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“The Junk Politics Of 2015”: You’re Getting A Sugar High, It Feels Good, It Won’t Last, And Ultimately, It’ll Make You Sick

When you eat a bowl of Simply Granola in the morning, you may think you’re making a healthy start to the day, courtesy of Quaker Oats. But you’re taking in the amount of sugar in almost four Oreo cookies.

When you listen to the politicians who want to lead the United States through the treacherous early 21st century, you may think you’re doing your job as a citizen of this clamorous and vulgar democracy of ours. You’re not. You’re getting a sugar high. It feels good. It won’t last. And ultimately, it’ll make you sick.

I’ve been trying to eat healthy, metaphorically, for the month of August. But it’s been a bust. There’s just too much bad stuff to binge on. We have a pending deal with Iran that could imperil Israel, or make the Mideast safer for a decade. We have an approaching visit of a transitional pope. We have a fledgling health care plan that’s given coverage to 15 million Americans who never had any — and one party wants to take it away. And we’re muddling through the hottest year on record, so far, surpassing the last warmest one, 2014.

And yet, what are the leaders-in-waiting talking about? Roll the highlight reel of our junk politics, starting with the also-rans:

At least one Republican wants to sic the Internal Revenue Service on his political enemies. So promised Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, in a remarkable statement overlooked at the kids’ table debate last week. “I guarantee you under President Jindal, January 2017, the Department of Justice and the I.R.S. and everybody else we can send from the federal government will be going into Planned Parenthood.”

Other Republicans think we should be living in a theocracy. “It’s time we recognize the Supreme Court is not the Supreme Being,” said Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, testing the latest version of his church-lady demagogy. He wants to ignore the high court on both gay marriage and abortion — breaking the law while waving his Bible.

Huckabee would also use the force of government to intervene with any woman seeking an abortion, claiming a constitutional right, the 14th and 5th Amendments, to protect a zygote. When he mentioned this Brave New World idea in the debate, no one challenged him. Instead, other candidates were equally extreme, refusing to make abortion exceptions even when the life of a woman is at stake. This is junk women’s health care, driven by religious fanaticism.

More empty calories: Scott Walker, the governor whose foreign policy experience is limited to breakfast at the old International House of Pancakes, threatens to start at least two wars upon taking office. He promises to use military action if necessary to coax Iran into doing what he wants it to do. He also wants to pick a fight with Russia, sending weapons to Ukraine and erecting a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Walker’s home state of Wisconsin ranks 35th in private sector job creation. But New Jersey is worse, suffering nine credit downgrades and ranking near the bottom in job growth. Even the governor of the state, Chris Christie, would not rise to Jersey’s defense after fellow candidates described Atlantic City as something akin to Baghdad on a hangover.

Those governors want to apply their ruinous models to the rest of the country. In the same vein, a failed former chief executive officer, Carly Fiorina, having fired 30,000 employees and driven her company’s stock price into the ground, feels more qualified than ever to be president. She’s never held elective office and rarely voted while living in California. A junk comeback.

Which gets us to Donald Trump, who boasts of four company bankruptcies, and paying people to come to his wedding. He is “a very smart person” and will be “phenomenal to the women” just like “the blacks.” It’s hard for women to attack him, he says, “because I’m so good-looking.”

Normal politics can’t explain Trump. For that you need Freud. Trump fits the classic definition of narcissistic personality disorder, as Marc C. Johnson, an astute observer of American politics, noted in a recent blog post. Everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth is junk, but at least it fits a pattern.

Finally, to the Democrats. A 73-year-old socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is getting lots of attention because Hillary Clinton’s email story is boring, by Clinton scandal standards. When a noisy intruder, an African-American, jumped to the podium and refused to let Sanders speak, it was widely interpreted as a big problem for the candidate and race relations.

Wrong. The censor with the mouth was, it turns out, a self-described “extremist Christian,” from a family that once backed Sarah Palin. Some members of Black Lives Matter distanced themselves from her.

How did this stunt become a thing among the national press corps? Junk media. Sadly, the sugar high goes two ways.

 

By: Timothy Egan, Contributing Op-Ed Writer, The New York Times, August 14, 2015

August 17, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Primary Debates, Presidential Primaries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Peacock Festival”: The Perilous Base-Courting Phase Of The 2016 Primaries Begins

Now that Christmas has triumphed yet again in the War on Christmas, taking place as scheduled, we can turn our attention to the presidential primaries. After all, the Iowa caucuses are only 401 days away. For quite a while yet, the candidates are going to spend their time figuring out how to bring base voters over to their side (and you should probably steel yourself for 500 or so repetitions of “It’s all about that base, ’bout that base” jokes from pundits showing they’re down with what the kids are into these days).

