While Donald Trump has had us all mesmerized, and we’ve also watched former co-front-runners Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio lose some altitude, and Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina get their fifteen minutes of fame before voters and the media get a closer look at them, it could be that Ted Cruz has been making a move on a key constituency group with a lot of choices. On Friday night in Des Moines, Cruz put on quite the extravaganza for Christian Right activists who simultaneously want to show their wrathful power to the ungodly by smiting Planned Parenthood and whine and cower at their alleged persecution by The Homosexual Agenda. Here’s Matthew Patane’s take for the Des Moines Register:
In his opening remarks during the “Rally for Religious Liberty,” Cruz referenced a number of Supreme Court cases regarding religious issues that came down to a 5-4 decision.
“You want to know what this election is about? We are one justice away from the Supreme Court saying ‘every image of God shall be torn down,’” said Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas said.
The Cruz campaign invited multiple individuals that it said were “victimized by government persecution” for standing by their religious beliefs.
Oh yes. Cruz brought on stage the Bakers of Conscience, the homophobic Atlanta fire chief, all the mythic figures in the ongoing martyrdom of conservative evangelicals who will nonetheless Take Back Their Country next year.
But there’s an even bigger sign of Cruz’s ascendancy with this constituency, per WaPo’s Katie Zezima and Tom Hamburger:
Sen. Ted Cruz, who has assiduously courted evangelicals throughout his presidential run, will take a lead role in the launch this week of an ambitious 50-state campaign to end taxpayer support for Planned Parenthood — a move that is likely to give the GOP candidate a major primary-season boost in the fierce battle for social-conservative and evangelical voters.
More than 100,000 pastors received e-mail invitations over the weekend to participate in conference calls with Cruz on Tuesday in which they will learn details of the plan to mobilize churchgoers in every congressional district beginning Aug. 30. The requests were sent on the heels of the Texas Republican’s “Rally for Religious Liberty,” which drew 2,500 people to a Des Moines ballroom Friday.
“The recent exposure of Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices has brought about a pressing need to end taxpayer support of this institution,” Cruz said in the e-mail call to action distributed by the American Renewal Project, an organization of conservative pastors.
Ah yes: The American Renewal Project, David Lane’s little effort in practical theocracy designed to get conservative evangelical ministers heavily and unambiguously engaged in partisan politics. Lane has long been closely associated with the American Family Association, the gold standard of homophobia.
Now Cruz’s central role in this lobbying campaign may largely flow from his position in the
Senate, where he has zero inhibitions about defying Mitch McConnell’s vows against government shutdown tactics. But you do have to wonder if Cruz is emerging as the Christian Right favorite, especially in Iowa, a bit ahead of schedule.
After all, Rick Perry missed the first Fox News Debate (as did two other aspirants to Christian Right support, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal) and is having financial issues. Mike Huckabee has his own habitual money troubles, and seems to have lost a step since 2008. And while the quieter and less overtly political breed of conservative evangelical, exemplified by the Southern Baptist Convention spokesman Russell Moore may prefer candidates like Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, or even Jeb Bush, the old-school activists certainly seem to still be in the saddle in the early states. If Cruz can indeed put himself at the front of a crusade to destroy the godless baby-killers of Planned Parenthood, he’ll bask in positive Christian Right publicity right up to the brink of the Iowa Caucuses. Add in the regular presence on the campaign trail of Ted’s deranged father the Rev. Rafael Cruz and the junior senator from Texas has got himself a regular tent revival going.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 24, 2015
“Republicans Find Their Next Anti-Choice Innovation”: Coming Up With New Ways To Restrict Abortion Rights; The Government Decides
If you’re looking for true Republican policy innovations, don’t bother with tax policy or national security; the place where the GOP is really exercising its creativity is in coming up with new ways to restrict abortion rights. In the latest inspired move, Republican state legislators in Ohio have introduced a bill to make it illegal for a woman to terminate her pregnancy because she has discovered that the baby would have Down syndrome. The bill is expected to pass, and though he hasn’t yet taken a position on it, it would be a shock if Governor John Kasich—who is both an opponent of abortion rights and currently in search of votes in the Republican presidential primary—didn’t sign it.
