WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Center piece

A good friend of the blog who’s a serious political thinker always manages to get under my skin when he writes about the state of our national affairs. Not because he’s all that far from my own political positions but mostly because he yearns for a centrist happy place where we can all get along. And he has the habit of saying that both sides are guilty of the same sins, and I say that’s a false equivalent. Bigly. 

More and more, and especially as the Trump administration sets metaphorical fire to our precious American values, it’s becoming clear that there can never be a workable form of centrism in this country because the Republican party has become radicalized. This week alone, Fox News “analysts” and presumably a majority of rank-and-file Republicans are bending over backward forgiving Donald Trump Jr. for a rookie error that happens to have broken a number of laws. As one writer noted, if he were anyone else, the FBI would have raided his home by now. We all know (don’t we?), that if anyone associated with the Hillary Clinton campaign had met with Russian operatives to collect damaging information on Trump, there’d be calls for immediate arrests if not summary executions.

Both sides are not guilty of the same sins.

The GOP is trotting out a new version of its horrendous health care bill in the Senate this week, a bill that will throw at least 22 million Americans off the rolls of the insured. Analysis of the bill is almost uniformly negative, yet the party is going ahead with it as if it will solve any of the serious problems that afflict our dysfunctional health care system. They’re doing it to achieve a political victory and for no other reason.

Both sides are not guilty of the same sins.

The state of Missouri (run exclusively by Republicans) just passed a law saying that cities there cannot raise the minimum wage. St. Louis had recently lifted it to $10/hour. Incidentally, the GOP governor refused to sign the bill, but it became law anyway because that’s how things work in Missouri. Now all minimum wage workers in the state of my birth make $7-something an hour, and they’ll like it.

Both sides are not guilty of the same sins.

A majority of Republicans now believe that college education is bad for the country. Polls show that the number of them who believe this has grown over the past few years.

Both sides are not guilty of the same sins.

GOP lawmakers in Congress want to loosen gun laws after the Alexandria, Virginia, shootings last month that injured Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). I guess they imagine ballplayers wearing Glocks in shoulder holsters as they run the bases. They think we need more bullets flying in these scenarios, not fewer.

Both sides are not guilty of the same sins.

The following ten bills have been introduced in Congress while we’ve all been focused on how mean Trump was to Mika Brzezinski: terminate the EPA, give tax dollars for private schools, terminate the Department of Education, repeal a wildlife protection rule in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, repeal the Affordable Care Act, defund Planned Parenthood, create national right-to-work regulations, punish sanctuary cities, criminalize abortion, create sanctions against Iran.

Both sides are not guilty of the same sins.

Isn’t it obvious that one political party is attempting to impose a radical agenda on the rest of us? A party, by the way, that did not achieve the presidency with a majority vote and that dominates Congress with a minority of the popular vote thanks to gerrymandering. A party that doesn’t respect the separation of church and state. A party that continues to support a president who is manifestly unfit for office. A party that ignores the law for its own members but hyper-enforces it for others. A party with no moral foundation.

No, both sides of the political spectrum are not the same. If they were, there would be a legitimate left in this country attempting to improve workers’ rights instead of limiting them, to make public education better instead of trying to eliminate it, to cooperate with other nations in fighting climate change instead of mocking them, to take power away from the 1% instead of handing it over to them, to move toward socialized medicine instead of away from it, and to reduce the need for American military presence around the world instead of increasing it. And there’s not. There’s just the Democrats.

I have to remind my friend that yearning for that centrist happy place will never make it so, but calling out the rampant radicalism of the GOP and fighting it might help some. Compromise should mean that they have to move to the left, not that we have to meet them closer to their entrenched position on the extreme right.

As Yeats put it, The center cannot hold.

 

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31 comments on “Center piece

  1. kingmidget
    July 13, 2017

    There are many stories in the naked city. And Dems just as conveniently and frequently ignore and pass off the stories that suggest bad things about their leaders as do the Reeps these days with respect to Trump. There is rampant hypocrisy and ignorance coming from both sides.

