Showing posts with label Rick Santorum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rick Santorum. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Republican Race: Watch George E. Pataki

In the Republican Presidential race, those who place bets on such things have given Mitt Romney the edge from the beginning. Romney has not given them much reason to be confident: his continual (and silly) lurching to the right on every imaginable issue to appeal to the party base, coupled with a constant stream of verbal gaffes and inability to ‘connect’ with voters, has resulted in a performance that can be described, at best, as lackluster. Even when he wins, polls show that those who vote for him do so out of a sense of inevitability and without much enthusiasm.

In spite of his narrow win in his home state of Michigan, he actually split the delegates from that state on an even 50-50 basis with Rick Santorum. Next week’s “Super Tuesday” will see Romney losses in southern and western states…with more southern states (Alabama and Mississippi) lined up for votes on March 13.

The prospects of a brokered convention – and the possibility of the Republicans choosing a yet-unnamed candidate – is growing by the minute.

So, let me be the first to say it:

Watch George E. Pataki.

Pataki may have been flying under the electoral radar all season, but he has been a very busy man.

On February 13, Pataki issued the following statement:

“The Obama administration continues to govern in its own Bizarro World that fails to recognize the devastating impact of the debt crisis we face. Today’s election year budget with another staggering trillion dollar plus deficit is a clear sign that the Obama administration has given up on even the facade of fiscal restraint and is content to bankrupt America in a cynical bid to save his political career. Jack Lew is right about one thing, the time for austerity is not today, it was last week and last year. It’s not halftime in the debt crisis; we’re in sudden death overtime and the clock is ticking down on our ability to effectively address this issue. President Obama must get real and revive the recommendations of the Simpson Bowles Commission.”

While slamming President Obama in the national debt on one hand, he has operated as the quintessential New York establishment Republican on the other hand: he has managed to take an anti-public employees union position (to the cheers of conservatives), while allying himself with a liberal Democrat (New York’s popular Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo). On Sunday, Pataki told the NY Daily News that the New York State public employees pension system needs to be changed:

“In this case, I think it’s clear the governor’s efforts to reform the pension system are correct and necessary. What we’ve seen is just an enormous increase in the contributions required by government employers.” The result, he said, is “continued spiraling upward [of property taxes] that is not sustainable. It’s wrong and I would hope the reform movement will succeed and will succeed this year."

Anti-Government Spending. Anti-Taxes. Anti-Public Employee Unions.

All while supporting a popular Democratic Governor.

These are not the positions of a casual commentator. These are the positions staked out by a shrewd politician.

The challenge for any Republican candidate for President is to hold on the conservative GOP base, while attracting moderate independents, and maybe even gathering some liberal support. This is standard politics for Pataki, who managed to govern one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country – New York – for twelve consecutive years (1995-2006).

For red-meat conservatives, Pataki offers solid credentials on some specific issues: Having been trusted to introduce George W. Bush at the Republican Nominating Convention, he was then appointed by Bush as a United States delegate to the 2007 United Nations General Assembly session, a post that required (and received) the approval of the U. S. Senate. In that post, Pataki focused on terrorism. He continues to serve on the Board of Directors of the American Security Council Foundation, a neo-conservative, pro-military-industrial complex “Peace Through Strength” advocacy group. The Foundation’s positions are entirely consistent with the saber-rattling words uttered by Gingrich, Romney and Santorum throughout the primary season.

But in contrast to Romney, whose Massachusetts health care plan (“Romneycare”) was the precursor and model for the federal “Obamacare,” Pataki has strongly (and credibly) opposed the Obama plan, much to the delight of the conservative Republican base: Two years ago (April 2010) Pataki announced that he was creating a nonprofit organization, “Revere America,” to push for the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which he called "horrific" and a “costly bungle.”

Like a good New York statesman, though, Pataki has been careful not to lurch to the right on every issue, thus preventing him from being pigeonholed as a fringe conservative. After serving as Governor, Pataki joined Chadbourne & Parke, a law firm that emphasizes its renewable energy practice. He then formed the “Pataki-Cahill Group,” an environmental consulting firm, and worked with the Council on Foreign Relations on climate change issues.

Probably the most important environmental initiative in the northeast – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or “ RGGI” – was the brainchild of George Pataki, and a project he implemented while Governor.

The RGGI uses market-based mechanisms to make dirty power plants pay for their pollution and clean up their act while simultaneously investing their payments in clean energy. The concept of the program is simple: Put a limit on power plant pollution, make polluters pay for the global warming emissions that they spew into the air, and reinvest that money in clean energy construction projects. These projects create jobs, reduce U.S. addiction to foreign crude oil, and reduce pollution. It is largely regarded as a win-win for the economy and the environment. It was promoted by both Republicans and Democrats from 10 states stretching from Maine to Maryland. And it was spearheaded by Pataki.

Anti-Tax, Anti-Spending, Anti-Debt, Anti-Obamacare, Pro-Military.

