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“Political Careerist”: Scott Walker Has A Rough Race On His Hands—And It’s Not For President

Mary Burke’s name appeared for the first time on a statewide ballot in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for governor of Wisconsin.

In fact, it was the first time that Burke’s name had ever appeared on a partisan ballot.

Aside from a successful nonpartisan bid for a seat on the Madison School Board in 2012, Burke has never before contended for elective office.

Yet, on Tuesday, the former Trek Bicycle executive and Wisconsin Secretary of Commerce won the highest vote of anyone on the ballot for any statewide office, taking 83 percent of the vote against state Representative Brett Hulsey, D-Madison. Despite his long record in state politics, Hulsey’s run was weakened by personal and political stumbles; yet in a year of political frustration and disenchantment that has seen top-of-ticket contenders in other states (such as Kansas Governor Sam Brownback) lose as much as 35 percent of the vote to little-known primary challengers, Burke’s finish was robust and significant. Notably, in many western and northern Wisconsin countries where she must renew her party’s appeal, Burke was winning well over 90 percent.

The scope of the statewide win builds on the sense created by recent polls—which have since May portrayed the race as a toss-up, with Walker and Burke both capturing around 47 percent of the likely November vote—that Burke has evolved into a serious challenger to Republican Governor Scott Walker, the anti-labor, pro-austerity, extreme social conservative who began the 2014 race as a prohibitive favorite.

That does not necessarily mean that she will beat Walker, the all-but-announced 2016 Republican presidential contender who was unopposed in Tuesday’s GOP primary. But the strong primary finish provides another indicator that Burke, an unlikely and unexpected contender for the governorship, might well be putting together the campaign that Democrats lacked in their 2010 and 2012 attempts to beat Walker.

A favorite of the Koch brothers and conservative donors across the country, Walker will still have a lot more money to spend in 2014. And he has already confirmed that he will use it to wage a scorched-earth campaign, characterized by brutally negative television ads. Unfortunately for the governor, however, his ads may actually have strengthened Burke—especially after the governor launched a bumbling attack on outsourcing by Burke family’s firm, Trek, that drew criticism even from Walker-friendly media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal.

Walker will also have the power of incumbency—no small factor in the hands of a Chris Christie–style electoral micromanager who has done more to politicize appointments and policymaking than any Wisconsin governor in modern times.

But Burke brings to the fall race two strengths that go to the heart of Walker’s vulnerabilities in a state that has not backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Even now, Burke remains relatively unknown—almost half of voters tell pollsters that their opinions of her are not fully formed. That gives Walker an opening for more attacks, of course. But it also means that the challenger has room to build on her strengths, which are:

1. Burke is the first woman ever nominated by a major party for governor of Wisconsin. And polls show that she has benefitted from a gender gap that has been an increasingly significant factor in the state’s elections. Like US Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, who coasted to victory in 2012 on the strength of a 56-41 advantage among women voters (as opposed to a much narrower 51-46 advantage with men for Republican former Governor Tommy Thompson), Burke’s position is bolstered by support from women. Marquette University Law School polls have given Burke a seven- or eight-point lead among likely women voters, while Walker maintains a solid advantage with men.

As women make up more of the electorate, the female voters who are putting Burke into contention could be a determining force in November. If the Democrat builds even marginally on her advantage among women, Burke’s chances of winning expand exponentially. If she can get anywhere near Baldwin’s numbers, she wins. And Burke got a good break on primary night, when voters chose Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ as the Democratic nominee for state attorney general. That means that the Wisconsin Democratic party will, for the first time in history, be running women in both of the state’s marquee races. This could help to attract a crossover vote from moderate Republican women and Republican-leaning independents. But, far more significantly, it could help with generating turnout among young

2. Burke is, by most reasonable measures, a political newcomer, a relative outsider in a year when voters are very upset with the political class—and when polls show that voters much prefer candidates with a background in business to candidates with a background in politics.

