Sunday, March 27, 2011

Here we go ...

The great conservative meltdown I was predicting for 2012 got started a little earlier than even I would have expected. Like this year.

With Republican governors in a number of states slashing budgets for basically political reasons and seriously angering much of the public in the process, it's only a matter of time before a real grass-roots movement from the political left sweeps out many of those right-wing politicians that seem hell-bent on sabotaging the governing process. A number of Republican senators in Wisconsin, which just passed that anti-union bill now tied up in court, are in danger of being recalled, and folks in states such as Ohio, Indiana and my own Pennsylvania are making similar noise.

But let's look at the big picture: You can't simply bully people on a consistent basis and expect them not to react; at some point they will say "No more!" And I think we may be there now.

Going back to Wisconsin, the bill that sharply restricted collective bargaining for unionized state employees and which caused the Democratic members of the Senate to flee the state to deny the body a quorum turned out not to be about economics at all. The majority leader admitted on the Fox News Channel a couple of weeks ago that its real intent was to sabotage union funding for an upcoming reelection campaign for President Obama. (As if that will make that much difference given Obama's fund-raising capability -- he's likely to bankrupt any candidate that would run against him.)

That fact is one reason why no clear front-runner has emerged for the GOP nomination. With Sarah Palin sinking, Mike Huckabee treading water and only long-shots Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum set to announce, it's clear to me that the conservatives who run the party really have nothing to run upon except that none of them are Obama. That's not good enough, especially since recent economic news favors him, if just slightly -- and let's keep in mind that economics rules during these days of a "jobless recovery."

But let's go back to Wisconsin, a state with a very long history of progressive politics, for a moment. The shenanigans of Gov. Scott Walker and the other Republicans have only energized the Democratic Party in that state, which is leading the recall campaign, and GOP operatives in that state are moaning that they can't get the funds to fight it. Also consider that large number of anti-Walker demonstrators that took over the capitol building in Madison left fired-up and ready to act. They apparently hope that they'll inspire people in other states to do the same, and they might be right.

But here's the issue: The Wisconsin Senate passed that bill and Walker, who by numerous reports is an evangelical Christian, signed it with no debate and no willingness to compromise or work with the opposition, and I would suggest that such an attitude is doing more to get its GOP members run out of office than its actual passing. "Well, we need to maintain 'core principles' that we can't change," they may say.

No, they don't need to do that -- not even Jesus did.

It's no surprise then that Jesus did battle most often with the Pharisees, who were sticklers for the "law" but missed that the very concept of law represents a framework of relationships. That is, take away the relational aspect of law and it just becomes a bunch of lifeless pronouncements without any context that have no power to assure the pursuit of justice. That's why religion devoid of true relationship ultimately becomes worthless -- it just doesn't work.

And that's also why, in the words of conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, "The big [conservative] defeat is coming." The political right will eventually fail to make its case that following its principles will lead to economic prosperity (and in fact have likely already done so), and simply "saying it louder" won't help matters. What it needs to do is to work across the aisle to find solutions that benefit everyone; however, its own mentality assures that it will never happen.

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