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“Proved Spectacularly Wrong”: The GOP’s ‘2012 Autopsy Report’ Is Now Officially Dead and Buried

It’s hard to think of an official political-party document more thoroughly repudiated by its intended audience than the March 2013 “Growth & Opportunity Project” of the Republican National Committee, better known as the “2012 autopsy report.” Yes, there were a host of recommendations for avoiding Mitt Romney’s fate included in the report, some that have been taken to heart involving campaign infrastructure and communications. But at the time it was abundantly clear the leadership of the GOP wanted to shake its activists and elected officials and get it through their thick skulls that remaining a party of white identity politics was a death trap given prevailing demographic trends.

And the single policy recommendation made in the whole report was underlined with bright flashing pointers:

We are not a policy committee, but among the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only. We also believe that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all.

A couple of months later, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported the so-called “Gang of Eight” reform bill, with Senator Marco Rubio way out in front on it. And in June 2013, the full Senate passed the bill, a high-water mark for immigration reform that seems astounding today.

This additional language from the report is also worth remembering given the mood among Republicans less than three years later:

If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence.

That sentence was a specific repudiation of Mitt Romney’s position on immigration. At present it seems a relatively moderate option for a party whose presidential field is presently led by two advocates of forced deportation, being chased by, among others, a repentant Marco Rubio, who admits now he grievously misjudged public opinion in favoring a path to citizenship for the undocumented.

So it’s appropriate that the “autopsy report” itself be formally buried, and National Review‘s Jim Geraghty does the honors, arguing that it “proved spectacularly wrong in predicting what the political environment would look like at the end of President Obama’s second term.”

The Republican base may or may not be on board with the idea of deporting every last illegal immigrant, but there exists a broad consensus that we must make our southern border as impenetrable as possible and that illegal immigrants should face significant consequences for breaking the law. While there are very few who think legal immigration should cease entirely, 67 percent of Republicans (and 49 percent of all Americans) think legal immigration should be reduced from current levels.

Geraghty goes on to speculate that had House Republicans taken the advice of the “autopsy report” and sent something like the Gang of Eight bill to Obama for his signature, the anti-Establishment rebellion we are witnessing in the GOP ranks this year might have arrived in the 2014 down-ballot primaries:

Instead of seeing historic wins in 2014, the party probably would have ripped itself apart, as immigration restrictionists mounted furious primary challenges to the Republicans who had defied their wishes.

I don’t know about that; a lot of other winds were blowing in the GOP’s direction in 2014, including now-habitual pro-Republican midterm turnout patterns and the near-universal incidence of White House losses, often enormous, in second-term midterms. It’s also entirely possible, given the 2014 Republican Establishment strategy of defeating tea-party insurgents by surrendering to them on policy, that had immigration reform passed, its very enablers would have quickly condemned their own work and escaped the consequences, just as Rubio is trying to do now.

But if the GOP again loses in 2016, it’s a good bet that party poo-bahs will not be so fast to condemn excessive conservatism or insufficient tolerance as the problem. Republicans just don’t want to hear that.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 9, 2016

February 10, 2016 Posted by | GOP Autopsy Report, House Republicans, Immigration Reform, Republican National Committee | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Team Crazy Wins The Sane State”: We’ve Still Got Some Time For Sanity To Catch Up

Former New Hampshire governor John Sununu is fond of saying “Iowa picks corn and New Hampshire picks presidents.” Let’s hope that he’s wrong this time, or America is headed for an apocalyptic “choice, not an echo” election.

Celebrity demagogue Donald Trump and Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders won massive victories on Tuesday, sweeping virtually every voter group in the Granite State. It was a night for pitchfork populism, with the politics of cultural and economic resentment hitting overdrive.

What’s truly troubling is that New Hampshire traditionally serves as a speed-bump in the crowded primary calendar, calming hyper-partisan passions and pandering. Unlike the low-turnout Iowa Caucuses and play-to-the-base South Carolina, the “Live Free or Die” state offers an electorate that reflects the independent centrist sensibility of the American general electorate.

Forty-four percent of New Hampshire voters are registered independents, essentially mirroring national self-identification numbers. It’s an open primary, increasing competition and voter participation. And it’s a swing state, one of only seven that is considered up for grabs in a presidential election.

