Turn Out the Lights

Long ago, in a world few remember, there was this fellow, Don Meredith – the former quarterback who was the loose and happy guy to Howard Cosell’s acerbic critic of everything on Monday Night Football. There’s no need to recall how very strange Howard Cosell was, but Meredith was happy and quite normal – and irreverent. When a team pulled off the fantastic play that changed the whole game, Meredith would launch into a chorus of “Turn out the lights, the party’s over…” – and Cosell would sigh. The guy couldn’t take anything seriously, damn it, but then Meredith was obviously right. Detailed technical analysis of this strategy or that play-choice was beside the point. The one team was blowing out the other. All else was pretentious nonsense.

Meredith would have made a good political commentator, the color-man who puts things into perspective, and right about this time would be singing that song about the Tea Party. Turn out the lights. It’s over.

It was over early. Saturday noon, after the Tuesday election, the folks in Florida finished up counting all the votes there – Obama won, not by much, but he won, giving him a 332 to 206 final margin in the Electoral College. It didn’t matter. Obama had the margin he needed, and far more, less than an hour after all the polls closed on Tuesday evening, when Meredith would have been singing. The governor down there, Rick Scott, is now requesting a formal investigation of what went wrong – tens of thousands of people, almost all minorities, waiting in line ten hours to vote, was a bit of an embarrassment, as was being the only state that couldn’t report who won for four days. It made no difference in the end, but after what happened in the Bush-Gore mess, Florida was once again the butt of many a joke.

Scott, one of the new and severe Republicans and a Tea Party favorite, knew this wasn’t helping either brand. To make up for that, just after the Florida results were announced, he declared that even though Obama won, he would, by executive order, refuse to implement all the key parts of the Affordable Care Act – no one should tell insurers or hospitals what to do. The free-market can take care of all this. Obama and his crowd could just stuff it.

This was no surprise. Scott was CEO of the hospital chain HCA when those folks admitted to fourteen felonies involving Medicare fraud and agreed to pay the federal government over six hundred million dollars in fines. Scott wasn’t implicated – he said he didn’t realize what his subordinates had been doing at all and took the Fifth over a hundred times – and then went on to become a venture capitalist, and then Florida’s governor. He knows about such things, and the arc of his career makes him a bit of a Mini-Mitt, not that it mattered. Even John Boehner was out and about saying the Affordable Care Act was the law of the land – so get over it.

Still, some Tea Party guys wouldn’t go gentle into that good night:

Firebrand Republican Rep. Allen West was defeated by Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy, according to the state’s vote count Saturday, but the incumbent won’t concede.

The state issued complete but unofficial results showing Murphy with a lead of 2,442 votes, or 50.4 percent. That’s beyond the half-percent margin needed to trigger an automatic recount. A handful of overseas and military ballots remain outstanding, but under state law the decision for a recount is based on Saturday’s count.

The results were certified – but West is threatening to sue, if he can figure out some grounds for a suit. The curious thing was that this was one of the most expensive House races in the nation, with the Tea Party outside groups and the candidates pouring a collective twenty-three million dollars into the thing. Yes, he said he knew “about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party” and other such things, but the Tea Party crowd had wasted their money.

Still he’s an interesting guy – he had served in Iraq and was a civilian adviser in Afghanistan, putting in more than twenty years of active duty ending up a lieutenant colonel. It’s just that he elected to retire after an investigation of his conduct during the interrogation of a detainee:

While serving in Taji, Iraq, West received information from an intelligence specialist about a reported plot to ambush him and his men. The alleged plot reportedly involved Yahya Jhodri Hamoodi, a civilian Iraqi police officer. West, who was not responsible for conducting interrogations in Iraq and had never conducted nor witnessed one, had his men detain Hamoodi. In the process of detaining Mr. Hamoodi, soldiers testified that Hamoodi appeared to reach for his weapon and needed to be subdued. Hamoodi was beaten by four soldiers from the 220th Field Artillery Battalion on the head and body. West then fired his pistol near Hamoodi’s head, after which Hamoodi provided West with names and information, which Hamoodi later described as “meaningless information induced by fear and pain.” At least one of these suspects was arrested as a result, but no plans for attacks or weapons were found. West said “At the time I had to base my decision on the intelligence I received. It’s possible that I was wrong about Mr. Hamoodi.”

