The Old Pledge

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The GOP’s “A Pledge to America” is the same dead, ideological junk the Republicans have been peddling for decades.

The 45-page document, which was released by the GOP leadership Wednesday, supposedly contains ideas that will solve the country’s economic problems, but it’s really just a pledge to return to market fundamentalism. That means tax cuts for rich people and cuts in government services. The free market will determine our realities.

Of course, the faux document is simply part of some political theater enacted right before the midterm elections, but its empty language and retro-inspired pledges should make even Republicans yawn.

Here’s the pledge on taxes:

We will help the economy by permanently stopping all tax increases, currently scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011. That means protecting middle-class families, seniors worried about their retirement, and the entrepreneurs and family-owned small businesses on which we depend to create jobs in America. “significant” and costly that it may harm job creation, Congress should vote on it first.

Translation: This means that the GOP wants to extend tax cuts to the country’s wealthiest citizens. Democrats have already floated a plan to keep tax cuts for the middle class, but eliminate them for the rich. This plan would help reduce the deficit, but the Republicans want to make sure rich people retain their tax cuts.

Here’s the pledge on health care reform:

We offer a plan to repeal and replace the government takeover of health care with common sense solutions focused on lowering costs and protecting American jobs. We will enact real medical liability reform; allow Americans to purchase health coverage across state lines; empower small businesses with greater purchasing power; and create new incentives to save for future health needs.

Translation: The Republicans want to continue a health system that is dominated by health insurance company profits. This is market fundamentalism in its most pure and reckless form. The market will determine if you can get medical treatment. The market will determine the quality of health care. The new rules that prevent health insurance companies from rejecting children with preexisting conditions will be discarded because, well, that’s just unfair to corporations.

In essence, the GOP pledges to get the country back on track by using the same economic models and ideology of former President George W. Bush, a Republican whose fiscal policies and deficit spending helped create the Great Recession. There’s nothing new here

Republicans, if empowered in the midterm elections, will make things worse economically. I know that’s not necessarily a winning campaign slogan, but then the truth often doesn’t make for good bumper stickers.

Poll Shows National GOP Decline

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All those Oklahoma tea baggers and town hall protestors who think they’re part of a growing, national Republican resurgence should take a second look at a recent ABC/Washington Post poll, which shows the GOP still in decline.

Of those participating in the poll, only 20 percent identified as Republicans. The poll also shows that 57 percent of Americans support a government-run public health insurance program, which is opposed by the Republican Party.

According to the poll:

Only 20 percent of adults identify themselves as Republicans, little changed in recent months, but still the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983. Political independents continue to make up the largest group, at 42 percent of respondents; 33 percent call themselves Democrats.

The news here is this: Although President Barack Obama's approval ratings have fallen, the GOP has failed to rebuild its broken infrastructure after a stinging defeat in the 2008 elections. The numbers also show the GOP remains out of step with the majority of the country. Unless it can offer more to people than anti-Obama hatred, the ludicrous claims of “socialism, communism, fascism,” and borderline violent rhetoric, the party will probably remain in the minority on a national level after the 2010 elections.

Oklahoma, which has a growing Republican political base, is a bastion of the anti-Obama movement. If the GOP tanks again nationally in 2010 and Oklahoma Republicans make big gains, and this is a real possibility, will the state be further isolated from the national discussion over important issues?

No, I Will Not, No

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"We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember because we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign -- and no memories."—from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn's and Jim Inhofe's expected public opposition to Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court and to real healthcare reform reflects the “culture of no” Republicans have adopted in response to President Barack Obama’s presidency and the Democratic Party’s national ascendency.

No, Republicans say, to the first Hispanic nominee to the country’s highest court.

No, Republicans say, to any healthcare reform that doesn’t benefit big insurance companies.

While the culture of no might be an easy political sell for Coburn, pictured right, and Inhofe in ultra-conservative Oklahoma these days, it seems destined to fail on the national level. Coburn and Inhofe obviously reflect the party’s fear of change, and it is likely Republicans have only just begun their time in the political wilderness before they undergo a paradigm change.

Can the controversial quitter Sarah Palin help the Republicans in 2012? It seems unlikely at this point. Consequently, Coburn as “Dr. No” and Inhofe, the global warming contrarian, become stark symbols of a failed ideology and worldview. Outside this region of the country, they are often reviled for what is seen as calculated political obstinacy.

On the state level, the Republicans continue to be defined by state Rep. Sally Kern, whose silly anti-gay and “morality” proclamations make the state a laughingstock across the country. Unfortunately, the religious right in Oklahoma remains a powerful political force, and many elected Democrats attempt to appease this force rather than challenge it.

What this means to Oklahoma is continued isolation from the national political scene and from the cultural framework of a diverse, emerging America in the twenty-first century. This could obviously affect economic development here in larger structural terms. The question becomes this: Will the state corporate power structure—particularly the big media and energy companies—continue to support this isolation?

At least one Oklahoma media outlet, The Journal Record, recognizes the problem of this isolation, at least when it comes to Kern. In a recent editorial, the newspaper argued:

More importantly, we ask Kern to stop providing fodder for late-night talk show hosts, comedians and bloggers to publicly humiliate our state from a national platform. Since Kern first distributed a press release describing the proclamation, our state Legislature has been called “a petri dish for wingnuttery” and worse.

Our Department of Commerce and Tourism and our local chambers of commerce and convention and visitors bureaus struggle daily to attract and retain the nation’s most prestigious employers, to fill convention halls and hotel rooms and to retain our most talented college graduates. They already are competing against 49 other states and it is a much tougher sale when the prospect starts out with a perception of our state as a haven for those who force their personal beliefs on all. The inherent ignorance of such a position not only makes our state undesirable, it makes us, as the talk show hosts have demonstrated, a laughingstock.

Coburn, Inhofe and Kern represent the most extreme right-wing element of the Republican Party, and this makes the state a mausoleum of dead, narrow-minded ideologies. This can’t be good for business or the overall quality of life as some of the state’s brightest residents move to more diverse and tolerant states.

It’s time for far-sighted leadership here in Oklahoma. State leaders need to steer the state away from right-wing extremism. It’s one thing for many of our state’s politicians to hold old-school, pre-Bush, conservative ideas about fiscal and social policies; it’s quite another for them to alienate a majority of Americans with senseless obstructionism, polarizing political statements and religious extremism.

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