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“John Kasich – Only Moderately Extreme”: Remember The Last Time We Had A “Compassionately Conservative” President?

If you’ve watched John Kasich at any of the Republican presidential debates so far, two things stand out about him: (1) he wants to be the “Republican with a heart,” and (2) he completely embraces trickle-down economics. That’s pretty much the kind of thing we heard from George W. Bush in the 2000 election when he called himself a “compassionate conservative.” Compared to the rest of the field this time around, that has a lot of pundits calling Kasich the moderate of the group.

The problem is that we all got a pretty good lesson on the failure of trickle-down economics during the Bush/Cheney years. And right now, Kasich is demonstrating just how un-moderate he is on some important issues. For example, here’s what happened at a town hall event in Virginia today.

Notice that even one of his supporters called him out for saying that “women came out of their kitchens” to work on his campaign. That little gem comes the day after Kasich did this:

Gov. John Kasich has signed legislation to strip government money from Planned Parenthood in Ohio…

The bill targets roughly $1.3 million in funding that Planned Parenthood receives through Ohio’s health department. The money, which is mostly federal, supports initiatives for HIV testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and prevention of violence against women.

All of that reminded me of something that happened just after Kasich was elected Governor of Ohio. He came under heavy fire in his home state for the fact that all of the appointments in his administration went to white people. For a Republican, that isn’t terribly surprising. But it was his response that was jarring. Instead of working with communities of color to improve, he got defensive.

“We pick people on the basis of who’s qualified. We don’t pick them on the basis of quotas. I mean I think quotas are yesterday,” Kasich said on Jan. 2.

Kasich said he’s color blind when it comes to hiring.

“I mean let’s get the best people for the job,” said Kasich.

In other words, “the best people for the job” just happened to all be white. People of color need not apply. When Ohio’s Legislative Black Caucus offered to help him out with that, Kasich said, “I don’t need your people.”

So the moderate in the Republican presidential race is the guy who believes that:

1. if we just give rich people more tax cuts our economy will boom for everyone,
2. women are still in the kitchen and don’t deserve access to reproductive health care, and
3. the best person for any job in his administration just so happens to be white.

I’ll grant you that compared to the other 4 candidates still in this race, Kasich is slightly less extreme. But then, I’m old enough to remember what happened the last time the country had a “compassionately conservative” president.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 22, 2016

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Compassionate Conservatism, George W Bush, John Kasich | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Contempt For Poor People”: Scott Walker Wants To Drug Test Food Stamp Recipients. That Shows Why He’ll Never Be President

Sixteen years ago, George W. Bush presented to America his vision of “compassionate conservatism,” and in response he received an absolute torrent of glowing articles in the media calling him a “different kind of Republican” — conservative, to be sure, but not so mean about it.

Well those days are long past. In the 2016 GOP primaries, it’s compassionless conservatism that’s in fashion.

Or at least that’s what Scott Walker seems to think, because among other things, he is hell-bent on making sure that anyone who gets food stamps in Wisconsin has to endure the humiliation of submitting to a drug test. First the Wisconsin legislature sent him a bill providing that the state could test food stamp recipients if it had a reasonable suspicion they were on drugs; he used his line-item veto to strike the words “reasonable suspicion,” so the state could test any (or all) recipients it wanted. And now, because federal law doesn’t actually allow drug testing for food stamp recipients, Walker is suing the federal government on the grounds that food stamps are “welfare,” and welfare recipients can be tested.

This is why Scott Walker is never going to be president of the United States.

First, some context. The drug testing programs for welfare recipients are usually justified by saying they’ll save money by rooting out all the junkies on the dole, but in practice they’ve been almost comically ineffective. In state after state, testing programs have found that welfare recipients use drugs at lower rates than the general population, finding only a tiny number of welfare recipients who test positive.

But this hasn’t discouraged politicians like Walker, any more than the abysmal failure of abstinence-only sex education discourages them from continuing to advocate it. The test is the point, not the result. Walker isn’t trying to solve a practical problem here. He wants to test food stamp recipients as a way of expressing moral condemnation. You can get this benefit, he’s saying, but we want to give you a little humiliation so you know that because you sought the government’s help, we think you’re a rotten person.

To be clear, there is no inherent connection between drug use and food stamps. There’s a logical reason to drug test people who have other’s lives in their hands, like airline pilots. You can make a case that employers should force ordinary employees to test for drugs, since workers who are high on the job would be less productive (though whether that actually works is a matter of some dispute). But what exactly is the rationale behind forcing people on food stamps to pee into a cup? It seems to be that we don’t want to give government benefits to someone who is so morally compromised as to smoke a joint. But you’ll notice that neither Walker nor any other Republican is proposing to drug test, say, people who use the mortgage interest deduction and thereby have the taxpayers subsidize their housing.

