Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Something to Know - 12 August

Matt Davies

The nature of political parties has changed over the decades.  This New Yorker article hones in on the collapse of a strong political machine that used to be the Republican Party.  It is a puppet show for those who have enough money to pull the big strings, which is not too much different from the Dems.   The GeeOpie, however, has been thrown for a loop by someone who has enough money to pull his own strings.  Now, it will be a game of those who have the big money (Los Hermanos Koch, etc) versus The Donald.  It is now over a year away from showtime, and plenty of time to waste tons of money pulling strings.  And poor Reince - he looks like a nervous Don Knotts, trying to appear that he is in control; NOT:

AUGUST 11, 2015

Does the G.O.P. Need a New Machine?


The head of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, reportedly asked Donald Trump to "tone down" his controversial campaign rhetoric.CREDITPHOTOGRAPH BY WIN MCNAMEE/GETTY

When Martin O'Malley, one of the back-running Democratic Presidential candidates, accused "party bosses" of fixing the nomination process, it was enough to bring on a wave of nostalgia. Party bosses! The concept is as distant as a time when there really were party bosses, people like Thomas Pendergast, whose machine ran Kansas City when Harry Truman was a senator (bosses often came with "machines"), or Chicago bosses like Edward Kelly, in the Roosevelt era, or Richard J. Daley, in the Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon era. But, despite O'Malley's complaint, it is hard to make a case that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman who heads the Democratic National Committee, is a boss or controls a machine, even if the debate schedule—four "authorized" debates before the Iowa caucuses, on February 1st, and just six in all—does skew suspiciously toward the already widely known Hillary Clinton. Eight years ago, when Barack Obama won the nomination, the contenders met twenty-five times.

Reinhold Richard (Reince) Priebus, the leader of the Republican National Committee since early 2011, is not exactly a boss, either—not if being a boss means being able to exert control over your party. Priebus can seem like the dad in an old-time situation comedy, the ineffectual, slightly comic figure who accidentally switches shopping lists with a shady neighbor. Priebus aside, the Republican Party may nonetheless have acquired a new sort of boss, or perhaps anti-boss—Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly, who is politically alert, unflinching, and, to judge from the evidence of recent years, attuned to reality. That's what so annoyed the onetime "mastermind" Karl Rove when, on the night of the 2012 election, he refused to accept the arithmetic of the decisive Ohio vote. Kelly tried to help him with the math, and their curious dialogue continued two days later, when Rove insisted several times that Obama's victory wasn't all that impressive and Kelly said, "You keep saying that, but he won, Karl, he won … and that's what the Republicans care about, what the Democrats care about."

The current election cycle is young, but Kelly has already reduced the former Florida governor Jeb Bush to incoherence, in May, when she asked if, knowing what he knows now, he would still launch his brother George's catastrophic Iraq war. During last week's first Republican debate, her unnerving presence might have been enough to make Bush say (in response to a question from Bret Baier about family dynasties), "In Florida, they called me Jeb, because I earned it," a bit of self-congratulation that made no sense at all.

Priebus has been trying for more than a month to get Donald Trump, still the party's unlikely front-runner, to "tone it down," beginning with Trump's comments about immigrants, and continuing with his mystifyingly offensive comments about Kelly, who, during the Republican debate, was ready to take her shot and bag her trophy by quoting Trump to Trump: "You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' 'slobs,' and 'disgusting animals,' " which sounded like dialogue from a Neil LaBute play, and asking if that showed a Presidential temperament.

If Priebus really were a sitcom dad, he would be shaking his head and saying, "That dratted Donald!" But, in the real world, there is not much that Priebus can do. He has tried, like Schultz, to limit the number of debates (to nine), the better to escape the twenty-debate "clown car" stigma of 2012, and both parties are prepared to ban "unsanctioned debates," though it's hard to imagine how this could be effectively enforced.

Priebus can shake his head, but he can't affect the momentum of the nomination contest. For that, the party needs someone who can act the way party professionals did when bosses were bosses, when Democrats like the Bronx boss Edward Flynn, recognizing that President Roosevelt was a dying man, were determined to dump the suspiciously flaky Russophile Vice-President, Henry Wallace, from the national ticket. (Dwight Macdonald, in a short, cheerfully biased Wallace biography, emphasized the Vice-President's attraction to spiritualism, numerology, and astrology, as well as his intriguing friendship with a Russian mystic.) Democratic delegates would have chosen Wallace, but the bosses, who wanted Truman, had their way with F.D.R.

Today's Republican Party bosses, whoever they are, are no match for someone like the self-financed Trump, who, if nothing else, has shown that the torrents of money unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, in 2010, may not be the final word on the limits of reckless political free speech. Rather, the beginning of the slow-motion end for Trump, if indeed it is the end, won't have come from a private conversation among city bosses or a shove from Reince Priebus—or from the other Republican candidates, who are either ineffectual or have shied away. It may take years to understand what it means to give a cable anchor the power, and authority, to try to push a leading candidate off the bus. Until then, though, if no one else is able to, "Boss" Kelly and the Fox machine may be left to take charge.



There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power.

Matt Taibbi

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