“A Handy Way To Shift The Discussion”: How Republicans Will Use Scott Walker’s Lack Of A College Degree To Stir Class Resentment
Since we’re now all fascinated by Scott Walker, there’s been some discussion in the past few days of the fact that Walker would be the first president in many decades who didn’t have a college degree. He left Marquette after four years, and though he apparently was quite a few credits short of graduating, most people would regard it as an unwise career move when you’ve come that far. Nevertheless, Walker did fine for himself, and some conservatives are now holding up his example as a triumphant rebuke to liberal elitism. Anticipating the scorn Walker will receive from those elitists, they rattle off lists of the high-achievers who didn’t get a degree, like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.
From what I can tell, the only liberal who has actually said that Walker’s lack of a degree is problematic was Howard Dean, in an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. But Dean’s one comment keeps getting cited (see Glenn Reynolds or Deroy Murdock or Charles C.W. Cooke or Chris Cillizza) as evidence that “liberals” are looking down their snooty noses at Walker, and by extension, at the majority of Americans who don’t have a college degree.
Which leads me to believe that this is a vein Republicans may be tapping into repeatedly, particularly if Walker becomes the GOP nominee. It wouldn’t be anything new, though if he himself indulged in it, Walker could come by resentment of pointy-headed intellectuals a little more honestly than, say, George H.W. Bush, graduate of Phillips Andover and Yale, who sneered in 1988 that Michael Dukakis represented the “Harvard boutique.” Walker also recently started battling the University of Wisconsin (beloved within the state, but about which voters in Iowa have no similar feelings, I’m guessing), which should help him portray himself as a crusader against the tenured enemies of real Americans.
Anti-intellectualism has often been an effective way for Republicans to stir up class resentment while distracting from economic issues. It says to voters: Don’t think about who has economic power and which party is advocating for their interests. Don’t aim your disgruntlement at Wall Street, or corporations that don’t pay taxes, or the people who want to keep wages low and make unions a memory. Point it in a different direction, at college professors and intellectuals (and Hollywood, while you’re at it). They’re the ones keeping you down. You got laid off while the CEO took home $20 million last year? Forget about that: The real person to be angry at is a professor of anthropology somewhere who said something mean about Scott Walker because he doesn’t have a degree.
There are going to be more than a few Republicans who see in that argument a handy way to shift the discussion away from economic inequality while still sending the message that they’re on the side of ordinary folks. Here, for instance, is Rush Limbaugh yesterday:
The stories are legion of all the great Americans, successful, who have not graduated from college. And of course the two names that come to people’s mind right off the bat are me and Steve Jobs. And then some people throw Gates in there. So there are three people who have reached the pinnacle, who have not gone to college, and those two or three names get bandied about all the time in this discussion.
But it doesn’t matter. To the elites, that doesn’t matter, it doesn’t mean that they are qualified to be in the elite group. And the elite group in Washington is what we call the ruling class or the D.C. establishment, both parties, or what have you. And it’s especially bad in the Drive-By Media. That is one of the most exclusive and I should say exclusionary groups of people that you can imagine.
If you look at it as a club and look at the admittance requirements, it is one of the most exclusives things to get into. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, doesn’t matter how much money you make, whether you’re more successful than they are, whether you earn more than they do, whether you have a bigger audience than they, doesn’t matter, you are not getting in that club.
Something tells me that somewhere at the RNC there’s an intern who just got an assignment to monitor every bit of mainstream and social media she can for any moment where a liberal says something condescending about Walker. Then Republicans can wave it about like the bloody shirt of liberal elitism. It’s a lot easier than coming up with an economic plan that doesn’t involve upper-income tax cuts.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, February 17, 2015
“Be The Smarter Bush Brother, Jeb; Don’t Run!”: Why Would A Guy Running For President Create A Brand Spanking New Bain Capital?
So Jeb is running. Or is he? And he’s really formidable! Or… is he?
I can’t remember in my adult lifetime a presidential candidate quite like Jeb Bush. Every presidential election we have our A-list candidates, your Clintons and your Romneys and your Humphreys and indeed your Bushes. And, every election, we have our quasi-comic-relief candidates, your Al Haigs and Gary Bauers and Bill Richardsons. These archetypes usually reside in separate life forms. But in John Ellis Bush, they exist in the same body.
