The Continuing Stupidity of the Government Shutdown
Last night, a week after the start of the aggressively futile, pointless governmentshutdown. Barack Obama addressed the American people. He explained—he loves explaining things—that he and the Congressional Democrats were perfectly willing to sit down and talk about everything they disagree over, but first Republicans were going to have to agree to end the shutdown and also to raise the debt ceiling, which is arguablymore important for the economy. This is how Obama phrased his offer to negotiate:
“I am happy to talk with [Speaker of the House John Boehner] and other Republicans about anything… [but] having such a conversation, talks, negotiations shouldn’t require hanging the threats of a government shutdown or economic chaos over the heads of the American people.”
That might sound reasonable if you’re on Team Democrat, but conservative media outlets like the Daily Callerheard something different:
“President Barack Obama tried Tuesday to sway the public’s jaundiced view of the budget crisis with a mishmash of economic threats, campaign-style attacks on Republicans’ repeated offers of budget talks and numerous promises to reject any compromise […] Obama slammed the GOP as deadbeats and extremists, as kidnappers, as unserious and insincere […] The stream of invective and contempt reassures his supporters and motivates them to turn out in the 2014 election, but boosts the GOP’s long-standing distrust of the president’s willingness or political ability to negotiate.”
That underscores the absurd stupidity of the situation Republicans and Democrats are in—it’s hard to have a reasonable discussion when you occupy entirely separate universes. The two sides don’t even agree on who is losing the most from the shutdown. In the world of hard-right commenters like Erick Erikson, “Republicans are winning the shutdown fight, and Democrats know it,” while the Democrats can look at the polls and conclude that voters actually blame the GOP more than anyone else for the shutdown.
Above: Republican senator Ted Cruz speaking to a conference of social conservatives. When this guy is considered a leading figure in your party, you’re a long way from libertarianism. Photo via Flickr user Gage Skidmore
If you’re bored with the political news this summer—it’s not an election year and Congress is in recess after doing diddly squat for six months—you can always read about how the United States is having a “libertarian moment.” The idea is that after decades of being bandied about by eccentric middle-aged white men and collegiate stoners who made zines and unreadable websites, libertarian principles are finally entering the mainstream.
Most articles on the subject first bring up Rand Paul—son of Ron, hater of drones and the NSA, would-be friend of Silicon Valley’s money, painfully awkward ambassador of the white race, and the most prominent libertarian-ish politician in the country. They then go on to mention that Paul’s antigovernment views and relatively liberal opinions on social issues make him a model for how Republicans can attract the young voters who have largely abandoned the party. (VICE itself took this tack last year.) The “libertarian moment” discussions will also invariably feature polls that show a majority of Americans favor legalizing weed and gay marriage, both issues that libertarians have been talking about for years. (Name something, and libertarians will be in favor of legalizing it.) The final ingredient in the libertarian article recipe is the Tea Party’s influence in Congress. When the Kansas City Starwrote about this, the paper referred to senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and representative Tim Huelskamp (along with Paul, of course) as “libertarian Republicans” and noted their opposition to NSA wiretapping and Obamacare. If you’re keeping score at home, the equation generally works like this:
Young People Hold Antigovernment Views +
Rand Paul! +
The Tea Party’s Influence (a.k.a. Stranglehold) on Congress +
Americans Tolerating Weed and Gay People =
A Strain/Rising tide/Explosion/Pick Your Metaphor of Libertarianism in America
The thing is, I’m not sure this math holds up in the real world. To start at the bottom of the equation, it’s true that America is a far more tolerant place for gay people who want to celebrate their legal marriage by lighting up a fat blunt. But though those causes have libertarian support behind them, the pro-weed and antihomophobia movements have been fueled by liberals; it’s Democrats, not right-wingers, who have advocated for gay rights and tried to push marijuana legislation at the federal level. And many libertarians favor decriminalizing all drugs in the name of individual liberty, which is several steps further than most pot activists are willing to go.