After it passes in Ohio (and even if by some strange turn of events it doesn’t), look for identical bills to come up in state after Republican-controlled state. Anyone who objects will of course be accused of wanting to kill children with disabilities.
As the New York Times article about the Ohio bill notes, this isn’t entirely unprecedented; there are a few states that have outlawed abortion for sex selection, and North Dakota has a similar law passed in 2013 forbidding abortions because of fetal genetic anomaly, though “advocates are not aware of enforcement of any such laws in the states that have them.” But this one lands not only in during a presidential primary, but also amid Republicans’ latest offensive against Planned Parenthood, driven by secretly recorded videos in which Planned Parenthood officials discuss the transfer of fetal tissue for research.
That effort may not accomplish all that much; while many conservatives (and a few presidential candidates) would like to shut down the government in order to “defund” the group, that probably won’t happen, and efforts by states to discover that Planned Parenthood is doing something illegal have come up empty. But it still creates a context in which Republicans are aggressive on the issue of abortion—particularly when it may be the only “culture war” issue on which they aren’t in full retreat.
This is one of those issues where there’s an emotionally freighted case for one side, a case that can seem compelling as long as you don’t think about it too deeply. Conservatives will argue that the law is necessary because so often when women learn that a fetus they’re carrying has the genetic anomaly that causes Down’s, she winds up having an abortion. And they’ll note that people with Down’s can have happy, fulfilling lives, which they can. They’ll no doubt tell stories of wonderful individuals they know who have the condition.
But if the question is only, “If this woman carried her pregnancy to term, would it be possible for the baby that would ultimately result to have a happy, fulfilling life?” then no abortion would be allowed. Some women have abortions because they got pregnant accidentally and are too young to raise a child. Is it possible for a child born to a young woman to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course. Some women have abortions because they don’t want to raise a child with the biological father. Is it possible for a child raised by a single mother to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course. Some women have abortions because they already have all the children they want. Is it possible for a child born to a family that already has plenty of children to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course.
But if we’re going to say that a woman who wants to end her pregnancy because of Down syndrome will be legally barred from doing so, we’re saying that it will now be the government’s job to evaluate whether her reasons are good enough, and if the government thinks they aren’t, then she will be forced against her will to carry the pregnancy to term. For all the restrictions Republicans have successfully placed on abortion rights throughout the country, it isn’t yet the case that women have to explain to the government why they want the abortion and prove that they’re doing it for what the government considers the right reason.
Perhaps to expedite things, every women’s health clinic could come equipped with a special hotline to the state legislature, where any woman who wants to end her pregnancy would have to justify it to a Republican state representative, who would have the final say. Maybe that will be the next bright policy idea from the party that says it’s committed to getting government off your back.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, August 23, 2015
“The Junk Politics Of 2015”: You’re Getting A Sugar High, It Feels Good, It Won’t Last, And Ultimately, It’ll Make You Sick
When you eat a bowl of Simply Granola in the morning, you may think you’re making a healthy start to the day, courtesy of Quaker Oats. But you’re taking in the amount of sugar in almost four Oreo cookies.
When you listen to the politicians who want to lead the United States through the treacherous early 21st century, you may think you’re doing your job as a citizen of this clamorous and vulgar democracy of ours. You’re not. You’re getting a sugar high. It feels good. It won’t last. And ultimately, it’ll make you sick.
I’ve been trying to eat healthy, metaphorically, for the month of August. But it’s been a bust. There’s just too much bad stuff to binge on. We have a pending deal with Iran that could imperil Israel, or make the Mideast safer for a decade. We have an approaching visit of a transitional pope. We have a fledgling health care plan that’s given coverage to 15 million Americans who never had any — and one party wants to take it away. And we’re muddling through the hottest year on record, so far, surpassing the last warmest one, 2014.
