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“Shared Values, Shared Goals”: Another Data Point Against False Equivalence

Via MoJo’s Molly Redden and Dana Liebelson, here’s a little taste of the conversation on a conference call held by Bishop E.W. Jackson on which the junior senator from Kentucky was a participant:

During the call, Paul generally gave routine answers to questions on abortion, border security, and the size of the military. One caller did ask Paul if he supported Obama’s recent declaration that June was LGBT Pride Month and if he believed homosexuality is an illness. The question was reminiscent of a tweet Jackson wrote in June 2009, when Obama designated June as Pride Month: “Well that just makes me feel ikky all over. Yuk!”

“I don’t think that there’s really a role for the federal government in deciding what people’s behavior at home should be one way or another,” Paul said. “It’s not something the federal government needs to be involved in.”

After Paul left the conference call, Jackson said he suspected the caller who asked about Pride Month was trying to harass them. “Thank god he was respectful,” Jackson said. “But I just want to encourage everybody, that they are going to talk about us like [we’re] dogs because all they know is hatred, because all they know is anger and bitterness, because there’s something wrong with them on the inside…And by the way, they also want to destroy us…We are in a fight for our very lives, for our survival.”

Jackson then discussed Obama’s announcement of the release of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier captured in Afghanistan. He said that the president “could not help but smile” when Bergdahl’s father, Robert, said “allahu akbar—or whatever it is they say” at the press conference.

Jackson continued: “I have been roundly criticized for saying the president has Muslim sensibilities. That’s not my statement—that’s just a statement of fact…In this situation you would think he would have restrained himself. But he could not help but smile when that man said ‘Praise be to Allah.'”

None of this, of course, was particularly unusual for Jackson. So what on earth was Rand Paul doing on this conference call? And lest anyone of the False Equivalence tribe dismiss the incident as an example of the craziness that can be found in the “extremes” of both parties, let’s remember Jackson was a Republican nominee for statewide office in Virginia just last year. Is there anyone remotely “equivalent” to Jackson among statewide Democratic nominees anywhere? And even if you can scrounge up one, is there anything on the progressive side of the political spectrum remotely like the dozens of Republican pols who sound just like Jackson in their homophobia, Islamophobia, and crazy-talk about Obama every single day? And if there were, would any Democrat running for president do anything other than run away from these people as rapidly as they could, maybe attacking them for good measure?

No, no and no. And the sad thing is that we barely even notice any more that to an alarming extent the GOP is divided between these people and those who curry their favor and hasten to assure them they share their values and goals.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 4, 2014

June 5, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Rand Paul, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unhinged Insanity”: Michele Bachmann’s Powerful Legacy

Michele Bachmann’s retirement from the House of Representatives is an obvious loss for political journalists and their editors, who could guarantee web traffic by just reprinting anything she said, with minimal comment. That was especially true during the Republican presidential primaries.

In her short time as a candidate, Bachmann blamed natural disasters on America’s unwillingness to cut non-defense discretionary spending, accused Texas Governor Rick Perry of spreading autism with mandatory vaccinations, warned that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had plans to bomb the United States with a nuclear weapon, and pushed for a full ban on pornography.

The unhinged insanity of all of this is worth noting. But what we should also point out is that none of this disqualified her from consideration as a presidential candidate. Not only did Bachmann win the Iowa straw poll—a symbolic victory, but a victory nonetheless—but at one point, she led her competitors for the nomination. In a July survey from Public Policy Polling, 21 percent of Republican primary voters said she was their top choice for the nomination, compared to 20 percent for the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, 12 percent for Rick Perry, and 11 percent for Herman Cain.

In other words, Bachmann may embarrass GOP elites, but actual Republicans don’t seem to have a huge problem with her or her antics. Indeed, if there’s a “Bachmann style” in conservative politics, it’s only grown more prominent since her moment in the spotlight. Texas Senator Ted Cruz is building his national brand by appealing to the same right-wing fever swamps. Conservatives describe him as a new “standard-bearer” for “constitutional conservatism”—a term popularized by Bachmann.

The entire Republican Party has taken a page from the Minnesota congresswoman with its obsessive focus on the Benghazi “scandal” and the situation at the Internal Revenue Service, using both to accuse President Obama of outright treason (in the case of Benghazi) and Nixonian tactics of intimidation (in the case of the IRS). The main difference between Bachmann and many of her Republican colleagues was of form, not content. Her view of President Obama—a dangerous left-wing tyrant—is shared by many on the right.

