Bigots to the Left of Me, Dingbats on the Right
My email program tried to warn me on a recent Sunday evening when I opened my latest message from the Democratic Party's Organizing for America (OFA) group. But did I listen? Nooooo.
Silly me. Thunderbird thought the whole thing was a scam. It was absolutely correct.
The email invited me to attend an OFA gathering on Monday, April 12, in Cincinnati "to celebrate the historic passage of health insurance reform -- and your role in making it happen."
So I went. What was supposed to be a "celebration" was marred first by an outrageous slander against the most important genuine grassroots movement in at least two generations, and then sullied further by a United States congressman who bought into it. That congressman also revealed that his posturing before the legislation's passage was really a substance-free show.
I went into the gathering thinking that Ohio First District Congressman Steve Driehaus's purpose there would be to tell attendees what's in store for them in the brave new world of state-run medical care.
Recall that Driehaus was a member of the so-called Stupak Six group of allegedly pro-life congresspersons, including the now retiring Bart Stupak of Michigan, who said they would not vote for state-controlled health care unless it included prohibitions on the use of federal funds for abortions at least as strong as those contained in the landmark Hyde Amendment. Henry Hyde's greatest legacy became law in the mid-1970s and survived a 1980 Supreme Court challenge. Driehaus ultimately voted "yes," so I expected to hear why he did so and why he felt that pro-lifers should agree with his vote.
Keep in mind that the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the following on Thursday, March 18, three days before the bill passed in the House:
Driehaus, a Democrat, supported last year's House bill but has said he plans to vote no on the current bill because he worries it doesn't go far enough to prohibit federal money from being spent on abortions.
Because the venue was a church and a congressman would be present, I thought that the speeches might be free of the hateful rhetoric that the left has brazenly and falsely directed at anyone and everyone opposing ObamaCare during the weeks since it became law. Uh, not exactly.
There is good news. No more than 50 people other than the scheduled speakers were there. That's really pathetic, given that the church is located within a half-hour drive of about 1.5 million people, and that the related OFA invite more than likely went out to at least 0.5% of the group's email list of 13 million (i.e., about 65,000 local residents). What's more, a dozen or more of the 50 attendees appeared to be hardcore, longtime activists, who on any given day can usually be counted on to attend whatever area leftist event might be taking place.
If there is really a groundswell of support among Democratic Party voters for what Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the Democratic Party did to the nation last month, it was almost totally absent from the "celebration."
After opening the event with a prayer (separation of church and state was apparently on vacation), the moderator framed the gathering as a funeral, in the sense that years of "indecision, foolishness, and failure" were being buried. A Catholic nun then spoke, uttering the discomfiting and frequently expressed sentiment that the recently passed legislation is only "a step in the right direction" towards equity and justice.
A couple of speakers later, the Rev. Damon Lynch, whom the moderator described as "the president of us all," spoke. Lynch's claim to infamy is that in 2001, he more than anyone else in Cincinnati was responsible for fanning the flames of lawlessness that turned a tragic accidental death of a young African-American man at the hands of the city's police into riots that made national news and sent the Queen City's reputation into the tank for the better part of the next decade. Among other things, Lynch said that he prayed for a Driehaus victory against former First District Congressman Steve Chabot in November.
Next came Nathaniel Jones, a retired judge. Jones's civil rights activism and legal defense activities during the 1960s and 1970s before his 23 years as a judge were mostly commendable, but what he said on this day was despicable.
Jones asserted that the basic motivation behind the just-passed legislation was the same as what led to the Civil War and was what the 1960s civil rights movement was all about.
Then, to at least a plurality of nods and "uh-huhs" from the audience, Jones said that those who are going around "carrying tea bags" are "the modern-day version of the KKK." Yes, he did.
Eventually, Congressman Driehaus stepped up to decent but non-rousing applause.
He said nothing specific about the legislation. He told us that in his mind it was fundamentally a civil rights bill, providing the previously undiscovered civil right known as "peace of mind." He also said nothing about how he was won over on the abortion issue; based on what he said next, his alleged pro-life beliefs appear to have been a ruse to keep America and his constituents in artificial suspense.
He twice described his pre-passage mindset in terms totally different from what he and the press portrayed in the run-up to the vote. Early in the speech, he said, "I was fully confident we would get to 'yes.'" In a later statement, it turned into "I knew I would get there." Especially note the "I" in the second quote. There can be no reasonable doubt that Steve Driehaus always intended to vote as he did.
As to the Reverend Jones's scurrilous characterization of ObamaCare's opponents, Driehaus, who at the beginning of his speech described Jones as a "legend," said that he agreed with him. He also said that those same forces that opposed the stimulus are against cap and trade and are resisting the "realignment" that is occurring.
After telling the group that he needs them now more than ever during the next election campaign, Driehaus stepped away from the microphone to a standing ovation.
These, ladies and gentlemen, are your bigots on the left, who demonize any and all opposition in the harshest conceivable terms. It turns out that the Klan comparison I witnessed is not an isolated rant of a civil-rights veteran who has tragically lost his way, but is a meme that began the weekend before Jones spoke.
DINGBATS ON THE RIGHT
Unfortunately, those who are in the best position to stop the nation's descent into demagogic statism are fighting against the very people who could be their salvation.