Pro-Environment, Pro-bipartisan, with Foreign Affairs (UN) experience.

Fiscal Conservative, Social Moderate.

Did I mention that at age 67, it’s now or never for Pataki? And that he has a Political Action Committee?

You read it here first: Watch for a Republican Convention without a conclusive nominee. And watch for George E. Pataki.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Michigan: Microcosm of a Schizoid Electoral Process

Regardless of whether Romney or Santorum ultimately win the Michigan Primary, the true lesson of this campaign is the schizoid nature of American electoral politics.

By all measures, Michigan is a Democratic-leaning state with moderate to liberal values. The state has voted Democratic in all five of the last five Presidential elections. 25% of the state is a member of a minority (largely black and/or Hispanic). In this post-9/11 era, Michigan is home to the largest per capita percent of Arab-Americans in the nation: 40% of the city of Dearborn claims Arab ancestry, and many of these families have lived in Dearborn for three generations. Unlike the rest of the nation, where the percent of union members in the labor force has fallen to single digits, 16.5% of this state’s workforce is unionized.

And yet, in the 1972, the Democratic Primary in Michigan was won by George C. Wallace – the Segregationist Governor of Alabama famous for uttering the phrase "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” in his gubernatorial address. A Governor who stood in the doorway at the University of Alabama to prevent black students from entering.

Let me say that again:

A southern Segregationist…

Won the Democratic Primary…

In the Canadian-border state of Michigan.

And this reveals the odd nature of the American process of electing Presidents.

There are, essentially, two different campaigns that take place: early in the process, candidates seek to win the nomination of their own political party. In this stage, they know that they need to appeal to the most dedicated, passionate ideological minorities within their party: those most likely to get red in the face and froth at the mouth when discussing ideas, no matter how ivory-tower or unrealistic those ideas are. We see this occurring right now, as Santorum and Romney trip over themselves and each other trying to prove that they are the most extreme as they appeal the party extremists.

Thus, Romney insists that he is “severely” conservative, and insists that marriage should be between a man and a woman (even as he governed Massachusetts as it established Marriage Equality). Santorum continues to raise the issue of contraception, an issue that hasn't been a serious electoral issue for over 40 years, and question, in coy ways, the President's religion. Both candidates beat the war drum on Iran.

But then, they are not seeking the support of the general electorate: they are seeking the fringe activists who will influence the primary.

As an example, Santorum swept the entire state of Missouri in their Primary just a few weeks ago; but that landslide win was achieved by attracting a relatively small number of very passionate voters. A grand total of 252,000 votes were cast in the Missouri Primary; by contrast, in the 2008 general election, 2,887,000 Missourians cast vote. In other words, a mere 8.7% of total active electorate handed Santorum his Missouri victory. One wins a primary by appealing to the most extreme and rabid elements in the party.

But that’s not how general elections are won.

The second ‘stage’ in the election, after each party has nominated their candidate, happens when each candidate rushes to the middle in the hope that most Americans will forget the ridiculous things they said during the primary.

In fact, most Americans are not harshly ideological. Many voters ultimately cast their vote based on how they “feel” about a candidate: his or her courage, honesty, consistency, “presidential look,” empathy, and how they can identify with his or her ‘story.’

And so, we have watched Mitt and Rick act like fruitcakes, beating their breasts and howling the most extreme, fringe comments their speech-writers could invent in an effort to win the Michigan Primary.

But in the end, it really doesn't matter who wins this Primary. In November 2012, regardless of whether Santorum or Romney or some other character is the GOP nominee, Michigan will hand its 16 electoral votes to President Obama…and the only thing Romney and Santorum will have to show for their primary fight are ridiculous statements that will make average Americans shake their head in disbelief for elections to come.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Santorum Wrong (Again) on Religious Faith and the Environment

In Rick Santorum’s world, the most pressing political issue this week was Proper Theology. From questioning President Obama’s position on the environment to criticizing college life for ruining student’s religious faith and criticizing President Kennedy's affirmation of the separation of church and state, Santorum provided a non-stop litany of statements that are both factually and theologically erroneous.

He charged this past week that President Obama's call for college enrollment for all was driven by a desire to impart liberal ideology on young adults. In recalling his own stint at Penn State, he said, "You are singled out. You are ridiculed. ... I was docked for my conservative views. This is not a neutral setting." He repeated the claim Sunday on ABC’s This Week, insisting that “62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.”

Fact Check: He is, of course, entirely incorrect. As a general principle, almost all students who leave home and exit from life under mom and dad engage in some real soul-searching about their belief systems. But a 2007 study published in the Social Forces Journal found that Americans who don’t go to college lose their faith at a greater rate than those who do. The Journal noted,

“Contrary to our own and others’ expectations…young adults who never enrolled in college are presently the least religious young Americans. 64 percent of those currently enrolled in a traditional four-year institutions have curbed their attendance habits ... [while] 76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance.”

