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“The Temporary Glitter Of Expediency”: A “Party Of Principle” Will Not Occur On A Mitt Romney Watch

This will not be Mitt Romney’s first Republican National Convention. Forty-eight years ago this summer, 17-year-old Mitt went with his father, Michigan Governor George Romney, to the party’s 1964 convention in San Francisco. As the party prepared to nominate Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for the presidency, and to embrace a platform that was even more extreme in its positions than those taken by its standard-bearer, Mitt watched as his father fought a valiant battle to prevent the party’s lurch to the right.

It was a battle of ideology, idealism and honor. George Romney, a committed supporter of the struggle for racial justice that he traced to Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, believed that Goldwater’s opposition to federal civil rights legislation meant that the presumptive nominee’s “views deviate as indicated from the heritage of our party.” He argued that the party needed to fully embrace the civil rights struggle and to explicitly reject the extremism of far-right groups such as the John Birch Society.

“There is no place in either of our parties for the purveyors of hate,” George Romney argued to no avail. The Republican Party rejected platform planks proposed by the elder Romney and the moderate wing of the Republican Party and went all-in for extremism. With that, he walked out of the convention, displaying the resolve that would lead the future president of the United States, Gerald Ford, to say “(George Romney) has never let the temporary glitter of expediency obscure the path which his integrity dictated he must follow.”

Even allowing for the overheated rhetoric of nominating speakers, there will be no such pronouncements this year regarding Mitt Romney. Nor will there be any meaningful efforts to dial back the extremism of a platform that one of its drafters, Oregon delegate and Tea Party activist Russ Walker, says “appears to be the most conservative platform in modern history.” The Washington Times echoed that assessment, as Republican U.S. Senate candidates such Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Laura Lingle of Hawaii scrambled to distance themselves from a platform defined by its:

* no-exceptions approach to abortion and a “personhood” section that seeks “legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children”

* militant opposition to marriage equality and a refusal even to acknowledge civil unions

* call for limiting the role of women in the military

* celebrations of election suppression schemes such as Voter ID laws and proof-of-citizenship requirements

* endorsement of Arizona-style anti-immigration laws

* support for overriding popular democracy and local lawmaking in the District of Columbia

* proposal to constitutionally restrict the ability of Congress to write budgets, with “exceptions for only war and national emergencies”

* pining for a return to the Gold Standard

* full embrace of soon-to-be vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s proposals to begin the process of undermining Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — along lines advocated in 1964 by Goldwater but opposed by George Romney.

Unlike his father, Mitt Romney will make no effort to guide his party back toward the mainstream. The man who just a decade ago was identified as the brave new champion of the centrism, even liberalism, that his father once espoused will make no demand for moderation. There will be no stance on principle. No show of integrity.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus admits that the platform is frequently at odds with Mitt Romney’s stated positions — if not with those of Paul Ryan. “This is the platform of the Republican Party; it’s not the platform of Mitt Romney,” says Priebus.

But isn’t Mitt Romney effectively the leader of the Republican Party at this point, in the same sense that Barack Obama is (as Republicans so frequently suggest) the leader of the Democratic Party? Why isn’t Romney exercising leadership? Why isn’t he saying that he will not run on a platform that is at odds with his stated positions on critical social policy, economic policy and international policy issues? Why isn’t he objecting to stances that “deviate… from the heritage of our party”?

The answer is not that Romney, who once declared “I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush,” who began his own political career as an enthusiastic supporter of abortion rights and gay rights, whose Massachusetts health-care reforms laid the groundwork for “Obamacare,” is some kind of right-wing purist.

Romeny’s lack of a coherent conservatism going into the 2012 race is what scared conservatives so much that they supported, literally, Anyone-But-Romney — from Michele Bachmann to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum. Ultimately, Romney bent enough to the demands of the right to secure the nomination. And he threw conservatives a bigger bone with the selection of House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, who is a true believer, as the party’s vice presidential nominee.

It is that determination to make himself acceptable to the right that distinguishes Mitt Romney from his father. And it is what would distinguish a Romney-Ryan presidency, were the ticket to prevail in November.

Mitt Romney defers to the extremism that George Romney battled as a matter of principle. Where George Romney defended the heritage of a great American political party, Mitt Romney will this week “let the temporary glitter of expediency obscure the path which his integrity dictated he must follow.”


By: John Nichols, The Nation, August 27, 2012

August 28, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It May Not Be “The Economy Stupid”: Americans Just Might Favor Social Issues Over Their Pocketbooks

It’s one of the oldest adages in American politics—when all is said and done, Americans vote their pocketbooks rather than their principles.

But is it true?

Both Democrats and Republicans seem to think so.

