One entertaining aspect of recent dramatic Supreme Court rulings was learning that the court’s high-minded intellectuals can be just as thin skinned and spiteful as everybody else. Apparently, Justice Antonin Scalia was a law-school whiz kid about 50 years and 50,000 cocktails ago, and finds it hard to accept that lesser minds are not obliged to agree with him.
For his part, Chief Justice John Roberts turned political prognosticator in his dissent to Obergefell v. Hodges, the decision legitimizing gay marriage. “Stealing this issue from the people,” he wrote, “will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”
Granted, if all you had to go by was the sky-is-falling rhetoric of Republican presidential candidates and their theological allies, you might think that Roberts had a point. But he doesn’t, partly because the Supreme Court ruling won’t bring about dramatic social change at all. It merely affirms social changes that have already happened.
But hold that thought, because political handicappers at the New York Times argue that same-sex unions could be the best thing that ever happened to the GOP. Not because millions of outraged religious conservatives will stampede to the ballot boxes, but because… well, here’s the headline: “As Left Wins Culture Battles, GOP Gains Opportunity to Pivot for 2016.”
Former Bush speechwriter David Frum believes that the gay marriage fight is over. “Every once in a while,” he told reporter Jonathan Martin, “we bring down the curtain on the politics of a prior era. The stage is now cleared for the next generation of issues. And Republicans can say, ‘Whether you’re gay, black, or a recent migrant to our country, we are going to welcome you as a fully cherished member of our coalition.’”
Sure, Republicans could say that. If Republicans were in the habit of dealing with reality, that is. Frum, a Canadian Jew who became a U.S. citizen in 2007, may be forgiven a bit of wishful thinking. Ever since getting pushed out of the American Enterprise Institute for saying Republicans were foolish not to negotiate with the White House on Obamacare, he’s been trying to persuade Republicans to act more like British Tories.
But that’s not how today’s GOP rolls. On the party’s evangelical right, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was breathing smoke and fire. A Baptist preacher, Huckabee indulged in a bit of ecclesiastical word play, denying that the Supreme Court could do “something only the Supreme Being can do — redefine marriage.” He denounced the ruling as a “blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment,” and vowed to defy it.
In this, Huckabee echoed Rev. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who even before the Supreme Court ruling had vowed that “as a minister of the Gospel, I will not officiate over any same-sex unions or same-sex marriage ceremonies. I completely refuse.”
Isn’t that brave of him?
However, do you really suppose it’s possible that Floyd, Huckabee, and the rest of the hyperventilating GOP candidates fail to understand that all churches have an absolute First Amendment right to their own beliefs and practices? They’re bravely refusing to perform ceremonies that nothing in this nor any imaginable Supreme Court decision would require of them.
If your church refuses to sanctify same-sex marriages (as mine certainly does), that’s its unquestioned right. For that matter, the Catholic Church also refuses to marry previously divorced couples, or even admit them to communion — an absurdity to me, but not a political issue.
Nothing in the Supreme Court ruling changes those things. It’s about marriage as a secular legal institution: two Americans entering into a contract with each other. Period.
That’s why Bloomberg View‘s Jonathan Bernstein is right and Justice Roberts is wrong about same-sex marriage causing long-lasting social resentment. Marriage, he writes, is “a done deal,” and the issue will soon be relegated to “history books alongside questions of whether women should vote or alcohol should be prohibited.”
Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision invalidating miscegenation laws, was accepted almost immediately. Bernstein points out that in states such as Massachusetts and Iowa, where same-sex unions have been legal for years, they’re no longer controversial.
Because it’s really none of your business, is it, who loves whom? And it has zero effect on you personally. So grow up and get over it.
In time, as Bernstein says, most people will.
In the near term, however, millions of aggrieved GOP voters appear to have gotten the First Amendment upside down. They won’t easily be dissuaded. Feeling besieged by the mainstream culture, they’re encouraged by the Huckabees, Cruzes, and Santorums of the world to believe that they’re being persecuted because they can’t make everybody else march to their drumbeat.
The Republicans’ problem is that to most Americans, that’s the antithesis of religious liberty, and a surefire political loser.
By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, July 1, 2015
“Anti-LGBT ‘Minister’ Franklin Graham Hates For Jesus”: Denigrating A Faith To Further His Own Agenda
I often think of this famed passage from the New Testament when I hear hate spewed by so-called Christian ministers. This Bible story in Matthew explains how Jesus observed that some had denigrated a house of worship, causing him to flip over the tables of the “money lenders” and others selling wares.
