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“GOP Take Heed”: Donald Trump Is The GOP’s George Wallace

Tuesday night, following the fourth Republican presidential primary debate, the pundit class will dutifully declare Marco Rubio the winner, extolling his debate prowess with the usual breathlessness. And then, the overnight polls will find that once again, Donald Trump has won the night (with Washington GOP bête noir Ted Cruz likely coming in second), and establishment GOP heads will explode again.

The Trump phenomenon might feel both interminable and unprecedented to Republican elites, but of course it isn’t. American populist politics has a long tradition, from Andrew Jackson to Huey Long to Joseph McCarthy. But the politician Trump is most like could be George Wallace. And if the rumors of an establishment plot to somehow prevent the current frontrunner from getting the nomination are true, Trump could wind up as the GOP’s Wallace in more than just style and bluster.

Back in Wallace’s day, it was Democrats, not Republicans, who were bedeviled by their extremist flank. The Southern wing of the party was in full rebellion over the push for racial integration in schools and public accommodations; over the civil rights laws pushed through by a majority Democratic congress with the help of Republicans and an apostate Southern Democratic president; and even over the war in Vietnam, which drew a spirited investigation by ardent segregationist Sen. William Fulbright of Arkansas.

Wallace ran for Alabama governor in 1958 touting his ability to “to treat a man fair, regardless of his color.” He lost and vowed to “never be out-niggered again.” He ran for governor in 1962, this time as a hard-line segregationist, and won. The new George Wallace was a political thespian, dramatically “tossing the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny” on behalf of the “great Anglo Saxon Southland” and declaring “segregation now and segregation forever.” He staged his “stand in” at the entrance of the University of Alabama in June of 1963 to dramatize the fruitless fight to keep two black students, and their armed federal escorts, out; and ran his soon-to-be ailing wife, Lurleen, for governor when the Democratic state legislature refused to let him vie for a second term.

In 1966, Wallace declared his independence from the political establishment, calling himself “an Alabama Democrat, not a national Democrat,” and adding: “I’m not kin to those folks. The difference between a national Democrat and an Alabama Democrat is like the difference between a Communist and a non-Communist.” He commiserated with conservative white voters, saying both major parties have “looked down their nose at you and me a long time. They’ve called us rednecks—the Republicans and the Democrats. Well, we’re going to show there sure are a lot of rednecks in this country.”

When he ran for president as an independent in 1968, Wallace did so as a pure populist, capitalizing on a segment of the electorate’s disdain for traditional politicians.

His campaign focused on law and order in the face of hundreds of riots in 1967. He declared it a “sad day in our country that you cannot walk even in your neighborhoods at night or even in the daytime because both national parties, in the last number of years, have kowtowed to every group of anarchists that have roamed the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles and throughout the country.”

He zeroed in on white working-class voters’ anxieties over the decline of traditional values, deriding the Supreme Court for promoting a “perverted agenda” that ripped prayer from public schools while concocting a right to “distribute obscene pornography.” He lamented the inordinate amount of time Washington elites spent pandering to communistic black civil rights scoundrels and “welfare cheats” while prying into the affairs of the common white man who just wanted to run his business as he saw fit or sell his home to someone with “blue eyes and green skin” via restrictive covenant if he so chose.

Like Trump, Wallace rose steadily and improbably in the polls, with consistently high ratings for “saying it the way it really is” and “standing by his convictions.” New Republic columnist Richard Strout in 1967 dubbed Wallace “the ablest demagogue of our time, with a voice of venom and a gut knowledge of the prejudices of the low-income class.” Even John Wayne donated to his campaign, which raised most of its money through small donations.

By December 1967, Wallace made Gallup’s list of America’s 10 most admired men, at No. 8, one notch above California Gov. Ronald Reagan. Gallup would later note that Wallace’s support was strongest among those “with a high school background or less” and those who strongly disliked President Lyndon Johnson.