Indeed, accepting this bit of established political wisdom has long led progressives to argue that millions of middle-class, working Americans, who support Republican candidates and policies, do so in contravention of what is in their own interests. The  argument, for the most part, rests in the belief that the “trickle down” approach favored by conservatives—a theory suggesting that when those at the top of the chain are doing well, jobs and money trickle down to the middle and lower class workers—has never really proven to be beneficial to anyone but the wealthy and comes at the expense of the many who, nevertheless, continue to vote for those who would continue the policy.

A true conservative, of course, would argue that such cynicism is vastly misplaced and that a vibrant economy can only happen when those at the top are flourishing—allowing the job creators the confidence and financial wherewithal to grow their businesses and, in the process, create the jobs necessary to allow good fortune to trickle down to the working classes.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that our presidential election, once again, is putting these conflicting belief systems to the test as, in the red corner— standing up for the notion that tax cuts for the wealthiest are the best way to drive the economy forward—is the GOP challenger, Governor Mitt Romney while, in the other corner, representing those who believe that more tax cuts for the wealthy will only result in the rich getting richer at the expense of everyone else, is the blue squad, led by our returning champion, President Barack Obama.

But is this really what this election is all about? Are Americansactually preparing to vote for the candidate who represents the side that appears most likely to put more money in their respective pockets or are there other, more important, factors at work as we get ready to make our choices in November?

It turns out, conventional wisdom might just have this all wrong.

A new website called Politify—claiming to be non-partisan and which garnered some national attention during the primary season— has employed tax information provided by the Internal Revenue Service along with data from the U.S. Census Bureau to create an interesting way to determine whether you and your neighbors may be favoring economic policies that might actually turn out not to be the best thing for you.

The results are pretty interesting.

According to Politify, if we are to take the economic, tax and budget proposals of our two presidential candidates at their face value—policies that each candidate contends hold the answers to making our economic lives better—the results indicate that it is the Obama proposals that dramatically benefit a wide swath of Americans who are expected to cast their vote for Governor Romney.

Indeed—again accordingly to Politify—if Americans truly voted their pocketbooks, President Obama would be re-elected in an historic landslide as the website calculates that the Obama economic agenda benefits 69.8 percent of Americans when compared to Romney’s proposals which only improve the financial lot of 30.2 percent. What’s more, using the official budget information provided by each campaign’s website, the site determines that the Obama proposals will lessen the national deficit by $273 billion by 2015 as the Romney budget would increase the deficit by $566 billion during the same period.

Now, before the more conservative readers here go into cardiac arrest, you might want to visit the website to review the methodology Politify has employed to reach their conclusions. Only then can you determine how much you do—or do not—value their conclusions.

If you do visit the site, you might also enjoy ‘plugging in’ your personal and community data to see how the respective tax and economic policies of the candidates impact directly on you and your neighbors.

There is an additional ‘twist’ worth pointing out—according to the data, it is not just the millions of rural white people expected to cast their votes for the GOP presidential candidate who are behaving contrary to what would appear to be in their self-interest. It turns out that some of the nation’s most liberal neighborhoods are also likely to vote for a candidate whose policies are more harmful to their economic well being that what is being offered by the alternative choice.

Take, for example, my own upper west side of Manhattan neighborhood—a liberal enclave if there ever was one.

Despite the fact that there is a stronger likelihood that hell will freeze over than there is that my zip code will get behind Governor Romney’s candidacy, Politify projects that 62 percent of my neighbors would benefit more from Romney’s economic proposals than those put forth by the President.

Go figure.

What we may be learning here is that people may not be voting their pocketbooks to the extent the experts and pundits would have us believe. Indeed, it may be this very fact that has led the conversation away from the anticipated referendum on the Obama economy and in the direction of social issues such as Medicare and abortion.

While many would be quick to blame the “liberal media” for steering the national conversation towards social issues because it is imagined—possibly incorrectly—that the President holds the winning hand on these subjects, the truth is that neither of the campaigns has been particularly responsive to the media. Accordingly, it may not be reasonable to imagine that it is the media driving the direction the campaign is taking.

Indeed, the GOP campaign’s willingness to engage on these topics may be more by design than by circumstances as, maybe, the Romney campaign knows something that the pundits do not. In an election sure to be about strength of voter turn-out, it may not, as conventional wisdom instructs, be all about the economy after all.