A year earlier, a poll conducted by the Harvard University Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government found that seven out of ten of America’s college students believed that religion is somewhat or very important in their lives. In contrast to Santorum's claims, it further found that “a quarter of students (25%) say they have become more spiritual since entering college, as opposed to only seven percent (7%) who say they have become less spiritual.”

So Santorum’s claim that liberal colleges destroy the faith of students is contradicted by the professional studies on the matter and the testimony of the students themselves.

But perhaps Santorum sees their faith being ruined because he doesn’t like the liberal spin on their theology. Again, this week, he claimed that President Obama's "agenda is driven on a theology not based on the bible. " When pressed on his claim, he explained,

“I just said that when you have a world view that elevates the Earth above man…I was talking about the radical environmentalists. That's why I was talking about energy, this idea that man is here to serve the Earth as opposed to husband its resources… I think that is a phony ideal.”

Washington Times columnist Jeffrey T. Kuhner expounded on Santorum’s statement, declaring outright that Obama

“worships a neo-pagan religion and is not a true Christian:
Mr. Santorum’s larger point is that Mr. Obama and his liberal allies have embraced radical environmentalism – a form of neo-paganism. The green movement – exemplified by the hoax of man-made global warming – has degenerated into a pseudo-religion. Environmentalists worship Gaia, Mother Earth, turning it into a secular goddess..”

Unfortunately for the devoutly-Catholic Santorum and his ally at the Washington Times, it is they who are Theologically in err, not President Obama.

This morning, I read aloud the Episcopal Church’s Old Testament lesson appointed for today, the first day of Lent in the western Church. That lesson is Genesis 9:8-17, which reads [emphasis added]:
“God said to Noah and to his sons with him, "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."

In this reading, we are confronted with a very clear theological notion of God’s covenant of peace with all of creation, not just mankind.

Accordingly, some years ago, Roman Catholic Pope John Paul II, in appealing to the example of St. Francis of Assisi, offered his prayer that "If nature is not violated and humiliated, it returns to being the sister of humanity." Comparable statements are found in "Renewing the Earth," a 1991 U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops document. The Council created accompanying resource kits (which it mailed three times to 19,000 parishes) with names like "God's creation and our responsibility" and "Renewing the Face of the Earth." The kits contained suggestions for prayer and worship with an emphasis on healing the environment and ideas for specific pro-environmental actions. The kits emphasized that justice for humans and justice for nature are inextricably intertwined.

Santorum claims that while in college, he was “docked for … conservative views.” It appears more likely that he was probably docked for his inability to support his opinions with facts.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Rick Santorum's Lies re: Euthanizing of Dutch Seniors

For more than a decade, right-wing activists have engaged in a whisper campaign about health care in the Netherlands. Common statements have included faux-horror at the use of cost-benefit analyses in assigning treatment, criticism of corporate-sponsorship of hospital wings, and rumors of the forced euthanization of the elderly.

But the most recent instance of uneducated Euro-hating spewed forth from Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who has caused an international storm with baseless lies about the treatment of hospitalized seniors in the Netherlands. In a speech before the American Heartland Forum in Columbia, Missouri on February 3, Santorum said:

“In the Netherlands, people wear different bracelets if they are elderly. And the bracelet is: ‘Do not euthanize me.’ Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands but half of the people who are euthanized — ten percent of all deaths in the Netherlands — half of those people are enthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital. They go to another country, because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, they will not come out of that hospital if they go in there with sickness.”

Santorum’s outburst most likely stems from his inability to understand a compassionate euthanasia law passed by The Netherlands over a decade ago. The law set forth a complex process which requires that two separate doctors diagnose an individual’s illness as incurable. The patient must have full control of his or her mental faculties, and must voluntarily and repeatedly request to die with the dignity afforded under the law. As a follow-up, a commission made up of yet a third doctor, a jurist and an ethicist must verify that the requirements for euthanasia have been met. In essence, it is a law that permits the medical community to assist a patient in the last days of their lives in accordance with the patient’s will.

The law was adopted after the publication of a 1991 study entitled the Remmelink Report, which found that a tiny number of hospital deaths (fewer than 1%) might be seen as “involuntary;” even in 59 percent of those cases, the physician had previously obtained some information about the patient’s wishes. In the vast majority of cases, “Life was shortened by between some hours and a week at most,” and the decision was discussed with relatives and with other medical colleagues. In nearly all cases, according to the report, “the patient was suffering unbearably, there was no chance of improvement, and palliative possibilities were exhausted.”

As few in number as these cases were, The Netherlands chose to adopt a set of guidelines for the health profession to follow in all cases. Today, the number of deaths attributed to patients and physicians following this procedure amounted to 2.3 percent of all deaths in the country. More than 80 percent of the patients were suffering from cancer, and almost 80 percent died at home, making the process only minimally different than the American approach of “allowing” patients to die at home, often with Hospice Care to minimize suffering.