What does this have to do with Walker’s chances of winning a general election? What George W. Bush understood is that the Republican Party is generally considered to be somewhat, well, mean. It’s not welcoming, and it spends a lot of energy looking for people on whom it can pour its contempt. You can argue that this is an inaccurate representation of the party’s true nature, but it is nevertheless what many, if not most, voters believe.

So when Bush campaigned as a “compassionate conservative” and did things like objecting to a Republican plan in Congress by saying, “I don’t think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor,” he wasn’t actually trying to get the votes of poor people and the minorities with whom he posed for innumerable pictures. He was sending a message to moderate voters, one that said: See, I’m different. I’m a nice guy. The fact that there was almost no substance to “compassionate conservatism” didn’t really matter in the context of the campaign. It was about his attitude.

And Scott Walker’s attitude is nothing like George W. Bush’s. He practically oozes malice, for anyone and everyone who might oppose him, or just be the wrong kind of person.

Proposing to force people who have fallen on hard times to submit to useless drug tests has an obvious appeal for a certain portion of the Republican base: it shows that you’re tough, and that you have contempt for poor people. But I doubt that Walker is too worried about how moderate general election voters might view something like that. As Ed Kilgore has noted, Walker’s theory of the general election is a decades-old conservative idea that if you motivate Republicans enough with a pure right-wing message, there will be so many hidden conservatives coming out of the woodwork that you won’t need moderates to win.

This theory persists because of its obvious appeal to hard-core conservatives. It says that they’re right about everything, and compromise is not only unnecessary but counterproductive. So the path to victory is to become even more conservative and even more uncompromising.

The trouble is that this theory has no evidence to support it. Its adherents, of whom Scott Walker is now the most prominent, believe that the reason Mitt Romney and John McCain lost is that they didn’t move far enough to the right (or that they were the wrong nominees in the first place). And they learned nothing from the one Republican in the last two decades who actually won the White House.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 16, 2015

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Compassionate Conservatism, George W Bush, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Insurgent Strategy”: It’s Going To Be Hard To Convince Voters Of Republicans’ Compassion On The Economy

In recent months, Republicans have been searching for ways to talk about the economy that go beyond their traditional supply-side focus on growth, which says that if we do a few key things (cut taxes, reduce regulations), the economy will grow and everyone will benefit. Since the conversation about economics has shifted to things like inequality and wage stagnation, potential 2016 candidates want to show that they’re concerned about more than growth; this need is particularly acute in the wake of 2012, when Mitt Romney was caricatured as a ruthless plutocrat crushing the dreams of regular people in order to amass his vast fortune, all while heaping contempt on the “47 percent.”

Many Republicans believe that this entirely explains Romney’s loss, and if they can convince voters that they understand their struggles and have ideas to help them, then victory in 2016 is possible. But that would require them to counter some powerful and deeply ingrained stereotypes about their party. As Brendan Nyhan explains today, there is some political science research into the question of whether it can be done, under the heading of “issue ownership” and “issue trespassing”:

The Republican focus on inequality could address this vulnerability by helping the party look more caring, reducing the G.O.P.’s “damaging reputation for caring only about the economic interests of the rich,” as National Review‘s Ramesh Ponnuru put it.

But there is risk in issue-trespassing of the sort that the Republicans are attempting. One political science study found that the strategy is rarely successful and that voters tend to rely on party stereotypes instead — a conclusion that is reinforced by miscues like the infamous Dukakis tank ride. Democrats are already likening Jeb Bush to Mr. Romney in an attempt to buttress the stereotype of the G.O.P. as the party of the rich.

And even if the move to address inequality lessens Republican image problems, it will be only a stopgap. Assuming the economy continues to improve, Republicans will be forced to pursue what Lynn Vavreck, an Upshot contributor, calls an “insurgent” strategy in 2016, trying to focus the election on another issue in which its presidential candidate has an inherent advantage.

Unfortunately, good insurgent issues are hard to find. Inequality doesn’t look like a winner for Republicans in this election. That’s why Mr. Bush, like Mr. Dukakis, has struck some analysts as sounding like a technocrat — he can’t run on the economy and doesn’t have a good alternative issue or trait to emphasize (unlike his brother George, who successfully ran as the Not Clinton candidate in 2000).

The Dukakis example is an interesting and revealing one. In 1988, at the end of a huge military build-up, Dukakis tried to argue that the question wasn’t whether our military was big, but whether we were making smart decisions about what weapons we purchased and what we did with them. Then somebody thought it would be good for him to take a ride in a tank, just to show that he liked big things that go boom just as much as any Republican, ignoring the fact that it would violate the most important rule of presidential campaigning, which is “No hats.” Your candidate should never, ever put on a hat. The Republicans made an ad mocking him for riding in a tank, and suddenly the discussion on defense was back on the strong/weak axis, not on the smart/dumb axis Dukakis wanted.