Franklin Graham’s stoking the flames of hate against a minority group in America over the past few days has again brought this Bible verse to mind. Not that Graham is a “thief” but because he, too, is denigrating a faith to further his own agenda.
Graham announced last Friday that he was pulling the $128 million account for his nonprofit organization, The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, out of Wells Fargo bank. (It’s truly astounding that it has that much money in the bank—you would think that the Christian thing to do is spend at least a few million on those in need.)
So why did Graham pull this huge sum of money from Wells Fargo? Did bank executives burn down a church or sponsor an abortion-a-thon? Nope. The bank simply ran an ad that featured a lesbian couple.
This really outraged Graham. So in a moment of What Would Jesus Not Do, he posted on Facebook, “Have you ever asked yourself: How can we fight the tide of moral decay that is being crammed down our throats by big business, the media, and the gay & lesbian community?” Graham’s answer: Don’t do business with Wells Fargo.
And then on Monday, Graham took to the airwaves of the Family Research Council’s radio program to call on other Christians to follow his lead and boycott any business that “promotes the gay lifestyle,” including Wells Fargo, Starbucks, Tiffany’s, and Nike. (Interestingly ISIS also recently banned Nike again proving that religious radicals share much common ground.)
Not content to simply advocate a boycott, Graham added during his radio appearance that “practicing” gays and lesbians, if accepted by Christian churches, will not only destroy the church in our nation, but also hasten the end of times. (Not sure what defines a “practicing” gay in Graham’s mind but I bet he’s pictured it.)
But Graham’s demonization of the LGBT community is nothing new. For example, last year he publicly applauded Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s horrific anti-gay laws, stating that the Russian president “has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.”
And Graham has often sought to stir up hate against LGBT community members who want to adopt children by warning that this was their was way to “recruit” children to be gay. He also supports discrimination against gay teens from being able to join the Boy Scouts.
Let’s be clear. Graham’s anti-LGBT words, including his new call for a boycott of Wells Fargo, is not just about opposing marriage equality. It is more than that. He doesn’t want gays and lesbians to be viewed as typical Americans with the same hopes and dreams as the rest of us. Instead he wants Americans to view them and their “agenda” as a threat to our nation. He wants them to be shunned, vilified, and marginalized. (Much the same way he has demonized Muslims, even warning that Muslim Americans in our government are in essence are a threat to Christians.)
And worse, in my view, Graham’s words have radicalized other good Christians. Just this weekend we saw a conservative Christian member of the Arkansas legislature lash out against a local gay-pride parade using words very similar to Graham’s. Arkansas GOP State Senator Jason Rapert objected to the 12th-annual gay-pride parade in his part of the state, claiming it was “truly one of the most offensive public displays against Christians you will find anywhere.” And as if channeling Graham, he added that the organizers specifically chose to hold the parade on a Sunday in order “to try and intimidate people who believe in the Word of God.”
It would, however, be unfair to say Graham is the only evangelical leader spewing hate in the name of Jesus. There’s a veritable league of extraordinary haters including, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association and more. They justify hate in the name of Jesus, a person who instructed his followers to love one another.
My prediction is that the shrillness of the attacks by Graham and his ilk toward the LGBT community will escalate as same-sex marriage becomes even more accepted. And if the Supreme Court decides later this month that marriage equality is the law of the land, don’t expect them to accept this defeat quietly. Instead, expect an increased dose of fear mongering, a push for even more onerous “religious liberty” laws, and even organizing support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Look, there’s nothing anyone can say to stop their hate mongering. But there’s a consequence. No, I’m not talking anyone’s soul burning in eternal hell fire.
Polls shows younger Americans are moving away from organized religion. While there are various factors for this, one-third of millennials polled last year indicated they had left their religion because of “negative teachings” about gays and lesbians.
So bottom line is that Franklin Graham can continue spew all the hate he wants but it will be to an increasingly smaller flock. And hopefully one day we will see some younger evangelical leader truly following the teachings of Jesus and call out Graham for turning a “house of prayer” into a house of hate.
Oh, and there’s another bottom line. The joke’s on Graham because the bank he transferred the money to, BB&T, has a longstanding association with Miami Gay Pride. It looks like it’s just a matter of time until the only place Graham has left to deposit his money is in his own mattress.
