GOP

Sotomayor and Our Changing Politics

First, as someone who has been encouraging our nation's leaders to better understand and adapt to the rapid growth of our Hispanic population, today is a very satisfying day.  Despite her incredible qualifications as a judge, Sonia Sotomayor was not a safe or easy pick.  I applaud President Obama, and the Senate, for having the courage and confidence for giving her a chance to serve on the highest court of the land.   When she was chosen a few months ago I released this statement:

"President Obama's historic pick of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the Supreme Court is an acknowledgment and affirmation of the great demographic changes taking place in America today. Driven by years of immigration, our nation is going through profound change. The percentage of people of color in the United States has tripled in just the past 45 years, and America is now on track become a majority-minority nation in the next 30-40 years. The movement of our nation from a majority white to a more racially complex society is perhaps the single greatest societal change taking place in our great nation today. And if the Supreme Court is to have the societal legitimacy required to do its work, its Justices must reflect and speak to the people of America of the 21st century. The pick of Judge Sotomayor, a highly qualified, twice-Senate confirmed Latina to serve as one of the nine judges overseeing our judicial system, will not only put a thoughtful and highly experienced judge on the Supreme Court, it will go a long way toward making the Supreme Court one that can truly represent the new people and new realities of 21st century America."

Second, I am not surprised that a large majority of the Republicans in the Senate voted against her.  As I discussed at our immigration event earlier this week (see this writeup on the right-leaning site CNS), racial intolerance has been at the very core of the Republican Party's political strategy and ideological argument since Lyndon Johnson, the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts of the mid 1960s.  It became known as the Southern Strategy, and it was this most conscious exploitation of racial fear - Welfare Queens, Tax and Spend, Willie Horton, now criminals crossing the border - that perhaps more than anything else fuelled what we have called the Conservative Ascendancy in recent years.  

We also know today, however, that the conditions which created the opportunity for the success of the Southern Strategy have become a relic of 20th century politics.  But the current Congressional Republican leadership, all brought up and schooled in the successful eara of the Southern Strategy, knows no other politics. They are like an aging baseball pitcher whose fastball no longer pops, or a tv sitcom long past its prime.  They throw that pitch and it gets hit out of the park, that funny joke now falls flat, and these same racial conceits thrown around during the Sotomayor hearings bounce off an America whose people and attitudes towards race are very different from the America of the Southern Strategy era. 

Today's Republican Party is an almost entirely white party in an America which is now one-third non-white.  They are an aging party, holding on to a politics while once successful no longer works in the much more racially diverse America of the 21st century.  And this lack of diversity and long history of racial intolerance has taken its toll on the Republican brand with this fastest growing non-white part of the population, Hispanics.  In a tracking poll taken last week the favorable/unfavorable ratings for the Democratic Party with Hispanics was 53-31; the Republican Party 4 percent favorable, and 85 percent unfavorable.  The ratio for Congressional Democrats with Hispanics 46-34; for Congressional Republicans 5 percent favorable and 83 percent unfavorable.  4 and 5 percent! These are truly incredible numbers. 

As I said in my remarks on Tuesday I think that for the Republicans to get back in the game they will have to do more than just change their racial tune, elect a few more minorities, and begin this long process of modernizing their approach to race.  They will have to eventually acknowledge and repudiate their intolerant past, and their shameful exploitation of racial fear as a national political strategy. But today that day seems a long way off, and I have no doubt that the father of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, if still alive today, would be holding his head down, ashamed of what his once proud Party had become. 

For more on the issues in this essay see this backgrounder, On Judge Sotomayor and America's Changing Demography.

Cheney Again

The Times breaks a big story:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.

Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.

Hais, Winograd in LA Times: "The Republican Party ignores young 'millennials' at its peril"

NDN Fellows Mike Hais and Morley Winograd have a powerful op-ed in the LA Times today.   It includes this passage:

Only 41% of all millennials were eligible to vote in 2008, yet their overwhelming support for Obama transformed his win from what would have been a squeaker into a solid victory. Obama's popular-vote margin over John McCain was about 9.5 million nationally; millennials accounted for nearly 7.6 million of those votes.

In the 2010 off-year election, half of millennials will be eligible to vote, representing about a fifth of the overall electorate. By 2012, 60% will be eligible to vote, and they could make up about a quarter of the American electorate when Obama runs for reelection. By 2020, when virtually all millennials will be over 18, they will represent 36% of the electorate and will completely dominate elections and the political agenda of America.