    And while I agree that many of the policies of the current Republican leadership are repugnant and wrong-headed, that doesn’t change that Democratic leadership has pushed policies that, while we may agree with them, are viewed as repugnant and wrong-headed by the other side. Both parties are pushing towards the extremes. Yes, maybe the Republicans more so, but both are moving in opposite directions.

    It is not some centrist ideal I am pushing for. It is that the two sides actually start listening to each other again and collaborating and compromising where that is possible. That idea has completely disappeared from our nation’s political discourse and debate. To our detriment.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 13, 2017

      You and I sure do see this through different lenses, amigo. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool leftist, so I guess I represent the extreme on that side, and I can tell you that my wish list is not on anyone’s agenda in American politics today. Even Bernie Sanders is Socialist Lite, and that was fun while it lasted, but on a daily basis I see the Democratic party as a bowl of tepid milquetoast that doesn’t walk the walk – if there were such a thing as walking milquetoast. 😉

      Look at this paragraph from an editorial in today’s Times:

      “The A.C.A. is not perfect, but its problems are fixable. In fact, 71 percent of Americans want Republicans to work with Democrats to improve the law; just 23 percent want lawmakers to repeal and replace it, according to a Kaiser poll. Democrats have said they would be willing to work with Republicans to strengthen the law. But Mr. McConnell and his party have become so blinded by their rage against Obamacare that they are losing sight of what ought to be their goal: safeguarding the health of their constituents.”

      Who’s the intractable party here?

      As I try to imagine a compromise that “improves” the ACA, all I can picture is Rand Paul and Ted Cruz demanding concessions to the right. And that’s the rub in our politics now. The Dems are a centrist party, the Repubs a right-wing party. Compromise can only mean the Dems moving to the right (which they’ve been doing steadily for 30 years now …).

      So just as a thought experiment, what GOP policies are you willing to endorse in the name of compromise? In the name of “getting something done,” what are you prepared to surrender? Civil rights for gays and lesbians? Legal, safe abortion? Economic equality? Rational climate change action?

      • kingmidget
        July 13, 2017

        Of course the Dems are looking to work with Republicans on “fixing” Obamacare. They aren’t in power anywhere at the national level. That’s what minority parties do — please listen to us?!?!?!? Please, oh please, oh please.

        In California, as you know, the Dems are in complete control at every level of State government. Their dominance is even greater than the Reps at the national level. And what do they do with that dominance and absolute power — completely ignore Republicans. Republicans hold no committee chairs in the Legislature (past practice if you look back a few decades was that the minority party got some committee chairs) and pretty much every Republican authored bill is dead on arrival. Who’s the intractable party at the State level? My point isn’t to be argumentative but to show that it isn’t one party or the other, it’s both.

        Yes, we can argue degrees of extremism, and while you believe the Dems have moved to the center over the last 30 years, there are plenty of things the Dems have done in recent years that some moderates and most right-wingers consider to be extreme. It’s not a question of what I believe about those policies, it’s about what a significant chunk of America thinks about those policies.

        I’ll give you an example of where I part ways with the left. Tax policy. While I agree that the tax burden on the wealthy is lower now than it has been historically, the reality is that the tax burden is lower across the board, regardless of economic status. My wife and I have a combined income of just over $180,000. After deductions for mortgage interest, having two kids who are still dependents, and for their college expenses, and a few other deductions, our effective federal tax rate is about 10%, add in state taxes, and payroll taxes and it climbs to about 16%. Given our income level, that’s just kind of ridiculous.

        And when it comes time to fund needed programs with additional taxes, the liberals among us always want to tax the rich. California has a 1% tax on millionaires to fund services for the mentally ill. A much needed funding source for critically needed services. There are other taxes like this — the wealthy pay something the rest of the income-earning population doesn’t.

        Where I part ways with the liberals on all of this is the lack of taxation on the lower economic classes. As far as I’m concerned every working individual in this country should have skin in the game. Even if it’s only $100 per year, it’s something. This is one of the reasons why I will never support free public college educations for all — there comes a point at which a thing is worth paying for, contributing to, where having skin in the game gives an individual a role in the shared responsibility of this country or the benefit being received.

