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“Same Old Issues”: Why The Media Are Ignoring The Dangerous Ideas of Joni Ernst And Other Extremists Now On The Cusp Of Power

Joni Ernst, who may become Iowa’s next senator, denies climate change, supports a personhood amendment and says she’d use her “beautiful little Smith & Wesson” to defend herself “from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” She’s also seriously flirted with a John Birch Society–backed conspiracy theory about an evil plot called Agenda 21.

But all you’d know from the corporate media is that Ernst made a really catchy ad about castrating pigs and that she is supposedly (but not really) the victim of a sexist remark made by outgoing Democratic senator Tom Harkin.

Norman Ornstein, the pundit who was once quoted all over until he dared to say that Republicans are the real obstructionists, explains such grand omissions brilliantly:

The most common press narrative for elections this year is to contrast them with the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. Back then, the GOP “establishment” lost control of its nominating process, ended up with a group of extreme Senate candidates who said wacky things—Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle—and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in races that should have been slam dunks. Now the opposite has happened: The establishment has fought back and won, vanquishing the Tea Party and picking top-flight candidates who are disciplined and mainstream, dramatically unlike Akin and Angle.

It is a great narrative, a wonderful organizing theme. But any evidence that contradicts or clouds the narrative devalues it, which is perhaps why evidence to the contrary tends to be downplayed or ignored. Meantime, stories that show personal gaffes or bonehead moves by the opponents of these new, attractive mainstream candidates, fit that narrative and are highlighted.

Of course, this does not mean that the press has a Republican bias, any more than it had an inherent Democratic bias in 2012 when Akin, Angle, and Mourdock led the coverage. What it suggests is how deeply the eagerness to pick a narrative and stick with it, and to resist stories that contradict the narrative, is embedded in the culture of campaign journalism. [My italics] The alternative theory, that the Republican establishment won by surrendering its ground to its more ideologically extreme faction, picking candidates who are folksy and have great resumes but whose issue stances are much the same as their radical Tea Party rivals, goes mostly ignored. Meanwhile, there was plenty of coverage of the admittedly bonehead refusal by Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes to say she had voted for Obama—dozens of press references to NBC’s Chuck Todd saying it was “disqualifying”—but no stories saying that references to Agenda 21 or talking about terrorists and drug lords out to kill Arkansans [as Republican senatorial candidate Tom Cotton does] were disqualifying.


By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, November 3, 2014

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Joni Ernst, Media, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Media Just Hasn’t Reported On It”: Why Republicans Have Gotten Away With Craziness This Year

We don’t know if Joni Ernst is going to be the next Senator from Iowa, but one thing we can say is that Democrats failed to paint her as a radical Tea Partier with dangerous ideas. (Actually, there’s another thing we can say: her replacing liberal lion Tom Harkin would have to be the widest ideological swing in a Senate seat from one Congress to the next in a long time.) The question is, why? And more broadly, why have they failed to do that with any of the GOP Senate candidates running this year? It’s not like this is a bunch of moderates. One explanation is that the establishment triumphed by weeding out the nutcases:

National Republicans managed this year to snuff out every bomb-throwing insurgent who tried to wrest a Senate nod away from one of their favored candidates. They spent millions against baggage-laden activists such as Matt Bevin, the Louisville investor who mounted a ham-fisted challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the conservative upstart who imperiled a safe seat by nearly ousting longtime Sen. Thad Cochran.

The confrontational approach—by both party committees and outside super PACs—represented a sharp departure from the GOP’s cautious strategy in the 2010 and 2012 cycles, when cartoonishly inept nominees aligned with the tea party lost the party as many as five Senate seats.

All that’s true, but it’s not just that they kept crazy people from winning primaries, they also kept primary winners’ craziness from undoing their campaigns. Ernst has managed to skate away from accountability for her more disturbing ideas, like her embrace of the “Agenda 21” conspiracy theory or her statement that she might have to start shooting government officials if they trample her rights. That’s not to mention her beliefs that there should be no federal minimum wage and that weapons of mass destruction were actually found in Iraq.

