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“Wins When It Wins, Wins When It Loses”: The Tea Party May Be Losing Races, But It’s Actually Winning

While there are still a few primaries remaining this year, yesterday saw one of the last seemingly vulnerable prominent Republicans, Kansas senator Pat Roberts, prevail over his Tea Party opponent by eight points — not an easy victory, but not a nail-biter either. GOP House incumbents facing challenges from the right also won their races. Over the course of this primary season, the Tea Party has been able to claim only one significant victory, unseating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

From that, you might conclude that the Tea Party is waning, beaten back by a Republican establishment determined to rid itself of this meddlesome faction. But the truth is that in some ways the movement continues to get stronger.

The Tea Party wins when it wins, and it wins when it loses. Five years after it began and long after many people (myself included) thought it would fade away, it continues to hold the GOP in its grip. For a bunch of nincompoops prancing around in tricorner hats, it’s quite a remarkable achievement.

Republican incumbents found a variety of ways to overcome Tea Party challenges this year. Roberts did it with some old-fashioned opposition research — if his opponent, a radiologist, hadn’t posted gruesome X-rays of his patients on Facebook, he might well be on his way to the Senate. Lindsey Graham got conservative primary voters to look past some occasional moderation by going on TV every day to enact a kabuki of outrage at Barack Obama’s alleged betrayal of America on Benghazi, Syria, and whatever else he could think of. Thad Cochran expanded the electorate, exploiting a quirk in Mississippi election law that allowed him to convince Democrats to vote in his runoff.

The only one who didn’t succeed was Cantor, and that was largely because he ignored the threat until it was too late. But just about every time, what the incumbent had to do in order to win ended up strengthening the Tea Party, usually because it involved moving to the right (at least rhetorically, if not substantively) to survive. Even Cochran could end up helping them in the end, by convincing them that the only way they can be beaten is through sneakiness and ideological treason. Tea Partiers now look at Mississippi and see only a reason to keep up the fight.

That’s the magic of an insurgent movement like the Tea Party. A win strengthens it by showing its members that victories are possible if they fight hard enough. And because the movement has organized itself around the idea of establishment Republican betrayal, its losses only further prove that it’s doing the right thing. Furthermore, if ordinary Republicans have to become Tea Partiers to beat Tea Partiers (even if only for a while), the movement’s influence is greater, not less. Ed Kilgore noted a couple of the things Roberts had to do in order to win:

He voted against an appropriations measure that included a project he had long sought for his alma mater, Kansas State University, and opposed a UN Treaty banning discrimination against people with disabilities over the objections of his revered Kansas Senate predecessors Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum.

So they may not have replaced Roberts with a Tea Partier, but by making him afraid enough to move to the right, they did the next best thing.

As I said, I used to think this movement was going to wither and die. Today though, it’s hard to see its power waning anytime soon. If it ends up winning even when it loses at the polls, there’s no reason why it can’t go on for a long time, so long as it finds enough support within the Republican base and enough incumbent Republicans who fear it.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; Published at The Plum Line, The Washington Post, August 6, 2014

August 7, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Right Wing, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rush Limbaugh And Impressionable Young Minds”: Coming Soon To An Elementary School Near You?

Last year, radio host Rush Limbaugh published a children’s book called Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims. For those unfamiliar with it, msnbc’s Traci G. Lee reported a while back that the book “tells the story of a fictional history teacher named Rush Revere, who travels back in time to experience the pilgrims’ journey to America and their first Thanksgiving in the New World.”

A year later, Conor Friedersdorf reports that at least one third-grade teacher has embraced the book to teach children about, of all things, the Civil War.

A woman named Ivy, an elementary-school teacher from Summerville, South Carolina, is using material from a Rush Limbaugh book as part of the history curriculum for her third graders. Her husband alerted her to the children’s title, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time Travel Adventures With Brave Americans. She read it immediately. “And I said, ‘Okay, how am I gonna incorporate this book into the classroom?’ because the kids need to hear it,” she explained during a Wednesday call to Rush Limbaugh’s program. “They need to read this book.”