With voters unsure as to either candidate’s ability to do much of anything to reverse the current economic difficulties in four years time—and instinctively understanding that the depth of our problem is such that there is no quick and easy answer or way out—it may be the social issues that allow the voters to find a more definitive position and send them racing to the polls on election day to vote for the candidate who stands for those positions.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, August 26, 2012


August 28, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Projection Party”: A Story In Which Republicans Are Strangely Absent

Of all the things Republicans have called President Obama in the last four years—socialist, radical, un-American, anti-American, elitist—perhaps the strangest is “divisive.” It seems so odd to the rest of us when we look at Obama, whose entire history, even from childhood, has been about carefully navigating through opposing ideas, resolving contradictions, and diffusing tensions, who has so often infuriated his supporters with compromises and attempts at conciliation. Yet conservatives look at him and see someone completely different. They see Obama plotting to set Americans at war with one another so he can profit from the destruction, perhaps cackling a sinister laugh as thunder rattles the windows on the West Wing and America’s demise is set in motion.

There has seldom been a clearer political case of what psychologists call “projection,” the propensity to ascribe to someone else one’s own thoughts, feelings, and sins. It’s true that we are in a polarized moment, and what is called nastiness often turns out to be genuine substantive differences between parties that represent distinct groups of Americans. But Republicans have been, shall we say, vigorous in their opposition to this president, both completely unified and unrestrained in their criticism. Yet they remain convinced that Barack Obama is the one who bears responsibility for whatever division has been sown.

Just a few examples, to let you know I’m not pulling this from nowhere. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, the man who proudly proclaimed, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” calls Obama “the most divisive [president] I’ve served with.” “We have not seen such a divisive figure in modern American history than we have over the last three and one-half years” says Senator Marco Rubio. “President Obama has become one of the most divisive presidents in American history,” charges GOP uber-strategist Ed Gillespie. RNC chair Reince Preibus calls Obama “divisive, nasty, negative.” Mitt Romney tells Obama to “take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America.”

The “divisive” charge isn’t just an accusation, it’s an entire narrative arc, awaiting only the conclusion in which the American people send Obama and his divisiveness packing. As the conservative Washington Times editorialized, “He said he would be a unifier, that he would reach across party lines, that he would forge consensus. Once he took office, however, armed with a hard-left agenda and backed by a supermajority in Congress, the arrogance of power overwhelmed the better angels of his nature.” This is a story Republicans tell often, a story in which Republicans themselves are strangely absent. That “hard-left agenda” wasn’t just inherently divisive, it was also enacted divisively; for instance, one often hears Republicans claim that the Affordable Care Act was “rammed through” Congress without Republican support. You might recall that in fact the ACA went through over a year of hearings, negotiations, conferences, health care summits, endless efforts to cajole and encourage and beg and plead for Republican support, before those Republicans successfully kept every last one of their troops in line to vote against it. But as on so many issues, all of that is washed from the story, leaving only Barack Obama and his divisive actions.

Don’t ask about Republicans’ unprecedented use of the filibuster to stifle Obama’s appointments and legislation, or how the Tea Party Republicans took the country to the brink of financial catastrophe, or how many elected members of their party question Obama’s patriotism and genuinely believe he isn’t actually an American. Don’t ask about conservative media figures who continually race-bait and encourage their legion of listeners to nurture a white-hot hatred for the president and liberals in general. No, the real viciousness belongs only to Barack Obama, and its horror can be seen in things like his suggestion that that the wealthiest Americans could tolerate an increase in the top tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent (a suggestion always accompanied by encomiums to success and the reassurance that the wealthy are fine people). Not only is Obama “demonizing the rich,” as Romney surrogate John Sununusays, “when he says ‘rich’ he says it with a snarl.” You may believe that no human being on this plane of reality has actually ever seen Barack Obama snarl, but that would just mean you aren’t looking closely enough.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Romney’s advisers are now “convinced he needs a more combative footing against President Obama in order to appeal to white, working-class voters,” so they are making clear that this election is about us and them. If there’s any confusion about who’s who, you can turn on your television to find out. Romney is currently running ads charging falsely that Obama is taking tax money from hardworking people like you to support layabout welfare recipients who no longer have to satisfy work requirements, and has now turned to telling seniors (again, falsely), that “the money you paid for guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.” But I’m sure Romney does this more in sadness than in anger. After all, when faced with someone as divisive as Obama, what choice does he have?

Opinions of Obama are certainly polarized—Democrats love him and Republicans hate him. But is that a product of his actions, or of a time when the parties increasingly represent two distinct, non-overlapping ideologies? In his third year, Obama’s average approval in Gallup polls among Democrats was 80 percent, compared to only 12 percent among Republicans. This 68-point gap is large by historical standards, but it was smaller than the 70-point gap in George W. Bush’s sixth year. And the 72-point gap in George W. Bush’s fifth year. And the 76-point gap in George W. Bush’s fourth year. It would seem that Bush was actually the most polarizing president.

And like Obama, Bush came in to office hoping to heal partisan divisions. “I don’t have enemies to fight,” he said in his 2000 convention speech. “And I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect.” I suppose Republicans might say that Bush’s failure to succeed in that goal wasn’t the president’s fault but that of the opposition, while the continued acrimony during the Obama years isn’t the opposition’s fault but that of the president.