The A-list case is: He’s a Bush. And… and… OK, he was the governor of a huge and electorally important state. And largely considered to have been, to those who can still remember, a successful and reasonably popular one. And there’s his Latina wife. But really, the A-list case comes down to the fact of his last name. Just as a football coach named Lombardi is going to win automatic positive “free media” until he turns out to be a total loser, a politician named Bush is going to be assumed to be a serious playah until he undeniably proves otherwise. Until then, establishment money is going to cascade to him.
The quasi-comic-relief case consists of a much longer list. First of all: Well, he’s a Bush. That is to say, while the name confers a certain status among insiders and the media, at the same time it reminds too many voters of the brother. This would be an obvious problem in a general election, but I think even in a primary. The Republican red-hots, the pols who play to the base that dominates the primary process, have been ranting against Dubya and his big-spending ways since the day he left office. There’s no reason to think the family tree will bring much good will.
The bigger thing is this. What in the world is a guy who wants to run for president doing, precisely during the months of presidential speculation, starting up an offshore private-equity firm? But Bush has done exactly that, filing the papers for BH Global Aviation with the SEC right around Thanksgiving. The fund raised $61 million in September, largely from foreign investors, and it incorporated in the U.K. and Wales to avoid paying American taxes. Business questions are raised—who starts a PE firm and bails on it in a matter of mere months?—but more salient are the political questions: Why would a candidate, on the eve of a presidential run, go out of his way to create what is in effect his very own brand spanking new Bain Capital?
Then there’s the service gap. He hasn’t been in office since January 2007, and more to the point hasn’t run a campaign since 2002. To find a presidential candidate with as long a gap between campaigns (excluding those like Eisenhower, who’d never run), you have to reach back to James Buchanan. Questions of rust will arise, of course, but more than that, we can fairly wonder whether he has a feel for the politico-culture landscape these days. The conservative movement of today is a rather fiercer creature than the one his brother held at bay with a few Scriptural dog whistles.
Here’s more, in terms of problems he’ll have with the base: He’s on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies. Come have a look at the “our work” page at the philanthropy’s website: Beyond Coal. Vibrant Oceans. Reproductive Health. Tobacco Control. No, no guns per se, but of course Mike Bloomberg is so identified in the right-wing mind with the torching of the Second Amendment that that one will undoubtedly come up.
Beyond this there’s the pro-immigration position. Rush Limbaugh has been laying into Bush on this one. There is such a thing in presidential primary politics as a single-issue deal-breaker. Ask Rudy Giuliani about how his pro-choice position worked out for him. And Jeb, of course, will also have to deal with his outspoken support for Common Core, which the Republican base loathes.
The polls? He runs a little bit ahead of the competition, with 14 percent in the current RCP average to Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee’s 10 and Paul Ryan’s 9.7 (and Ben Carson’s 8.8)! And with regard to taking on Hillary Clinton, he does no better than any of the rest of them. He’s 5 to 10 points behind her in just about every poll. That just is not the traditional idea of the frontrunner.
Throw it all into the kettle and, what? Well, it’s possible to imagine Bush as the nominee and even as the next president. To return to the Lombardi analogy, one would always imagine that a Lombardi would have it in him to find a way to win. So it is with a Bush. They are two-for-two, after all.
But maybe that’s just a psychological mirage. Maybe it’s just as easy, if not easier, to imagine him lasting four primaries. Here’s your 2016 GOP presidential primary calendar, at least as it currently exists. It starts as usual with Iowa and New Hampshire, which seem respectively more like Huckabee/Cruz and Ryan/Paul states than Bush states. Florida doesn’t come along until March 1. Has anyone ever—or since 1976, when we really started having lots of primaries and caucuses—won a party nomination without winning a primary or caucus until March? I don’t think that can be done.
And it might be easiest of all imagining him “exploring” a candidacy for a while and then deciding the hell with it. As has been oft-observed, he doesn’t seem to want to be president, and by most accounts his wife has never been hot on the idea. It used to be frequently said back in 2000 that Jeb was “the smart brother.” Given the tribulations that await him on the hustings versus the easy millions that dangle before him in the global aviation business, the choice that would prove he’s the smart one seems pretty clear.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 17, 2014
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele appeared on msnbc yesterday, and when host Alex Wagner asked what kind of advice he’d give his party’s leaders in Congress, Steele offered some sound advice. “The first would be, ‘Get a grip,’” he said.
Steele’s comments came to mind after reading this report published last night by USA Today.
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn warns there could be not only a political firestorm but acts of civil disobedience and even violence in reaction to President Obama’s executive order on immigration Thursday.
“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” Coburn said on Capital Download. “You’re going to see – hopefully not – but you could see instances of anarchy. … You could see violence.”