But somehow, Rick Santorum blithely reported that half of Holland’s elderly were being sent to involuntarily death chambers. And as for those heart-rending “Do Not Euthanize me” bracelets - Well, they don’t exist, except in the minds of some of the right-wings more eccentric fiction-writers. A website known as Right Wing News published an article last year that claimed that over 10,000 Dutch citizens such cards. Their source was the Louisiana Right To Life Federation, who obtained their “information” from the Nightingale Alliance, an anti-euthanasia group. But this group claims it has no such actual figures.

In a statement from the Dutch Embassy, “According to the Ministry of Health, ‘Do not euthanize me’ bracelets do not exist in the Netherlands.”

Ironically, just one month ago, on December 20, 2011, the free-market-based Fraser Institute, a Canadian think-tank that follows health care issues and is often quoted by Republican politicians in the US, analyzed the Netherlands’ health system. They applauded The Netherlands health delivery and insurance system as a model system ("Are the Dutch Crazy Capitalists?"), and recommended that Canada reform its own system by adopting Holland’s approach. They concluded:

“…[I]n addition to achieving universality, choice has become one of the fundamental characteristics of the Dutch system…Under our current system, Canadian families cannot access insurance that best suits their medical needs. We can learn a lot from countries like the Netherlands but we can’t afford to wait much longer.”

Meanwhile, Former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold has lost all patience with Santorum. Feingold, who served with Santorum, responded by calling Santorum "extreme," and "hateful. " “Santorum is possibly the least tolerant person I've ever dealt with. His attitude towards people who are different from himself is shocking."

Onze excuses aan het Nederlandse volk.


Friday, January 06, 2012

Santorum’s Hypocrisy – and Ignorance – on Health Insurance

Being the week before the New Hampshire Primary, it is hard to go grab a loaf of bread in this state without running into some campaign entourage. Rick Santorum, after being booed off the stage for his anti-Marriage Equality screed yesterday, and having missed a traditional “must stop” at Lindy’s Diner this morning, finally showed at the Community Room of the Keene Public Library to press the flesh. In the most interesting exchange of the morning, Santorum tried to defend the practice of charging higher health insurance premiums to people with pre-existing conditions, and criticized the clause in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that prohibits insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

In explaining this position to one member of the audience, he stated that "Americans need to be educated” about health care costs. This condescension was met with expertise greater than his: he was speaking with a woman who had been a nurse for over 30 years, and whose son was a childhood cancer survivor. She asked Santorum why her son should have to pay higher health premiums, or even go without insurance for the rest of his life.

Santorum’s answer: “Insurance works when people who are higher risk end up having to pay more, as they should.”

Not only does Santorum lack basic compassion, his answer shows that he fundamentally misunderstands the nature of most illnesses, and, worse, is a hypocrite to boot.

If we take him at his word, then those who statistically have a higher risk of incurring health care costs should pay higher premiums. If he really believes that, then he should look at his own family size.

Rick Santorum and his wife had seven children (one died soon after birth.) As any doctor’s office or hospital can verify, the more children one has, statistically, the higher the health costs associated with those children. This blogger has 6 children, and we used to joke that the local hospital ought to have a room reserved just for our family.

But most major Health Insurance Plans do not charge “per child.” Insurers generally provide plans for singles, married couples, single parent/child plans, and family plans. The Family Plans are without regard to the size of the family or number of children. Rick Santorum's Congressional Family Plan does not charge for additional chidlren.

So does Rick Santorum support increasing health premiums for families with large numbers of children? Doubtful: in Iowa, he proposed tripling the income tax deduction for each dependent child (from $3,500 to $10,500), which would virtually make the largest families exempt from income tax at the expense of single people and smaller families. This massive distortion of the tax code would accomplish the very thing he opposes when it comes to health care: subsidizing those who receive the most services with dollars paid by those who receive the least services. The hypocrisy is palpable.

It also shows that Santorum’s understanding of Insurance Pools is crude at best, and simply parroting Corporate Insurance Lobbyists at worst.

Insurance pools are based on the notion that everyone’s risk is shared. The first known successful Insurance pools existed as far back as 1235 with the birth of the "Hanseatic League," an alliance of shipowner-merchants along the Baltic Sea. Because this was the height of the era when Vikings ruled and pillaged the seas, there was always a good chance that a merchant's ship – and along with it, the merchant's life investment – would be captured by marauding Danes. Members of League chose to each take an ownership stake in all the other members’ ships to prevent against the possibility of a total loss. Shipowners forced to sail closer to Denmark were not thrown out of the pool in favor of those who plied waters further away; each shared equally in the losses – and surpluses – recorded by the entire group of merchants. It was a system that lasted for 300 years.

