"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Say No Go”: When It Comes To Severing Ties With The Radical Right, Better Late Than Never

I’d like to nominate, for next year’s John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, every prominent Republican who has declared, unequivocally, that they will vote for a candidate other than seemingly-inevitable GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump in the general election–including former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and neoconservative writer Max Boot.

Granted, it’s fair to ask why these anti-Trump Republicans didn’t abandon ship years before, considering the wingnuttery that existed in the Republican Party long before Trump’s rise. On the other hand, when it comes to severing ties with the radical right, better late than never.

Do you remember the “Obamacans,” the legions of conservatives and Republicans who declared that Barack Obama, not John McCain, was best suited to become the 44th President of the United States? Christopher Buckley and Colin Powell were the two most prominent names on the list of “Obamacans” who were courageous enough to acknowledge that McCain’s selection of silly Sarah was too sickening to stomach.

The anti-Trump Republicans remind me of those brave “Obamacans.” They also remind me of the Republicans who embraced ex-Republican third-party candidate John Anderson in the 1980 presidential election; while I wish those Republicans had set aside their grievances with President Carter, at least they recognized the radicalism of Ronald Reagan–something a majority of the electorate did not.

I imagine that many of these anti-Trump Republicans were simply in denial about just how pathetic their party had become. Maybe they thought the Tea had cooled off. Maybe they thought there was still some semblance of reason and rationality on the right.

The rise of Trump has been a rude awakening for them. They now realize that in today’s GOP, reason is considered treason. They now realize that the party is so far gone that even Jesse Helms would be branded a RINO if he were around today. They now realize that the virus of viciousness is spreading–and that it’s far more dangerous than Ebola or Zika.

Granted, not all of the anti-Trump Republicans deserve to be considered brave. Former George W. Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner embraced the politics of cowardice earlier this year when he suggested that he would remain neutral in the general election:

Beginning with Ronald Reagan, I have voted Republican in every presidential election since I first became eligible to vote in 1980. I worked in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and in the White House for George W. Bush as a speechwriter and adviser. I have also worked for Republican presidential campaigns, although not this time around.

Despite this history, and in important ways because of it, I will not vote for Donald Trump if he wins the Republican nomination.

I should add that neither could I vote in good conscience for Hillary Clinton or any of the other Democrats running for president, since they oppose many of the things I have stood for in my career as a conservative — and, in the case of Mrs. Clinton, because I consider her an ethical wreck. If Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton were the Republican and Democratic nominees, I would prefer to vote for a responsible third-party alternative; absent that option, I would simply not cast a ballot for president. A lot of Republicans, I suspect, would do the same.

I guess Wehner never heard the words of the late historian and activist Howard Zinn:

I don’t believe it’s possible to be neutral. The world is already moving in certain directions. And to be neutral, to be passive in a situation like that is to collaborate with whatever is going on.

As for the anti-Trump Republicans who will not remain neutral but who will take their votes elsewhere, we should welcome them with open arms into the reality-based community. We should praise their willingness to stand up to the scorn of social media and the abuse of angered allies. We should also respectfully ask them: “Hey, what took y’all so long?”


By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 19, 2016

March 19, 2016 Posted by | 3rd Party Presidential Candidates, Conservatives, Donald Trump, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Inside The Doomed Conservative Dump-Trump Plot”: Plans For A Consensus 3rd Party Candidate If Trump Is GOP Nominee

A group of powerful conservatives met Thursday to try to hammer out a plan for a potential third-party consensus candidate if Trump becomes the GOP nominee.

The team that brought you Santorum 2016 has decided to stop Trump.

He must be petrified.

For seven hours on Thursday, a few dozen conservative leaders gathered in an upstairs room of the Army Navy Club off K Street in downtown Washington, D.C., to rack their collective brains—but reached no conclusion on how to thwart the billionaire’s rise.

Quin Hillyer, a National Review contributing editor, fielded questions afterward from print reporters and a Chinese camera crew, explaining that the group hoped all the 2016 presidential candidates who haven’t endorsed Trump will coalesce behind a unity ticket. He added that there wasn’t a consensus that conservatives should unite behind Ted Cruz.