The far-right senator went on to say, “Here’s how people think: Well, if the law doesn’t apply to the president … then why should it apply to me?”
It’s hard to know what to make of such an odd perspective. If Coburn is correct, why weren’t there similar outbursts of anarchy and violence when Presidents Reagan and Bush took very similar executive actions? If the masses are so deeply concerned about separation of powers and the often-ambiguous lines surrounding executive authority, wouldn’t we have seen instances of pandemonium before?
As a practical matter, I’m not even sure how this would work. The Obama administration has limited resources, so it appears likely to prioritize deportations for criminals who entered the country illegally. So, in Coburn’s vision, anti-immigrant activists will become violent, perhaps literally rioting in the street, until more unobtrusive families are broken up?
Brian Beutler reminded Republicans overnight that “just because right-wingers are blind with rage doesn’t mean Obama’s immigration action is illegal.”
It turns out that the laws on the books actually don’t say what you might think they say. Other presidents have discovered this, too. And since nobody wants to write a “maybe I should’ve asked some lawyers first” mea culpa column, they shifted the debate from the terrain of laws to the murkier terrain of political precedent, norms, and procedure. […]
What’s new is that Republicans have perfected a strategy of rejectionism with the help of a media amplification infrastructure—Fox News, Drudge, Limbaugh—that the left hasn’t adopted and doesn’t yet enjoy. Rather than simply fight to reverse the policy in Congress and on the campaign trail—as liberals do when Republicans weaken environmental enforcement—the right can also now scream “Caesar!” without reference to any objective standards, and get a full hearing.
“Get a grip,” indeed.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 20, 2014
“Republicans Will Now Taste Their Bitter Harvest”: The “Party Of No” Has No Agreement On What Is Yes
In the early 3rd century B.C., after King Pyrrhus of Epirus again took brutal casualties in defeating the Romans, he told one person who offered congratulations, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” In his more sober moments, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), about to achieve his lifelong ambition of becoming Senate majority leader, may wonder whether he, too, has achieved a pyrrhic victory.
Republicans are still crowing about the sweeping victories in 2014 that give them control of both houses of Congress. They will set the agenda, deciding what gets considered, investigated and voted on. Their ideas will drive the debate.
But Republicans have no mandate because they offered no agenda. Republicans reaped the rewards of McConnell’s scorched-earth strategy, obstructing President Obama relentlessly, helping to create the failure that voters would pin on the party in power. But the collateral damage is that the “party of ‘no’ ” has no agreement on what is yes. Instead of using the years in the wilderness to develop new ideas and a clear vision, Republicans have used them only to sharpen their tongues, grow their claws and practice their backhands.
Republicans paid no penalty for obstructing every measure that might have given the recovery more juice, blocking even the infrastructure spending that has been a bipartisan response in every downturn. They paid no penalty for shutting down the government and forcing mindless austerity that cost jobs. They paid no penalty for their perfervid hysteria on foreign policy issues – screeching about phantom terrors of pregnant immigrants helping Islamic State terrorists and Ebola victims slip in the country to kill us here at home. They never needed to fill in the magic asterisks in Rep. Paul Ryan’s risible budgets, enabling him to deny the damage to Medicare, education, food stamps and the most vulnerable that his plans would require.
The result is that McConnell leads into a power a party truly unfit and unready to govern. Indeed, the wingnuts at its base want it only to dismantle, not to govern. As Terrance Heath reported, the ever-apoplectic Rush Limbaugh announced that Republicans have a mandate to “stop Barack Obama” and “were not elected to govern.” Fox News host Megyn Kelly fantasized that Obama would “offend” Republicans into impeaching him; Phyllis Schlafly argued the first priority should be blocking all Obama’s judicial nominees. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) pledged once more to repeal Obamacare. The dyspeptic Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will use his chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee to demand more “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria, harsher sanctions to undermine negotiations with Iran and more macho posturing over Ukraine. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) will use his likely chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee to deny the existence of catastrophic climate change even while allocating billions for cleanup in the wake of floods, droughts and storms to come.
McConnell portrays Republicans as ready to embrace a conservative Chamber of Commerce agenda, repaying the big money that helped bring them victory. This would include giving multinationals a massive tax break on money that they stashed abroad to avoid taxes, passing fast-track trade authority, pushing ahead the Keystone XL pipeline, weakening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and repealing the tax on medical devices, first of the salami-style effort to slice up Obamacare.
