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“St. Joan Of The Tundra”: The Inevitability Of Palin’s Endorsement Of Trump

Notwithstanding the howls of pain and rage from supporters of Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin’s decision to endorse Donald Trump for president makes perfect sense when you think about what she has distinctively represented in the Republican Party. Yes, she’s a “conservative” in the sense of standing for maximum confrontation with Democrats and constantly accusing the party Establishment of acts of betrayal. But no, there’s nothing particularly ideological — or, for that matter, intellectual — about her approach to politics or issues. She represents almost perfectly the passion and resentment of grassroots cultural-issues activists. When John McCain vaulted her into national politics, she was known for two things other than her gender: She was a “walk the walk” role model for the anti-abortion movement, thanks to her small child Trig, and she had taken on the “crony capitalist” GOP Establishment in Alaska and won. Thus she was a fellow “maverick” with Christian-right street cred and a “game-changing” identity.

The remarkably widespread belief that Palin lost the 2008 presidential election for her party is even more far-fetched than the hope that she could win it. And so the many fans she made in that campaign developed — with a lot of help from Palin herself — a deep resentment of all of the Democrats, Republicans, and media elites who belittled her. In a very real sense, she was the authentic representative of those local right-to-life activists — disproportionately women — who had staffed countless GOP campaigns and gotten little in return (this was before the 2010 midterm elections began to produce serious anti-choice gains in the states) other than the thinly disguised contempt of Beltway Republicans. And after 2008 she generated a sort of perpetual motion machine in which her fans loved her precisely for the mockery she so reliably inspired.

Unfortunately for those fans, St. Joan of the Tundra was never quite up to the demands of a statewide — much less national — political career. So she opportunistically intervened in politics between books and television specials and widely broadcast family sagas, mostly through well-timed candidate endorsements. It’s striking, though not surprising, that Palin is now endorsing the nemesis of one of her most successful “Mama Grizzly” protégées, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, on the turf of another, Iowa’s Joni Ernst.

But in many respects, the Trump campaign is the presidential campaign Palin herself might have aspired to run if she had the money and energy to do so. Her famous disregard for wonky facts and historical context is but a shadow of Trump’s. His facility with the big and effective lie can’t quite match Palin’s, who after all convinced many millions of people in a Facebook post that the Affordable Care Act authorized “death panels.” And both of them, of course, exemplify the demagogue’s zest for flouting standards of respectable discourse and playing the table-turning triumphant victim/conqueror of privileged elites.

Conservatism for both Trump and Palin simply supplies the raw material of politics and a preassembled group of aggrieved white people ready to follow anyone purporting to protect hard-earned threatened privileges, whether it’s Social Security and Medicare benefits or religious hegemony. So it’s natural Palin would gravitate to Trump rather than Cruz, who’s a professional ideologue but a mere amateur demagogue. The endorser and the endorsee were meant for each other.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 19, 2016

January 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“There Are Things In It That Scare Me”: For Republicans, Dishonesty Works And Deceit Instills Fear And Uncertainty

There isn’t a democracy on the planet in which even conservative candidates take aim at citizens’ access to health care. At a certain level, the very idea seems a little silly – a national candidate would presumably fail if he or she told their electorate, “Vote for me and I promise to leave some of you behind without access to basic medical care.”

But the United States is the exception. The Republican Party is the only major party in any major democracy that believes citizens are not entitled to medical care as a benefit of citizenship. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), as we discussed yesterday, want the GOP to abandon universal coverage as a worthwhile goal.

The Affordable Care Act may have extended new health security to tens of millions of families, but Jindal and Republicans believe voters should elect them to deliberately take that security away.

In theory, this should be a very tough sell. Why in the world would any Americans consider voting, on purpose, for a platform that could deliberately punish their own family?

The answer, I suspect, has a lot to do with the power of fear.

The New York Times recently published a fascinating piece on Kentucky’s triumphs in implementing the Affordable Care Act, and the article highlighted a woman named Amanda Mayhew. On paper, the piece presents Mayhew as a classic example of an “Obamacare” success story: thanks to the ACA, she been able to receive free, overdue dental care; she was able to see a dermatologist for free; and she received medication to treat depression for free. This one law has made a big, positive difference in her life.

And then came the twist.

“I don’t love Obamacare,” she said. “There are things in it that scare me and that I don’t agree with.”

For example, she said, she heard from news programs that the Affordable Care Act prohibited lifesaving care for elderly people with cancer.

Mayhew went on to tell the NYT that she’s “thankful” for her coverage, she would “gladly give up my insurance today if it meant that some of the things that are in the law were not in place.”

The problem, of course, is that Mayhew has been misled. Despite what she “heard from news programs,” the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit lifesaving care for elderly people with cancer. It actually does the opposite – which is why the law has received the enthusiastic support of the American Cancer Society and AARP.