And it seems likely that this civic generation, like its "Greatest Generation" great-grandparents, will vote in big numbers. Turnout among voters under 30 has been rising steadily since millennials began to replace the alienated and more cynical Gen-Xers in this age group. From a low of 37% in 1996, turnout increased to 53% of all eligible millennials, and 59% in the key battleground states in 2008.

Their unity of opinion and their numbers will make millennials' preferences for economic activism, a non-intrusive approach to social issues by government at any level and a multilateral interventionism by America in foreign affairs the policy paths to political success during the next decade.

It is simply inconceivable that the Republican Party can craft a winning strategy between now and then that doesn't accommodate these ideas.

But so far, Republicans appear to be tone-deaf on the issues that millennials care about.

If you haven't bought their critically acclaimed book, Millennial Makeover: MySpace. YouTube and the Future of American Politics, buy the brand new paperback edition with an afterword that takes a fresh look at the 2008 elections.   It is an awfully good read.

Update: And if you want to come see Morley and Mike this Tuesday the 12th in San Francisco please come join us for an evening event which I will be moderating at the Hyatt just off the Embarcado.

Weekly Kos Poll, GOP Still at 16 Percent, Messaging the Economy

The weekly Kos track has the landscape essentially unchanged this week - Obama strong,Congressional Dems in an improved position, the Congressional GOP at catastrophically low levels. 

The Congessional GOP is at 16 percent approval this week.   Recalling that John McCain received 46 percent of the vote last year, 30 percent of the country is now in a position to have voted for McCain in 2008 and be currently disapproving of the Congressional GOP.   At some point the national media is going to come to terms with how incredibly unpopular, ineffective and intellectually bankrupt the modern GOP is today.  Only a few times in this past century has a poltical party in the United States been so unpopular.  

So Obama has prevailed in this first round.  But a new and very important round of public engagement with Congress and the GOP begins now.  For the next month or so, even while the Administration starts to very publically engage with the rest of the world (G20, Summit of the Americas, Biden and Clinton trips), there will be a very consequential battle over the President's budget.  

The President begins this next round in very good shape.  But my sense is that the Administration will have to do a better job now at distilling down to the essence of what they are asking the country to do - is it recovery? To invest in the future? Get the budget under control? Tame Washington? I think the President's plan needs a name and single message.  Not sure it should be "recovery,"  Do we really believe the country wants to go back to where we were - 81 percent wrong track? No.  Increasingly I get the sense that these economic and fiscal terms - recovery, stimulus, deficits, investment, budget plan - are the wrong words for this next phase.  Feels like it should be more about adopting the President's plan for America; embracing the President's strategy for a strong America in the 21st century; etc.

In reviewing the budget blueprint, it is clear that the President has a far-sighted plan to ensure America prospers in the 21st century.  That is what we are going to debate over the next month - and all components of it are means to the end, and not the end in itself.  What the Obama team must do at all costs is to prevent the GOP from doing what is has done so effectively these past few years and reduce this big conversation on what our economic strategy for the future needs to be into a overly simplistic debate about numbers, deficits and taxes.  All of that is tactical, means to an end - and that end is broad based growth, a strong America, a successful America of the 21st century.  Remember that in the Clinton era we raised taxes on the wealthiest among us and saw extraordinary growth and broad-based prosperity.  In the Bush era we radically cut taxes for the wealthiest and saw the incomes of every day people decline.  Tax rates are only part of the overall strategy our nation uses to create growth, broadly shared, and this old canard that tax cuts automatically create growth has been disproven once and for all.  

Larry Summers began laying out the terms of this next debate in an important speech yesterday.  But I still feel what is missing in the emerging Obama argument is 1) old bad economy vs new better economy - a forward/backward main thrust vs the concept of recovery; 2) we still have not done nearly enough to account for and explain why incomes went down during the years of recovery before this recent recession.  There is a mountain of data that shows that for the American people this period of losing ground was traumatic, that it helped drive the wrong track number to 81 percent, the highest ever recorded, prior to the recession and financial crisis.  For many Americans what this means is that we don't need recovery - a return to a period of declining wages - or growth which excluded them - but we need a different and better type of growth that this time, now, raises all boats and helps them manage this more competitive economy of this new century.  What we need is a new and better economy; an economic strategy for the 21st century; a strong plan for a strong America; a plan to make globalization work for all Americans, etc.  

