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“Pretending To Be Something They’re Not”: Election Season; Time For GOP Halloween Masquerade Ball

It’s lucky for the Republicans that most general elections fall so close to Halloween. That gives them an excuse for their great bi-annual GOP Halloween Masquerade Ball.

This year the Republicans are doing their very best to prevent the voters from remembering who they really are and what they really stand for. They’re putting on their “moderate masks” and the costumes of ordinary middle class Americans.

Why do they have to pretend to be something their not? Their problem is that most Americans disagree with their positions on just about every economic and social issue of the day. Voters disagree with Republicans on economic issues like:

GOP opposition to raising the minimum wage;

GOP refusal to renew unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed;

GOP obstruction of Democratic proposals to lower payments and cut interest rates on student loans;

The incredibly unpopular GOP proposal to eliminate the Medicare guarantee and replace it with a voucher for private insurance;

The failed GOP proposal to privatize Social Security;

GOP opposition to making oil companies, CEO’s of big corporations and Wall Street Banks pay their fair share of taxes;

GOP proposals to cut funding for public education;

GOP proposals to cut funding for medical and scientific research and development;

Republican support for eliminating and weakening regulations that limit the ability of Wall Street speculators to cause another financial collapse like the one that created the Great Recession;

Republican support for tax laws that provide an incentive for corporations to outsource U.S. jobs to other countries;

The Republican refusal to do anything that would address the fundamental economic fact that even though Gross Domestic Product per person in the U.S. has increased 80% over the last 30 years, all of that increase went to the top 1% and left everyone else with stagnating incomes.

Dressing up Republican candidates to disguise these positions is especially difficult because so many of their candidates personally embody these deeply unpopular stances.

Take the GOP candidate for Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner. Rauner made $61 million last year — that’s $29,000 an hour. Yet he said he would like to abolish the minimum wage or at the very least get the Illinois legislature to cut the Illinois minimum wage from $8.25 to the national rate of $7.25 per hour.

Rauner made his money as a Wall Street speculator who basically took over companies and bled them of cash. Along the way his 200-facility nursing home chain was accused of malpractice for patient neglect. Rather than apologize and pay the claims, Rauner’s investment firm sold the firm to a shell company that was actually owned by a nursing home resident and declared bankruptcy so Rauner’s investment firm could dodge paying the claims of abused residents.

That’s just one of many stories about how Rauner made his money. Rauner owns nine residences — including a penthouse on Central Park in New York and three ranches. Pretty tough to put a “middle class” costume on Rauner and pretend he has the interests of ordinary Americans at heart.

Or then there’s the GOP Senate candidate in Georgia — David Perdue. Early in the campaign — and well before the GOP masquerade ball — Perdue actually admitted that he had “spent most of his career outsourcing” American jobs to other countries.

Those pesky electronic media that save comments like that make it awfully hard to dress up people like Perdue as a “neighborhood businessman” when elections come around.

The economy may be the issue that is most important to the majority of voters, but women’s health isn’t far behind. And there the GOP has candidates that look downright weird in their “hi, I’m a moderate” Halloween outfits.

Jodi Ernst, the Republican candidate for Senate in Iowa supports the “personhood” amendment. That’s a proposal that would make most forms of hormonal birth control — like the birth control pill and the IUD — illegal.

Cory Gardner, the GOP candidate for Senate in Colorado also supports the “personhood” amendment.

Earth to Jodi and Cory — your positions are way out of the mainstream in the United States, since over 98 percent of American women use birth control sometime in their lifetime. If they really wanted to wear something appropriate to the GOP Halloween masquerade ball this year they would wear space suits — since their positions are pretty much in outer space. But in fact they have donned costumes aimed at making them look every so “mainstream.” Don’t bet on closing ads from these guys asking voters to support them because they would ban the most popular forms of birth control.

Then there are candidates like GOP House Members Tom Cotton and Bill Cassidy, running for Senate in Arkansas and Louisiana, respectively. These guys voted for the Ryan budget that would eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher for private insurance — costing seniors thousands per year in increased out-of-pocket costs.

They try to hide their positions behind a “Big Lie” mask that Democrats voted to “cut $700 billion” from Medicare with the Affordable Care act. In fact, far from cutting benefits for seniors, the Affordable Care Act closed the “donut hole” for prescription drug coverage and provided free preventive care to complement guaranteed Medicare benefits. It paid for these benefits partially by cutting subsidies to big insurance companies. Those are the “cuts to Medicare” Cotton and Cassidy are talking about. Not one senior had benefits cut. It’s nothing but a big lie. But what do you do if your real position is as unpopular as their vote to eliminate the Medicare guarantee?

