Not content to rest on the laurels (or bad omens) of the defeat of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just nine days ago, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (aka John Morgan's forever girlfriend) took to the conference call wire-tangle this morning to offer an opposing preamble to two big Republican political happenings in Washington D.C. today: the "Faith and Freedom Coalition: Road to Majority 2014" conference and the election to replace Cantor as House majority leader. Joining Wasserman Schultz on the other side of the tin-can line was Congressman and Reverend Emanuel Cleaver, because faith. How exciting, right? Well, not really.
Wasserman Schultz kicked off the short affair with a big dive into the metaphor bowl, speaking about the "latest Republican cattle call at the circus known as the Faith and Freedom Coalition: Road to Majority conference." Never one to understate, Wasserman Schultz continued her lyric poem with references to the "parade" of Republican winners "tripping over themselves" to crawl into the jaundiced limelight of the Christian Republican base, before laundry listing the biggest offenders. She vocally imagined Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Chris Christie climbing into a bed of hateful irrelevance with crazyperson Allen West, crazyperson Herman Cain and crazyperson Phyllis Schlafly, adding that "This is today's Republican Party."
You see the point of the "State of the Republican Party" briefing was to remind reporters that it was only last year that the kinder/gentler Republican Party made a pact to attract new blood and new voters and new skin colors to its aging base. "They're not even pretending anymore," Wasserman Schultz said, after pointing out that Cantor was king of the "obstructionist caucus" that stewed on the Affordable Care Act, Benghazi, and the government shutdown. Cantor, she said, was clearly not obstructionist or far-right enough. And even though she hauled out some polling that suggests that only one-quarter of the population sees the Republican Party in a favorable light right now, it's still unclear whether the Cantor-heralded rightward shift is actually something Democrats should celebrate or fear. (There were no numbers pulled out about Democratic approval, though a recent poll shows Democratic congressional favorability with a slight lead).
Texas Congressman Emanuel Cleaver joined in to play nice guy for a two-minute postscript, making it clear that he "hoped" that this religious dog-and-pony show wouldn't dwindle into exactly the kind of hateful rhetoric against poors, immigrants, gays and women that it is designed to dwindle into. He's a man of faith, indeed! But he likes to keep his faith in his heart (or brain?) where it belongs.
"I’m an ordained United Methodist pastor," he said. "I believe in faith. My faith does in fact guide me in my politics. But I never go to the floor and say that God wants me to vote in a particular way. I’m not sure that God wants to dirty himself by coming into the chamber of the United State Congress."
Taking his own faith in vain, he added that he hoped that the conference would be "short on divisiveness and long on inclusion."