Some good things a GOP congressman said!


Possible guideposts for our own emerging liberal culture: Personally, we wouldn’t be inclined to vote for Rep. Tom Cole.

Cole is a Republican congressman from Oklahoma. He’s a House deputy whip and a former chief of staff for the RNC.

As a general matter, we don’t share Cole’s policy views. But in this profile of Cole in the New York Times, we saw him expressing some values that we liberals might want to consider as we go about the task of building our new liberal culture.

In other posts this week, we will look at some of the problems with the new culture that is emerging at some liberal orgs. (Salon, come on down!) For today, we thought we’d consider some of the ways Cole “challenged unhappy constituents on tactics, tone and spirit at a town hall meeting last week,” according to John Harwood, author of the Times profile.

Harwood cited three of Cole’s “guideposts” for his own GOP. It seemed to us that these guideposts were worth considering over here within our own tribe.

At one point in the town hall meeting, Harwood says that Cole urged respect for the other party. Is Rep. Cole allowed to do that?

Harwood described it thusly:
HARWOOD (9/21/13): A recurrent theme on the Republican right is the illegitimacy of opponents. Some accuse Democrats of profiting from vote fraud. Others, like Mr. Romney in his famous “47 percent” remarks, insist that large numbers of Democrats have grown enfeebled by reliance on government programs.

Mr. Cole sounded different notes. Instead of deriding political adversaries, he acknowledged their strength and grit.

Mr. Obama, as one of only a handful of American presidents who have twice topped 50 percent of the vote, “won fair and square,” Mr. Cole said. He saluted the resilience of Democratic partisans whose ability to win the presidency appeared in doubt a generation ago—as it does for Republicans now.
Obama won fair and square? That’s fairly obvious, of course. But good for Cole for saying so to people who keep getting told something different!

Harwood also applauded Cole for his sense of optimism. Here’s the way he limned it:
HARWOOD: By associating changes coursing through American society with a sense of irreversible decline, some older white conservatives impede Republicans’ ability to connect with young and minority voters.

But Mr. Cole described the nation’s trajectory—and the attitude required to alter it—in a different way. “I’m not one of these people who thinks the country is going to hell in a handbasket,” he said. His own son, he added, finds the pre-civil-rights society he has read about hard to imagine.

“Americans are freer today than they were, and more of them are free,” Mr. Cole said. “The country does make a lot of progress. It does move in the right direction.

“We’ll get there. But the thing is not to quit, and not to lose faith in the country.”
Phew! Cole has broken with the tone of his party’s base before. But his remarks about pre-civil rights society was just plain darn good stuff.

In Saturday's profile, Harwood started with Cole’s sense of realism. In this passage, Cole explains the facts of life to his constituents, who often get misled:
HARWOOD: For constituents urging a government shutdown over the health care law, he warned that it would doubly backfire by hurting local residents like the workers at nearby Tinker Air Force Base, and by heaping blame on Republicans. A party controlling neither the White House nor the Senate, he said, lacks the power to reverse a White House incumbent’s foremost domestic achievement, no matter how often the House votes to do so.

“It’s awfully hard to repeal Obamacare when a guy named Obama is president of the United States,” he said. “We’re in a position to stop a lot of what he wants to do. We’re not in a position to undo.”
That highlighted statement makes good solid sense. Few pols in the GOP have been speaking so clearly to their constituents, who might prefer to hear something different.

We wouldn’t vote for Cole ourselves because, as a general matter, we don’t agree with his policy views. That said, we thought this profile offered a good starting-point for a series of posts about the new politics we see developing around the liberal world.

Republican pols and radio hosts aren’t the only people who may occasionally pander to voters. In our view, blue voters are getting pandered to in a lot of ways too, and dumbed down in the process.

It’s easy for liberals to see the GroupThink and the foolishness over there in the other tribe. It’s always easy to see the shortcomings of The Other.

That said, it seems to us that a lot of foolishness is becoming institutionalized in our tribe too. Let’s cite one more thing Cole told his constituents:
HARWOOD: “It’s pretty easy to tell people what they want to hear,” Mr. Cole said in Midwest City, adding a barb for some of his colleagues: “There’s a certain amount of that going on in the Republican Party right now, at a very high level.”
“It’s pretty easy to tell people what they want to hear!” We think we see some of that going on in our own infallible blue tribe!

We’ll offer examples all week from our emerging liberal culture. We wouldn’t vote for Cole ourselves, but we think he laid down some very good guidelines in that town hall meeting.

Cole has behaved this way before. Is Tom Cole allowed to do that? As liberals, are we allowed to see the foolishness in our own tribe?

Tomorrow: Is dogma (also) us?


  1. I listened to a CNN report about the ACA/Obamacare this morning. It said 70% don't understand the ACA and I am sure the other 30% are confused. Maybe a health law specializing law professor understands it but beyond broad generalizations, no one knows what's going on. CNN then had on a guy who claimed to be unbiased but was very much a cheerleader for the ACA.

    How does one sign up, get prices, etc.? Not for me but I don't see information generally out there for the public. Rather than continuing the campaign, I think people would appreciate if Obama was more informative. I think that would be smart.

    1. How exactly does this comment relate to today's post? Are you complaining that Cole hasn't explained Obamacare in his town hall meeting, or are you complaining because TDH hasn't explained it, or is CNN to blame for not explaining it?

