Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Car That Can't Turn Left

As I watched race car driver Juan Pablo Montoya win this year's Indy 500 the other day, it occurred to me that today's Republican party runs in the opposite direction of American auto racing.

When Indy and NASCAR drivers race on the oval track, they travel counter clockwise and always turn left; whereas today's GOP seems to run around a circular track and only turns right.   

Republicans are 0-2 in the past two presidential elections and not by thin margins either; despite widespread efforts on the local, state and national level to illegally disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of African-Americans, Hispanics, legal immigrants and college students from their right to vote.

It's highly doubtful that former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's recent announcement that he's jumping into the crowded 2016 GOP presidential clown car for another run will do much to erase the Republican o-fer.

Not only is the field of 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls already top-heavy with candidates seeking the coveted blessing of the Religious Right and it's fundamentalist Christian following, it's just not likely that a member of Opus-Dei who home schools his children is going to appeal to mainstream American voters.

The Republican National Committee, conservative media spin doctors and the party's power brokers and rainmakers have allowed the GOP to drift so far to the political right that they've effectively decoupled themselves from the American center - and, some might argue, reality.

For example, last week House Speaker John Boehner pushed through the Republican-majority Congress' umpteenth anti-abortion bill; one that would effectively ban all abortions past 20 weeks.

Given the GOP's current slavish devotion to the far right wing, one might imagine that members of the crowded field of 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls might take a page from Bill Clinton's successful campaign strategy and stake out the moderate middle of the electorate by moving the party closer to the center of the American political spectrum to broaden their party's narrow appeal.

But if recent headlines are any indication, the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision has effectively empowered wealthy ideologues with hyper-conservative agendas to dictate the Republican party's platform; so appealing to far right extremists is like a job requirement for any conservative seeking the party's nomination.    

As a press release from the People For the American Way (PFAW) reported recently, last Wednesday May 20th the Gun Owners of America (GOA), a pro-gun rights group that considers the NRA a bunch of pansies, sent an e-mail to it's membership informing them that they would be conducting "tele-town hall meetings" with 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls this week to vet them on their positions on gun laws.

GOA executive director Larry Pratt
To understand GOA, you need to know a little about their rather outspoken executive director Larry Pratt (pictured left), who was forced to quit his position as co-chairman of Pat Buchanan's unremarkable 1996 presidential campaign after the Center for Public Integrity released a report in February of 1996 showing that Pratt had attended numerous meetings and spoken at events attended by neo-Nazis and white supremacists aligned with the American militia movement.

Not surprisingly, Pratt was not only an important figure in the formation of the militia movement in the 1990's, he's also active in the anti-immigrant movement having founded groups such as English First (an "English-Only" group) and U.S. Border Control.

Pratt has shrewdly updated his bizarre anti-immigrant hysteria as a means to smear President Obama too, according to the PFAW, Pratt accused the President of seeking to "enlist undocumented immigrants into a private 'Praetorian guard'" (Cue cuckoo clock sounds) 

According to the PFAW, Pratt is also the guy who said members of the US Congress were right to have "a healthy fear" of assassination because it motivates them to "behave."

Now I'm not at all suggesting that Larry Pratt doesn't have the right to exercise his 1st Amendment rights and enjoy freedom of expression.

But if any 2016 Republican candidate wants to be taken seriously as a candidate for the highest office in the land, participating in a "tele-town hall meeting" with a racist, anti-Semite nut-bag like Pratt is probably not the way to do it.

Any GOP candidate worth his or her weight in salt who wants to win the White House in 2016 is going to have the guts to grab the wheel of the Republican clown car and turn it to the left; away from divisive purveyors of hate like Larry Pratt and back towards a semblance of sanity.

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