For Republicans, New Hampshire is a rare state where the party is evenly divided between conservatives and moderates. Libertarians have a strong presence and perhaps not coincidentally it’s the least religious state in the nation. Social conservative litmus tests have limited appeal here. For example, New Hampshire became the first state to legalize marriage equality via the legislature in 2009.  While the state isn’t exactly a bastion of racial diversity, New Hampshire has ideological diversity and a proud live-and-let live culture. In the last two presidential primary cycles New Hampshire backed John McCain and Mitt Romney after the Iowa caucuses elevated Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Earlier in the cycle, it seemed like one of the strong center-right governors—Chris Christie, John Kasich, or Jeb Bush—would be primed to repeat the pattern.

So much for that streak. The record will now show that Donald Trump romped to victory in 2016 with a nativist campaign. He updated the conservative populism of Pat Buchanan, the right-wing pundit who narrowly won the state in 1996 with an anti-immigrant, anti-trade, and anti-establishment agenda. Trump’s proudly anti-PC appeals defined deviancy down in this campaign, delighting in the attention that outrageously ugly “us against them” rhetoric can bring. His Teflon comes from being a reality TV star with a reputation for ruthless business success. Fame and fury more than compensate for a lack of conservative philosophy to those folks who just want an anti-Obama in the White House. Trump’s victory cut across all age, income, and ideological groups, according to CNN’s exit polls—though the more educated and wealthy a voter is the less likely they are to buy his B.S.

The prospect of a billionaire populist should be enough to make your head explode. But for the earnest liberal activists who clustered around Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign, the idea must be particularly insulting.

After all, the energy behind Bernie’s campaign comes from righteous anger at income inequality that has only deepened in the wake of the great recession, making millennials more receptive to a democratic socialist agenda than at any time since post-war Progressive Party members insisted that “Uncle Joe” Stalin was simply misunderstood.

Sanders’s campaign has so far succeeded in making “moderate” a dirty word in the Democratic primary—a mirror image of what the dynamic Republicans have been wrestling with for decades. Whatever the ultimate impact, we are witnessing the birth of a left-wing Tea Party that may divide the Democratic Party—with predictable results—for decades to come.

No doubt Bernie’s big win was boosted by his status as a Senator from Vermont. New Hampshire traditionally rewards neighboring state elected officials from Paul Tsongas to John Kerry. But his campaign also became a crusade against the governing establishment represented by Hillary Clinton. In the psychology of support, it is cool to like Bernie now. And according to CNN’s exit polls, he won almost every voter cohort—including, somewhat surreally, moderate voters. Only non-white voters, senior citizens, and those who made over $200k supported Clinton in New Hampshire.

It’s worth noting that these two opposite-in-everything men share two broad policy positions: a distrust of free trade deals and a belief that big money super PACs are trying to buy elections.

But while Bernie also rode a wave of populism to his victory, buoyed by his unscripted authenticity—any parallels to Trump stop there. While The Donald glories in incivility, Bernie refuses to go negative during the campaign. While Trump’s policies are all bumper-sticker bluster, Bernie glories in a five-year plan with detailed bullet points.

Perhaps the most relevant difference is that Trump has positive primary calendar ahead of him—he leads the polls in the upcoming conservative states throughout the South. Bernie has a much tougher road ahead in states that are both more conservative and more diverse. Democratic socialists from Vermont via Brooklyn don’t expect a friendly reception in the South.

Adrenalin is surging for Trump and Sanders supporters after their lopsided wins in a centrist state. But there is something nihilistic behind the anti-establishment anger that drove them to the polls. Because polarization doesn’t solve problems—it compounds them.

The authoritarian-tinged appeal of a strong-man or the promise of ideological purity makes true-believers feel invincible until they collide with reality in a constitutional democracy. Victory in presidential elections requires reaching out beyond the base and winning over the reasonable edge of the opposition. Effective presidential leadership requires working with congress in a spirit of principled compromise, defining common ground and achieving common goals.

The frustration that many folks feel with Washington stems from its current division and dysfunction, the sense that special interests are ignoring the national interest. They’re right. But the populist protest candidacies of Trump and Sanders will only deepen Washington’s division and dysfunction because they don’t offer any practical bipartisan solutions as a matter of pride. Banning Muslim immigration or single-payer healthcare may have their constituencies but they aren’t going to pass congress. Insults and ideological purity are only a recipe for further polarization, creating a feedback loop of frustration and alienation. Their prescriptions double-down on the disease.

Some hardcore partisan supporters no doubt love the idea of a Trump-Sanders general election, effectively forcing America to choose between two extreme visions. But despite their current popularity with the partisan base, neither man represents the vast majority of Americans. And here’s a proof-point to keep the moderate majority from fearing the future: Less than 0.3 percent of Americans have voted so far in the 2016 primaries. We’ve still got some time for sanity to catch up with all the crazy talk.

