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Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Party’

Today’s stock market dive was about more than our miserable debt deal, and more than our own economic inertia–it’s not always all about us. There’s, like, Europe and Asia, for instance.

But it is another indication that the GOP’s strategy to destroy a charismatic, brilliant–for whatever missteps he’s made–incumbent president is working, in the words of Dick Cheney, big-time. Indeed, it is the Republicans’ only strategy, given their lame group of wannabes–ranging from the smarmy, job-killing Romney, to utter wingnut, flat-earth lunacy.

That’s the plan— stall the recovery and maintain the high jobless rate. If the rate even approaches 8 percent, or shows some kind of steady downward trend, the GOP is (white) toast. And Mitch McConnell‘s prime objective, a one-term Obama, is hopeless.

To be sure, the President has admitted that he  underestimated the depth and severity of the Bush Recession. In retrospect, it seems to have been a grave error to spend his entire first year in office—and most of his political capital—wrangling over Health Care Reform, instead of working to stimulate more job growth. Perhaps out an inherently non-confrontational nature, perhaps out of an obsession with courting moderate, swing voters he has often seemed to govern on the Republicans’ turf—this after the 2008 election resoundingly rejected GOP policies.

Nevertheless, President Obama and the Democrats have proposed numerous jobs initiatives, some of which Republicans themselves have endorsed in the past. Of course they’ve all been stalled, blocked by GOP filibusters in the Senate, or squashed under the Boehner-Teabaggers in the House.

And the GOP jobs bills? Well, there aren’t any, of course. Republicans know the President owns the economy, and regardless of whose ideas improve it, POTUS gets credit–or blame if it goes south. So why help Barack Obama out–even if it meant an end to suffering, fear and deprivation?

In this time of obscene income inequality, the wealthy are raking it in and sitting on their money, or investing overseas. Corporations, meanwhile, are making the most out of fewer employees, working them longer hours, making them do the jobs of two people and either cutting salaries or keeping them flat. You’re lucky if you have a job, goes the philosophy, so don’t complain or it’s the highway for you. And with the decline of unions, there’s no advocate for fair treatment.

Where are the jobs? Well, they’re either being shipped overseas, or they’re simply not coming back for the reasons I list above–if you’re making a profit by overworking fewer employees, why rock the boat?

Oh, we might see an expansion of employment if we had more consumer demand by the middle and working class. But the Catch-22 of flat wages or joblessness precludes that.

I’m no economist, and our problems are far more complex than all that. But so far, GOP, Mission Accomplished

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Like many, if not most, liberals, and probably more than a few moderates, I am sickened, or at least saddened, by the so-called “debt deal” on the verge of passage. It was pure political/economic terrorism. And one can argue ad infinitum about President Obama’s negotiating skills, lack thereof, whether he’s a true progressive, a centrist, a closet Republican or simply so fixated on “swing” voters that he risks alienating his entire base in the belief that, come Election Day, it’ll fall in line. Or how this manufactured “crisis” played out entirely on Republican turf—how the Beltway media, and our politicians obsessed over long-term deficits at a time of high unemployment and lame economic growth.

Indeed, worst of all is what the deficit mania, and this deal, may do to the economy, specifically to the middle class, the poor, the unemployed and the soon-to-be-unemployed. Obsessing over deficits at this economic moment is like cutting back on cement while the dam is bursting. You might save some extra cement for those “children and grandchildren” in the pols’ talking points—but nobody will be around to care.

And yet, disappointed as I am, I am also realistic enough to know that if a Republican were in the White House—especially the GOP Version 2011—the outlook would be exponentially worse. Of course, one could reasonably argue that under a GOP president, the Republicans in Congress would simply have raised the debt ceiling, just as they have myriad times in the past. But we have a Democrat at 1600 Pennsy—and everything the GOP does, especially ensuring that the unemployment rate remains elevated, is in the service of destroying Barack Obama’s presidency. The owlish legislative master Mitch McConnell told us as much, in a rare moment of absolute candor.

