Considering the CPAC Convention

In her Metropolitan Room show, Fishbeyn performed songs ranging from Human League to Kander and Ebb. Photo: Luba XXXX.

As I was swamped with a project, I paid relatively little attention to the recent CPAC conference, although I’m sure it was chock-full of all the same self-aggrandizing, anti-Democratic hatred that we have come to expect from the party of tax-cut-and-spend and back-a-war-rationalized-by-lies.

Still, if the Democrats are ascendant at the moment, surely they won’t be forever — or knowing the history of my party, for long — so it would be smart if we paid attention to the ways in which the right-wing is trying to get itself together because someday, somehow, it will. As you all know, I am personally sickened by the hyper-radical strain of the GOP — the side that prays to a God it thinks it knows more intimately than you do for the failure of the current president. But I’m concerned, too, because without a strong GOP, the left is going to push the Democrats too far to the left (the GOP naturally argues that this has already occurred). What we would be left with then is a president ideally hoping to govern from the center, a Democratic party standing all too much to the left of him, and a GOP standing all too much to the right of him. As per tradition, we would have gridlock — yes, even with 60 seats in the Senate — and who, then, would lose? Well, the American people, of course, but also Obama himself. If the GOP can hang on and never, ever give an inch, they can deny him the opportunity to turn his attempts at compromise, at solution-building, at conciliation into the same old politics as usual, which would thereby destroy the one thing that sells him better than anything else: his brand. And you can bet the GOP is betting the house that such a tactic will work. It’s party above nation, and they’re the masters of it.

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But at the same time, the GOP does have to take long, inward look at itself in any event — even if my cynicism about them is completely erroneous. It’s almost sad watching them go after some pseudo-cosmetic fixes that would appear to address the changing landscape of our politics in the wake of electing a biracial president without actually changing any of their own. I’m not saying Michael Steele isn’t a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, but I think most people in the center and on the left would find it difficult to believe that the GOP’s powerbrokers did not think about the ethnicity of Steele as they elected him the de facto leader of their party. At the same time, the CPAC convention revealed, I think, how very uncomfortable — maybe a better word could be unfamiliar — the powerbrokers of the GOP are when it comes to race. Take a look at this video:

That was during the campaign, when Bachmann, a representative from Minnesota, continually tiptoed right up to the line of what is acceptable political discourse. However, if you take a look at this video (up until 1:30 is what’s most salient):

…Congresswoman Bachmann just spills over into whitey-trying-for-blackness territory, and the effect is just awful. I’m not saying she’s a racist. I’m saying she’s out of her element, she’s trying desperately to figure out what is politically correct. Has she ever thought of, “Michael Steele!” — in other words, not needing to punctuate her lauding of him without slipping into ebonics?

But the GOP really has bigger problems than this stuff. I am most intrigued by the governor of Utah, of all places, Jon Huntsman. Here’s a Feb. 9 piece from the Salt Lake Tribune:

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Here is a sentence you probably never expected to read: Utah’s governor supports civil unions.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a spokeswoman said Monday, backs Equality Utah’s Common Ground Initiative, a legislative effort that would provide some rights to gay and transgender Utahns. Even more, the Republican governor favors civil unions.

It’s a position that runs counter to his political party and against the majority of Utahns — 70 percent of whom oppose civil unions, according to a recent Salt Lake Tribune poll.

“He’s long supported many of the ideas that are presented within the Common Ground Initiative,” said Lisa Roskelley, the governor’s spokeswoman, noting her boss waits to endorse specific bills officially until presented to him in final form. “He supports civil unions.”

It’s doubtful Huntsman’s backing will lead to civil unions getting past the conservative Legislature. And it may not help the rest of this year’s gay-rights legislative push, which already has shrunk from four bills to two.

On Day Two of the 2009 Legislature, a measure died in committee that would have allowed financial dependents — besides spouses, parents and children — to sue in the event of a breadwinner’s wrongful death.

And last week, Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake City, ditched her proposal, which would have sought the Legislature’s and voters’ approval to erase the second part of Amendment 3 — Utah’s constitutional gay-marriage ban — that forbids civil unions.

Huntsman, who endorsed Amendment 3 when he ran for governor in 2004, now favors repealing that portion, Roskelley said.

She said the governor was unavailable to comment Monday.

Jeff Reynolds, spokesman for the conservative Salt Lake City-based Sutherland Institute think tank, which opposes the Common Ground Initiative, said he’s “not surprised” by Huntsman’s softened stand.

“He had to be dragged to the altar of Amendment 3,” Reynolds said in an e-mail, “and everyone has known since then that Governor Huntsman would rather be nice than right.”

Notice that last line of what I quoted — that Gov. Huntsman would “rather be nice than right.” To turn that around, the social-issue ultra-conservatives that have driven the GOP would rather preach hate than accept that a majority of the nation does not stand with them. Curiously, by the way, notice how one of the party’s not-so-scary new darlings, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, deftly deals with the question of how to make the GOP more inclusive, even if it means acceding to the center on the question of gay rights:

As for Rush, feh. There’s nothing I can add to the discussion of him except to say that I hope his oxycontin supplier keeps him happy.


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