Nov 4th 2014

The Price of Failure and Rise of Extremism: How Democrats Blew It

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

Politicians of all stripes since the dawn of time have perfected the art of feigned regret and false outrage in the face of opposition, while embracing blind indifference to their own failures. Standard fare for the left and right. But the depth, intensity, and institutionalized hypocrisy of the political right has taken our country on a new course; conservatives are writing a new chapter if not a new book on cynicism, deceit and delusion. As we contemplate our world dominated by Republicans controlling the House and Senate, we must therefore consider life in the face of deep hypocrisy.

Mitch McConnell, with a straight face and no apparent appreciation for irony, said that voters should install a Republican majority in the Senate because his party would "be able to bring the current legislative gridlock to a merciful end." This really reaches new heights of absurdity. The Filibuster King, the Guru of Gridlock himself, says that in order to end gridlock we need to elect the people who are responsible for bringing us Olympian records of obstruction. McConnell's Republican army in the Senate has led more filibusters than any previous Congress in our nation's history, attempting to thwart any progress on a gleeful spree of "no." This is the McConnell who made obstruction his publicly announced number one goal when Obama was elected to his first term. But now McConnell wants to say yes, to have you vote for him because he is the one to rid us of the scourge of the gridlock he created. Give him a majority and voila he will make sure gridlock is a distant memory. This means of course that he expects the newly-made minority to simply go along with his agenda; you know, like he went along with the Democrats when they had the majority. Sigh. It is enough to make one's head explode.

No Show

This story highlights the major failure of the left. Democrats have not defined the agenda or narrated the story. This capitulation creates a void of reason such that absurdities like McConnell's claim can take hold without everybody doubling over in laughter. Like frightened children Democrats run from Obama's record, as defined by the right, rather than championing his amazing successes as defined by fact. Much to the credit of the Republican political machine, and with equal same to the Democrats, the far right has been able to convince the public that everything bad is Obama's fault, but that Obama is responsible for nothing that is good. When that does not work, they create the illusion that what is good is bad; health care comes to mind.

Democrats have ceded the territory of reality to Republican fantasy. Need a specific example? The media of late have been touting the story of "Obama's droppingapproval ratings" noting that his "approval ratings have plunged to record lows" and have "plummeted" and are "sinking to historic lows." Only one problem with this narrative: it is factually and demonstrably false. Here is the verifiable truth: from January 1, 2014 to October 30, 2014, Obama's approval rating fell from 42.6 percent to 42 percent. The year's peak was 44 percent, and the low of the year was 41 percent. A drop of about one-half of one percent does not constitute numbers that are "plummeting" or "sinking" or even "dropping." Yet the Democrats sit by and let this nonsense flow forth with no fight.

We can do the same analysis for past GOP claims about unemployment, the war in Iraq, saving the auto industry, bailing out Wall Street and the banks, instituting meaningful health care reform... just about anything major issue that has improved significantly over the past 7 or 8 years. You remember when unemployment exceeded 10 percent; that was Obama's fault. There was a daily drumbeat denouncing the president. But with unemployment now under 6 percent, Obama gets no credit, or the positive statistic is dismissed as unimportant (the same statistics with the same numerators and denominators that were critical when the numbers looked bad for Obama). Obama is responsible for all of our ills and deserves credit for none of our successes. This is a childish, bogus outlook, yet remains central to everything conservative. This lack of depth and nuance, and the absence of the art of compromise (actually praising Obama for something), is precisely what led to the extremism of shutting down our government and threatening default on our debt. This lopsided, one-sided, one-dimensional world view is morally and intellectually bankrupt. Hating Obama should not be an effective political organizing strategy, but is indeed in the absence of any effective Democratic backbone to counter right-wing absurdities. Democrats deserve their losses; they ceded the battle before it began. Hoping for failure has become the right's most effective political platform; creating the appearance of failure in the face of Democratic success is now a Republican sport played to victory by default because the opposing team never showed.

What Goes Up...

I was driving along the other day in the face of the mid-term elections, considering how Democrats who ran from Obama's record deserved to lose. Then I passed by a service station and noted the price of gas was in the mid-range of two dollars. And the thought immediately struck; Republicans have done it again -- somehow, expensive gas was Obama's fault, but low prices deserve no mention, and certainly no credit. The absence of debate during the elections is all the more astonishing given that the price of gas today is the same as what we were paying nearly 10 years ago, and far from historic highs.

So... gas prices, so easily quantified, offer us the ideal case study to demonstrate that hypocrisy is truly the core foundation of right-wing thought and the basis for Republican politics. I challenge anybody to provide the equivalent of what you see below for the Democrats.