 

By: John Avlon, The Daily Beast, February 10, 2016

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, New Hampshire Primaries, Populism | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Does Sanders Have A Lock On The Youth Vote?”: It’s Still A Little Early For All Of The Assumptions

The huge story coming out of the Iowa caucuses is that young people voted for Bernie Sanders 84/14. Thus developed the meme that he has a lock on that age group around the country and writers like Nate Silver are attempting to explain the phenomenon. But does the polling bear that out?

The problem with examining the question is that there are very few polls of states that will weigh in after New Hampshire – and even fewer that provide information based on age. So with the caveat that these are merely individual polls and should be taken with a grain of salt, here is a bit of evidence to test the meme.

Based on this NBC/WSJ poll (Feb. 2-3), it looks like the New Hampshire results will closely mirror what happened in Iowa with those under 45.

Sanders 72%
Clinton 27%

One of the states that holds its primary on March 1st (Super Tuesday) is Georgia. Here is how the under 40 vote looks in a poll conducted by Landmark Communications (Feb. 4).

Sanders 13.5%
Clinton 61%

North Carolina holds its primary on March 15th. Here’s what Public Policy Polling (Jan 18-19) found for voters under 45 in that state.

Sanders 31%
Clinton 51%

Perhaps these polls from Georgia and North Carolina haven’t accurately captured the millennial surge in those states. Or perhaps Bernimania will catch on there as the vote gets closer. Or maybe, like other age groups, a more diverse collection of young people will vote differently than the mostly white group that we’ve seen in Iowa and New Hampshire. We’ll have to wait and see. But it’s still a little early for all of the assumptions about how Sanders has a lock on the youth vote.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 9, 2016

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Millennnials, Young Voters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Presidential Primary Is Fraught With Male Anxiety”: A Phase Of The Campaign That Is Turning Positively Comical

As Chris Matthews memorably put it many years ago, Democrats are the “mommy party,” handling things like education and health care, while Republicans are the “daddy party,” concerned with things like crime and foreign threats. It’s an oversimplification, of course, but there’s some truth there, and it helps explain the persistent gender gap, with Democrats usually winning female voters and Republicans usually winning male voters.

But in this year’s presidential primary, we’ve entered a phase of the campaign that is turning positively comical in its expressions of male anxiety.

Just consider some of the things that have happened of late. Yesterday at a Donald Trump rally, a woman in the audience responded to Trump’s criticism of Ted Cruz for being insufficiently enthusiastic about torturing prisoners by shouting, “He’s a pussy!” Almost bursting with glee, Trump pretended to scold the woman, first telling her to repeat it, and then repeating it himself to the explosive delight of the audience.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz is trying to make an issue out of the fact that when his opponents were asked if women should register for the draft since they will now be serving in combat positions, they said Yes. Said Cruz:

“I’m the father of two little girls. I love those girls with all of my heart. They are capable of doing anything in their heart’s desire, but the idea that their government would forcibly put them in a foxhole with a 220-pound psychopath trying to kill them doesn’t make any sense at all.”

What actually doesn’t make sense is why Cruz thinks the military would be putting any soldier, male or female, in a foxhole with another soldier who is a psychopath trying to kill them, but in any case, Cruz is here to stand tall. As the National Review put it in an editorial today, “Men should protect women. They should not shelter behind mothers and daughters.”

This comes after Marco Rubio got ridiculed for wearing fancy boots (“A Vote for Marco Rubio Is a Vote for Men’s High-Heeled Booties,” tweeted a Cruz staffer). And after Donald Trump spent weeks mocking Jeb Bush for being “low energy.”

In other words, this race is sounding like a bunch of elementary-school boys on the playground shouting “You’re a girl! No, you’re a girl! Girly girl! Girly girl!” I’m beginning to think the whole thing should be narrated by David Attenborough, whispering from behind a bush as we watch the candidates in action: “Here, we see the males bellowing and stomping their feet in a classic dominance display, each one more puffed up than the next, until one lucky silverback, his chest heaving with exertion and a rush of testosterone, forces his competitor to slink off in shame, his genes never to be passed on.”

Obviously, much of this festival of male anxiety is driven by Trump, whose entire life at times appears to be an extended attempt to prove he’s a Real Man. But this is an old story in presidential politics; indeed, in almost every election of the last few decades there are times when Republicans have implied or said directly that the Democratic candidate is effeminate and weak, whether it was Ronald Reagan challenging Walter Mondale to arm-wrestle, George H.W. Bush saying Michael Dukakis hailed from the “Harvard Yard’s boutique,” or Republicans mocking John Kerry for supposedly “looking French” (you know what that means).

