The Right Side of History

Sometimes I wonder how I would have responded to significant intellectual and social developments if I were alive when they were occurring. Would I have opposed the Catholic Church when it tried Galileo for heresy for believing our solar system revolved around the sun? Would I have embraced the Enlightenment ideals of reason and science? Would I have opposed slavery? Would I have rejected the United States’ isolationism of the 1930’s and seen the necessity of taking a stand against fascism? Would I have considered the Red Scare to be mass hysteria? Would I have supported the Civil Rights Movement?

I like to think my answer to all these questions would be yes, and not just because of self-flattery–although self-flattery is a significant factor. I tend to be skeptical, to distrust ideas based on faith, to disbelieve True Believers. Twenty years ago a former boss gave me The Emperor’s New Clothes as a holiday present–an apt gift, as I spent considerable time and effort poking holes in her pronouncements. It’s a good thing to recognize the inexorable social and intellectual forces. If the choice is between desperately hanging on to a disappearing past and understanding and dealing with society’s evolution, I want to come to terms with the future.

We (finally) saw Steven Speilberg’s Lincoln, which focuses on Congressional enactment of the 13th Amendment, which banned slavery. Viewed through a modern lens we see the anti-Amendment arguments for what they were–unadulterated racism, with a frosting of state rights rhetoric that serves mostly to mask that slavery was our Civil War’s bedrock issue. Few Americans today would make the anti-Amendment arguments in the film’s naked terms. (Although many continue to embrace the state rights perspective–see, e.g. the Texas monument to the Confederacy at the State House in Austin:



Romney’s abject toadying during the primaries to the Tea Party Taliban, Tax-Pledge Terrorists, and anti-progress ayatollahs, and various jaw-dropping far-right pronouncements throughout recent months, underscored that the Republican Party is controlled by those denying the future and holding on to the past like grim death. In her column titled A Lost Civilization Maureen Dowd echoed this theme when she referred to the Republican Party as “the first civilization in modern history to spiral the way of the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans.

The Mayans were right, as it turns out, when they predicted the world would end in 2012. It was just a select world: the G.O.P. universe of arrogant, uptight, entitled, bossy, retrogressive white guys. Just another vanishing tribe that fought the cultural and demographic tides of history.

Denying the existence of global warming, and the role of human agency in global warming, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence1 . . .  asserting that creationism (by whatever name) is not faith-based religious doctrine but a valid scientific theory that should be taught in public schools alongside evolution . . . arguing that gun violence is caused by a variety of factors which do not include lack of regulation of firearms . . . urging the primacy of explicit religious belief as a criterion for public office . . . these beliefs are on the wrong side of history. How can one take the Republican  party seriously when it is in thrall to those who advocate such beliefs?

1. See, e.g.

If You’re Not Part of the Solution . . .

Great line from today’s Maureen Dowd:

Team Romney has every reason to be shellshocked. Its candidate, after all, resoundingly won the election of the country he was wooing.

Mitt Romney is the president of white male America.

* * * * * * * *

Until now, Republicans and Fox News have excelled at conjuring alternate realities. But this time, they made the mistake of believing their fake world actually existed. As Fox’s Megyn Kelly said to Karl Rove on election night, when he argued against calling Ohio for Obama: “Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?”

Obstruct First, Ask Questions Later

Perplexed by the latest Washington impasse over the payroll tax cut? Wonder if the Republicans are doing anything other than saying no, just because they can? I am. And so is The Wall Street Journal editorial page, not a place I go normally for reassuring agreement with my views.  In an article titled “The GOP’s Payroll Tax Fiasco” the Journal states

The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.  Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he’s spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible . . . . The entire exercise is political, but Republicans have thoroughly botched the politics.

The article concludes “[a]t this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly.”

Political Devolution

It’s stating the obvious but I like how she says it:

The Republicans are now the “How great is it to be stupid?” party. In perpetrating the idea that there’s no intellectual requirement for the office of the presidency, the right wing of the party offers a Farrelly Brothers “Dumb and Dumber” primary in which evolution is avant-garde . . . So we’re choosing between the overintellectualized professor and blockheads boasting about their vacuity? The occupational hazard of democracy is know-nothing voters. It shouldn’t be know-nothing candidates.

Maureen Dowd, Egghead and Blockheads, The New York Times 18-Sep-11

Party Like It’s 1949

For South, A Waning Hold on National Politics in today’s NY Times, and the excellent accompanying interactive graphic, provide more data on the marginalization of the Republican party.  Obama’s victory without support of the deep south marks the end of 36 years of the Southern Strategy pioneered in Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign.  A Democrat victory without monolithic southern support diminishes the importance of the red-state south in national politics “for some time to come.”  The parts of the south that “have experienced an influx of better educated and more prosperous voters in recent years” went for Obama.  The article goes on to say:

Southern counties that voted more heavily Republican this year than in 2004 tended to be poorer, less educated and whiter . . . Mr. Obama won in only 44 counties in the Appalachian belt, a stretch of 410 counties that runs from New York to Mississippi. Many of those counties, rural and isolated, have been less exposed to the diversity, educational achievement and economic progress experienced by more prosperous areas.

Continued Republican focus on these voters has the effect of “alienating voters elsewhere.”

The article goes on to look at Alabama and the impact of race on its white voters. It quotes an historian from the University of Alabama, who says “Alabama, unfortunately, continues to remain shackled to the bonds of yesterday.”  Lest there be any doubt the article visits Vernon, Alabama, “the small, struggling seat of Lamar County on the Mississippi border.”  They turned out in greater numbers for McCain than for Bush in 2004 because “any time you have someone elected president of the United States with a Muslim name, whether they are white or black, there are some very unsettling things.”  A city employee stated that anyone who is not upset that Obama was elected “needs to be at the altar” because his election is offensive to “Christian folks.”  One white resident is concerned about a black man “over me” in the White House.  Another said ““I think there are going to be outbreaks from blacks . . . From where I’m from, this is going to give them the right to be more aggressive.”

Vernon, Alabama:  The Land that Time Forgot.  This is the future of the Republican Party?