“That was not the consensus,” he said, when asked about support for a Cruz-helmed unity ticket. “The consensus was that we need a unity ticket of some sort and we’ll let the candidates work out who the unity ticket is.”

He added that the group hopes someone other than Trump will be the Republican Party’s nominee.

“Obviously a third party or an independent bid is one other option,” he added. “But we didn’t come to any formal plans. We are exploring every option.”

Other attendees—including Bob Fischer, the president of Fischer Furniture in Rapid City, South Dakota, who quickly jumped in an Uber when approached by reporters after the meeting, and Bill Wichterman, a key Santorum booster and a top D.C. lobbyist—declined to talk about the closed-door discussion.

The invitation billed the event as a meeting of “conservative leaders to strategize how to defeat Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, and if he is the Republican nominee for president, to offer a true conservative candidate in the general election.”

A copy of the invitation obtained by The Daily Beast showed it went to people on the email list of a group called Conservatives of Faith—a group that helped give energy to Rick Santorum’s 2016 presidential bid. The group came together in July of 2011 to connect evangelical leaders with presidential hopefuls. It’s loosely affiliated with another, larger group of powerful social conservative leaders called the Council for National Policy—which has endorsed Trump rival Ted Cruz.

The two groups sometimes have concurrent meetings so members can attend both.

Though the group has a history of helping Santorum, Thursday’s meeting wasn’t just a reunion of the former senator’s old advocates.

Conservatives of Faith held one of its first gatherings in August of 2011 at the ranch of Jim Leininger, a wealthy businessman who supports conservative Christian causes and school-choice efforts. Members of the group met at the ranch with Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, at the start of his 2012 presidential campaign.

Fischer, the furniture magnate, is a key organizer of the group. The invitation to Thursday’s meeting instructed respondents to RSVP to him directly. Acquaintances describe Fischer as “thoughtful,” “low-key,” “lovely,” “wonderful,” and capable of managing others’ big egoes. His basic belief, according to sources, is that if enough conservative Christian leaders get together in a room, discuss the issues, pray, and agree upon one battle plan or chosen candidate, that they will be able to accomplish their ends.

It’s an interesting theory. But—fortunately for Trump—it has a poor track record. A few weeks after Obama won re-election in 2012, the Conservatives of Faith group convened at a country club in McLean, Virginia, to gin up enthusiasm for a second Santorum presidential bid.

We all know how that worked out.

And though members of the Council for National Policy backed Cruz, he got schlonged in the evangelical-heavy Southern states where his team had hoped to do well. The fact that Donald Trump beat him by winning the evangelical vote indicates that evangelical Christian leaders—including those in the Council for National Policy and Conservatives of Faith—don’t have as much clout as conventional wisdom might dictate.

Still, it features a number of evangelical power brokers.

Sources estimated that the Conservatives of Faith email list has upwards of 300 names on it. Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum has been involved with the group in the past, but she endorsed Trump this cycle and didn’t attend the meeting on Thursday.

Trump won every state but Ohio on March 15’s Super Tuesday primaries. So today’s effort is just the latest setback for the #NeverTrump movement—an effort that may have come just after the nick of time.

Perhaps as a result, there is reason for skepticism as this latest faction of the Republican Party sets out to try to change the trajectory of the race.

Dennis Stephens, a long-time conservative lobbyist based in D.C. who backs Trump, said the group’s plans aren’t promising.

“Third party equals Hillary Clinton,” he said.


By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, March 18, 2016

March 19, 2016 Posted by | 3rd Party GOP Presidential Candidate, Conservatives, Donald Trump | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Special-Interest Contributions?”: Will Trump Have To Go On A Fund-Raising Binge If He Wins The GOP Nomination?

One of the big story lines of the presidential cycle is that candidates other than front-runner Donald J. Trump have spent a lot more money on themselves and against him than he’s had to expend, enabling him to pose as the guy too rich (and too popular with small donors) to be vulnerable to “bribery.” This was exemplified by the failed effort by Marco Rubio and an assortment of conservative groups to take down Trump in Florida. Anti-Trump “independent” ads alone in the Sunshine State cost an estimated $35.5 million. Total spending by Trump and his supporters for the entire campaign nationwide is at $25.8 million.