The idea that we had growth under the GOP that saw a declining standard of living for the typical American family is the strongest rationale for the plan the President is promoting.  In this much more competitive economy of the 21st century America will need to invest more be smarter and try harder to maintain our standard of living.  We will need to equip America to be successful in a very different 21st economy - one that must be more energy effecient, low-carbon at its base, is technology tense, and globally competitive and interconnected.  For America Inc. to propser in that economy we need a new and comprehensive strategy; one that invests in our infrastructure and people; that encourages accelerates innovation and new job creation; that cuts health care costs and encourages better health; that modernizes our electricity network, invests in renewable energy sources and makes a national crusade to make our homes and businesses more energy effecient.  

All of this will take time, years in fact.  But in his desire to be honest with the American people it is critical for the President to continue to emphasize the long term structural changes and investments we are making, and to not let short term metrics like "recovery," "stimulus" or the stock market be the way he defines success.  A tall order all this, but it is one I truly believe the President is up for.  The real question is - is Congress?

The GOP's Early Response to Obama Has Been Catastrophic

The weekly Kos track is out, and the central dynamic of this new political year remains unchanged: Barack Obama has become a towering and popular figure, the Democratic Party retains its relatively strong position, and the already unpopular GOP had paid a heavy price for opposing the President in his efforts to lead America to recovery.  

I've been writing about how one of the central stories of the new Obama era would be how the GOP struggled with the new realities of this new political era. With the rise of Rush, the struggles of Steele, the disapointment of Jindal, the lack of any attractive savior on the horizon and the just plain irresponsibility and awfulness of their Congressional leaders in a time of national crisis the GOP truly appears to be a political party facing a long road back.  

Remember, in this Kos poll Obama is at 69, Boehner 15.  The Congressional Dems are at 45, the Congressional GOP is at 15.  There can be no other conclusion than this early engagement with the President has been catastrophic for the GOP, and that they will need to find a new way to work with the President.  

Rob Shapiro has a great new essay on the inanity of the GOP's emerging economic arguments, and I discussed all this with Norah O'Donnell on MSNBC earlier this week.

10am Update: From a new Newsweek poll getting a lot of attention this morning: 

Despite the tumbling economy, Barack Obama continues to enjoy a honeymoon with the American public in the face of the most trying crisis any newly inaugurated president has encountered since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The GOP, meanwhile, is viewed by a majority of Americans as the party of "no," without a plan of its own to fix the economy, and even rank-and-file Republicans are concerned about the party's direction, according to the first NEWSWEEK Poll taken since Obama assumed office.

"People give Obama credit for reaching out to Republicans, but they don't see Republicans reciprocating," says pollster Larry Hugick, whose firm conducted the survey. "A surprising number said bipartisanship is more important than getting things done."

Overall, 58 percent of Americans surveyed approve of the job Obama is doing, while 26 percent disapprove and one in six (16 percent) has no opinion. Although his approval ratings are down from levels seen a few weeks ago in other polls, 72 percent of Americans still say they have a favorable opinion of Obama-a higher rating than he received in NEWSWEEK Polls during the presidential campaign last year. The president's rating in this poll is consistent with estimates provided by other national media polls in the last week.

On Judd Gregg's Withdrawal

During the Clinton Administration, Judd Gregg fought hard to deny the Commerce Secretary the ability to use the latest techniques to ensure the most accurate Census count. The goal of this effort was to make it harder for the Census to count minorities, young people and the poor, groups the Republicans do not view as part of their coalition. 
 
This history should disqualify him from ever serving in a Democratic Administration.  In this last election, the American people rejected the politics of the Southern Strategy once and for all, and those leaders who have a history of exploiting race for political gain have no place in an Obama Administration. 

We at NDN are glad to see Senator Gregg go. His withdrawal says much more about the inability of the modern Republican Party to let go of its failed and anachronistic politics than it does about the vetting capacity of this young Administration.