Look, for example, at Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination who has also been known to moonlight as a conspiracy- monger. Earlier this month, he lent his name to a fundraising email that accused Obama of working with “anti-American globalists plot[ing] against the Constitution.”

It’s of a piece with South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham’s assertion that the Obama administration manipulated talking points to avoid political blame for the attacks in Benghazi during the presidential election. “This is a story of manipulation by the government with the president being complicit of trying to tell a story seven weeks before an election that was politically beneficial for the White House, but did not represent the facts on the ground,” Graham said during an interview on Fox News two weeks ago.

And that’s just the national Republican Party. In states like Virginia, the party has elevated candidates who take Bachmann’s extremism and dial it to 11. E.W. Jackson, the Virginia GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor, has already made national news with his furious denunciations of same-sex marriage, LGBT Americans (they’re “sick people psychologically, mentally, and emotionally”), and Planned Parenthood (it’s worse than the Ku Klux Klan). Their gubernatorial nominee, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, differs only by degree. He won’t accuse reproductive rights advocates of engaging in an anti-black genocide, but he will go after groups that attempt to dispense accurate information on sexually transmitted infections, contraceptives, and sexual health.

Observers from across the political spectrum are cheering Michele Bachmann’s departure from politics, and for good reason: She was a toxic influence on public life. But it’s worth remembering that what she represents—extreme right-wing paranoia—is still present and powerful on the national stage.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, May 29, 2013

May 31, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let The Excitement Begin”: Virginia GOP Continues Its Sprint From The Mainstream

E.W. Jackson, the Republicans’ candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia this year, is on record saying quite a few nutty things. Late last week, however, Jackson effectively said his bizarre rhetorical excesses shouldn’t be held against him.

The comments, he said, “were spoken in my role as a minister, not as a candidate.”

I don’t mean to sound picky, but when someone seeks elected office, the things he or she did before becoming a candidate still count.

Meanwhile, Bob FitzSimmonds, a former aide to gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli and a top official in the Republican Party of Virginia, said last week, “I’m not a big fan of contraception, frankly. I think there are some issues, we’re giving morning-after pills to 12-year-olds, and pretty soon I guess we’ll hand them out to babies, I don’t know.”

Why would anyone give emergency contraception to a baby? I don’t know, but apparently this GOP official and close Cuccinelli ally is concerned about it. (FitzSimmonds also made headlines last fall for talking about his belief that President Obama is going “to hell.”)

So, let’s take stock. Virginia’s Republican gubernatorial candidate is a fierce culture warrior; Virginia’s Republican candidate for lieutenant governor is an unusually strange right-wing activist; Virginia’s Republican candidate for state attorney general once sponsored a bill that would have required women to report their miscarriages to the state; and Virginia’s Republican Party is led in part by someone who still opposes contraception.

Oh, and Virginia’s current Republican governor is embroiled in a scandal.

All of this is important when considering which party will have greater success reaching out to independents, moderates, and swing voters with no real party allegiance, but there’s also the matter of waking up the Democratic base. It’s an off-year cycle, and Democratic Party leaders have long wondered how they’ll generate sufficient levels of excitement among progressive voters to show up.

It appears GOP activists in the commonwealth are taking care of that problem.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, May 28, 2013

May 29, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tied At The Hip”: E.W. Jackson Throws A Wrench Into The Ken Cuccinelli Plan

Ken Cuccinelli’s plan for winning the Virginia gubernatorial race is straightforward. Avoid outspoken statements on social issues—the same ones that alienate most Virginians but excite his rightwing base—and focus the campaign on jobs and growth.

So far, he’s done exactly that. Of his three television advertisements, for example none mention abortion or same-sex marriage. Instead, the first—narrated by his wife—presents Cuccinelli as a defender of the vulnerable, highlighting his time working in homeless shelters and prosecuting human traffickers. The second is a straightforward ad on the economy—where he touts his Ryan-esque tax plan of cuts—and the third is meant to humanize Cuccinelli, and features the widow of a slain Fairfax County police officer, who endorses the attorney general.

E.W. Jackson, the newly-minted GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, throws a huge wrench in this strategy.

Jackson is known for his outspoken social conservatism. He routinely denounces LGBT equality—calling gay Americans “sick people psychologically, mentally, and emotionally”—and has compared Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan, accusing them of engineering the mass slaughter of black children through their support for abortion rights. Indeed, this rhetoric is the whole reason for his popularity among Virginia conservatives and the reason he was able to win the nomination.

