeated by a landslide. I was embittered and refrained from political activity until 2004, when I decided I need to do something about GWB.

The eighties, as I recall, can pretty much be called the “Reagan Era”, where the Republican agenda seemed to me to be union busting and big business deregulation, under the guise of “smaller government”. The Contract with America of Newt Gingrich, et. al, seemed to rely heavily on Reagan’s 1985 State of the Union Address, and was, IMHO, an attempt to extend the Reagan/Bush policies into the Clinton presidency.

The Republican majority in Congress ran up against many blocks to the enactment of the “Contract”, many in the form of presidential vetoes and constitutional rulings by the Supreme court, and I think that was the beginning of the “us vs them” mentality in American politics.

A big addition to that was the loosening of restrictions on radio station ownership. In Section 202(b)(1) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress directed the Commission to revise its local radio ownership rule to relax the numerical station limits. This meant that small locally owned stations found it financially advantageous to sell out to the large multi-market syndicates and corporations. This, in turn, led to the popularity of large-market talk-radio, which at the beginning, was heavily weighted by conservative points of view.

In 2000 the election was very close, I think in part to the “Liberal” third parties, particularly the Green Party. In fact, it was so close some say it was actually decided in by the Supreme Court (Bush vs.Gore Wikipedia article).

I think the alliance of the Republican party with Big Business, in the form of deregulation, along with the vitriol being spread by some talk radio hosts pretty much killed any chance of bipartisanship during the GWBush presidency, Add the vitriolic, racist, spiteful, fear-mongering and hateful tactics used (not necessarily by the party, but by supporters of the “NeoCon” agenda) during the 2008 elections, and the “sour grapes” attitude taken by right-wing pundits not pundants, and I think we have completed the formula for the politics of fear and division we see today.

Anyone want to know how I really feel?

liminal's avatar

@Yetanotheruser you have given me some stuff to chew over, thank you!

mattbrowne's avatar

I can tell you almost all political commentators in Europe are very worried. The politicians are a bit more careful, but secretly they are very worried too. It’s far more serious than during Vietnam. The political future of the whole country is at stake. I would expect from respectable conservatives like Colin Powell to stand up and tell the GOP: “That’s enough! We’ve got to put a stop to this. We’re all democrats deeply committed to our free society respecting the vote of the American people. We love our country including the people who disagree with us. Let’s not put all of this in jeopardy.”

I love America too. My kids are American citizens. I want America to find its true soul again. A country which cherishes honesty, trust, respect, integrity, love, kindness, temperance and fairness.

Fausnaught's avatar

Someone will fill the void. Libertarians maybe? No way of telling but there is long history of failed political parties in America.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Bull Moose party, anyone?

wundayatta's avatar

The Republicans aren’t going to go away. Both parties have always made a living by holding onto their base (by being rabid) and then capturing as much of the middle as they can. They think there is so much anger in the independent voters, that they can be swayed to go Republican if the Reps whip up the furies.

They also feel totally dominated in the House and Senate, which means it is their job to oppose everything. They are irrelevant, they feel, otherwise, since they don’t have the power to participate in making legislation. Also, they can knock of enough Blue Dog Dems, sometimes, to stop things they don’t like. The regular Dems are pushing things as far to the left as we can, because we have the opportunity to, right now.

Things are no longer polite in US politics. The question is where they ever? I’m thinking that except after WWI and WWII, or maybe not even, since there was rabid talk in trying to fix things once the Depression hit, we had some periods of relative politeness. However, I wonder if there was equal levels of rabid politicking during other times. I mean, things can not have been very polite in the time before the succession of the South.

