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“The Vote To Free The Hostages”: Unreasonable Conservatism Remains A Majority Proposition In The House Republican Conference

It was a foregone conclusion that the bill to end the manufactured fiscal crisis would sail through Congress once Ted Cruz foreswore a filibuster and John Boehner abandoned the “Hastert Rule.” The actual votes were anticlimactic, but still interesting.

The eighteen Senate Republicans who voted against the bill were far short of what it would have taken to sustain a filibuster, obviously. But still, the “nays” included all three senators thought to be mulling a 2016 presidential campaign (Cruz, Paul and Rubio), plus one previously mainstream senator facing a right-bent primary challenge (Enzi).

The 285-144 House vote showed why abandonment of the Hastert Rule was necessary. Actually, the 87 Republican votes cast for the bill (as against 144 GOP “nays”) was higher than most people anticipated. But it showed that unreasonable conservatism remains a majority proposition in the House Republican Conference.

The only “yea” vote that surprised me was that of Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. But I’m guessing he really, really wanted to get money fully flowing to the Pentagon. More predictably, all three House members from Georgia running for the Senate voted “nay,” as did the putative GOP Senate candidate from Louisiana, Bill Cassidy. Shelley Moore Capito, the likely GOP Senate nominee from WV, voted for the bill.

At TNR Nate Cohn has some interesting insta-analysis of the GOP vote patterns in the House, noting that it was a lot like the “fiscal cliff” vote in January.

The underlying divisions are similar to the fiscal cliff vote, as well. Last January, commentators marveled at the outlines of a GOP civil war, between north and south, tea party and establishment. Tonight, red state and Southern representatives voted overwhelmingly against the Senate compromise: 27-91 in the red states, 25-88 among Southern representatives. Republicans from the Northeast and Pacific voted “yes” by 30-16 margin; the blue states voted “yes,” 32-17.

Cohn also notes that House GOPers with distinctly less ideologically conservative voting records and those from very marginal districts voted overwhelmingly for the deal. But any way you slice it, the majority of the Conference voted to continue a government shutdown and a debt limit threat that were not working very well for the GOP or for the country.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 17, 2013

October 20, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, GOP, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Revisionist History Mistrial”: Jim DeMint’s Silly Argument On Obamacare Was Soundly Overruled

The Heritage Foundation’s Jim DeMint – the proto Ted Cruz – has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this morning where he makes the case against Obamacare and explains why his organization pushed Cruz and the tea party right to shut down the government (and, presumably, why Cruz is threatening to try to do it again). Most of it is pretty standard anti-Obamacare fare, but one section is worth noting for its casual dismissal of last year’s election results.

Responding to the notion that Republicans should lay off Obamacare because the president won and they lost last November, DeMint writes:

… ObamaCare was not the central fight in 2012, much to the disappointment of conservatives. Republicans hoped that negative economic news would sweep them to victory, and exit polls confirmed that the economy, not health care, was the top issue. The best thing is to declare last year’s election a mistrial on ObamaCare.

Sorry, but you don’t get to declare a mistrial on election results because you don’t like them.

First, this raises the obvious question: Would DeMint entertain a similar argument against repealing Obamacare were Mitt Romney president right now? If negative economic news had indeed swept the GOP to victory, would anyone on the right find credible the argument that because the economy, not Obamacare, had been the big issue of the campaign, the GOP had no business trying to roll back the law?

Of course they would not – because the mistrial argument is silly. It’s true that exit polls showed the economy to be overwhelmingly the biggest issue of the campaign, with 59 percent of voters citing it as their top issue and health care a distant second at 18 percent. But there’s a difference between something being the driving issue of the campaign and being the only one. Voters didn’t cast their ballots in an issue void and it’s not like Obamacare was some sub-rosa topic that wasn’t properly litigated. It was the focus of politics for most of President Obama’s first term. Mitt Romney made it a mainstay of his campaign and ran ads on it.

So the fact that voters had bigger concerns isn’t grounds for a mistrial, but instead is a clarifying fact about their priorities. Last November, voters, having had years to digest the Obamacare wars, decided that the law isn’t the existential crisis that DeMint, Cruz and their ilk do and also decided to rehire the fellow who instituted it. Oh, and among the 18 percent of voters who did name health care as their top priority, three-quarters voted for President Obama.

I suppose there is one positive to come out of DeMint’s op-ed. By arguing that elections don’t count when it comes to secondary issues, he’s implicitly saying that elections do have consequences in regard to the top issue. That being the case, I look forward to DeMint and the Heritage Foundation graciously ending their opposition to President Obama’s economic agenda.

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, October 18, 2013

October 20, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The President’s Pivot”: The Tactical Move To Immigration Reform Is Brilliant, And Republicans Know It

“Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.”