Which means he’s unlikely to abandon it on the campaign trail. Cuccinelli is a deft politician, but not so deft that he’s able to distance himself from someone who—ostensibly—is his running mate. And so, at a campaign stop in Abdingdon—in the southwest corner of the state—Cuccinelli told supporters that he’s “glad” Jackson is on the ticket. Why? Because the lieutenant governor cast the tie-breaking vote in the Virginia Senate, and at the moment, the senate has an even split between Democrats and Republicans. Here’s more from the Virginian Pilot:

“I don’t need to know what the subject matter that’s going to tie up 20–20 that the LG can vote on will be. I’m confident that we’re going to get the right vote every single time out of E.W. Jackson,” Cuccinelli said of the Chesapeake-based minister. “So I’m glad he’s on this ticket, too.”

Expect this quote to be circulated around the state by Virginia Democrats. And for good reason. Given their demographic challenges, Democrats—and Terry McAuliffe in particular—have to convince Virginians that the GOP is too extreme to trust. With Cuccinelli now tied to someone further to the right than he is, that task has become much, much easier.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The American Prospect, May 22, 2013

May 24, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Has Learned Nothing”: A Party Letting Its Base Lead Where The Rest Of America Dares Not To Follow

You’d think the conservative base would have learned its lesson in 2010, when, in a fever pitch of epic magnitude, it nominated Christine O’Donnell, Ken Buck, Sharron Angle and Joe Miller to run for the U.S. Senate. Suddenly, what looked like a prime opportunity for Republicans to flip the upper chamber and send Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., packing turned into an example of a party letting its base lead where the rest of America dared not follow. Or perhaps in 2012, when Indiana Senate nominee Richard Mourdock was sunk by an extremely ill-advised and incorrect rape comment.

However, one look at the gubernatorial ticket in Virginia shows that the tea party’s dream is alive and kicking. Not only has the party nominated Ken Cuccinelli for governor – who believes that the entire social safety net is “despicable, dishonest, and worthy of condemnation“– but it has added Rev. E.W. Jackson to run for Lieutenant Governor.

Amongst Jackson’s greatest hits are calling gay and lesbian Americans “sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally”; claiming that the infamous 3/5ths clause of the Constitution was “anti-slavery”; saying that Planned Parenthood is akin to the Ku Klux Klan; and claiming that the agenda of the Democratic party is “worthy of the Antichrist.”

This was not supposed to be the plan. Though Cuccinelli is an avowed culture warrior and tea party darling, he has been staying away from those issues on the campaign trail, instead focusing on jobs and the economy. But as Jamelle Bouie explains at the American Prospect, Jackson’s inclusion on the ticket is going to make that strategy a lot harder to pull off:

Ken Cuccinelli’s plan for winning the Virginia gubernatorial race is straightforward. Avoid outspoken statements on social issues—the same ones that alienate most Virginians but excite his rightwing base—and focus the campaign on jobs and growth.

So far, he’s done exactly that. Of his three television advertisements, for example none mention abortion or same-sex marriage … E.W. Jackson, the newly-minted GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, throws a huge wrench in this strategy.

As Tim Murphy detailed at Mother Jones, Jackson was able to grab the nomination because Virginia’s GOP eschews a traditional primary in favor of “a one-day nominating convention packed with grassroots activists.” And those activists, as they have across the country, clearly have little regard for such parochial concerns as electability in a state that voted for President Barack Obama twice and is represented in the Senate by two Democrats. “These kinds of comments are simply not appropriate, especially not from someone who wants to be a standard bearer for our party and hold the second highest elected office in our state,” said the current Republican Lt. Gov., Bill Bolling, when asked about Jackson. “They feed the image of extremism, and that’s not where the Republican Party needs to be.”

Of course, Cuccinelli and Jackson may very well win. (They are running against Terry McAuliffe, after all, who doesn’t inspire much in the way of excitement.) Stranger things have certainly happened.

But in the long run, consistently nominating extreme social warriors, when the country is shown to be consistently going the other way on social issues, is only going to hurt the GOP’s actual policy goals. For proof of that, go say hello to Majority Leader Reid or google how the repeal of Obamacare is going.

By: Pat Garofalo, U. S. News and World Report, May 22, 2013

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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