"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The Stinch Of Formaldehyde”: GOP “Autopsy” Is Dead On Arrival

The Republican National Committee released its long-awaited post-2012 “autopsy” Monday, in the form of a 99-page report titled the “Growth and Opportunity Project.” Although the report pushes for some drastic changes in the way that the Republican Party conducts itself during elections, it ultimately fails to confront the primary problem: Its policies just aren’t popular with voters.

With the exception of a qualified push for immigration reform, the Growth and Opportunity Project centers around the idea that the Republican Party’s platform is sound, while the messaging is at fault. That comes as no surprise — it was RNC chairman Reince Priebus, after all, who recently declared “I don’t think our platform is the issue” — but this plan is startlingly divorced from the Republicans’ present reality. On nearly every issue facing Congress — from raising the minimum wage, to cutting federal programs, to strengthening gun safety laws, to fighting against climate change — most voters side with Democrats over Republicans.

Further complicating the RNC’s mission is the fact that the GOP has shown absolutely no signs of being ready to change the conduct that led to the party’s overwhelming losses in November.

For example, the Priebus plan notes that “if we are going to grow as a party, our policies and actions must take into account that the middle class has struggled mightily and that far too many of our citizens live in poverty,” adding “The perception that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed.”

Improving outreach to the poor seems like a great idea in theory. In practice, House Republicans are preparing to vote this week on Paul Ryan’s extremist “vision document,” which explicitly promises to slash funding for programs that help the needy in order to finance a massive tax break for the wealthy.

The report’s suggestion that Republicans “learn once again how to appeal to more people, including those who share some but not all of our conservative principles” seems like a no-brainer. But in reality, those people are called RINOs, and are almost automatically disqualified from national races. Priebus’ report can’t change that reality. Even while the autopsy suggests that “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself,” most of the GOP’s brightest stars spent the weekend at the insular Conservative Political Action Conference — to which popular governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bob McDonnell of Virginia were not invited, for the unforgivable crime of compromising with some of their states’ many Democrats.

In theory, the report’s suggestion that “if we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity,” makes perfect sense. In practice, the GOP seems to be going out of its way to antagonize minority voters; even as the autopsy suggests showing sincerity, the party continues to push for voter-suppression laws that nakedly attempt to keep minorities away from the polls. While the autopsy suggests that the GOP “must be inclusive and welcoming” to Hispanic-Americans, Senate Republicans are simultaneously gearing up for a racially-charged filibuster of Thomas Perez, the only Hispanic nominee for President Obama’s cabinet.

The report pushes the party to “establish a presence in African-American communities and at black organizations such as the NAACP,” but it seems to forget that Mitt Romney tried that in July. He ended up getting booed repeatedly for promising to repeal health care reform, and patronizingly claiming to be the best candidate for the black community.

“It all goes back to what our moms used to tell us: It’s not just what we say; it’s how we say it,” Priebus said of his report Monday morning. He is forgetting a more important factor: what they do. The Republicans’ problem isn’t that voters aren’t getting the message about the party’s policies; it’s that too many voters read the GOP loud and clear.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, March 19, 2013

March 20, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Still A Long Way To Go”: Four Lessons From Steubenville

Thanks to a trial overseen by a juvenile court judge, justice in Steubenville was administered remarkably quickly. On Sunday morning, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were found delinquent of the rape of a sixteen-year-old girl, for which they will serve, respectively, a minimum of two years and one year each. But this isn’t the end of the story, which went national with the help of Anonymous but was truly laid bare in the four days of testimony last week. The only unique aspect of the story was its prominence and the abundant, inarguable recorded evidence, so it’s worth taking stock of what those factors tell us about rape in America:

