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“That Great Untapped Reservoir”: Phyllis Schlafly Urges GOP To Focus On White Voters

Some important divisions among Republican officials surfaced in the wake of the 2012 elections, but most of the party agrees on one over-arching strategy: Republicans are going to have to do better among non-white voters. It’s an increasingly diverse nation, and the GOP’s core base is overwhelmingly white — a problem that appears to be getting worse, not better.

With this in mind, the Republican National Committee is launching yet another minority outreach campaign, and may even end up grudgingly supporting comprehensive immigration reform. The Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, a long-time leader of the religious right movement and anti-feminist activist, is convinced her party has it all wrong.

[I]n an interview this week with conservative radio program Focus Today, Schlafly just came right out and said it. Calling the GOP’s need to reach out to Latinos a “great myth,” Schlafly said that “the people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes, the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election.” Schlafly accused the Republican “establishment” of nominating “a series of losers … who don’t connect with the grassroots.”

Look, this isn’t complicated. White voter turnout rates have been pretty steady over the last few presidential-year election cycles, and both John McCain and Mitt Romney won the support of a majority of white voters. Indeed, it wasn’t especially close — McCain won 55% of the white vote in 2008 (en route to losing the election badly), and Romney did even better, winning 59% of the white vote (en route to losing the election badly).

Schlafly is under the impression that there’s this untapped reservoir of conservative white voters, just sitting at home, waiting for the Republican Party to reach out to them with a message they’ll like, and if Democrats are really lucky, GOP officials will take Schlafly’s advice seriously.

Because as the nation becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, conservative dead-enders who still see an emphasis on white voters as the key to electoral salvation are kidding themselves.

But even if we put these pesky details aside, I have a related question for Schlafly and those who agree with her: exactly what would it look like if Republicans tried even harder to “reach out to … the white votes”? The GOP is already looking an awful lot like the driven snow, so what more can party leaders do, specifically, to make white folks feel even more welcome?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 30, 2013

May 31, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Viciousness Is Over”: Michele Bachmann Wasn’t Funny, She Was Awful

I used to think Michele Bachmann was hilarious, and so did you: I know because you clicked the blog posts that I wrote about her. It didn’t matter what she did. She could make a funny face, pronounce a word incorrectly, pronounce a word correctly—the traffic would always come. She provided a constant fix of comical escapism that readers loved. Like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann was always a sure success.

It became part of the daily routine: Post a 20-second clip of Michele Bachmann saying something silly, secure ten trillion page views, then work on a lengthier piece with actual value that five or six people would read. Many young political writers were able to have their jobs because traffic was heavily subsidized by Michele Bachmann saying something weird at a barbecue in Ames or whatever, everyday.

Many commentators will miss her for this reason. James Carville, for one, called her retirement announcement a “sad day.” Who will deliver the funnies now? Texas Representative Louie Gohmert, Carville suggested. We’ve still got Gohmert. 

Yeah, I don’t know. It’s difficult to call Bachmann’s retirement a “sad” event right now, even with tongue in cheek. Face it: The show had been getting less and less worth watching in recent seasons. Almost entirely infuriating, really, if worth caring about at all. Let’s not remember Michele Bachmann as the goof she got away with portraying for so many years, while she was really doing so much damage. Her “legacy,” which, hope against hope, will eventually prove nil, was a very nasty, egomaniacal one, rife with smears and dark innuendo. The harm she caused to the political culture far outweighs the lift of a daily laugh. Peak Bachmann coincided with her political career’s high-water mark—that period in the summer of 2011, when she briefly led the polls for the Republican presidential nomination, before collapsing. Inflated, perhaps, by her success, she began to flaunt her uglier beliefs. Bachmann’s tumble from the top (which would have happened over one thing or another, eventually) accelerated into free fall during an early September 2011 debate, when she attacked fellow eventual loser Rick Perry over his 2007 gubernatorial mandate for all sixth-grade Texas girls be vaccinated against HPV. There were legitimate angles to work here—Perry’s close ties with a lobbyist from Merck, the pharmaceutical company that made the HPV vaccine Gardasil. She made that point during the debate. Afterwards, however, she went on television to describe her encounter with a woman in the audience:

“She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter,” Bachmann said. “There is no second chance for these little girls if there is any dangerous consequences to their bodies.”

