Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Twilight Zone: A Political Version

Constitutional historian Richard  B. Bernstein* writes in a Facebook post:
Friends keep asking me what I think about the nation's political future after the shutstorm. OK, here are some thoughts, submitted for your approval in the political version of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (where we've all been living for the last three weeks):
"First, a week is a long time in politics, as the late Sir Harold Wilson noted, so trying to predict the future nearly three years ahead is a mug's game.

That said, right now the GOP has given itself such a dreadful beating that it will be a long time before it recovers fully from the Tea Party spasm. Indeed, what we're seeing is the product of a Faustian bargain. Rich corporate-minded donors such as the Koch Brothers thought that they could foster and thus control the Tea Party crowd, only to discover that they can't. The GOP is suffering a civil war within its ranks, as Tea Party true-believers and their self-anointed leaders (Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, and company) square off against establishment Republicans (John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and company). Rumors are rife of GOP primaries featuring amateur Tea Party true-believers challenging such establishment types as McConnell, and Tea Party funders targeting the establishment types.

The spasm has not only made government look better in the eyes of most voters, and the GOP look rotten, and Congress look worse, but it has bolstered the popularity of President Obama and the Democrats.

And yet we know a few things to be worried about and not to be complacent about:

(1) Too many GOP Representatives (fully half of them elected in 2010 and 2012, and thus amateurs with anti-government mania and no respect for the institution in which they serve) are in gerrymandered districts. Now, maybe voter wrath will overcome such gerrymandering, but that will be tricky. Against that truth is the other truth that lots of the Democrats who lost seats in 2010 were in purple districts that could easily flip back into the Democratic column, and in those districts (enough to flip control of the House back to Democrats if they all toss out incumbents in 2014), the incumbent GOP Representative is trailing a generic Democrat.

(2) The Senate is tricky, too, for different reasons. GOP strategists were long salivating at the chance of retaking the Senate -- but they felt that way in 2010 and 2012, also, and each time, GOP candidates self-destructed, resulting in the narrow election or re-election of Democrats, including in seats that experts had written off as GOP gains.

(3) Voters often forget spasms of political ineptitude, but this one may have staying power, and the Democrats stand ready to remind voters of the 2013 spasm.

(4) The parties have reversed conventional stereotypes of organization and disorganization -- the Democrats are standing firm and united, and tolerating ideological and political diversity among their ranks, while the Republicans are shattered, divided, and forming circular firing squads.

(5) The Democrats have a good bench of potential presidential candidates for 2016 (I remain skeptical of Hillary Clinton's chances for reasons including her age and health and the dreadful mess she and her advisers made of her 2008 run). The GOP has the same collection of clown-car idiots, but so far with no sign of a serious adult in the room or even half-an-adult. And the party's schismatic character suggests that any adult or even half-an-adult who tries to run will be sorely weakened by a divisive, bitter, vindictive, and ridiculous campaign that will make the eventual nominee the leader of a suicide mission.

So ... though nothing is guaranteed, and lots of things can change in the next two-plus years, we may have reason to hope for change in a good direction in 2014 and 2016."

*Constitutional historian Richard B. Bernstein, who writes under R. B. Bernstein, is a distinguished adjunct professor of law at New York Law School and adjunct professor of political science and history at the City College of New York. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he has authored and edited several books on American history, the constitution and the founding fathers. His most recent endeavor is a biography of Thomas Jefferson and he is currently engaged in writing about the life of John Adams.


  1. Point (4) in particular will prove important, I think. Less-attentive voters may largely forget the Republicans' load of bullshut by next November, but the baggers won't. They're full of fury at the "RINO" Republican establishment and ready to primary any and all non-crazy candidates. The Chamber of Commerce, likewise, has openly announced plans to support challengers to the loon caucus, now that they've realized how dangerous and out-of-control they are. So we will, ate least, face an opponent hopelessly divided against itself.

    We're doing well in some surprising places -- Grimes is now a little ahead of McConnell in Kentucky, for example. That may not last, but just imagine if the baggers (who consider McConnell RINO #1) primary him and give Grimes a Mourdock-like nutjob to run against instead.