Below we will see in black and white that the GOP vocally, loudly and undeniably blamed Obama for expensive gas as prices climbed toward $4 per gallon. The right openly blamed the president not only for pursuing a bad energy policy but for actively seeking higher prices. Here are just a few examples:

Mitt Romney: Obama to Blame for High Gas Prices
Romney said on Fox News (where else?) that he believes "absolutely" that Obama is responsible for high gas prices. To bolster his point, Romney noted that Obama does not allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), and his refusal to build the Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas. Romney said of Obama, "His policies are responsible for not having America using the energy that we have in this country."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)
"The president holds the key to addressing the pain Ohioans are feeling at the gas pump and moving our nation away from its reliance on foreign energy. My question for the president is: what are you waiting for?" Getting more specific, Boehner claimed that, "The president's own policies to date have made matters worse and driven up gas prices."

Senator John Barrasso: Obama Fully Responsible for High Gas Prices
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) claimed "The president has been a complete obstructionist on that, and his energy policy, if you want to even call it a policy, has in my opinion actually contributed if not caused the pain at the pump, and he should be held fully responsible for what the American public is paying for gasoline."

Representative Cory Gardner (R-CO): Obama Policies to Blame for High Gas Prices
Cory Gardner jumped on the bandwagon, complaining that, "The longer we let politicians like President Obama continue to block responsible American energy production, the longer our nation will continue to suffer with high gas prices and limited energy security."

National Review: Report Finds Obama Policies to Blame for High Energy Prices
"What President Obama failed to accomplish through the so-called 'cap and trade' program, his administration is attempting to accomplish through regulatory roadblocks, energy tax increases, and other targeted efforts to prohibit development of domestic energy resources."

Rush Limbaugh: Obama Wants Higher Gas Prices
Oddly, in his rant against Obama, Rush asks, "Will the media ignoring the rise in gas prices be able to keep that from becoming a major factor in people's minds over the economy and Obama's role in it?" Funny given the torrent of news coverage on higher gas prices, and the GOP's consistent drum beat blaming Obama.

High Gas Prices are President Obama's Fault
In this article, the author claims that "The Obama administration's energy plan all along was based upon the rise in energy costs in order to force Americans to be 'greener.'" The piece goes on to say that "President Obama wants Americans to believe that he is powerless to stop the high rise of gasoline prices yet it is his (in)actions that have created the crisis... What the president fails to realize is that there is no one to blame for rising energy costs other than himself."

Billboard Blames Obama for High Gas Prices
In this case, a conservative businessman by the name of Bret Eulberg posted for all to see the message: "Gas $1.85. Obama took office. Tight drilling regulations. No Pipeline. Obama = Higher Gas."

Need I go on? Can any reader, of any political persuasion, even those who only watch Fox News, claim that the GOP did not openly, blatantly, consistently blame Obama for high gas prices? Conservatives blamed Obama for high gas prices. Can we be any clearer about that? You simply cannot deny this fact.

Deficit of Reason

So what happened when the price of gas fell? What now that the price has declined into the $2 range? Silence. Total, complete, deafening, maddening, huge, gaping, mind-bending silence. Where was Obama's commitment to making prices higher? Where were the impacts of Obama's failed energy policies? Where were the disastrous consequences of delaying the Keystone pipeline? Where were the catastrophic energy shortages due to overzealous EPA regulations? Yet not a single word from the right praising Obama for lower energy prices. He was responsible for them going up, but not coming down. Everything prominent Republicans and wing-nut pundits said about gas prices and Obama's policies proved to be wrong.

What happened when Obama cracked down on oil speculation (an activity much supported by free-market zealots in the GOP), driving down the price of gas by 12 cents at the pump? Not a peep from the right. What happened when gas prices fell to atwo-year low, with expectations that the price will continue to decline? Nothing on Fox News about that.

Everything that the GOP claimed caused high gas prices are still in place, as we watch prices decline. There is no Keystone pipeline, drilling levels are virtually the same as when prices were increasing, and EPA regulations are still in place. Those "causes" of high prices are now simply ignored by the right in the face of declining prices at the pump, no longer offered as proof of Obama's incompetence.

And then the Republicans finally broke their silence, with the claim that "Obama deserves no credit for fall in gas prices." This is absolute proof of my thesis; Republicans blatantly admit it. Read this logic and weep for our country: Representative Allen West (R-FL) said, "If you're the chief executive officer of the United States of America, you should take responsibility for anything that's occurring in this country, and you should not want to seek to get praise. This is what the military taught me: Leaders don't take credit, leaders take responsibility." Um, OK. So, you blame Obama for rising gas prices; but then give him no credit for falling prices because it is unseemly for a leader to accept credit for effective policies -- the very policies you were blaming for failure earlier. My head hurts. My heart aches for this great land.