And it isn’t like Democrats haven’t tried to convince voters that Ernst is a radical. So why hasn’t she, like Todd Akin and Sharron Angle before her, gotten all kinds of negative attention for her comments that ultimately drove her to defeat?

There are many factors, like the fact that the Republican party has stuck by her, that had an impact. But I think the biggest reason is that the media just haven’t reported on it very much. Ernst’s Agenda 21 conspiricizing may have gotten attention from liberal bloggers, but it didn’t get much notice in the Iowa media, or from national political reporters. In contrast, when Bruce Braley told attendees at a fundraiser that if Republicans took the Senate, the Judiciary Committee would be chaired by “a farmer from Iowa without a law degree,” meaning the state’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley, it was huge news. The Des Moines Register, the state’s largest paper (and one that Ernst complains is biased against her) did editorialize once against Ernst’s radical and constitutionally demented views on “nullification,” but that’s the only substantive article about the topic that comes up when you search the paper’s web site (though there are a few letters to the editor that mention it). On the other hand, when I searched for Braley’s statement about Grassley being a farmer in the DMR, I got 79 hits.

While I haven’t done a systematic analysis of the rest of Iowa or national media, that doesn’t seem unrepresentative—I’ve seen the Grassley farmer thing mentioned many, many times in mainstream sources, but not Ernst’s crazier beliefs. Perhaps it’s because reporters are just tired of writing the “Republican candidate says extreme things” story. But I think it’s also that the Braley “gaffes,” whether it’s implying that farmers are not necessarily the font of wisdom in all things, or being upset when his neighbor’s chickens crap on his lawn, are personal in a way Ernst’s statements aren’t. They supposedly imply that Braley might be a bit of a jerk, whereas you can be friendly and nice and also believe the UN is coming to kick you off your land.

The trouble is that when we’re talking about electing people to the nation’s legislature, this is completely backward. The personal stuff is of only the tiniest importance, if any at all, while beliefs about the world are very relevant. Joni Ernst’s ideas about the UN, about guns, and about the legal status of zygotes will actually make a difference in how she does her job, should she win. In contrast, unless Harry Reid has his chickens crap in Bruce Braley’s Capitol Hill office just before a critical budget vote, I don’t think that’s going to really be an issue. But that’s what the campaign coverage has focused on.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 3, 2014

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Media, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“This Election’s Biggest Jokes”: ‘Republicans Are The Saviors Of Social Security And Medicare!’ And ‘Republicans Will End Gridlock’

The whole point of Republican rhetoric these days is to try to switch labels: that Democrats were responsible for the Great Depression, and that Republicans are responsible for all economic and social progress under the New Deal.

Now, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in this case it is most common or garden variety of fraud. You have all been to the circus, but even the best performing elephants could not do a handspring without falling flat on their backs.

[FDR- 1940 campaign]

If it were not so tragic, it would indeed be funny.

The greatest purveyor of gridlock, obstruction, hurting the American people so that they would feel bad enough to blame the president… i.e., Mitch McConnell (R-KY)… he says that he will end gridlock!

Republicans, and only Republicans, have tried to privatize Social Security. Republicans have been against Social Security from the day it was conceived.

Ronald Reagan, Republicans’ saint, made his political debut explaining how Medicare would destroy all freedom and liberty in the country.

Republicans in 2011 and 2013 voted to transform Medicare into a voucher program. No more guaranteed benefits. Good luck shopping around for insurance if you can find an insurer to take you on if you are elderly and have several chronic illnesses. Oh, and good luck to younger people whose premiums would skyrocket if the elderly were included in their insurance pools.

And, yet these same Republicans are attacking Democrats who fought for these popular programs, who sometimes lost their seats due to lies and innuendo about their votes for these programs, for the “sin” of (wrongly, in my opinion) signaling a willingness to compromise to reduce long-term outlays from the program as Republicans were polluting the media with cries of “Greece, Greece, Greece.”