    1. I think the baggers are their own worst enemy and that their monumental arrogance will be the death of them. The GOP has been seriously wounded by ever getting into bed with them just for a few lousy votes. Not only do they have teeth marks in the ass they probably have a fatal disease. Good. They deserve it.

      I agree that the Dems seem more energized and united than they have in years. We cannot afford to become complacent, however, and it is our job not to let the memory of the past few years die and to remind the whiners who stayed home in 2010 of the price we've all paid for their pettiness.

      There are several hopeful signs. Besides the Chamber a Republican judge in San Antonio just switched party's. I think we're going to see more of this - maybe just a trickle in the beginning but once there's a hole in the dyke who knows how big a flood will develop?

  2. This is all well and good, but it's one sided. Left out is the distinct possibility of the Democrats losing favor as more and more people are frustrated over the incompetency of ACA, more and more lose their current coverage and drift in limbo between the employer's ex-plan and a new plan that isn't working, or, they discover that it's going to cost them more money if they don't qualify for a government subsidy, which amounts to most all working folks. It could get ugly.

  3. I think the hysteria of the opening days of signing up for ACA are mostly manufactured hype by the GOP and Tea Baggers. That's not to say that there aren't problems but this is a new and massive undertaking; it's not like signing up for a local tea party at Bud's Bar & Grill. I just don't see your dire predictions happening and why would anyone lose their current coverage, if that's what they want? The places which may cause the most disenchantment are in those states that have opted out and have refused to extend Medicaid payments. Why would anyone blame this on ACA?

    1. And I want to add that the media coverage has been absolutely irresponsible. It's like they go out an look **only** for those who've had problems and totally avoid those who've signed up without a hitch. Surely there have been one or two people in the country who have had no problems.

  4. Leslie... I am a supporter who has eagerly awaited the roll out of the ACA... Here in Nevada, the system stinks, is slow and I can only choose between 2 carriers if I want my wife meds covered. If I have questions, I cannot find those answers online and have to call a carrier for more info, not the health link people...

    For all their work, there is only the barest info on the site.

    It is very frustrating, but I am keeping at it... for now...

    1. Dave, personally I wouldn't even bother trying to get on in the first few days or even weeks under the best of circumstances and no matter how smooth the system might be working. Unless people are really desperate, I just don't see why everyone is in such a rush. It's kind of like trying to be the first in line at a midnight sale, imo.

      This is an excellent article about what happened in MA when health reform was introduced and should help to calm everyone down - if the media would quit working with the Tea Perps!

      Here is a site which may or may not be helpful. It's an interactive map that provides info for each state.

      And finally, this one may or may not prove handy. The reason I'm saying "may or may not" is because I'm on that other socialist program and don't have to worry.

      Hang in there. It's not nearly as dire as it seems. Anything like this is bound to have a few kinks and the last I heard Obama is not an IT guy.

  5. Following is a very brief little essay written by Terry Bonner, a retired physician. Another essay he wrote was featured on Parsley's Pics - The Enemies of Democracy last month.

    Obviously, I agree with Terry, who writes:

    "I really do believe this "immediate gratification" culture we're inhabiting is going to be the death of civilized behaviour. Americans appear to have forgotten, if indeed they ever learned, that it took seven years for the Social Security Administration to issue the first monthly check. The media (which has the attention span but none of the depth of an average three-year old) is having a field day with "glitches" on the website, without ever once mentioning that the federal government is undertaking to create exchanges for the twenty-six recalcitrant states which absolutely refuse to exercise their prerogatives under the ACA. (Yeah! Thanks again, John Roberts, who has managed to sabotage everything this President has done since the moment the Chief Justice botched the oath of office in 2009.)

    All things considered, the ACA is off to a good start. Besides, the period of open enrolment still has five months to go. Listening to the cable news channels, one would think that it was all an unmitigated disaster. My answer to this is, of course, that it is going extremely well for an enterprise which will result in insuring thirty million people.

    It probably would have been easier if we had simply extended Medicare to everyone using the current Social Security databases. But, alas, that is a story for another day and a better era."