That quote, from Sun Tzu’s ancient Chinese treatise “The Art of War,” perfectly captures President Obama’s strategic victory over Tea Party members of Congress on the government shutdown and the debt ceiling debate. It also explains his immediate pivot to another topic that Tea Partyers hate and over which their obstinacy is likely to get the party hammered again: comprehensive immigration reform.

This is a brilliant tactical move on the president’s part. And Republicans know it.

As the G.O.P. was nearing its moment of collapse on the shutdown and debt ceiling, Representative Raúl Labrador, Republican of Idaho, said, “I think it’d be crazy for the House Republican leadership to enter into negotiations with him on immigration.” He continued: “And I’m a proponent of immigration reform. So I think what he’s done over the last two and a half weeks — he’s trying to destroy the Republican Party. And I think that anything we do right now with this president on immigration will be with that same goal in mind: which is to try to destroy the Republican Party and not to get good policies.”

The conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer laid out the president’s calculus more bluntly on Fox News: “With immigration, he wins either way. I’m not sure he thinks he can get it passed, seeing the resistance among the Republicans to the deal over the budget. I think he knows he’s not going to have a good chance of getting immigration through, but he thinks — and he’s probably right — that he can exploit this for the midterm election as a way to gin up support, for the Democrats to portray the Republicans as anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic, etc.”

Republicans have a tough choice.

They can ride shotgun once again with the politically suicidal Tea Party faction, a group that the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found this week to be “less popular than ever.” They can allow the most strident voices on the far right that oppose comprehensive immigration reform — Rush Limbaugh has likened it to the Republican Party’s “authoring its demise” — to direct their path and further alienate Hispanic voters, who are increasingly coming to see the party as an unwelcoming place. Mitt Romney lost the Hispanic vote by 44 points last year, and the Republican National Committee’s own autopsy on that loss surmised:

“If Hispanic Americans perceive that a G.O.P. nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e., self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence. It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”

Or Republicans can take the less likely path and demonstrate that they’ve been cowed enough to move ahead on a major piece of legislation that is supported by the majority of the American people — a July Gallup poll found that 71 percent of Americans believe that passing immigration reform is important. And that would be good not just for the president’s legacy but for the health of the country as a whole.

In a 2012 paper published by the Cato Institute, Raúl Hinojosa Ojeda, director of the North American Integration and Development Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, used computing models to estimate the following:

“Comprehensive immigration reform generates an annual increase in U.S. G.D.P. of at least 0.84 percent. This amounts to $1.5 trillion in additional G.D.P. over 10 years. It also boosts wages for both native-born and newly legalized immigrant workers.”

Comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing and the thing that Americans want. But the far right is hardly concerned with what’s right and has little appetite for agreeing with the will of the majority of the American people (despite talking ad nauseam about standing up for the American people).

The far right is angry at the government and the man at the top of it. According to a Pew Research report released Friday: “Anger at the federal government is most pronounced among Tea Party Republicans. Fully 55 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who agree with the Tea Party say they are angry with the federal government — about double the percentage among non-Tea Party Republicans (27 percent) and Democrats and Democratic leaners (25 percent).”

They have been blinded by that anger. The president knows that. And he knows that blind soldiers don’t often win battles. In choosing to pivot to immigration reform, he has created a win-win scenario for himself and the Democrats. Clever, clever.


By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 18, 2013

October 20, 2013 Posted by | Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Country For Old Tea Partiers”: Conservatives Who Caused The Shutdown Must Make Peace With Themselves And Modern America

Fareed Zakaria has a very sharp op-ed in the Washington Post this week dissecting conservatism’s longtime “diet of despair” and how conservatism’s traditional rhetoric of “decay, despair and decline” has created an anti-American mentality among the set that very self-consciously claims to love the country more than everyone else.

But one section in particular crystalized something that has been nagging me over the last few weeks, especially when tea party conservatives denounce compromise and deal-making as if they are bad things, when the smug Ted Cruz goes on about waging a “multi-stage, extended battle” to change Washington or, as Zakaria notes, John Boehner utters with exasperation that “the federal government has spent more than what it has brought in in 55 of the last 60 years!”

Zakaria’s reply is spot on:

But what has been the result over these past 60 years? The United States has grown mightily, destroyed the Soviet Union, spread capitalism across the globe and lifted its citizens to astonishingly high standards of living and income. Over the past 60 years, America has built highways and universities, funded science and space research, and – along the way – ushered in the rise of the most productive and powerful private sector the world has ever known.