The Times article featured a well-intentioned woman, whose heart clearly seems to be in the right place, who would sacrifice her own access to medical care in order to scrap provisions in the law that do not actually exist.

And that’s where Republican rhetoric comes into play. For years, the naive among us – a group that I include myself in – have marveled at the extraordinary lies that have been told about the Affordable Care Act. Why, we ask, would the right lie so brazenly to families who urgently need access to doctors and medicine?

Because dishonesty works. Deceit instills fear and uncertainty.

When Republican candidates vow to gut the American health care system and take Americans’ coverage away, there are plenty of voters who are willing to go along because they’re eager to undo those horrible provisions in the law they “heard about” on “news programs.”

The power of deceptive propaganda, backed by billionaires and their powerful elected allies, shouldn’t be underestimated.

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently found that 41% of the country still, even now, believes “a government panel” exists to “make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare.” That’s two out of every five Americans who believe a ridiculous falsehood.

It’s not that these people are bad or dumb. It’s not that they want their neighbors or community to suffer. The issue here is that some wealthy and sophisticated folks launched a con job on the public, and the scam roped in a lot of victims.

Why else would politicians run on a platform of pushing millions of Americans into a position where they’re one ailment away from bankruptcy? It’s because they think they can get away with it – nice, generous folks will sacrifice their own security to prevent imaginary threats from hurting someone else.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 13, 2015

January 14, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Cardinal Reality Facing The Justices”: The Supreme Court Is Now A Death Panel

Back in March 2011, when the biggest threats facing Obamacare were the Supreme Court and the 2012 elections, I argued that the demise of the Affordable Care Act would put people’s lives in immediate danger.

At the time, the law had relatively few beneficiariespeople under 26 covered by their parents’ health plans, a small population of people with pre-existing medical conditions. But some of them had already used their new coverage to finance the kinds of life-saving treatments that would leave them in need of chronic care for the rest of their lives. Take away the health law, and most of these organ transplant recipients and other patients would have become unable to afford their medications, and some of them would die.

Since then, millions of people have gained coverage under the law, and that group of chronic care patients has grown much larger. But despite the fact that the Court upheld the law, and President Obama won reelection, the ACA isn’t out of danger.

On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that will determine whether the federal government can continue to subsidize private ACA coverage in states that didn’t set up their own insurance exchanges.

That case is King v. Burwell, but the issue at stake has come to be defined by a comparable case called Halbig v. Burwell.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the challengers in King, but the Supreme Court agreed to grant cert to those challengers anyhow, despite the absence of a Circuit Court split. If the five conservative Supreme Court justices are so inclined, they can void ACA subsidies for millions of beneficiaries, and cripple the insurance markets in about three dozen states.

Some of those beneficiaries will be the kinds of transplant recipients and other patients I wrote about three and a half years ago. Except today there are many more of them. Several of these patients explained the risk to their lives in an amicus brief, urging a different circuit court to reject the challenge to the subsidies, and thus to the viability of the insurance markets their lives depend on.

“Without insurance, Jennifer [Causor’s] treatments would be completely unaffordable. Her transplant cost nearly $280,000. She takes three anti-rejection drugs, one of which has a sticker price of $2,400 per month…. Should she become uninsured, Jennifer would face bankruptcy and even death.”

You can read the whole brief below. Conservatives are brimming with excitement over the Court’s decision to hear the challenge. Should the five conservatives rule that the text of the law doesn’t provide for federal subsidies in states that didn’t set up their own exchanges, they’ll place the onus on Congress or state governments to address the consequences for constituents who lose their benefits. The contested text could be fixed with a comically simple technical corrections bill, which Democrats would happily support. If Republicans were to sit on their hands, or use the ensuing chaos as leverage to extract unrelated concessions, it will cost people their lives. That is a cardinal reality facing justices, and the people soliciting their conservative activism.

There’s an ironic post-script to this article. The Supreme Court is likely to resolve this case with a 5-4 decision, one way or another. Either a single conservative will side with the Court’s four liberals as in 2012, and leave the law unscathed, or the five conservatives will align to void the subsidies.

Under the circumstances, supporters of the law might be nervous about the potential loss of a liberal justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health and advanced age make many liberals very uneasy, especially now that Obama’s ability to fill Supreme Court vacancies has come into doubt. But for the purposes of King, this issue is immaterial.

If Ginsburg’s seat were to become vacant, then the fate of the law would remain in the hands of a conservative swing justice. A 4-4 split effectively upholds the lower court’s rulingand since the Fourth Circuit upheld the subsidies, the subsidies would stand. If the Fourth Circuit had ruled the other way, her health would be much more material.

When I mentioned this admittedly morbid but nevertheless important curiosity on Twitter, a large number of dimwitted (or in some cases persistently dishonest) conservatives flooded my mentions column in outrage. Most of them missed the meaning altogether, and accused me of wishing death upon a conservative Supreme Court justice. But even the ones who didn’t managed to contain their enthusiasm over the possibility of millions of people losing insurance for a moment, to reprimand me for being so cavalier about people’s lives.


