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The GOP Crossroads

The 2016 GOP candidates think the nation is at a crossroads, but the only crossroads is the one the GOP is stuck at.

We’ve been at a crossroads for election after election. What’s the deal?

If you watched the second 2016 GOP debate, you would have heard a very different picture painted of the world than the one you likely see. Many of the candidates portrayed the 2016 election as a crossroads or a chance to change the direction the country is heading, things like that.

If you listened to Mike Huckabee’s fantasy spiel of what the world would look like after he got done with it, you probably laughed or threw up in your mouth a bit.

The country isn’t at a crossroads. The GOP is, has been, and will remain there until they can admit reality.

The fact that defunding Planned Parenthood is actually a serious consideration of the candidates for president in 2015 is very telling. As is immigration. As are nuclear launch codes. Vaccines even impinge on freedom, apparently. To hear them tell it, President Obama has planted landmines in all the school playgrounds throughout the land.

In 2012 we thought we had a clowncar. In 2015-2016, we apparently have the GOP rodeo clowns running for president.

Build a wall on our border with Canada, says one. We need to track visitors like shipping companies track packages, says another.

I am not afraid of idiots, nor embarrassed by them, but I am surprised by them. The failures of logic in their statements, such as how we can neither afford to do anything about atmospheric carbonization, nor could we make a whit of difference if we tried, and yet we must not disrupt ourselves (atmospheric carbon will be a major disruption over time), and yet we are exceptional in any other crisis (then why can’t we do anything about carbon?).

ISIS is, apparently, an existential threat to the United States of America. A problem for the world? Sure. But an existential threat?! Meanwhile, the aforementioned carbonization, while probably also not a true existential threat, certainly ranks much higher. The GOP pretends it’s nothing to care about.

The Twilight Zone Party seriously believes it can ignore reality.

At the little table, Rick Santorum claimed we should be worried about Islam because many Muslim-dominated nations have polls showing “two-thirds” (only true for a few of the countries) believe the world will end in their lifetimes (the poll was actually about the return of the Mahdi, which is prophesized to be just prior to the end of the world; FWIW, belief that Jesus will return correlates with the Mahdi responses). But in the good old US of A, somewhere around 22% will poll the same way on the actual end of the world (15% worldwide average). Oy vey.

But one of the biggest surprises isn’t the eschatalogical pastimes of presidential candidates, but the meantime that they ignore. The future is changing rapidly, and while they might talk about projections for Social Security insolvency, they had bupkis about where technology will be moving us in the near future. Nothing on automation both inside and outside of the military.

It’s like the biggest changes in the world are completely off their radar. Technology and climate. Big deals. Nothing worth the GOP’s time.

At the GOP’s crossroads, the paths form a figure eight, and they just go round and round in circles. Worst of all, most of the small government party’s candidates kept calling for bigger and bigger government for the fake problems they perceive.

The 2016 GOP Primaries: Debate One

A look at the first debate and the general shape of the 2016 GOP field.

Now that we’re somewhat familiar with the major candidates, it’d be nice to look at where the race stands. But some background is needed, at least for the GOP side of things.

The Republican voters of 2012 had a hard time making a pick. They apparently did not feel any great connection to any of the candidates. They were shopping, trying each one on. Finding a bad fit, finding it clashed with their values, they went to the next. Eventually, they went with the least ill-fitting, Mitt Romney.

2016 looks largely to be a retreading of that same ground. Trump has an early lead, mainly because he’s such a known brand. Trump has been around for a long time, outside of politics. He’s a fixture of America. That seems to many to mean he counts for more in a race among people with much less recognition. He certainly doesn’t seem much crazier than the average candidate in the race at the moment.

What’s more, his positions don’t apparently diverge so much from any of the other candidates. His tone does, though. He’s running as an anti-candidate. An outsider insider. The fact that he has had business success speaks to people that here is a man who, right or wrong, consistent or not, has gotten things done before.

Of the other candidates, Jeb Bush is favored. He’s the establishment pick, like Romney was. Barring either Trump or a dramatic shift by another candidate, Bush will likely get the nomination, just like Romney did. The voters will try each of the others in the Whitman’s Sampler and go with the plain chocolate with the dollar sign stamped on it.

The rest of the candidates, mostly, are middling. Some are more establishment, like Kasich. Others are more Tea Party, like Cruz. Others more hawk, Graham. But none stand out as the best mix of nougat, chocolate, nuts, and caramel.

The first debates

A few days ago the first debates happened. They were split into the top ten and the bottom seven. The popular wisdom had Trump winning the big table and Fiorina the small.

Trump did stave off any acute attack on his candidacy, not even losing points for being the sole candidate to refuse to pledge to support the GOP ticket no matter what. It’s not clear that he won, per se, as the moderators seemed to approach each candidate on a case-by-case basis for about half their questions. Trump’s personalized questions were of a different sort than those posed to other candidates, more about his personality than his record (though they did ask him about bankruptcies).

Trump seemed to score points by not melting like the Western Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. And that, to my eyes, was also why Fiorina won the small table. There were no particular standouts down below, and the fact that Fiorina did okay seems to garner her a win as another outsider businessperson.

It will be awhile before the next polls show whether the debate changed anything. It’s likely there will be a bit of shuffling in the lower ranks, without much change among the leaders. The next debate is over a month away, and will again be a big table, little table split debate. We should see a different mixture in each by then, which may begin to show a longer trend of where the field is heading.

A House of Reprehensibles

The humiliation that is our Republican-majority House of Representatives.

The so-called Republican members of the US House have moved forward with a plan to defund the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). They have done this without even a feint toward repairing its faults before or now, nor with a whiff of trying to replace it.

The resolution, H.J.RES. 59 (Library of Congress: Thomas: H.J.RES. 59 of the 113th Congress), is meant to fund the government for the next year. But it’s a bit like the gun from The Fifth Element, the ZF-1 (YouTube: (excerpted from The Fifth Element) little red button of the bottom).

The nation has a healthcare problem, well documented, and obvious to anyone willing to look. The ACA, imperfect as it is, will improve the number of covered individuals. Will lower costs, if only marginally. It should be replaced with something better (indeed, it came with a five year period to implement and several prominent extensions have been granted to select interests, a jarring clue that it isn’t the right course). But it is simply irresponsible, it is reprehensible, to simply try to strike the funding for it.

The majority has failed in their duties, repeatedly. Their broken-record activity of trying to simply elide from the books this attempt to improve healthcare is simply obtuse. It’s bad politics. The supporters of the effort, bless their hearts, should be lining up behind an alternative at the very least. Should be fighting for something.

That’s what the tombstone for the GOP will read: “Here lies a bunch of bones from those who forgot how to fight for anything, who died fighting against everything.” And that day cannot come too soon: we need a real conservative party to fight for ideas alongside a vibrant liberal party fighting for theirs. And together they can shape the country for the better.

Like the Syrian escape hatch, the Republicans need to exercise a quick pivot before they cross too far across a red line. But, instead they have repeated empty rhetoric.

We have learned lessons from the ACA passage, the most prominent which should be not to promise the status quo in the face of a corrupt status quo. Many opponents of the law have latched onto the claim that people would keep their insurance, which in fact did shape the law’s construction for the worse.

Any law that takes a half-decade to implement is either too much or not enough. The ACA is definitely both. And extensions for protected interests only fuels the divisiveness amongst our countrymen. The ACA should have been a unifying act, removing barriers between different groups of healthcare customers.

And so on. But again, none of these nuances, absolutely not one single idea of improvement or replacement, has been forwarded by the House Republicans. Their desperation is telling. Their constituents have been bombarded by rhetoric against the ACA from extremist media sources, who themselves offer no alternative ideas. The leadership, unable to push for ideas in a space devoid of them, is left with the choice to rally against the law, holding a basket full of air.

The White House has offered a small window between shutdown and full funding, quoting:

The Administration is willing to support a short-term continuing resolution to allow critical
Government functions to operate without interruption […]

Read: “if you guys are this dumb, we can pass something at the zero hour to avert true disaster, and then clean up your mess later.” Indeed, we will be cleaning up the dysfunctional mess of our governments and businesses for the foreseeable future, even as they explore strange new disasters, to seek out new botches and new catastrophes, to boldly fuck up what no one has fucked up before.