Perhaps one day we will once again we reject the bizarre extremism of the far right and realize the fruits of effective governance through dialogue and compromise. We will know we are on our way when we can give our political opponents credit where credit is due -- and that includes praise for policies we earlier opposed when those policies prove well founded. Extremism and absolutism have no place in America; we can only hope that what we are witnessing today is an aberration much like McCarthyism. Perhaps in 20 or 30 years we'll shake our heads at this folly and wonder how the likes of Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin ever made it to national politics. We can always hope.






  

 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Sep 30th 2020
EXTRACT: "With the US presidential election barely a month away, former Vice President Joe Biden and his advisers are devising his national-security policy and creating shortlists to fill the cabinet’s ranking positions in the event that he defeats President Donald Trump. But while presidential hopefuls traditionally have focused first on contenders to run the state, defense, and treasury departments, this time is different. With the intelligence community in an increasingly perilous state, Biden should choose a top spymaster before making any other personnel decisions."
Sep 29th 2020
While today's mounting global disruptions have accelerated an ongoing shift in global power dynamics, neither China's rise nor the emergence of COVID-19 can be blamed for the West's lost primacy. The United States and the United Kingdom took care of that on their own, with a complacent Europe watching it happen.
Sep 28th 2020
EXTRACT: "One thing is clear: the world cannot trust Xi’s dictatorship. The sooner we recognize this and act together, the sooner the Beijing bullies will have to behave better. The world will be safer and more prosperous for it."
Sep 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "Four years of political turmoil under Trump may well end with massive violence akin to a civil war. Trump is priming his base to act violently, and with over 390 million firearms in the hands of Americans, one can only imagine the calamitous consequences if violence is to erupt between his supporters and those who oppose him..... The Republican leadership in every state and every municipality are the prime body that can stop this potential calamity from occurring. Time is of the essence. Should the Republican Party as a whole fall short of taking a stand against Trump at this juncture, they will subject the nation to turmoil unseen since the Civil War. Not a single Republican leader will be able to claim that he or she were not warned."
Sep 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "I continue to expect this broad dollar index to plunge by as much as 35% by the end of 2021. This reflects three considerations: rapid deterioration in US macroeconomic imbalances, the ascendancy of the euro and the renminbi as viable alternatives, and the end of that special aura of American exceptionalism that has given the dollar Teflon-like resilience for most of the post-World War II era."
Sep 26th 2020
EXTRACT: "Covid-19 essentially hit the “fast forward” button on emerging trends in a variety of sectors of national economies, hastening the demise of the shopping mall, laying bare how unnecessary being physically located in commercial work spaces is, and sounding the death knell for numerous 100+ year-old brands that had failed to adapt to the blistering pace of change in the digital economy. Failure to contemplate and embrace the future is leaving carnage in its wake.......The onslaught of dramatic change that has accompanied Covid-19 reminds us that fragile systems crack when exposed to unexpected events while antifragile systems have the ability to resist shocks."
Sep 24th 2020
EXTRACT: "China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, recently declared that aggression and expansionism have never been in the Chinese nation’s “genes.” It is almost astonishing that he managed to say it with a straight face. Aggression and expansionism obviously are not genetic traits, but they have defined President Xi Jinping’s tenure. Xi, who in some ways has taken up the expansionist mantle of Mao Zedong, is attempting to implement a modern version of the tributary system that Chinese emperors used to establish authority over vassal states: submit to the emperor, and reap the benefits of peace and trade with the empire."
Sep 16th 2020
EXTRACT: "Seventy-five years ago, the prestige of the United States and the United Kingdom could not have been higher. They had defeated imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, and they did so in the name of freedom and democracy. True, their ally, Stalin’s Soviet Union, had different ideas about these fine ideals, and did most of the fighting against Hitler’s Wehrmacht. Still, the English-speaking victors shaped the post-war order in large parts of the world. The basic principles of this order had been laid down in the Atlantic Charter, drawn up in 1941 by Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt on a battleship off the coast of Newfoundland."
Sep 14th 2020
EXTRACT: "After Trump’s inauguration in January of 2017, millions demonstrated their disapproval. We can expect the same, no matter how this election turns out. With both sides framing this election in “end of the world” terms; with the president calling into question the legitimacy of the vote, even before it happens; and with the president warning his supporters that they may have to take up arms to defend him – we have a recipe for disaster that may occur in the days that follow this election. This may very well be the Armageddon election of our lifetime."
Sep 8th 2020
EXTRACT: "The Huawei case is a harbinger of a world in which national security, privacy, and economics will interact in complicated ways. Global governance and multilateralism will often fail, for both good and bad reasons. The best we can expect is a regulatory patchwork, based on clear ground rules that help empower countries to pursue their core national interests without exporting their problems to others. Either we design this patchwork ourselves, or we will end up, willy-nilly, with a messy, less efficient, and more dangerous version."