Aside from destroying Obama, the far Right—backed by the likes of the Koch boys—hopes to dismantle our safety nets, expand the growing chasm between rich and poor, and whites and minorities, and take us back to the Gilded Age, when workers had no rights, Big Business ruled unchallenged, and Black folks were lucky to get jobs as maids and sleeping car porters. My father-in-law worked his ass off for 50 years as a salesman; he lives on a piddling pension and Social Security. Without that safety net, and especially without Medicare, he and his wife would either be dead or on the street today. And that’s where I’ll be when I’m his age, if the Teabagger fringe has anything to say about it.

Look at what the Republicans are doing on the state level, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere. Assaulting union and women’s rights, and suppressing voter turnout in minority areas, among other outrages. They are out to remake America in their image—or, “take their country back” as they like to say.

But the Progressive backlash against the Walkers, Kasiches, Scotts and Snyders, should be inspiring. And instructive. Now is the time to vent. If you’re pissed off at Obama, go write a blog post. Tweet your ass off. Get it out of your system. Then mobilize in productive ways and fight for progressive change.

Criticize and push and prod the President, sure. But whatever you do, don’t attack him so hard, so viciously and for so long, that you help take him down. He still boasts more progressive achievements than any President since LBJ. And if there is one lesson to be learned from the debt debacle, and the attempted Right Wing takeover in the states, is that elections have consequences. To the extent that liberal and moderate Democrats’ apathy, or exasperation with Obama, led to the 2010 “shellacking,” perhaps the most disastrous election of my lifetime— not for liberals, but for the nation as a whole—those who stayed home, or registered “protest” votes bear some responsibility.

Next time will be even worse. Don’t fool yourself, throw up your hands and say “Meh, Obama, Schmobama, might as well let Romney win.” I remember how ticked off a lot of liberals were at Bill Clinton, how he was viewed as a Republican in Democratic clothing, how he triangulated and dissembled and moved rightward. If there’d been a blogosphere then, God only knows the level of vitriol he might have absorbed from his left. Then, thanks in part to the Ralph Nader candidacy (as well as outright thievery and the stacked Supreme Court), we got Bush-Cheney. And in the depths of that catastrophic administration, I would bet most liberals would have begged to have ol’ Bubba back, warts, stained dress, and all.

And so it will be if we help the Teabaggers take down Barack Obama. But far, far more frightening.

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Events in America’s Midwest reveal starkly that the Republican party, for all its flag-waving, Bible-thumping, tax-cutting, Everyman pretensions, is merely a tool for a few hundred or so plutocrats—like the Koch brothers—to expand and consolidate their power.

To do so, though, requires manipulating enough of the “small people”—through Fox News, talk radio and other corporate media—into voting against their own interests.

They’re masters of the Big Lie. Here are some of the phony assertions the corporate Right uses to punk Glennbeckistan:

 1. We are the only true patriots who uphold American values and support our troops and lie about Obama as the Founding Fathers intended—well, because we say so.

Of course, people who constantly reiterate how patriotic they are remind me of closeted gay men who make extravagantly lascivious comments about women—but secretly keep copies of Modern Schlong next to their toilets. And go a lot. In any event, the GOP’s bumper sticker patriotism feeds its bumper sticker patriotic Teabagging base—the folks who memorize and parrot a few cherry-picked passages from the Constitution (or was that the Declaration of Independence? The “About” section of the John Bircher web site?), or write them in crayon on cardboard signs. Or wear Don’t Tread on Me tattoos and Old Glory bandanas. Or use Revolutionary War themed avatars on their Twitter pages.

 2. We are the party that upholds Judeo-Christian family values (especially the Christian part; Judeo, not so much), opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, remains skeptical of evolution (throw in climate change) and lies about Obama as the Founding Fathers intended—well, because we say so.