An insurance pool that favors the low-risk members, and penalizes the higher-risk members (as Santorum defends), is not an insurance pool at all, but a profit-making engine that distorts and misrepresents its purpose.

Fortunately for those with large families, most Americans really do understand this concept, and Mr. Santorum has benefitted from it.

Perhaps it is Mr. Santorum, not the American people, who need to be educated about health care costs.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Iowa Caucus Analysis: Romney Loses, Even as he Wins

The Republican Iowa caucuses are over, and 122,255 votes were recorded as follows:

Mitt Romney 30,015 (25%)
Rick Santorum 30,007 (25%)
Ron Paul 26,219 (21%)

Trailing behind these three were Newt Gingrich with 16,251 votes, Rick Perry with 12,604 votes, and Iowa native Michelle Bachmann with 6,073 votes.

In dividing their votes largely between Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul, caucus goers starkly represented the three philosophical ‘factions’ comprising the GOP, as well as age and income differences. Our conclusions from the votes and the exit polls:

Ron Paul won 50% of those in the 17-24 year old category, 45% of those in the 25-29 year old bracket, and 34% of 30-39 year olds. The younger the voter, the stronger the support for the messages of libertarianism and/or non-interventionism. Paul did well in all college towns.

He also won a majority of voters making under $30,000 annually by more than a 2:1 margin over all the other candidates, and won voters making less than $50,000 by a slim (2%) margin over Rick Santorum. He increased his win from only one county in 2008, to 18 in 2012, with his largest margin in Jefferson County (49%) – home of the Maharishi School of Management and center of Iowa’s peace-oriented Transcendental Meditation community.

Perhaps most importantly, Ron Paul won caucus-goers who were self-described independents, moderates, liberals, and first-time caucus-goers. Every national campaign knows that the battle for the Presidency is won by attracting the great ‘moderate middle,’ something neither Romney nor Santorum were able to do in Iowa.

Rick Santorum’s popularity exploded in the two weeks leading up to the caucus, and appeared to galvanize Iowa’s strong Evangelical Christian vote, winning many of the counties won by Mike Huckabee in 2008. He took the majority of those in the 40-64 year old age bracket, who often represent a more socially conservative, ‘family values’ voting bloc that has been ascendant in the GOP since the 1980s.

Santorum won over 61% of the vote in Lyon County, and won neighboring Sioux & O’Brien counties with more than 40%. These counties, in Iowa’s northwest corner, are some of the most conservative counties in Iowa, and are home to large, ‘Dominionist’ Reformed Churches that teach that government and laws should be structured on Biblical principles.

The biggest disappontment of the night was reserved for supporters of Mitt Romney – even though he won, statewide, by 8 votes.

Representing the old establishment blue-blood wing of the party, Romney won only one age group – seniors over age 65.

Four years ago, in the 2008 caucuses, Romney won 29,949 votes (25.2%) and took 24 counties. Last night, he won with 30,015 votes – also representing 25% of the vote cast. In other words, with four years and a supposed $10 million dollars of advertising under his belt, Romney was unable to expand his base even a tiny bit, increasing his vote by a mere 66 voters.

On the Iowan map (see bottom of post), it appears that the fact that he matched his performance four years ago was due largely to increased organization in a few key locations:

In the eastern part of the state, (which Romney won solidly in 2008 ) Romney lost 7 counties he won in 2008 to Ron Paul, and 1 to Rick Santorum, without picking up any new ones.

On the western border (the Missouri River counties), where Romney also did well in 2008, he lost 4 of the 7 he had won in 2008 to Rick Santorum, picking up only one new county.

It was in the middle of the state – particularly the growing Des Moines – West Des Moines area, where the GOP establishment organized for Romney - that Romney was to pick up 5 counties over 2008, while still losing one to Rick Santorum.

Make no mistake: Romney’s base is aging and shrinking. In spite of 4 years of campaigning, organizing, and spending, he was unable to expand his showing beyond his 2008 performance.

Perhaps Democratic operative James Carville said it best when describing voters attitudes towards Romney:

“It’s like trying to give a dog a pill. They keep spitting it out.”


Monday, January 02, 2012

Why Iowa IS Relevant

Are the Iowa caucuses “relevant?”

Yes. Perhaps now more than ever.

In the interminable weeks and marathon of debates leading up to tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses, pundits and media gurus have been raising the question as to whether the Iowa caucuses will be relevant “if they turn out wrong.” There is no doubt that Iowa Republicans are more likely to reflect agricultural interests and Evangelical Christian fervor than the rest of the nation; but over the last 30 years, the Republican Iowa caucuses have been an accurate snapshot of political temperament in America.

First, it has accurately reflected the mood of the national Republican Party.

In 1980, George H. W. Bush (32%) and Ronald Reagan (30%) virtually tied; libertarian-oriented Congressman Phil Crane took an additional 7% of the vote. The caucuses almost pre-ordained a Reagan-Bush ticket, and foreshadowed a growing conservative-libertarian bloc within the GOP.

