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“Trump Drives Spike Into Culture War Politics”: Trump’s Second-Best Contribution To The Quality Of America’s Civic Life

Days before the Indiana primary, Ted Cruz paraded his two young daughters in matching pink dresses and spoke darkly of “putting little girls alone in a bathroom with grown men.”

This was a visual that, frankly, we could have done without. Thankfully, Donald Trump locked it in Ripley’s museum of the politically bizarre by trouncing Cruz in that conservative state’s primary.

It was Trump who had said that transgender people should use “whatever bathroom they feel is appropriate.” It was he who noted that there have been “very few problems” with transgender people using ladies’ rooms. Trump didn’t say — but could have — that men presenting themselves as women have been using women’s facilities for a long time, with the other occupants none the wiser or unconcerned.

So has Trump deep-sixed the culture war gambit in Republican politics? The formula is to draw votes by pounding on some controversy of little consequence to most people, preferably with a sex angle attached. The 2004 presidential election in Ohio was a textbook case. Placing a measure to ban gay marriage on the ballot probably gave George W. Bush — whose main game was tax cuts — a narrow victory.

Our friends the Koch brothers routinely give money to socially conservative groups to win over middle- or working-class followers otherwise not served by the family’s economic agenda. The brothers themselves have shrugged at gay marriage, saying they have no problem with it.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the working-class whites targeted by culture warriors don’t really care all that much about these issues — or care a lot less about them than they do about their falling incomes. Perhaps they’ve been voting all these years for an attitude, hitting back at the “liberal elites” who they feel rap them on the knuckles when they speak their mind. Trump’s magic potion involves adding attitude while subtracting threats to Social Security, Medicare and other government programs average folks depend on.

Trump has stomped on so many of the right wing’s most cherished wedge issues — while winning majorities among the Republican base — it gets you wondering how big that tide of moral umbrage really was. How much of it was a mirage pulled off with talk radio’s smoke and mirrors?

Abortion is a truly difficult issue. Your writer believes an abortion should be easy (and free) to obtain early in a pregnancy and limited later on. Others oppose abortion altogether, and it is this group’s genuine concerns that the right seeks to stoke.

As a result, it’s the rare Republican who will put in a good word for Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit that provides a variety of women’s health services in addition to abortions. But Trump praised the organization for doing the former without apology. And he won races in the heart of value-voter America — including the entire Deep South.

For liberals and moderates alike, Trump deserves gratitude for putting away Cruz. (Too bad about John Kasich, though.) It spared us from having to hear his running mate, Carly Fiorina, go on about Planned Parenthood’s harvesting “body parts” from a kicking fetus, a complete fiction.

Making things up happens to be a Trump specialty, so there’s some poetic justice in his volleying back some outright fabrications. His suggestion that Cruz’s father helped John Kennedy’s assassin is a classic of the genre.

Putting an end to culture warmongering as a political strategy — or at least dialing it back — could go down as Trump’s second-best contribution to the quality of America’s civic life. His best contribution would be to lose badly in November. Luckily, on getting himself not elected in the general, Trump has made a strong start.

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, May 5, 2016

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Culture Wars, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Are The Problem, Politician”: Ted Cruz Is Losing Because He’s The Second-Best Con Man In The Republican Party

The most revealing debate of the 2016 primary was held on the side of a road in Marion, Indiana, on Monday. In a widely circulated video, Ted Cruz asks a Trump supporter wearing dark sunglasses and a contemptuous grin to kindly explain what he finds so appealing about the Donald.

“Everything,” the man replies.

The former litigator implores his opponent to be more specific. The man says, “The wall.” Cruz informs him of an interview Trump gave to the New York Times, in which he reportedly suggested his most ambitious proposals were just campaign poses. “Lyin’ Ted!” the man retorts. “You are the problem, politician.” Cruz presses on, noting that Trump is the only 2016 candidate who has been sued for employing the undocumented and that, at his resort in Florida, the mogul has shown a preference for hiring guest workers over American-born citizens. “I believe in Trump,” the man eventually interrupts.

“A question here everybody should ask,” Cruz begins.

“Are you Canadian?” the man finishes, to the adulation of his peers.

Watching this exchange, one experiences a strange, disorienting sensation — sympathy for Ted Cruz. With patience and courtesy, the Texas senator tries to engage his interlocutor in a fact-based discussion of Trump’s merits as a candidate, only to be rebuffed and then humiliated by the ecstatic epistemological closure of the Trumpen proletariat.

But Cruz does not deserve your sympathy (and not just because he is almost certainly a serial killer who terrorized northern California throughout the late ’60s and early ’70s). In Marion, Cruz was overwhelmed by the very force that birthed his presidential campaign. Back when Trump was still dreaming of buying the Buffalo Bills, Cruz was already exploiting the defiant faith of GOP voters.