He was angry, he did what he did, and got what turned out to be completely meaningless information, but he still insists he was right to do that, because he was angry. It’s a Tea Party thing, even if it has consequences:

West was charged with violating articles 128 (assault) and 134 (general article) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. During a hearing held as part of an Article 32 investigation in November 2003, West stated, “I know the method I used was not right, but I wanted to take care of my soldiers.” The charges were ultimately referred to an Article 15 proceeding rather than court-martial, at which West was fined $5,000. West accepted the judgment and retired with full benefits in the summer of 2004. Asked if he would act differently under similar circumstances again, West testified, “If it’s about the lives of my soldiers at stake, I’d go through hell with a gasoline can.”

He’s that kind of guy, and a letter supporting him was signed by ninety-five members of Congress and sent to the Secretary of the Army. Bob Gates was not moved. He seemed to think this guy was a jerk, so West retired and taught high school for a time, and gave speeches all over and spoke in defense of anyone in our military who got mad and tortured prisoners for useless information, or just because they were angry, and who now faced charges. It wasn’t fair. Such people were angry, and that’s what mattered.

That didn’t get him very far, but the Los Angeles Times reports that he’s not alone:

Tea party supporters are angry at the GOP for embracing as its presidential nominee a “moderate” like Romney. For undermining “true conservative” candidates. And for “choosing to ignore” the conservative agenda. Wednesday, the political direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie gathered a group of disenchanted conservatives for a news conference in Washington. Calling Romney’s loss “the death rattle” of the GOP, Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, said, “The battle to take over the Republican Party begins today.”

It’s a revolution:

He called upon the Republican leadership to resign for its part in the “epic election failure of 2012.” That includes Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has not announced whether he will run for the post again, House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

But he didn’t stop there.

“In any logical universe,” Viguerie said, “establishment Republican consultants such as Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and Romney campaign senior advisors Stuart Stevens and Neil Newhouse would never be hired to run or consult on a national campaign again and no one would give a dime to their ineffective ‘super PACs.'”

There’s much more in the item but it’s mostly rage mixed with apocalyptic doom:

Cincinnati Tea Party President George Brunemann, an engineer, was still reeling Thursday from an election night that also saw Ohio’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Josh Mandel, lose to Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown.

“I have been trying to come to terms with what the heck is going on,” Brunemann said. “The easy two-word answer for what happened Tuesday is: America died.”

But he also said there was another casualty: “The words ‘tea party’ are dead. No doubt about that.”

They had a good run, but there’s Reagan’s former speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, who always just knows that she somehow knows exactly what the mood of the country is and what’s really real, saying this:

I think the tea party is going to have to look at itself. It’s been so helpful to the Republican Party in the past. It saved it by not going third party in 2010, helping the Republicans sweep the House – but the tea party style of rage is not one that wins over converts and makes people lean towards them and say, “I want to listen to you.” I think a friendly persuasion has to begin now from the Republican Party to people of the United States.

Did she say friendly persuasion? That’s sometimes hard to manage:

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the highest ranked House Republican woman, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Republicans need to become more “modern” but not “moderate.”

“I don’t think it’s about the Republican Party needing to become more moderate; I really believe it’s the Republican Party becoming more modern,” she said. “And whether it’s Hispanics, whether it is women, whether it’s young people, the Republican Party has to make it a priority to take our values, to take our vision to every corner of this country.”

Let’s see. You say Obama is evil, as is everything that he and Democrats propose, and you’ll shut down the government if they try to do any of it – but you say it in a modern way. What does that mean? Maybe no Jew would be offended by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion if you published a new edition with a snappy sans-serif font – or something like that. Rodgers does say that the messenger and who’s communicating their values are what matter. She doesn’t speak to the values themselves, but Don Meredith is singing that song right about now. A hip fanatic is still a fanatic.

