Evidence that the Republican Party has completely lost touch with the average American citizen is as close as last weekend in Michigan. The state is deep in the throes of a recession, with the highest unemployment rate in the nation (7.2%). The home foreclosure rate in Detroit is five times the national average, and the state government is broke. Yesterday 73,000 members of the United Autoworkers, many of them Michigan residents, went out on strike against automotive giant General Motors. Strikes have a ripple effect on an economy, affecting many small business owners, but these hard-working Americans are fighting to hold onto their jobs.
"The hopelessness that exists is just something I have never seen," said Denise DeCook, a Republican pollster who has worked in the state for decades. In one of her recent polls, 81 percent of its residents said Michigan was on the wrong track.
And so what do the aristocratic Republicans in Michigan do? They throw a lavish party!
For about 36 hours beginning Friday afternoon, more than 2,000 politicians and party activists passed through the Grand Hotel, boozing and slapping backs in one of America's last bastions of Victorian aristocratic nostalgia. One by one, the leading Republican presidential candidates came as pilgrims to pay homage to the gaudy affair. At times, the scene recalled Jack Nicholson's ballroom hallucinations from the 1980 horror movie, "The Shining."
Tax cuts for the rich, and spend, spend, spend....
Built in 1887, the Grand Hotel is columned and cavernous, with a candy-striped interior, a pink hair salon, a maroon wine bar and a jewelry store named "The Colony Shop," which was sold out of canary diamonds for the weekend. The wait staff, imported from Jamaica on temporary visas, was entirely black, and they served food to invariably white Republicans while wearing white-tie tuxedos with jackets the color of AstroTurf. (Brochures left in the guest rooms explained that the Jamaican help is provided with laundry and "recreational facilities" at their on-island dormitories.) Croquet and bocce ball could be played down in the Tea Garden, which was decorated with abundant blooming flowers and bushes shaped like horses. At tea time, a harpist in heels played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" while women in maid costumes served tea cakes and champagne just a few steps from an exhibit of vintage oil paintings that showed young girls in lace dresses and young boys with spent shotguns and dead birds.
We need to set this country on a new course, and get back to a government that is truly "of, by and for the people." Four more years of Republican aristocracy in the White House is not the answer.
Mitt Romney, who used to stay on the island as a teenager when his father was Michigan's governor, made a grand entrance, shadowed by dozens of young supporters in blue shirts, whom some in the press called "Mitt-bots" for their super-human coordination when chanting Romney's name over and over again for minutes at a time. "I must admit it was a good piece of news, when I heard Michigan would come early," Romney said at a press conference on the hotel's front porch, which the owners claim is the longest front porch in the world. The bots, who'd gathered around him, cheered wildly. [...]
A few hours later, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson walked out of the hotel into a mob of reporters, who pressed around him in a chaotic scene that the Romney advance team, not to mention the Mitt-bots, would have never allowed. He muttered some bland answers to a handful of questions and then fled back inside. His speech at dinner that night was mostly a dry rendition of his life story, which seemed to put the crowd to sleep. "It was the worst speech I've ever heard up here," one local Michigan pol, who wore a Rudy Giuliani pin, told me afterward. "You want to lead the free world, have some passion about it." [...]
Thompson was followed by Arizona Sen. John McCain, who garnered some of the biggest cheers of the conference, in part because it was late and people had been drinking for hours. "I was informed that I was the last speaker," he said on taking the stage. "I feel a bit like Zsa Zsa Gabor's fifth husband, who on her wedding night said, 'I know what I am supposed to do; I just don't know how to make it interesting.'" Reading from a prompter, he offered a vigorous defense of the current military policy in Iraq. "We must not choose to lose," he said. But perhaps the biggest applause of the conference came when he criticized Columbia University for inviting the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to speak on campus. "A man who is directing the maiming and killing of American troops should not be given an invitation to speak at an American university," he thundered, yielding a standing ovation.
The night before, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani visited the island just long enough to deliver a 35-minute dinner address. After speaking at length about the importance of staying "on offense" in the war on terror, he offered what has become the central argument of his campaign: his own electability. "I honestly think I have the best chance of defeating Hillary Clinton," he said. "If we are going to win back the House, if we are going to win back the Senate, we cannot go into the next election giving up New York, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan." As soon as the speech was over, he left without shaking voters' hands or glancing at the press. His ferry off the island that night was packed with supporters of the libertarian Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who, according to several accounts, spent the ride shouting Paul chants in Giuliani's general direction.
You can always count on the Republican politicians, ever-ready and willing to kiss the ring of the rich aristocracy in America, while us work-a-day folks struggle to make it to the next paycheck.
The candidates' appearances, however, were almost tangential to the real point of the weekend, which was to celebrate the pleasures of money and privilege. The diners supped on cold strawberry soup, prosciutto, and pecan-coated ice cream balls. People did not use the word "money" when they talked about money. "Everyone in this room understands the importance of resources, the importance of finance, in winning campaigns," said Dick DeVos, the son of the billionaire founder of Amway, who lost a costly race for governor last year, which he funded with $35 million of his own fortune.
By the time election day arrives we will have had 8 long years of a political party and arrogant, fat-cat politicians in the White House who celebrate the money and privilege of the rich. This time around let's choose an administration that celebrates the values, ideals and accomplishments of the real America.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!