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“Coming Up Short”: Rubio Tries And Fails To Thread Culture-War Needle

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been quite candid on most of the hot-button social issues of the day, and despite national ambitions, the Florida Republican has positioned himself well to the right of the American mainstream on issues like contraception, reproductive rights, and marriage equality.

But the senator nevertheless believes he has a strong case to make when it comes to the culture war, and yesterday he delivered a big speech his staff billed as an address on “the breakdown of the American family and the erosion of fundamental values that has followed.” The remarks, which can be read in their entirety here or watched online here, covered a fair amount of ground, though as Benjy Sarlin explained, there was a special emphasis on gay rights.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio acknowledged Wednesday that American history was “marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians.” But in a speech at Catholic University in Washington, Rubio drew the line sharply at marriage equality and accused supporters of same sex unions of “intolerance.”

“I promise you even before this speech is over I’ll be attacked as a hater or a bigot or someone who is anti-gay,” Rubio said. “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy. Support for the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay, it is pro-traditional marriage.”

Rhetoric like this is familiar – the right has long believed it’s unfair for the left to be intolerant of intolerance. Despite its repetition, though, the argument always seems to come up short.

Consider the underlying point Rubio is trying to make. On the one hand, he and his allies intend to keep fighting, hoping to use the power of the state to deny equal rights and basic human dignity to Americans based on sexual orientation. On the other hand, Rubio and his allies would appreciate it if no one said mean things about them while they push these policies.

I’m afraid the public discourse doesn’t quite work this way. No one is suggesting Rubio must abandon his opposition to civil rights for LGBT Americans, but if he wants to avoid criticism while pushing public policies that create second-class citizens, he appears to have chosen the wrong line of work.

That said, let’s not overlook the part of the speech in which Rubio also tried to position himself as a critic of anti-gay discrimination.

“We should acknowledge that our history is marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians. There was once a time when the federal government not only banned the hiring of gay employees, it required private contractors to identify and fire them. Some laws prohibited gays from being served in bars and restaurants. And many cities carried out law enforcement efforts targeting gay Americans.

“Fortunately, we have come a long way since then.”

Yes, that is fortunate. But under existing federal law, American employers, right now, can legally fire gay employees – or even employees they think might be gay – regardless of their on-the-job performance.

Our history is, in fact, “marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians,” but that discrimination can still happen under existing law – and though he didn’t mention it yesterday, as far as Marco Rubio is concerned, federal anti-discrimination laws should not be changed. Indeed, when the Senate rather easily passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act last fall, only 30 senators voted against it, and Rubio was one of them.

The far-right senator, in other words, is trying but failing to thread a culture-war needle. Rubio wants to block consenting adults who fall in love from getting married, but he doesn’t want to be accused of intolerance. The Republican senator wants to decry employment discrimination against LGBT Americans, but he doesn’t want to take action to prevent the discrimination he claims not to like.

As culture-war visions go, this one needs some work.

 

By: Steven Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 24, 2014

July 25, 2014 Posted by | Discrimination, LGBT, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The GOP Self-Destruction Is Complete”: Millennials Officially Hate Conservatives

Conservatives are stuck in a perpetual outrage loop. The reappearance of Todd Akin, the horror-movie villain immortality of Sarah Palin, the unseemly celebration of the Hobby Lobby decision – these all speak to a chorus of “la-la-la-can’t-hear-you” loud enough to drown out the voice of an entire generation. Late last week, the Reason Foundation released the results of a poll about that generation, the millennials; its signature finding was the confirmation of a mass abandonment of social conservatism and the GOP. This comes at a time when the conservative movement is increasingly synonymous with mean-spirited, prank-like and combative activism and self-important grand gestures. The millennial generation has repeatedly defined itself as the most socially tolerant of the modern era, but one thing it really can’t stand is drama.

Republicans were already destined for piecemeal decimation due to the declining numbers of their core constituency. But they don’t just have a demographic problem anymore; they have stylistic one. The conservative strategy of outrage upon outrage upon outrage bumps up against the policy preferences and the attitudes of millennials in perfect discord.

We all can recognize the right’s tendency to respond to backlash with more “lash” (Akin didn’t disappear, he doubled down on “legitimate rape”), but it seems to have gained speed with the age of social media and candidate tracking. The Tea Party’s resistance to the leavening effect of establishment mores and political professionals has been a particularly effective accelerant. Palin’s ability to put anything on the internet without any intermediary has rendered her as reckless as any tween with a SnapChat account. Akin’s whiny denouncement of Washington insiders is likely to make him more credible with a certain kind of base voter. The midterms are, as we speak, producing another round of Fox News celebrities, whether or not they win their races: the Eric Cantor-vanquishing David Brat, Mississippi’s Chris McDaniel and the hog-castrating mini-Palin, Jodi Ernst of Iowa.