The contrast with Walker is stark. The incumbent has since 1990 run twenty-five primary and general election campaigns (counting a scrapped gubernatorial bid in 2006, but not counting the 2016 presidential bid he is furiously advancing). Few figures in Wisconsin, or national, history more fully fit the definition of a political careerist than Walker. His ambition is intense; he lives for politics and he surrounds himself with political junkies—several of whom have gotten into serious trouble for political abuses. Yet the governor shows few signs of being satisfied with his current position; he has already published a 2016 campaign book, made trips to key Republican primary and caucus states and nurtured a national network of billionaire donors and friendly operatives.

When the Marquette Poll asked Wisconsin voters about Walker’s national ambitions, however, the response was strikingly unenthusiastic. A overwhelming 67 percent of Wisconsinites said they did not want Walker to seek the presidency. And 65 percent (including a majority of Republicans) said they did not think a governor could run for president and handle his state duties.

Like fresh contenders who have won Wisconsin’s governorship in previous periods of political turbulence—most notably Republican Lee Sherman Dreyfus in 1978—Burke is not harmed by the fact that she is a first-time statewide candidate. Indeed, in this election, against this incumbent, it could prove to be a decisive strength.

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, August 13, 2014

 

August 15, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“City Upon A Hill”: RNC Denounces High-School History Exams

When members of the Republican National Committee gather for regularly scheduled meetings, it’s not unusual for the party to vote on assorted resolutions, expressing a formal opinion on major political subjects. Occasionally, these resolutions actually make news.

We talked earlier this year, for example, about the RNC’s surprising vote criticizing domestic surveillance programs. Last spring, Republican National Committee members also generated headlines with resolutions reiterating the party’s staunch opposition to marriage equality, while also condemning “Common Core” education standards.

It came as something of a surprise, though, to learn the RNC has also taken an interest in high-school students’ advanced-placement exams. Caitlin MacNeal reported yesterday:

The Republican National Committee on Friday denounced the College Board’s new framework for the AP U.S. History exam for its “consistently negative view of American history.”

The committee adopted a resolution during its summer meeting in Chicago condemning the exam’s new framework, according to Education Week.

In the resolution, the RNC slams the College Board’s “radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

By way of an example, the RNC believes the AP framework portrays early U.S. colonists as “oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country.”

In other words, the Republican National Committee wants these advanced-placement classes to put a more positive, more deliberately patriotic spin on history.

Where are these concerns even coming from? I’m glad you asked.

Right Wing Watch explained yesterday that the RNC’s interest didn’t just come out of the blue.

The Republican National Committee recently condemned the College Board’s AP U.S. History exam framework for its purported anti-American bias, and it comes as no surprise that the resolution is identical to resolutions sponsored by Religious Right groups like Eagle Forum and Concerned Women for America that regularly assert that public schools engage in anti-American brainwashing.

Concerned Women for America’s Georgia chapter has sponsored a nearly identical resolution, as did Eagle Forum’s Alabama affiliate.

Indeed, after the RNC resolution was approved, Concerned Women for America and others wrote to the College Board, arguing that the AP classes should do more to teach high-school students that the United States is a “City upon a Hill.”

As the Education Week report added, the College Board appears to be taking the complaints seriously: “Troubled by the controversy, College Board President David Coleman released to the public a practice AP U.S. history test. Practice tests are typically only released to certified AP teachers. He also announced that the College Board will issue ‘clarifications’ about the new framework.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 14, 2014

August 15, 2014 Posted by | Religious Right, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Vast Conspiracy Of Silence Against God”: Conservatives Confuse Science For Religion, And Vice Versa

Recently a friend posted a video on Facebook that he asserted would demolish the Godless theory of evolution. On it, a fellow sitting in a pickup and wearing a backward baseball cap smugly explained that Darwinian evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a fundamental principle of physics.

This hoary chestnut has long been a favorite of creationist apologetics — appearing to use scientific evidence to support a theological conclusion. Never mind that the fellow’s science was as backward as his baseball cap. The Second Law states almost the opposite of his description. Indeed, if it said what creationists claim, not only evolution but life itself would be impossible.