        As far as Republican policies I could compromise on — I’ll give you an example of a Democratic policy that went too far, too fast. Transgender rights and bathrooms. If you think about gay marriage, getting to a final resolution on that issue took years and decades. It was an evolving process, the success of which depended on gathering support. As soon as we were successful with gay marriage, Dems and federal authorities moved immediately to transgender rights and jammed it down the throats of people who weren’t ready for it. The issue isn’t whether the policy was right or wrong, it’s about the appropriate and effective use of power.

        One of Obama’s biggest mistakes was this — when he was elected, he looked at the long game, he believed in slow and steady progress on these issues that matter to us. He was right in that approach. However, in the final years of his Administration he rushed some things and created a backlash among those in this country who go back and forth between Reps and Dems. The reality is, regardless of how divided the debate is, the mushy middle still controls the outcome of Presidential elections.

        Kevin, I’m a lifelong Democrat. I have voted for one Republican in my lifetime and that was in the 80s in one of the first elections I could vote in. I may not be as left as you, but my flag is planted firmly on that side of the debate. Over the last 30 years, what I’ve seen is that each party, when it achieves power at either the state or national level, uses that power in an abusive and hypocritical fashion. I’m not interested in which one does it worse. They both do it. And the nature of the debate, which I think has been driven by the darkest corners of the blogosphere and from both sides, is now about all out war. A no holds barred cage match to the death.

      • Kevin Brennan
        July 13, 2017

        Hey, I’ll take California’s Democratic “trifecta.” Republicans have 25 of them!

        Did I read you right on your tax policy thoughts? You believe you’re not paying enough tax at 16%, right? I don’t think lefties would disagree with you there. But as for the poor, they do pay taxes: payroll taxes, sales tax, gas tax. “From each according to his ability …”

        I wish you hadn’t cited transgender bathroom rights as the thing you’d be willing to compromise on. You have no skin in that game, so it feels like an easy concession. If we can throw a minority like that under the bus so easily in the name of political appeasement, what minority is safe from discrimination? Same with selling wedding cakes to gay people. It might not be effective use of political power to ensure civil rights like these, but it’s morally appropriate. And, of course, it all gets ironed out in the courts eventually, usually in favor of the minority.

        We don’t have to agree issue by issue, but, speaking for myself, I stay out of the darkest corners of the blogosphere in the hopes of maintaining a sense of decorum. At least we’re having a reasonable discussion here, eh?

        PS – Thanks for your openness. Refreshing.

      • kingmidget
        July 13, 2017

        And I wish you hadn’t used the wedding cake example. 😉 Whether or not somebody gets a cake for their wedding is not a basic or fundamental human right and I’m really not sure why the government should intervene there. Yes, if it’s about housing or a job or similar types of things, but a cake? Seriously? Let the free market decide that one.

        More later. As for the openness of my responses, these are the types of conversations I crave but can’t seem to find anywhere. I believe you and I have mutual respect for each other and accept that we can have differences and still be friends. 🤡

      • Kevin Brennan
        July 13, 2017

        Amen to that last comment. 😇

        As for the cake issue, as soon as there’s an atheist baker who refuses to serve straight Christians, it’ll get resolved in a hurry.

      • kingmidget
        July 13, 2017

        I’m an atheist, I bake. Do you have financing available?

      • Kevin Brennan
        July 13, 2017

        Perfect! (We also do restaurant bookkeeping, so we’ll get you set up too.) 😉

      • kingmidget
        July 13, 2017

        Yes, I believe that I am not paying enough in taxes given my income.

        Regarding transgender rights … I’ll admit that I’m somewhat ambivalent myself about the whole bathroom issue. And if they haven’t convinced me on that yet, forcing it down the throats of the red staters!!!! I think you know me well enough to know that I think all people should be treated fairly and equally and that I crave the day when we no longer focus on differences. But the move on transgender rights was too far too quickly. It’s a thing that needed more time to develop. It’s not about being willing to compromise on the issue, it’s about the right way to make social change. Dems and the Obama Administration lost sight of that in the final days of his time as President.

        P.S. — one of the things I’ve always wanted to do is start a blog that has several different hosts, each from a different place on the political spectrum, but who can engage in respectful conversations on the issues of the day. If I ever find the conservative that endeavor, are you interested in being the whacky leftist???

