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“The Scramble Is On”: The Social Conservative Royal Rumble Is Brewing In Iowa

The two most crowded places in 2015 may be a subway car at rush hour and the stage at a Republican presidential debate. With the past two winners of the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, both making moves toward a campaign and other social conservatives, ranging from Ben Carson to Ted Cruz, thinking about running, things are already looking crowded.

On Wednesday, Santorum told Real Clear Politics that he is approaching the 2016 election “as if I’m running.” Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses and finished second in 2012 GOP primary, has never made a secret of the fact that he’s considering another bid for the nomination. The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania has stumped across the country this year for Republican candidates, including a significant number of visits to Iowa. He has also gone out of his way to endorse candidates in competitive primaries who backed him in 2012, most notably Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz in a congressional primary and Prof. Sam Clovis in the Hawkeye State’s Senate primary.

At the same time, Huckabee is organizing a trip to Europe with a number of pastors from early primary states after Election Day. The trip, first reported in June by David Brody at CBN, will focus on the leadership of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II and feature stops in London, Krakow, and Los Angeles. Longtime Huckabee aide Hogan Gidley described the trip to The Daily Beast as “an outstanding political move” that allows the former Arkansas governor to display his “understanding of the world around us.”

Gidley also said that delegations of business leaders and pastors have been traveling to see the Fox News host to urge him to run for president. While Huckabee pondered running in 2012 before deciding not to mount a bid, Gidley said that this time the former governor was expressing “a much different tenor and tone” in contemplating a run.

Both Huckabee and Santorum had considerable overlap in their support during their respective presidential bids. They were both scrappy and underfunded social conservative standard-bearers who pulled off underdog wins in Iowa against Mitt Romney. But if both run, they may have to compete over the same pool of voters—and there will be plenty of candidates appealing to Iowa conservatives.

In fact, according to the most recent poll of Iowa caucusgoers, the favorite potential candidate from the conservative wing of the Republican Party is neither Huckabee nor Santorum; it’s Ben Carson..

Carson is looking to be a somewhat formidable candidate. His super PAC raised $3.3 million in the most recent fundraising period (although it only netted $100,000 after accounting for expenses, most of which were for fundraising). It’s likely that Carson, who would be a first-time candidate whose own top adviser acknowledges that he suffers from “foot-in-mouth disease,” will flame out before the first ballots are cast. But his presence in the race would serve as yet another draw to the type of voters who both Santorum and Huckabee will have to woo.

And it’s not just Ben Carson who might be their competition.

There’s a baker’s dozen of candidates who could compete for conservative voters, from national figures like Cruz and Scott Walker to somewhat obscure governors like Bobby Jindal and Mike Pence, all of whom would have the potential to catch fire and who will be competing over many of the same voters and activists.

The question though is how this sorts itself out. Many conservatives still feel traumatized from the divisive primaries in 2008 and 2012, where candidates on the right of the party battled for position while two establishment candidates, John McCain and Mitt Romney, slipped by to win the nomination… and then lose the general election to Barack Obama.

This time around, there will be a strong centripetal force among social conservatives to settle on one candidate to challenge whoever eventually emerges as the establishment choice, be it Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, or someone else, not to mention Rand Paul, who has appeal among both social conservatives and some establishment Republicans without belonging to either faction. But that sorting process still has a while to sort itself out as candidates test the waters and see if they can mount and maintain viable candidacies. In the meantime, the scramble is on and, in Republican presidential politics, anything can happen.


By: Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast, October 17, 2014

October 20, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Election Rigging, Culture War Edition”: Republicans Relying On Gerrymandering And Voter Suppression To Hold Onto Power

Republicans in Texas have managed to finagle a world in which a gun permit counts as proof of voter eligibility, but a student ID does not.

A divided Supreme Court handed a big defeat to the Obama administration and numerous civil rights groups early Saturday morning when it ruled that Texas can enforce its 2011 voter ID law in November that some have called the strictest in the country. Three justices dissented from the ruling that rejected an emergency request that had been filed by the Justice Department and civil rights groups.