The country is not going to fall apart. It didn’t under Reagan and Bush II. It won’t under Obama, although Republicans are now experiencing some of the fear they gave us under Bush II. It ended very badly for him. The history of great social legislation usually turns out better. Social security, the New Deal, Medicare, and now Universal coverage (sort of). In a decade, unless the Reps are right and they undo it, people will wonder how we could have done without it.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the charade being run in this country is that many of us believe we have stake in things when we vote for our representatives when the truth is the vast majority of them have been absolutely bought out (and perhaps even went into politics in the first place in order to come out a lobbyist). The Goldman Sachs and the Halliburtons have us by the balls. It’s so obvious now, and the advantage they are taking of this situation is so extreme (the eventual extinction of what we once knew as the “middle class” in America under the simultaneous depression of wages and escalation of the costs of living) that they are resorting to stoking ridiculous levels of political heat and sound and fury in the mass media in order to keep people from seeing the true nature of the predicament they are in. Of course, if these Davos men have actually paid any attention to their history books, they should realize the opportunity of danger in this approach (see: Fritz Thyssen and Hjalmar Schacht).

Zuma's avatar

(This is a re-post from another thread which seems apropos here. I strongly urge you to view the video clips, if you haven’t seen them already. They tell a big part of the story. This is fascism on the march. This is what it looks like before they start dressing in brown shirts. )

I saw Dan Rather being interviewed by Rachael Maddow the other night and he said that he hadn’t seen this country as polarized and angry as it is now since the Vietnam War, and I am inclined to agree. I think that the Right has become so extreme, and so opposed to even the idea of government, that the only thing it can do should it ever seize power (say, through unlimited corporate spending on elections) is to demonstrate just how government in general, and democracy in particular, can be.

Indeed, when you venture outside the civility of Fluther into unmoderated political forums and ask people what they think they owe their fellow man, a large percentage of them say, “Nothing.” Not kindness, not civility, and especially not any kind of material aid.

One would think that people nowadays spring fully-grown from the brain of the Internet, entirely self-made—unaided and untutored by any other human being, and utterly bereft of the milk of human kindness. The lack of empathy and even common decency one encounters from ordinary folks on the Right can be quite chilling and disturbing.

Here, for example, Tea Partiers mock and scorn a man who has Parkinson’s Disease. Here Town hall shouters heckle woman in wheel chair pleading for her life-saving medication. Here Tea Partiers heckle a woman whose daughter-in-law died because she didn’t have health insurance. Here Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin mock 11-year old Marcelas Owens after he spoke about losing his mother due to lack of health insurance. Here is another attack on 12-year old boy who was injured in a car crash. And here a totally distraught woman pleading for care for her recently brain injured husband is met with a stunning lack of concern.

There is a kind of tone-deafness on the Right to people’s pain—and a kind of virulent shoot-the-messenger hatred toward anyone who would seek to remind them of what rationality, natural rights, human dignity and the Golden Rule would entail when applied to human governance.

It is no longer possible to have a political debate with the rights where facts, logic and truth matter. The “debates” we were having in about health care should make it absolutely clear that the Right was never interested in getting to the truth of the matter, finding common ground, or simply hashing out an honest difference of opinion. Rather, what we have been hostage to this whole time one side having a collective nervous breakdown. Facts have been replaced by slogans and sound bytes. Arguments have been replaced with ideological catch phrases and talking points. Good faith has given way to spin, and spin to outright lying.

We no longer seem to debate actual policy debates, we bicker over who is a socialist, an “elite,” or whether our worst fears are coming to pass. These feed into paranoid narratives, demonized opponents and end-of-days scenarios. The purpose public political forum are no longer to have a civil political discourse, but to shut down political discourse—and in so doing, so disgust people with their fellow citizen that they give up on democracy.

The point is to inspire mutual contempt. In one discussion I was observing, someone made a comment to the effect that he didn’t think everyone deserved health care. To which someone replied, “You must have contempt for humanity.” To which he responded, “No, just you!”

It hit me like a punch in the gut. The comment wasn’t directed at me, but seeing someone else gratuitously abused like that upset me almost as much as if it had been me. My first impulse was to figuratively reach through the screen and smack the living snot out of that person, but I realized that would have only escalated the situation and debased everyone who was touched by the ripples of incivility that would have followed.

