Meet the New Republican Party…

…same as the old Republican Party?

Howard Fineman reports from the Southern Republican Leadership Conference – is that Republicans in the South, Republicans of the South, or Southern Republicanism? – that attendees ain’t too keen on the Start Treaty just signed in Prague.

As a first pass, I asked people in the ballroom here about the new START treaty and Obama’s new stance on non-first-use of nuclear weapons. To say they were deeply skeptical is an understatement. Men and women alike, young and old alike, said Obama was; naive, weakening America, treasonous, and out to rule the world.

This is no surprise – the reaction of the, ah, Republican Leadership has been skeptical at best, derogatory and fear mongering at worst. Rudy Giuliani leads the pack. According to the NRO online, Giuliani, in an interview, said

A nuclear-free world has been a 60-year dream of the Left, just like socialized health-care. This new policy, like Obama’s government-run health program, is a big step in that direction.

President Obama thinks we can all hold hands, sing songs, and have peace symbols,” Giuliani says. “North Korea and Iran are not singing along with the president. Knowing that, it just doesn’t make sense why we would reduce our nuclear arms when we face these threats.

Recall that Iran does not yet have a single nuclear warhead. Best estimates are that North Korea may have around three that might not successfully detonate and that it can plunk into the Pacific. Recall that the new treaty leaves the United States with 1550 warheads.

Recall the renewed Afghan War and the startlingly aggressive and successful drone campaign being waged by this president who “thinks we can all hold hands, sing songs, and have peace symbols.” Recall what it means when politicians treat people like fools by making such statements.

Recall that Republican demigod President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state George Shultz, along with Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn, supports the treaty. Recall that Reagan himself said,

We live in a troubled world, and the United States and China, as two great nations, share a special responsibility to help reduce the risks of war. We both agree that there can be only one sane policy to preserve our precious civilization in this modern age: A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. And no matter how great the obstacles may seem, we must never stop our efforts to reduce the weapons of war. We must never stop at all until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of this Earth.

Or read the book Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

…same as the old Democratic Party (circa 1861)?

Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia, at the behest of Brag Bowling, the commander of the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, this week declared April Confederate History Month, and did so without any reference to slavery. This is the latest rising star of the Republican Party, chosen by the party to respond to the president’s State of the Union in January. Bragg, himself, in an appearance on CNN, denied that slavery was the principal issue over which the war was fought and referred to the Union Army in Virginia as an invading army.

After much condemnation, McDonnell apologized for the omission of slavery from the proclamation (oh, yeah, slavery), but, in fact, had earlier justified the omission

there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia.

The updated proclamation still refers to the Civil War as “a four year war between the states for independence” rather than secession.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans declares on its home page and elsewhere

The citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America. The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the Second American Revolution….

Today, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is preserving the history and legacy of these heroes, so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause.

The “cause” of the SCV is “heritage defense” (against whom and what, one might ask), and it has a Heritage Defense Committee and Chief, who states

It is unfortunate that our Heritage is so often under attack. We share a proud SOUTHERN HISTORY and only wish to honor and commemorate it. If intolerant individuals or organizations try to prevent you from your RIGHT to do so, we stand willing and ready to assist you.

And the “motives that animated the Southern Cause”? Once again, not slavery, and as a history link supporting as much, the SCV offers The Confederate Catechism by Lyon Gardiner Taylor, fourth son of President Zachary Taylor, who was devoted to proving Abraham Lincoln a scoundrel.

The Southerners took the negro as a barbarian and cannibal, civilized him, supported him, clothed him, and turned him out a better Christian than Abraham Lincoln, who was a free thinker, if not an atheist.

This is an organization that has the ear and the sympathy of the Governor of Virginia, the man the Republican Party chose to be its national face this past January.

But of the growing reactionary nature of the Republican Party, more another day.


6 thoughts on “Meet the New Republican Party…

  1. Copithorne,

    I think you may be a tad misinformed on the demographics of the right/conservative. The latest Gallup Polls (which are probably as accurate as any opinion poll can gets) concludes that the demographics of the Tea Partiers reflects the demograpics of the nation as a whole – that is, no particular demographic is over or under represented. In addition, record numbers of non-white congressional candidtates are registering – for the Republican party.

    Characterizing conservative thought as white and male is a fallacy assisted by simple fact – the majority of the US population is white, so any group that reflects that will also be majority white, making it very easy for someone who believes that conservatism is a white philosophy to see only white.

    There’s actually a lot more diversity out there – everything from the literalist evangelical to the mothers and grandmothers who fear for the future of their children should the US dollar cease to be the world’s reserve currency (something I sincerely hope will never happen) to the people from all ethnic backgrounds who see their employers going under and – rightly or wrongly – believe that the policies of the current administration are at fault.

  2. Mr Adler,

    I agree that this decision and the START treaty are a reasonable start. Mr Guiliani is at best guilty of overreaction (I don’t know under what circumstances the quote above was given).

    Thank you for your answer to my question from another topic. The continuum/slippery slope arguments are awkward, for the reasons you give. If any movement towards the ‘undesirable’ side of a continuum is equated to the worst possible scenario, nothing in between can be considered and the whole thing turns into a mess of people talking past each other.

    Unfortunately, I’ve observed that most people don’t like to think for themselves. They prefer someone to tell them what’s good, bad, right or wrong and follow that prescription without as long as it stays comfortable for them. I’ve been known to take the devil’s advocate position a few times just to try to encourage family or friends to think before they decide, and the results are… not good. I haven’t seen much evidence of independent thought (okay, I don’t have a particularly large social circle, but I would have expected a little more of it than I’ve seen) and the unthinking followers I’ve seen are evenly lined up on either side of the political fence (maybe not an exact 50/50 split, but close enough for jazz).