In 1988 (Reagan was unopposed for his second term in 1984), the winner was Bob Dole(37%); televangelist Pat Robertson took second with 24%, and George H. W. Bush limped in at third place with 19%. Once again, Iowa taught an important lesson: while George H.W. Bush went on to win the nomination and the election against Democrat Mike Dukakis (in a record-low turnout year), Iowa signaled that Bush was headed for trouble, and would be limited to a one-term Presidency. At the same time, Robertson’s second place finish indicated the growing power of the religious right within the GOP.

In 1996, the winner was Bob Dole with 26%. He went on to win the Republican nomination that year.

In 2000, George W. Bush won with 41%. He went on to win the Republican nomination that year.

In 2008, Mike Huckabee won with 34% of the vote. This win reflected the continuing strength of social conservatives and the religious right in the GOP. The eventual winner of the nomination that year – John McCain – drew only 13% of the vote. His lackluster performance in Iowa found its fullest expression in the general election, when he was defeated by Barack Obama, losing formerly “safe” GOP states like North Carolina, Indiana, and Virginia. Interestingly, Mitt Romney took second place in Iowa that year (25%), foreshadowing his own strength this year.

Second, as a “swing state,’ it has been a bellwether in the national election.

Iowa has voted for the winning candidate in the general election in four out of five of the last Presidential elections, and 7 out of the last 10 Presidential elections. In other words, in recent years, it has become even more predictive of the national outcome. One can point to its racial makeup or economic base as 'unrepresentative,' but the objective facts are that Iowans laregly have their finger on the pulse of elections, rather than simply being a "red state" or a "blue state."

But lastly, the current ‘winnowing process’ that has resulted in a virtual three-way race between Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and a late-surging Rick Santorum, is an accurate reflection of the current makeup – and divisions – within the Republican Party.

On Jan 23, 2011 – just about a year ago – we published an analysis
of the tripartheid nature of the Republican Party as reflected in elections for leadership with the state of New Hampshire Republican Party. We wrote,

In the wake of yesterday's election of Jack Kimball over Juliana Bergeron as New Hampshire State Republican Chair, many news articles have attempted to present this as a battle between "two sides." And in America, we tend to simply battles into just two sides: Republicans vs. Democrats, Packers vs. Bears, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Toby Keith vs. The Dixie Chicks. But the reality behind the scenes is that the state GOP can be divided into at least three different factions, and the direction the party - and the State - will take is a function of how those coalitions come together - or fall apart - on individual issues.

In brief, the three main factions are The Establishment Yankees, The Theocrats, and the Libertarians

Nowhere have three factions become as starkly clear as in Iowa in the last week.

Mitt Romney is the clear establishment favorite: The son of former Michigan Governor George W. Romney, he holds a joint Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard. He was the co-founder and head of Bain Capital, a highly profitable private equity investment firm. With the possible exception of Jon Huntsman, Romney represents the Republican Establishment Blue-Blood tradition.

Ron Paul, a twelve-term Congressman from Texas, is perhaps the single most recognizable voice in the libertarian wing of the GOP. Consistently voicing libertarian positions, Paul often votes against his Republican colleagues on issues involving civil liberties, militarism, and spending. In 1988, he ran for President on the Libertarian Party ticket; He was one of only 66 Congressmen (out of 435) to oppose the original Patriot Act, and one of 26 Republicans to oppose its extension this past year. A veteran, he alone among the Republicans has opposed sanctions on Iran and has called for significant slashing of America’s international military budget.

Rick Santorum represents the clearest and most extreme personification of theocracy in the United States. A strident evangelical Christian, Santorum is actively seeking to galvanize Iowa’s Pat Roberston voters as he openly campaigns on behalf of a “Christian America,” vowing this past week to invalidate all same-sex marriage that have already taken place, and winning endorsements from Bob Vander Plaats, Chief Executive of the Family Leader, and Chuck Hurley, President of the Iowa Family Policy Centre. In an overture to the Second-Coming crowd, he vowed a direct military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In the last week, the media have used the words “irrelevant,” “overhyped,” and “unrepresentative” in describing Iowa and it’s voters. They have used all sorts of facts and figures about race and religion to try and prove their point. They also question what an unexpected (or “undesirable”) outcome could mean.

But in spite of their nay-saying, the three front-runners - Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum – are an entirely accurate representation of the elements of the current schizoid Republican Party, and the results of the Iowa caucuses for the last thirty years have been highly predictive of the American political mood.

Iowa *is* relevant.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Masks, GLBT rights, & GOP Presidential Politics

This month saw the 25th Year Anniversary performance in London of the Phantom of the Opera - the highest-grossing entertainment event of all time, the most financially successful theatrical show in history, and the longest running show on Broadway. Around the world, the show is easily identified - even by those who have never seen it - by the trademark Phantom’s Mask

Masks have always intrigued me. Fascinated, terrified, and intrigued me.