The fire-with-fire attitude of hardline conservatives has its roots in the petulant cultural defensiveness adopted by the GOP – especially the Christian right – during the culture wars of the 90s. Their siege mentality bred an attitude toward liberals that saw every instance of social liberalization as proof of their own apocalyptic predictions and conspiracy theories. Gay marriage will lead to acceptance of beastiality and pedophilia. “Socialized medicine” will lead to the euthanizing Grandma. Access to birth control will lead to orgies in the streets.

Then came Obama’s election, the Zapruder tape for the right’s tin-foil hat haberdashers – a moment in history that both explained and exacerbated America’s supposed decline. Dinesh D’Souza, the Oliver Stone of the Tea Party, has now made two movies about the meaning of Obama’s presidency. The first, 2016: Obama’s America, garnered an astounding $33m at the box office, and his lawyers blamed disappointing returns from this summer’s America on a Google conspiracy to confuse moviegoers about its showtimes. (Of course.)

The GOP has long staked a claim on The Disappearing Angry White Man, but they have apparently ever-narrowing odds of getting a bite at millennials, who appear to be more like The Somewhat Concerned Multicultural Moderate. This generation is racially diverse, pro-pot, pro-marriage equality and pro-online gambling. They are troubled by the deficit but believe in the social safety net: 74% of millennials, according to Reason, want the government to guarantee food and housing to all Americans. A Pew survey found that 59% of Americans under 30 say the government should do more to solve problems, while majorities in all other age groups thought it should do less.

The Rupe-Reason poll teases out some of the thinking behind the surge of young people abandoning the GOP, and finds a generation that is less apt to take to the streets, Occupy-style, than to throw a great block party: lots of drugs, poker and gays! Millennials don’t want to change things, apparently – they want everyone to get along. The report observes “[m]any specifically identified LGBTQ rights as their primary reason for being liberal”; and “[o]ften, they decided they were liberals because they really didn’t like conservatives.”

But liberals can’t be complacent about their demographic advantage. Their challenge is to resist the impulse to copycat the hysteria that has worked so well for the right historically. “No drama Obama” was the millennials’ spirit animal – his popularity has sunk with the economy, but also with the administration’s escalating rhetoric. Today, under-30 voters show a distinct preference for Hillary Clinton (39% according to Reason, 53% according to the Wall Street Journal), and no wonder: she’s as bloodless as Bill was lusty, as analytical as Bill was emotional. The professorial Elizabeth Warren is the logical (very logical) backup.

Right now, Democrats benefit from both the form and content of conservative message: this next generation is not just inclusive, but conflict-adverse. Millennials cringe at the old-man-yelling-at-gay-clouds spectacle of the Tea Party. Perhaps this comes from living in such close proximity of their parents for so long. If this generation does have a political philosophy, it’s this: “First, do no harm.” If it has a guiding moral principle, it’s simpler: “Don’t be embarrassing.”

 

By: Ana Marie Cox, The Guardian, July 14, 2014

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Millennnials, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Feeling A Little Left Out”: The Religious Right Won’t Tolerate Being Ignored

The defining debate within the Republican Party over the last several months has pitted Tea Partiers against the GOP’s Corporate wing. The two contingents have already begun gearing up for some notable primary fights in advance of this year’s midterm elections.

But there’s another wing of the party that’s apparently feeling a little left out.

On a recent snowy day in the Washington suburb of Tyson’s Corner, Va., some of the religious right’s wealthiest backers and top operatives gathered at the Ritz-Carlton to plot their entry into the conservative civil war.

Their plan: take a page out of the playbooks of Karl Rove and the Koch brothers by raising millions of dollars, coordinating their political spending and assiduously courting megadonors…. It’s all geared toward elevating the place of social issues like abortion and gay marriage in conservative politics.

To be sure, all of this makes sense. The religious right, as a political movement, wants to remain relevant with its allies, so it stands to reason that leading social conservatives would begin plotting to defend and expand its influence. It may make intra-party tensions a little more complicated in the coming months, but the religious right probably doesn’t much care.

The trouble, though, is in the assumption that social conservatives have been irrelevant of late.

Indeed, the Politico article stated as fact that social issues have “been largely relegated to the sidelines” in Republican politics, and the GOP’s competing wings have both “steered away from social issues they deem too divisive.”