Of course, people who constantly reiterate how pious they are remind me of closeted gay men who wed clueless Stepford wives and have four beautiful children—but secretly meet rent boys or cruise bars called The Ramrod. By co-opting Jesus, the GOP lures its repressed Christian fundamentalist base—a particularly vulnerable group of folks who build their lives around unquestioning faith and often vote solely on the basis of the abortion issue. The Democrats? Well as Woody Allen characterized Middle America’s view of New York City, they’re “Left Wing, Communist, homosexual, Jewish pornographers.”

3. We want to keep government off your backs

Actually we just want to cut social programs and government regulations. In fact, we’re for very big government—we want to be the boss of your reproductive organs and practices. And as Scott Walker, Rick Snyder and others have demonstrated, if we get the chance, we want to rule by incontestable fiat.

4. We’ll cut your taxes. Honest.*

*That is, if you’re really, really wealthy.

5. We want to cut America’s deficit and debt for the sake of our children and grandchildren

Actually, we want to cut education and vital social programs (see #3) to make it look like we’re fiscally responsible while we’re giving hundreds of billions in tax breaks to  the really, really wealthy (see #4)—and their children and grandchildren.

6. We will keep you safe from Islamic terrorism

Actually we just want to keep the words “Islamic” and “terrorism” in the zeitgeist so that even subliminally, you’ll make the false connection to Barack Obama

7. We will keep you safe from voter fraud by requiring IDs and other hoops to jump through.

Actually, we invented voter fraud as a phony issue so we can keep away from the polls as many Democratic-voting minorities and young people as possible

8. We will keep you safe from bloodsucking public employee unions.

Actually, we just want to bust them because they’re a key organizing and fund raising mechanism for the Democratic Party, part of our grand strategy to defeat Barack Obama in 2012 and return America to its white, elitist roots. (Wisconsin’s GOP Senate leader Effin’ Scott Fitzgerald admitted as much on national TV.) Plus, by making it seem as if public school teachers, cops, sanitation workers, secretaries and firefighters drive up the deficit and live so much better than you do—when they do neither—we can cut their benefits to make room for tax cuts for corporations and the rich and eventually eliminate their jobs entirely to realize our wet dream of privatization.

Did we mention the part about beating Obama in 2012?

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This as an open letter to workers, wage-earners, and other middle class Americans who voted Republican in the 2010 Midterms:

Not the hardcore, ideological right-wingers, knee-jerk Obamaphobes, Christian theocrats and Palin-Beck-Limbaugh zealots and billionaire brothers who vote GOP under any circumstances.

I mean everyone else, Independents, even Democrats who made the conscious decision, the choice, to pull that “R” lever.

What swayed you?

Was it an irrational fear of short-term government spending ginned up in the name of legitimate long-term deficit and debt concerns?

Was it Fox News-style demagoguery, the use of hot-button words and phrases like “socialism,” “death panels,” “pulling the plug on grandma?”

Was it a wedge issue like abortion—or did someone tell you “Obama’s gonna take your guns away?”

Was it that favorite GOP talking point, used to block things like the 9/11 First Responders Bill and unemployment extensions—“we can’t charge the bill to our children and grandchildren?”

Or the cynical way conservative politicians wrap themselves in the flag? And denigrate President Obama’s patriotism?

Whatever your reasons for voting Republican, do you know you’ve been tricked, scammed, snookered, victims of the old “bait and switch?”

Do you know that you unwittingly authorized a class war—against yourselves?  And that under the ruse of “fiscal responsibility” Republicans, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, would pursue a radical agenda designed to crush labor, and place your workplace rights and economic future in dire jeopardy? All to undermine the middle class, fatten the coffers of billionaires, cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans—and then “balance” their budgets on your aching backs?

This is not an admonishment, meant to shame you for voting GOP. Two years into the Obama administration, Americans on all sides of the spectrum remain fearful and frustrated. Scared for their homes, their futures, scared for their children.  And as the punditocracy endlessly informs us, “there’s a lot of anger out there.”

But we already know that. Despite record corporate profits and a 12,000 Dow Jones Industrial Average, Main Street is still struggling out of the Bush recession, in a jobless recovery— unemployment is at 9 percent. Optimists say it may drop to 8 percent by 2012—still far too high. The decline of U.S. manufacturing, outsourcing, globalization and automation, among other factors, suggest it may be years before the jobless rate reaches any acceptable level.

And of course, we are amid a foreclosure crisis.

Even in good times, it is normal for the President’s party to lose seats in a Midterm election. Midterms are also, typically, low-turnout affairs, often dominated by energized anti-incumbents.  Indeed, a hell of lot of normally Democratic voters stayed home-—liberals, disenchanted that Obama hasn’t been the transformational progressive hero they thought he’d be; young people, who usually skip Midterms, along with otherwise disillusioned Dems.

The result, in Obama’s own words, was “a shellacking.” On the national level, in Congress, but perhaps even more crucially in the states—like Wisconsin and Ohio—where Republicans gained governorships and large legislative majorities.

When you empowered those GOP majorities, you may have thought you were voting for Jobs, God, Mother and Country. What you’re getting, in Wisconsin and across the nation, is an ideological agenda, cloaked in the guise of “getting our fiscal house in order.” Corporate interests, like the Koch Brothers and those outsourcing apostles at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are trying to create a world without rules, a free market on steroids wherein Big Business can operate as it pleases.

It’s really just an extension of a three-decade assault against wage earners. Since 1980, middle and working class incomes have remained flat while the wealthiest have prospered like magnates of the Gilded Age. Trickle down Reaganomics has only geysered up.

Crushing labor—and the Democratic Party—is crucial to the GOP’s class war.  Politically, of course, unions offer essential support to Democrats, financial and organizational. Getting out the vote, registering new voters.

But on a personal level, organized labor has battled for most of the workplace rights we take for granted—whether or not we’re in unions—the 40-hour week, the minimum wage, workplace safety, grievance procedures, equality for women, family leave.

I’ve seen the difference. Early on, I worked at a non-union shop, and while I was fortunate to be treated well, some colleagues—hard-working employees—had a horrible time of it. Verbal abuse, sexual harassment,  fired on a whim, without cause—one with a dying spouse.

I have also worked under union protection—and years of labor-management negotiations yielded excellent working conditions.

Now, as cops, nurses, teachers and firefighters, your neighbors—perhaps even you—fight peaceably for their rights in the Midwest, GOP politicians and Fox News hacks are calling them agitators, thugs, dangerous un-American radicals.

It’s anti-worker rhetoric straight out of the 1920s, or even the late 19th century. And if we let them get away with it, that’s just where the Scott Walkers, the John Kasiches and the corporate interests they serve—like the Kochs—would take this country. To boost profits and grease shareholders, they would have the rest of us at their mercy, working for as little as they can get away with paying us, slashing or eliminating benefits.

Their utopia is a “my way or the highway” world where employees have no rights, no recourse.

Was this what you had in mind when you pulled that “R” lever, or checked that box or punched that chad? If so, congratulations.

If not, remember that elections have consequences—sometimes unintended consequences. And next time, remember what happens when you elect Republicans.

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Madison

 

 

Not to put too fine a point on it, but much of the time, many of us Americans—and I don’t exempt myself for a minute—essentially have our heads up our butts. You can’t entirely blame us. We’re trying to get through the day, consumed with the moment-to moment events of our own circumscribed lives, with our loved ones, with our homes, with our jobs (if we have one), with having sex, not having sex, losing the weight, changing our hair, avoiding our colonoscopies. (Which actually brings this paragraph full circle).

Lately, we’re obsessing over whatever iGizmo it is we’ll never surrender till someone pries from our cold, dead hands. If we focus on the outer world, it’s pure escapism—sports & Snooki.

But when it comes to history and politics, that’s when we Americans really rear our buttheaditude. Two illustrative stories come to mind:

1) A recent Gallup Poll of 1,015 adults asked to name the nation’s greatest president.

2) The Battle of Wisconsin.

WTF?

As for the presidents: For most historians, naming the top three is a gimme—Lincoln, Washington, and FDR. Only the order is in dispute.

Not so for Gallup’s sampling of regular folks in Feb. 2011:

Ronald Reagan — 19%

Abraham Lincoln — 14%

Bill Clinton — 13%

John F. Kennedy — 11%

George Washington — 10%

Franklin Roosevelt — 8%

Barack Obama — 5%

Theodore Roosevelt — 3%

Harry Truman — 3%

George W. Bush — 2%

Thomas Jefferson — 2%

Reagan? Seriously?

Well, no. Liberals of course, argue that he set the country back 50 years, empowering repressive social conservatism and promoting the trickle-down economics that helped create the ever vaster economic chasm between the rich and the rest of us.  But leaving aside ideology I don’t even think Nancy Reagan would give Ronald Reagan the gold. Nor, to be fair, would any sane person rank Clinton third or the 34-month term of JFK fourth, or Obama in seventh, above TR and Truman. And when was the last time W and Jefferson were mentioned in the same sentence?

The point is that these surveys always skew wildly toward contemporary presidents. This is the year of Reagan’s centennial, he’s in the news again, Teabaggers are summoning his memory (though, as many point out, he’d probably not survive a primary today). At the same time, if you asked these same 1,015 folks to name the worst POTUS, I suspect W, Bubba, Ronnie and Barack would poll very high—certainly better than Harding (Warren, not Tonya) or Buchanan (James, not Pat).

Now, to current events: How many Americans are really aware of the Battle of Wisconsin—specifically the fight over collective bargaining—and if they are, do they know the stakes?

How many Democrats, moderates and ordinary working stiffs realize that Scott Walker’s anti-union purge is part of a nationwide effort by the GOP—backed by powerful right-wing forces like the Koch Brothers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce—to use “fiscal responsibility” as a weapon to crush the Democratic Party? To make Karl Rove’s wet dream of a permanent GOP majority reality? And in the process, wage nuclear class warfare, obliterating workers’ rights and recourse, suppressing wages and benefits and maximizing profits for a very few?

For insight into the GOP strategy, look at the Citizens United decision delivered by our tea-stained Supreme Court, which allows corporations and labor unions to flow unrestricted cash into the political campaigns.

Corporations tilt heavily toward Republicans; unions tilt Democratic. Shutting down unions is like cutting off the Dems blood supply. And it’s not just money; unions are crucial to getting out the vote, and registering new voters—who historically trend Democratic. Squelching unions is key to GOP voter suppression plans—the same reason they waged a vendetta against ACORN, why they’re pushing voter ID legislation, and trying to end same-day voter registration. The more new voters, the higher the turnout, the better for Democrats—at least most of the time.

But as Andrew Levine, Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, writes in CounterPunch:

“Even this is not the main reason why Madison matters. It isn’t just Democratic-leaning unions that Walker and his Tea Party colleagues want to undo – it’s public sector unions. This matters for reasons that are much more obscure than the others but that are plainly related to many of our contemporary afflictions — the financialization of contemporary capitalism, the globalization of manufacturing and trade, and, more generally, the world-wide assault on social and economic advances won at great cost over the past century and a half. The problem, in short, is that to survive, capitalism must expand – and, with so few areas left for expansion, the public sphere is a target too tempting to resist.”

That’s a hell of a lot harder to digest than, “I gotta cut the budget which means those overpaid public workers have to suck it up and STFU.”

All we know is what’s in our own, narrow frame of reference. And, when it comes to contemporary politics, what’s quick and easy to digest. What’s in front of our face—and we take most of that at face value. Bumper sticker stuff. That’s why Fox News is so effective—it spews out falsehood, opinion and wild speculation as fact. And as Mark Twain said, more or less, a lie can circle the globe before the truth can put its shoes on.

Indianapolis

And yet, truth may be gaining ground. The thousands of peaceful anti-Walker protesters in Madison seem to be getting their message across. According to polls, a significant majority of Wisconsin voters oppose Walker’s attempt to crush collective bargaining. Now, faced with a similar revolt in Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels—perhaps keeping in mind his presidential ambitions—has backed off union-busting “Right-to Work” legislation in his state.

Whatever one thinks of the Koch-Tea Party, it has dominated endless news cycles and shifted the national conversation  with its anti-government, anti-labor, Obamaphobic demagoguery.

Maybe the progressives, union members and Democrats making their stand in Madison can change the subject

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Gabrielle Giffords, a moderate young Congresswoman genuinely beloved on both sides of the aisle, lies gravely wounded in an Arizona hospital, her survival a miracle of providence, heroism and modern medicine; six innocent people must be laid to rest, including a 9-year-old girl, a federal judge, a pastor and a 30-year-old congressional aide engaged to be married.

And once again, America is talking about Sarah Palin.

Mea culpa. I’ve written about Palin many times in the brief, two-month life of this obscure little blog—and I’m doing it again—a visceral response, fueled by anger and nausea. And frankly, the great majority of the 1,910 visits I’ve received has been to posts relating to Palin and her family.

From the safety of her Facebook and Twitter accounts, her TLC reality show and tightly-controlled  appearances on “friendly” outlets like Fox News and conservative radio, Palin has courted attention—and income—with a skill worthy of the collective Kardashians, gladly enabled by mainstream media that report her every inane and inflammatory utterance as news.

Now her press is largely negative, criticism of Palin’s divisive, martial, pistol-packin’-mama-grizzly rhetoric, and especially her notorious electoral map depicting Rep. Giffords and other Democrats in the crosshairs. Which of course, allows her to display the flip-side of her macho persona—the poor, wounded victim. To wit, Palin’s email to soul mate Glenn Beck. “Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence.”

Now we have Palin’s appalling “Blood Libel” video, in which she co-opts the language of anti-Semitic oppression—the tastelessness of her tactic compounded by the fact that Rep. Giffords is Jewish—and presumes to lecture America on the glories of our great republic. The Right-wing fringe applauds her gravitas. In fact, it’s more of the same defensive, vindictive, self-absorbed tripe, nearly eight minutes of it. The timing, of course, isn’t accidental—on the day of the Tucson memorial, when President Obama is to deliver a nationally-televised address, Palin attempts to upstage the solemn proceedings with a mock-presidential speech of her own.

It’s all about her. And Palin’s characteristically narcissistic response to this tragedy has heaped upon her even more disapproval—some from the likes of thoughtful conservatives like David Frum.

One of the great ironies of this horrific event is that Gabby Giffords embodies everything that Sarah Palin does not.

For one thing, Rep. Giffords is a dedicated elected official—among many, regardless of party affiliation, who work tirelessly for the public good. But it took a bullet for the nation to know her name, or to sideline her from duty. I’m betting that if she recovers sufficiently, she’ll be back at work one day—no quitting her job halfway through.

Apart from their shared support of gun rights, of course, Gabby—you just can’t seem to help calling her that—contrasts strikingly with SarahPac: She supported Obama’s health care bill, his stimulus package, the 2008 TARP measure to rescue the banks and other institutions, and a liberal energy bill. She is also strongly pro-choice and supports stem-cell research.

On immigration, the most volatile of issues in her state, Giffords has been characteristically moderate. She advocates comprehensive immigration reform and voted for the failed (for now) Dream Act, which would allow young illegal immigrants brought into the country as children to become citizens; but she has also called for tough enforcement at the Mexican border and enforcement of anti-illegal immigration laws.

