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“Santorum Ignores Shift”: What Rick Santorum Views As A Passing Fad Is Likely To Become The Norm Quite Soon

Several 2016 presidential campaigns are already up and running — some more quietly than others — and Republicans hoping to be their party’s nominee are preparing for a primary that could potentially bear little resemblance to those of 2012 and 2008. As the party grapples with a shifting electorate, it is divided over differences on gay marriage, immigration reform, national security policy and even guns — gaps that could only widen by 2015, when campaigns will be in full swing.

Potential candidates are busy searching for safe corners on these contentious issues and are either acknowledging the profound shifts, even when they haven’t changed their minds, or saying little until they have to — all of them, so far, except former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

Santorum, of course, won the Iowa caucuses last year and nearly derailed Mitt Romney’s path to the GOP nomination before he started speaking out against the dangers of college education, free prenatal testing and contraception. Just this week he predicted that a “chastened” U.S. Supreme Court would not rule in favor of gay marriage and that the Republican Party was not going to change on the issue because doing so would be the end of the party. Yes, the end.

“The Republican Party’s not going to change on this issue. In my opinion it would be suicidal if it did,” Santorum told The Des Moines Register. The ex-lawmaker described new support for gay marriage as “popular” and “the fancy of the day,” but also considers it fleeting, as “not a well thought-out position by the American public.”

In the past Santorum has made clear he believes gay marriage is “antithetical” to healthy families. “Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality,” he said in 2003.

Santorum told the Register on Monday he is considering another presidential run but hasn’t made any decisions. He will return to Iowa next week to speak to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, where he said he will address this topic. “One of the things I learned from the last four years is that when you go to Iowa, people pay attention to what you say,” he said in his interview. “That’s always a gift to any person in public life. We’re going to talk about the concerns I have.”

It is understandable that, as a religious Christian, Santorum is uncomfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage. Many Republicans who also want to be president feel exactly the same way. But they are not encouraging their fellow Republicans to alienate homosexual voters. Telling voters their opinions are wrong isn’t usually a winning campaign strategy. The strong majority support for gay marriage, even among Republicans, can be denied no more than the growth of the Latino population and the fact that President Obama won it 71 percent to 27 percent over Romney. They are stubborn electoral shifts, just like the fact that young voters and Asian Americans have recently turned away from the GOP in greater numbers, which any Republican hoping to win the White House in 2016 will have to contend with and accept.

There is a significant difference between a trend and an evolution. What Santorum views as a passing fad is likely to become the norm quite soon; young people support gay marriage by a margin of 4 to 1. More acceptance isn’t likely to give way to less over time, no matter how much chastening Santorum has in mind.

 

By: A. B. Stoddard, Associate Editor, The Hill, April 10, 2013

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Conservatives, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Delusional One-Percenter”: The Case Against Mitt Romney

Every election is a choice between imperfect alternatives. I will examine both choices in turn, but the first one, Mitt Romney, has rendered the normal analytic tools useless. The different iterations of his career differ so wildly, yet comport so perfectly with his political ambitions of the moment, that it is simply impossible to separate his panders from his actual beliefs, the means from the ends. It is easy to present Romney’s constant reinventions as a character flaw, but all politicians tailor their beliefs to suit the moment; Romney’s unique misfortune is that he has had to court such divergent electorates — first a liberal general electorate in Massachusetts, then Republican primary voters of an increasingly rabid bent in 2008 and 2012, and finally America as a whole after securing the nomination.

One can plausibly imagine Romney as a genuine right-winger, first implanted in hostile deep blue territory, hiding his arch-conservative beliefs in order to secure the brass ring he coveted before he was liberated from running for reelection and unmasked himself to his fellow Republicans nationwide as the “conservative businessman” he always was. One can just as plausibly imagine him as his father’s true political heir, covertly plotting to move his party sharply leftward, a turn he would execute only once he had burrowed undetected beneath its ideological perimeter.