But what struck me as equally significant was the implied attitude toward scientists. Because if what the fellow claimed was even halfway right, it could only mean that every physics professor in every university in the world was part of a vast conspiracy of silence against God.

And why would they do that? I suppose for the same reason that climate scientists worldwide all but unanimously warn that increased levels of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere are contributing to a potentially catastrophic warming of the planet.

No less an authority than Sarah Palin once characterized them as employing “doomsday scare tactics pushed by an environmental priesthood that capitalizes on the public’s worry and makes them feel that owning an SUV is a ‘sin’ against the planet.”

The ex-governor’s use of religious metaphor is no accident. To millions of Americans calling themselves “conservatives,” at least for partisan purposes, science is religion, and religion science. Hardly anybody acts on this stuff in real life. People don’t quiz their veterinarian about Darwin.

However, when it comes to climate science, people who wouldn’t dream of diagnosing the family cat feel comfortable hearing the entire worldwide scientific community described as engaged in a gigantic hoax. Supposedly for the sake of one-world government or some similar absurdity.

Clearly, such people simply don’t know what scientific inquiry consists of, how hypotheses are tested, theories arrived at, and consensus achieved — all the things about science that make large scale conspiracies impossible.

Individual scientists are certainly as prone to temptation as anybody else. However, a single instance of serious fraud — misrepresenting experiments, faking data — is fatal to a career. The higher the profile, the more dramatic the fall.

So what happens when ideologically motivated pundits single out scientists for abuse? We may be about to learn from the lawsuit filed by renowned climatologist Michael Mann against the National Review. Do defamation laws protect even famous scientists from politically motivated smears against their professional integrity and private character?

Is calling an internationally known scientist “intellectually bogus,” a “fraud” and “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science,” as National Review blogger Mark Steyn did, a First Amendment-protected opinion? Or is it libelous, a provably false allegation published with reckless disregard for the truth and the malicious purpose of harming Mann’s reputation?

“[I]nstead of molesting children,” Steyn’s post explained, Mann “has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.” Does it need to be added that National Review provided no evidence of same? Mann asked for a retraction and apology. Receiving none, he sued.

The director of Penn State’s climatology program — hence the Sandusky reference — Mann drew the ire of climate change deniers as the inventor of the “hockey stick graph.” First published in Nature, it combined so-called “proxy records” — tree ring studies, ice core and corals — of temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the past 1,000 years with contemporary thermometer records.

It showed the climate trending irregularly cooler until the Industrial Revolution, when temperatures trended sharply upward — the blade of the metaphorical hockey stick. Since then, numerous studies based on different data have drawn the same conclusion: Earth’s climate is warming rapidly, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Mann’s misfortune, however, was getting caught up in the largely phony “Climategate” controversy. Admiring emails referencing “Mike’s trick” of sophisticated statistical analysis were made to appear sinister. Eight investigations by everybody from Penn State’s science faculty to the British parliament have vindicated Mann’s work in every respect.

However, Mann’s not a shy fellow. His book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, constitutes not only a lucid explanation of his own work, but a vigorous defense of climate science against industry-funded denialists. In a recent pleading filed in the D.C. Court of Appeals, National Review argues that this makes him a public figure and fair game for abuse.

In a separate article editor Rich Lowry alibied that the offending post was merely “a loose and colorful expression of opinion that did not allege any specific act of fraud in the literal sense.”

In short, accusing a respected scientist of faking data and comparing him to a child molester was just a colorful way of saying they disagree with his conclusions.