Repeating this without qualification wasn’t just sloppy; it was pernicious and wholly inappropriate. Medical professionals are constantly working to swat back such rumors that embed in the mind quickly and are difficult to erase. And here was a presidential candidate, bizarrely trusted by a not insignificant number of parents, voicing it as truth on national television. That’s not stupidity, or whimsy, or comical ineptness. It’s viciousness. This was the year of the debt ceiling crisis, as well. Perhaps you remember it? It was that fantastic time when Congress considered arbitrarily destroying the credit of the United States and, along with it, the entire global economy, all because Republican politicians thought it would be too much of a hassle to explain what the debt ceiling was to their constituents. (Or, in a scary number of cases, to learn what it was themselves.) Michele Bachmann was a prominent player in that group. And even after the crisis had passed, at the non-fatal but still very avoidable cost of an S&P downgrade of U.S. debt, Bachmann was still out there, explaining to America that she had witnessed the crisis and proudly learned no lessons from it:

“I think we just heard from Standard & Poor’s. When they dropped—when they dropped our credit rating, what they said is, we don’t have an ability to repay our debt. That’s what the final word was from them. I was proved right in my position: We should not have raised the debt ceiling. And instead, we should have cut government spending, which was not done. And then we needed to get our spending priorities in order.”

And so she pledged repeatedly to never sign a debt ceiling hike if she were elected president. To call this position of hers, or her personally, stupid, would have let this off the hook too easily. What if she wasn’t? What if she was just awful? Her most egregious move may have come last summer, when she smeared Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin as being in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood’s perceived attempts to infiltrate “the highest reaches of the federal government.” Her evidence was … limited. She relied upon lunatic sources like Frank Gaffney, who likely checks for Muslims under his bed each night before going to sleep. Per Salon:

In case Abedin hasn’t already been through enough already, Bachmann is now questioning her loyalty to the U.S. by asserting that Abedin has three family members who are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood (Abedin is Muslim). She’s been targeted before by anti-Muslim activists, and Bachmann notes that Abedin’s position “affords her routine access to the Secretary and to policy-making.” Bachmann also claims the state has “taken actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests.”

At some point in the last year, the voters in Bachmann’s district decided that maybe they would be better served by an alternate member of Congress. She won with only 50.4 percent of the vote in 2012, and now, facing a more difficult rematch for 2014, Bachmann is choosing to make the exit on her grounds. Nevertheless, she managed to win a whole four terms to the House of Representatives. What many laughed at for the early years were the same things that others took as reasons to support her candidacies.

Maybe it’s because I no longer have the pleasure of scrambling to meet traffic quotas each day, but right now, I see no cheeky reasons to mourn Bachmann’s loss from public service. She’s not funny anymore. She’s only terrible. Louie Gohmert isn’t funny anymore. Chuck Grassley’s Twitter isn’t funny anymore. Sarah Palin isn’t funny anymore. (Okay, she was sort of funny at CPAC.) If you never thought any of these sure-things were ever even slightly funny, consider our caps doffed. And join us in being content to see that for Bachmann, it’s all over.


By: Jim Newell, The New Republic, May 29, 2013

May 31, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP Opposition Is More About The Man”: The Obamacare Idea Conservatives Should Be Cheering But Aren’t

Obamacare hate is a full-time occupation on the right. But a story from Monday’s New York Times is a reminder that some pieces of the law should have conservatives celebrating, for the same reason they are leaving liberals like me a little queasy.

The story is about Obamacare’s “Cadillac Tax,” which isn’t really a tax so much as a convoluted attempt to undo an existing tax break. To simplify things a bit, the government today doesn’t treat employer health insurance as taxable income. That makes a dollar of insurance worth more than a dollar of wages, giving both employers and employees incentive to load up on insurance.

Most economists think that contributes to rising health care costs, since people with more insurance tend to spend more on medical care. The Cadillac tax would limit the value of the tax break, effectively reducing that incentive and, in theory, reducing health care costs for everybody over the long run. (The mechanism is complicated; read here if you want an explanation of how it works.)

In an ideal world, insurers and employers would respond to the Cadillac tax by finding more efficient ways to pay for care, so that workers would end up with the same access to and quality of medicine. They’d just pay a little less for it. One way to accomplish this would be to switch employees over to a smartly managed care insurance plan—think Kaiser Permanente, where the physicians and nurses coordinate with each other, focusing on the most effective treatments and long-term health of the patient.