And we can’t forget about Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the state house who is running for Senate in North Carolina. He led passage of an incredibly unpopular series of measures to curtail voting rights and also prevented the expansion of Medicaid that would provide health care to many in the state. Now he’s trying to weave and bob to disguise his position on these and other way-out GOP positions.

And of course, there is the unpopular Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who is running for his political life in Kentucky. He claims to want to rip out “Obamacare root and branch” while maintaining he would support continuation of the very popular and effective Kentucky version of “Obamacare” — “Kynect.” This, of course, is an impossibility. Guess he’s counting on a magician’s costume to make the contradictions in his positions disappear.

These are just the highlights from the “red carpet” at the GOP Halloween Masquerade Ball. There are many other attendees:

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin — now desperately trying to explain how his state’s austerity program could have failed to produce its promised 250,000 new jobs, when neighboring Minnesota progressive policies have led to a much more robust recovery.

Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan — whose “emergency manager” program stripped democratic local government from much of the state’s minority population.

Michigan Senate Candidate Terri Lynn Land, whose conservative economic policies are very popular among plutocrats on Wall Street, but have landed her well behind her Democratic opponent in the polls of ordinary citizens.

Governor Mike Rounds of South Dakota whose Wall Street-oriented economic policies have run into trouble among the prairie populists of South Dakota where he’s now running for Senate.

Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas whose tax cuts for the wealthy have almost bankrupted the state government and are helping to drag down long-time Republican Senator Pat Robertson.

And there’s Florida’s multi-millionaire governor Rick Scott. Scott has dutifully taken the side of the oil industry and the billionaire Koch Brothers even though their opposition to proposals to curb carbon pollution could sink a good portion of Florida’s most populous communities into the ocean.

And there are dozens of Republican House Members who are trying desperately to get voters to forget about their votes to shut down the government, end the Medicare guarantee, and cut funding for education.

Of course economic, social and environmental issues aren’t the only turf where the GOP has the low political ground.

Almost 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks when someone buys a gun. Not the Republicans.

Most Americans support campaign finance reform that would prevent a few dozen billionaires from dominating our elections. Not the Republicans.

Most Americans want us to invest more funds in health research to protect us from diseases like Ebola, cancer and the flu. Not the Republicans.

Most Americans support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Not the Republicans. This year, the GOP even prevented a vote in the House on a bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate. House GOP Speaker Boehner wouldn’t allow a vote because he knew it would pass. Basically he is thwarting the will of Congress.

Will the Republican Halloween Masquerade Ball deceive enough Americans into thinking the GOP represents them, instead of the coalition of Wall Street Bankers and radical extremists who want to ban birth control and scapegoat immigrants that provide the foundation for the Republican Party? Will their costumes and masks convince enough voters to allow them to gain control of the Senate, win more seats in the House and overcome Democratic leads for key Governor’s mansions around the country?

We’ll all know a week from Tuesday. But the truth is that there would not be a chance that their disguises would succeed if everyone in America went to the polls.

The truth is that, in the end, this election is all about who votes and who stays home.

The big Wall Street banks and CEO’s don’t want ordinary people to wake up. They want us to sleep through the election so they can elect Republicans who will allow them to siphon more and more of the fruits of our economy into their own pockets.

Don’t let them steal your family’s security while you sleep through the election. It’s really up to us. Vote early. Vote by mail. Vote November 4.

But whatever you do, don’t let them win their game of deception. Vote.

 

By: Robert Creamer, Political Organizer, Strategist, Author; Partner Democracy Partners; The Huffington Post Blog, October 26, 2014

 

November 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Middle Class, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Working Off The Same Script”: Why Can’t Republican Candidates Say Whether They Want Boots On The Ground?

It was a busy night on the campaign trail Tuesday, as candidates in several key races faced off in debates. Moderators frequently asked whether candidates thought President Obama should commit US ground troops to the fight against ISIS—and most Republican candidates dodged the question with notable clumsiness.

In North Carolina, which has the third-highest military population among US states, incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan is opposed to troops on the ground. In Tuesday’s debate, moderated by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, she noted the United States “has many domestic needs at home” and said Iraqi and Syrian soldiers should wage the fight. Then Stephanopoulos put the question to her opponent, Thom Tillis:

STEPHANOPOLOUS: When I was speaking to House Speaker John Boehner last week, he told me that if other nations don’t step forward, the United States would have no choice but to put boots on the ground. Do you agree?