The true picture is a mystery, probably lying somewhere between these points. Undoubtedly, what Romney believes in above all is himself. As a friend of his told Politico last month, at a moment when his campaign appeared hopeless, Romney approaches politics like a business deal: “Just do and say what you need to do to get the deal done, and then when it’s done, do what you know actually needs to be done to make the company a success.” (This was the reporters’ paraphrase, not the friend’s own words.)

He meant this not in the spirit of exposing Romney’s fraudulence, but in an elegiac way — a lament for a great man who would do good if only given a chance. From a certain perspective, there is an understandable and even admirable elitism at work. Romney truly believes in his own abilities and — unlike George W. Bush, who was handed every professional success in his life — has justification for his confidence. He is a highly intelligent, accomplished individual.

Some version of Romney’s own fantasy — that, once in office, he will craft sensible and data-driven, and perhaps even bipartisan, solutions to our problems — surely accounts for his political resurrection. Starting with the transformative first presidential debate, Romney has wafted the sweet, nostalgic scent of moderate Republicanism into the air. Might he offer the sort of pragmatic leadership that was the hallmark of his party in a bygone era — a George H.W. Bush, a second-term Reagan, an Eisenhower, a Nixon minus the criminal paranoia? Some moderates supporting him, like reformist conservative Ross Douthat or the Des Moines Register editorial board, have filled the many voids of Romney’s program with some version of this fantasy. It is an attractive scenario to many, and one worth considering seriously.

This hopeful vision immediately runs into a wall of deductive logic. If Romney were truly planning to govern from the center, why would he leave himself so exposed to Obama’s attacks that he is a plutocrat peddling warmed-over Bushonomics? The election offers Romney his moment of maximal leverage over his party’s right-wing base. If he actually wanted to cut a budget deal along the lines of Bowles-Simpson, or replace Dodd-Frank with some other way of preventing the next financial crisis, or replace Obamacare with some other plan to cover the uninsured, there would be no better time to announce it than now, when he could sorely use some hard evidence of his moderation. He has not done so — either because he does not want to or because he fears a revolt by the Republican base. But if he fears such a revolt now, when his base has no recourse but to withhold support and reelect Obama, he will also fear it once in office, when conservatives could oppose him without making their worst political nightmare come true as a result.

And so the reality remains that a vote for Romney is a vote for his party — a party that, by almost universal acclimation, utterly failed when last entrusted with governing. Romney may be brainier, more competent, and more mentally nimble than George W. Bush. But his party has, unbelievably, grown far more extreme in the years since Bush departed. Unbelievable though it may sound to those outside the conservative movement, conservative introspection into the Bush years has yielded the conclusion that the party erred only in its excessive compassion — it permitted too much social spending and, perhaps, cut taxes too much on the poor. Barely any points of contact remain between party doctrine and the consensus views of economists and other experts. The party has almost no capacity to respond to the conditions and problems that actually exist in the world.

Economists have coalesced around aggressive monetary easing in order to pump liquidity into a shocked market; Republicans have instead embraced the gold standard and warned incessantly of imminent inflation, undaunted by their total wrongness. In the face of a consensus for short-term fiscal stimulus, they have turned back to ancient Austrian doctrines and urged immediate spending cuts. In the face of rising global temperatures and a hardening scientific consensus on the role of carbon emissions, their energy plan is to dig up and burn every last molecule of coal and oil as rapidly as possible. Confronted by skyrocketing income inequality, they insist on cutting the top tax rate and slashing — to levels of around half — programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and children’s health insurance. They refuse to allow any tax increase to soften the depth of such cuts and the catastrophic social impact they would unleash.

The last element may be the most instructive and revealing. The most important intellectual pathology to afflict conservatism during the Obama era is its embrace of Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy of capitalism. Rand considered the free market a perfect arbiter of a person’s worth; their market earnings reflect their contribution to society, and their right to keep those earnings was absolute. Politics, as she saw it, was essentially a struggle of the market’s virtuous winners to protect their wealth from confiscation by the hordes of inferiors who could outnumber them.