By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, November 7, 2014

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Religion Of Unreason”: Creeds Are Not Built Up Out Of Facts

I think it’s safe to say that this period in history is one in which liberals have felt unusually exasperated with conservatives, perhaps more than ever before. I can say this with some confidence as a liberal who runs in liberal circles; it may well be that conservatives are also more exasperated with liberals than they have ever been. Our ability to feed that exasperation is driven by the fact that, for all the polarization of information sources, we’re actually more aware of what people on the other side say than we ever have been before. Fifteen years ago, I would have had no idea if Rush Limbaugh said something offensive, but today (once it rises to a certain level of horror), Media Matters will record it and put it on their web site, the Huffington Post will put it on their web site, and half a dozen people in my Twitter feed will let me know it happened. So there are all kinds of new ways to become appalled with your opponents.

And there’s nothing we liberals find more frustrating than the contemporary conservative aversion to facts, particularly on a few select topics, none more than health care. We like to think of ourselves as rational, thoughtful people, who arrive at our opinions after careful consideration, while the other side is fed by prejudices, insane conspiracy theories, and an inability to admit when the world doesn’t turn out the way they thought it would. Conservatives find this to be an unfair caricature, but they can’t deny that many, many people on their side are—let’s be charitable and say unconcerned—with the truth of the world. Barack Obama is a natural-born citizen, Hillary Clinton didn’t engineer Benghazi for nefarious ends, there were no death panels, the ACA doesn’t explode the deficit, people did indeed sign up for insurance, a system where people get subsidies from the government to buy private health policies they can use at private doctors is not “socialism,” and so on. And yet these ideas persist. With characteristic eloquence, Gary Wills explains why:

The irrelevance of evidence in the face of sacred causes explains the dogged denial of global warming, the deep belief that the Obama Administration was responsible for the killing of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Benghazi and that Obama is not a legitimate American. To go back farther, it explains the claims that FDR arranged for the attack on Pearl Harbor and gave much of the world away to Stalin at Yalta (an idea Joe Scarborough is still clinging to). Repealing Obamacare will eventually go the way of repealing the New Deal. But the opposition will never fade entirely away—and it may well be strong enough in this year’s elections to determine the outcome. It is something people are willing to sacrifice for and feel noble about. Creeds are not built up out of facts. They are what make people reject all evidence that guns are more the cause of crime than the cure for it. The best preservative for unreason is to make a religion of it.

The priests of that religion are the media figures who pass down the injunctions from on high, telling their flocks what they should believe, whom they should hate, and what they should be angry about today. And the politicians? Some no doubt truly believe when they kneel at the altar. Others go through the motions, with an eye cast back over their shoulder at the pews to make sure everyone sees their piety. And some may even be looking forward to the time when a few of the religion’s more absurd tenets fall by the wayside, so they can tell the congregants what they want to hear without feeling like they’re feeding the madness of some unhinged cult.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 23, 2014

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Liberals | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Brazen Dishonesty”: California GOP ‘Reaches For The Bottom’

Health care policy can get confusing, even for policy experts who study the details for a living. It’s one of the reasons dishonesty in the political debate surrounding health care is so damaging – even the most well-intentioned people often don’t know how best to separate fact from fiction.

It’s why efforts from political officials – who know better – to deliberately confuse people are so disappointing. Michael Hiltzik reports:

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act never stop producing new tricks to undermine the reform’s effectiveness. But leave it to California Republicans to reach for the bottom. Their goal appears to be to discredit the act by highlighting its costs and penalties rather than its potential benefits.

The device chosen by the Assembly’s GOP caucus is a website at the address If that sounds suspiciously like, which is the real website for the California insurance exchange, it may not be a coincidence.

In theory, this is a site created by California Republicans to serve as a “resource” for those looking for additional information. In practice, the site “is worse than useless” – it didn’t direct users to the in-state exchange marketplace, and includes demonstrable falsehoods intended to deceive the public.

Like what? The site includes the ridiculous notion that the Affordable Care Act increases the federal budget deficit, which is the exact opposite of reality. It also claims the IRS will use the law to target conservatives; it says the law will discourage private-sector hiring; and it even hints in the direction of the death-panel smear by raising the specter of “rationing” for the elderly.

All of these claims are wrong. All of them are presented, however, on a website that presents itself as objective and non-partisan.

Stepping back, dishonesty on this scale is certainly brazen, but it raises anew a lingering question: if the Affordable Care Act is so awful, and will be as horrific as critics claim, why do Republicans continue to feel the need to make stuff up? Shouldn’t reality be damaging enough?


By: Steve Benen, the Maddow Blog, December 4, 2013

December 5, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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