In 2013, the freshman senator rallied the conservative grassroots around a plan to build his email list, disguised as a strategy for repealing the Affordable Care Act. Cruz assured the tea-party faithful that Republicans could force Barack Obama to rip up his signature legislative achievement by threatening to shut down the federal government — a notion roughly as plausible as Mexican taxpayers funding Trump’s border-long monument to American xenophobia. But implausibility wasn’t an issue for Cruz, who made sure that blame for his gambit’s inevitable failure would be laid at the feet of his skeptics.

“I can’t count the number of Republicans in Washington who say, ‘Look, we can’t defund it. No, no, no. We can pass symbolic votes against it but we can’t actually stand up and take a risk and be potentially be blamed,” Cruz told a crowd at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, framing his colleagues’ assertion of basic facts as proof of their duplicity.

How many of those colleagues found themselves in debates like the one Cruz suffered in Marion? How many tried to explain the nature of divided government to earnest constituents, only to be told, “You are the problem, politician”?

Contrary to popular conception, Cruz’s quixotic mission wasn’t driven by ideological fervor but by ruthless ambition. The senator was willing to throw his party and government into chaos for the sake of attaining greater fame and power. This cynicism was of a piece with his broader career. As Ross Douthat has convincingly argued, Cruz’s political trajectory resembles that of an unscrupulous striver, not an uncompromising zealot. He is a populist who, whilst attending Harvard Law School, refused to study with anyone who hadn’t gotten their bachelor’s degree at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. He is an anti-Establishment gadfly who tried desperately to win a spot in George W. Bush’s inner circle. Once he was rejected by the Washington Cartel and successfully rebranded himself as the sworn enemy of “compassionate conservatism,” Cruz waffled on matters of trade, immigration, and government spying, all while relentlessly hectoring the other members of his caucus for their political cowardice. He is a #NeverTrump conservative who spent the first half of his campaign defending and then imitating the Donald’s demagoguery.

Cruz is not losing the Republican primary because of his commitment to principle and reason; he is losing because he is the second-most-talented liar his party has to offer.

“[Trump] is perpetuating the greatest fraud in the modern history of politics,” Cruz told Glenn Beck on Tuesday.

That statement shouldn’t be read as condemnation but as a confession of defeat.

 

By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 3, 2016

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cruz Brings GOP Nomination Into The Toilet”: The Religious Liberty Issue Is Just A Stalking Horse

Now that Ted Cruz’s last hope for stopping Donald Trump rests on ginning up panic and outrage over transgender women using the ladies room, we can officially say that the Republican nominating process is in the toilet.

Cruz is stoking fear about transgender sexual predators stalking women’s rooms, asserting at a rally last week that Trump (as well as Hillary Clinton) would let “grown men use the little girls’ restroom.” He trotted out his two admittedly adorable daughters in matching pink dresses to make sure that no one misses his point that the country’s little girls are in clear and present danger.

His comments follow Trump’s shrug-off of the transgender restroom controversy following North Carolina’s passage of a law that says people must use the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate. Trump said that allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice hadn’t caused any problems to date and that people should “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.”

But beyond Cruz’s craven politicizing of the issue, the transgender bathroom controversy demonstrates what’s really at stake in the larger “religious liberty” debate.

Despite the fact that the only way this could genuinely be said to be a religious liberty issue is if individuals were being prevented from worshipping freely in restrooms, many religious conservatives clearly now see the bathroom debate as a matter of religious freedom, illustrating the relentless creep of the issue.

The North Carolina measure was included in a broader religious liberty bill, while in Pennsylvania conservative groups like the Pennsylvania Family Council are opposing a proposed bill that would provide anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people, including in public restrooms, calling it “one of the most significant threats to religious liberty and privacy rights in the history of the Commonwealth.”

What’s at stake, however, isn’t religious liberty but the right of one group, people who hew to conservative, “traditional” views of marriage and sexuality, to impose a form of socioreligious privilege on society at large. Cruz gave it away when he said that he had no problem with a man who “wishes to dress as a woman and use her home bathroom.” However, he said, “people do not have the right to impose their lifestyles on others.”

Social conservatives are offended by seeing transgender people in restrooms because it undermines their traditional, religiously-based view of gender as binary and fixed. Therefore, to protect their religious beliefs, transgender people must be marginalized and the bathroom issue is, to borrow Fred Clarkson’s term, religified.

The issue has taken on special potency regarding school restrooms, with several parents challenging schools who let transgender children use the restroom of their choice, because they don’t want to have to explain to their kids why Brenda is now Johnnie. This upsets the whole applecart about fixed gender identities as well as traditional male and female sexual and culture roles.