Welcome to Washington, professor.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, August 13, 2014

August 15, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Conservatives, Religion, Science | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Right To Peaceably Assemble”: Antonio French Said It Best, ‘Our Civil Rights Don’t Stop At 9PM’

When Antonio French, the St. Louis Alderman who has given us an incredible first-hand account of what is happening in Ferguson through his twitter feed, was released from jail this morning, he told the media, “Our civil rights don’t stop at 9PM.” After Antonio being arrested last night for “unlawful assembly,” I felt compelled to share these thoughts;

To the men and women who are responsible for firing tear gas canisters. To the ones who pull the trigger of the guns that shoot rubber bullets. To those who are the drivers of armored vehicles. To the operators of the machine that makes loud noises. To those arresting politicians and members of the press. To SWAT Teams. Tactical Teams. Riot Police. Mayors. Police Chiefs. City Council Members. State Assembly Men and Women. State Senators. Governors. And More. I urge you to re-read the United States Constitution. Specifically the First Amendment. In case you weren’t given that at your training or your elementary school education, here is how it reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Our forefathers, hundreds of years ago, decided to write this amendment and place it at the top of the Bill of Rights. They made a decision that this amendment, the First Amendment, would be the most important amendment to the foundation of our nation’s principles. Throughout history, we have fought wars, carried out secret missions, economically embargoed other countries to protect the rights of citizens around the world to enjoy the same basic freedoms we have here in America. Now, we are blatantly ignoring those rights of our very own.

Over the past five days in Ferguson, Missouri, after the tragic killing of unarmed teenager, Mike Brown, the police and local government have shown a lack of understanding of this protection. Your job is to PROTECT those who have grievances with our government. To give them space to protest and petition their local elected leaders. The only thing you have been good at protecting thus far is the name of the officer who leveled bullets into Mike Brown’s body (but anonymous may have beat you at that too).

An overwhelming majority of the protesters in Ferguson have been peaceful. Yes, they are angry. Yes, they are pissed off. Yes, they are frustrated. But, they have been peaceful. Of course I recognize that there have been a few who have not. A few who looted, burned and threatened violence. And I would never, ever condone that behavior. But, to all those who have been gathering at the police station everyday, and to all those who have been at the QT from dawn to dawn, why antagonize them? Why shoot upon them? Why tear gas them? Why arrest them?

To the public officials of Ferguson, it is your job to listen to those who ELECTED you. And many of those who put you in office are now protesting outside the buildings that hold your power. If you continue to attempt to silence their protest, their anger will only grow and this could get even worse. The demands of the protesters are simple. Read them. Yet, the demands of this nation are even simpler. Respect the First Amendment. The Constitution is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It never takes a holiday or vacation. It never takes a day off. Unless you order a curfew or invoke martial law, the citizens of Ferguson have every right to peaceably assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances at ANY hour of the day.

As for us, we will continue to show our solidarity with the fight for justice for another unarmed, black teenager killed in America. Our prayers are constantly with the family and friends of Mike Brown, and our hearts are with those keeping their hands up and telling the police officers not to shoot.

 

By: Michael Skolnik, Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com; The Huffington Post Blog, August 14, 2014

August 15, 2014 Posted by | Bill of Rights, Constitution, Ferguson Missouri | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Conflict With A Man’s Interests”: More Proof That The Religious Right’s “Family Values” Obsession Is Really About Misogyny

One of the great self-justifying myths of the conservatives is that their support for traditional gender roles is not rooted in misogyny, but in “family values.” They don’t hate women and want to keep them down, the argument goes, so much as they believe everyone–including women–benefits if women are relegated to a submissive role in marriage and prevented from exercising reproductive rights. They’re not trying to oppress women for the benefit of men, they argue. They’re trying to protect them.

It’s easy to uphold those “family values” when only women have to pay the price for them. But the real test is when the purported beliefs of the religious right conflict with what men want. Women are asked to sacrifice a lot in the name of family values, such as the right to leave unhappy marriages or the right to abort unwanted pregnancies. But are conservatives willing to ask the same of men? Two recent examples demonstrate that when family values conflict with a man’s interests, suddenly family values aren’t as important as the right generally says they are.