And yet, what are the leaders-in-waiting talking about? Roll the highlight reel of our junk politics, starting with the also-rans:
At least one Republican wants to sic the Internal Revenue Service on his political enemies. So promised Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, in a remarkable statement overlooked at the kids’ table debate last week. “I guarantee you under President Jindal, January 2017, the Department of Justice and the I.R.S. and everybody else we can send from the federal government will be going into Planned Parenthood.”
Other Republicans think we should be living in a theocracy. “It’s time we recognize the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being,” said Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, testing the latest version of his church-lady demagogy. He wants to ignore the high court on both gay marriage and abortion — breaking the law while waving his Bible.
Huckabee would also use the force of government to intervene with any woman seeking an abortion, claiming a constitutional right, the 14th and 5th Amendments, to protect a zygote. When he mentioned this Brave New World idea in the debate, no one challenged him. Instead, other candidates were equally extreme, refusing to make abortion exceptions even when the life of a woman is at stake. This is junk women’s health care, driven by religious fanaticism.
More empty calories: Scott Walker, the governor whose foreign policy experience is limited to breakfast at the old International House of Pancakes, threatens to start at least two wars upon taking office. He promises to use military action if necessary to coax Iran into doing what he wants it to do. He also wants to pick a fight with Russia, sending weapons to Ukraine and erecting a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Walker’s home state of Wisconsin ranks 35th in private sector job creation. But New Jersey is worse, suffering nine credit downgrades and ranking near the bottom in job growth. Even the governor of the state, Chris Christie, would not rise to Jersey’s defense after fellow candidates described Atlantic City as something akin to Baghdad on a hangover.
Those governors want to apply their ruinous models to the rest of the country. In the same vein, a failed former chief executive officer, Carly Fiorina, having fired 30,000 employees and driven her company’s stock price into the ground, feels more qualified than ever to be president. She’s never held elective office and rarely voted while living in California. A junk comeback.
Which gets us to Donald Trump, who boasts of four company bankruptcies, and paying people to come to his wedding. He is “a very smart person” and will be “phenomenal to the women” just like “the blacks.” It’s hard for women to attack him, he says, “because I’m so good-looking.”
Normal politics can’t explain Trump. For that you need Freud. Trump fits the classic definition of narcissistic personality disorder, as Marc C. Johnson, an astute observer of American politics, noted in a recent blog post. Everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth is junk, but at least it fits a pattern.
Finally, to the Democrats. A 73-year-old socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is getting lots of attention because Hillary Clinton’s email story is boring, by Clinton scandal standards. When a noisy intruder, an African-American, jumped to the podium and refused to let Sanders speak, it was widely interpreted as a big problem for the candidate and race relations.
Wrong. The censor with the mouth was, it turns out, a self-described “extremist Christian,” from a family that once backed Sarah Palin. Some members of Black Lives Matter distanced themselves from her.
How did this stunt become a thing among the national press corps? Junk media. Sadly, the sugar high goes two ways.
By: Timothy Egan, Contributing Op-Ed Writer, The New York Times, August 14, 2015
“Racism And Classism”: Ben Carson Makes The Leap That Far Too Many People Do To Avoid The Topic Of Racism
It’s clear that the reason Ben Carson got a jump in the polls after the first Republican debate is because he said this:
You know, we have the purveyors of hatred who take every single incident between people of two races and try to make a race war out of it, and drive wedges into people. And this does not need to be done.
What we need to think about instead — you know, I was asked by an NPR reporter once, why don’t I talk about race that often. I said it’s because I’m a neurosurgeon. And she thought that was a strange response. And you say — I said, you see, when I take someone to the operating room, I’m actually operating on the thing that makes them who they are. The skin doesn’t make them who they are. The hair doesn’t make them who they are. And it’s time for us to move beyond that.