I asked half-kiddingly the other day why conservatives are trying to convince markets not to invest in the United States (“the markets should be terrified of a country that is trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars in debt,” according to Heritage Action’s Michael Needham, for example), but there’s as much truth as humor to the question.

As Zakaria puts it, the conservatives who spurred the recent government shutdown (and, let’s remember, voted against both reopening it and against the U.S. paying its bills) must make peace with modern America:

They are misty-eyed in their devotion to a distant republic of myth and memory yet passionate in their dislike of the messy, multiracial, quasi-capitalist democracy that has been around for half a century – a fifth of our country’s history. At some point, will they come to recognize that you cannot love America in theory and hate it in fact?

They may, but it won’t be soon. This is why less than a year after getting beaten soundly in last November’s elections, the conservative fringe shut down the government and threatened to force a national default as part of a quixotic, suicide-run quest to roll back a law it couldn’t stop using the ordinary legislative process. And it had the gall to claim the mantel of “the American people” as they did it.

As I wrote last November:

Think about the animating faction of the GOP in the Obama era – a group conservative in the literal sense of being angry with and afraid of change. These are the people who would show up at Tea Party rallies toting signs about the need to “Take Back America.” For four years they were assured by the conservative entertainment complex that restoring the America they grew up in was a real possibility. The vertiginous changes remaking the land could be ascribed to Barack Obama, an illegitimate fluke of a president who won only because of a one-off surge of young and minority voters powered by excitement about his historic nature and vapid “hopey–changey” rhetoric. He was “Barack the Magic Negro,” in Rush Limbaugh’s formulation. He was, simultaneously, helpless without his teleprompter but also a radical instituting a nefarious plan to sap America of its God-given freedoms.

He was the problem; real America was the solution.

The 2012 elections shattered that illusion. Obama was only a symptom of changes in the country, not the cause. Inexorable demographics have relegated the Tea Party’s America to memory. So ask yourself, how are those voters likely to react? A warm embrace of the new America? Or, faced with an unacceptable reality, will they retrench in their fantasy and double down on crazy and angry?

We’ve seen an initial double-down. Its failure won’t stop more of the same – the question is whether the rest of the GOP will keep indulging the hardliners.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, October 18, 2013

October 20, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Government Shut Down, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Invincible Arrogance”: Ted Cruz’s Conceit And Fringe Politics Is A Recipe For A Very Scary Personality

Since we are for the time being required to think of Sen. Ted Cruz as a significant force in American politics, it’s helpful now and then to consider how the world looks from his perspective. TPM’s Josh Marshall suspects that being told his whole life how incredibly smart he is has not been good for his character:

[B]ack when he showed up at Harvard Law School in 1992, he stunned his fellow classmates by putting up flyers around campus for an ‘elite study group’ with the instructions ‘only magnas from top Ivys need apply.’ In other words, at a place where arrogance is like air and self-awareness a precious commodity, Cruz managed to stand out on day one as a triple-ply arrogant ass.

Cruz never seems to have grasped that there are people every bit as sharp as him who didn’t go to an Ivy League School (even a ‘top Ivy’). My read on Cruz, from talking to people who knew him very well in college and law school, is that he’s so confirmed in his belief in his own rectitude and genius that he’s likely impervious to what most of us would interpret as rejection or failure. This didn’t work? Well, too many stupid people or cowards who didn’t flock to my banner. That seemed to be the gist of his speech before the vote. And my guess it wasn’t just puffing but represented his genuine belief.

Moreover, in a “populist” wing of the Republican Party that is very self-conscious about its lack of ethnic diversity, its transparent anti-intellectualism, and its tendency to lionize pols that are aggressively proud of their ignorance, Cruz has been an all-purpose antidote, and hears more testimony to his brilliance every day than most very smart people hear in a lifetime.

His situation reminds me of the central character in Walker Pecy’s novel Lancelot, who gets an unearned reputation for brilliance among his teammates on the LSU football team:

Being “smart” on the football team meant that you read Time magazine and had heard of the Marshall Plan. (“You don’t believe he can tell you about the Marshall Plan? Ask him! He’s one more smart sapsucker.”) They, my teammates, admired “smartness” more than anybody I’ve met before or since.

Now add in the fact that Ted Cruz happens to espouse a political philosophy (and for that matter, a religious faith) based on a very rigid concept of what’s right and wrong at all times and in all circumstances, along with Cruz’s legendary rhetorical skills, and you have a recipe for a very scary personality.

I once read a letter to the editor from a man who explained that in opposing legalized abortion and homosexuality he was expressing “the mind of God.” “Now that’s self-confidence,” I thought. Add into that equation a mind that’s used to being described as almost God-like, and invincible arrogance–if not an actual God Complex–will be the result every single time.

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 18, 2013

October 20, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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