    The USA is an extraordinary experiment in democracy. It remains exceptional in the idea that we, the people, are able to rule ourselves. That the framers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence weren’t able to see past the limitations of their era (where women were for the most part effectively chattel property, and slavery – racial and non-racial, and judicial – remained an accepted part of life) in no way diminishes the extraordinary leap of spirit necessary to recognize that it was possible to form a nation with no King, and no nobility, and that the laws of that nation should apply equally to every person in it. (I’m not touching the powderkeg of how well they lived up to their ideals – they were human too, and fallible).

    It’s a shame that so few people are willing – or able – to acknowledge both the exceptional nature of the USA and the fact that it’s not perfect. I don’t care if people think I’m sitting on the fence – what I’ve seen and read suggests that it doesn’t matter what the left/right orientation is: tyranny is tyranny and a left-wing tyranny is distinguishable from a right-wing one solely by the labels attached to the elite.

  3. I don’t know why anyone cares about what Guiliani has to say.

    As for McDonnell: He is more than an embarrassment to the Commonwealth of Virginia, at least to those of us who live in the “State of Northern Virginia” that lies within the Commonwealth. When you travel through the truly southern parts of Virginia, you find the confederate flag still flying and in some of the cemeteries no sign of the U.S. flag. Talk about feeling out of my element….

  4. I had a thought about my reaction to our two recent conversations and how they are related.

    I came away from the conversation with the SW crew with my perception confirmed that there is zero intellectual integrity at stake there. The current Republican party is not a philosophy of public policy but a tribal identification centered around the consolations of being a victim and having enemies. And the whole thing is epistemically closed to protect what is essentially a neurotic defense.

    If you came away with any more optimism about that conversation, please share.

    To me, this is not different from the way you represent Palestinians. As though, if they wanted to problem solve, they could but really they prefer to be a victim and have enemies. So, it’s pointless to negotiate. And certainly it is another matter that Palestinians are currently more violent than Republicans.

    And I noticed in the juxtaposition of these two conversations, that my reaction to both of them was informed by a background sense of the demographic issues at stake.

    Palestinian women are having over five children apiece. So deferring a solution leads to a more difficulty problem with Israel risking a progressively weaker position.

    With our Republican interlocuters I see them as in inexorable demographic decline. All of the demographic groups that support them are shrinking — whether it be married white men or white evangelicals or whites with a high school education.

    Rather than realize this and take pains to break out of their demographic box, everything they are doing, all this Tea Party stuff, is locking down their demographic box.

    I can’t tell if they will have some result like taking steroids in 2010. But I am very confident Barack Obama will win reelection and confident that in the medium to long term, Republicans are growing weaker.

    So, there is some difference in a reaction that we can’t give up on negotiating with the Palestinians, but where possible it is fine to just put the lid on the Republican pot and let them stew.

  5. Mr Adler,

    I’m not going to touch the actions of Virginia’s Governor, or of the SCV. They’re in a class of their own and not a good one.

    On the matter of President Obama signing the START treaty, I think there is a range of responses from “Horrors! He’s a raving pacifist! He must be a traitor!” to “There are gaping holes in this. I hope they don’t bite us.” Obviously the former is much more newsworthy.

    The “gaping holes” are mostly covered by this statement from the President (quoted from his website): “The United States is declaring that we will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.”

    Essentially, this is a declaration that the ultimate sanction of nuclear weapons will not be used against a nation that has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is in compliance with that treat, even if that nation attacks the USA with a biological weapon, or sponsors a terrorist strike against the USA. Some of the nations that have declared themselves implacable enemies of the USA are unlikely ever to be signatories, but that still leaves a good-sized loophole that a savvy dictator could conceivably exploit.

    I’d say that’s a legitimate cause for concern, although I hope it’s as remote a possibility as it appears on the surface.

    1. Kate,
      You choose focus on the “non-use” declaration, when I focused mostly on the Start Treaty, so that’s a little bit of maneuver. I don’t agree with the decision to exempt use of biological or chemical weapons from the threat of nuclear response: mass death is mass death, and it was to avoid those kinds of casualties in an invasion of Japan that we, I think, properly justified Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are areas of foreign policy in which I disagree with the Obama administration. This decision and the START Treaty are a long way from the fatuousness of Guiliani’s talk.

      You ask elsewhere

      I do wonder, though, when is the right time to draw a parallel between the historical events around the birth of something like Nazism and current events? Does one take the demonisation of opposing views as a warning sign? (something that’s far too common on both sides of the political spectrum). When does “if this continues the road leads there” become scaremongering?

      The right time is very rarely, especially in the most historic and extraordinary democracy in the world. Nothing that has ever happened in this nation, from either side of the political spectrum, has ever remotely approached such a condition. What people do is characterize an act or a piece of legislation by a very vague term – “loss of freedom.” For some people, any government power over, or regulation of, the individual – taxation, mandatory auto insurance, whatever – is characterizable as a “loss of freedom.” Once you use so vague a term and then almost as an entailment apply it so broadly, you fall into a number of different forms of fallacious reasoning, from the slippery slope to the continuum fallacies, in which people project, or even presently declare, without demonstration, that A necessarily leads to Z, and that, voila, we are just about to reach Z, without ever having identified all the states along the continuum in between and how we already have moved from one to the next. (For goodness sake, most European nations, and others, already have truly government-run health care. We may not think these good health systems, but they are not Nazi states.)

      Good for working people up into states of hysterical concern, not good thinking.

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