In the real world, alas, employers frequently find it easier just to shift costs over to their employees. They change their plan benefits, so that workers pay more for each prescription, hospital visit, and the like. The Times story, by Reed Abelson, suggests employers are doing just that.

It’s difficult to pinpoint how much the Cadillac Tax is responsible for these shifts, given that employers were looking for ways to shift costs long before Obamacare came long. The tax doesn’t start to phase in until 2018. And the Congressional Budget Office, in its most recent revision of projections on Obamacare, said that it now expects fewer plans to hit the tax threshold when it first takes effect. Still, employers are certainly talking about the tax. (I’ve heard the same chatter.) If employers are reducing their coverage in response, then—as Matthew Yglesias notes—it’s working precisely as the economists predicted it would.

That doesn’t mean the change is popular. People don’t like to hear that they’ll have to pay more the next time they go to the doctor. Unions are particularly wary of the change, since many of their members fought hard for the generous financial protection that the Cadillac Tax will curb. But the real danger is for the chronically ill, who run up huge medical bills year after year—and for whom higher out-of-pocket expenses can be a real hardship. The Times article focuses on one such person—a woman with cystic fibrosis who said she had to drop out of school and take a second job, in order to pay the bills from her higher deductibles.

Liberals who support or at least tolerate the Cadillac Tax do so because the economists have convinced us it might truly reduce costs in the long run. We also know that other parts of Obamacare, like tax credits for purchasing insurance and guarantees of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, will help the sick and the poor far more than the Cadillac tax will hurt them.Conservatives can’t stand this kind of spending and regulation, of course. But they should have no such hostility to the Cadillac tax.

On the contrary, writers like James Capretta and Robert Moffit have long called for reducing or eliminating the tax breaks for employer sponsored insurance. They subscribe to the same economic logic that compelled Obamacare’s architects to include the provision in the first place—that, without the favorable tax treatment, employers and insurers will be more thrifty. The only difference is that conservatives think the tax incentives are even more central to the cost issue than liberals do. And, unlike liberals, conservatives don’t seem particularly troubled by the implications for the chronically ill. Either that, or conservatives do a remarkably good job of disguising their anxiety.

The Cadillac Tax will not work as quickly or smoothly as conservatives would prefer. And that’s fair grounds for criticism. But surely the concept deserves a kind word or two somewhere on the right—unless, perhaps, opposition to Obamacare is less about what’s in the law and more about who signed it.


By: Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic, May 28, 2013

May 31, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What’s Eating The Left’s Media?”: Wake Up Liberals, For Conservatives It’s Always The Eleventh Hour

The liberal media may be in a funk. MSNBC is getting some of its worst ratings in years, and Digby tells us that liberal blogs have experienced serious declines in traffic since the election as well. So why might this be happening?

There are two answers, neither of which would give you much solace if your job depended on raising TV ratings or bringing in more ad revenue for your web site. The first is that outside events, in the form of the natural ebb and flow of the political world, have conspired against the liberal media. The second is that the model—liberals talking about politics—is affected by that ebb and flow in a way conservative media aren’t.

Let’s take a quick look at the last decade or so in the life of liberalism. If we go back to the early stages of the Bush administration, we see liberals getting riled up just at a time when the Internet as a source of news and political engagement began to come of age. George Bush started an insane war in 2003, then there was an election in 2004. Then there was an extraordinary amount of ferment on the left as the direction of the Democratic party and progressivism itself was being argued over. Then there was an economic crisis and another election. Then in the first couple of years of the Obama administration, there were hugely consequential policy battles over economic stimulus and health-care reform. Then you had the rise of a political movement made up of fascinatingly, terrifyingly crazy people, and then another presidential election. All that happened without much pause, ten solid years of important political events that had liberals alternately excited and angered. When people are excited and angered, they read more and watch more. And so liberal media thrived across many platforms, and MSNBC, which had once given shows to the likes of Tucker Carlson, Pat Buchanan, Michael Savage, and Alan Keyes, made a decision that stepping in the direction of becoming a left version of Fox News could be good business.

But look where we are now. The policy arguments we’re having don’t seem as earthshaking. Enough has happened that liberals’ ideas about President Obama are complex and ambivalent. The next election seems a long way off. Republicans have succeeded in ginning up some faux-scandals, but none of them seems a real threat to the President, so they don’t look worth getting too worked up over. So is it any surprise that liberals don’t feel the need to read 20 blogs a day and watch five hours of cable news?