As a child, clowns scared me. They still do. There is something evil and scary about clown make-up to me; it is a very obvious statement that what you “see” before you is not what is “really” underneath. Something is being prettified, or changed, or hidden; something awful is being presented as if it’s funny and joyful. I don’t like them.

I was drawn into the 1998 film, “The Man in the Iron Mask,” which itself was based on the Alexandre Dumas novel of an actual man imprisoned in the Bastille. In the movie, it is proposed that the prisoner was the twin brother of King Louis XIV - but he was kept hidden from view behind locked prison doors, his face encased in a locked iron mask so no one would recognize him as an heir to the throne. Had his true self been revealed, it would upset the established social and political order, and so the King insisted that no one be permitted to see him.

As a gay man living a closeted existence for several decades, I could identify with that.

Just as I can identify with the Phantom.

Of course, in the Phantom’s case, no one forces him to wear his mask. Rather, it is his fear of rejection, and the public's revulsion at his "differentness," his disfigured face, that causes him to hide. He voluntarily wears the mask to obscure his true identity, and lives in the shadows of the Opera House’s basement. There he can continue his life's musical work without fear of rejection. I can identify with the Phantom even more than with the Man in the Iron Mask.

I recall a heated discussion I had six years ago about the Phantom. I was admittedly sympathetic to him, understanding his perspective. The woman with whom I was speaking was outraged. “He is a monster! He’s a liar! He manipulates and uses people! How can you defend him?!” I suspected that she was seeing this from her very personal perspective, just as I was seeing from mine.

Which brings me to the main point of this blog post: the scrambling by Republican presidential candidates to shove masks back on our faces.

Here in New Hampshire, we go through the every-four-year sideshow of Presidential-wannabes traipsing through the state seeking a First-in-The-Nation Primary win. And as Primary day gets closer, each candidate tries to outflank the next in securing votes. This week, they tried to outdo each other on the issue of Marriage [In]Equality.

In August, Rick Perry had signed a pledge to support a Constitutional Amendment banning Marriage Equality nation-wide. This past Friday, at a dinner hosted by the extreme right-wing “Cornerstone Action,” Perry shored up his credentials, adding,

"As conservatives…We believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage, and I applaud those legislators in New Hampshire who are working to defend marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, realizing that children need to be raised in a loving home by a mother and a father."

Perry was referring to the current effort by the NH House to repeal the 2009 NH Marriage Equality bill.

Mitt Romney, despite pledging his personal support as an advocate of GLBT rights to the Log Cabin Republicans in 1994, turned around and signed the pledge calling for a federal amendment defining marriage as one-man and one-woman. Rick Santorum has stated that there is “no right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution” (50 years of Court decisions say otherwise), and called gay rights to the equivalent of another 9-11 terrorist attack in the Morning Call. This actually sounds like a remix of Michelle Bachmann’s letter in which she declared that legislators who oppose a federal Marriage Amendment to be like “soldiers who missed the Pearl Harbor warning signs.”

Speaking (or should I say ”pandering?”) to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Last week possible front-runner Herman Cain said,

“I think marriage should be protected at the federal level also…I used to believe that it could be just handled by the states but there’s a movement going on to basically take the teeth out of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and that could cause an unraveling, so we do need some protection at the federal level because of that and so yes I would support legislation that would say that it’s between a man and a woman.”

Make no mistake: Theocratic political action groups such as the National Organization for Marriage and Cornerstone Action are scrambling to find ways to lock iron masks on gay men and women, lest the world see us for who we are: neighbors, teachers, firefighters, sons, daughters, architects, sports figures, secretaries, construction workers, accountants, warehousemen, drivers, and nurses.

If we can’t be seen, or acknoweldged, or recognized, they hope, we will be forgotten, as if locked in the Bastille.

As they attempt to re-introduce a climate of fear and loathing, they work on our psyche much as the crowds worked on the Phantom’s psyche: by convincing him that he was ugly, that he was different, that he would be attacked by ‘normal’ people...and just as he chose to live his life behind a mask so no one could see, so, still, do many gay and lesbian citizens.

After all, NH Rep. Ralph Boehm, the vice chairman of the House Education Committee, tried to gut the states new anti-bullying law, saying that

"Students need to be prepared for life...bullying is part of it.”

You see? We should hide...because otherwise we will be attacked. It's just "part of life."

But living behind a mask has repercussions worse than these theocrats understand.

In a 2008 poll of 260 openly gay men in New England, fully one half stated they used to me married to a woman…which, of course, ended in divorce.

They did not ‘change’ their orientation half-way through their lives. Rather, they tried to live behind a mask, where no one could see their ‘real face,’ or their ‘differences,’ and hope it would work.

It doesn’t.

And for those who claim to be on the side of “marriage,” they do themselves – and society – no favor by forcing men to live in ways they can’t.