I can appreciate why this might seem true – after all, it’s not as if John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Eric Cantor run around prioritizing the culture war above other GOP goals. But the closer one looks, the more these assumptions start to crumble.

For example ,the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit reproductive health research organization, found that “abortion was at the forefront of the state legislative debate during the past three years – so much so that states added more restrictions to the books from 2011-2013 than during the entire preceding decade.”

This isn’t the result of a party steering away from divisive social issues; this is the opposite.

What’s more, as we discussed a few months ago, let’s not forget that Republican leaders lined up to kiss the religious right movement’s ring at the 2013 Values Voter Summit, and GOP officials incorporated their opposition to contraception into the government-shutdown strategy. While Republican governors spent much of the year trying to limit women’s reproductive choices, it’s not limited to state government – just about the only bills House GOP lawmakers find it easy to pass deal with abortion.

The Republican Party’s commitment to the culture war remains alive and well. The religious right is worried about lost relevance, but the movement already has considerable influence over the GOP’s direction.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 3, 2014

January 5, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Religious Right | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Social Conservatives’ Misplaced Fury”: Republican Policymakers Are Already Doing The Bidding For The Religious Right

Officials at the Republican National Committee can read polls just as well as anyone else, and they realize their party’s social agenda is not popular with the American mainstream. Indeed, just this week, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans disagree with the Republican Party’s approach to social and cultural issues.

With that in mind, Reince Priebus and others are at least paying lip service to rebranding the party, hoping to move away from “Old Testament” associations. It’s apparently driven social-conservative activists and the religious right movement to the brink of apoplexy.

A group of high-profile social conservatives warned Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a letter this week that their supporters could abandon the GOP if the party seeks to change its position on social issues, particularly same-sex marriage.

Thirteen social conservatives, representing various influential groups, wrote Priebus ahead of the RNC’s quarterly meeting this week in Los Angeles to sternly rebuke the conclusions of a post-election report that advised Republican elected officials to adopt a softer tone toward social issues.

“We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support,” concludes the letter, which was obtained by and independently verified by NBC News in advance of the meeting this week.

The letter further asks GOP committeemen to pass a resolution at their meeting this week re-affirming the party’s 2012 national platform, which includes language calling for bans on abortion and same-sex marriage.

That nine of the 13 groups involved in this effort are 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, legally prohibited from supporting political parties, may be of interest to the Internal Revenue Service.

Nevertheless, the warning coincides with a call from Tony Perkins, president of the right-wing Family Research Council, that social conservatives stop contributing to the RNC until the party starts “defending core principles.”

I understand that social conservatives are furious. I just don’t understand why.

Given the intensity of the reactions from these far-right leaders, one might think Republicans were giving up on the culture war altogether and the RNC had just named a new LGBT outreach coordinator.

I’m not sure where social conservatives are getting their coverage of current events, but I’ve got some news for them: the Republican Party hasn’t given up on their issues. On the contrary, GOP officials appear to be fighting the culture war harder than ever.

Why, exactly, do social conservatives feel so aggrieved? On a purely superficial level, the party does not want to be perceived as right-wing culture warriors because Priebus and Co. realize that this further alienates younger, more tolerant voters. But below the surface, Republicans, especially at the state level, are banning abortion and targeting reproductive rights at a breathtaking clip, pursuing official state religions, eliminating sex-ed, going after Planned Parenthood, and restricting contraception. Heck, we even have a state A.G. and gubernatorial candidate fighting to protect an anti-sodomy law.

What’s more, folks like Priebus are condemning Planned Parenthood and “infanticide,” while Paul Ryan is speaking to right-wing groups about a future in which abortion rights are “outlawed.”

And social conservatives are outraged that Republicans haven’t pushed the culture war enough? Why, because the RNC hasn’t officially declared its support for a theocracy yet?

Religious right activists, I hate to break it to you, but Republican policymakers are already doing your bidding. You’re not the ones who should be whining.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 12, 2013

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Far Too Mysterious”: So Mitt Romney, What Do You Really Believe?

Too much about the Republican candidate for the presidency is far too mysterious.

When Mitt Romney was governor of liberal Massachusetts, he supported abortion, gun control, tackling climate change and a requirement that everyone should buy health insurance, backed up with generous subsidies for those who could not afford it. Now, as he prepares to fly to Tampa to accept the Republican Party’s nomination for president on August 30th, he opposes all those things. A year ago he favored keeping income taxes at their current levels; now he wants to slash them for everybody, with the rate falling from 35 percent to 28 percent for the richest Americans.