Steele, the GOP and Confronting the Southern Strategy

Michael Steele had a lot to overcome. One of his opponents, the sitting GOP Chair from South Carolina, had just resigned from an all white country club and admitted that he became a Republican in reaction to his personal experience with desegregation. Another opponent, Chip Saltsman, sent out a wildly racist CD to RNC Members which included the now infamous Magic Negro and Star Spanglish Banner songs. Saltsman was so battered by his out-of-touch comments that he withdrew from the race before the balloting began. But Katon Dawson, the SC Chair, went all the way to the final ballot before losing to Steele.

What a stark choice this was for the Republicans: an avowed disciple of the Southern Strategy era of racial politics vs. an African-American candidate from that awfully liberal, pretty far north state of Maryland. That Steele won, defeating Saltsman and Dawson, is a hopeful sign that the GOP has begun to confront its shameful exploitation of race as a national political strategy over the past 44 years. But the road back to power for the Party Mr. Steele has chosen to lead is a hard one. As I recently wrote:

Their recent success as a national Party was built on an approach towards race that spoke to a different racial reality in America, an American one where could get away with magic negro songs, and much much worse of course. But that America - a white/black, majority/minority America - is now an historic relic, and is in the process of being replaced by an America that has 3 times as many minorities as it did just 44 years ago, and is on track to be majority minority by 2042 (for more on this historic demographic transformation see here). But for many in the GOP, including ones who might become their Chairman, they know no other politics than this Southern Strategy era politics, a politics that has been rejected once and for all by the American people of today's America.

It is important that the leaders of the GOP have begun to confront its shameful racial past. But their problem has no simple or easy fix. It will require a complete refashioning of their politics around a very different set of 21st century demographics and a much more tolerant understanding of race in America - and a complete and utter repudiation of much of their domestic agenda for the past half century. Which is major reason why I think their road back is such a long one - many of their leaders came to power by becoming expert in this kind of politics; it is the core play in their playbook; it is the foundation of their domestic agenda; and they know little else. Their old Southern Strategy dogs aren't going to learn new tricks - for the GOP they will have to slowly, over time, replace their anachronistic leaders with ones schooled in the modern governing challenges, modern media and technology and modern demography of our day. The process of watching this generational replacement take place will be one of the most interesting political stories of the next 10-20 years, and of course has become all the more necessary in the age of Obama.

Recall that one of Mr. Steele's predecessors as RNC Chairman, Senator Mel Martinez of Florida, resigned in 2007 after less than a year on the job because of the lingering intolerance of the Party of Saltsman, Tancredo, Limbaugh and Dawson. So these tensions in the GOP - and the nation - will continue to play out for some time as old attitudes and people give way to new racial attitudes and a new America.

Just yesterday, Mr. Steele showed how hard this adjustment would be for the GOP. As Huffington Post's Sam Stein reported, Steele was asked on Fox News whether the GOP's position on immigration had alienated the Latino vote for a generation. His answer? No, of course. Hispanics really agree with our position calling for continued exploitation and demonization of Hispanics, but we just didn't message it very well. Score one for the nativists.

So, all in all, Mr. Steele's election is a hopeful sign for the GOP and the nation. His Party not only chose a new path in electing him their new Chair, they rejected candidates who would have sent a very bad signal about the values of the GOP in this new age of Obama. But as we saw with the irresponsible House stimulus vote last week, old ways die hard, and the choice of Steele alone does not a new Party make.

Weekly Update on Immigration: Extremism Exposed, NDN Backgrounders, Immigration and the Economy

Streak of Racialist Extremism Exposed - New York Times (NYT) editorial this weekend on how the "relentlessly harsh Republican campaign against immigrants has always hidden a streak of racialist extremism. Now after several high-water years, the Republican tide has gone out, leaving exposed the nativism of fringe right-wingers clinging to what they hope will be a wedge issue."  The editorial alludes to last week's visit by the American Cause to the National Press Club in Washington. The group, seeking to speak for the future of the Republican Party, declared that its November defeats in Congressional races stemmed not from having been too hard of foreigners, but too soft.  The NYT points out several key points that have been repeated in NDN analysis throughout the years:

This is nonsense, of course. For years Americans have
rejected the cruelty of enforcement-only regimes and Latino-bashing, in opinion surveys and at the polls. In House and Senate races in 2008 and 2006, "anti-amnesty" hard-liners consistently lost to candidates who proposed comprehensive reform solutions. The wedge did not work for single-issue xenophobes like Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton, Pa., or the former Arizona Congressman J. D. Hayworth. Nor did it help any of the Republican presidential candidates....Americans want immigration solved, and they realize that mass deportations will not do that. When you add the unprecedented engagement of growing numbers of Latino voters in 2008, it becomes clear that the nativist path is the path to permanent political irrelevance. Unless you can find a way to get rid of all the Latinos.