Trump’s difference-maker financially, of course, has been his massive advantage in “earned media” (or what used to be called “free media,” because it’s provided by media coverage free of charge). MediaQuant, a firm that measures and values unpaid media coverage, estimates that Trump has harvested nearly $1.9 billion in earned media this cycle. That’s about twice as much as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush combined have received, and within shouting distance of being twice as much as the two Democratic candidates combined as well.

But general-election campaigns are a lot more expensive than primaries. So it’s not surprising that Trump has hedged on repeating his “no special-interest contributions” pledge beyond the Republican Convention in July, and CNN is reporting that he’s already planning a big fund-raising blitz for the general election.

At The American Prospect, Eliza Newlin Carney puts all this together and suggests that total campaign costs are about to become too high for Trump to perpetually surf earned media to victory:

So far, Trump has enjoyed an extraordinary political ride, fending off millions worth of hostile attacks, prevailing against opponents who out-organized and outspent him, and sparing himself the punishing grind of high-dollar fundraisers. He’s also gotten considerable political mileage out of his claim to be above the big money fray. It remains to be seen whether Trump can continue playing by his own rules, or whether he will be forced to get his hands dirty in the messy business of campaign financing—and answer for it to voters.

But there are two factors that undercut this possibility. For one thing, Trump could liquidate some of his assets (estimated independently as having a value of about $4.5 billion) and self-finance to a considerable extent. And for another, this long nominating contest season in both parties is shortening the general-election campaign and the time and cost of any “air war.” Additionally, earned media is much easier to come by in presidential general elections than any other mode of politics, sometimes dwarfing paid media even when there’s not a wildly entertaining and galvanizing figure like Donald Trump in the fray. So it might make sense for Trump to wait and see if he even needs to spend a lot of money. At the current trajectory Americans won’t grow totally bored with the wiggy dude until some time well into 2017.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 17, 2016

March 19, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Donald Trump, Special Interest Groups | , , , , | Leave a comment

“How To Lose A Voter For Life”: A Once Great Party Rips Itself Apart, One Voter At A Time

We frequently talk about how intolerant rhetoric can cost the Republicans support among the targets of their contempt. They’re going to lose support among young women, we say, and gays and lesbians, and Latinos and Asians and blacks and…

That’s all true, but this is a general phenomenon that actually goes on in an atomized and individualized way– one voter at a time.

Here’s one of those voters:

At midday on the eve of the [Iowa] caucuses, into the Hockenberry house walked two men who had driven to Dubuque from Milwaukee in a white Mercedes SUV. One of them was Ismail Fersat, who was from Turkey, and Muslim, and a successful entrepreneur who ran his own granite-countertop business. Once, back in Turkey, he was the national boxing champ. He came to America from Istanbul 16 years ago in hopes of becoming a professional boxer.

What did America mean to him? “For me, the key is democracy,” said Fersat, still two years away from citizenship. “I feel that if the people can tell honestly and confidently what they think without any fear, no matter what religion they belong to, what culture they belong to — that, to me, is democracy.” He had more than anything admired this about America — until he started to worry about it during this campaign.

For years in Wisconsin, he had thought that he should support the Republicans, because they would be best for business. Then along came Trump. “When Trump came out, I felt offended by the comment he made. The Muslim is blah, blah. That hurt me in a big way. I see democracy as something else. When Trump came out, boom, no more. I’m done with the Republicans. I said, ‘I’m on the wrong side!'”

Here’s an entrepreneurial immigrant, a job creator and small businessman. The chances are pretty good that he has some traditional ideas about gender roles and family and human sexuality. He was a Republican, he says, because he believed they would be better for his business. That stands to reason since their economic rhetoric is aimed like a laser at people like him. How many times did Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan talk about small business owners and entrepreneurship? It was like a mantra, or Chinese water torture, or an annoying involuntary tic.

Yet, once Donald Trump came out and said that “Islam hates us” and Muslims shouldn’t be allowed into the country and they should be forced to register with the government and that he might shut down mosques because virtually 100% of them are anti-American?

Once Donald Trump said all that, Ismail Fersat got the hint and said, “I’m on the wrong side!!”