Anyway, someone already tried that:

Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer said Republicans’ push for immigration reform after the election is “fine and dandy” during an appearance on Arizona’s weekend show “12 News Sunday Square Off” that was taped Friday, according to the local NBC station. Brewer’s comments seem to contradict her previous stance that reform should come only after securing the border.

But after the interview, Brewer’s spokesman Matt Benson clarified to the station that Brewer still believes securing the border should come before reform.

Jan Brewer – a bit of a harridan – was trying to be cool and loose and reasonable. She just couldn’t pull it off, and there was this:

Brewer also said she was leaning toward accepting federal dollars to expand Arizona’s Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. Benson walked back those comments too, saying she was probably referring to using federal money to end a Medicaid enrollment freeze at the moment, not expand the program.

There would be no additional free federal money coming into Arizona for the disabled and those in their final years in nursing homes – none at all. Screw them, but say it nicely?

At least others were more direct:

A Republican official in Texas called for his state to separate from the United States and the “maggots” that reelected President Barack Obama in a newsletter he sent out this week. Peter Morrison, who serves as treasurer of the Hardin County Republican Party, wrote in his post-election newsletter that there was a clear solution to the problem of Obama’s re-election.

“We must contest every single inch of ground and delay the baby-murdering, tax-raising socialists at every opportunity,” Morrison wrote. “But in due time, the maggots will have eaten every morsel of flesh off of the rotting corpse of the Republic, and therein lies our opportunity.”

Yeah, well, that party’s over:

In the wake of President Obama’s reelection, due in part to his winning Hispanic voters by 44 points, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have restarted bipartisan discussions over comprehensive immigration reform. On the Sunday talk shows, both sounded bullish about reaching an agreement. …

Following Mitt Romney’s defeat, multiple influential conservatives – such as Charles Krauthammer and Sean Hannity – are eager to repair GOP fissures with Latinos and have endorsed immigration reform, including amnesty for those in the country illegally, as one way to do that.

“It’s one thing to shoot yourself in the foot,” Graham said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” referring to GOP support among Hispanics. “Just don’t reload the gun.”

He’s telling Cathy McMorris Rodgers that you can’t reload that gun in a modern way. It’s still a loaded gun.

Even those who you’d least suspect now know that this particular party is over:

Conservative Weekly Standard columnist Bill Kristol said it won’t kill the country to raise taxes on millionaires during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” Kristol said that after a bad night on Election Day, Republicans should reassess their positions and be open to new ideas.

“Don’t scream and yell when one person says, ‘you know what, it won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.’ It really won’t, I don’t think,” Kristol said.

That’s heresy, but the idea here is that some battles aren’t worth fighting:

The Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood?

This is a change of tune, probably prompted by items like this:

Appearing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of the Democratic leadership, telegraphed her party’s intentions if Republicans refuse to accept a tax increase on the wealthy.

“To solve this problem, the wealthiest Americans have to pay their fair share too,” she said. “If the Republicans will not agree with that, we will reach a point at the end of this year where all the tax cuts expire and we’ll start over next year, and whatever we do will be a tax cut for whatever package we put together. That may be the way to get past this.”

Let all the tax rates revert to normal again and then decide what you want to do next. That’s not a bad plan. Let the Republicans argue for special massive taxes cuts for millionaires and billionaires all over again. We’ll see how far they get with that. It won’t be far, and this would also be a way to revert to the normal way of doing business in Washington. Look at the problem and see what you can do to fix it, rather than seeing who can prove that they’re really angry and that their anger is amazingly valid, and a valid reason to shut things down, or at least a way to score political points. Try to accomplish something, somehow.