Harvey Milk pleaded with us to drop the masks:

“…Gay brothers and sisters,... You must come out. Come out... to your parents... I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you… But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene…”

No More Closets…No More Bastille Prison Doors…No More Iron Masks…No More Phantoms.

And no more two-faced, pandering, ignorant hateful Republicans as President, thank you.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Santorum, DADT, and the End of Rational Logic

The Republican Presidential debates now have a well-deserved reputation for attracting the some of the most hateful people America has to offer. In the first debate, audience members cheered the hundreds of executions that have taken place in Texas; at the next debate, several members interrupted Ron Paul to proclaim that sick people without insurance should be allowed to die; and last night the crowd found a collective voice in booing Stephen Hills, an active duty Army soldier dodging bombs and mines in Iraq, for having the audacity to ask the candidates if they would reverse the progress made in eliminating “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

But more exasperating than the audience boos was the illogical, ill-informed, and incoherent answer given by candidate Rick Santorum... which somehow elicited hearty applause from the worked up crowd that was apparently unable to engage in the slightest glimmer of critical thinking.

Santorum’s three critical statements are these:

1) “Any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military.”

I’m not sure what he means by this. Is this his way of saying that homosexuals should not serve, since they have a sexual drive? If so, doesn’t that mean that heterosexuals shouldn’t serve in the military either?

Or perhaps he believes that when one enters the military, one embraces complete 100% celibacy, even when one is stationed overseas for years? Does he really believe that forced celibacy - which any monastery or convent will tell you must be strictly reserved for only a tiny, tiny portion of a very unique and committed population – should be imposed on several hundred thousand soldiers – most of whom are in the sexual prime of their twenties?

Is he completely unaware that the single most common medical treatment offered at military bases around the world is the treatment of STDs?
hmmm, how did that happen?! Is he unaware that the most common operation performed by Navy medics at sea are vasectomies? Does he mean to suggest that he would end all treatment for STDs on bases because “sexual activity has no place in the military?” and, therefore, it shouldn’t be allowed, permitted, enabled, or recognized? Does he really believe that? And is he aware that most of these STDs are contracted by heterosexual soldiers? Does he know that bases keep supplies of condoms for them when they go on leave?

Does he think the phrase “red-blooded American boy” had its origins in actual blood color, and that GIs come home virgins? Why does he think that sailors have developed a certain reputation upon hitting port on leave? Or hasn’t he heard?

To the extent that sexual activity is as much a part of the human condition as eating, drinking, and sweating, it actually *does* have a place in the military...and the military knows it far better than Santorum does.

2) “...[repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”] is an attempt to “inject social policy” into military policy]...

Yes, it is, and that is just as our founding fathers hoped it would be, when, in adopting the Declaration of Independence, they criticized King George because he had “rendered the military superior to the civil powers.”

Yes, it is, just like Harry Truman did when he insisted on ending racially segregated barracks and platoons in the military.

Yes it is, just like the military does in recognizing the importance of soldiers spirituality, and providing them with chaplains. Just like when we recognize the importance of families and provide on-base housing for spouses of deployed military members.

Yes it is, just like when we declare that our military’s purpose is nation-building, and protecting one political group from another.

Yes, Rick, that’s all Social Policy, and we do it in the military all day, every day. Get over it.

3) Regarding orientation in uniform, Santorum said: “Keep it to yourself, whether you are heterosexual or homosexual.”

Really? So no one – gay or straight – should name their spouse as beneficiary should they get blown apart, because that would reveal their sexuality. No one should read letters from their spouses to their fellow soldiers, because the masculine and feminine pronouns might give away their orientation. They should never show their family’s pictures, and never share their lover’s successes or heartaches...because in so doing, they are revealing their sexuality, which Santorum believes should be “kept to oneself.”

So, you should live and work with a barracks of your closest friends 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and rely on them (and they on you) for your day to day survival...and never share your hopes and dreams or stories about your spouse or lover.

Unless, of course, you’re heterosexual. Then it’s OK. If you’re homosexual and you do that, you’re flaunting your sexuality and you should just "keep it to yourself.”

Santorum’s platitudes have nothing to do with security, or the best interest of fighting men and women, or with military preparedness or functioning.

Santorum’s positions flow from a deep-seated, personal aversion to sex.

His obsessive reaction against the mere mention of normal, healthy, diverse sexual activity – by his own admission – disgusts him. He doesn’t want to know it exists. He can’t process it. He squirms.

Apparently, simple jealousy of others activities has morphed into hate-filled jealousy of anyone who gets something that he doesn’t – and has now morphed further into outright hatred of sex, of pleasure, of the human condition. He simply can’t handle it. And so he lashes out with these illogical, nonsensical cliches that excite a passionate GOP base, but should quickly lose traction with most thinking Americans.

What a sorry, twisted, pitiful being is the Adamantly Repressed.