But then his whole campaign got derailed when it was made public that he had participated in research using fetal tissue from abortions. After attempting to make excuses for his blatant hypocrisy in condemning Planned Parenthood, Carson tried to get things back on track by writing an op-ed for The Hill.
Cason begins by relaying some of his own story and then suggests that he is going to use his own experience to talk about racism.
But the major factor in how my life has turned out was — and is — my attitude and ability to choose the object of my concentration.
My views on race in this country start from that perspective. While I advocate for a colorblind society, I am by no means blind to the reality of racism. But again it comes down to a matter of focus. I believe that if we focus on what divides us rather than what unites us, we impede our ability to transcend differences and work together constructively toward a better future for all Americans.
What follows is actually NOT a discussion of racism in this country – but a discussion about poverty, and what we should/shouldn’t do about it (hint: same old Republican line about the failure of the war on poverty).
The reason this is so interesting is that within the scope of a few sentences, Carson makes the leap that far too many people do to avoid the topic of racism. By switching to a discussion of poverty, his prescriptions are all about what poor (i.e., black) people need to do to stop being poor. If you think that has anything to do with racism, you just put the whole onus of stopping it on poor black people. Here’s how Carson does that:
The assumption that people are “poor” grounds them in a mentality that reduces agency and creates more dependency. And more tragically, it obscures the reality that there is an abundance of opportunity that is ready for people who want to avail themselves of it.
This is why it is so important for white progressives to get this right. The impetus for the Black Lives Matter movement is the killing of black people – often by police officers. I can’t think of one of those deaths that was related to poverty. Many of the victims were actually middle class. It is the “mentality” of those who pulled the trigger (usually white men) that is the problem.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 15, 2015
As you may recall, in the days just prior to his annual Red State Gathering, Erick Erickson went into what can clinically be called an apoplectic hate-rage aimed at the Republican Party for its failure to immediately promise to shut down the government if necessary to produce the de-funding of Planned Parenthood. We don’t have to review his hissy fits in detail, but he did specifically say this after fulminating for a good while:
If Abraham Lincoln’s Party cannot go to war against that where war is not bullets, just a government shut down until the President relents, then Abraham Lincoln’s Party needs to be put on the ash heap of history. It really is that simple.
Now Erick’s dealing with a sea of hyperbolic emails and tweets from people unhappy with his decision to disinvite Donald Trump to the Gathering, and he’s begging them to “recalibrate” and get a grip:
Conservatives have a real and legitimate reason to be pissed off at the GOP. Polling suggests conservatives hate the Republicans in Washington more than Democrats hate the Republicans in Washington. That anger has galvanized conservatives and pushed them toward Donald Trump. To his credit, he has capitalized on that anger.
But folks, this is anger at an unhealthy level. It is anger that has gone beyond the righteous anger of repeated betrayals from Washington. It is an anger that has become unhinged and is potentially uncontrollable. Anger at that level is more often destructive than constructive.
I want to beat Hillary Clinton next year. I want to beat her with a Republican who is not just another party apparatchik surrounded by lower level party apparatchiks within the Republican Party.
But I know we cannot beat Hillary Clinton with this level of anger. We won’t be able to draw people to our side and our cause like this.
Gee, Erick, I’m confused. A few days ago you were ready to blow up the Republican Party forever if it did not do your bidding on a single issue. Now you want people to calm down so they can beat Hillary. Correct me if I’m wrong, but an exploded GOP that has lost its base isn’t going to beat Hillary, is it? So which is your current opinion? Your temper tantrum or your sermon against temper tantrums?
Truth is the Republican Party has been juggling dynamite for years in paying tribute to people like Erickson who claim to speak for the “angry base.” Now there’s an “angrier” base. Where are you going to draw that line?
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 14, 2015