By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, June 11, 2015
“As Dangerous As Thomas And Scalia”: Meet The Right-Wing Religious Zealot Who’d Rather Follow The Bible Than The Law
Happiness is boring a hole in your Hebrew slave’s ear with an awl, or so might well say Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice and Baptist zealot Roy Moore.
Before I get to Moore and his grotesque, faith-lathered absurdities, though, a quick digression. Not a week goes by without our egregiously pious politicians outraging rationalist champions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Mike Huckabee, Republican presidential candidate and onetime Southern Baptist preacher, indicated he would, as head of state, obey the Supreme Being, not the Supreme Court, at least as regards same-sex marriage.
His rival and fellow evolution-naysayer Ben Carson urged his Christian co-religionists to stand up to “progressive bullying,” even though Christians account for seven out of ten Americans, and hardly amount to some beleaguered minority nonbelievers could push around, even if they wanted to.
And the Republican National Committee continues its affiliation with the Christian fundamentalist activist group, American Renewal Project, whose director, David Lane, is now calling for the establishment of Christianity as “the official religion of America.” Lane may have taken cues from that morose stalwart of antipathetic reaction, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Don’t forget, a year ago Thomas, a Roman Catholic, aired the malodorous opinion that the First Amendment (which starts with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) “probably” – italics mine, yes, sic, only “probably” – “prohibits Congress from establishing a national religion,” but should not hinder individual states from doing so.
With justices like Thomas, and if a Republican wins in 2016, the Supreme Court may well end up serving as the Doric-columned ossuary of the remains of our once gloriously godless Republic.
Now we come to Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Speaking last week at the Family Research Council, a hyper-conservative Christian lobbying group in Washington, D.C., Moore defined the pursuit of happiness as a by-product of observing the often malicious edicts and baleful pronouncements pervading cock-and-bull fables originating with pastoral, semi-nomadic primitive tribes two or three millennia ago in a land far, far away; that is, the Bible. Moore declared, in obtusely baroque verbiage, that “It’s laws of God, for He is so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual that the latter cannot be obtained but by observing the former, and if the formerly be punctually abated it cannot help but induce the latter. You can’t help but be happy if you follow God’s law and if you follow God’s law, you can’t help but be happy. We need to learn our law.”
Translation: doing what the Bible says makes you happy.
Some readers might recall Moore from 2003, when he fought a federal injunction ordering him to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments he had arranged to be erected within the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery. Denouncing federal judges who held that the “obedience of a court order [is] superior to all other concerns, even the suppression of belief in the sovereignty of God,” Moore refused to comply, and was sacked from the court. Thousands of his supporters descended on the site. More than a year passed before the authorities managed to truck away the offending chunk of granite, a monstrosity so heavy it threatened to crash through the building’s floor.
A decade later, already a folk hero to the brute masses of his state afflicted with the malady of faith, Moore, as unrepentant as ever, found himself reelected to Alabama’s highest tribunal. Once again, he could not sit still. When the Supreme Court in Washington legalized same-sex marriage in Alabama last January, Roy forbade state employees and probate judges from carrying out such unions. In a contentious interview with CNN, Moore then proclaimed that “Our rights contained in the Bill of Rights do not come from the Constitution, they come from God.” He denied he was defying the Supreme Court; rather, he was protecting marriage, “an institution ordained of God.” His allegiance, as should now be clear, is not to the Constitution he has sworn to uphold, but to gobbledygook myths and a bogus Tyrant in the Sky. In other words, to the Bible and God.
One might be tempted to dismiss Moore as yet another faith-mongering, red-state ignoramus, but his status as chief justice should give us pause. Moreover, for decades now, those of the religious right have been laboring to force their superstitions, by hook or by crook, on the rest of us. In far too many states, for example, they’ve succeeded in legislatively thwarting Roe v. Wade to restrict women’s reproductive rights. Just last year, they won a Supreme Court case legalizing prayer in town meetings. And if non-belief is steadily gaining ground, those who remain Christian are increasingly evangelical — which is to say, politically active and well-funded. We thus find our cherished secularism under credible, and growing, threat.
In view of this, it behooves us to take Moore’s advice and look at what the Bible actually says. But which part are we to review, the ferociously censorious Testament 1.0, or its supposedly more clement 2.0 update?