She recognized just one problem. “The dilemma is that we don’t teach the Pilgrims in the third grade,” she said. But a popular talk-radio host had written a book! The mere fact that it covered a period of history her students weren’t learning about wasn’t going to dissuade her from getting Limbaugh into the classroom.

The teacher, who called into Limbaugh’s show today, apparently explained, “So what I decided to do was to use your author’s note that explains the principles of the founders in our country as a way to introduce the Civil War. And from there, I decided, well, I’m gonna go ahead and read a little bit of this book ‘cause I need these kids to get excited about it. Even if I can’t finish it, I’ll give a book talk and then they can go out to the library and get it, and so forth.”

I guess the teacher deserves credit for creativity, if nothing else. “Ivy” is taking a Rush Limbaugh book about a talking horse on the deck of the Mayflower to teach kids about the Civil War, which took place more than two centuries later.

How? Because of American exceptionalism, of course.

As Friedersdorf’s piece went on to explain, the teacher told Rush, “[B]ecause of what you said in the book and the way that you explained the Founders’ passion for our country, it was because of that that slavery inevitably was abolished.”

Seriously? A school teacher responsible for instructions on history actually thinks this way? Does she not know what the Founders did on the issue of slavery?

After his chat with “Ivy” and before a commercial break, Limbaugh told listeners, “For people like Obama and Eric Holder, I believe – and there will never be any way to prove this because they would never admit this – but I believe that there is a genuine, long held, deeply felt contempt for the Constitution. And it’s all about slavery…. That’s the chip on their shoulder.”

Coming soon to an elementary school near you?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 6, 2014

August 7, 2014 Posted by | Civil War, Founding Fathers, Rush Limbaugh | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Dumbest Affectation In Congress”: Members Making A Statement Of Their ‘Contempt For Washington’

There are a lot of stupid things members of Congress do to show the folks back home that though they moved hell and high water to get their jobs in Washington, D.C., they find everything about the place repugnant and despicable, and can’t wait to get away. But there are few pieces of posturing more inane than the decision to sleep in your Capitol Hill office as a demonstration that you haven’t gone native like all those sellouts with their apartments and closets and bathrooms.

I can see how a newly elected member might decide to sleep in her office while she gets settled and looks for a place. And being in Congress can be financially and logistically taxing, particularly for those who come from the West coast—you have to maintain two homes, and are expected to fly back nearly every weekend to shake hands at the county fair and pose for pictures at the senior center. But in the last few years it’s become de rigueur, particularly among Tea Partiers, to make a statement of their contempt for Washington by making their office their home, sleeping on a couch and showering at the House gym—and making sure that everybody hears about it. And now, according to the Wall Street Journal, female Republican members are getting into the act, and I do mean act:

Reps. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Lynn Jenkins of Kansas and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington are believed to be the first congresswomen to bunk in their offices, joining the ranks of lawmakers eschewing rent and a commute for an air mattress and showers at one of the congressional gyms. Like their male counterparts, the women are forgoing beds, bathtubs and home-cooked meals primarily to save money and maximize efficiency—and for some, to also make a political point—on the four days a week they generally spend in Washington. All three previously lived in apartments, not always close to the Capitol…

Male lawmakers have been bunking desk-side for decades, a practice that surged after Republicans took control of the House in 1995 and again in 2011, after the tea-party wave. Their ranks now are thought to top about two dozen. Some lawmakers like Reps. Noem and Jenkins also say crashing in the office sends a message to constituents: They don’t plan to appear too settled in Washington.

“It was never my goal to come to DC and be comfortable,” said Mrs. Noem, a deputy for the new majority whip.

Oh, spare me. If you’re doing it because you don’t want to get too settled in Washington, then I assume you won’t be running for re-election, right? I thought so.