They lie about the president “taking” $500B from Medicare, when all he did was reduce payments to providers. Not a single person, nor a single procedure or illness, has lost coverage. Indeed, President Obama extended Medicare’s solvency from 2016, when it was due to go bankrupt, to at least 2030.

That is, thanks to President Obama, there is no pending financial crisis in Medicare. Thanks to President Obama, no one has lost a drop of coverage. Thanks to President Obama the amount of money seniors have to shell out for their prescription drugs is falling, with full closure of the “doughnut hole” in Part D of Medicare occurring in the following years. Thanks to President Obama, preventative care is covered.

That is, thanks to President Obama, seniors are getting much better coverage for a lower cost. By contrast, Republicans continue to try to destroy the entire program that they always opposed.

And, yet, Republicans attack Democrats, pretending to be Medicare’s defenders.

It should be the campaign’s biggest joke. But, with millions of Koch-dollars behind the ads, lying about the programs, lying about their impact, it is no joke.

It is a tragedy.

As if Republicans are really interested in protecting these programs. They wish they never existed, and want to get rid of them. They have voted for measures to destroy Medicare, and sprung privatization on the American people in 2004 when they were elected without breathing a word of it during the campaign.

Because, if the Republicans do take power, they will destroy the programs they claim to champion.

And, no one will know what killed them.


By: Paul Abrams, The Huffington Post Blog, November 2, 2014

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Midterm Elections, Mitch Mc Connell, Republicans | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“No Wave, No Mandate”: Be Extremely Skeptical Of Republican Claims Of Any Mandate

With Republicans increasingly likely to take the Senate, we can be sure of one thing: Whether their victory is narrow or enormous, Republicans will claim a sweeping mandate to enact a radical shift in policy on pretty much any issue that they care about. The American people have spoken, they’ll say. This was a wave that swept us into power and washed away Barack Obama’s right to pursue his agenda.

We should be extremely skeptical of that claim, for a number of reasons.

The first is that it isn’t really looking like much of a wave. Every election analyst projects that Republicans will pick up a few seats in the House — maybe five, maybe ten — but nothing like the 63 seats they gained in 2010 or the 54 they netted in 1994. If they manage to take the Senate, it will be because most of the incredibly close races this year tipped their way in the end. Which would undoubtedly be a victory, but it would be hard to argue that the GOP squeaking out wins in deep-red states in the South and adding a couple in swing states like Iowa or Colorado represents some huge shift in public sentiment.

New polling data suggests that even if Republicans do take the Senate, we’re hardly looking at a “GOP wave.” The final pre-election poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal was released today, and it shows the two parties nearly deadlocked (46-45 in Republicans’ favor) in the generic ballot test among likely voters. Democratic voters’ interest in the campaign has risen to match Republicans’, and approval of the GOP as a party remains abysmal. There’s also evidence to suggest that turnout will be low.

Of course, that poll could be inaccurate on any given question. But a perfectly plausible outcome would be that Republicans end up with a Senate majority of 51, 52, or 53 seats, but the election as a whole looks not like a wave but like a mixed victory amid conditions that already favored them.

And yet, if Republicans are victorious, they’ll repeat over and over that quote from Barack Obama when he said his administration’s policies were on the ballot. They’ll say the country has repudiated his administration and its agenda, and therefore he should agree to the things they want to do instead. They’ll say they were given a mandate by the American people.

Which, when you think about it, is absurd. Given how many close elections there are this year, it would be odd to say that if Bruce Braley and Mark Udall had managed to get slightly more of their voters to the polls, then that would have meant America chose one course, while if those two candidates’ turnout operations couldn’t quite get them over the finish line, then America made a different choice.

The outcome in Congress is likely to reflect this. Republicans are now claiming they will “pass a lot of legislation” once they control both chambers, but in reality, we’re likely to see more gridlock, dysfunction, and stalemate. Congressional Republicans will find themselves stymied by other institutional procedures — the filibuster and the presidential veto. And they’ll probably complain that the voters’ will is being thwarted.