All politicians flip-flop from time to time; but Mr. Romney could win an Olympic medal in it (see “Mitt Romney’s chances: The changing man”). And that is a pity, because this newspaper finds much to like in the history of this uncharismatic but dogged man, from his obvious business acumen to the way he worked across the political aisle as governor to get health reform passed and the state budget deficit down. We share many of his views about the excessive growth of regulation and of the state in general in America, and the effect that this has on investment, productivity and growth. After four years of soaring oratory and intermittent reforms, why not bring in a more businesslike figure who might start fixing the problems with America’s finances?

Details, details

But competence is worthless without direction and, frankly, character. Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected. In some areas, notably social policy and foreign affairs, the result is that he is now committed to needlessly extreme or dangerous courses that he may not actually believe in but will find hard to drop; in others, especially to do with the economy, the lack of details means that some attractive-sounding headline policies prove meaningless (and possibly dangerous) on closer inspection. Behind all this sits the worrying idea of a man who does not really know his own mind. America won’t vote for that man; nor would this newspaper. The convention offers Mr. Romney his best chance to say what he really believes.

There are some areas where Mr. Romney has shuffled to the right unnecessarily. In America’s culture wars he has followed the Republican trend of adopting ever more socially conservative positions. He says he will appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court and back the existing federal Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA). This goes down well with southern evangelicals, less so with independent voters: witness the furor over one (rapidly disowned) Republican’s ludicrous remarks about abortion and “legitimate rape” (see “The Todd Akin affair: Grenades and stilettos”). But the powers of the federal government are limited in this area; DOMA has not stopped a few states introducing gay marriage and many more recognizing gay civil partnerships.

The damage done to a Romney presidency by his courting of the isolationist right in the primaries could prove more substantial. He has threatened to label China as a currency manipulator on the first day of his presidency. Even if it is unclear what would follow from that, risking a trade war with one of America’s largest trading partners when the recovery is so sickly seems especially mindless. Some of his anti-immigration policies won’t help, either. And his attempts to lure American Jews with near-racist talk about Arabs and belligerence against Iran could ill serve the interests of his country (and, for that matter, Israel’s).

Once again, it may be argued that this will not matter: previous presidents pandered to interest groups and embraced realpolitik in office. Besides, this election will be fought on the economy. This is where Manager Romney should be at his strongest. But he has yet to convince; sometimes, again, being needlessly extremist, more often evasive and vague.

In theory, Mr. Romney has a detailed 59-point economic plan. In practice, it ignores virtually all the difficult or interesting questions (indeed, “The Romney Programme for Economic Recovery, Growth and Jobs” is like “Fifty Shades of Grey” without the sex). Mr. Romney began by saying that he wanted to bring down the deficit; now he stresses lower tax rates. Both are admirable aims, but they could well be contradictory: So which is his primary objective? His running-mate, Paul Ryan, thinks the Republicans can lower tax rates without losing tax revenues, by closing loopholes. Again, a simpler tax system is a good idea, but no politician has yet dared to tackle the main exemptions. Unless Mr. Romney specifies which boondoggles to axe, this looks meaningless and risky.

On the spending side, Mr. Romney is promising both to slim Leviathan and to boost defense spending dramatically. So what is he going to cut? How is he going to trim the huge earned benefits programs? Which bits of Mr. Ryan’s scheme does he agree with? It is a little odd that the number two has a plan and his boss doesn’t. And it is all very well promising to repeal Barack Obama’s health-care plan and the equally gargantuan Dodd-Frank act on financial regulation, but what exactly will Mr. Romney replace them with—unless, of course, he thinks Wall Street was well-regulated before Lehman went bust?

Playing dumb is not an option

Mr. Romney may calculate that it is best to keep quiet: The faltering economy will drive voters towards him. It is more likely, however, that his evasiveness will erode his main competitive advantage. A businessman without a credible plan to fix a problem stops being a credible businessman. So does a businessman who tells you one thing at breakfast and the opposite at supper. Indeed, all this underlines the main doubt: Nobody knows who this strange man really is. It is half a decade since he ran something. Why won’t he talk about his business career openly? Why has he been so reluctant to disclose his tax returns? How can a leader change tack so often? Where does he really want to take the world’s most powerful country?

It is not too late for Mr. Romney to show America’s voters that he is a man who can lead his party rather than be led by it. But he has a lot of questions to answer in Tampa.

 

By: The Economist, Business Insider Contributor, August 25, 2012

August 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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