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“Demographic Death Spiral”: 2014 May Be White Enough For The GOP, But What Comes Next?

Overshadowed amid Sarah Palin’s unique interpretation of Dr. Seuss, Wayne LaPierre’s overheated vision of America’s apocalyptic decline, and all of the other craziness at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, Republican pollster Whit Ayres gave a fact-based presentation to the gathering of right-wing activists. What he said should terrify the GOP.

Ayres, whose firm counts the RNC, NRSC, NRCC, and several influential Republican politicians among its clients, appeared on a panel on Saturday to discuss electoral trends and the future of the GOP.

The slides from Ayres’ presentation, which are available on his firm’s website, reiterate something that many Republicans have long warned: America’s changing demographics leave the increasingly white GOP at risk of entering what Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) memorably described as a “demographic death spiral.”

In short, as the Republican pollster explained, the white proportion of the American electorate is declining at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, Republicans are performing much worse among non-white voter groups. If the party doesn’t change something — Ayres suggests immigration reform as a good place to start — it will cease to be viable in national elections.

One particular point in the presentation stood out, however. Turning to the midterm elections, Ayres declared to hearty applause that “we’ve got some good news: We’re going to have a great 2014. We’re going to hold the House, we’re going to pick up the Senate, it’s going to be a great 2014.”

“One of the reasons why,” he explained, “is that the percentage of whites in the electorate is about five points higher in the off-year elections.”

Ayres graph

Perhaps Ayres — who, like most pollsters, does not have a spotless record when it comes to predicting elections — should remember what he said in 2012 before asserting that the whiteness of the midterm electorate will bring his party certain success in 2014. Back then, he explained his party’s failure to elect Mitt Romney as president by noting that “it is a mistake to place rosy assumptions on a likely electorate that are at variance — and substantial variance — with recent history.”

Democrats immediately called foul on the crowd’s warm reception to Ayres’ assertion.

“It says a lot that top Republicans believe that lower minority participation in the electoral process is something to celebrate. They know that when the electorate represents more Americans and more voices, they lose,” DNC Director of Voter Expansion Pratt Wiley said in a statement.

In fairness to Ayres, he made it perfectly clear that Republicans need to diversify their party, instead of relying on shrinking the electorate.

“Some people see it as a problem,” he said of America’s demographic shift. “I see it as a real opportunity.”

“Conservative values of free markets, and limited government, and low taxes, and good education, and reward for hard work appeal across all boundaries regardless of race, color, religion, or national origin,” Ayres argued. “Conservatives can be very successful in the new America if we reach out and adopt an inclusive tone, bring people into our coalition, and aggressively campaign in their communities.”

That theory sounds very good on paper — and very familiar. That’s because it’s almost identical to the RNC’s post-election “autopsy report,” which was released almost exactly one year ago. Back then, the RNC suggested that “if we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity.”

It did not go well.

Indeed, one has to wonder whom Whit Ayres thought he could convince that America’s ascendant minority populations could be a positive development. Certainly not the white nationalist-led group manning an English-only booth at the conference. Or racial provocateur Ann Coulter, who used her CPAC speech to decry the “browning of America,” and warned that if immigration reform passes, “then we organize the death squads for the people who wrecked America.” Or the CPAC attendees who delivered a resounding victory in the conference’s presidential straw poll to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who has spoken out against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Ultimately, Ayres may be right, and the combination of a whiter electorate and a friendly electoral map could deliver a big win for the Republican Party in 2014. But it couldn’t be clearer that the GOP’s broader demographic problem hasn’t been solved — and in fact, it’s actually getting worse.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, March 11, 2014. Graph via

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Elections, GOP | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Outsized Voice”: There’s A Big Difference Between Union Money And Koch Money

For dozens of readers, our editorial this morning on the Democratic criticism of the Koch brothers left out something crucial: the big financial muscle of unions in backing liberal politcians.

“As the editors of The Times must know, unions in America far outspend the Kochs in their funding for Democratic candidates,” wrote Yitzhak Klein of Jerusalem wrote in the comments section. “What Harry Reid is doing is cheap demagoguery. Also this editorial.”

