The Republican Sideshow
Those events could easily become intertwined. And progressives who will be working as hard as they can toward both can only be encouraged by the approaching train wreck within the Republican Party.
For months, the media have been bombarding us with stories suggesting the strong likelihood that President Barack Obama would be defeated for re-election.
The usual excuse cited is Obama's failure to single-handedly turn around the disastrous economy he inherited. But there has to be something uglier behind it, since Republicans have voted in lockstep against every effort by the president to create jobs.
Hint: It's definitely not because Obama's a radical socialist. He's turned out to be a pretty cautious Democrat.
But as next Tuesday's Iowa caucuses approach, anyone fearing a presidential defeat in November has to ask: If Obama is such an easy target, why are all the Republican candidates so bad?
The answer is the Republican Party has moved so far to the extreme right that in order to be nominated a candidate may well have to be so mean and ignorant as to be unelectable.
Repeatedly, we have seen strong pressure on Republicans to disavow any decent political position they have taken in the past.
That begins at the top of the field with strong opposition to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for creating a model for national health care reform by expanding coverage and benefits while putting pressure on insurance companies and health care providers to reduce costs.
It's a black mark in today's Republican Party to do anything so positive for people, especially for middle-class and lower-income people.
Other Republican candidates have run into trouble for failing to sufficiently hate immigrants from Mexico.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been exposed as unusually inarticulate and slow-witted for someone seeking the nation's highest office. But Perry, whose state borders Mexico, knows far more about problems actually faced by immigrants than any of the vicious demagogues who routinely demonize Mexican citizens.
Perry has had to defend the practice of charging in-state tuition at Texas universities to immigrant Mexican children who have grown up in the state.
All those who consider immigrants some kind of drag on the economy should certainly want to encourage bright, immigrant graduates from Texas high schools to get as many college degrees as possible to increase their lifetime earnings (and tax-paying) potential.
Not even Newt Gingrich, who wants to repeal child labor laws so children can get a head start on janitorial careers by cleaning their own inner-city schools, would deport enough Mexican immigrants to satisfy Republicans.
Gingrich says Mexicans who have lived here for 25 years, obeyed every other law, paid their taxes, raised children who are U.S. citizens and go to church are valuable members of our communities and shouldn't be kicked out of the country.
Only in an extraordinarily racially hateful Republican Party would that be considered a controversial position.
Speaking of race hatred, there is a very good reason why Texas Congressman Ron Paul is a favorite not only of the tea party, but also of white supremacist groups across the country.
After being ignored by the media for months, racist and anti-Semitic newsletters published by Paul in the '80s and '90s are finally surfacing in the mainstream media—like the “Ron Paul Political Report,” written in the first person, warning of a coming race war with urban black youth and containing this grandfatherly advice: “I've urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self-defense. For the animals are coming.”
Paul now claims he didn't write such revolting sentiments. He just sent them out under his name.
Paul's hateful screeds do not disqualify him in today's Republican Party. The only candidates who have to apologize are those who have taken positions that might be interpreted as decent or humane.
The most likely scenario at this time is for Romney to continue his successful run toward the Republican nomination despite the obvious lack of enthusiasm for him among the extreme elements dominating his party.
That may produce the kind of split within Republicans that is more typical of Democrats. If Paul, a libertarian, runs as a third-party candidate, he could take the tea parties and other vitriolic racists with him.
Some Republicans certainly could have trouble voting for Romney, who ran for the Senate claiming to be more liberal than Ted Kennedy.
But no one talks about the biggest objection to Romney within today's extremist Republican Party: his Mormon faith.
That may be what finally assures Obama's re-election. The message for Republicans: Live by bigotry, die by bigotry.