The case of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is a particularly stomach-churning example. Along with Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, Bob McDonnell was supposed to be one of the great Christian right politicians whose commitment to a fundamentalist view of family life would set an example for the rest of America. The Christian right argument regarding marriage, which Bob McDonnell laid out in his 1989 master’s thesis at the conservative Christian Regent University, is purportedly one of exchange: Women submit to their husbands, staying home to serve their husbands and raise children; and in exchange, men offer protection and cherish women to the point of coddling.

As Dahlia Lithwick explained on Slate, “The thesis was an argument for infusing Christian Republican values into government policy,” on the grounds that traditional marriage is “the best safeguard against immorality and selfishness.” In order to preserve this traditional definition of marriage, McDonnell expected women to sacrifice reproductive rights, independent thinking and employment outside of the home. McDonnell claimed his views had softened since then, but as Lithwick notes, his actual policy positions as a politician suggested otherwise. Not only did McDonnell fight against abortion rights, he also pushed to make divorce much harder to get in the state of Virginia. Even though stricter divorce laws usually serve to make it harder for women to escape abusive relationships, asking women to give up personal safety in the name of “family values” was clearly not too great a sacrifice for McDonnell.

But recent months have put McDonnell’s commitment to marriage and family to the test; he and his wife have been subject to a 14-count federal indictment for public corruption. As Dana Milbank noted, McDonnell was given an opportunity to protect his wife, as the family values set tells us husbands are supposed to do in exchange for women’s submission. But given the choice between protecting his wife by taking a plea deal and going to court, McDonnell chose himself over family values, heading to court. Indeed, McDonnell not only refused to protect the woman he vowed to love and protect, his defense is built around throwing his wife under the bus, blaming her for everything and employing some tawdry sexist stereotypes about women being crazy and weak to sell the argument.

Don’t get me wrong: There is a strong amount of evidence that Maureen McDonnell is corrupt and a terrible decision-maker, and she seems to be admitting she had a cheater’s heart that led her to push one of her husband’s benefactors for illegal gifts. But that changes nothing. McDonnell has dedicated his career to the idea that women should sacrifice everything for the good of “family,” including bodily autonomy and personal safety, but the second he’s called upon to take on the responsibility of a good Christian husband to protect his wife, he ran away and tried to foist as much as the blame as he could on her. Turns out family values wasn’t about men and women sacrificing together for family, just a cover story to excuse male dominance over women.

McDonnell’s corruption charges all came out after he was out of public office. In order to see how conservative voters act when one of their leaders puts the interests of straight men over their supposed commitment to family values, look no further than the state of Tennessee. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is running for his third term for Congress as a “family values” Republican, and his bona fides with conservative voters were proved again when he won a primary last week against another conservative challenger.

All this, despite the fact that DesJarlais has a long history showing that while he firmly believes women should have to lose their basic human rights in the name of family values, he, as a man, has never shown any interest in making even the teeniest sacrifice for those same values.

DesJarlais has a 0% rating from NARAL. He believes women who are facing an unwanted pregnancy that could derail their lives should suck it up and be made to suffer, you know, for “life.” But when faced with the prospect of an unintended pregnancy that could hurt him, he suddenly became a big fan of abortion. DesJarlais encouraged, some would say badgered, his mistress to get an abortion during his first marriage. He also supported his first wife’s abortions.

DesJarlais’ enthusiasm for abortions that helped him is hardly the only incidence of him exempting himself from the family values he wishes to impose on women. During his first marriage, he admitted to having eight affairs, some with patients. He also admitted under oath that he threatened his first wife with a gun. DesJarlais portrays these events as long past and argues he’s a different man now. But he still voted against the Violence Against Women Act, suggesting he has not actually developed any real concern about women’s safety in marriage since then.

Not that the voters mind enough to vote him out of office. If family values were actually about valuing families, voters would demand more of Republican leaders. But that someone as hypocritical as DesJarlais can still win elections shows that family values was never about families; just a transparent cover story for old-fashioned misogyny.

 

By: Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, August 14, 2014

August 15, 2014 Posted by | Family Values, Religious Right | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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