Sunday, May 17, 2009

Michael Steele and Why We Need the GOP Back

(NB: This is basically a cut and paste from my Facebook, but I think it's important and I haven't babbled on about politics for a while, so here it is.)

Justin linked me to this article about Michael Steele. Read it for yourself, it's short.

First of all - and forEVER - this is another problem of language. Having empathy does not mean "doing what everyone says, without contemplation." It has to do with understanding others' emotions and opinions, and I think any Supreme Court Justice should have that quality. There is precisely one solid and inarguable fact about the US Constitution - that it was created to govern and serve the citizens of the United States. The rest of it has been the source of endless debate since its adoption. To marry the Constitution with its primary purpose, a Supreme Court Justice need to be a wicked smart individual with a true sense of empathy. Steele either doesn't understand or is ignoring the fact that empathy means something completely different from what he's attacking.

Secondly, he's addressing the NRA. The NRA's wackier membership is maintained by fearmongering in the direction of the
Second Amendment, which I think is dishonest at best. For the NRA, the left is always trying to take their guns and in Obama's case, he apparently sat on a board that tried to lobby for a pretty outrageous gun ban. Now, regardless of this board membership - which frankly I discount because I don't know what his role was on the board nor how the corporation was structured - he's had a pretty middle of the road record on gun rights. A very small percentage of liberals actually want guns, period, banned...most people just want to make sure they're sold to people who can handle them and use them wisely. Steele is appealing to the typical, boring Lefty Gun Hate boogeyman that politicians have been waving in the NRA folks' faces for years.

Third, that memo about right wing extremists was some bush league, Bush-style horseshit and I don't really mind people saying it. That was a clear fuckup.

Fourth, that being said, I don't know what the hell restricting gun ownership has to do with
bringing Guantanamo detainees to US prisons or where the irony is. Both of these endeavors involve a noninterpretivist reading of the Constitution.

Finally, and I cannot say enough about this...Steele is an idiot. The GOP has fallen so far from the Republican revolution of '92, it's almost sad to see. They have allowed their party to be ... Read Moreinvaded by ideological zealots completely disconnected from prevailing public opinion and sometimes from reality. What the Republicans have done SO WELL in the recent past is to choose a select few opinions that You, A Republican must toe the line one, producing a unified front in which they could consolidate power. I think that the GOP realized that their previous strength had become a liability once it failed to adapt to the shifting political landscape, and they kind of freaked out. They then lunged towards a sort of pop neo-conism, which lead them to put people like Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber at the fore of their public image, when their greatest assets ARE people like John McCain, who are able to hold fast to their beliefs while still compromising and working effectively where necessary. It's a little depressing...the GOP's willingness to let Rush Limbaugh be any kind of mouthpiece for them is just ridiculous. Yeah, he's got a huge audience, but he's simply an angry, ... Read Morevitriolic jerk with a huge hypocrisy problem. That's not the way to get back in black. It's this kind of panicky rush to regain footing in the new, modern politics that has lead to the appointment of Steele, and it's a huge mistake. Particularly when contrasted with Obama, he comes off as a vaguely goofy, inept Johnny-Come-Lately who's trying to be hipper than he is.

I believe part of what keeps our politics vibrant - and what will save it from the hot mess that it currently is - is the two party system, so I do hope the GOP can get back to basics and fix these weaknesses, but Steele is not the man to do it.


  1. You'll forgive the GOP, I'm sure, for choosing to not take strategy advice from a Massachusetts liberal.
    Empathy as the defining characteristic of a judge is bullshit since the bench is the last place emotion should rule. If the judiciary makes decisions based on anything other than the law as written it is usurping power. If a law has bad or unfair results, so be it. It is for the legislature, not the courts, to make policy decisions. Decisions based on emotion are what get us rule of man and ultimately the destruction of individual rights.
    Judging a group based on its "wackier membership" is frankly beneath you. I know you wouldn't appreciate my aligning you with the likes of DiFi (and since she's actually won elections, how fringe can she really be?) The fact is that like it or not the NRA is one of the country's largest grassroots organizations; a detailed look at the membership would reveal a relatively wide diversity of opinion.
    You say you discount Obama's tenure with the Joyce Foundation because you don't know what his role was? F'real? Google is your friend. Argumentum ad assidam is beneath you too.

    This is not your best work.

  2. I am not saying that the GOP has to follow my advice; I'm saying they had a really excellent strategy and have fallen a bit away from it, and I believe that is to their detriment. If you truly believe that the ascendancy of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Joe the Plumber as representatives of the Modern GOP are the way to improving the strength of the party, then we just aren't going to agree here. I'm saying the GOP should return to their core principles and there's no way that those values are exemplified by that crew.