It’s not hard to understand how the more public emergence of transgender people is upsetting to more traditionally minded people, especially in areas without a lot of cultural diversity. Until recently, the social marginalization of LGBT people as a way to maintain rules about gender and sexuality was largely unquestioned. As R.R. Reno charges in First Things, these rules about “gender roles and other foundational categories” were what “ordinary people use to orient themselves and make sense out of their lives,” but now the “transgender revolution” is dismantling these rules as part of an effort to “efface the social authority of the male-female difference.”

But this discomfort, no matter how acutely felt or culturally disorienting, does not equal an affront to religious freedom. It’s easy to see, however, how people make the leap. As one Cruz supporter told New York Times, “The Bible says he created them male and female, so therefore that’s what it’s supposed to be.”

And it’s because the religious liberty issue is just a stalking horse for a broad counter-cultural protest about increasingly liberal attitudes about sexuality and gender identity that the Supreme Court’s effort to find a compromise in the Little Sisters of the Poor case is doomed to failure.

What the conservative justices don’t get (besides how health insurance works or how women access contraception) is that the case has been about asserting socioreligious privilege all along, not about finding the right form for the nuns to sign. The Catholic bishops and their allies on the religious right long for the day when shunning transgender people or shaming sexual active single women was OK because, at the end of the day, the maintenance of their paradigm of sexual morality requires that someone, somewhere isn’t allowed to pee in peace.

 

By: Patricia Miller, Religion Dispatches, May 2, 2016

May 3, 2016 Posted by | North Carolina Bathroom Bill, Religious Liberty, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Boehner Won’t Vote For Cruz”: ‘I Have Never Worked With A More Miserable Son Of A Bitch In My Life’

Former Speaker of the House John Boehner made news last night when he made an appearance at Stanford University.

“You can call me boner, beaner, jackass, happy to answer to almost anything,” said former Speaker of the House John Boehner as he took the stage at CEMEX Auditorium on Wednesday evening. Boehner joined David M. Kennedy, faculty director and history professor emeritus, in a talk hosted by Stanford in Government (SIG) and the Stanford Speakers Bureau.

Naturally, the discussion focused on Boehner’s time at the helm of the House of Representatives, but they also discussed his view of the presidential race.

Segueing into the topic, Kennedy asked Boehner to be frank given that the event was not being broadcasted, and the former Speaker responded in kind. When specifically asked his opinions on Ted Cruz, Boehner made a face, drawing laughter from the crowd.

“Lucifer in the flesh,” the former speaker said. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

Boehner went on to say that he’s “texting buddies” with Donald Trump, has played a lot of golf with him over the years, and that, although he doesn’t agree with all his policy proposals, he would vote for him in November. However, he bluntly said that he would not vote for Ted Cruz.

During his time as Speaker, Boehner struggled to deal with the non-reality-based Freedom Caucus rump of his party, and Sen. Ted Cruz played a big role in egging that faction on. This explains most of the animosity that Boehner is nursing now. But it would be a mistake to see Boehner as very grounded in reality himself, because he easily slips into the most submental conspiratorial gibberish.

On Clinton, Boehner’s reviews were more mixed. Early in the talk, the speaker impersonated Clinton, saying “Oh I’m a woman, vote for me,” to a negative crowd reaction. Later, he added that he had known Clinton for 25 years and finds her to be very accomplished and smart.

Boehner also speculated about surprises that could come closer to the Democratic National Convention if Hillary Clinton’s emails became a larger scandal.

“Don’t be shocked … if two weeks before the convention, here comes Joe Biden parachuting in and Barack Obama fanning the flames to make it all happen,” Boehner said.

At least in theory, the president could use his influence over the Justice Department and the Intelligence Community to turn Clinton’s email server issue into a crippling liability right before the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. He might then, in typical Frank Underwood style, orchestrate things so that Joe Biden could “parachute in” and act as the party’s savior.

But, despite Boehner’s previous seat in the highest corridors of power where he might have gleaned animosities that are invisible to the rest of us, there isn’t the slightest outward sign that President Obama is displeased to see Clinton emerge as his likely successor. The president has remained ostensibly neutral during the primaries, but he quietly got his message out that he preferred Clinton to Sanders, and that was reflected in (among other things) how the black community voted in the South and elsewhere.

It could be that the president actually would prefer Biden to Clinton, but to suggest that he would misuse his powers to sabotage Clinton at this late date in order to secure the presidency for his friend Biden is heat-fevered lunacy as far as I am concerned.

Boehner is supposed to be the sane one, and yet he’s just as infected as the rest of them.

Still, the fact that he wouldn’t vote for Cruz is a canary in the coal mine. Consider that during part of Boehner’s speakership his partner was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And McConnell stated publicly just before the New York primary that he was still hoping for a brokered convention that could stop Trump. The most obvious beneficiary of a brokered convention would be Ted Cruz.

