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Thoughts on the death of William W. Scranton

William Scranton, one-time governor of Pennsylvania, lived a good life, a long life, one that should be applauded, feted, celebrated. I don’t mourn his death; I drink a toast to the life well-lived. The death I mourn is the slow, lingering, painful death of the Republican party he once was a proud and effective part of.

Running over in my head the positions Scranton took makes it clear. Today, this popular and effective Republican would be either an Independent or a Democrat. There is no room for people of principle who actually care for the welfare of the people of America and for its hallowed ideals in the GOP anymore.

Lines like these from the obit just jump out at you:

“As governor, Mr. Scranton pushed education reforms, creating a state community college system, a state Board of Education and a Higher Education Assistance Agency. He increased the sales tax to subdue a deficit, brought unemployment to new lows and promoted state trade nationally and abroad.”


“His amiable patrician style, and his independence as a fiscal conservative who supported civil rights and other liberal programs, proved popular with voters.”

and, in acknowledgement of his efforts,

“He served on government commissions, advised the White House on arms control and took on presidential missions — for Richard M. Nixon in the Middle East, for Gerald R. Ford at the United Nations, for Jimmy Carter on urban policy and intelligence oversight and for Ronald Reagan on Soviet-American relations.”

Can anyone even imagine a Ted Cruz or Paul Ryan taking positions like these? Can anyone in their wildest dreams think of Sarah Palin or a Michele Bachmann being entrusted with these kinds of responsibilities?

The Republican party exists today for two reasons. One, they can elect senators in Red states because Redstaters won’t vote for Democrats. It doesn’t matter who the Dems put up, how nutty the positions of the Republican are or how idiotic their stances, they will elect enough of them to choke the Senate into submission. Two, they have managed to gerrymander the districts within states they hold to ensure that they will elect a majority of members of the House of Representatives.

It’s not all that widely known or appreciated, but in 2012 over 1.4 million more people voted for the Democrat running for a seat in the House than for the Republican – yet the GOP managed to come out of the election with a sizeable, 34-seat majority. The only way this can happen is gerrymandering. Many districts around the nation end up with large Democratic majorities but many more end up with smaller but reliable Republican majorities.

FWIW, here’s the origins of the term “gerrymander” (from Wikipedia).


First printed in March 1812, this political cartoon was drawn in reaction to the state senate electoral districts drawn by the Massachusetts legislature to favor the Democratic-Republican Party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists. The caricature satirizes the bizarre shape of a district in Essex County, Massachusetts as a dragon-like “monster.” Federalist newspapers editors and others at the time likened the district shape to a salamander, and the word gerrymander was a blend of that word and Governor Gerry’s last name.

Is there any hope on the horizon? Yes and no. The “no” part is short-term. The GOP has a singular focus: oppose anything and everything that the Democrats put forward and, if they can tie any piece of potential legislation to Obama, shovel shit all over it at every opportunity. When they have a few moments free from blowing things up, they pass useless bills to repeal Obamacare – 40 of them at last count. In fact, they are so obsessed with killing the Affordable Care Act that they are now threatening to shut down the government, threaten the country’s credit rating, choke off its ability to borrow unless the ACA is defunded.

Why? Simple. They hate Obama, just cannot stomach that a Black Dude is smarter than any of them and actually knows what he’s doing so anything that comes from the White House must be resisted or blocked. They also know, when the darkness creeps up on them at night, when their lesser souls whisper in their ears that, yes, really, truly, … Obamacare is going to work. It will reduce medical costs, produce lower insurance premiums, allow policies for people with pre-existing conditions and provide a host of services to people who are currently not getting them.

And if the public discovers this – and they will – those who’ve been trying to block it are just fucking toast. Their goal: kill it before it succeeds. Pathetic.

The “yes” part is down the road. I can see two possible ways for the country to move. One is tactical and depends on whether things get better in spite of Republican obstructionism. If the economy improves markedly and if the average voter begins to see what the bunch of lunatics they’ve put in office are doing, they may begin to tilt toward the Dems. Even dyed-in-the-wool conservatives may just hold their noses and pull that “other” lever rather than send a Louie Gohmert or Steve King back.

The other is demographic. Each year sees a new cohort of kids turn 18 and eligible to vote. Each year sees greater immigration and an increase in the non-white population. Each year brings us closer to 2020 when the next census is taken.

If these factors all come together in a perfect storm we could see the Democrats increasing their numbers in Congress and, critically, taking over most of the state legislatures. They could redraw the districts in a more fair and democratic manner and allow us to actually have a government in DC that reflects the make-up and values of the people.

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