The culture wars are back and this time the left is winning.
More than anything else, the rapid growth in support for gay marriage illustrates the changes in American culture and politics. We are living in a completely different society than we were in the 1980′s and 1990′s. The boomers are on their way out, taking their conservative stands with them, and the millennials are proudly marching in, progressive views in hand.
There was a time when Democrats lived in constant fear of “Guns, God and Gays.” Now it’s the Republicans’ turn to worry as larger numbers of Americans support gay marriage, immigration reform and gun control. The GOP will have to come up with a new formula to win campaigns or the party will become irrelevant. Adapt or die!
Now it’s time for Republicans to fear the culture wars just as Democrats did in the 1980′s and 1990′s. Last week, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio switched his position to support gay marriage. Even Democrats in red states like Jon Tester of Montana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Kay Hagen of North Carolina have seen the light and now support same-sex marriage.
In 2003, according to an ABC News/Washington poll, a majority of Americans opposed gay marriage by a margin of 58 percent to 36 percent. Ten years later, most Americans are onboard with same sex nuptials and the numbers are exactly the opposite of what they were in 2003. In the new ABC News/Washington Post poll, four of every five (81 percent) Americans under 30 favor gay marriage. As the millennial generation becomes a greater and greater proportion of the population and the electorate, opposition to gay marriage will get even smaller. In a CBS News survey of American Catholics, three out of five (62 percent) of the faithful support gay marriage.
A majority of Americans now support gun control and immigration reform. In the new ABC News/Washington Post survey, nine in ten Americans (91 percent) favor background checks on gun purchases and a clear majority (57 percent favor to 41 percent oppose) supports a ban on assault weapons. A new survey by the Public Religion Research institute indicates at six in ten (61 percent) Americans want undocumented aliens to get legal status.
The left may be winning battles on most of the fronts in the culture wars, but there is one issue that has put progressives on the defensive. Public support for Roe v Wade remains high, but state governments in the West and in the South have made it more difficult for women to make decisions about their own bodies.
According to a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute a clear majority (56 percent legal to 38 percent illegal) of Americans want abortion to be legal all or most of the time. The states of North Dakota and Arkansas have both enacted laws that strictly limit abortions. Both laws violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade and federal courts will probably nullify them.
It will be difficult for the GOP to cope with the new social order. Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus has been beat up by conservatives since he released a study last week that called for the GOP to moderate its issue stands to become politically effective. This week, Priebus felt the heat from the extremists in his party and he backtracked and said the GOP will still have the same agenda which was the party platform adopted at the 2012 national convention.
If the chairman was referring to the platform that calls for outlawing all abortions without any exceptions, the GOP will be spending the next generation in the deep freeze of the political Arctic.
By: Brad Bannon, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, April 1, 2013
Iowa Republican Rep. Tom Latham said yesterday that he won’t run for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, paving the way for one of liberals’ favorite villains to run for the seat: Rep. Steve King.
King hasn’t announced yet, but has said he’s leaning toward a run. It’s enough to concern Steve Law, the president of the Karl Rove-affiliated American Crossroads, which has made it its mission to help non-Tea Party Republicans win GOP primaries. “We’re concerned about Steve King’s Todd Akin problem,” Law told the New York Times. “This is an example of candidate discipline and how it would play in a general election. All of the things he’s said are going to be hung around his neck.”
It’s an understandable concern, and Democrats are giddy at the thought of King winning the nomination. A PPP poll from earlier this month explains why: King is the overwhelming favorite in a Republican primary, but trails every Democratic candidate they tested by at least 7 points. The most likely Democratic candidate at the moment, Bruce Braley, would start out 11 points ahead. But Latham was the only Republican who came anywhere near King, making it difficult for the Rove camp to find a another candidate.
King has been trying to clean up his act lately, coming out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, for example, and he could be more of a challenge than Democrats expect. He easily won reelection this year against a strong Democratic challenger, edging her by 7 percentage points (by comparison, Michele Bachmann won reelection with a narrow 1.2 percent margin).
But his 4th Congressional District is significantly more conservative than the state overall. Mitt Romney won King’s district by 8 points, but Obama won Iowa by almost 6 points, for a swing of 14 points.
And Democrats will have no qualms hanging the things he said around his neck, as Law warned, such as:
– King is an ardent opponent of the “gay-rights agenda,” opposing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and warning that if conservatives don’t “defend marriage,” “children will be raised in warehouses.” He’s also said that gay people should keep their sexuality secret.