      • Kevin Brennan
        July 13, 2017

        I can see getting in on a blog like that, provided the comments are moderated. I spent a little time recently at a site where it was no holds barred, and the trolls basically ran every discussion. Not pretty. 😐

      • kingmidget
        July 14, 2017

        I agree. It’s something I’d really like to figure out. The vast majority of political blogs are one side or the other. They become echo chambers. I’d like to show that people from different perspectives can discuss things civilly and identify ways to move forward. Just need to find that conservative voice now. And I totally agree about moderating the comments.

  2. LindaGHill
    July 13, 2017

    Scary times, even for those of us up here in Canada. It’s naive to think what’s going on south of the border will not affect us.
    On the subject of compromise, Trump will never do so: it’s not in his nature. Only he is right and he will never admit to being wrong, nor will he ever apologize. I’ve been friends with a psychopathic narcissist. I know one when I see one, and I know them well. It will be up to everyone else in the party to stand up to him. I hope they do before it’s too late.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 13, 2017

      That’s what bothers me the most, that other Republicans haven’t grown the testes to stand up to this guy. I suppose they’ll have to at some point, but only when it becomes politically expedient.

      I love Canada. 😉

      • LindaGHill
        July 13, 2017

        Strangely enough I’ve heard that from a lot more Americans since last November than I’ve ever heard it before. Collectively.
        I worry that by the time the Republicans are due to be booted from office, there will be no democracy to do so. :/

  3. jilldennison
    July 13, 2017

    This is an excellent post, Kevin! I was not aware of some of the things you mention, such as the minimum wage issue in Missouri, so I learned a few new things, and I fully concur … while the Democrats are not without fault, both sides are NOT guilty of the same sins … the same CRIMES. Government has a purpose, to maintain a civil society and protect the rights, the best interest, of the people. This republican-led government is crushing the rights of the people under its boot heel in order to preserve and enhance the bank accounts of the wealthy 1%. No, democrats are not perfect, but at least they remember the people … the republicans have forgotten us.

    Would you mind if I re-blog this post? I think it has much value. Thanks!

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 13, 2017

      Hey, Jill! A reblog would be awesome. Thanks a lot!

      It’s so disturbing, the direction things are going. Not that the Dems aren’t in the pocket of Wall Street as well. Goldman Sachs as puppeteer. Ugh.

      • jilldennison
        July 13, 2017

        Done! Thank you so much … I have been trying to address this for some time, but just never quite found the right words.

      • Kevin Brennan
        July 13, 2017

        Thanks, Jill! And I love your readers already. They’re flocking over here in droves. 😉

      • jilldennison
        July 13, 2017

        I love them too! I have a great group of friends in the blogging community! Glad to hear they are coming to your site … hope a few will decide to follow. I try, when I can, to help fellow-bloggers who I think have something important to say, as you so obviously do.

      • jilldennison
        July 13, 2017

        By the way … I always ask permission to re-blog the first time I re-blog an author’s post, but after that, I generally assume implied permission. Is that okay with you?

      • Kevin Brennan
        July 13, 2017

        Absolutely! Same on your part? 😉

      • jilldennison
        July 13, 2017

        Absolutely! I always welcome and appreciate re-blogs! 🙂

  4. jilldennison
    July 13, 2017

    Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    I recently began following a new blog by Kevin Brennan, who has written some excellent posts. Today’s post, however, stood out and I would like to share it with you. We have all heard from our republican friends that “the democrats are guilty of the same sins” as the republicans. I tire of hearing this, I know it is not true, though democrats are no angels either, but I have not, as yet, come up with a valid rebuttal. Kevin has done so in a wonderfully concise manner and I hope you will take a few minutes to read this excellent post. Thank you, Kevin, for both the post and your permission to re-blog!

  5. Keith
    July 13, 2017

    Kevin, greetings. I am here at the direction of Jill’s reblog. Well said. I am one of those centrists as a fiscally conservative and socially progressive person. I am an Independent, but have been a member of both parties.

    The parties are not equal in my view. I left the GOP in 2006 because of their stance on climate change and unhealthy embrace of guns and evangelicals. But, another key reason is a tendency to make things up, relying heavily on their biased news sources such as Fox who Polifacts recently gave a generous 40% accuracy rating when measuring half truths to full truths.

    As a result, the median position in our country has been moved to the right. Even Democrats concede talking points that are not true, but the GOP made it up.

    Two of my favorites are the “failed stimulus” which did not fail per six econometric firms. Dems believe it as well, as the GOP had talking points distributed to use the word “failed.”
    The other is the ACA. It is imperfect and needs improvement, but it is not in a death spiral. Plus, the GOP is not letting on that the Senate defunded payments to insurers for taking on adverse risk. This caused higher premiums to be even higher, hurting Americans to win political points.

    Yes, Dems are not perfect, but the storytelling is more heavily weighted to the GOP.

    Keith

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 13, 2017

      Hi Keith, thanks for popping over and commenting!

      I agree completely. It’s gotten so that middle-of-the-road, vanilla Democratic positions are now considered the left extreme, which means that any deal made with Republicans on any issue will be well right of center. Your examples of “fake facts” are apt too.

      When one party has a strategy of winning at any cost, including cheating, I just don’t see how there can be any reasonable compromise.

      • Keith
        July 13, 2017

        Agreed. It used to be politicians ran on rhetoric and governed off facts. Now, with the biased and shallow news sources, they govern off rhetoric. It is hard to make good decisions that way.

  6. patriciaruthsusan
    July 14, 2017

    Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    Think about all this.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 14, 2017

      Thanks so much for reblogging, Patricia! Much appreciated. 😉

  7. jilldennison
    July 14, 2017

    Kevin … one of my readers, Gronda Morin, left a comment to this post on my page, and I am copying it here so you will see it:

    Dear Jill,
    Thanks for this post. I have been saying that the republican party has been catering too much to the Alt-right who are burdened with the sins of racism, misogyny,anti antisemitism, Islamophobia,, Homophobia, etc. and they are held captive by big monies from billionaires who channel their monies to a lot of super-pacs, conservative think tanks, conservative print media, organizations like Americans for prosperity, Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund), American Family Association and a host of others.

    Hugs, Gronda

  8. Ilona Elliott
    July 18, 2017

    Well you certainly have hit a nerve with this Kevin. You might enjoy this article about James M. Buchanan’s influence on the party, if you haven’t read it already: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/the-architect-of…/528672

    I agree that the GOP has become completely dogmatic and partisan. The fact that DT was elected tells us so. Perhaps people are taken in by the patriotic themes and noises and monikers (American Legislative Exchange Council, which is just a screen name for a bunch of billionaires writing legislation for the states, as witnessed in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin). It’s pretty discouraging and exhausting for progressives to ponder and while I agree the Democratic party is not so partisan, I think they have done a lousy job of combating the right’s extremism, which they could do quite handily if they consistently pointed out the real consequences people will feel if the Right agenda becomes a reality. They need to really hammer away at how the progressive agenda has made life better, just like Reagan did when he was seeking re-election. But maybe people won’t listen still– until their own SSI, Health Insurance, access to drinkable water, and personal freedoms are gone gone gone.

    By the way, I love reading the frank and respectful discussion between you and King Midget. I have tried to do the same on my FB page over the last couple of years, and while I had a couple of conservative friends who were open to discussion, most just want to yell at the other side, which I won’t do.

    Thanks for posting this and opening up the conversation.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 18, 2017

      Fascinating article. Thanks for recommending. After reading Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” last year, I have a sneaky feeling the bad guys have already won the war, but we don’t know it yet. Pretty scary stuff.

      Politics is so much about personal identity these days that it’s hard to imagine Trump voters giving up on him. And each time a Democrat raises his/her voice a little, people start screaming, “You’re not listening to my PAIN!” Feels like the chasm will never be bridged.

      KingMidget and I have known each other a few years now, so we’ve learned how to get our points across without getting nasty. It’s nice. I can’t handle the hostility in most forums, so I don’t know many conservatives who would play by reasonable rules.

      PS — I loved your tribute to Dori.

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