“We have to change that `elitist Republican’ image and support PCOC,” said Ross, R-Lakeland. “If the party is going to preach inclusion, it has to practice inclusion.”
Ross argued, rightly or wrongly, that it was important for Republicans to be seen as attentive to the needs of the largely poor and minority population PCOC served. And he put his money where his mouth was, serving on PCOC Advisory Board for a time. As it turns out, Ross was wrong, and that agency was beyond saving. I edited the coverage that helped kill it. But Dennis’ gesture of good faith impressed me as the opposite of the tribalism that we often see in politics.
And I’m so old, I can remember in 2004 when Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd punished Ross for not voting the way he wanted on some issue by taking away money to fix the environmentally unsafe Mulberry sewage plant. Back then, Dennis had this to say about extremes and punishing or blackmailing lawmakers by withholding vital functions of government.
“I’m so frustrated that it has come to this, that our citizens are made to suffer this vindictiveness, and I sincerely apologize to my constituents in Mulberry,” Ross, R-Lakeland, said Wednesday.
“You talk with Democrats in the House and they will tell you that Johnnie Byrd was the best thing ever to happen to the Democratic Party, just as Bill Clinton was the best thing to happen to the Republican Party.”
And I remember in 2007 when Marco Rubio — yeah, that one — fired Dennis from his committee chairmanship because he wouldn’t vote for Rubio’s pet insurance plan.
“This is the price I paid for my independence,” Dennis said.
Evidently, he has resolved never to pay that price again.
As you may know, the federal government is about to shut down over a budget impasse. This seems to happen any time Republicans win a big Congressional election. Odd that it never happens in the other direction. Anyway, this came over the old Twitter wire yesterday from Dennis Ross:
“Pres. just said he will veto CR to fund our troops because Planned Parenthood & DC abortions are not funded. Shows his radical priorities.”
In a nutshell, from my point-of-view, Democrats, who control 2/3 of the lawmaking apparatus of the federal government have already agreed to the amount of cuts Republicans originally asked for. Republicans have since changed and enlarged their demands. These include additional cuts and various social/tribal issue items like family planning funding, NPR, etc. They have sought to gain leverage for these additional demands by keeping the government going through short-term (one or two week) spending bills, each designed to ratchet out more concessions, forever. Obama has finally said enough of this game and threatened to veto, setting the stage for the shutdown the Republican base chants for and claims to want.
That’s what Dennis Ross reacted to by Tweeting, “Pres. just said he will veto CR to fund our troops because Planned Parenthood & DC abortions are not funded. Shows his radical priorities.”
I want you to repeat that several times to yourselves. And those of you who know Dennis, or even just read those quotes above, ask yourselves if he actually believes this. And then let me answer.
I’ve known Dennis casually for quite a while now. One of his kids went to middle school with my daughter. We’ve talked many times at the Y, where we both work out, and at social functions we both attended. His wife and I were once involved in the same three-way car crash, neither of us at fault. We had a lovely chat that day and still laugh about it on occasion. Dennis certainly knows my relative stance on politics and policy, which at this point would have to be considered more “radical” than Barack Obama’s. Yet, somehow I’ve never detected that he considered me a radical troop-hating abortionist.
That’s because Dennis Ross does not believe that I, or Barack Obama, are radical troop-impoverishing/hating abortionists. And Dennis Ross knows that calling someone a radical troop-impoverishing abortionist is simply an act of casual propaganda for the rubes, not to be repeated in polite private conversation. Let me assure you, when Dennis Ross tweets “Pres. just said he will veto CR to fund our troops because Planned Parenthood & DC abortions are not funded. Shows his radical priorities,” it is not backed by sincerity. It’s just a tribal dance, a totem, a shibboleth.
He’s just speaking in the same code to the same people that the Klan spoke to in 1923 when it made its slogan “100 percent Americanism” and enforced prohibition with drunken mobs. That’s the political rhetorical tradition he’s decided to join. And it is conscious choice. He doesn’t come by it honestly. For instance, Dennis isn’t like the plurality of Mississippi Republicans who think interracial marriage should be illegal. It’s not in his tribal, historical blood. He has to work at being nasty.
Increasingly, Dennis’ words do not pass the living room test. If he were sitting in your living room now, with no one around to preen for, he would not look you in the eye in seriousness and declare Barack Obama a troop-impoverishing abortionist.
I promise you I would say all of this to his face in his living room if it ever came up. In fact, as Dennis began his flirtation with Teahadism last year, I actually buttonholed him at an event and said something like, “You’re dancing with a lot of crazy, Dennis. Be careful.” He did not expect me to repeat his answer, so I won’t.
Dennis’ transformation only enhances my respect for Adam Putnam, whom I voted for in 2010. He walked away from a possible leadership post in the U.S. House to return home to quietly and technocratically serve farmers. He’ll never say in public it was because of the crazy, but what do you think? You’ll also notice he never tweets about tribal enemies. Somewhere in the future, I hope he’ll lead a sane and decent Republican party.
We now have a divided government: a House controlled by Republicans, a Senate and Presidency controlled by Democrats. This is not new. We have many times had divided government. It requires compromise and a tiny modicum of good faith to function. In the budget battle, Republicans already have a deal that far exceeds what their 1/3 role in the government merits. And that’s not enough. It will never be enough.
Assuming the government shuts down, you, the citizen will need to make some evaluations about why it happened and who needs the accountability. When the Social Security checks stop coming and the military doesn’t get paid, you’ll need to assess which political forces are amenable to compromise and which practice blackmail.
From where I sit, it’s pretty clear where the responsibility lies. It lies with force that hates interracial marriage in Mississippi. It lies with the force that just won an election by running “Keep government our of Medicare” ads targeting anxious old people and now proposes to abolish Medicare and Medicaid and slash and privatize their services (Not sure how many different ways I can say I told you so).
It lies with the force that can turn a perfectly reasonable and honorable man like Dennis Ross into someone who casually types, “Pres. just said he will veto CR to fund our troops because Planned Parenthood & DC abortions are not funded. Shows his radical priorities” into his iPhone.