The decision appears to mark “the first time since 1982 that the Court has allowed a law restricting voters’ rights to be enforced after a federal court had ruled it to be unconstitutional,” notes Scotus Blog’s Lyle Denniston. A federal judge had struck down the law last week, saying that some 600,000 voters—mostly black or Latino—would face difficulties at the polls due to a lack of proper identification. The law, which was approved in 2011 but only came in effect in 2013 lays out seven approved forms of identification—a list many have questioned for including concealed handgun licenses but not college IDs, notes the Associated Press.

Earlier this week Rachel Maddow called these tactics exactly what they are: cheating. There’s no sense in which a gun permit is a more reliable form of identification than a student ID, and no sense in which it’s constitutional or fair to require a person who tends to move every year or more and often depends on public transit, to have a current driver’s license in order to vote.

It’s election rigging, plain and simple, designed to give Republican and conservative voters the opportunity to vote while denying the franchise to traditionally more Democratic and progressive demographics.

But while these tactics are an outrage, they are in a sense a mark of desperation by the Right. They know that they can’t compete electorally, and that demographics work more and more against them with every election cycle. They see the handwriting on the wall, and unable to win the argument on policy, they rely on gerrymandering and vote suppression to hold onto power for just a few more years.

A slim extremist majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is helping to enable these tactics, but it won’t serve them for long. Democrats have gotten very good at voter turnout operations, and it won’t be long before demographic pressures overwhelm the ability of conservatives to win elections by suppressing and slicing away a few percentages here and there. It simply delays the inevitable.


By: David Atkins, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 19, 2014

October 20, 2014 Posted by | Discrimination, Voter ID, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ebola And America’s Childish Narcissism”: We, As A Country, Have Never Been Good At Keeping Things In Perspective

I don’t start many columns like this, but kudos to Fox News and specifically host Shepard Smith for decimating this Ebola hysteria the other day. David Ignatius of The Washington Post picked up on Smith’s sentiment with an equally solid column. Ignatius quoted Smith thus: “Today, given what we know, you should have no concerns about Ebola at all. None. I promise. Unless a medical professional has contacted you personally and told you of some sort of possible exposure, fear not. Do not listen to the hysterical voices on the radio and the television or read the fear-provoking words online.”

I’ll go them one better. It’s moments like this one that bring out the absolute worst in the media, some political figures, and, it must be said, a hell of a lot of regular people, too—all of which is to say, the country. America is a narcissistic and inward-looking society at the best of the times. At the worst of times, it’s something even worse; a country with utterly no understanding of the pain and struggle and banal, recurrent death that the rest of the world lives with on a daily basis. So not only should we not panic, but beyond that, instead of turning ever-more inward, this Ebola moment should be precisely the time when we pause and look around the globe and realize how insignificant (though yes of course tragic on their own terms) three deaths are.

In the amount of time it probably took you to read the above two paragraphs, two African children died of malaria. That’s one every 30 seconds, every minute, every hour, every day, every month, every grinding year. And this constitutes a bit of an improvement over 10 or 20 years ago. Many of these children are under five years old. Such an abattoir would never be permitted to continue in the United States, or indeed the developed (and white) world. It would be very wrong of course to say the world does nothing about it. Many amazing people devote their lives to changing this, but somehow it does not change enough, and in recent years the malaria situation has been made even worse by what is to me the single most despicable human activity I’ve ever heard of in my life this side of the gas chambers—the sale of fake anti-malarial drugs for profit.

Want to worry about children? Read the speech given Thursday in the United Arab Emirates by Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Half of the world’s millions of refugees are children, and they live lives of wretched, numbing upheaval and violence. Guterres: “We know that refugee children are at increased risk of child labor and recruitment, and more vulnerable to violence in their homes, communities, or schools, including sexual and gender-based violence. This is one of the reasons, along with financial difficulties, why more and more refugee parents agree to marry off their daughters as children.”