1. They thought they could get away with it. The release of text messages sent that night and immediately afterwards make it clear that at least some of these kids, particularly Trent Mays, knew what had happened was wrong. It’s just that they had reason to believe they would operate with impunity. One teen texted Mays the next day, “You’re a felon.” Mays subsequently said, “I shoulda raped now that everybody thinks I did.” (He had at one point said he’d had intercourse with the girl, then said he didn’t; digital penetration is rape under Ohio law.) But Mays’ damage control is telling: In a text, he referred to football coach Reno Saccoccia: “I got Reno. He took care of it and shit ain’t gonna happen, even if they did take it to court.” Mays also said that the coach said that next time they got into trouble, they’d be suspended for three games. ”But I feel he took care of it for us,” Mays wrote. “Like, he was joking about it, so I’m not worried.” Unluckily for Mays, the coach wasn’t quite as powerful as believed.

2. The bystanders could have prevented it. One of the witnesses, Evan Westlake, wasn’t drunk, and when he realized one of his friends was too drunk to drive, Westlake tricked him into handing over his keys. Yet as Yahoo News’ Dan Wetzel points out, Westlake didn’t think to intervene in the same way when he saw the girl passed out on the floor being violated by Mays and Richmond. (On Sunday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he would ask for a grand jury to investigate whether there would be further charges.)

The national expert in bystander intervention, Jackson Katz, told the Daily News, “I assume there were people in that room who were uncomfortable with what was going on, but they were silenced by the dominant ethos of their culture. Nobody spoke up. If you are a teammate and you really have someone’s back like you say you do, you would have intervened before they committed a crime.” There was one exception, after the fact: Sean McGhee, Richmond’s cousin, who testified against him. He had been at the party early in the night and then learned about the sexual activity from the photos and texts. “You are dead wrong,” he texted his cousin. “I’m going to choke the [expletive] out of you for that. You could go to jail for life for that.” Of course, by then it was too late.

3. Education about rape and consent needs to happen, and earlier. Westlake’s rationale for failing to intervene was that “It wasn’t violent. I didn’t know exactly what rape was. I always pictured it as forcing yourself on someone.” If Westlake truly believed that, as Katz put it, “The failure of adult men’s leadership is a primary factor in this case… How many athletic departments have mandated sexual violence education?” Much of what exists tends to happen in college and tends to be aimed at women. A report on rape prevention by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence notes, “The data suggest that first sexual experiences typically occur at a much younger age, that a notable percentage of these first experiences are forced, and that sexual and physical violence occur at alarming rates among middle school and secondary school students.”

4. Even now, victim-blaming is all but inevitable. The equivalent of a conviction doesn’t mean the girl’s suffering is over. If you need evidence of that, check out the Public Shaming Tumblr,which includes social media commentary like, “Be responsible for your actions ladies before your drunken decisions ruin innocent lives.” Closer to home, two of the girl’s friends testified against her, calling her a liar and saying they were no longer friends because she had insisted on staying out that night. The victim’s attorney told the press, “The mom and the daughter and the family want people to know rape’s not acceptable conduct.” On Sunday, the legal system recognized that. But the broader culture still has a long way to go.


By: Irin Carmon, Salem, March 19, 2013

March 20, 2013 Posted by | Violence Against Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The States Are Not An Alternative America”: Republican Control Of Governorships Does Not Indicate A Solid Majority Of “The People”

There are two perpetually silly memes going around the commentariat these days in connection with the very limited but loudly expressed self-examination of the Republican Party, both involving the GOP’s relatively strong standing at the state level.

The first, which I’ve attacked before (here, here and here), and will keep attacking as long as it rears its ugly head, is that there is this essentially moderate (or at least “pragmatic”) brand of Republican pol operating at the state level who “gets it” and is free of the ideological manias of Washington-style GOPers. Give them the leadership of the party, it is often said, and “reform” will take care of itself.