TILLIS: I think one of the reasons that many nations are afraid to step forward is because this president is afraid to lead the world. Normally in crises like these, the president is considered to be the leader of the free world. He rallies nations together to put down terrorist threats like ISIS. But now our allies, our friends across the world, really don’t know where this president stands because he telegraphs his plan to our enemies, he gives strength to the terrorists by telling them what we’re not going to do. He should have everything on the table and he should build some credibility and Senator Hagan should be right there with him.

There’s a small glimmer of an answer in there; Tillis seemed to be suggesting it was best not to say one way or the other whether ground troops should go. Stephanopoulos did not follow up, but Hagan immediately noted that Tillis didn’t answer the question.

In Colorado’s Senate debate on Tuesday, Republican Representative Cory Gardner was directly asked to “describe the circumstances in which you would support American boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq,” and answered with a word salad of attacks on Udall and Obama’s foreign policy. (Democratic incumbent Mark Udall opposes troops on the ground.) Gardner’s answer in full:

GARDNER: Look, our foreign policy is in the situation it is today because of the failure of leadership at the White House. And the president has said his policies are going to be on the ballot this November. Mark Udall voted with those policies 99 percent of the time. The president said we have no strategy when it comes to dealing with ISIL. The president said they were junior varsity actors. The president said we will lead from behind, and that’s Mark Udall’s plan, too, because he agrees with him 99 percent of the time. We must make sure that we protect the safety and security of American families. That’s why I have supported efforts to make sure that we take out the terrorists. But Senator Udall believes the Islamic State is not an imminent threat to our nation. Senator Udall believes that they are not plotting against our country. We had people arrested at Denver International Airport for conspiring with the Islamic State. In Chicago for conspiring with the Islamic State. And Senator Udall doesn’t even show up at the Armed Services hearing when it talks about emerging threats. Senator Udall is absent.

In West Virginia, Democratic challenger Natalie Tennant has plainly said she opposes troops on the ground and, in Tuesday’s debate, reiterated her opposition and cited the pain of having sent her husband off to war. She did give a mini-evasion to the moderator’s question—he noted she opposed ground troops, but asked what future situation might justify them. That’s a tough hypothetical to answer, and Tennant basically said she would need more information.

When the moderator put the same question to the Republican candidate, Representative Shelley Moore Capito, she evaded the question of ground troops entirely:

CAPITO: The visuals of ISIS beheading two Americans and threatening to behead another, and British journalists and aid workers, is just jarring to all of us. I think that because of the president’s weak policies in Iraq, we find ourselves in a position where this terrorist group has been fomenting, raising money, raising membership. I find it frightening in terms of what could happen on our homeland. That has to be what you think about. There is nothing more valuable for us as Americans than our servicemen and women, and I appreciate [Tennant’s] husband’s service to our country. I take these decisions very seriously. I did vote to have the president train the Syrian rebels because I feel like we need a coalition of people that will stop the terrorist group from further growth.

In Georgia’s Senate debate on Tuesday night, the moderator repeatedly pressed Republican David Perdue on whether he wants ground troops in Iraq and Syria, and this is the closest Perdue came to an answer: “If we put boots on the ground, that better have a chance to win. Right now we don’t have that.” (I have no idea what that means.)

In Virginia’s Senate race last night, Republican Ed Gillespie said only that Obama should not have ruled out ground troops, and incumbent Senator Mark Warner agreed.

But in most races, Republican candidates are working off the same script: avoid calling for ground troops at all costs and simply step around the question. The similarly scripted attacks on Obama’s alleged incoherence on ISIS seem rather strange given that fairly massive dodge.

 

By: George Zornick, The Nation, October 8, 2014

October 9, 2014 Posted by | Boots On The Ground, Foreign Policy, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Sunlight Is The Best Disinfectant”: In 2014, You Can Still Buy A Senate Seat

Leaving aside for the moment the debate over whether or not individuals, corporations or nonprofits should be able to give an unlimited amount of money to a political candidates, shouldn’t we at least know who they are and when they do it?

Our federal representatives are so controlled by the money they receive that they have not been able to pass legislation requiring simple disclosure of contributions from outside groups.

