The vacant dreariness of what passes for Republican “thought” these days has now been exposed, both nationally and locally. As the public rightly sees them for their obstruction-for-obstruction-sake selves, the right-wing strains for post-Bush relevance. All they have left now is meaningless generalities, bad ideas and, when push comes to shove, name-calling.
As the new symbol of the GOP’s gaping irrelevance, take Gov. Bobby Jindal – please! After President Obama’s rousing speech to a joint session on Tuesday night, Jindal emerged – literally – out from the shadows of the Louisiana governor’s mansion to underwhelm the nation with his childish recitation of standard and empty Republican bromides about “wasteful spending”, the healing power of small business activity and more tax cuts for the rich. His deer-in-the-headlights performance set back his premature presidential ambitions by at least 8 years; and, by then, he won’t have much of a party left to lead. I agree with actor Jack McBrayer – any comparison between Jindal and his Kenneth the Page character on 30 Rock is an insult to Kenneth.
Closer to home, we have our own elected Republican making a fool of himself. Scott Walker, the man who wants to be governor after trying to run Milwaukee County into the ground, has spent the past week or so touring the wing-nut radio circuit pretending that he wants the stimulus money to fund a year-long sales tax holiday in Milwaukee County specifically and, what the heck, the whole damn state. It was an extremely cynical, unserious “proposal”; something Walker knew was impossible by the very terms of the stimulus legislation.
But it allowed him to grandstand before the nut-right tax-cut crowd that form the shrinking base of the evaporating GOP. And the bunch of useful idiots who are going to be using their various radio, newspapers columns and blog platforms to campaign for him full-time in the gubernatorial campaign were glad to have him on their publicly-licensed shows and run his embarrassingly self-congratulatory e-mails on their vanity blogs – “They loved me, Charlie!” Walker is going to be the biggest beneficiary of unreported in-kind campaign contributions in the history of Wisconsin or anywhere else, and most of it is going to be on the public airwaves. Actually buying commercial time is for suckers.
I (almost) wish President Obama would back up and call the little punk on his bluff. Let the state piss its $4 billion in stimulus money into the wind of a sales tax holiday. The result: nothing. A few well-off people – those who can pay cash – might save $50 on a new flat-screen TV or, if they really want to cut loose, $500 on a new car or boat. Everyone else will find the necessities of life a dollar or a dime cheaper, with no measurable improvement in anything. And, unlike the dramatic brick-and-mortar improvements to the infrastructure that will be evident in all temporarily Republican districts in 2010 from the real stimulus bill, there will be nothing to show for the amorphous tax-cut experiment except the drab disappointment when the sales tax returns at the end of the year. Walker deserves the emptiness of that moment as much as we need to be protected from the results of his political stunts.
But Jindal and Walker are just two desperate politicians getting drowned in stream of the rising tide of common sense and adult supervision. Forced from the dark crevices of the rejected right, the cockroaches are scurrying from the light, trying to find places to hide and excuses to make. I’m amazed how little the anti-Obama message has changed since the early days of the campaign. They still talk about Obama being the Messiah, still squawk about socialism, still praise the wisdom of – god help us – Joe the Plumber. There has been a new twist this week – calls for violent revolution -- including a poll on Sean Hannity's web site asking what kind of violent revolution his deluded followers might prefer. One would be concerned about all this if one could take it seriously. One cannot.
Speaking of being taken seriously, there is Rick Esenberg. The ubiquitous right-wing Marquette law professor and blogger has managed to get himself into mainstream publications – well, the Journal Sentinel, anyway – by pretending to be a sonorous Republican egghead; a man of supposed great reason and impeccable credentials. Of course, how anyone who runs interference for a hapless hack like Scott Walker and the ethically-challenged Mike Gableman has any credibility is beyond me. And you wonder if the Lords of State Street who run his drivel from time to time were paying attention when he called our new president a “freakin’ moron” the other day.
Esenberg has always been an Obama-phobe and I suppose it’s understandable that the president’s success and popularity in his first month in office has driven him right over the edge. Also, he wants you to know that he doesn’t “really think that” the president is a moron, although he blares the phrase in his headline and concludes he would understand if “the markets” believe it. [The main jist of the post is a tiresome expansion on the right-wing markets-have-tanked-since-Obama-took-the-lead-in-the-primaries talking-point.] But the good professor is happy to have the idea that the president is a “freakin’ moron” out there.
In the meantime, the rest of us can celebrate the return of the grown-ups to the White House. How refreshing to see a working mind on the podium at the non-State-of-the-Union address this week. How unique to see someone who thinks that government can be a source for good and who is willing to use his political capital to do the necessary things in unique and desperate times. How great to have torture revoked, health care addressed, the environment prioritized, education funded and transparency enforced over secrecy.
Stevie Wonder’s music wafted through the wings of the White House this week in a celebration of the new administration as much as it was about Wonder’s craft (If you can, find Paul Simon’s brilliant solo-acoustic take on “If It’s Magic” somewhere). The small musical event was a beautiful reminder of what we should be and what we should have been all along.
Let the losers bleat about revolution, socialism and freaking morons. We own it. We’ll do it. We’ll make it work despite you. And you’ll be out of power for a generation.