Wallace ran in some Democratic primaries, as he had briefly in 1964. But; his segregationist views had become an anathema to the party of LBJ, and he got almost no votes. Instead he accepted the nomination of the new, far-right American Independent Party, and he chose retired General Curtis LeMay, who wanted to nuke Vietnam, as his running mate.

Though his principal strength was in the South, Wallace also held large and raucous campaign rallies up North; drawing 20,000 people to Madison Square Garden in October 1968, as anti-Wallace protesters clashed with police outside. One Wallace strategist, arch-segregationist John J. Synon, boasted of Wallace’s Northern supporters in a 1967 column: “Who faced down M.L. King in Cicero, last summer [by throwing bottles and bricks at black civil rights activists who marched through the all-white Illinois town]; who takes the brunt whenever there is trouble? Blue collars, that’s who.”

Wallace’s campaign rallies were characterized by intermittent spasms of violence, including in New York, where several of his supporters notoriously surrounded a group of black protesters and began chanting “kill ’em! Kill ’em!” And Wallace, like Trump, seemed to encourage their bravado, declaring at Madison Square Garden: “We don’t have riots in Alabama. They start a riot down there, first one of ’em to pick up a brick gets a bullet in the brain, that’s all. And then you walk over to the next one and say, ‘All right, pick up a brick. We just want to see you pick up one of them bricks now.”

In the end, Wallace’s independent presidential run took more votes from Richard Nixon than from Hubert Humphrey—four out of five Wallace votes would have gone to Nixon were Wallace not in the race, pollsters concluded at the time, and Nixon won by fewer than 1 million votes, while Wallace pulled 9.9 million. Wallace won five states in the Deep South, along with more Electoral College votes, at 46, than any third-party candidate before or since (one “faithless elector” in North Carolina stubbornly cast a vote for Wallace over that state’s victor, Nixon). The results prompted Nixon campaign strategist Kevin Phillips in 1969 to devise the “Southern strategy” to capitalize on Wallace’s popularity with disaffected conservative white voters in the South.

By 1972, it was Nixon and the Republicans who would never be “out-niggered again.”

Wallace ran twice more for president, both times as a Democrat. He finished a close third to George McGovern and Humphrey in the 1972 primary and came in third again in 1976, behind Jerry Brown and Jimmy Carter. But he was returning to a party he had helped break, by accelerating the realignment of the two major parties that began in 1964. Wallace never came close to being president, but his 1968 bid helped kill the New Deal coalition of black and white working-class voters. The Democratic Party was forever changed.

Which brings us to the Republican Party in 2016.

If their George Wallace—Donald Trump—wins the nomination, the party’s die is cast with a message that’s doomed among the increasingly multiracial presidential-year electorate. If he loses but his opponents continue to pander, self-protectively, to the most hateful aspects of Trump’s message, that die is cast anyway.

If he loses, particularly through some convention gamesmanship, and his supporters decide he was robbed of the nomination by a party elite who looked down on him, and on them, Trump could launch a third-party effort of Wallace-like proportions and tear the GOP in two. And that, in the end, is what Republican elites fear most.


By: Joy-Ann Reid, The Daily Beast, December 15, 2015

December 17, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, George Wallace, GOP | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Forget The Geneva Conventions And The Bill Of Rights”: Cruz And Trump’s ISIS Plans Sound A Lot Like War Crimes

Carpet-bombing with no regard for civilian casualties. Murdering the possibly-innocent families of terrorists just to make a point. The line between official U.S. policy and action movie fantasy was unfortunately blurred during the Republican debate on Tuesday night, when Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, the frontrunners for the nomination—Trump with 33 percent in the polls, Cruz with 16—tried to out-macho one another on foreign policy.

The result was both candidates doubling down on strategies that involve war crimes.

Cruz has often said that he wants to “carpet-bomb ISIS into oblivion,” joking that we’ll find out if “sand can glow in the dark” in the process.

Asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “Does that mean leveling the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria, where there are hundreds of thousands of civilians?”

Cruz replied, “What it means is using overwhelming airpower to utterly and completely destroy ISIS.”

By way of example, he pointed to the first Gulf War, when “we carpet-bombed them for 37 days, saturation bombing, after which our troops went in and in a day and a half, mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army.”

The architects of that Gulf War effort, which featured the first major use of precision-guided bombs, would probably disagree that it was was “saturation” or “carpet” bombing. And according to the International Criminal Court, war crimes include “intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population.” Cruz said the objective would be to kill members of ISIS, not civilians, but there’s no such thing as a precise, narrowly-targeted carpet-bombing campaign. The tactic, which began in the Spanish Civil War and flowered fully in World War II, is to drop thousands of munitions on a single area—and flatten in. It is the opposite of precise.

Not long after Cruz’s exchange, Trump was asked a question by Josh Jacob, an earnest, yellow sweater vest-wearing student from Georgia Tech. He wanted to know how Trump justified his assertion that the U.S. should kill the families of terrorists, when that “violates the principle of distinction between combatants and family members.”

He asked, “How would intentionally killing innocent civilians set us apart from ISIS?”

Trump puffed up like a blowfish. “We have to be much tougher and stronger than we’ve been,” he said. He pointed to the San Bernardino attack, arguing that people who knew the terrorist husband and wife no doubt were aware that they were up to no good. “They knew exactly what was going on,” he said.

“When you had the World Trade center go, people were put into planes that were friends, family, girlfriends, and they were put into planes and they were sent back, for the most part, to Saudi Arabia,” Trump said. “They knew what was going on. They went home and wanted to watch their boyfriends on television.”

To Trump, there is no possibility that the families, friends or loved ones of terrorists could be disconnected from terrorism, and so, “I would be very, very firm with families. And, frankly, that will make people think—because they may not care much about their lives, but they do care, believe it or not, about their families’ lives.”

Earlier this month, Trump was even bolder. “When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he said on Fox & Friends. “You have to take out their families.”

Inconveniently enough for Trump, murder is also classified as a war crime.

But that may not matter to the audience at the debate.

Advocating for breaking international humanitarian laws almost looked reasonable next to Trump’s North Korea-influenced proposal to “close” parts of the Internet frequented by terrorists. (As if the U.S. doesn’t gather all sorts of intelligence from those corners of the digital world.)

And applause predictably broke out when Hillary et al. were criticized for failing to decry “Islamic terror.”

Other ideas, like Rand Paul’s meek suggestion that America might perhaps consider the Bill of Rights from time to time, hardly received any notice.


By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, December 16, 2015


December 17, 2015 Posted by | Carpet Bombing, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Great Establishment Hope”: Was Marco Rubio Overrated All Along?

That was a rough debate for Marco Rubio. He finally got that long-awaited challenge on his previous support for the “Gang of Eight” immigration-law overhaul, which he handled well enough. But any way you look at it, this puts him to the left of the field on the major animating issue of the campaign. He continually took fire from a surging Ted Cruz and a feisty Rand Paul. He spent much of the night on the defensive.

He acquitted himself adequately enough through all that, sure, but what do we really have to support the idea that this is the guy who can prevent Cruz or Donald Trump from capturing the GOP nod? To unite the factions of the party that recoil at the thought of nominating either Trump or Cruz, Rubio may well have needed a much bigger, better night than the one he had Tuesday.

And what Rubio really didn’t need was another establishmentarian like Chris Christie putting points up on the board. Part of the reason Cruz and Trump and Ben Carson have been so successful has been that the moderate vote is divided among so many candidates; the best thing that could’ve happened for the anti-insurgent effort is for a clear alternative to the Cruz/Trump emerging in the very near future, and that sure didn’t happen Tuesday night.