Queen Raina of Jordan also spoke, calling the refugee crisis in Syria “a slap in the face of humanity.” And, she might well have added, of her country, and of Lebanon, both of which have taken in millions of Syrians, placing burdens on those countries’ infrastructures that Americans couldn’t begin to imagine. Lebanon’s Syrian refugee population is equal to 25 percent of its native population. Could you imagine the United States taking in a like number of Latin American refugees? That would be 75 million people! Our right wing went absolutely ballistic this past summer over 60,000 kids, who came here for reasons we helped create. There is all this churning violence out there of which probably 90 percent of Americans are barely aware. In so much of the world, death and violence are just normal parts of life. And to the response “tough, that’s their problem,” there are at least three good retorts.

The first is that we shouldn’t be so holier than thou, because it wasn’t really that long ago in historical terms that death and violence were normal parts of American life as well. This was an extremely dark and brutal (and insalubrious) country well into the 20th century. It was only really after World War II, after the spread of the general prosperity, that violent death and disease were checked in most of the United States. Vast pockets of both continued to exist well after that—in Appalachia and the inner cities, for example—and some exist still. So our “right” to feel smug about these kinds of things is rather new.

Second, we can’t fail to acknowledge that we played a role in making some of this violence happen. It’s unquestionably true with respect to the countries of Central America whence the border-crisis kids were arriving in June. It’s also undeniably the case in Iraq, where our war created millions of refugees and is still doing so (1.2 million so far this year alone, according to the UNHCR). Where our culpability isn’t that direct—Egypt, say, or Gaza—there are regimes imposing violence on helpless people that obviously could not do so without American billions.

Third, well, I happen to be an American, but I recognize, and you should too, that that’s as accidental a reality as anything could possibly be. So I lucked out in the old ovarian lottery, and the little zygote that became me happened to have been formed inside a particular set of borders. I’ve never understood why that should free me of the obligation to worry about those who didn’t have my luck. All the more reason to, I’d have thought.

All societies are like ours to some extent. Lord knows, many are more chauvinistic. But here’s where I think we are unique: in our continued capacity to be shocked that anything terrible could happen to us. This has everything to do with the narrative we are fed and, in a continuous loop through the media (not just news media, but all media, Hollywood and the rest), feed and re-feed to ourselves. We are exceptional. These things don’t happen here. I remember thinking not long after September 11: Why was everyone so shocked? True, the audacity of it was shocking, so there’s that. But they’d tried to do it before to the World Trade Center, and anyway, nearly everyone else in the world lives with this kind of thing, albeit on a less operatic scale. I was surprised only that it took them that long to deliver a blow like that to our shores.

But the point now is that nothing is on our shores. Shepard Smith is right. So it isn’t happening to us, and yet we’re acting like it is, and while we’re not exactly forgetting the people it actually is happening to, we are certainly diminishing their far worse suffering.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 18, 2014

October 20, 2014 Posted by | American Exceptionalism, Ebola, Media | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Cut, Cut, And Cut Some More”: Republican’s ‘Blame Ebola On Obama’ Ploy Backfires

The instant the Ebola crisis hit American shores, the inevitable happened. The GOP blamed President Obama for it. First, it was the lame brained borderline racist charge that Obama either deliberately or through sheer incompetence did nothing to seal the borders to keep the virus at bay. The only slightly more intelligible attack was that Obama did nothing to command the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take panic measures to insure no incidence of the disease would turn up in the country. Then the GOP campaign strategists stepped in and had some of its top candidates suddenly parroting the kooky line that Obama was to blame for a supposedly porous and negligent CDC and border security lapse. Obama’s appointment of an “Ebola Czar” provided even more grist for the GOP hit mill on Obama. It was variously blown off as too little, too late or ridiculed as a desperate appointment of a supposedly medically unqualified political crony.

This is political gamesmanship of the lowest order, playing on media and public fears over a legitimate and terrifying health crisis, to again belittle Obama. And with the stakes sky high in the 2014 midterm elections, the dirty political pool by the GOP was totally predictable.