That begs an interesting question. Matthew Yglesias seriously wonders whether House Republicans are interested in accomplishing anything at all:

One possible answer is no. Clearly the outlook for conservative public policy isn’t that good with Democrats in the White House and the Senate. The 2014 midterms will almost certainly strengthen their hand, and the GOP controls most of the state governments in the United States so there’s ample room for conservative policy initiatives of a non-federal nature. Under the circumstances, viewing the congress as primarily a bastion from which to block liberal initiatives and create conservative messaging points is perfectly reasonable.

Structurally, there is no incentive to do anything but shut the place down, over and over. All the action is at the state level, except there’s this:

Maybe someone out there really does want to end federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I bet they could get that done. In fact, I bet they could come up with a longish list of small programs that don’t speak to the core functions of the federal government and say “we’d like to scrap these.” Say, “look you created this big Dodd-Frank framework in your first term and you know we don’t think it was a good idea. But if you think it’s truly as important as you say, show us you mean it by offering up some of these small-bore programs and we’ll use those savings to fund implementation.” Nice deal. The White House would go for it both because they like Dodd-Frank, because some liberals think the GOP is right on the merits about PBS, and most of all because Obama thinks bipartisan deal-making makes him look good.

There are some incentives to actually legislate at the federal level, as Ryan Cooper explains here:

The conservative movement of the Obama years has been driven first by the belief that total obstructionism would pay off electorally, and second by a delusional belief that the president (a man who passed Bob Dole’s healthcare plan, a man far to Nixon’s right on many issues) is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist who is attempting to destroy freedom forever. …

The latter belief was extremely good at turning out the Republican base, but since it required believing such total nonsense, it badly weakened conservatives’ already-tenuous connection to reality. Even Romney campaign insiders appear to have lost the ability to believe or grapple with simple averages of polls.

In short, Republicans’ addiction to nonsense has seriously undermined their campaign performance. What’s more, the belief that the president would get blamed for the Republicans’ obstruction turned out to be wrong too – the Democrats won not just the presidency but swept nearly every close Senate seat.

Turn out the lights. The party is over. What worked before isn’t working now, and it never worked in the first place. Back to work, guys.

Of course there is this guy:

All family and friends – even close family and friends who I know to be Democrats – are hereby dead to me. I vow never to speak to them again for the rest of my life, or have any communications with them. They are in short, the enemies of liberty. They deserve nothing less than hatred and utter contempt. …

Are you married to someone who voted for Obama, have a girlfriend who voted ‘O’. Divorce them. Break up with them without haste. Vow not to attend family functions, Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas for example, if there will be any family members in attendance who are Democrats.

Do you work for someone who voted for Obama? Quit your job. Co-workers who voted for Obama? Simply don’t talk to them in the workplace, unless your boss instructs you too for work-related only purposes. Have clients who voted Democrat? Call them up this morning and tell them to take their business elsewhere.

Have a neighbor who votes for Obama? You could take a crap on their lawn. Then again, probably not a good idea since it would be technically illegal to do this. But you could have your dog take care of business. Not your fault if he just happens to choose that particular spot.

There’s much more but you get the idea – the man is stewing in his own juices, as Don Meredith is cheerfully singing. It’s kind of pathetic, or sociopathic. Take your choice.

So there you have it. The Tea Party party is over, and James Fallows, considering the election, sees where the real action is now:

For the first time in my conscious life, the Democratic Party is now more organized and coherent, and less fractious and back-biting, than the Republicans. It is almost stupefying to imagine that.

But think about the facts: We’ve now had four of the past six presidential elections won by Democrats. In five of the past six, the Democrat has won the popular vote. The most effective advocate for the current Democratic incumbent was the previous Democratic president. The current president’s toughest rival in the primaries is now his Secretary of State, and another former rival is his vice president. Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the nominee dared not even mention the existence of the previous Republican president. His rivals in the primary were tepid at best in shows of support. Democrats now disagree about a lot, from their relationship with Wall Street to the ethics of drone wars. But they are a more coherent whole than through most of their recent history – and much more coherent than the Republicans.

That won’t last forever of course – things shift back and forth over the decades – but for now it is time to turn out the lights at Tea Party headquarters and move on. There’s work to do.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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