Saturday, January 24, 2009

Alan Colmes is Missed...
I have been watching the brand-spankin' new travesty on Fox which is entitled "Hannity", which is basically "Hannity and Colmes" without;

a) Colmes.
b) A clue.

Sean Hannity is one of my least favorite television personalities, and no, it has nothing to do with his politics (I agree with him about 95% of the time). What I object to about Sean Hannity is his ability to repeat the same things ad nauseum in a brilliant display of expired equine thrashing, without the ability to recognize that he's already preaching to the choir, on the one hand, and without recognizing how annoying this process is on the other. Yes, we know Sean, so-called liberals are full of shit; you're not exploding any myths, or imparting a cosmic secret.

You're also not changing any minds so far as I can tell, but that's another argument altogether. The incredible fact, it seems to me, about what passes for intellectual debate in the realm of politics these days is the ability to appear to be listening to the other side while their ideas bounce off your skull like peas against a steel helmet. People are talking, words are being spoken, but no one listens. They yack, and they yack, and no meaningful exchange of information takes place. Usually, this is because both sides are absolutely convinced of the righteousness of their cause, even when they know they are spouting complete and utter nonsense.

When the two people involved in the conversation happen to agree, it's even worse. In this case, information is not only *not* being exchanged, some absolute disinformation is being endlessly recycled.

Case in point: Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh speaking about the future prospects of the republican party. Give Rush credit for having the temerity to express some very salient points (mostly because they are glaringly obvious-- one thing republicans are good at is avoiding the obvious) about a loss of collective wits, an inability to rein in spending, the inability of the Bush Administration to clearly make their cases for war, on winning the war (the success of The Surge), and Homeland Security (no attacks on American Soil since 9/11). He was absolutely correct in his assertions.

Rush was also absolutely correct when he castigated republicans for abandoning any semblance of conservatism during the Bush years. Where he was wrong, in my estimation, is the source of this dereliction of duty.

According to Rush, the problem within the republican ranks is what he referred to as (paraphrasing to the best of my memory) "those Northeastern, blue-blood, Rockefeller republicans who don't wish to be seen in the same party as people with Southern accents who watch NASCAR." He then went on to say that this particular beast also has a (again, paraphrased) "psychological need to be liked by everyone", and that it was this element of the republican party which was responsible for taking the party leftwards, and which was instrumental (I guess) in leading the more staunch conservatives astray. Of course, the concept of the division of spoils and the practically one-party rule of government for the first part of Bush's term don't enter into his argument, conveniently. He would probably blame Mark Foley, Larry Craig and Jack Abramoff on the Northeastern Blue-bloods, too, if he could get away with it. Yeah, it was northeastern liberal republicans who caused a US Senator with a reputation as a staunch anti-gay-rights crusader to seek a handjob in an airport restroom...as if...

Anyways, Rush and Sean threw this theme back and forth between each other for several minutes before Rush made his grand pronouncement; the party needed to be more conservative. Well, no shit! I could have figured that out, thank you very much.

Now, when you hear Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity talk about the party needing to be more conservative, rest assured that the sort of conservatism they'd like to see doesn't just stop at lower taxes, small government and strong national defense. If it did, I'd have no issue. But, I know the people who listen to Hannity and Limbaugh on a daily basis (I only spent several years being crucified by them over at FreeRepublic for having an independent thoughts), and this would still not be 'conservative' enough. They want the full Reagan.

What, pray tell, is the "full Reagan"?

Ronald Reagan, conservative god, stood for all the things today's republican stands for; smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense. So far, so good. However, Reagan came to power by creating a coalition between more mainstream (classically-liberal) republicans and the Christian Right which has been more trouble for the republican party than it has been help, in my opinion. Reagan gathered their fervent support by promising them two things he could never deliver: a return of prayer in the public schools, and an end to abortion on demand. And the Christian Right in this country has, ever since, demanded that they be given that which Reagan promised.

Now, on the abortion issue, I happen to agree with them. But I don't believe the solution to the problem is a Constitutional Amendment or draconian laws, or an advance of religion into the national electoral process. The solution is cultural and will not be solved by government action in any case. The Christian Right disagrees, which is why any republican candidate for president who isn't one of their own, gets luke-warm or little support from them (see: Rudy Guiliani, John McCain, G.H.W. Bush, Bob Dole), while those who speak their language (or who just tell them what they want to hear) are elevated to divine status (see Reagan, G.W. Bush). It also explains why republicans got clobbered in the 2006-midterms; even with control of all three visible branches of government, all the republican party ever managed to do for the Christian Right was to get an Executive Order against fetal stem-cell research, a Congressional Resolution and appeal to the Supreme Court in the dark of night in a (failed) effort to keep a vegetable alive, and two members of the Supreme Court.

Abortion is still alive and well. No prayers allowed in schools. All over the country they are having to share their religious symbols in the public square with those of other faiths (we're not talking about genuine instances of persecution, I'm only speaking of incidences where accommodation and compromise are called for and the Christian Right acts as if a pogrom took place against them) .They're pissed off.

This is what I fear; I don't mind people who happen to be religious practicing their faith in the privacy of their home or house of worship -- but I do worry about pissed-off zealots who believe they are both persecuted *and* owed something practicing that faith at the ballot box. Rush and Sean think this idea is just fine. And a winner.

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