The Editorial also alludes to two illustrative quotes by Bill O'Reilly, "for another YouTube taste of the Fox News host assailing the immigration views of "the far left" (including The Times) as racially traitorous."

On that note, you might want to review the NDN Backgrounder: State of the Modern GOP and the Conservative Movement

Amidst Having No Identity and No Agenda, the GOP Attacks Immigrants Again in Economic
Stimulus Debate

NDN BackgrounderImmigration Reform and the Growing Power of the Hispanic Vote

The Utter Bankruptcy of Today's Republican Party

Chip Saltsman's Other Song - The Star Spanglish Banner - After all the attention received by the Republican mailing of the parody song "Barack the Magic Negro" by Chip Saltsman, last week NDN highlighted "The Star Spanglish Banner," a "puerile bit of Latino-baiting" on the same notorious CD.  That same afternoon Mr. Saltsman withdrew his name from the race for RNC Chair.

The election for RNC Chair was finally won by Michael Steele.  Many see this as a "first step" by the
Republican party to change direction, but when we read Mr. Steele's position on immigration, it is clear that the GOP just doesn't understand how to fix the broken immigration system, and they have no plan.

According to this article, and to the New York Times,incoming Senator Gillibrand "Hints at a Change of Mind on Immigration."

University of Virginia law professor David Martin is joining the Department of
Homeland Security
as a principal deputy general counsel.

Confidential taxpayer information might be at risk in Weld County, CO due to warrantless immigration searches being conducted by the Sheriff's office.

Postponing E-verify - The federal government has agreed to postpone implementing the E-Verify regulation for federal contractors until May 21, 2009 at the earliest, a business group said today.  Federal officials agreed to a request by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to postpone enforcement of the regulation so that the rule can be reviewed by the Barack Obama administration, the organization said in a news release.  It is the second time the federal government has pushed back the deadline. Under the new agreement, federal contractors will
not need to comply with E-Verify until May 21.

Layoffs mean more than lost wages for H-1B visa holders

Obama Must Embrace Immigrants to Reform Economy 

Amidst Having No Identity and No Agenda, the GOP Attacks Immigrants Again in Economic Stimulus Debate


This image was the headline on the Huffington Post website, until our post on "The Star Spanglish Banner" took its place for most of the day, and it goes very well with a piece in the Washington Post today by  Manuel Roig-Franzia.  As Republicans have a national meeting this week, they search for their misshapen identity.  In the meantime, since they have nothing else to propose and know nothing other than the exploitation of racial fear and hate, they decided to issue a statement claiming that the stimulus bill would help undocumented immigrants:

The $800 billion-plus economic stimulus measure making its way through Congress could steer government checks to illegal immigrants......The legislation, which would send tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple, expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens, but it would allow people who do not have Social Security numbers to be eligible for the checks.

What this statement does not say, is that the stimulus steers checks to TAXPAYERS, it's not aimed at "illegal immigrants." In fact, the measure indicates that Social Security numbers are needed to claim tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple. It also expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid clarified, "This legislation is directed toward people who are legal in our country.  It is about time the Republicans got a different piece of reading material and get off this illegal immigrant stuff." said Sen. Reid, D-Nev. "This bill has nothing to do with anything illegal as far as immigration. It creates jobs for people who are lawfully in this country."  Not just U.S. citizens pay taxes - many legal immigrants under Temporary Protected Status or other programs file taxes, purchase homes, and get credit, so they would be eligible for a return.

Instead of trying to create a new "boogieman", the GOP should be thinking about how to be more inclusive - and inclusive does not mean having one member of one minority in a prominent position in your Party.  Some Members of Congress still - for reasons that I will probably never understand - think it is somehow out of line to repudiate racist/divisive attacks like Rush Limbaugh's.  At least Phil Gingrey took one step in the right direction by not shying away from repudiating some of the latest offensive attacks, namely by Limbaugh against our President:

"I think that our leadership, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are taking the right approach," Gingrey said. "I mean, it's easy if you're Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don't have to try to do what's best for your people and your party. You know you're just on these talk shows and you're living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn't be or wouldn't be good leaders, they're not in that position..."