In California, activists report Ron Nehring, the state Republican Party's free-spending chairman who was booed at a tea party event a year ago, is determined to "take over the tea party or destroy it." Nehring's resolve seems based in fear turning into desperation. Across the country, sensible, principled conservatives are running against incumbents in normally uncontested races for state party seats -- mostly but not entirely Republican Party slots -- that would influence state party politics and ultimately who might run the state parties themselves.
The smell of fear emanating from the Ohio Republican Party, which yours truly began calling ORPINO (the Ohio Republican Party In Name Only) six months ago, is palpable, both in the campaigns of its shakier candidates and the conduct of the party's upper echelon.
Not that it would have been an easy task, but once the tea partiers' influential presence became an obvious element of the political landscape, ORPINO should have offered a comprehensive and heartfelt "we have been wrong, we are sorry" to Ohioans, who have been consistently betrayed by a party that says it stands for limited government and low taxes but that has governed in the opposite manner since the mid-1990s. It would have been tough ("We've always wanted to be this way, but you haven't voted that way. Where have you been? Come on down!"), but if they had really meant it, I believe they could have sold it.
It's well past obvious by now that no such self-examination has occurred and that the establishment GOP is more interested in gaining power to take their turn at milking the state than they are in putting their house in order. To be clear, half of the candidates on ORPINO's slate are not that way (e.g., gubernatorial candidate John Kasich, his lieutenant governor running mate Mary Taylor, and treasurer candidate Josh Mandel), and will not govern that way if elected. But two of the remaining three -- secretary of state candidate Jon Husted, and attorney general candidate and former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine -- have career track records of selling out. The third, auditor candidate Dave Yost, caved into party pressure (more on that in a bit), and by doing so he instantly delegitimized himself with tea party activists.
Husted is currently a state senator who lives with his wife and children in a northwest Columbus suburb. The problem is, the district he "represents" is in Metro Dayton, where he owns a house in which he and his family do not live. The main reason he hasn't been disqualified from representing that district is his promise made in a court hearing to live there after he retires from public service. That doesn't pass the stench test, let alone the smell test. Husted's track record as a conservative, or even of being genuinely pro-life, is highly suspect. ORPINO still believes that voters will be willing to swap out Jennifer Brunner, the state's current intensely partisan and ACORN-corrupted secretary of state, for yet another it's-all-about-me party operative.
DeWine, once praised by the gun-grabbing Brady campaign, is, in what must be one of the top ten all-time insults to voters' intelligence, trying to make a big to-do over the fact that he and his wife Fran are working to get concealed-carry permits. His fiscal, energy (against ANWR), judicial (think Gang of 14), and immigration track records from 12 years in the Senate are absolutely pathetic. What's more, ORPINO cleared away DeWine's opposition by persuading early opponent Yost to run for auditor instead of attorney general. Up to that point, Yost had garnered some initial tea party enthusiasm; it summarily vanished.
While DeWine's path to a primary "win" is free and clear, Husted and Yost have feisty, tea party-backed challengers in Sandy O'Brien and Seth Morgan, respectively. ORPINO's recent actions betray a genuine fear that their guys could lose, and conceivably lose big.
The paranoia and pettiness of ORPINO and its challenged candidates came into full view in early April. Husted began carpet-bombing the state with TV ads from his considerable war chest; why would he do this unless he was concerned about the largely invisible (except to activists) O'Brien? Yost's campaign, alternately attacking "Small Towns, Ward Councilmen, Mandel, Kasich, Husted as well as county parties and grass-roots organizations," has run completely off the rails.
The ORPINO-tea party rift erupted into open warfare when the state party, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars by some accounts, sent out a single-candidate mailing supporting the endorsed Husted and a generalized mailing prominently supporting Husted and Yost, while less visibly promoting most other statewide candidates (but, notably, not DeWine). Both mailings included a logo representing that their candidates involved have "tea party values." The second mailing was further customized for each Senate district to include the names of supposedly "endorsed" incumbent State Central Committee (SCC) members, none of whom had actually been endorsed (I'm not kidding). Very few of them (if any) knew that the mailing was even going out.
If there was ever any hope of reconciling ORPINO and tea party activists, those mailings ended it. About 50 tea party-supported candidates for the SCC's 66 seats saw their values co-opted by many incumbent SCC members who do not share them and who are in some cases openly hostile to them. It now seems more likely than ever that tea party sympathizers will gain control of the SCC and vote out ORPINO's current power structure at their first opportunity.
Last week, one tea party-sympathetic SCC candidate hauled ORPINO and its Chairman Kevin DeWine (Mike's second cousin) before the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC) with a complaint that the mailings "would lead a reader of typical information and intelligence" to believe that her opponent and other incumbents "have obtained the endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party" in violation of Ohio law. Thursday, an OEC panel found probable cause to bring the matter before the entire commission, but deferred the full hearing until after the May 4 primary election. How convenient.
Regardless, serious damage has been done. Instead of using the spring to go after a Democratic governor whose policies have contributed to 11% unemployment, tax increases, and general malaise, ORPINO's dingbats have alienated the very people who could cause the kind of mandate-creating landslide that would lead to true reform.
I understand that similar but less visible conflicts are occurring in other states. If there's a way to blow the electoral opportunity of a lifetime and put the left's bigots in their place -- out of power for many years -- it seems that the Republican Party is stubbornly determined to find it.