Sep 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "China’s footprint in global foreign direct investment (FDI) has increased notably since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013. That served to bring Chinese overseas FDI closer to a level that one would expect, based on the country’s weight in the global economy. China accounted for about 12% of global cross-border mergers and acquisitions and 9% of announced greenfield FDI projects between 2013 and 2018. Chinese overseas FDI rose from $10 billion in 2005 (0.5% of Chinese GDP) to nearly $180 billion in 2017 (1.5% of GDP). Likewise, annual construction contracts awarded to Chinese companies increased from $10 billion in 2005 to more than $100 billion in 2017."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Emergence and spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 have created and still creating health issues, economic challenges, political crises and social conflicts around the world. These challenges and conflicts lead the international community to re-evaluate global governance and international structures, which is based on the second world-war and post-cold war. The pandemic will emerge a new era of international society that will not be similar to the pre-Corona world."
Aug 28th 2020
EXTRACT: "Russia has changed, and has been changing, since its beginnings in ancient Muscovy to its current condition as Putin’s realm. Some general features appear in much of Russian history. Most of its rulers have been authoritarian—but so, too, were most of England’s, France’s, and Germany’s. Many of its political and intellectual elites have considered Russia a special civilization deserving a place in the sun—but just as many have not, wanting to transform Russia into a Western state with Western values. Many Russians have been enamored of their country, but even more have probably damned it for destroying them and their children. What, then, is Russia? It is, and has always been, many, oftentimes contradictory, things—sometimes coexisting, sometimes getting the upper hand, always shifting, always eluding simplistic analysis. But, and this needs to be emphasized, the same holds true for every other country in the world."
Aug 26th 2020
EXTRACTS: "Double dips – defined simply as a decline in quarterly real GDP following a temporary rebound – have occurred in eight of the 11 recessions since the end of World War II. .............Financial markets aren’t the least bit worried about a relapse, owing largely to unprecedented monetary easing, which has evoked the time-honored maxim: “don’t fight the Fed.” Added comfort comes from equally unprecedented fiscal relief aimed at mitigating the pandemic-related shock to businesses and households.......This could be wishful thinking."
Aug 26th 2020
EXTRACTS: "There is no question that the re-election of President Donald Trump would endanger both the US and the world. Moreover, there is ample reason to fear that a close election could drive the US into a deep, prolonged constitutional crisis, and perhaps into civil violence.........One can only hope that the election will produce a decisive winner both in the Electoral College and in the popular vote. Yet, even then, tallying the final result may take time, owing to the massive increase in mail-in voting that is expected. Every ballot that has a postmark of November 2 or 3 (depending on the state) will be considered valid, which means that the final result will not be known until after Election Day. During that window of uncertainty, either or both campaigns may try to claim victory based on the current vote count. In any case, there is no chance that Trump will wait graciously in the Oval Office for days or weeks to receive the final tally. In interviews, he has already issued vague statements suggesting that he will not leave the White House if he loses; indeed, he seems to be actively preparing for such a scenario. If he follows through, the world’s leading superpower will find itself facing a protracted – and perhaps intractable – constitutional crisis.
Aug 26th 2020
EXTRACT: "the European Union is a community of values as much as an economic and trade bloc. But the behavior of member states such as Poland and Hungary has called into question their commitment to liberal democracy. Above all, in the US, President Donald Trump is widely criticized, even by lifelong Republicans, for not respecting or understanding the US constitution and the separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Does Trump even believe in democracy? Does he want all Americans to vote in November, regardless of race or party affiliation, or only those who will support him? And will he accept the election result if it goes against him? "
Aug 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "The fundamental difference in values between the West and China will remain indefinitely, and it is here that the West must draw the line. Any concession that entails a sacrifice of fundamental principles, for example in cultural matters, must be rejected. If this values-based approach results in economic disadvantages, so be it. By the same token, the West should abandon the conceit that it can push, force, or cajole China to become a democracy wrought in its own image. "
Aug 16th 2020
EXTRACT: "China is light years ahead of most of the rest of the world in deploying digital payment technology. Alipay or WeChat Pay apps are all that is necessary to accomplish almost anything that requires a payment in China; the country is largely already making paper money obsolete. "
Aug 15th 2020
EXTRACT: "Seven hundred fifty billion euros is less than 5% of the stock of US government debt held by the public. It’s a drop in the bucket, in other words. And a drop does not a liquid market in safe assets make. Even if this really is Europe’s “Hamiltonian moment,” ramping up EU issuance by a factor of 20 will take decades. "
Aug 14th 2020
EXTRACT: "But the race is not over. In the 2016 election, prices moved the most in the two months just before the election. Trump trailed Hillary Clinton in prediction markets throughout the campaign and was seen as favourite only on election day – showing that the underdog can recover. So despite Trump’s poor position now, he might still regain some ground."