Here’s Anne Gearan in today’s Post:

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president, is working hard to shore up support among liberals in hopes of tamping down a serious challenge from the left in the battle for the 2016 nomination.

Clinton has aligned herself firmly with President Obama since the November midterms on a range of liberal-friendly issues, including immigration, climate change and opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. In an impassioned human rights speech this month, she also condemned the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation tactics and decried cases of apparent police brutality against minorities.

The recent statements suggest a concerted effort by Clinton to appeal to the Democratic Party’s most activist, liberal voters, who have often eyed her with suspicion and who would be crucial to her securing the party’s nomination.

But the positions also tie her ever more tightly to a president who remains broadly unpopular, providing new lines of attack for the many Republicans jostling to oppose her if she runs.

And here’s a story from Mark Preston of CNN:

The first votes of the 2016 campaign won’t be cast for another year but there’s already a race well underway: The Christian primary.

Republicans are actively courting white evangelical and born again Christian voters, knowing they will be crucial in early-voting states such as Iowa and South Carolina.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is urging people to join him next month in Baton Rouge for a day of fasting, repentance and prayer focused on the future of the United States.

On the same day, another gathering will take place in Des Moines, where at least five potential GOP presidential candidates will address Iowa voters on “core principles” that include “social conservatism.”

Later in the story, Preston notes that if Christian conservatives fail to unite behind a single candidate, their power will be diluted and a more “centrist” candidate could get the nomination. Which is both true and false. That could be the series of events, but we shouldn’t be too quick to assign causality (and there are no “centrist” GOP candidates, only some with weightier résumés who the establishment thinks have a better chance of winning; the ideological differences between them are somewhere between tiny and nonexistent). The truth is that the party’s born-again/evangelical base almost never unites behind a single candidate. The only time it has happened in recent decades was in 2000, when George W. Bush easily beat a weak field of opponents.

But there’s no doubt that the courting of the base will indeed occupy much of the candidates’ time. One common but oversimplified narrative has it that they have to do so in order to win the nomination, but it will cost them in the general election. The truth, however, is that this is a much greater danger for the Republicans than the Democrats.

To see why, look at what Clinton is up to. She’s coming out strongly in support of some moves the Obama administration has made recently and talking more about things such as inequality. That will warm liberal Democrats’ hearts, but will it actually hurt her in the general election? It’s unlikely, because her position on all these issues is widely popular. Are voters going to punish her for advocating an end to the Cuba embargo, which 68 percent of Americans believe should happen? Or a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which is supported by about the same number? Or some set of populist economic policies, when around two-thirds of Americans say government policies favor the wealthy? Some issues, such as police practices, may not be so clear-cut, but on the whole the things Clinton is saying now are unlikely to turn up in attack ads in October 2016.

The story isn’t quite the same on the Republican side. Christian conservatives actually have relatively few policy demands, and most of them are already covered by what any Republican president would do anyway (such as appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade). What they do demand is a demonstration of affinity and loyalty. They want to know that a candidate loves them and will be there for them throughout his time in the White House.

The danger for Republican candidates is that in the process of showing love to the base, they alienate other Americans. There’s no reason a candidate couldn’t do the former without doing the latter, if he exercised enough care. One area where it may be impossible is same-sex marriage, where the more conservative evangelical voters are still firmly opposed (though those attitudes are slowly changing), while most Americans are in favor. But what those voters mostly want is to be convinced that the candidate is one of them: that he sees the world the same way they do, loves what they love and hates what they hate. In theory, even an allegedly “centrist” candidate can accomplish that. But so often in the process of this courting, they end up looking like either panderers or extremists; that’s what happened to John McCain and Mitt Romney.

In the end, base voters in both parties want to be won over. They don’t want to go into the general election having to support a candidate they can’t stand. They may approach the courtship looking reluctant, but they’re still hoping that there will be a marriage at the end of it. And they don’t need to be convinced that their nominee is the best candidate they could ever hope for — they just want to decide that he or she is good enough. If the candidate loses, they may say afterward, “Well I never liked him anyway.” But in the meantime, getting enough of their votes in the primaries doesn’t depend on being the most religious (for the Republicans) or the most populist (for the Democrats). The question is what you do to make yourself good enough.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, December 26, 2014

December 29, 2014 Posted by | Base Voters, Election 2016, Presidential Primaries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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