But the zealots in the House and Senate expect more fire and less compromise. They want Obamacare repealed. They want the scorched-earth obstruction to continue: Obama’s nominations blocked, scandals real and delusional investigated, Dodd-Frank financial regulation reversed and taxes and domestic spending slashed.
It isn’t at all apparent that McConnell and Boehner can corral Republican majorities for any measures that Obama might accept. But even if McConnell could put the Chamber of Commerce’s bills on the president’s desk, one thing is apparent: None of these will do anything to address the profound crises the country faces. There is no relief for the sinking middle class and impoverished low-wage workers, no strategy for addressing climate change, no response to the destructive excesses of banks too big to fail.
McConnell won his majority by brilliantly waging a partisan, dishonest, unrelenting policy of obstruction. But now, the absence of any ideas or of any clue will be exposed. And next time, when voters sensibly want to throw the bums out, they may have a far clearer view of just who the bums are.
By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Washington Post, November 11, 2014
“Under the Dome”: How The Conservative Media Are Keeping The GOP From Moving Past The Same-Sex Marriage Debate
Over the weekend, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee issued a call to arms to conservatives not to give up the fight against same-sex marriage, based on his bizarre belief that no decision of the Supreme Court has the force of law unless Congress passes legislation to confirm it. Because of that, Huckabee says, the fight can continue unhindered no matter what the court does. “I’m utterly disgusted with fellow Republicans who want to walk away from the issue of judicial supremacy just because it’s politically volatile,” he said. “Here’s my advice: Grow a spine!” Huckabee’s legal analysis may be idiosyncratic (to put it kindly), but his position — that this isn’t a fight conservatives should abandon just because they’ve nearly lost it — is one with plenty of purchase among the Republican faithful. And he’s hardly the only one with a media pulpit from which to preach it. In fact, the division within the GOP has a parallel in the conservative media. The presence of hard-liners (or dead-enders, if you prefer) like Huckabee is going to make it all the more difficult and painful for the party to evolve in the way its more sober strategists know it must.
Conservatives worked very hard over a period of decades to build up their own media to serve as an alternative and a counterweight to a mainstream press they saw as biased against them. This project was spectacularly successful, particularly with the explosion of right-wing talk radio in the 1980s and early 1990s, and the launch of Fox News in 1996. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that people began questioning whether it was doing the movement more harm than good by encasing conservatives in a self-reinforcing bubble from which it became increasingly difficult to see the outside world clearly.
Just as there are divisions within the GOP, there are divisions within the conservative media. And just as the party’s conservatives make it hard to make strategically necessary shifts — or simply avoid moving too far to the right — the continued power of hard-line media figures can keep the party from modernizing.
Since 2012, Republicans have been fretting about how they can “reach out” to minority groups, particularly Latinos, in order to widen their appeal beyond the older white folks who are the core of the party. The trouble is that it’s hard to reach out when elected officials within your party keep loudly proclaiming their anti-immigrant views. The same is true on gay marriage. The party’s national strategists would like nothing better than for the issue to go away. They know that the policy outcome is inevitable and public opinion is not turning back, so there’s little point in mounting some kind of rear-guard action against it, one that will only make the party look outdated and out of touch. But as Greg and I both pointed out last week, potential future presidential candidate Ted Cruz is going to force a debate on it in 2016 whether other Republicans like it or not.
Some parts of the conservative media will do the same thing. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters observes that in most of its programming, Fox News has all but stopped talking about same-sex marriage. But that’s not going to silence Huckabee (whose show runs on Fox on the weekends), or Rush Limbaugh, or many of the other radio hosts with huge audiences. As long as they press the issue, the Republican base will still demand that candidates proclaim their objections to the changes taking place in the country, and the harder it remains for the party to move past its vehement opposition to marriage equality. Everyone knows that evolution will have to take place eventually, but the conservative media have the power to make the transition inordinately painful.
Fox’s abdication of the marriage issue demonstrates that the network functions as the semi-official organ of the Republican Party. Roger Ailes may be in business to make money, but he won’t do so in ways that harm the interests of the GOP. The same, however, can’t be said of everyone with a large conservative audience. On a whole range of domestic issues, from immigration to marriage equality to reproductive rights, they’re going to continue pulling the party to the right even when it has to turn back to the center or risk electoral disaster (like, say, the election of a certain former secretary of state to the White House). Conservative media have been great at keeping the rabble angry and excited, getting them to the polls and getting them to open their wallets. But when the party needs to take a cold hard look at reality and evolve or get left behind, the same media are going to be an albatross holding it back.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 13, 2014