Both. The Bible, often obscure and contradictory, could not be clearer about this. In Matthew 5:18-19 Christ decrees: “till heaven and earth pass away . . . whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments [in the Bible] and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” In Luke 16:17, He reminds us that, “It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the [Bible’s] law to become invalid.” His cohort Peter informs us (in Peter 2: 20-21) that “there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation.” Disregard, then, those who would have you think that the Old Testament has, in effect, expired, as well as mealy-mouthed apologists who say it’s all a matter of how you read the text. And remember, 28 percent of Americans take the Good Book as literal truth, talking snakes and jabbering donkeys and all. It’s not much of a jump to go from literal truth to literal application.
The Bible deluges us with a hailstorm of injunctions, far in excess of the Ten Commandments (first presented in Exodus 20:22-28, but also, with inexplicable alterations and sundry additions, in Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 5). Aside from don’t kill, murder, or covet wives and asses, and so on, just what does the Bible ordain?
For starters, slavery. Much of Exodus 21 is basically a slaveholder’s manual and contains my opening line about boring through your Hebrew slave’s ear with an awl, which is what it says he deserves if he should fail to decamp on schedule. (Servitude is to last six years.) After departure, the slave’s wife and children belong, of course, to you, his master. If you need cash, feel free to sell your daughter as a sex slave. Beat and have sex with your slaves, but whatever you do, don’t “smite” their eyes or their teeth, or you’re obliged to free them. Remember, though, that Christ orders your slaves to obey you with “fear, trembling, and sincerity, as when [they] obey the Messiah” (Ephesians 6:5), so don’t spare the rod unnecessarily. Exodus (21:29) also warns you to keep your livestock in check. Don’t let your ox gore anyone, or you and the beast must be stoned to death. Do redeem the firstling of an ass with a lamb (whatever that means), but if you don’t, break the former’s neck. Otherwise, don’t “oppress” any “sojourners,” “vex” any strangers, or “afflict” any widows or “fatherless children.” Etcetera.
If believers require orders from some “holy” book to keep from doing these things, as those who claim our morality comes from God suppose, they should be kept off the streets, and certainly away from children.
When it comes to His earthly visiting quarters, the Lord legislates with lavish abandon, proffering binding instructions for ark-building, tabernacle-adornment, and altar-construction, on which His subjects are to scant nothing — not gold, not silver, not bronze. U.S. lawmakers chose to lighten the expense burden by providing churches with tax exemptions. Ancient Israelites found recompense in celestially sanctioned regional hegemony over the “Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite” (Exodus 34). Israelites were divinely enjoined to “destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their idol poles . . . . For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders.” This criminal pronouncement from long ago inspires radical Jewish settlers today and helps maintain the insolubility of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.
God then hits red-staters where it hurts, ordaining that “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks” — tattoos — “upon you: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:27). Brothers, no mullets: “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard” (Leviticus 19:27). Nevertheless, dress nattily: “Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together” (Deuteronomy 22:11). Sisters, betake yourselves to a nunnery — for clothes, if nothing else. “Women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire” (l Timothy 2:9).
Before setting out to follow Jesus, remember to violate Commandment 5 and abhor your parents. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Do, however, abhor discreetly, for if you curse Mom and Dad aloud, they have the right to cut you down on the spot (Leviticus 20:9). Don’t talk with any wizards (ibid, 20:6) or get it on with your sister-in-law, or eat fat (ibid 3:17), or attend church for thirty-three days after birthing a boy (you’ll be unclean), or sixty-six days if it’s a girl, you’ll be doubly unclean (Ibid 12:4-5).
I could go on and on, but you get the point. Thomas Jefferson described “the Christian god [as] a being of terrific character — cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust.” In modern parlance, the Lord is psychotic, and stands in need of urgent psychiatric treatment for an out-of-control Type A personality, pathological solipsism and wanton sadism. It should surprise no one that damnable nonsense is His rule book’s warp and woof, with even the supposedly more humane New Testament deserving disdain as a farrago of “forgeries and lies” (to quote Thomas Paine). The Bible, in the end, merits mercilessly swift dispatch into the dustbin of history, or preservation as an anthropological curiosity, nothing more. Anyone considering it our wellspring of joy is not to be trusted.