Let’s get the usual caveats out of the way: We’re still a month out from Iowa. Cruz and Trump might yet destroy each other, which would give Rubio more room to rise. Buoyed by a last-minute ad blitz, Jeb Bush could somehow, in theory, come back from the dead. Or maybe, just maybe, we just get to the convention without a clear winner, and the GOP’s muckety-mucks figure out a way to draft an attractively boring guy like Mitch Daniels to run against Hillary Clinton.

But the trend lines should be pretty obvious at this point: Cruz is surging at a good time, maybe a half-step too early; Trump has a legion of diehard fans and solid polling numbers; Rubio, meanwhile, is lagging behind. And if you don’t think Rubio can stop Cruz or Trump, the pickings get awfully slim.

Christie? The guy who spent the last debate at the kids’ table? Sure, I guess, if he can capture New Hampshire and roll into the Southern states with a big win under his belt. But let’s not forget that the Fort Lee traffic jam will continue to haunt him, that he’s squishy on plenty of big issues that are important to the base, that his embrace of President Obama is still ready-made footage for an attack ad, that he’s deeply unpopular in the state he governs and that his temperament hasn’t exactly endeared him to voters outside the Northeast.

But without Christie or Rubio, who is there? Poor old Jeb? Is anyone still holding out hope for a John Kasich surge?

Yes, Rubio has soaked up the Beltway buzz, but no one seems to know what primaries he could actually, you know, win. Right now Rubio is stuck in a distant third in Iowa, some 16 points or so behind Trump in New Hampshire, and fourth in South Carolina. Sure, you say, polls change. As the pollsters themselves remind us, those surveys we get so breathless over are just “snapshots in time.”

Yet with Jeb dead in the water, Kasich unable to gain traction and Christie struggling at the back of the pack, Rubio had what looked like a perfect political moment. Polls indicate he’s the most electable Republican in a race against Clinton, and pundits and the GOP establishment waited for his seemingly inevitable surge.

And waited. And waited.

Now, instead of talk of a boom for Rubio, we increasingly have Republicans wondering how the guy is getting so consistently out-hustled on the ground. “[U]nderneath the buzz, GOP activists in New Hampshire are grumbling that Rubio has fewer staff members and endorsements than most of his main rivals and has made fewer campaign appearances in the state, where voters are accustomed to face-to-face contact with presidential contenders,” The Boston Globe wrote this month. Iowa Republicans, meanwhile, are likewise annoyed that he doesn’t have much of a presence there.

Rubio’s apparent reluctance to really work the trail is all a bit mystifying. He says he’s missing Senate votes because he’s busy campaigning, and then people in New Hampshire and Iowa get miffed that he’s nowhere to be found. You don’t need a lot of money to barnstorm, which is why it’s usually the preferred tactic of candidates like Rubio, who has lagged behind Cruz and Bush in the fundraising race.

TV ads are expensive, so candidates light on cash, the thinking goes, need to really be working voters on the ground. Rubio’s staff, meanwhile, has indicated that they reach enough voters through Fox News and the debates to make up for whatever deficiencies on the trail. So far, his stable but not-great primary polling doesn’t provide a lot of evidence to back up that theory.

As he showed again Tuesday night, Rubio may be the most eloquent speaker in the party—especially on foreign policy. He’s also cut a number of good ads and has a rightly respected communications team. But there’s no reason to think he can continue to run his campaign out of a cable-news greenroom.

It’s possible Rubio still takes off, but the GOP has never nominated a guy who lost both Iowa and New Hampshire, and the latter, where he’s still struggling, is probably a must-win for him. It’s a weird year, sure, but why should we think, in a primary season that’s been dominated by talk of restricting immigration, the guy whose biggest legislative push was for a bipartisan “amnesty” bill will capture the nomination?

So what if the Great Establishment Hope, the insurgent-killer so many of us were waiting for, never emerges? It’s kind of hard to process the Republican nomination coming down to a choice between the Senate’s least-popular showboat and a New York billionaire who’s basically been a liberal all his life. Perhaps that’s why we keep coming back to Rubio and Jeb and maybe now Christie.