I’ll grant that as far as affectations go, this one certainly takes commitment. But how exactly is sleeping in your office supposed to keep you connected with the real America? What’s going to make you more “out of touch,” getting an apartment so you can have a good night’s sleep when you’re doing the people’s business, or literally never leaving Capitol Hill? Is signing a one-year lease on a studio going to suddenly make you change your views on deficit spending or tax cuts or the next trade deal? If it is, your constituents probably shouldn’t have elected you in the first place.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 6, 2014

August 7, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Republicans | , , , , | 1 Comment

“24 Health-Care Scandals”: Legislators Who Block Medicaid Expansion Are Stiffing Veterans Out Of Health Care, And Stiffing Workers Out Of Jobs

The scandal over long wait times for veterans in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system has grabbed a lot of headlines and elicited a lot of righteous anger — as it should. America’s veterans deserve so much better.

But as Ezra Klein pointed out in a piece in Vox, there’s another health care scandal that also deserves its share of righteous anger, and it also has a big impact on veterans with health care needs: the self-destructive refusal of lawmakers in 20-plus states to accept federal funds to expand their Medicaid programs.

Klein cataloged “24 health-care scandals that critics of the VA should also be furious about” (that is, the 24 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion). Thanks to lawmakers’ knee-jerk opposition to expanding health coverage in those states, there are huge numbers of uninsured veterans who should be eligible for coverage, but aren’t: 41,200 veterans in Florida, 24,900 in Georgia, 48,900 in Texas… and the list goes on.

All in all, about 250,000 uninsured veterans are getting stiffed out of eligibility for health coverage by lawmakers who have blocked Medicaid expansion, according to Pew’s Stateline. As it turns out, those lawmakers are also stiffing their own states out of economy-boosting jobs — health care jobs that are overwhelmingly good-paying jobs. Medicaid expansion would create thousands more of these jobs.

Virginia, where Medicaid expansion still hangs in limbo, is a perfect example. According to a report from Chmura Economics & Analytics, Medicaid expansion would create an average of over 30,000 jobs annually in Virginia, including more than 15,000 jobs in the state’s health care sector. An analysis of data on projected job openings and wage levels underscores that these will be good-paying, economy-boosting jobs.

For a single adult in Virginia, less than half of all projected job openings statewide pay above a living wage ($18.59/hour, according to the 2013 Virginia Job Gap Study). However, three out of five health care job openings and close to nine out of 10 health practitioner and technical job openings do.

For a household with two working adults and two children, while less than two out of five projected job openings in Virginia pay median wages above a living wage ($21.99/hour per worker), half of health care job openings and more than seven out of 10 health practitioner and technical job openings do.

Or look at Maine, where Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan passed by the Maine Legislature earlier this year, and too few Republican legislators were willing to break ranks with the Governor to override his veto. There, Medicaid expansion would create over 4,000 jobs by 2016, including more than 2,000 jobs in Maine’s health care sector. As with Virginia, health care jobs beat statewide wage levels in Maine by wide margins.

For a single adult, less than half of all projected job openings in Maine pay above a living wage ($15.18/hour, according to the 2013 Maine Job Gap Study). But two-thirds of health care job openings and almost nine out of 10 health practitioner and technical job openings do. For a household with two working adults and two children, while barely one-third of projected job openings in Maine pay above a living wage ($18.87/hour per worker), almost three-fifths of health care job openings and more than four out of five health practitioner and technical job openings do.

Health care jobs are also overwhelmingly higher-wage jobs in states like Montana and Idaho. But all these states, along with 20 others, have been missing out on these economy-boosting jobs because their legislatures or governors have rejected Medicaid expansion.

State lawmakers who continue to block Medicaid expansion do so at their own peril — both morally and electorally. Because you can only stiff your own constituents — including low-income, uninsured veterans — out of both access to health care and good-paying, economy-boosting jobs for so long before it catches up with you.

Want to really do something to help veterans get access to the health care they need and create good-paying jobs for your constituents at the same time? Two words: expand Medicaid.


By: LeeAnn Hall, Executive Director, The Alliance For A Just Society; The Huffington Post Blog, August 6, 2014

August 7, 2014 Posted by | Medicaid Expansion, Paul LePage, Veterans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“All Too Convenient”: Claiming “Obama Is Caesar” Is Sexier Than Saying “Steve King Is Right”

Ross Douthat premised his Sunday New York Times column on the assumption that President Obama’s expected plan to extend deportation protections to millions of undocumented immigrants would be an illegal exercise of executive power. An act of “Caesarism.” This seemed all too convenient, I responded, since the details of the plan don’t even exist and won’t for several weeks.