So how is it that Chief Justice Moore suffers no opprobrium for saying that you “can’t help but be happy if you follow God’s law?”
Because we commit a sort of secular sin of omission and let him, either out of mistaken notions of politesse or the erroneous belief that criticizing religion as ideology equates with insulting someone personally. This has to stop. Every time we encounter faith-deranged individuals spouting supernatural nonsensicalities, we should request explanations and evidence. We might also cite the above-noted biblical passages and ask how they possibly square with modern life in a developed country. If they say those parts don’t apply nowadays, ask them which verses in the Bible permit them to so pick and choose. By steady, patient questioning, you will expose faith for what it is: finely crafted garbage.
We should not suffer evangelical fools gladly or allow them to determine the boundaries of discourse. We should take to heart the key maxim of British philosopher and mathematician William K. Clifford: “It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” We should point out that we have no problem with privately held religious beliefs, but we will protest and object to any attempt to impose such beliefs or restrictions deriving thereof on us or others.
Resist. You have a world of hard-won rights and secular sanity to preserve, and everything to lose.
By: Jeffrey Tayler, Contributing Editor at the Atlantic; Salon, May 31, 2015
“Lindsey Graham And ‘The Gay Conspiracy'”: Set Aside The Ambiguities Of Gossip And Paranoia And See Him In His Proper Light
I’m going to mention briefly that the never-married senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), has been dogged for years by rumors that he’s gay, but that’s not the point of this article. It’s only the lede.
I don’t know if he’s gay; he has denied repeatedly that he is; and at this moment in American history, when gay marriage has entered new levels of normalcy, breathless inquiries into a senator’s sexuality ought to exceed everyone’s threshold for boredom.
My point is that there may be something more detrimental to his presidential aspirations (to be announced formally next month): the conspiracy theory based on the rumors.
Conspiracy theories aren’t like rumors. Rumors are based on ambiguities.
Conspiracy theories are much more.
As Arthur Goldwag, an authority on the politics of conspiracy theories, explained in The Washington Spectator, they are more like a religion. He wrote last year, “a kind of theology that turns on an absolute idea about the way things are — and on the immutable nature of the supposed enemy. … Paranoid conspiracism… proposes that some among us, whether Jewish bankers or heirs to ancient astronauts, owe their ultimate allegiance to Satan.”
That’s a key point — the enemy.
And you know who that is.
If Graham were gay — and we should take him at his word that he is not — that might offend some in the GOP’s evangelical wing, but a more serious problem is the suspicion that he’s in cahoots with “the enemy.” Why has he repeatedly joined the Democrats on immigration reform? Simple — “out of fear that the Democrats might otherwise expose his homosexuality,” according to 2010 a profile in The New York Times Magazine.
The Times’ profile echoed accusations by William Gheen, the head of the nativist PAC Americans for Legal Immigration, who had urged Graham to avoid being blackmailed into supporting immigration reform by outing himself. At a rally on April 17, 2010, he asked Graham to “tell people about your alternative lifestyle and your homosexuality.”
In an April 20, 2010 press release, Gheen elaborated: “I personally do not care about Graham’s private life, but in this situation his desire to keep this a secret may explain why he is doing a lot of political dirty work for others who have the power to reveal his secrets.” The entire episode might have been ignored but for Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert. He said Graham could easily prove his heterosexuality by releasing a sex tape.
Moreover, Graham is seeking his party’s nomination, as other Republican contenders are going to the wall in connecting homosexuality with unseen, dark, and malevolent forces. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) this week told the Christian Broadcasting Network: “We are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech, because today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), meanwhile, rails against a liberal fascist plan to impose a new gay-world order. “Today’s Democratic Party has decided there is no room for Christians,” he said at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering in April. “Today’s Democratic Party has become so radicalized for legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states that there is no longer any room for religious liberty.”
But conservatives need not fret.
Like John McCain, Graham might clash occasionally with Tea Party Republicans, but that’s style, not substance. Like every congressional Republican, Graham voted against the Affordable Care Act and virtually everything President Obama has asked for. Graham’s views on social issues are unfailingly partisan — he holds a hard line against abortion and opposes gay marriage and gays serving in the military. And his views on foreign affairs are uniformly doctrinaire, in keeping with the Republican Party’s orthodox view of American exceptionalism vis-à-vis military might.