Ever since Fox News got into the propaganda business, the nation’s political discourse has descended rapidly into the fevered swamps of paranoia and spiritual rot. Not surprisingly, the concept of human solidarity is almost alien to the American political discourse. We no longer see one another as proud members of the same great community, pulling together because we are all part of the same enterprise.

Instead, the Right refuses to accept the outcome of the last election and get on with the task of governing the country. It spends its time demonizing the country’s leaders, and treating their attempts to govern as if they were forms of treason. We have seen a mistrust of government grow into a full-blown hatred of government, as if the United States was uniquely incompetent at government among all the countries in the world.

Somehow we have allowed the Right to talk us into believing that we are under no obligation to help people we don’t like. Indeed, the Right feels particularly resentful at the government forcing them to contribute people and causes which they regard as “charity.”

As with the heckled man with Parkinson’ cited above, they are furious that the government wants more from them than they feel willing to give (although if their private generosity were sufficient, the man wouldn’t be protesting). And, it infuriates them no end to feel forced to give charity to people they feel are “undeserving” or whom they don’t regard as “real Americans.”

However solidarity is not an act of charity but an act of unity between citizens, equals and allies. Personally, I might not have any particular interest in the city’s multi-million dollar sports arena, and you might not have any particular interest in the offerings of the local PBS station, but I go along with your brand of entertainment and you go along with mine, and we both come out ahead. For a nominal personal contribution, we gain a sense of community spirit and pride, not to mention a stadium that can be used for generations. Unlike solidarity, which is horizontal and takes place between equals, charity is top-down, humiliating to those who receive it, and reinforces unequal power relations.

The framing of questions in order to incite bickering, recrimination and contempt is a time-honored technique of divide and rule. Any attempt to enforce even a nominal level of civility is reviled as “political correctness.” Any attempt to address the many historical grievances that make us hate one another so, is dismissed as “whining” as if there never were any injustices, only selfish people trying to get something for nothing by complaining over things in the past that have been blown out of proportion.

When I first read about a group on the Far Right proposing to “re-translate” the Bible in order to airbrush out the “liberal” empathy, compassion and the social justice parts, I thought it was a joke. Likewise, during Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing, when the Republican Senators opined that “empathy” was a liberal code word and were upset that empathy might be an undesirable quality in a judge, I began to realize that they weren’t kidding. And, now that Glenn Beck is urging his followers to leave their churches if they advocate social justice, community,” “collective responsibility,” “respect for diversity,” or a “truly democratic society,” it has become undeniable that something spiritually unwholesome and deeply unChristian is metastasizing on the Right.

So, when they come at you with their bad faith arguments, their made up facts, their sly digs, their contemptuous needling insults and snarky zingers, they are essentially shutting any substantive discussion down, and attempting to get you to respond in kind. Once they get you to lose your temper and lure you over to their rhetorical dark side, it tends to confirm what they believe all along; namely, that people are selfish, unfeeling and mean, and therefore deserving of nothing.

If they are not decisively defeated at the polls in November I fear that nothing short of civil war will bring them back to good faith bargaining.

mattbrowne's avatar

@wundayatta – To me there’s a difference between opposing laws and hatemongering. And there’s also a difference between not being polite and hatemongering. No one excepts politeness. No one expects not opposing certain ideas, approaches or bills. But is it too much to ask to expect honesty, trust, respect and fairness?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Zuma – Thank you for your highly sophisticated analysis. I was worried, but maybe I should be very worried. You mentioned a potential civil war. How many of the US military’s top 100 generals are sympathetic to demonizing the country’s leaders and the cause of the Far Right?

mattbrowne's avatar

One more thing. Comments like “Obama is a socialist-fascist and will put you in internment camps if you let him reform healthcare” are a terrible insult to all victims of Nazism. Well, you know, Obama, Hitler, ah, we can’t really tell the difference.

Shameful. To say the least.

Strauss's avatar

What worries me is the threats received by some of the members of Congress in recent days. Remember the sixties and seventies? I think the pendulum has swung the other way.

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