Mr. Klein, like many other commenters (some of whom are prominent) has his figures wrong. As the Washington Post and the Center for Responsive Politics recently reported, unions poured about $400 million into the 2012 elections. That almost matched the $407 million raised and spent by the Koch network in that same election cycle.

But think about what those numbers mean. Two brothers, aided by a small and shadowy group of similarly wealthy donors, spent more than millions of union members. The fortunes of just a few people have allowed them an outsized voice, and they are openly trying to use it to turn control of the Senate to Republicans.

The Koch group Americans for Prosperity has also joined the right-wing drive to reduce union rights and membership around the country, with the goal — made explicit at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference — of muzzling the voice of union members in politics.

The Times has long deplored the vast amount of cash that is polluting politics, whether it comes from the right or left. (And we were critical of a Democratic donor who plans to spend $100 million this year against candidates who ignore climate change.) But for the most part, unions, unlike the Koch network, don’t try to disguise their contributions in a maze of interlocking “social welfare” groups. Their contributions on behalf of candidates or issues may be unlimited, thanks to Citizens United, but they are generally clearly marked as coming from one union or another. (They want Democrats to know which unions raised the money.)

Union members aren’t coerced into giving political money, either, despite the claims of several commenters. Thanks to a 1988 Supreme Court case, workers have the right not to pay for a union’s political activity, and can demand that their dues be restricted to collective bargaining expenses. The union members who contributed to that $400 million pot in 2012 opted into the system.

That’s still too much money. But there’s a world of difference between a small group of tycoons writing huge checks, and a huge group of workers writing small ones.


By: David Firestone, Taking Note, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, March 11, 2014

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Koch Brothers, Unions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Backyard Barbeque To Food Fight”: CPAC, The Right-Wing Woodstock Or A Bad Family Reunion?

Like at a family reunion, the infighting at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) started long before anybody arrived.

First, the group American Atheists announced that it would be sponsoring a booth at the conference, with the goal of bringing conservative nonbelievers “out of the closet.” The religious right was not pleased.

“CPAC’s mission is to be an umbrella for conservative organizations that advance liberty, traditional values and our national defense,” said the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins. But he made clear that atheists would certainly not fit under his umbrella: “Does the American Conservative Union really think the liberties and values they seek to preserve can be maintained when they partner with individuals and organizations that are undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God?” he asked. Good question.

So, the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, gave the atheist group the boot. In response, the atheists showed up anyway to debate attendees in the hallway.

Then there was the perennial problem of the gays. In 2011, religious right groups including the FRC boycotted CPAC after the ACU allowed the conservative LGBT group GOProud to cosponsor the event. Once again, the establishment sided with the religious right and for the next two years banned GOProud from participating. This year, ACU offered a “compromise” in which GOProud was allowed to attend the event but not to so much as sponsor a booth in the exhibition hall. The “compromise” was so insulting that one of GOProud’s founders quit the organization’s board in protest.

But what about the people who were too embarrassingly far-right for CPAC? Not to worry, there’s no such thing.

Although the atheist and LGBT groups were too far off-message for the ACU, it did allow the anti-immigrant group ProEnglish to sponsor a booth at CPAC. Just a quick Google would have told the conference organizers that ProEnglish is run by a zealous white nationalist, Bob Vandervoort. In fact, CPAC’s organizers might have recognized Vandervoort’s name from the uproar his inclusion in the event caused in 2012 and 2013.

Now, just because the ACU was ready to welcome anti-immigrant extremists doesn’t mean that that was enough for immigrant bashers. A group of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim activists who were worried that CPAC was going too soft on their issues organized an alternative conference across the street. One of their concerns was the perennial conspiracy theory that ACU member Grover Norquist is a secret Muslim Brotherhood agent. Another is that CPAC dared to hold a panel featuring immigration reform proponents.