This is the definition of a fractured party.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 28, 2016

May 1, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, John Boehner, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Barking Up The Wrong Tree”: Ted Cruz Keeps Talking About ‘Wages’ — But He Won’t Support Raising Them

“Washington” is keeping wages down and impoverishing the American middle class, at least according to Ted Cruz, who has adopted economic populism as a line of attack against the political establishment as a routine part of his stump speech in recent months.

The Texas senator has tried to link rival Donald Trump to Democratic frontrunner and perennial enemy of the American right, Hillary Clinton. But the argument that the federal government, and by extension the Obama administration, was responsible for the decline in wages of American workers, was yet another baseless charged levied against a rhetorically-convenient “Washington establishment.”

Where to start. It’s unclear whether or not Cruz believes in a minimum wage. He has argued against a minimum wage, saying it leads to job losses among American minority groups. “Every time we raise the minimum wage, predictably what happens is a significant number of people lose their jobs, and they’re almost always low-income, they’re often teenagers, African Americans and Hispanics,” he said, voicing concern for demographic groups that are unlikely to vote for him anyhow, and for whom his policies don’t reflect the concern of his talking points.

In Cruz’s mind, the minimum wage is best left to the states. While he assails the loss of American jobs, sounding much like a vague, rehearsed mashup of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in their criticism of outsourcing, his policies have a different end in mind: employment above all else.

“I think it’s bad policy,” said Cruz on CNBC, criticizing the existence of a minimum wage. “And you know, one observation I make to folks is next time you go to a fast food restaurant and you start ordering on an iPad, you’re seeing the minimum wage.”

During a Senate hearing in 2014, Cruz spoke out against President Barack Obama’s proposed federal wage increase to $10.10. He said:

The undeniable reality, the undeniable truth, is if the President succeeded in raising the minimum wage it would cost jobs for the most vulnerable. The people who have been hurt by this Obama economy would be hurt worse with the minimum wage proposal before this body. In 2013 the President in his State of the Union address proposed raising the minimum wage to $9.00. Now a year later the request has magically changed to $10.10. The only reason (there’s no economic justification) the only reason is politics. And I suppose if the approval ratings of democratic members of this body continue to fall in another month we’ll see a proposal for $15.00 an hour and then maybe $20.00 or $25.00 an hour. But I think the American people are tired of empty political show votes. The nonpartisan congressional budget office says that raising the minimum wage could cost a loss of 500,000 to 1 million jobs.

Cruz is barking up the wrong tree. It is not the $7.25 an hour minimum wage that made companies like Carrier, whose managers were infamously recorded laying off 1,400 at its Indianapolis plant earlier this year, outsource those jobs to Mexico. As the Economic Policy Institute pointed out in a 2003 report, NAFTA resulted in a period of job growth in the U.S. between 1994 and 2000. But starting in 2001, jobs started disappearing. “Job losses have been primarily concentrated in the manufacturing sector, which has experienced a total decline of 2.4 million jobs since March 2001,” read the institute’s report. “As job growth has dried up in the economy, the underlying problems caused by U.S. trade deficits have become much more apparent, especially in manufacturing.” It pointed to systemic turmoil in internationalized labor markets, the result of free trade agreements, which allow companies to move to where living costs (and thus labor) are cheapest.

But for Cruz, the problem has always been the minimum wage, despite evidence to the contrary: Another EPI report released in 2013 outlining the benefits of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 concluded, “Raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 would lift incomes for millions of American workers and provide a modest boost to U.S. GDP.”

Despite the doomsday predictions from Cruz and the rest of the 2016 Republican field, the report also predicted large increases in employment. By increasing the federal minimum wage to at least $10.10, low wage earners would experience a recovery of real income the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.

However, the federal minimum wage has not budged by even a penny, leaving wage increases largely to states or large American cities, exactly the sort of decentralized political process Cruz would be expected to support: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle have all instituted $15 per hour minimum wages following concerted efforts by local organizations that stemmed partly from frustration over partisan gridlock in Washington. Both California and New York’s governors signed bills this year approving wage increases to the $15 an hour benchmark over a period of time. A total of 29 states, and Washington, D.C., have instituted their own minimum wages exceeding the federal minimum wage, as a result of slow progress on the federal level.

Since the minimum was last raised to $7.25 in 2009, it has lost 8.1 percent of its purchasing power as a result of inflation, according to Pew Research. The OECD has described the American minimum wage as an outlier amongst wealthy, industrialized nations — it should really be around $12, if we were to use GDP per capita as a guide. American workers are in desperate need of a minimum wage increase, not just poorly paid employment.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The  National Memo, April 29, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Jobs, Minimum Wage, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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