And Ismail Fersat didn’t become some anti-American saboteur or terrorist. He and his buddy jumped in their white Mercedes SUV and drove down to Iowa to campaign for Hillary Clinton. They decided to knock doors for her campaign because they believe in democracy and they believe in the right to say (and be) what you want without fear.

Everyone has their own story, but there are millions of people in this country who are making, or have already made, or will soon be making the same voyage as Mr. Fersat and his friend.

That’s how a once great party rips itself apart– one voter at a time.


By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 18, 2016

March 19, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Hillary Clinton, Islamophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“More Inmates Equals More Revenue”: Prison-Industrial Complex Morphs Into Treatment-Industrial Complex

Nancy Reagan’s recent death was a reminder of the shallow moralizing of the Just Say No anti-drug campaign she once championed.

Thankfully, attitudes have changed. We’re more attuned to the fact that untreated mental health issues are often a precursor to drug use. Nancy’s slogan to fight peer pressure won’t help much there.

Most people realize that the War on Drugs, begun under Nixon, has failed.

And there’s growing public awareness that we’ve let our jails and prisons become warehouses for people who need treatment — and who needed it long before they took a criminal turn.

Mandatory sentencing guidelines have been changed, and the days of presidential administrations following the whims of a drug czar are over.

Incarceration rates are dropping. To most, this is good news. But it’s not if your business model revolves around keeping people locked up.

The for-profit prison industry has kept one step ahead of the trend. They got wise quick, sensing the winds shifting away from mass incarceration and toward the need to address mental health issues within the nation’s prisons and jails.

For those familiar with the term “prison-industrial complex,” meet its offspring — the “treatment-industrial complex.”

A report released in February by Grassroots Leadership, a civil and human rights organization, rings some warning bells. The report, “Incorrect Care: A Prison Profiteer Turns Care into Confinement,” is part of a series of reports that has focused on reducing the nation’s dysfunctional criminal justice system.

This latest installment takes an in-depth look at the privatization efforts in Texas, Florida and South Carolina. In particular, it goes after the shifting business models of for-profit prison operators Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, as well as spinoff rehabilitation companies like Correct Care Solutions.

The charge is that just as prisons are often not about rehabilitation, these new for-profit treatment places are not about helping people regain their mental stability and, therefore, their release. The report also challenges the quality of care being offered, citing cases of violence and patient deaths.

One startling figure from the report: 50 percent of people in correctional facilities suffer from mental health and substance abuse disorders. This compares to estimated rates of only 1 percent to 3 percent within the U.S. population. Prisoners represent a huge market for mental health care. If the prison operator also has a side business in mental health care, a conflict of interest presents itself.

Under normal circumstances, a person can get out of prison after serving his sentence. In fact, 90 percent of people who are sentenced do just that. But inmates can be placed by a judge into a for-profit mental health program in a prison — say, under civil commitment laws now on the books in about 20 states — and be detained there past the end of the sentence. The operator has a clear incentive to keep a person there indefinitely, to increase the return on its investment.

The Grassroots Leadership report points out that these private operators offer cost savings to a state when the facility is full: Thus the cost per head goes down. Assigning inmates to these facilities can be very appealing to lawmakers trying to balance tight budgets. Potentially, it becomes even more alluring when a lobbyist with the industry is making a hefty donation to a re-election campaign.

A basic set of circumstances and decisions has set the stage in many states. Legislatures have cut public mental health budgets, resulting in understaffing and poor conditions in state-run facilities. Community-based mental health programs are also being shorted. That leads to more untreated people who act out and then find themselves in a criminal justice system.

By virtue of their mental state, many of these people are not in a position to self-advocate for better care. Locked up, they are easily forgotten. One question must continuously be asked by legislators, advocates and the taxpayers whose dollars are being spent: In a for-profit model — in which more inmates equals more revenue — what possible incentive does a rehabilitation company have to help people regain stability and rejoin society? If such an incentive doesn’t exist and outweigh the profit motive, it’s hard to see how private-sector rehab programs won’t make matters worse.


By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, March 18, 2016

March 19, 2016 Posted by | Mass Incarceration, Mental Illness, Prison-Industrial Complex | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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