But the twist in the Ebola saga is that the dirty hit job has backfired. The attack opened the GOP wide open to media and public scrutiny of the galling fact that the GOP has systematically whittled away vital funding for dozens of health programs since 2010. The CDC, much the whipping agency for the supposed Obama health dereliction, was stripped of nearly $600 million; millions that could have gone to ramp up monitoring, screening, and education programs, as well as research on vaccines to deal with infectious and communicable diseases. The names of the more than two dozen Republicans who poleaxed the CDC budget have been published. And to no surprise the bulk of them are either directly affiliated with or have been in part bankrolled by tea party factions. In September, there were initial reports that House Republicans would cut almost half of the nearly $100 million that the White House wanted earmarked to fight Ebola. It didn’t happen not because of any sudden epiphany by the GOP House members to provide all the funding that the White House asked for the program, but because word had quickly leaked out about the defunding possibility, and that would have been a PR nightmare that even the most rabid anti-Obama House Republicans knew was fraught with deep peril.

GOP leaders have hit back hard on the charge that they are somehow to blame for any laxity in the fight against Ebola by claiming that Obama and the Democrats have also made cuts in the NIH budget and that those cuts are the reason for any shortfall in the CDC’s funding for programs. That’s true as far as it goes. But what the GOP conveniently omits is that the cuts to the NIH budget and indeed all other health and education and domestic spending program cuts were agreed to by Obama with the GOP jamming a virtual political gun to his head demanding he sign off on cuts as the draconian price for ending gridlock over the deficit war.

Now in the backdrop of a potential catastrophic health nightmare, the cuts have suddenly become as big a political campaign tug of war as the blame game about Ebola. But it’s one that the GOP can’t win. Because it, not Obama and the Democrats, have been firmly identified in the public eye as the ones that have consistently sledge hammered the Obama administration and Congress to cut, cut, and cut some more spending. No matter how much the right wing gnashes its teeth, shouts and moans and attempts to turn the table and finger-point Obama for the funding fall off in the Ebola fight, it won’t change that naked reality. The hit ads that Democrats took out lambasting the GOP for the funding cuts are believable not because of any numbers accuracy or inaccuracy but in part because of public belief that when it comes to pound saving, the GOP will go to any length to save a dollar at the expense of vital programs.

The ads are believable in greater part because the GOP has left no stone unturned in its ruthless and relentless drive to use any and every crisis real or manufactured to paint Obama as a weak, ineffectual and failed president and presidency. It has banked on, and stoked, the frozen political divide in the country knowing that a wide segment of the public has open, unabashed contempt for his policies and his administration. The GOP banks that it can swivel this divisiveness into sustained opposition to those policies, and that it can further boost its numbers in the House and especially the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections. The ultimate aim is to translate the incessant hit attacks on Obama into a White House win in 2016.

The Ebola scare gave the GOP another seemingly readymade opportunity to blame Obama for yet another crisis. But this time the signs are good that the ploy has backfired.


By: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, The Huffington Post Blog, October 18, 2014

October 20, 2014 Posted by | Austerity, Ebola, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Learning From History”: What Can Brown Do For You? (Not A Damn Thing!)

In New Hampshire, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen is hitting Republican opponent and Massachusetts reject Scott Brown hard on his backward energy policies:

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is turning the focus to energy this week. Shaheen’s campaign today released a report highlighting votes her Republican opponent, Scott Brown, has taken on energy policy that she says will take New Hampshire in the wrong direction. And tomorrow, the state Democratic Party will host Massachusetts lawmakers and a New Hampshire energy expert to discuss Brown’s energy record…

While energy hasn’t been a central issue to the campaign thus far, both candidates have outlined positions on the topic.

At an energy forum in Concord last month, Brown touted an “all of the above” approach that includes support for nuclear, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. He has continually called for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed oil pipeline that would run from Canada to the U.S.

Shaheen shouldn’t fail to point out that Brown’s views on energy are obviously influenced by one of the darkest forces in American politics:

Karl Rove is also lusting after a Brown win in the Granite State. If New Hamsphire voters judge candidates by the company they keep, they will judge Brown as harshly as Keith Olbermann did four years ago.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I hope that New Hampshire voters have learned from history.


By: D. R. Tucker, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 19, 2014

October 20, 2014 Posted by | Energy, Politics, Scott Brown | , , , , | Leave a comment

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