      Does it seem fair to say that people don't know how to sign up when it is still before the open enrollment period starts and before the ads informing people have started to run in most places? Do you think it is Obama's job to appear in ads telling people how to sign up, get prices, etc, or is he the President of the USA?

      What % of CNN listeners (or the general public or whoever the demographic was) understand how to sign up or get prices for regular health care, as it exists pre-Obamacare? Are the rest of the people who think they know also confused? I bet they are.

      It is biased to be in support of existing legislation that is now the law of the land? What kind of crazy idea is it to suggest that an unbiased person must oppose the policies and practices of the USA as enacted by Congress and implemented across our country?

      More importantly, when did all these Republican shills arrive in this website? Was it with the Zimmerman discussions, the single post about guns, or are they all friends of David in CA? I wish they would go away.

    2. Lindy,

      Every time you read one of Lionel's comments, don't you feel good that you're not a racist asshole? Every time you read one of DAinCA's posts, aren't you glad that ideology hasn't turned your brain to mush? And every time you read one of my deathless diatribes, doesn't it warm your heart to know that you're not a cranky misanthrope?

      Rejoice in the diversity

    3. deadrat,

      You come a lot closer to Somerby's ideal of MLK-inspired love than I do. I decided yesterday that there is perhaps less diversity than you think because it seems to me a bunch of the anonymous posts seem are the same person replying to himself. That's why I am now commenting with a 'nym.

    4. "because it seems to me a bunch of the anonymous posts seem are the same person replying to himself."

      On the money.

    5. Frankly, the person/people here who are making ridiculous charges of sexism, ethnic bias, and hypocrisy (on the silliest of evidence) against Somerby are not Republicans.

      DavidinCal is obviously not mush-brained, and certainly not by virtue of his not being a liberal, and Lionel here (for whatever reason) has written a fairly common complaint that should be of some passing concern to the White House, journalists, and Democrats in general, by virtue of polls.

      Please be aware that the intolerance of differing views that you make light of, has its zenith here in the liberal trolls at war with Bob.

    6. Oh my goodness. I'm talking about how politicians (and/or media) talk to the public, very much the point of the article. The public is in the dark about ACA/Obamacare and Obama is missing an opportunity to give them simple information. Do that rather than continue to campaign against Republicans; ignore the defund Obamacare effort for a bit. (Right, Cecelia, thats the point.)

    7. Actually, Lionel,...allaying public fears with info wouldn't deter from a campaign against some Republicans, but could thwart their charges.

      But then you knew that...right?

    8. Actually, Cecilia, I think you, deadrat and lionel are the same person with three 'nyms talking to each other.

      See how easy that is? We get to dream up any "facts" we want.

    9. It's interesting that you imply that all and sundry conjectures are of the same coinage.

    10. Lionel, it is bone simple. You go to your state's exchange website. This is the one in California:

      It is straightforward.

    11. Anonymous,
      Thanks for that info. I'll look for the NJ one, not for myself as I will get Medicare in a couple weeks but just to have the info. I suspect we would all be astonished at how many people still go to H&R Block to fill out the simplest income tax form because it is a complexity outside of their normal experience.

    12. It is amazing the currency given to the "idea" that all Anonymous may be one person, that all named commenters must be different people, and that it's really hard to tell who's saying what to whom when people use the handle "Anonymous" -- what twaddle.

      But I would say that, wouldn't I?

    13. It's easy to tell Cecelia and me apart. One of us is smart; the other is good looking.

  2. I'm not sure I see much pandering to voters, at least by Democrats. I see a lot of pandering to Wall Street and big business in general. A lot of Republican candidates are now so crazy that Democrats don't really have to do much for anybody outside the 1%. They have to do things for the 1% or they won't get paid.

    1. Isn't pandering _telling_ people what they want to hear, rather than giving them what they want to get?

      Congress appears to serve big interests, but their campaigns are all about the deadly evils of the Other Party, destroying your Freedoms.

    2. Both parties are constantly on the attack and then one side, usually the Democrats or Democratic supporters in the media, gets all highhanded about "civility." Obama did that just the other day, personalizing this ACA/Obamacare thing thats current. Its all about him, all about trying to hurt him.

      I think they have to do it because there is so little difference between them. Bush put in the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, unfunded, and plopped a lot of money into No Child Left Behind. If there was an actual difference between the parties, no Republican would have voted for those. Same with Bush's wars which I understand will end up costing $6 trillion, dwarfing anything anyone is talking about with ACA/Obamacare. Very little opposition on either side to what now look to have been absolutely bad ideas.

      So, I expect the demonization to continue. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo is investigating and reporting on people who didn't like Ted Cruz in college! No shame, really.

  3. Tom Cole is my congressman, and I have never voted for him. Still, whenever I see him a Sunday show or something, he rarely if ever embarrasses me as Coburn often does and Inhofe always does. He's definitely a conservative, which is what the 4th District wants, but he's far from being a nut. Like Gorbachev in another time, he's somebody the sane opposition can work with. I believe he has a Ph.D. in something -- more evidence that professing the wrong politics does not always make one dumb.

    Interesting note: When I lived in Moore, OK, years ago, his mother was my state rep. Today that stretch of I-35 is called the Helen Cole Memorial Highway. Nice Mother's Day present, Tom!