They shouldn’t have worried. Three days of speeches on the CPAC main stage made clear that many prominent conservative activists have no intention of moderating their stance on immigration reform. Donald Trump told the audience that immigrants are “taking your jobs,” Rep. Michele Bachmann said she wouldn’t even consider immigration reform until they “build the danged fence,” and Ann Coulter, never one to disappoint, suggested that if immigration reform passes “we organize the death squads for the people who wrecked America.” Then, there was One America News anchor Graham Ledger, who used the CPAC podium to claim that because of immigration, schools no longer teach “the American culture.”

To be fair, CPAC did make some efforts at opening the Republican umbrella, hosting a panel on minority outreach off the main stage. But the gesture would have been slightly more meaningful if anybody had bothered to show up.

Any family has its squabbles. But this awkward backyard barbeque has turned into a full-fledged food fight.


By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For The American Way; The Huffington Post Blog, March 11, 2014

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, CPAC | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Chris Christie’s Nightmare Worsens”: Walls Caving In Amid New Revelations And Poll

While reporters pondered the meaning of of former Chris Christie aide Bridget Kelly appearing in court personally to fight subpoenas for her email and documents – Why would Kelly show up at all? Might she eventually talk? Why is she wearing a black cardigan and pearls? — the bad news for Christie continued. A Des Moines Register poll shows that Iowa voters are paying attention to Christie’s bridge scandal woes, with 57 percent disapproving of the way he’s handled it and only 25 percent approving.

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey, the damage is even worse. Christie’s approval numbers have flipped in the new Fairleigh Dickinson poll: the man who won reelection in a landslide in November has seen his disapproval ratings spike, and for the first time since his first election, more New Jersey voters disapprove than approve of the job he’s doing as governor. A Rutgers/Eagleton poll also released Tuesday found that trust in Christie has cratered, too: 23 percent of those polled said the word “trustworthy” could be used to describe Christie “very well;” that’s down 20 percent just since October.

In some ways, the Iowa news doesn’t matter much to Christie: it was never going to be a strong Christie state in the 2016 GOP nominating process, since social conservatives dominate its first-in-the-nation caucuses. Christie’s only hope was mobilizing Republican-leaning independents to join the caucuses, a heavy lift in any scenario.

But now even that path seems closed to Christie, as Iowa Independents disapprove of Christie’s bridge-scandal handling 60-20. Among registered Republicans, 47 percent disapprove while 34 percent say he’s doing all right. “If Governor Christie runs, he may choose to follow John McCain and Rudy Giuliani’s path and skip Iowa,” a top Iowa GOP strategist told the Des Moines Register. That worked for McCain, temporarily anyway, but not at all for Giuliani, who was once the towering Christie figure on the GOP horizon – a blue-state Republican tough guy beloved by the media — whose presidential campaign flame-out was a remarkable display of hubris and incompetence.

Still, the most damaging developments for Christie are closer to home. A New York Times investigation published Tuesday shows he’d turned the Port Authority “into a de facto political operation” even before Kelly declared it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”  Christie used big Port Authority projects to win endorsement from Democrats and union leaders, and in a ghoulish touch, even handed out wreckage from the World Trade Center to reward mayors who backed him. Just last week a WNYC-NJ Spotlight investigation revealed that his administration mishandled $25 million in Hurricane Sandy grants, giving huge awards where there was no storm damage, stiffing places with huge flooding problems while, yes, underpaying the city of Hoboken by about $700,000, as Mayor Dawn Zimmer has alleged.

All of this corruption has been hiding in plain sight, but the bridge scandal suddenly helped people connect the dots.

Christie continues to insist he’s putting the mess behind him. He took his son to watch New York Mets spring training baseball over the weekend, then showed up at another local town hall Tuesday, though he hasn’t taken questions from the media since his two-hour pity party in early January. Christie is still being covered like a top-tier 2016 candidate, which, given his competition, is somewhat defensible, I suppose. So it’s hard to ignore the bad Iowa news for Christie, and yet it’s irrelevant. Christie’s national career is over, and his tenure in Trenton is endangered as well.