The message all this is supposed to communicate is that real men vote Republican, and if you vote for the wrong candidate then your own masculinity might be in question. In a primary campaign where all the candidates fetishize “strength” and have equally belligerent foreign policy ideas, distinguishing yourself on this score requires getting increasingly personal.

Looming in the background is the fact that whoever gets the GOP nomination will probably be running against an actual woman, not a man who can be mocked as effeminate. This complicates matters, to say the least. The sexual politics around Hillary Clinton have always been fraught with ideas about proper gender roles; indeed the most common joke late-night writers made about Clinton throughout her career was that she is in fact not a woman at all, but a man (they were particularly fond of jokes about Clinton having balls).

So it wasn’t a surprise that when a reporter for Mic.com tracked down the woman who shouted out at the Trump rally, she was happy to go on an extended riff about the size of the various candidates’ testicles and which fruits they most closely resemble. But the real target here is male voters, the ones who want to make sure nobody calls their own virility into question. To appeal to them, the candidates are turning that attack on each other. Every American male knows from a young age that the worst thing your peers can call you is a girl; some people just never get over it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, February 9, 2016

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Gender Gap, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Can Sitcoms Erase Bigotry?”: What Exclusion Otherizes, Inclusion Normalizes

So it turns out sitcoms can erase bigotry.

That’s the bottom line of a study recently presented before a conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. And it doesn’t even have to be a particularly good sitcom.

To judge, at least, from a screening of its first two episodes, the Canadian sitcom on which the study is based was earnest, amiable, and about as funny as “Schindler’s List.” Apparently, however, Canadian television viewers liked it well enough. “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” a culture clash show about life at a Muslim worship house in small town Canada, premiered in 2007 and ran for five years. Here in the United States, it’s available on Hulu.

Sohad Murrar, a doctoral candidate in social psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, used the show to test whether entertainment media can reduce prejudice. She gathered a representative sampling of white men and women between the ages of 18 and 60, first testing them to establish a baseline measurement of their prejudices. Then they were divided into two groups. One was assigned to watch episodes of “Friends.” The other watched “Little Mosque.”

Afterward, when Murrar again tested the groups for prejudice, she found that while the “Friends” group showed no movement, there was a reduction in anti-Muslim bias among those who had watched “Little Mosque.” Nor was this a fleeting thing. Four to six weeks later, the “Little Mosque” group still showed less bigotry.

The study participants, she says, “were identifying with the characters. Just seeing these characters, these Muslims, go through everyday life situations that they themselves could imagine themselves in or they themselves could relate to … kind of led our participants to feel like, ‘Hey, yeah, that’s something I myself could experience.’”

Prejudice, she notes, derives from the identification of an “in” group and an “out” group and the social distancing of the former from the latter. It’s a process some have dubbed “otherization.”

For all that academia and news media might do to combat that process, entertainment media are uniquely positioned to neutralize it. It is one thing, after all, to read statistics or hear arguments on the humanity and equality of, say, African Americans. It is quite another to have Anthony Anderson in your den every week giving you belly laughs or to root for Denzel Washington shooting it out with bad guys on the big screen.

Murrar’s study is only the latest to quantify this. And mind you, some of us didn’t even need a study to know it. Some of us have always regarded the likes of Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll, Ellen DeGeneres and “Will and Grace,” Mary Tyler Moore and “Cagney and Lacey” as the unsung heroes and secret weapons of the movements for African-American, gay and women’s freedom.

Still, Murrar’s study underlines a truth often overlooked when the talk turns, as it has with this year’s snow white Oscar nominations, to Hollywood’s dubious track record on diversity. Namely, that inclusion is not some enlightened sop to political correctness. Nor is it just good business, though it is that.

Rather. Inclusion changes the society itself. It lessens fears, opens eyes, unsticks hearts, makes people better. What exclusion otherizes, inclusion normalizes.

In a nation that has seen Islamophobia rise with the inexorability of floodwaters and racial animus spike to levels not seen since Jim Crow, a nation where Holocaust survivors say a leading presidential contender actually reminds them of Hitler, that’s no trivial thing. There is a great power here and those of us who have been too long defined as “other” must use every form of pressure we can to ensure that that power includes us in the circle of what America deems “normal.”

Or else find more constructive uses for our money and our time.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; Featured Post, The National Memo, February 8, 2016

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Entertainment Industry, Prejudice | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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