Ask Republicans what Obama might have done to be less divisive, and the most common response is that he could have abandoned his own agenda and adopted theirs instead; had he done that, they would have been happy to work with him. Which gives us a clue to the terrible thing Obama did to them. By making Republicans hate him with such a burning fire—by having the gall to win the presidency, then brazenly pursuing his party’s longstanding goals like health care reform—he brought out the worst in them. And they really can’t be blamed for that, can they?


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 27, 2012


August 28, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Republicans And “Humane Self-Deportation”: A Nightmare Of Perpetual Harassment

It didn’t get the attention it merited because of the focus on the GOP’s usual platform plank endorsing a constitutional amendment to ban abortions without rape-and-incest exceptions, but the Romney-approved 2012 platform confirmed the party’s lack of interest in out-performing John McCain among Latinos. Julia Preston of the New York Times has a succinct summary:

In their debates this week in Tampa, Fla., over the party platform, Republican delegates hammered out an immigration plank calling for tough border enforcement and opposing “any forms of amnesty” for illegal immigrants, instead endorsing “humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily,” a policy of self-deportation.

I like that modifier “humane.” I suppose the idea is that it is more “humane” to make the lives of undocumented workers–and perhaps some documented immigrants as well–an un-American nightmare of perpetual harassment than to pursue some unstated alternative: presumably loading whole families into cattle cars and shipping them south (which would also be monstrously expensive). The trouble, of course, is that the “humane” strategy depends implicitly on making like miserable for anyone who might conceivably be undocumented in the eyes of the various authorities charged with various elements of the campaign to “encourage” self-deportation. We are somehow expected to believe this will not lead to “ethnic profiling” of Latinos, but nobody much buys it. To put it bluntly, jurisdictions like Alabama and Georgia, not to mention Joe Arpaio’s Arizona, do not have a great deal of credibility when it comes to disinterested enforcement of laws clearly aimed at particular demographic categories of the population.

So even as Republicans continue to claim they only want to enforce existing immigration laws, they are pursuing not only policies but a general philosophy guaranteed to repel Latino voters. Ron Brownstein estimates that Romney will need a percentage of the white vote equivalent to that won by George H.W. Bush in his easy 1988 victory over Mike Dukakis. No wonder Republicans are going to lengths in appealing to white voters that are so highly reminiscent of Lee Atwater’s strategy that year.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 27, 2012

August 28, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Immigration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Are You Going To Do About It?”: Mitt Romney And His Despicable Race Baiting Lies

Regular readers of Political Animal should find this analysis of Mitt Romney’s stretch-run strategy and message, as articulated by Thomas Edsall in the New York Times, very familiar:

The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor.

Ads that accuse President Obama of gutting the work requirements enacted in the 1996 welfare reform legislation present the first theme. Ads alleging that Obama has taken $716 billion from Medicare — a program serving an overwhelmingly white constituency — in order to provide health coverage to the heavily black and Hispanic poor deliver the second. The ads are meant to work together, to mutually reinforce each other’s claims.

Edsall, as you may recall, has been suggesting for a good while that this is the sort of politics the Tea Party Movement is all about.

So that’s the most important sense in which the Romney campaign has finally surrendered unconditionally to the Right: not simply accepting its political positions or promising to make its priorities his own, or placing on his ticket their favorite politician–but also adopting its meta-message about the kind of people Obama represents (those people) and the kind of people who are suffering from his redistributionist ways.

It’s clear by now that the Romney campaign is going to shrug off the almost universal denunciation of his welfare ads (and to only a lesser extent, his Medicare ads that show a white senior frowning as the narrator says ObamaCare is “not for you”) as a pack of despicable, race-baiting lies–or use the so’s-your-old-man argument that Obama’s campaign tactics justify his own. If nothing else, his wizards probably figured out some time ago that the “welfare” crap offered a rare opportunity to hit notes equally effective with “the base” and the non-college educated white voters who make up a high percentage of this election’s “swing.” Add in the thick armor conservatives have built for themselves against any accusations of racism–now, almost by definition, they believe only liberals are racists, and only white people are targets of racism–and it was probably an easy call for Team Mitt, particularly since truthfulness is not a factor at all.

The Romney campaign’s attitude seems to be that of the famous nineteenth century rogue William (Boss) Tweed, who when confronted by journalists with his misdeeds, said: “Well, what are you going to do about it?” Romney’s not going to be shamed out of his unsavory tactics. But on the other hand, if his gambit fails, not only will his presidential ambitions perish once and for all, but just maybe the kind of politics he has come to exemplify–rich people encouraging the middle class to “kick down” at “those people”–will take a hit as well.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 27, 2012

August 28, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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