Douthat has now explained his assumption more fully.

It’s an article of faith among most conservatives that Obama’s existing deferred action program for so-called Dreamers (DACA) is itself illegal. Douthat was silent about DACA in his column, but followed up Monday by noting that he, too, believes DACA 1.0 was a (presumably unlawful) “abuse of power.” Which means his original argument wasn’t fallacious. It was just mistaken. Or probably mistaken, anyhow.

I’ll concede to Douthat that if we assume President Obama’s existing deferred action program is illegal, then expanding it by an order of magnitude would be illegal, tooand worse in the same way that murdering 10 people is worse than murdering just one person. But we shouldn’t assume that.

Douthat bases his conclusion that DACA is illegal on a simplistic reductio argument: If Obama can announce non-enforcement of immigration laws for a subset of unauthorized immigrants and grant them work permits, then “President Rand Paul [could announce] that, because Congress won’t reform sentencing as he desires, he’s issuing permits to domestic cocaine and heroin dealers exempting them from drug laws and ordering the DEA to only arrest non-citizen smugglers and release any American involved in cartel operations.” That would be absurd and obviously lawlessergo DACA must be lawless, too. This is presented as a companion to a similar argument, originally put forth by Reihan Salam on the National Review‘s website. But Salam has since deleted that piece. In its place, Salam wrote this post, in which he appears, upon more rigorous inspection, to reluctantly concede DACA’s legality. Or at least to play footsie with the idea that DACA is legal.

“The American constitutional order doesn’t rest solely on statutes, or on judicial efforts to restrain the executive branch,” Salam concludes. “It also rests on norms. And the president’s apparent willingness to violate these norms is setting a dangerous precedent.”

You might think DACA is reckless. But that’s a normative judgment, which tells us nothing about its legality.

So let’s flip the assumption. If DACA combines a lawful exercise of prosecutorial discretion with a lawful provision of work permitsand Greg Sargent’s expert sources make a very strong case that it doesthen the question for Douthat is, where along the continuum between a million-or-so potential DACA beneficiaries and the (perhaps) five million beneficiaries of an expanded program would it transform into the “lawless” abomination he decried in his column?

The obvious answer to that question is: We can’t say until we see the details. All we know is that Obama is contemplating a program that’s different in degree, not necessarily in kind, from DACA. Which is why my original response to Douthat’s column posited that he had assumed too much. I still contend that he did.

He hasn’t really grappled with that argument, beyond pointing out that it would be absurd to grant drug-use or tax-evasion permits to people. Instead, he focuses on my suggestion that his substantive opposition to deferred actionrather than legal or procedural concernsis what’s driving his conclusions about its lawlessness.

He’s right that this isn’t much of an argument. But it wasn’t really part of my core argument at all. It was just a sidecaran inference based on the fact that Douthat made sweeping conclusions about a policy that hasn’t been announced yet, and which might well be legal. If it is legal, then Douthat must retreat to his procedural objectionthat, legal or not, protecting up to half the undocumented population from deportation would constitute a dangerous erosion of norms. But if upholding norms is his concern, then he can’t just tiptoe away from the collapsed norms that created the foundation for broad deportation relief. Congress could address the over-reach problem either by passing immigration reform, or by explicitly forbidding programs like DACA. To the dismay of Democrats, Congress won’t do the former. To the dismay of Representative Steve King and other House Republicans, Congress won’t do the latter, either. But that just means Congress is leaving the matter in the president’s hands. Clearly Douthat would prefer it if Congress tied those hands. But a column urging the Senate to pass Steve King’s plan to end DACA wouldn’t have been as tantalizing as one warning that the specter of Caesarism is haunting America.


By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, August 6, 2014

August 7, 2014 Posted by | DACA, Immigration, Steve King | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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