Paul Ryan, a figure who (unlike Romney) commands vast personal and ideological loyalty from the party, is also its most famous Randian. He has repeatedly praised Rand as a visionary and cited her work as the touchstone of his entire political career. But the Randian toxin has spread throughout the party. It’s the basis of Ryan’s frequently proclaimed belief that society is divided between “makers” and “takers.” It also informed Romney’s infamous diatribe against the lazy, freeloading 47 percenters. It is a grotesque, cruel, and disqualifying ethical framework for governing.

Naturally, this circles us back to the irrepressible question of what Romney himself actually believes. The vast industry devoted to exploring the unknowable question of Romney’s true beliefs has largely ignored a simple and obvious possibility: That Romney has undergone the same political and/or psychological transformation that so many members of his class have since 2009. If there is one hard fact that American journalism has established since 2009, it is that many of America’s rich have gone flat-out bonkers under President Obama. Gabriel Sherman first documented this phenomenon in his fantastic 2009 profile in this magazine, “The Wail of the 1%,” which described how the financial elite had come to see themselves as persecuted, largely faultless targets of Obama and their greedy countrymen. Alec MacGillis and Chrystia Freeland have painted a similar picture.

The ranks of the panicked, angry rich include Democrats as well as Republicans and elites from various fields, but the most vociferous strains have occurred among the financial industry and among Republicans. All this is to say, had he retired from public life after 2008, super-wealthy Republican financier Mitt Romney is exactly the kind of person you’d expect to have lost his mind, the perfect socioeconomic profile of a man raging at Obama and his mob. Indeed, it would be strange if, at the very time his entire life had come to focus on the goal of unseating Obama, and he was ensconced among Obama’s most affluent and most implacable enemies, Romney was somehow immune to the psychological maladies sweeping through his class.

Seen in this light, Romney’s belief in himself as a just and deserving leader is not merely a form of personal ambition free of ideological content. His faith in himself blends seamlessly into a faith in his fellow Übermenschen — the Job Creators who make our country go, who surround him and whose views shaped his program. To think of Romney as torn between two poles, then, is a mistake. Both his fealty to his party and his belief in his own abilities point in the same direction: the entitlement of the superrich to govern the country.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, October 31, 2012

November 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Publisher Made Us Do It”: The Des Moines Register’s Practical Joke

This Romney endorsement editorial, if you actually bother to read it, is little more than a practical joke. First of all, it has all the hallmarks of having been ordered by the publisher over the objections of the editorial board. Normally, a sentence like “the Register’s editorial board, as it should, had a vigorous debate over this endorsement,” translated into blunt English means: “Our idiot publisher forced this tripe down our throats, and we’re counting on you the more knowledgeable readers to understand this.”

The argument, such as it is, is as substanceless as meringue. Mitt Romney could “forge compromises with Congress” to get the economy rolling again? The first part of that might actually be true, but only because the Democrats in Congress aren’t nearly as ideologically hidebound and politically obstreperous as their GOP counterparts.

But the second part, fixing the economy, creating jobs, tackling the deficit? Romney has been ridiculously vague on all these things. The editorial doesn’t so much as gesture in that direction. And then bam, the editorial ends. Just when you think it might start mounting such “arguments,” it ends. I actually hit the refresh button three times, as I couldn’t believe the entire editorial had loaded properly. It’s as Potemkin Village-ish a piece of journalistic writing as I’ve seen in a long time.

Sadly, it probably will make a small difference, although I’m sure the politically inside elite out in Iowa is laughing about it this morning. Most polls indicate that Obama has a couple of points to spare in the state. We’ll see. You can ask Hillary Clinton how much good the DMR did her in January 2008.

Meanwhile, Obama has been endorsed by: Detroit Free Press, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Miami Herald, Las Vegas Sun, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Raleigh News & Observer. I’ll grant that this is more newsworthy because it’s a flip since 2008, but that doesn’t make it more important in Iowa than the Sun is in Nevada.

Anyway, go read it. You’ll see what I mean. It reads like a practical joke, and a half-baked one at that. DMR: You still have time to publish your serious endorsement, you know, the one that lists actual reasons why you support the guy!

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 28, 2012

October 29, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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