But they won’t have much of a case to make. Getting the ability to repeal the Affordable Care Act, slash environmental regulations, cut corporate taxes, and enact the rest of the GOP agenda is going to take more than prevailing in a close Congressional election. It will take winning the White House, something they seem to have all but forgotten how to do.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, November 3, 2014

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Blacking Out The Vote”: Republicans Impose Second-Class Citizenship On People Who Threaten The Status Quo

Voters are facing an ugly surprise on their way to the voting booth on Tuesday. What most people don’t realize is that since 2006, some 34 state legislatures have worked diligently to chip away at the fundamental right to vote — and overwhelmingly, people of color are the target.

This year alone, 14 states have implemented legislation that would end same-day voter registration, limit early voting, and require voters to present forms of ID that many voters lack and cannot easily obtain. What do these measures have in common? Each would disproportionately impact African-American voters, making it more difficult for them to vote or have their vote count in a meaningful fashion.

To make matters worse, the Supreme Court pulled the rug out from under decades of effective voting rights protections in its decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The court’s decision gave a free pass to state and local politicians manipulating voting laws for their own gain, allowing them to pick and choose who will be able to vote. That is why the right to vote is in danger across the country.

Some of these state legislatures, while attacking the right to vote, also diminish the value of each vote counted through all kinds of creative methods. Some recent examples include drawing boundaries of an election district to ensure that minority voters cannot constitute a majority, and “packing” minorities in only one or a limited number of districts to ensure they are a majority, which weakens the voting power of minority groups that could otherwise constitute an influential voting bloc. Smaller districts can also be drawn in such a way that the voting power of a minority group is reduced by dividing minorities into several districts that are predominantly white.

I know, the term “voting matters” has probably lost its value over the years because of over use, but it really does matter. Voting isn’t just about electing candidates. It’s about feeling a sense of dignity and empowering people to take part in the democratic process. It’s about influencing policies and holding the federal and state governments accountable for promoting social and economic equity for ALL people.

Withholding the right to vote is a way to impose second-class citizenship on people who threaten the status quo. Throughout our country’s history, the right to vote was denied to white men without property, African-Americans, women, Native Americans, Chinese-Americans, and adults under 21 years of age.

While the 15th Amendment was adopted in 1870 and prohibited denial of the right to vote on account of race or color, in reality, African-Americans who wanted to exercise their right to vote were beaten, chased by dogs, bludgeoned by police and sometimes killed. It’s somewhat unimaginable that African-Americans were only able to vote within recent memory — with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But that’s all history, right?

Some claim today, that America is no longer plagued by the racial injustice of the civil rights era. Unfortunately, less overt strategies have been implemented more recently to block African-Americans and other minorities from the ballot. I can’t believe how close we are to losing what many fought so hard, and sometimes died, to achieve.

Now more than ever, new tools are needed to prevent voter discrimination before it happens. In January 2014, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA) to repair the damage done by the Shelby decision. Congress had the opportunity to pass a new, flexible and forward-looking set of protections that work together to guarantee our right to vote — however, they failed to act on it.

In September, voting rights advocates, including myself, delivered petitions from over 500,000 voters seeking to restore VRA protections to the office of Speaker John Boehner. We found ourselves confronted by a locked door, perfect symbolism for the disenfranchisement many voters of color will experience come Tuesday. Next year the Voting Rights Act will be celebrating a dubious 50th anniversary, unless Congress acts immediately to pass new protections. Next week, voters of color will be immersed in the least protected election since the passage of the act in 1965.

The Voting Rights Act was born from the premise that all Americans have the right to vote — regardless of race or language proficiency. It was critical to the civil rights movement, turning hateful policies like poll taxes and literacy tests into historical footnotes. We cannot allow those footnotes to be rewritten into modern forms of vote suppression.

If you have any questions about your right to vote in this upcoming election, contact the ACLU at or call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).


By: Laura W. Murphy, Director of the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union; The Huffington Post Blog, November 3, 2014

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Midterm Elections, Minority Voters, Voting Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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