But right now it looks like only Cruz and Trump have clear-ish paths to the nomination. Cruz takes Iowa, Trump wins New Hampshire, and then those two duke it out for the Southern states.

Maybe it’s because the other guys just kept committing a series of own goals. Or maybe, when we look back at 2016, we will see it as the year when the GOP transformed into something more akin to the populist, nationalist, anti-immigrant parties we’re seeing in Europe – i.e. the kind of party for which Trump or Cruz would be the obvious standard bearer. Either way, this is starting to look like a two-way race between Trump and Cruz, which means Rubio and company are quickly running out of time to show they can win this thing.


By: Will Rahn, The Daily Beast, December 16, 2015

December 17, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Republican Presidential Primary Is About Only One Issue”: Who Can Best Reflect Voters’ Anxiety Back To Them

Not long ago, immigration was supposed to be the key issue of the Republican presidential primary, where even though the differences between the candidates are small, they all have to show voters that they’re better on the issue than their opponents. And “better” isn’t about having a superior policy solution, it’s about reflecting the voters’ feelings back to them in the most compelling way.

But then there was a terrorist attack in California, and everything changed. Immigration is no longer so important on the campaign trail; instead, the discussion is all about who’s tougher on terrorism. But while it looks like Republicans are talking about something completely different, the truth is that it’s the same discussion and the same emotions, just with a different group of foreigners as the main target.

The Republican primary is really about one thing — a complex, multifaceted thing, but one thing all the same. It finds its expression in any number of issues, but it always comes down to a feeling that Republican voters have. It ranges between unease and anger, but it’s always about the sense that things just aren’t right. Sure, they hate Barack Obama, but he’s more symptom than cause.

Think about that prototypical Republican voter, a middle-aged white guy with old-fashioned values. He sees immigrants moving into his area, speaking a language he doesn’t understand. He sees foreign terrorists on the news. He sees his country growing less religious, he sees gay people getting married and transgender people celebrated for their courage, he sees popular culture created by a bunch of damn hippies infecting the minds of his children. The world gets more confusing all the time, and he doesn’t like the direction things are going.

A Wall Street Journal poll in late October found 71 percent of Republican primary voters agreeing that “A lot of what is happening today makes me feel uneasy and out of place in my own country” (45 percent agreed strongly). And when Donald Trump says he wants “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” it sounds pretty darn sensible to our voter, whether he’s supporting Trump or not. Because somebody’s got to figure out what the hell is going on, and not just with the Muslims.

The political news of the week is the rise of Ted Cruz, who now leads in Iowa and has moved into second place nationally. There’s no telling yet how long it will last, especially since candidates popular with evangelical voters who do well in Iowa haven’t gotten their party’s nomination lately. But Cruz’s rise is also a story about what isn’t happening, namely the success so many people have predicted for Marco Rubio. And one reason may be that Rubio’s youthful optimism isn’t connecting with that jumble of negative emotions, the fear and the anger and the unease, that Republicans are feeling right now.

A big part of conservatives’ dissatisfaction comes from their perception that the national Republican Party has been letting the country slip away. Their representatives have won political victories, but they didn’t do anything with control of Congress. They haven’t fought Obama hard enough, and they’ve either been defeated or compromised on everything that’s important. Our long downward slide has continued unabated. So the fact that Cruz is universally detested in Washington is a strong point in his favor. Ask him what he’s accomplished and he’ll tell you about how often he has “stood up” against both the White House and his own party’s leadership. That may not sound like an accomplishment to many people, but to lots of primary voters, it is.

Rubio can say he’s fought against the Washington establishment, too, but he’s going to have a hard time convincing too many primary voters, particularly when they’re contrasting him with Cruz. And imagine that we go a couple of months without another terrorist attack. The issue will fade in importance, as all issues can, and it’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, that immigration would once again become the main vehicle through which voters’ feelings of unease are expressed. Should that happen, Cruz will attack Rubio mercilessly for trying to achieve comprehensive immigration reform early in his Senate term; it was Rubio’s temporary support of that effort that alienated him from many Tea Partiers.

