Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman
What is happening now in the GOP? To a former Republican (RINO) like yours truly who is now an independent it’s tragic to see the once venerable Republican Party morphing into the embodiment of America’s talk radio and reality show political cultures.
Are the Republicans poised to seriously lead the country or lead the country and themselves off financial and polarization cliffs? These are not cutesy questions. Serious problems call for serious times and serious candidates. And just what is the prevailing Republican imagery now?
The surging-in-the-GOP-polls Donald Trump is now playing the racism card by implying that Barack Obama was in college due to affirmative action by claiming in an interview with the AP that Obama was really a “terrible student” — and demanding Obama prove he was a good one. (Harvard Law Review is known for picking slackers?) This dandruff of American politics is also exchanging barbs with Robert DeNiro, giving DeNiro a taste of Trump’s own verbal “Raging Bull.” He’s blasting Jerry Seinfeld. Is Spongebob Squarepants next?
Meanwhile, a new USA Today/Gallup poll finds 50% of Americans, including 31% of Republicans, feel Trump would make a “poor” or “terrible” president.
A new CNN investigation finds that Obama was definitely born in Hawaii. Will Trump’s hired detectives – perhaps the same ones OJ Simpson hired to look for Nicole’s real killer – soon prove that Obama was born in Kenya? (And the Easter bunny REALLY delivered candy eggs to you last weekend.)
Apparently this imagery is also picked up by voters who in polls are notably unimpressed by Republican choices even as Obama’s polls numbers plunge south.
When Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour announced he wouldn’t run the most telling explanation came from Washington Post columnist Dan Balz: “But friends of Barbour, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share insight about his decision, said he had come to the conclusion that Republicans can win only if they are totally focused on serious issues and not distracted by some of the side issues, such as Obama’s birthplace, that have arisen in the early going.”
Indeed, in a birther case now pending in court, a birther is even questioning Obama’s Social Security number. Demonization is thorough these days.
Once upon a time, key Republican politicians and national media types focused on the nation’s stewardship and solving serious problems. Republicans such as Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and William F. Buckley are now supplanted by Trump, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. Ideas, solutions and policy have been trumped (literally) by insults, demonization and teenage-like attitude and snark.
Nowhere is this more clear – and dangerous – than in the debt ceiling issue.
Some conservatives and talk show hosts seem to be saying: “What’s the big deal? It won’t be so bad if it’s not raised. It might be good for the country!” Experts including thoughtful Republicans warn that even approaching to where it looks as if it might not be raised could mean international financial catastrophe and a devastating blow to the ailing U.S. economy.
These 21st century Republicans seem determined to play a game of chicken that could end with the chicken being fried.
Meanwhile, the extent to which trash talk is fashionable could be seen in Trump’s statement to Newsmax.com in response to Karl Rove calling Trump a “joke” candidate and urging him stop the birther talk. Trump called Rove a “loser” and said Rove should “retire” and make way for “new blood.” Warning: the new blood Trump is offering is contaminated.
Will the GOP move as Barbour hopes away from rhetoric and from being self-defined by polemics to serious issues?
And if the U.S. debt ceiling isn’t raised will those Americans who have big talk radio show paychecks or enjoy health care courtesy of Congress suffer they fly in their private Gulfstream jets or inhale bean soup in the Congress’ dining room suffer as much as financial markets and average Americans will?
On the first: stay tuned.
On the second? In your dreams.
Copyright 2011 Joe Gandelman
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event atwww.mavenproductions.com.
Follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter @joegandelman.