    If you can point to the place where I said that empathy should be the defining characteristic of a judge, we can talk about it. Steele is acting like empathy is a totally ridiculous thing for a judge to ever think about the possibility of having. I disagree. I think the law should be read with intelligence and consideration, but the fact remains that there are now and will be some cases where the original Constitution's text is not directly or clearly applicable. We are not the same society that we were when the Constitution was written, and there will inevitably be some disconnect. To bridge that gap, yeah, I think whoever is judging it should have some empathy that will allow him or her to figure out where to go. As you know, we have a fundamental disagreement on this.

    As you may note, I said "The NRA's wackier membership is maintained by fearmongering in the direction of the Second Amendment, which I think is dishonest at best," NOT that all of the NRA's membership is wacky NOR that the NRA itself is wacky. As I believe we have discussed before, *I* am a member of the NRA and I support their programs, but that doesn't mean I have to believe that every initiative towards making sure known criminals and the mentally unstable can't buy M-16s is a secret evil plan to melt down every American firearm.

    AS I HAVE SAID BEFORE, the reason I discount Obama's Joyce Foundation participation is not only because of his completely middle-of-the-road voting record on guns while in public office, but also because I personally have sat on boards and had my opinions have very little effect on the ultimate decisions of the board. I don't know enough about the Joyce Foundation's structure - i.e. can the CEO override board decisions? Does the board direct policy? Is the board an advisory body or a governing one? - to be convinced that Obama wants to rid the country of guns, nor of his driving influence on this particular issue. I currently sit on two corporate boards - on one, the board is a policy driver and directs the action of the company, and on the other, the board fills an advisory position and has little say on the eventual actions of the company as a whole. Not every company functions the same.

    You're hacked off at me for discounting his membership on that board because I feel something else makes it less important, but you're doing the same thing by ignoring his voting record for the sake of clinging to his Joyce Foundation membership. I know you don't like his voting record on guns because you feel we should be able to have what the fuck ever we want whenever we want, no matter what. Regardless of your personal stance on guns, you simply cannot call Obama a radical on gun policy. He's right in the middle of the road.

    The reasons that you and I disagree so frequently are a.) that we simply fundamentally disagree on some basic issues, but more importantly, b.) you present every disagreement in such an unbelievably douchey tone that it makes discussion impossible. You accuse me of "argumentum ad assidam" for discounting Obama's Joyce Foundation involvement but again - you're doing the same thing by discounting his voting record. But most of all, and this is why I so rarely have the patience for talking politics with you, you present everything in this "I Will Educate You and Save You From Your Liberal Ideals" bullshit tone. I don't even know if you know you're doing it, but it's completely obnoxious and destroys any desire I have to discuss politics with you.

    I see this everywhere now, from BOTH sides of the aisle - acting like the other side of an argument is saying what they are because they just haven't LEARNED enough and if they just KNEW whatever thing, they would see their way to the right side of the debate. That's a pathetically myopic view and it's crippling American politics. Maybe you don't feel like you're doing it, but every time you comment on anything I have to say about politics, you do so in a tone that suggest you think I'm some kind of ignorant moron. I think what I do because I have worked in politics, I have worked in the private sector, and I have made politics my principle concern in life. Don't make the mistake of thinking I'm pissed because you disagreed with me. I'm pissed because you are so goddamn rude about it, and moreover, you happen to have read my entire post this time, but that is not always the case, like the time you decided to comment that it was better to not vote if you weren't informed on a post that included a video clip that encouraged people to do their homework, get informed and vote. You just read the subject line - "If You Don't Vote, You're a Moron" - and shot off at the mouth from there. Maybe you don't think I'm an idiot, but you sure act like you do, and that doesn't exactly make me want to engage in discussion with you.

  3. I was in the middle of a long response when my browser ate it. I'll just offer the two points and perhaps we can talk off line.

    1) If you interpreted what I said as an insult, it was not the intention. Please look again; I know you and what I said is that your post was substandard. (C agreed with me there, FWIW.) I also think it's a little unfair for you to complain about my style when I know for a fact that you often indulge in snark and meanness.

    2) Obama's views on guns are well-recorded - in part by the NRA itself. He doesn't have to support an outright ban; he can (and does) support measures that amount to one by putting enough roadblocks into the process. He's also on record as supporting a renewal of the AWB. That he has not pursued it yet is only an indication of the tactical reality. It means nothing with respect to his actual views.

  4. Oy. Leave me out of it, mkay?