Lastly, and more importantly, aside from whatever Republicans do or don't do, this statement tying the immigration debate into the stimulus debate exemplifies a greater trend that Simon and NDN have predicted will occur with the entire domestic agenda until immigration reform is passed:

"That the debate.....has immediately become a debate about immigration should be a clear warning to the Administration and Congress that progress on many important domestic priorities this year may get caught up in the debate on how to best fix our broken immigration system. It is our belief that rather than having a series of tough and contentious proxy fights [with Republicans and with Democrats] on immigration, our leaders should recognize that passing comprehensive immigration reform this year will not only help fix our badly broken immigration system - a priority of many Americans - but may also be the key to unlocking bipartisan progress on a whole range of other domestic and security related issues." 

The Utter Bankruptcy of Today's Republican Party

No Republican votes tonight.  None.  

As I have written so many times before on this blog, the modern Republican Party ceased being a serious Party when Bush took office. Their leadership and government left America weaker today than it has been since before World War II.   They failed to tackle critical challenges on their watch, and ignored warning signs of dangers to come.  They have dug a very deep hole for the nation, and today they turned their backs, hard, on a popular President trying to begin cleaning up the mess they made, and do the right thing for a nation in need. 

I listened to Republicans over the last couple of days, trying hard to understand the rationale for their opposition.  I heard references to a CBO report that had already been proven not to exist.  I heard about pork but they offered few specifics.  I heard the refrain again and again that tax cuts are the best way to create jobs - an assertion that was disproven by the economic experience of the Bush era.  We had historic tax cuts under Bush; job creation was anemic, and incomes for average people actually fell.  The tax-cut strategy didn't work.  For eight years the Bush Presidency confused cutting taxes with offering a broad economic strategy that would help prepare the nation for the great challenges of this emerging century - and we are all paying the price today.  Massive structural budget deficits, ready to grow worse with the retirement of the baby boom.  Aging infrastructure.  Years of flat wages and declining incomes.  Record home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies.  2nd tier rates of broadband penetration.  Rising rates of poverty and those without health insurance.  A terribly broken immigration system. A global round of economic liberalization unfinished.   A badly bungled TARP. But of course one big thing did get done during this period - those massive set of tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans.  

For the last four years, Rob Shapiro and I have talking about the inability of the political class to come to terms with was happening to the American middle class.  For those with means, the Bush era - up until the last year - was a boom time.  Taxes were cut, assets appreciated. But for far too many Americans the economic crisis we talk about today began long before the financial crisis hit in 2007 and 2008 - and this crisis was the increasing struggle of every day people, the decline of median income even during a robust period of economic growth.  This lack of a proper response to this crisis is what drove the Republicans from power more than anything else in 2006, and it was Barack's finding of his voice on the struggle of every day people in the summer and fall of 2008 that was so critical to his pulling away from McCain.  The American people have come to feel that the modern GOP really didn't understand or have a plan to deal with their very real economic crisis.  They are right of course, and this more than any other issue is what has driven the GOP from power and given the Democrats their huge majorities today. 

But clearly the Republicans in charge of the House don't understand all this.  Their party only swung into action when the economic crisis began to affect the monied class.  Their actions were predictably inept, secretive, and misguided.  $500 billion of stimulus and TARP money was spent in 2008 and the crisis worsened.  They even blocked meaningful action on keeping people in their homes - key to solving the financial portion of this crisis - with predictable and cynical cries of "moral hazard" when two companies alone - AIG and Citigroup - received commitments from their Treasury Department of close to $500 billion.  More money, of course, than the one year cost of the stimulus plan passed tonight by the House.  That's right. Citigroup and AIG have commitments for more money from our government than all of the 2009 portion of the stimulus plan that has been derided by the GOP as an outrageous use of the people's money.  

The GOP will have two more chances on this stimulus to behave in much more constructive ways, with upcoming votes in the Senate and again when the bills are brought together and voted on again in each chamber.   I don't know what is going to happen, or how this will play across the nation over the next few days.  I wrote recently that the road back for the GOP, this party of "magic negros," would be a long one.  But if the Republicans continue to act in ways so clearly designed to serve the interests of the few over the interests of the many at a time of such great national challenge then their road back may be even longer than I could have imagined.

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