Back to Bridget Kelly: She may win this round in court, but only because it’s become clear that she has a reasonable fear of federal prosecution for her role in the bridge lane closures. Until this round, committee counsel Reid Schar had denied that Kelly might be incriminating herself if she shared the documents the committee wants. In court Tuesday, he acknowledged that risk but insisted his subpoena was narrow enough to protect Kelly’s Fifth Amendment rights.

But if state investigators don’t get Kelly’s documents, federal prosecutors are likely to. I read Kelly’s black-cardigan-and-pearls appearance in court today as designed to remind everyone that she sacrificed her personal and professional life for Christie, and her reward to date has been enormous legal bills and lots of time with lawyers. It’s hard for me to imagine Kelly taking the fall for her ex-boss. But either way, voters are holding her ex-boss accountable.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, March 11, 2014

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dangerous ‘Intended’ Consequences”: The Laughable Logic Behind Marco Rubio’s Plan To Limit Government Regulation

Republicans like to talk about government in the broadest, most abstract terms—arguing that it’s too big, too intrusive, and too expensive. The argument plays well politically, since the public tends to agree. But it also allows Republicans to avoid talking about real trade-offs—like the fact that government unemployment checks help people pay their bills while they are out of work, or that government guidelines for product safety keep kids safe when they play with toys. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the latest big idea from Republicans is a “national regulatory budget”—a proposal by Senator Marco Rubio that, however sensible sounding, could force government to scale back protections that people very much need.

Under Rubio’s plan, an independent agency would calculate the economic costs of all existing regulations. Congress would then set an upper limit on how much regulations can cost the economy—and use that figure to establish caps for each individual federal agency. What would that mean in practice? Imagine that the Environmental Protection Agency wanted to impose a new regulation on pollution. If the EPA was already at its limit, it would have to rescind an old regulation (or regulations) in order to make room.

“The essence of this proposal is a budget accounting mechanism—a one in requires one out. So one regulation in requires a similar regulation to be repealed,” said Amit Narang, a policy advocate at Public Citizen and an expert on the federal regulatory process. “The premise of the legislation is that we are currently at the perfect level of regulation. We don’t need anymore.”

One of Rubio’s goals is to force regulatory agencies to go back through old regulations and eliminate outdated and costly ones. There’s a strong case for that: Government agencies don’t do this very often and plenty of duplicative, cumbersome regulations exist. But Rubio’s method for forcing agencies to review past regulations is clumsy—and, according to many experts, dangerous. Among other things, the plan requires agencies to eliminate a regulation (or regulations) with the same economic cost as the new one. If the EPA wants to impose a major regulation (such as one on coal-fired power plants), it would have to rollback a significant one in return. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility to imagine this kind of budgetary system resulting in, say, the EPA, in order to put forward new chemical regulations—maybe they would have to repeal old lead regulations,” Narang said.

Rubio seems to think that Congress can set an arbitrary cap on the burden of regulations, at the precise level where agencies can ensure public safety without unduly hurting the economy. “This would force federal agencies to enact only those regulations that truly serve an essential role,” Rubio said in a speech at Google’s Washington D.C. headquarters on Monday. “It would put in place and enshrine the cost-benefit analysis and the regulatory framework that we are lacking right now.” Rubio is right that under his plan, federal agencies would have to evaluate their regulations and repeal the ones that had the worst cost-benefit ratio. But Congress could easily set the cap at a level which would force agencies to eliminate regulations whose benefits exceed their costs. That’s a dangerous unintended (or maybe intended) consequence of his proposal.

The ultimate problem with Rubio’s plan is that it actually has nothing to do with cost-benefit analysis. On the contrary, it sets a cap based solely on the economic costs of regulations, regardless of their benefits. Rubio wants agencies to evaluate the current costs and benefits of old regulations (they already do so with new ones), but he wants to ensure that even if the benefits exceed the costs, federal agencies will be forced to do away with many regulations anyway. Rubio says he wants to ensure a rigorous analysis of our regulatory system. What he really wants to do is rig the game.


By: Danny Vinik, The New Republic, March 11, 2014

March 12, 2014 Posted by | Federal Regulations, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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