Furthermore, liberal media just aren’t built to be sustainable through any political environment the way conservative media are. Look at Fox News, which continues to lead its competitors in the ratings, and probably always will. The reason is that there is a symbiosis between the network’s perspective and its viewers’ predilections. If you watch Fox (or listen to conservative talk radio, for that matter) you’ll hear each and every day that the grand battle is going on right now, no matter what may actually be happening. You thought the election was the critical moment, my friend? Nay. The crisis has only grown since then. The fate of everything you hold dear is about to be decided. The crisis is at hand. Catastrophe is upon us if we don’t stop the liberals. Thus it is today, just as it was yesterday, and just as it will be tomorrow. Every liberal proposal is the End of Freedom, every liberal politician the most terrifying villain America has ever seen.

Fox’s continued success is a testament to the fact that anger is what keeps their audience coming back. As Palpatine says to Anakin, “I can feel your anger. It gives you focus. Makes you stronger.” If anger wasn’t attractive to them, they wouldn’t keep watching. Liberals look at shows like Bill O’Reilly’s or Sean Hannity’s and wonder how a person could possibly enjoy all that rage and contempt, night after night after night. But they do. As Alex Pareene says, “do you know who watches cable news all day? And at prime time? When there’s not an election on, or a war, or some terrorism? Older conservative people.” For them, it’s always the eleventh hour.

But what is the grand battle in which liberals are now engaged? For the first time in a decade, there isn’t one. Sure, you can make a reasonable case that the next three years are going to be decisive for the liberal project. But it doesn’t feel that urgent to liberals. They may find a thoughtful discussion of economic inequality moderated by Chris Hayes to be interesting, but if they miss it, it won’t seem like that big a deal. So at least some of them are tuning out.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 30, 2013

May 31, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Regrettable Indeed”: John McCain’s Allies In Syria Are Suspected Terrorist’s Who’ve Sworn Allegiance To Al Qaeda

A couple of weeks ago, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was stressing his position for U.S. policy in Syria: the senator wants the U.S. to provide Syrian rebels with extensive support, including “heavy weapons.” ABC’s Martha Raddatz reminded the senator that some of these Syrian rebels are terrorist who’ve sworn their allegiance to al Qaeda.

McCain said it’s a “legitimate” question, but he wants to support them anyway. After all, he said, “there aren’t that many” terrorists among the Syrian rebels he wants to give “heavy weapons” to.

Just two weeks later, McCain quietly traveled to Syria, and his office distributed photos from his visit to news organizations. One image, in particular, has generated some unexpected attention.

Senator John McCain’s office is pushing back against reports that while visiting Syria this week he posed in a photo with rebels who kidnapped 11 Lebanese Shi’ite pilgrims.

The photo, released by McCain’s office, shows McCain with a group of rebels. Among them are two men identified in the Lebanese press as Mohamed Nour and Abu Ibrahim, two of the kidnappers of the group from Lebanon.

McCain’s office insists the senator was not aware that he’d met with Nour and Ibrahim — if they are, in fact, the men in the photograph — and they had not been identified as such during his trip. The spokesperson added that if McCain had unknowingly met with kidnappers, “that is regrettable.”

It is, indeed.

McCain’s office went on to tell BuzzFeed that it “would be ludicrous to suggest that the Senator in any way condones the kidnapping of Lebanese Shia pilgrims or has any communication with those responsible. Senator McCain condemns such heinous actions in the strongest possible terms.”

And to be clear, I don’t think anyone has suggested McCain is somehow sympathetic towards kidnappers. Rather, the point is the senator is eager to provide extensive resources to Syrian rebels, but he may not fully appreciate who his new allies are.

McCain added some additional thoughts on the subject last night.

When [Anderson Cooper] asked McCain how weapons would be prevented from falling into the hands of extremists, the senator said extremist fighters compose a small fraction of Syria’s rebel forces: 7,000 pro-al Qaeda fighters from the al-Nusra front among some 100,000 insurgents.

“Every single day, more and more extremists flow in … but they still do not make up a sizable portion,” McCain told Cooper. “We can identify who these people are. We can help the right people.”

Maybe, maybe not. But whether McCain can say with certainty who the “right people” are is very much in doubt.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 30, 2013

May 31, 2013 Posted by | Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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