On controversial bill SB1070, dubbed the “papers, please law” by opponents—and the federal lawsuit against it—she again sought middle ground:

“I am disappointed with the federal lawsuit against SB 1070 for the same reason I was disappointed when this bill became law: Neither will do anything to make Arizona’s border communities more secure.

Both the law and the lawsuit challenging the law are unnecessary distractions. Arizonans want our nation to control its borders and bring a halt to the violence, smugglers and drugs that threaten our way of life.

To fully appreciate the seriousness of what Arizonans are up against, President Obama should come to the border. The president should spend an afternoon with the ranchers of Cochise County and the retirees of Green Valley so he can see for himself that what we need are Border Patrol agents on the border, not lawyers in court.

Federal lawyers arguing with state lawyers will do nothing to strengthen border security or to fix our broken immigration laws.

And Rep. Giffords applauded when the federal government sent 1,200 additional National Guard troops to the Arizona border:

“Arizonans have waited a long time for the deployment of the National Guard in our state,” she said at the time. “Their arrival represents a renewed national commitment to protecting our border communities from drug cartels and smugglers.”

Issues aside, Gabby’s most striking qualities, by all accounts, are personal—her magnetism and warmth, the way she lights up a room with her smile, her positive, nonjudgmental, bridge-building political philosophy—this even after a vicious 2010 campaign waged against her by a Tea Party extremist. We tend to canonize victims of tragedy, but the outpouring of affection for Rep. Giffords from all sides of the political spectrum—save the right-wingnut fringe—has been profoundly moving and sincere.

Gov. Jan Brewer, attacked by so many Democrats (including this one) for her stances on immigration, and the defunding of lifesaving transplants, was visibly, genuinely shaken by the attack on a woman she calls her friend. Over and over again in interviews, a devastated Rep. Trent Franks, Giffords’ very conservative Arizona colleague, called Gabby “a precious, precious lady” and noted that, despite their differences, no remotely cross word ever passed between them.

One of the greatest of ironies is that on the eve of her attempted assassination Gabby—whose shooting has ignited raging debate over political rhetoric (how “meta” that!)—sent a congratulatory email to Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a Republican named to direct the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (which makes him one of the elites, I guess). In her note, Giffords wrote:

“After you get settled, I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation. I am one of only 12 Dems left in a GOP district (the only woman) and think that we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down.”

Nothing about lipstick on pit bulls, no “reloading,” nothing about palling around with terrorists. No hot-button buzz words. Gabby Giffords may not be a saint and you might not agree with her, but in a nation where the majority cries out for bipartisanship and cooperation, instead of paralyzing divisiveness, her personal approach to politics serves as a lesson for both left and right.

Sarah Palin is a one-trick pony, trading in sarcasm, snark and sniping trash-talk. Take that away, and there’s no “there” there. Gabby Giffords towers above her in style and substance, and represents everything most Americans hope to see in their public servants—and perhaps their children.

Right now, Gabby’s still fighting for her life, but her prognosis is far brighter than anyone could have dreamed—thank God, news reports of her death, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, were greatly exaggerated. We don’t know the extent of the damage to Rep. Giffords’ body and sharp, generous mind. We don’t know how long her rehab might take, whether she’ll ever make a triumphant return to Congress (and that inevitable showstopping appearance at the 2012 Democratic convention) or assume some other role in public life.

But if America now knows Gabrielle Giffords’ name for all the wrong reasons, most of the nation has embraced her—and will embrace her—for all the right ones.

She’s our Gabby now.

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1. Nobody outside Alaska would know the name Sarah Palin

Or Bristol. Or Levi. Or Willow. Or Piper. Or Todd.

Sigh.

Palin was thrown up—take that any way you like—as a Hail Mary by McCain advisers hoping to capture some of Hillary’s PUMAS. Had Hillary won, they’d never have run Sarah Louise, opting for a more conventional pick approved by the Christian Right. Also.

