Though it may seem counter intuitive, there's a major advantage to being the political outsider in our power-sharing system. When a person or political party is stripped of their power, it offers an opportunity -- whether desired or not -- for self-reflection. After the heartbreaking presidential loss of 2000 and the devastating defeat in 2004, Democrats had eight long years of soul-searching. How could we have let a man like Bush not only win the presidency, but also get reelected? Where did we go wrong? Did Democrats underestimate the ramifications of President Slick Willy's wandering, and apparently unfocused, eye? Eight years of frustration and defeat led to a new perspective on what it means to be a Democrat, and rampant scouting for a new leader.
Fast-forward to 2010 where the Republican Party has been ousted from Congress for three years and suffered a blowout defeat to Barack Obama. A reasonable assumption would be that the Republican Party is soul-searching as the Democratic Party had done in the years prior. What issues will be important to the new Republican brand? Who will be their leader? Though the jury may still be out on these questions, the Republican Party is at least providing hints as to what direction they're leaning.
Cue Joe Barton, Republican from Texas.
Barton made headlines by chastising President Obama for the $20 billion escrow account he negotiated with British Petroleum to help clean up the environmental spill and to compensate businesses who have suffered from its aftermath. He then topped off his comments by apologizing to BP's CEO, the same CEO who jetted off to participate in a yacht race while the environmental crisis continues to deepen. America, according to Republicans, should be apologizing to BP for asking for $20 billion for the damage they've caused. That's like Tina Turner apologizing to Ike for her face getting in the way of his fist. Barton concluded his comments by denying he was in bed with big oil, though everyone in attendance found it odd he intermittently took sips out of a Pennzoil can while answering questions.
Republican leaders, perhaps sensing the majority of Americans wouldn't like the idea that conservatives were siding with BP during the worst environmental disaster in American history, forced Barton to apologize for his apology to British Petroleum. Though Americans remained wary of Republican intentions, the Republican Party could at least still claim that Barton was an outlier and didn't truly represent Republican policy.
Cue Rand Paul.
Rand Paul, having just departed from a White Power mixer for KKK singles in Kentucky, quickly came to the defense of Barton and reiterated Barton's message. Paul, a Tea Party conservative running for a Kentucky Senate seat this fall, is now infamous for his stance against the Civil Rights Act. Paul feels that business owners should have a right to discriminate, and that right to discriminate trumps an African-American's right to not be denied service or goods due to the color of his or her skin. I've often wondered how Paul can speak so clearly to the media with the Klansmen's white sheet over his head, but I'd imagine he's had a lifetime of practice.
Rand Paul's comments set off a firestorm of criticism, and he's managed to stay out of the limelight. Until now. Paul decided the best way to improve his image after disagreeing with the Civil Rights Act would be to come to the defense of a fellow politician who was portraying BP as the victims in the current oil spill fiasco. Paul stated that he "know[s] what (being piled on) feels like," and concluded by saying, "If we put BP out of business, they can't pay for the clean up." Indeed, if BP was put of business, they wouldn't be able to pay for the cleanup. Thankfully they have sales in the $265 billion neighborhood, and $20 billion is something they can afford.
What's noteworthy about Barton and Paul the past few weeks isn't the fact they've defended a business' right to discriminate, or a business' right to pollute without governmental punishment, but the fact they've joined forces as a Republican superhero tandem. And with the troubles America's faced so far in the 21st Century, we need a new dynamic duo more than ever. I can just picture it now: Barton and Paul, decked out in tights and capes like Batman and Robin, defending every business' right to do as it pleases without interference.
"Holy hanged black man, Barton!" Paul would gasp. "There's a business in the United States being denied its first amendment right to dump oil in the ocean without having to pay for its clean up."
"Great catch, chum," Barton would reply sternly, the leather squeaking as he tightend his fist with rage. Both conservative superheroes looked to the sky at the BP logo being beamed over the Washington, D.C. horizon, a call that their help was desperately needed.
"Quick, to the Racistmobile," Barton would snap, "fueled by conservative values, high unemployment, unjustified wars and an urge to restore whitey to his glory days."
Scott Janssen is a graduate student, blogger, and all-around drain on society. Follow him at his blog at www.pantslessponderings.com
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