If Republicans Want Young Voters, Maybe They Should Just Stop Being Bigots
The Republicans want me to vote for them. The GOP hasn’t talked to me yet personally, but a couple weeks ago they released a long report all about their well-documented failure to attract young people to their “brand” (Obama had a 5 million–voter edge among Americans under 30) and possible ways to solve that problem. I’m likely one of the voters they want to persuade—I’m young, I don’t particularly like the Democrats, and I didn’t vote for Obama last year. I agree to some extent with a lot of stuff Republicans say they’re in favor of, like limited government, letting state and local governments make their own laws, and a simpler tax system. If a Republican candidate for president was, say, opposed to the war on drugs and government surveillance programs, and in favor of closing prisons, I wouldn’t dismiss him out of hand, as I think a bunch of my liberal friends would.
The report documenting what the GOP can do to attract young voters, titled “Grand Old Party of a Brand New Generation,” lists several ways that Republicans can reach out to voters. “Capture the brand attributes of intelligence, hard work, and responsibility” is one, “Focus on the economic issues that affect young people today,” is another; there’s also a lot in there about how the party needs to be better with technology and social media. Then there’s this:
“On the ‘open-minded’ issue, yes, we will face serious difficulty so long as the issue of gay marriage remains on the table. In the short term, the party ought to promote the diversity of thought within its ranks and make clear that we welcome healthy debate on the policy topic at hand. We should also strongly oppose the use of anti-gay rhetoric.”
We Interviewed Rand Paul… He’s Not Quite as Annoying as His Dad
It’s a hot Sunday morning in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Rand Paul is telling evangelical Christians that we need a spiritual revival in America.
"We are sick. Our country is sick. There’s a moral depravity that has spread throughout our country," he says. "But the answer is not necessarily in political leaders. I think we want good, moral, Christian leaders, but that isn’t necessarily where the answer is. The answer is in your church, in your spiritual leaders and frankly in the whole country erupting into a revival."
The Kentucky Republican Senator has spent a week on the road in California, visiting tech executives at Facebook, Google, and eBay and kissing the proverbial GOP ring at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. His road trip ends here, at Godspeak Calvary Chapel in a suburban business park just off the 101 Freeway.
"I think we know that salvation isn’t going to come from our political leaders, sometimes we think so much is going to happen or we expect or want so much that we misplace our faith where we want to affect change," Paul closes, getting a standing ovation from the congregation.
Paul’s speech may seem like standard fare for a Republican politician who is, by his own admission, thinking about running for president. But his message—that moral values can’t be mandated by the government—underscores the fine line Paul has to walk as he tries to appeal to the Republican Party base while broadening his appeal among other voters, including libertarian-minded young people who tend to be put off by the GOP’s proclivity for bible-thumping and personhood amendments.
Paul’s California adventure was a first step toward achieving that goal. The trip—which included meetings with Republican intelligentsia at Stanford, a fundraiser with the Frederick Douglas Foundation, a multicultural Christian conservative “ministry,” and private meetings with deep-pocketed tech donors—sketched out the basic roadmap of the winning coalition that Paul is trying to unite.
But Paul is not a natural fit for California—his comments on the Civil Rights Act are a particularly thorny issue—and the question remains whether he can actually unite the far corners of the Republican Party in time for 2016.
Republicans Don’t Have a Ton of Empathy for Strangers
Something inevitable happened. The Senate voted down that bipartisan plan to expand background checks for guns. And, if you take the action-packed headline of the NY Daily News as any indication, Obama is so “furious” about it that he is publicly “slamming” the Senate. Read further: Joe Biden is “on the brink of tears.” This is some dramatic stuff!
This bill was conceived in response to the mass shooting of twenty children in Newtown, Connecticut. Obama of all people should understand that even 20,000 dead children wouldn’t make a difference to the hard-liners. That is, not unless it were their 20,000 kids. Put another way, gun control in America isn’t happening unless a) Republicans learn to spawn thousands of young at a time, like fish, and b) all their Fishpublican-spawn babies are killed with guns. These conditions are both necessary and sufficient.
I’m not saying that Republicans are monsters. I’m not even saying they don’t care about other people’s kids. They probably don’t, but that’s beside the point. The point is, right-wingers of all stripes, from the feisty libertarian to the noble Santorumite, are incapable of learning from the experiences of others. They just can’t help it. Need some examples? Right this way, friends.