In 2016, all it’s going to take is one thing to undo months of careful attempts by the Republican candidate to show he’s compassionate and understands people’s economic needs. Maybe it’ll be an infelicitous remark the candidate makes, or it might even be something someone else says. But the Democrats will be waiting to show the voters that the nominee is just like every other Republican, and when it happens they’ll be on it like white on rice.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum, Line, The Washington Post, February 13, 2015

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Compassionate Conservatism, Economic Inequality, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rand Paul’s Fair-Weather Compassion”: How An Ideology Can Cause Terrible Misery

If you haven’t seen the video or photos yet, trust me, you will. Rand Paul in blue scrubs and hiking boots, bringing sight to the blind in an operating room in Guatemala — could there be a more perfect visual for a White House hopeful? And that’s before we even get to the metaphors about restoring vision and fixing problems.

A flattering segment on NBC’s Meet the Press was just the start of extracting the gold from this rich political vein. Campaign ads inevitably will feature video of the senator-surgeon performing the pro bono eye operations, as will a Citizens United documentary about Paul. The conservative group sent a camera crew and a drone to shoot footage him in action in Guatemala.

Let’s stipulate that whatever you think of Paul’s views or the political entourage he brought along, the Kentucky Republican transformed lives on that trip. It was a wonderfully compassionate volunteer act — and that’s where things get complicated.

Paul has been working steadily to create his personal brand of compassionate conservatism, and it’s more substantive than outreach. His causes include restoring voting rights to felons, reforming drug sentencing laws and — after Ferguson — demilitarizing the police. He is a champion of charter schools, which many black parents are seeking out for their children. He has proposed economic incentives to try to revive Detroit. He and Democratic senator Cory Booker are pushing legislation to make it easier for people to create new lives — including expunging or sealing convictions for some juveniles and lifting bans on post-prison food stamps and welfare benefits for some offenders.

All of that is broadly appealing. It’s also consistent with libertarian and conservative principles such as more personal choice, less government intrusion, lower taxes and — in the case of the prison and sentencing reforms — saving government money by reducing recidivism and prison populations. The emphasis is on the “conservative” part of the phrase.

The man who invented the brand and rode it all the way to the White House, George W. Bush, focused on the compassion part. To the dismay of conservatives, he enlarged the federal role in education (he called it “the civil rights issue of our time” and signed the No Child Left Behind Act) and spent a bundle of borrowed money to fight AIDS in Africa, launch a Medicare prescription drug program and try to impose democracy on Iraq.

What you might call fair-weather compassion — compassion that’s limited to policies that cut spending or, at the very least, don’t cost more — is a conservative hallmark in the post-Bush era. But Paul trumped his colleagues and won plaudits from groups like FreedomWorks with a 2013 budget that would have balanced in a lightning-fast five years. It repealed the Affordable Care Act and killed the departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development. It also privatized Medicare, allowed private Social Security accounts, and shifted Medicaid and food stamps — designed to grow and shrink depending on need — to a system of capped grants to the states. “Gut” was the liberal verb of choice.

Paul’s 2011 budget blueprint would have phased out all foreign aid. “This would cause misery for millions of people on AIDS treatment. It would betray hundreds of thousands of children receiving … malaria treatment,” former Bush aide Michael Gerson said last weekend on NBC after the Paul-in-Guatemala segment aired. “This is a perfect case of how a person can have good intentions but how an ideology can cause terrible misery.”

The ACA, with its premium subsidies and Medicaid expansion, is designed to help just the types of people Paul served in Guatemala. In fact, more than 290,000 newly eligible people had signed up for Medicaid in his home state by mid-April. Yet last year Paul was willing to shut down the government in an attempt to defund the law.

Paul did not release a budget this year, and he said in May that he is “not sure” that Kentucky’s ACA insurance marketplace (Kynect) should be dismantled. Is he giving himself some room to maneuver? Unclear. He continues to favor repeal of the entire ACA and seems most concerned about its impact on local hospitals. One had to lay off 50 people due to the law, he said, so “now we’ve got more people in the wagon, and less people pulling the wagon.”

What he said was debatable — CNHI News Service reported that the hospital, T.J. Samson in Glasgow, is expected to do better financially under the new health law than it did under previous policies. Beyond that, does Paul really want to snatch Medicaid away from nearly 300,000 of his least fortunate constituents? The answer to that question will help determine whether those compassionate images from Guatemala are merely images, or something more.

 

By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, August 28, 2014

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Compassionate Conservatism, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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