Perhaps I’m wrong about this, and Rubio’s message that he represents a new generation of optimistic leadership will resonate with primary voters (although Cruz is only five months older than Rubio, he doesn’t talk about his youth in the same way as the baby-faced Floridian). But at the moment, while Rubio can rail at President Obama with the best of them, he isn’t channeling that sense of unease in the same way that Cruz and Donald Trump are.

The party out of power always feels like things aren’t right—after all, it’s infuriating to have to watch a president you despise on television every day, setting policy and making decisions you disagree with. But most of the time, that’s a problem that can be solved with the right electoral outcome. What worries many Republican voters right now, on the other hand, is something much bigger. They want someone who understands what they’re feeling—who gets the fear, the dismay, the unease, and even the anger. Even if none of the candidates are actually going to be able to do much about it.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, December 15, 2015

December 17, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Voters | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Shorter GOP Debate: What Domestic Terrorism?”: Terrorism To Republicans Looks Like Someone Else

About two-thirds of the way through the GOP Debate/Goat Rodeo last night, in the midst of yet another Syrian refugee pile-on, I tweeted, “How about vetting the multiple white guys who committed domestic terrorism in Colorado?”

My friend Tom Sullivan retweeted it with a note, “White college students from CA caused more terror in CO than any refugee ever will.”

Tom, tragically, would know. His son Alex was murdered in the Aurora theater gun massacre.

The debate was billed to focus on national security. You heard lots about Paris and San Bernardino and the threat that shut down the Los Angeles school system Tuesday. Not a word about Charleston. Or Aurora. Or Colorado Springs. Or Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Or Sandy Hook, just a day after the anniversary of what was a most horrific day among so many in the American timeline of mass shootings. A distinction shared by no other developed country, many of whom have seen homeland violence but none with the numbing regularity of ours.

Ben Carson did a moment of silence for San Bernardino – which is appropriate. But nobody said a word about a school full of dead teachers and 6- and 7-year-olds, almost three years to the day since they died.

Terrorism to Republicans looks like someone else. Terrorism to many other Americans looks like someone they know and we know, someone who takes cues from Internet mutterings about baby parts, or a deranged and feeble young man with available mass-killing weapons at home or a white supremacist acting on ramblings from the darkest corners of a disturbed mind.

We actually have met the enemy, which is why there are reproductive health care doctors who go to work wearing bulletproof vests. But Republicans don’t want to talk about it. And frankly, CNN whiffed on bringing it up.

As the scorecard goes, Jeb Bush finally woke up the fact that yes, he is losing to That Guy, the Short Fingered Vulgarian Donald Trump, about four debates too late. As my friend Mike Gehrke put it, Rand Paul actually sounded sane to drunk Democrats. I don’t understand Ted Cruz’s base, but he appeared to speak to it effectively while attacking Rubio for being soft on immigration. Trump blustered his way through as usual, and his supporters don’t care. Chris Christie seems to have adopted Rudy Giuliani’s “noun, verb, 9/11” approach. The air has gone out of the Carly Fiorina balloon to the point she made multiple “pay attention to me” pleas to the moderators.

The penultimate moment of the whole thing may have been when Ben Carson, having sufficiently malapropped “Hamas” into “hummus” last week, dubbed the Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Pubis. Who knew he had a porn name?

Along with domestic terrorism, the other thing notably absent from the campaign was much mention of Hillary Clinton, which suits her just fine. The longer Republicans stay divided, keep bloviating among themselves and persist in throwing duck-face shade on the split screen, the better for Democrats in what will be a hard-fought 2016 election.


By: Laura K. Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, December 16, 2015

December 17, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Mass Shootings, National Security | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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