So, as is the case with many other issues these days, the states are stepping in when the federal government demonstrates no capability to lead. Which is pretty much all the time, on every issue.

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a reasonable disclosure law requiring all groups making independent expenditures—that is, money for campaign ads and the like—to disclose their donors within seven days, or within 24 hours if it is 10 days or less before an election. Additionally, the top five donors of more than $5,000 must be listed in advertisements.

Let’s take a look at the kind of problem the lack of any federal action encourages.

Recently, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, David Perdue, came from behind and won a tightly contested runoff against a former congressman, Jack Kingston. And it turns out he did so with the help of more than $2 million in advertising attacking his opponent that came from a couple of political organizations based in Ohio, one of which was formed in 2011 with the express purpose of “promoting a stronger economic climate in Ohio.”

Would it surprise you to learn there is a loophole in federal disclosure requirements? Technically, a political action committee is supposed to disclose its donors. But tax-exempt “social welfare” nonprofits do not. And, guess what? Nearly all the money that was dumped into the PACs that funded the George Senate race came from two nonprofits.

So we now have a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia whose margin of victory was absolutely supplied by, um, we have no idea.

For all we know, Perdue may be a terrific guy and a potentially great U.S. senator. But it sure doesn’t instill faith in our system, or encourage voters to participate, when unknown special interests from outside a state can swoop in and affect the outcome of an election.

And believe me, this is not just happening in Georgia. It’s happening in most high-profile political races, with the rare exception of those where the candidates have engaged in agreements to ban outside funding, or are considering pledges to disclose all “dark money” funding.

So, as the Georgia race just proved, you really can buy a U.S. Senate seat. And, while buying a Senate seat may be constitutionally protected thanks to the Citizens United decision, there are no similar protections for doing so anonymously.

So thank you, Massachusetts, for invoking in action the words of the former Supreme Court Justice Luis D. Brandeis: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

 

By: Mort McKinnon, The Daily Beast, August 11, 2014

 

 

August 13, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Citizens United | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Mission Accomplished”: Tea Party Has Succeeded In Moving GOP Further Right

Last week, primary elections in several states killed off a few ultraconservative candidates whose views flirted with nuttiness. In Georgia, for example, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun — a physician who has called evolution and the big-bang theory “lies straight from the pit of hell” — drew only 9.8 percent of the vote in a crowded race to become the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.

In the same Georgia primary contest, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, an obstetrician-gynecologist, pulled down just 10 percent of the vote. Last year, the gaffe-prone Gingrey drew national ridicule for defending former Missouri congressman Todd Akin, who had said that natural processes protect a woman from pregnancy after rape.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell easily dispatched a Republican challenger, Matt Bevin, who had suggested that legalizing gay marriage could lead to parents marrying their children.

Those results, among others, cheered the Republican establishment, which has grown tired of fielding weird candidates who cannot win general elections, and led to a round of obituaries for the Tea Party movement, which had backed several of the losers. According to the chattering classes, the election results prove that the Tea Party is on life support, a dying force in conservative politics. That goes double for the doyenne of the Tea Party movement, Sarah Palin, whose chosen candidate in the Georgia Senate primary, Karen Handel, also lost.

But that view is just wrong. Tea Partiers have already accomplished what they set out to do: move the Republican Party much further to the right. While the foot-in-mouth, reality-challenged candidates may have been swept from the stage, the Tea Party has grafted its DNA onto the GOP. The Republican Party is now a small tent of hard-right absolutists who deny science, worship the rich and detest compromise.

Ronald Reagan wouldn’t recognize his party — and wouldn’t be welcome there either, as former Florida governor Jeb Bush noted two years ago. “Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican Party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground,” he said.

Georgia’s Republican primary for an open U.S. Senate seat (as Senator Saxby Chambliss retires) was instructive. It was a frenzy of Obama-bashing, an unedifying contest among candidates who repeated far-right orthodoxy like a mantra. They pledged to fight Obamacare, to resist tax increases, to cut spending on social programs, to defend every citizen’s right to own a shoulder-fired rocket launcher. Each of them pledged to fight abortion, though they all want to cut the programs that help keep poor babies healthy.

When the leading candidate, millionaire businessman David Perdue, said something rational, it was denounced as a gaffe and used as fodder by his opponents. Asked by a Macon Telegraph editorial writer whether he would chose spending cuts or increased revenue to improve the economy, Perdue said “both.” His opponents jumped on the remark quickly, claiming he had given notice that he would raise taxes.