(One Addendum: Impeccable sources tell me a major celebrity magazine had a Palin story in the works for months before she was chosen as the mavericky running mate—an apolitical human interest piece focused on raising a Down Syndrome child—but kept postponing it. Until… So had Palin been passed over, for Veep, I’m sure they’d still have run the story eventually, and some Lower 48ers actually would know Palin’s name.)

2. Barack Obama would be Vice-President of the United States

Hillary would have needed the charged up Obama voters—especially African-Americans and young people. For Obama, it would be hard to resist, as a path to the Presidency in 2016, when he’ll only be in his mid-50s. Caveat: He might’ve bailed after one term, feeling trapped.

3. Given Numbers 1 & 2 above, the 2008 election would have been marginally closer, if at all

I’m no Nate Silver, of course. And this is contingent on Numbers 1 &  2 above. Without Obama for Veep, Black turnout might have been significantly lower. Especially after some of the bad blood left over from Bill’s comments during the primary. You’d also lose the anti-Palin vote, which motivated a lot of independents. But it’s a tough call—sans Barack, quite a few more working class and middle class white males might have voted Democratic. And perhaps some of the same independent women who turned out to vote against Palin would have come out for Hillary.

4. Health Care Reform Would Have Passed Sooner. Or Later.

This is a huge bone of contention. Some pundits say Hillary would have been tougher in pursuing her signature agenda, determined to avoid her debacle of the 1990s. Others say she was gun shy after that experience, and wouldn’t have pursued it immediately. Some speculate that she’d never have let the whole process grind on for 15 months, extracting huge political capital, and might have cut her losses, settling for provisions on children’s health insurance and preexisting conditions. And then focused on jobs and the economy.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has written: “I’ve heard Clinton was skeptical about the prospects for bipartisanship from the very beginning, and so some suggest she wouldn’t have let things like the Gang of Six drag on so long. But given that Max Baucus ran the relevant committee and he — and other moderate Democrats — wanted to either have a bipartisan bill or show that they gave a bipartisan bill every possible chance, it’s not clear what Clinton would’ve done differently. The Obama White House didn’t love the Gang of Six either, but they didn’t really see a way around it.”

Certainly the insurance industry would have been just as active in mobilizing opposition to HRC. And we’d have had some contentious town hall meetings.

But….

5. There would be no Tea Party (as we know it).

That is, there might be one in name, but it would never have the same force. No one will ever be able to convince me that race was not the energizing factor in the movement we’ve cringed at over the past two years.Yes, the anti-Clinton Right would have been hard at work, Rush and the bloggers virulent, and Bill’s infidelities, real and imagined, would have been dredged up—and devoured by a sensationalistic mainstream media.

But that train left the station in about 1998. America is over it. Among the right wing Yahoo base, none of that gossip would carry the same power as the hateful, “I want my country back” bullshit that went on during HRC—and still goes on. Even with Obama as Veep, those tactics wouldn’t have the same force. There’d still be birthers and “Obama’s a Muslim” lunatics.

But Hillary would be President.

6. Democratic losses in the Midterms would have been far less severe

I think Hillary would’ve held on to more independents (some states —like Pennsy—would have stayed blue); she’d also have motivated fewer crazies. And again, I don’t think the Tea Party, if any, would have so much teeth.

7. Angry Progressives would not be calling Hillary a wimp for compromising with the GOP. A triangulator, maybe.

Hill’s the one who coined the phrase “vast right-wing conspiracy.” She went through Paula Jones, Whitewater, Monica, etc., etc. She has no dreams of”Obama Brand” postpartisanism. So she’d have held out far fewer olive branches. Publicly, at least. But she is a Clinton, and she did show bipartisan acumen as a senator.

8. Angry Progressives would be just as pissed, wondering what would have happened if Obama had won…..

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