“God hates fa—whoa, never mind”
Last month, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) announced his support of equal marriage rights. Portman said in a statement, and I’m paraphrasing here, that grown-ups who are in love should be allowed to do what they want. He sounds like a pretty chill guy, right? Let’s Google him and have a look at his stellar record on LGBT rights, then. OK, now that we’ve finished doing that, let’s brush the rage-vomit off our keyboards and try to make sense of it all.
In 2011, Portman went on an antigay tirade during his commencement address at the University of Michigan law school. Instead of reading Dr. Seuss and telling those kids to wear sunscreen, this guy boldly subverted audience expectations by ranting about homosexuality for no clear reason. About a hundred law grads walked out on their own graduation ceremony in protest.
So, why the change of heart? Naturally, it’s because Portman learned his son is gay. Portman just wants his kid to have a good life, you see. That’s great and all, very touching, but don’t forget: back in Portman’s salad days of homophobia, he knew about people like his son. He just didn’t give a shit about them.
"This might be a good time for Republicans to redouble their commitment to the reality-based community." - David Brooks, NY Times, 11/7/12
Greetings! In light of this week’s election, your local GOP committee is sending out this quiz to gauge our party’s commitment to reality. As a registered Republican, your input is crucial to determining future party direction. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers!
A. THE LATINO VOTE…
1: Is something we’ll need to earn in the next election cycle.
2: Is a fad.
3: Wouldn’t be an issue if Eisenhower had built that wall.
4: Is an anagram for “Vain Tootle.” Case closed.
B. REPUBLICANS LOST WOMEN VOTERS BECAUSE…
1: The GOP talked about rape too much.
2: The GOP didn’t talk about rape enough.
3: The GOP forgot to rewrite the Wikipedia entry for the 19th amendment.
4: They just kept shrieking and shrieking.
C. THE TEA PARTY…
1: Limited the options of Republican candidates.
2: Should be honored for their pep and zing.
3: Will have to work like the A-Team now that the Constitution has been suspended.
4: Actually won a majority in both things of Congress. Media? Hello??
D. HURRICANE SANDY WAS…
1: A national tragedy best kept out of politics.
2: A convenient showcase for hyping big government.
Remember all those hilarious one liners about TV tough guy, and supernaturally be-gingered ghost grandpa, Chuck Norris? “Chuck Norris doesn’t sleep, he waits,” for example. How we laughed at those! I remember that one actor’s deft karate pantomimes from my childhood, we’d say.
We had him pegged with the wrong superlative it turns out. It should’ve been something more like Chuck Norris doesn’t sleep, he drools in the corner wondering why the grandkids never call.
"Chuck Norris died 20 years ago, Death just hasn’t had the courage to tell him yet." More like, well, ok, that one still reads.
"When he goes to bed every night the Boogeyman checks his closet for Chuck Norris."
You sure about that one? The central premise of the conceit, that Chuck Norris isn’t scared of anything is precisely the opposite of the truth we see from videos like this one above. Like most elderly people and Republicans, Chuck Norris is scared of every fucking thing.
Probably tops on that list is his Stepford Wife Gena, who is quoted here from what I’m assuming are the awkward first take cuts from a forthcoming, much-less-embarrassing political video.
"We are here to talk about a growing concern we all share," Chuck Norris explains. "If we look to history, our great country and freedom are under attack. We’re at a tipping point and, quite possibly, our country as we know it may be lost forever if we don’t change the course in which our country is headed."
What aspect of it exactly will be lost forever, and to who, you might ask, if you don’t puke in fear when you see your own shadow.
You can probably imagine where it goes from there. Crossroads this, crucial decisions that, the defense of liberty, Christians, I don’t know, fucking evil microwaves stealing our souls when you don’t flip the light switch on and off three times to represent faith in the Holy Trinity.
The video gets interesting toward the end, however, where old boy starts quoting — you’re never going to guess who — Reagan, the president last time Norris got a non government-assisted erection.
"Our great president, Ronald Reagan said, ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.’"
Hey, have you guys heard about this Paul Ryan character yet? He sure is divisive! Just a few short days after he was announced as Mitt Romney’s running mate he’s become one of the Top Things To Have An Opinion On—“I like this Paul Ryan,” you might hear someone say. “He is attractive and good with numbers and if I were a gay fella… Well, say no more.” Another opinion might be: “Boy, howdy! This Paul Ryan makes me angry because of his many views! Time to write a listicle to persuade all the Jezebel readers not to vote for him despite his small-town charm and good looks!”