Unlike Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who appear worried about being tied to the foreign policy failures of the George W. Bush administration, Graham is unrepentant about the Iraq War, telling CNN recently that the invasion was not mistake, that the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein, and that if there’s anyone to blame for the current mess in the Middle East, it’s Obama.
Consider also the “conservative scores” assigned by special interest groups. In 2014, Americans for Prosperity, a PAC that bankrolls the Tea Party, gave Graham a lifetime score of 84 percent. In 2013, the American Conservative Union gave him a lifetime score of 88 percent. The Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Christian Coalition, both having enormous sway over the GOP’s evangelical Christian faction, gave him a score of 91 percent in 2014 and 100 percent in 2011, respectively. On taxes, he got 97 percent in 2010 from the National Taxpayers Union. And on business matters, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave him a lifetime score of 84 percent in 2013. I could go on. And on.
I don’t think conservatives have to worry much about Graham with respect to immigration, either. True, he says he favors a pathway to citizenship, but the last major push for immigration reform in 2013 called for a pathway lasting some 10 years with numerous hurdles to overcome. Given the stringency of the provisions in that bipartisan Senate bill, I’m thinking Graham and his fellow neocons supported it because they knew few immigrants could finish the process. And if they never finish, they never vote. The result is a twofer for the GOP establishment: a decriminalized workforce that can provide cheap labor, but can’t support the Democrats.
As I said, Graham is a friend to the conservative base of the Republican Party. One need only set aside the ambiguities of gossip and paranoia to see him in his proper light. Of course, that’s not going to help. The people Graham needs are the people most hostile to evidence and fact. Indeed, given the role of gay conspiracies thus far in the 2016 cycle, the “confirmed bachelor” from South Carolina may embody the sum of all their fears.
By: John Stoer, The National Memo, May 29, 2015
There are so many Republicans running for president, or thinking about running for president, that the Republican National Committee is having a hard time keeping track of them all. An official GOP online straw poll lists 36 potential candidates (and as Politico noted, that list actually missed at least two former governors who have said they’re mulling White House bids).
Regardless of the final tally, it’s becoming increasingly clear that debate planners will need to come up with creative ways to fit so many podiums on the stage when the candidates first face off in August.
But what makes this election so interesting isn’t just the sheer number of candidates. It’s that it could remain undecided until the GOP’s national convention in the summer of 2016. With so many candidates splitting the vote, it’s quite possible that no candidate gets a majority of delegates by the end of the primary season.
Now, it’s true that political junkies like me hope for a brokered convention every four years — one where backroom deals ultimately decide the eventual nominee. (Read more about brokered conventions here.) Each time, our dreams are ultimately foiled by one candidate who gains momentum through the primary season, causing the others to drop out.
But this year may be different for three unique reasons:
1. Look at the early polls. No Republican candidate can break even 20 percent support on a consistent basis in national surveys. In fact, the latest Real Clear Politics average finds just three possible candidates who register more than 10 percent. There’s really no frontrunner at all.
2. A winning coalition isn’t easy to put together. There are already several candidates who appeal mainly to evangelical Christians, a bunch who are attractive to national security hawks, and a handful who attract the Wall Street establishment crowd. There’s even a libertarian or two in the mix. With so many candidates on the menu, primary voters won’t necessarily have to pick the lesser of the evils. They’ll find a candidate who speaks to the issues they most care about.
3. Follow the money. Super PACs, which have become a pre-requisite for running for president this year, can raise unlimited sums from large donors. While they cannot legally coordinate their actions with the official campaigns, their war chests can ensure a candidate can stay in the race much longer than ever before. There’s little need to drop out if you have a billionaire or two committed to influencing the race with your candidacy.
Put this together and it’s very possible that no candidate will win two of the first four early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. If that happens, it’s impossible to predict what comes next.
RNC rules require states that hold nominating contests before March 15 to award delegates proportionally, meaning that the winner-take-all states that might decide the nomination come later in the process. Favorite-son candidates in delegate-rich states like Florida (Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio) or Texas (Rick Perry and Ted Cruz) could further splinter the delegate counts.
The odds probably still favor the Republican nomination fight coming down to just a couple candidates. But at this point, it’s impossible to predict when so many candidates have a plausible path to the nomination.
In fact, a chaotic primary season – with more than a dozen candidates with plenty of money to spend — makes the most improbable outcome much more possible.
By: Taegan Goddard, The Week, May 18, 2015