The peculiar aversion to compromise runs counter to the example set by Reagan, the patron saint of the modern conservative movement. He famously bartered with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill to arrive at a 1983 agreement to cut spending and raise taxes, which firmed up Social Security for a generation.

Yet, the Tea Party takeover of the GOP is holding strong, producing an adherence to far-right dogma. That’s what voters are likely to see in the runoff for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat, in which frontrunner Perdue will face U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston on July 22. Both candidates will feel pressure to prove themselves to the Tea Party supporters who voted for Gingrey, Broun and Handel, so they’ll engage in even more ultraconservative rhetoric and indulge even more right-wing impulses.

The Republican establishment thought that it was going to use the energy of far-right activists to win elections while remaining firmly in control. If any members of the GOP establishment — including old-line institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce — still believe that’s what happened, they are only fooling themselves.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, Visiting Professor at the University of Georgia; The National Memo, May 24, 2014

May 25, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Tea Party vs Establishment”: Who Won The GOP Beauty Pageant In Georgia?

You’ve probably heard that the GOP establishment won big in Tuesday’s Republican primaries, with Tea Party favorites losing out to candidates backed by business groups. Take Georgia, for example, where an 11-term congressman and a businessman worth at least $12 million will now embark on a nine-week runoff, while the two nuttiest candidates were easily weeded out, having secured less than 10 percent of the vote apiece.

What the establishment “won” in Georgia is a future nominee that will be easier to sell to voters in the general race against Michelle Nunn, the Democratic pick. The GOP’s first place finisher, David Perdue, is a telegenic management consultant and a former executive at Dollar General Reebok. He rose to the top of the heap via a campaign ad that depicted his opponents as crying babies. “Help me change the childish behavior up there,” Perdue said, while onscreen squalling infants crawled across on the grass in front of the Capitol. His opponent in the runoff will be Jack Kingston, a political veteran with support from the Chamber of Commerce and conservative figureheads like Sean Hannity.

What happened last night in Georgia was a beauty pageant, not a contest of meaningful political distinctions. Degrees of polish aside, there were few substantive differences between the establishment and the Tea Party candidates. Perdue sold himself as “the outsider” and a “hard-core conservative.” He doubts climate science, opposes gay marriage, wants to get rid of Obamacare, and has called raising the minimum wage “backward thinking.” He’s promised to oppose Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader. Herman Cain, the Tea Party choice in the 2012 presidential primary, said on his radio show that Perdue “looks like a mirror image of Herman Cain.”

Though his deep ties to Washington are fodder for attacks, Kingston is no moderate. He suggested that children should sweep floors in exchange for school lunch meals. He ran an ad—set it in some alternate America plastered in Help Wanted signs—bashing welfare recipients for “choosing a handout rather than a hand up.” He talked up his support for the Fair Tax, a regressive national sales tax scheme. He pledged never to stop fighting Obamacare. He’d like to repeal Dodd-Frank. He has a staunch conservative record in the House, voting for things like a “fetal pain” bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks.

One thing that did distinguish Kingston and Perdue from their competitors was the amount of money behind them. Perdue used more than $2 million of his own money ahead of the primary, and has said he doesn’t know if there’s a limit to how deep he’ll reach into his own funds. Kingston attracted the most outside funding, with the Chamber of Commerce spending some $1 million in ads to support him.

So who lost in Georgia? It wasn’t the Tea Party, which succeeded in turning the contest in Georgia—and many others across the country—into a race to the right. If the terms Tea Party and establishment mean anything now as features of a candidate, they are distinctions in marketability, financing, and rhetoric, not of ideology. As Matt Kibbe, president of the Tea Party group FreedomWorks, told The Washington Post, “Everybody is running against Obamacare and against overspending in Washington. It wasn’t always like that with the Republican establishment. I don’t even recognize [Kentucky Senator Mitch] McConnell from where he was a few years ago.” The establishment candidates beat the wingnuts by showing up at the same party, but in better suits.

In Georgia, it was the voters who lost. Turnout was anemic, down by tens of thousands from 2010 even among Republicans. The choices before them were narrow, the airwaves full of attack ads. Most of the money spent by outside groups—upwards of $4.6 million—went to advertising, dwarfing direct campaign contributions by a nearly four to one ratio. Now Georgians will get another nine-week dose of the same, as Kingston and Perdue duke it out.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, May 21, 2014

May 21, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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