When you start looking for these “pragmatists,” however, they seem to be in short supply. You can apply the label to Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell, I suppose, but these gents are not about to be handed the leadership of the national party, having just been excluded from the national party’s most important 2013 event, CPAC. Looking deeper in the gubernatorial ranks, though: Does Paul LePage “get it?” Is Rick Scott a “reformer?” Are Rick Perry or Bobby Jindal or Nikki Haley or Phil Bryant or Mary Fallon or Scott Walker or Jan Brewer “non-ideologues?” Is John Kasich really “reaching out” to non-GOP constituencies? Is Rick Snyder exhibiting freedom from conservative litmus tests? No, no, no, no and no.

A closely associated meme, which CNN’s Roland Martin articulates in a well-meaning but misguided column, is that Republicans by focusing on state politics are actually running the country as the two parties wrangle in Washington. So:

[M]any Republicans have told me they couldn’t care less about Washington, because legislation with real impact is being proposed and passed in the states. That’s why you’ve seen groups quietly backing initiatives on the state level and bypassing the hot lights and screaming media in Washington….

Think about it: Obama won Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Nevada, all states with GOP governors. So clearly voters in those states chose the Republican alternative in statewide elections, but when it came to the presidency, said “No thanks.”

I’m not buying for a second this silly notion that the GOP will have a Damascus Road experience and drastically change. It’s not going to happen. There will be some movement on the national level, but Republican grass-roots organizers are very well aware that the message the GOP is selling statewide is a winning formula.

Sorry, Roland. Republicans are touting their success at the state level not because they don’t care what happens in Washington, but because they didn’t win the presidency or the Senate in 2012 so what else are they going to tout? Their control of 30 of 50 governorships does not indicate a solid majority of “the people” in the alternative America represented by the states, but just a majority of state governments according to measurements whereby Alaska and North Dakota count the same as New York and California. And most important of all, their victories in 2010 and defeats in 2012 did not represent some self-conscious “split decision” whereby voters preferred Republican leadership at one level and Democratic leadership at another, but different election cycles that featured different electorates. So even if Democrats decide, as Martin wants them to do, to “focus” on state elections as Republicans allegedly have, 2014 will be tough for them because of the landscape and the shape of the midterm electorate, just as Republicans, no matter where they are “focused,” will face a stiff wind in 2016.

Sorry to keep harping on these issues, but Lord-a-mighty, these are fairly simple empirical matters that an awful lot of well-compensated and highly visible writers and talkers just can’t seem to get straight, or don’t want to because it interferes with a desired grinding of axes.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 19, 2013

March 20, 2013 Posted by | Governors, States | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Changnesia”: The Man With The Worst Memory In American Politics

No wonder he looks surprised so often.

There’s something that’s been bugging me for a while about House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), but I haven’t been able to put my finger on it. Until now, that is.

The congressman talked to Bloomberg TV this morning, and reporter Peter Cook raised the prospect of some kind of compromise with Democrats, in light of Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-Wash.) Senate Democratic budget. Take a look at Ryan’s response:

“Well, I would say to the Patty Murray school of thought to the President Obama school of thought, they’ve got their tax increases. They got $1.6 trillion in tax increases that are just now starting to hit the economy. But we have yet to get the spending cuts.”

Now, right off the bat, it’s important to note that Democrats didn’t get $1.6 trillion in tax increases. Earlier this year, they got about $600 billion in new revenue — Ryan is only off by $1,000,000,000,000 — which Republicans on the House Budget Committee found so offensive, they included the money in their own budget plan. Maybe Ryan forgot about this?

But even if we put that aside, there’s the matter of Ryan’s assertion that Republicans haven’t already successfully received spending cuts. The problem, of course, is that Ryan seems to have forgotten 2011, when Democrats accepted nearly $1.5 trillion in spending cuts, with no accompanying revenue, as part of the GOP’s debt-ceiling hostage strategy.

At the time, Ryan boasted about all the spending cuts he and his party had won by threatening to hurt Americans on purpose. Less than two years later, the far-right Wisconsinite appears to have forgotten about the policy altogether. How is that possible?

It’s not just today, either. Ryan keeps reinforcing suspicions that his memory is alarmingly bad.