Iowa legalized same-sex marriage in 2009 and a plurality of Iowans approve of the decision today.
– On immigration, King has compared immigrants to dogs and joked (we hope) that a liberal should be deported for every new immigrant granted legal status. Democrats, he said, win over Latinos by giving them a “great big check.”
Fifty-eight percent of Iowans want a comprehensive immigration reform law with a pathway to citizenship.
By a 16 point margin, Iowa voters said Mitt Romney was “too conservative on issues involving women’s rights,” and King is several notches to the right of Romney.
– King doesn’t like Obama, no surprise, but has ventured into pseudo-birtherism on occasion and called the president a Marxist who doesn’t “have an American experience” because he was not raised in the U.S., “Though he surely understands the Muslim culture.”
Obama’s approval rating is around 50 percent in Iowa and the state has been famously friendly to the president, giving him a critical win in the 2008 Democratic primary and helping him win in 2012.
– He’s also cool with dog fighting.
If King does run, and especially if he wins the nomination, Iowa will quickly become the must-watch race for liberals, much as Massachusetts’ Senate campaign was last year with Elizabeth Warren. The race would also be sure to attract a ton of money and enthusiasm on both sides, with Tea Party and liberal activists pouring in from neighboring states to help either candidate.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, February 28, 2013
In the summer of 1999, George W. Bush chose the first major policy speech of his presidential campaign to pick a fight with Grover Norquist. Bush flatly rejected the “destructive” view “that if government would only get out of our way, all our problems would be solved” — a vision the Texas governor dismissed as having “no higher goal, no nobler purpose, than leave us alone.”
Norquist had proposed to define conservatism as the “leave us alone” coalition — a movement united by a desire to get government off our backs. Bush countered that “the American government is not the enemy of the American people.”
Ed Crane, then the president of the libertarian Cato Institute, said the speech sounded as if it had been written by someone “moonlighting for Hillary Rodham Clinton.” I can formally deny that charge. But the Bush campaign was purposely attempting to alter the image of the Republican Party. And the party — rendered more open to change by eight years in the presidential wilderness — gave Bush the leeway to make necessary ideological adjustments.
It is the nature of resilient institutions to take stock of new realities and adjust accordingly. In a new cover essay for Commentary magazine, Peter Wehner and I detail the examples of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Clinton broke a long Democratic presidential losing streak by emphasizing middle-class values, advocating the end of “welfare as we know it” and standing up to extreme elements within his coalition (thereby creating the “Sister Souljah moment”). In Britain, Blair went after the “moral chaos” that led to youth crime, abandoned his party’s official commitment to public ownership of the means of production and launched New Labor.
The Republican Party now needs similar transformation. Out of the past six presidential elections, four have gone to the Democratic nominee, at an average yield of 327 electoral votes to 211 for the Republican. During the preceding two decades, from 1968 to 1988, Republicans won five out of six elections, averaging 417 electoral votes to Democrats’ 113.
This stunning reversal of electoral fortunes has taken place for a variety of reasons: changing demographics; the end of a GOP foreign policy advantage during the Cold War; a serious gap in candidate quality; the declining relevance of economic policies that seem better suited to the 1980s; and an occasionally deserved reputation for being judgmental and censorious.
A full Republican appreciation of these disturbing fundamentals was delayed by the 2010 midterms, in which an unreconstructed anti-government message seemed to be riding a wave. Just two years later came that wave’s withdrawing roar. The Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, lost by 5 million votes to a beatable incumbent presiding over an anemic economy. The explanation is not purely technical or personality oriented. At the national level, Republicans have a winning message for a nation that no longer exists.
In retrospect, last year’s Republican primary process was entirely disconnected from the actual needs of the party. One candidate pledged to build a 20-foot-high electrical fence at the border crowned with the sign, in English and Spanish, “It will kill you — Warning.” Another promised, as president, to speak out against the damage done to American society by contraception. Another warned that vaccinations may cause “mental retardation.” In the course of 20 debates and in tens of millions of dollars of ads, issues such as upward mobility, education, poverty, safer communities and the environment were rarely mentioned.
A Republican recovery in presidential politics will depend on two factors. First, candidates will need to do more than rebrand existing policy approaches or translate them into Spanish. Some serious rethinking is necessary, particularly on economic matters. In our Commentary essay, we raise ideas such as ending corporate welfare, breaking up the mega-banks, improving the treatment of families in the tax code, and encouraging economic mobility through education reform and improved job training. Whatever form Republican proposals eventually take, they must move beyond Reagan-era nostalgia.
Second, Republican primary voters, party activists and party leaders have a choice to make, ruthlessly clarified by recent events. They can take the path of Democrats in 1988, doubling down on a faltering ideology. Or they can follow the model of Democrats in 1992 and their own party in 2000, giving their nominee the leeway needed to oppose outworn or extreme ideas and to produce an agenda relevant to our time.
By: Michael Gerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 22, 2013
“Active Inertia” Of A Dying Party: Intellectually Bankrupt, Republican’s Are Pyromanic’s In A field Of Strawmen
Take pity on poor Marco Rubio. You’d be reaching for a bottle of Poland Springs, too, if you had to spit out the dry-as-dust bromides and the well past their sell-by date Reagan-era platitudes that Rubio was forced to expectorate as the Republican Party’s designated responder to President Obama’s State of the Union address last Tuesday.
“More government isn’t going to help you get ahead,” said Rubio, doing his best Ronald Reagan “government-isn’t-the-solution-it’s-the-problem” impersonation. “It’s going to hold you back. More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them. And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty.”
Later on, Rubio wasn’t content to merely propose we reduce debts and deficits. He had to go all the way to balance the budget in ways that did not involve the choice between “either higher taxes or dramatic benefit cuts for those in need.” Instead, Rubio offered the oldie but goodie that we should “grow our economy so that we create new taxpayers, not new taxes, and so our government can afford to help those who truly cannot help themselves.”
Good grief! Could this speech have been given 30 years ago? Of course it could, says Andrew Sullivan, because it was not a political speech at all but rather a “recitation of doctrine dedicated to Saint Ronald.”
What Rubio gave us on Tuesday, says Sullivan, “was an intellectually exhausted speech that represents the intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary Republicanism” — a series of “Reaganite truisms that had a role to play in reinvigorating America after liberal over-reach in the 1960s and 1970s,” perhaps, but offering little that was new or applicable today.
If reciting these platitudes in Spanish counts as what the GOP thinks it will take to restore the party to political or intellectual relevance, says Sullivan, then “they are more deluded than even I imagined.”
After listening to Rubio, I am in agreement with Josh Barro when he says the Republican Party’s problem isn’t the messenger but its whole economic message. And to fix that, Republicans need to show they are serious about policy — and for “smart government” on a case-by-case basis – and not just demagogues when it comes to government.
Michael Grunwald had the same thought when he said if Republicans really believe they lost the last election “because Romney was a boring rich white guy who alienated Hispanics” then in Rubio they got their chance “to see a charismatic Cuban-American with humble roots but otherwise indistinguishable positions on every issue except for immigration.”
And the result should have had Republicans reaching for drinks stronger than water.
I am not sure what to say when Rubio tried to pass himself off as a regular guy who went through college on federal student loans and has a mother who gets Medicare — but who then speaks for a party committed to cutting, if not eliminating, both.
At the same time, I am left speechless by Rubio’s assertion that Obama has no cause for blaming President Bush for the nation’s debt – at the same time Rubio insists the “real cause of our debt” is the $1 trillion deficit Bush left Obama when he took office — times four. And shame on Obama, says Rubio, that Obama did not immediately undo everything George W. did and reduce the deficit to zero in the middle of the second worst recession in 70 years.
But “that’s why we need a balanced budget amendment,” concludes Rubio, idiotically.
Rubio offered no compromise on gun control, nothing but border security on immigration, drill, baby, drill as an energy policy, not a word on gay equality, and nothing at all about the 60,000 Americans fighting and dying in Afghanistan. And as for climate change, he quipped: “No matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather.” Ha, ha, ha.
Rubio was also like a pyromaniac in a field of straw men insisting President Obama is hostile to the free enterprise economy, believes the economy collapsed because government didn’t tax enough and that the “solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.”
At the same time, Rubio blames the 2008 financial collapse on a “housing crisis created by reckless government policies.”
I used to write speeches for Republicans, and so I suppose I should be indebted to Senator Rubio for providing such a perfect distillation of all the reasons I gave up on the thankless, potentially health damaging task of articulating ideas for Republicans who don’t have any.
By my counting, Rubio is now the third leading Republican (after Governor Bobby Jindal and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor) who’ve gone “over the top” like doomed WWI doughboys as they charge across their barren ideological No Man’s Land in a futile effort to reposition a Republican Party that wants no part of change.
One measure of the heavy lift facing Rubio and Company as they try to pour new wine into old bottles was the reaction of other Republicans to the President’s State of the Union address. Their collective message seemed to be: What a tragedy a perfect opportunity was squandered for the President to declare he’d become a Republican after winning reelection in a landslide.
“He seems to always be in campaign mode, where he treats people in the other party as enemies rather than partners,” said House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who seemed puzzled Obama had not immediately embraced Ryan’s ideas.
“In the last election, voters chose divided government which offers a mandate only to work together to find common ground,” said Speaker John Boehner who seemed puzzled the President actually thinks like a Democrat. “The President, instead, appears to have chosen a go-it-alone approach to pursue his liberal agenda.”
But the response I loved best came from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who sounded like some slave-owning Southern Oligarch warning the President against offering “another litany of left-wing proposals” or throwing “red meat” to his base because, you know, “the campaign is over” and so the “Republican-controlled House” is back to calling the shots.
You’ve had your fun Mr. President, McConnell seemed to be saying. You won the election fair and square. But now it’s time to face facts. That’s a nice little democracy you’ve got there, Mr. President. But don’t forget, we’re still in charge.
Republicans like to think themselves connected to the disciplines of the free market, with its emphasis on competition, innovation and the relentless “creative destruction” of revolutionary change. Yet, it’s astonishing to me how Republicans at the same time exhibit the sclerosis of what author Chrystia Freeland calls the “active inertia” of dying organizations that fail to adjust to the imperatives of change because “they do what they always did — only more energetically than before.”
By: Ted Frier, Open Salon Blog, February 15, 2013
The latest of the many Big Speeches delivered by Republicans aimed at changing the party’s image without changing its ideology was delivered today by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of VA in the friendly confines of the American Enterprise Institute. So important was this speech, it seems, that Republicans accused the president of trying to “step on it” via remarks at roughly the same time on how the administration proposed to avoid the pending March 1 appropriations sequester.
Cantor’s Big Speech was officially advertised as a “rebranding” of the GOP into a nice, positive, friendly band of pols who just want to help middle-class Americans improve their daily lives. And according to National Review‘s Robert Costa, what would make the speech especially interesting was that it would focus on policies, not just rhetoric.
Well, you can read Cantor’s prepared remarks yourself. It certainly does avoid the usual harsh War For Civilization rhetoric usually employed by House Republicans of late. It issues no ultimatums and threatens no revolutions. But after three eye-glazing readings, my main question was: Is this all you got, Eric? Nestled in an endless series of soft-focus rhetorical gestures and “real people” shout-outs, the speech was the policy equivalent of a side order of chicken nuggets: small, greasy, and not very nourishing.
By my rough count, you had to plow through twenty-seven (27) paragraphs before coming to anything that resembled an actual policy proposal. That turned out to be a laboriously explained yet not terribly clear endorsement of the “back-pack” K-12 education voucher–e.g., use of federal funds for non-accountable (except by the parents getting the money) use in private schools. Also on the education front was a ringing endorsement of better information for students entering higher education institutions, and maybe a tilt in student loan programs to create an incentive to graduate.
Readers reeling from all this policy boldness could move on to the same endorsement of “reform” in fragmented job training programs that people in both parties have been calling for ever since Dan Quayle was bragging about the Job Training Partnership Act. There was plea for the ancient conservative chestnut of letting hourly employees convert overtime pay to some sort of comp-time, without any clarity on the question of whether and on what terms employers could require it.
But wait: Cantor also came out for reducing loopholes in the tax system! And at the same time he endorsed the child tax credit that’s been in the code since the 1990s.
On the health care front, Cantor made the usual negative assertions about Obamacare, without a hint of any alternative GOP proposal for dealing with the uninsured. He offered the dazzlingly original argument that the states should be given more flexibility in administering Medicaid. And he seemed to be arguing for a return to some sort of Medicare Advantage program encouraging seniors to buy private health insurance.
And oh yeah, bravely taking the bull by the horns, Cantor waded into the immigration controversy by generally endorsing more visas for the highly qualified, and a path to citizenship for children brought into the country without documents–which are, of course, the least contentious issue in the entire debate.
I may have missed a morsel or two scattered amongst the anecdotes and bromides. But there couldn’t have been much. If Republicans are actually proud of this essay in policy minimalism–delivered at a think tank, no less!–then they are further away from any real reinvention of themselves than even hostile observers like me thought possible.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, February 5, 2013