For the next few days (or “news cycles,” as they are called in the political world, a land where it is always 11 AM and cloudy and everything tastes like ashes and pain), Ryan is going to have his whole life examined to a horrifying degree. Hours after the announcement, we were already reading Yelp reviews of the Mexican restaurant where he used to work. Every controversial vote he took part in, every stock trade he made, all of it will be paraded in front of the segment of the population that cares. Ryan will be judged and a verdict (or several) will be reached. But I think we are being a bit too hard on him, because he is just a teenager, after all. Yes, Paul Ryan is just a normal teenager, if perhaps a late-blooming one. My evidence:
HE LOVES AYN RAND OK, I know, he denounced Ayn Rand this week, but her writing still clearly informs his worldview. Just like it takes some kids a while to get over the romanticism of Kerouac, I think Ryan is still carrying a torch for Objectivism. For teenagers, Rand is great because she reinforces their belief that their desires are the most important thing in the world, and she pisses off liberal parents with her pro-capitalism and religious ones with her atheism. Sooner or later, most people recognize that she fails to acknowledge moral shades of gray and is also an enormously shit writer (sample line: “She saw the look of the luminous gaiety which transcends the great innocence of a man who has earned the right to be light-hearted.”) and they sort of quit her, or tone it down at least.
HE WORKS OUT A LOT Hell yeah, bro. Look at those ‘ceps. GTL, am I right? His workout obsession is a little worrying, actually, because teenaged boys who work out all the time are the worst pieces of shit in the universe. If we send him to China on a diplomatic mission, he’s going to keep slapping drinks out of important peoples’ hands for fun (“Look alive, bro!”) and back some poor wife of an official into a corner to tell her all about his core routine.
HE’S INTO LED ZEPPELIN The most amusing moment in a father’s life is when his 16-year-old son goes, “Hey dad, did you know about this band Led Zeppelin? They’re amazing!” Then follows what Americans have instead of Vision Quests or other rites of passage: a solid six months to a year during which the young man spends all of his time alone in his room listening to Led Zep over and over trying to decipher the meaningless lyrics a drug-addled Robert Plant came up with 40 years ago. It’s a gateway to either better music or airbrushed cars. I hope Ryan chooses wisely.
In late March 2012, Newt Gingrich replaced campaign manager Michael Krull with Vince Haley, under the unspoken agreement that Haley would permit Gingrich to draw more attention to his space travel program. Krull had been urging Gingrich to “tone down the moon colony thing,” despite Gingrich’s insistence that “America must return to space.” Gingrich has barely noticed Haley’s unfulfilled promises, mostly due to the sinisterly coaxing tone of voice Haley uses to say “in time, Newt,” and his suggestion that Gingrich’s energies would be better spent designing blueprints of “Newt’s Spruce Goose,” a solo spacecraft running on sustainable energy created by a workforce of children. Gingrich wants to make DJ Earworm’s mash-up of 2011 popular radio hits, “World Go Boom,” his new campaign song. He has confided to Haley that although he will reluctantly do so, he does not want to participate in debates unless a portable planetarium-like device is erected around the audience and the video for “World Go Boom” is projected across the entire ceiling as his answer to all questions. Gingrich has appeared distracted and unfocused in debates since his first YouTube viewing of the five-minute song.
Rick Santorum is a holographic projection transmitted to 2012 from the planet Giedi Prime, over 10,000 years in the future. Santorum’s uncle, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, was advised by his human-computer assistant that if a Harkonnen president was elected on the planet Earth in 2012, a series of events would unfold that would eliminate all members of House Atredies and House Corrino, and House Harkonnen would rule the universe. The holographic projection of Rick Santorum appears undeniably real to humans in 2012, but his actual body is imprisoned in a 4’x6’ cage in the basement of his uncle’s castle in the year 10,191. Rick Santorum’s attitudes towards diminishing same-sex rights, though antiquated and infuriating to non-conservatives in the year 2012, will destroy the possibility of the Harkonnens ever ruling the universe. Upon the Baron’s discovery of his nephew’s disobedience, he will likely have him executed. Santorum will be regarded as a tragic hero in historical texts following his death.