Ryan doesn’t remember that he used to refer to his own plan to end Medicare as “vouchers.”

Ryan doesn’t remember taking credit for the sequestration policy he later condemned.

Ryan doesn’t remember learning about Democratic alternatives to the sequester.

Ryan doesn’t remember what happened with the 2011 “super committee.”

Ryan doesn’t remember Bill Clinton’s tax increases.

Ryan doesn’t remember the times he condemned social-insurance programs as “taker” programs.

Ryan doesn’t remember all of the times he appealed to the Obama administration for stimulus funds for his congressional district.

Ryan doesn’t remember his marathon times.

Ryan doesn’t remember how much he was inspired by Ayn Rand.

Ryan doesn’t remember his own speeches.

Everyone can be forgetful once in a while, but the Republican Budget Committee chairman seems to forget rather important details and developments so often, it’s rather unsettling.

The alternative, of course, is that Ryan’s memory is fine and he shamelessly lies when it suits his purposes, but why be uncharitable? Let’s instead just assume that the poor congressman suffers from a terrible memory.

Maybe it’s some weird political version of Changnesia?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 19, 2013

March 20, 2013 Posted by | Budget | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Salted Nuts”: The “Nutters” Push Back Against The RNC Blueprint

Reflecting on the Republican National Committee’s “Growth and Opportunity Project,” Dave Weigel noted that the blueprint “is less a program of reform than a rough blueprint about how to marginalize the nutters.”

That’s clearly true. The structural reforms are intended to “marginalize the nutters” in terms of their electoral influence; the rhetorical reforms are intended to “marginalize the nutters” in terms of public perceptions of the party; and the policy reforms are intended to “marginalize the nutters” who are pushing Republicans to embrace an even more radical policy agenda.

At times, Reince Priebus and his report aren’t subtle on this, specifically criticizing “third-party groups that promote purity.”

With this in mind, the simmering intra-party “civil war” between the Republican base and the party establishment is intensifying, right on cue.

“It looks like a system of the establishment, by the establishment, and for the establishment,” said conservative P.R. executive Greg Mueller, a veteran of Pat Buchanan’s campaigns. […]

Davie Bossie, head of the conservative group Citizens United, fretted that the proposals would mean conservative grassroots candidates, already outmatched organizationally and financially against the GOP establishment on the presidential level, “even less opportunity to break through.”

“I don’t think that is a good thing for the party and I definitely don’t think it’s a good thing for the conservative movement,” said Bossie.

Rush Limbaugh wasn’t happy, either, saying Republican leaders have been “bamboozled” by focus groups. “They think they’ve gotta rebrand and it’s all predictable,” the radio host said. “They gotta reach out to minorities. They gotta moderate their tone here and moderate their tone there. And that’s not at all what they’ve gotta do. The Republican Party lost because it’s not conservative.”

This is probably going to get worse before it gets better — and for a party in transition, it’s a fight that’s probably unavoidable.

Priebus’ plan is not necessarily going to be what the party does in the near future. The RNC’s membership will need to debate and approve any changes, and that will take place over the course of several months, starting in April at the party’s spring meeting in Los Angeles. One assumes those meetings will be quite lively, with the fights playing out in public.

And here’s the kicker: that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the Republican Party really does need to have these fights. At the presidential level, the GOP has lost the national popular vote in five of the last six elections. The electorate has elected a Democratic Senate majority for four consecutive elections. The party hasn’t been this unpopular since Watergate; its ideas are struggling for public support; and with no real leaders, it’s not even clear what the party’s core beliefs are in several key areas.

There are still about 19 months before the midterm elections and nearly three years before the party begins choosing its new standard bearer. This is, in other words, an ideal time for the party to have a knock-down, drag-out fight over what the party intends to be.

It won’t be pleasant, and some party contingents won’t be pleased with the results, but it’s arguably a worthwhile endeavor for the party’s long-term health.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 19, 2013

March 20, 2013 Posted by | Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: