Monday, October 7, 2013

Secessionists a Growing Concern

Paul Krugman is best when it comes to painting a picture of the present-day Republican Party. This is from his column this morning, "The Boehner Bunglers," which is so on the mark it needs to be quoted at length:
It has been obvious for years that the modern Republican Party is no longer capable of thinking seriously about policy. Whether the issue is climate change or inflation, party members believe what they want to believe, and any contrary evidence is dismissed as a hoax, the product of vast liberal conspiracies
For a while the party was able to compartmentalize, to remain savvy and realistic about politics even as it rejected objectivity everywhere else. But this wasn’t sustainable. Sooner or later, the party’s attitude toward policy — we listen only to people who tell us what we want to hear, and attack the bearers of uncomfortable news — was bound to infect political strategy, too. 
Remember what happened in the 2012 election — not the fact that Mitt Romney lost, but the fact that all the political experts around him apparently had no inkling that he was likely to lose. Polls overwhelmingly pointed to an Obama victory, but Republican analysts denounced the polls as “skewed” and attacked the media outlets reporting those polls for their alleged liberal bias. These days Karl Rove is pleading with House Republicans to be reasonable and accept the results of the 2012 election. But on election night he tried to bully Fox News into retracting its correct call of Ohio — and hence, in effect, the election — for Mr. Obama. 
Unfortunately for all of us, even the shock of electoral defeat wasn’t enough to burst the G.O.P. bubble; it’s still a party dominated by wishful thinking, and all but impervious to inconvenient facts. And now that party’s leaders have bungled themselves into a corner. 
Everybody not inside the bubble realizes that Mr. Obama can’t and won’t negotiate under the threat that the House will blow up the economy if he doesn’t — any concession at all would legitimize extortion as a routine part of politics. Yet Republican leaders are just beginning to get a clue, and so far clearly have no idea how to back down. Meanwhile, the government is shut, and a debt crisis looms. Incompetence can be a terrible thing.
This is the critical week. Krugman is correct. Obama cannot negotiate, doing so would be to give up on democracy and surrender to a minority, and a belligerent and prideful one at that. Obama might indeed end up giving in, proving once and for all that Counterpunch is correct and that he is a Manchurian Candidate, but it is unlikely. Obama is after all the head of a gigantic political organization. For him to cave in not only guarantees that the GOP will maintain its strategy of governing by precipitating crises, by triggering shutdowns and defaults, but also that the Democrats will suffer a second body blow to their base in the span of a month (the first being Obama's call for war against Syria).

Boehner appeared on ABC yesterday and vowed that he indeed will let the government default, contrary to a report last week, if Obama does not negotiate.

If one thing has been accomplished during the Republican shutdown of government it is a stiffening of Democratic resolve in the Senate and White House that the Republican rump has to be dealt with decisively. There is no going forward on the path we've been on since the Tea Party took the House in the 2010 election cycle.

Republicans can longer win national elections. The electorate -- a white suburban majority -- that once chose Reagan and Bush no longer exists. Today it can only be found in rural counties and states of the Deep South and Mountain West. Once Tea Party rump efforts to govern the nation by means of blackmail flame out, we'll be left with a different sort of crisis with which to deal -- secession. It's already a hot topic in the comic books. Now it's appearing in the New York Times. Jack Healy has a story, "Fed Up on the Prairie, and Voting on Seceding From Colorado," about a vote in several northern rural Colorado counties to secede from the state:
They bristle at gun control laws and marijuana shops, green energy policies and steps to embrace gay marriage and illegal immigrants. 
“I would’ve never believed the state of Colorado would become this liberal,” said Lyle Miller, who owns the convenience store. “I’m afraid for my grandchildren. I want them to have the same heritage I had.” 
So in November, this rural county and 10 others will hold a quixotic vote on whether to secede from Colorado and work to form their own state, one that would cherish the farm towns and conservative ideals that people here say have been lost in Denver’s glassy downtown lofts or Aspen’s million-dollar ski condos. It would be called New Colorado, or maybe North Colorado — a prairie bulwark against the demographic changes and urbanization that are reshaping politics and life across this and other Western states.
 As population continues to gravitate to metropolitan areas and Tea Party efforts to control the federal government fail expect more secessionist movements to spring up.

Anne Barnard interviews deputy prime minister of Syria Qadri Jamil. Jamil is a member of the People's Will, a communist party. Not a Baathist, the deputy prime minister points to Bashar al-Assad's embrace of neoliberal policies as the root cause of the rebellion:
Mr. Jamil said his party had long believed that the economic liberalization policies that were the centerpiece of Mr. Assad’s early rule would “lead to a social explosion.” 
He said those measures left 44 percent of Syrians in poverty, citing United Nations figures from 2009, and raised unemployment levels to 20 percent. The policies, he said, destroyed local producers in places like the Damascus suburbs of Zamalka, Harasta and Douma — now centers of opposition — while fueling the growth of the new rich, whom he said were now influential not only in the government but also in the exile opposition. 
“All those towns whose names we are hearing now are similar to Detroit in America,” he said. “So how one cannot expect to have resentments in their circles? But nobody saw that in due time.”

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