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“Right vs Far-Right In Texas Primaries”: ‘GOP Establishment’ Has Co-opted The Tea Party With Its Own Savage Rhetoric And Policies

Yesterday was arguably the first big Election Day of the 2014 cycle, with Texas holding Republican and Democratic primaries statewide. And with Gov. Rick Perry (R) stepping down after 13 years as the state’s chief executive, voters saw competitive contests up and down the ballot, creating frenzied races Texans hadn’t seen in a while.

As the dust settles, it appears most of the establishment candidates prevailed. This New York Times piece helped summarize the conventional wisdom about the larger implications.

Establishment Republican leaders on Tuesday defeated challenges from the right in a statewide primary election as conservatives inspired by Senator Ted Cruz largely failed to topple mainstream incumbents, and a race for lieutenant governor headed for a runoff.

Similarly, the headline from The Hill reads, “Top Texas Tea Party challengers flame out.”

With candidates like Sen. John Cornyn (R), Rep. Pete Sessions (R), and gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott (R) easily dispatching rivals from the fringe, the notion that the GOP establishment reasserted itself certainly makes sense.

But it’s best not to push these assumptions too far. Ed Kilgore had an item on Monday – the day before the primary – about the likely results, which rings true two days later: “If no Tea Party insurgents … score a major victory, you will hear some observers declare the movement dead or dying, right there in Ted Cruz’s backyard. Others (myself included) will note that thanks to Cruz and following Rick Perry’s earlier lead, the ‘Republican Establishment’ in Texas has largely coopted the Tea Party movement with its own savage rhetoric and policies.”

If the top-line takeaway is that the GOP Establishment won and the Tea Party faltered, some might get the impression that more moderate conservatives prevailed over voices of extremism. That impression would be mistaken. Federal lawmakers like Cornyn and Sessions became some of the most conservative members of Congress in recent years as Republican politics in Texas became more radicalized.

In other words, yesterday pitted very conservative Republicans against hyper-conservative Republicans. That the former scored victories isn’t exactly a win for the American mainstream.

Looking ahead, Abbott, Texas’ attorney general, will face state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) in a high-profile match-up that’s likely to be a very expensive contest.

Also keep an eye on Rep. Ralph Hall (R), a long-time incumbent who was pushed yesterday into a May 27 runoff primary.

And perhaps most interesting of all will be the Republican runoff in the race for lieutenant governor.

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) has been forced into a primary runoff and trails his challenger, sports broadcaster Dan Patrick (R).

Patrick leads Dewhurst by 43 percent to 28 percent with 24 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press has called that the race will head to a runoff.

In 2012, Dewhurst was the early frontrunner in the open U.S. Senate race, before he got crushed by Ted Cruz. As yesterday’s primary results helped make clear, his career hasn’t recovered well.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 4, 2014

March 6, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Tea Party, Texas | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Lesson From The Inauguration”: When Everything Is Partisan, Just Do What’s Right

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when Republicans started complaining that President Obama’s second inaugural address was too “partisan” and lacked “outreach” across the aisle. But who was left out? What did they find “partisan”? The acknowledgement of climate science? The idea that women should receive equal pay for equal work? The nod to civil rights struggles of our past and present? The hope that no American will have to wait in hours-long lines to vote? The defense of the existence of a social safety net? The determination to offer support to the victims of a historic storm and to find real answers to the epidemic of mass shootings? In the not-too-distant past, none of these would have raised eyebrows except on the very, very far right. But I guess that’s the point: what was once the radical fringe is now in control of the Grand Old Party.

In many ways, Monday’s inauguration ceremony was a Tea Party Republican’s nightmare-come-true. The openly gay poet. The Spanish sprinkled into the benediction. The one-two-three punch of “Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall.” It was the embodiment of all that the far right has tried to wall itself off from as the country begins to include more and more of the real America in its democracy.

What would have pleased this faction, short of winning the presidential election? I imagine they would have preferred a paean to the America of their imaginations — where the founders were flawless and prescient about the right to bear assault weapons and the Constitution was delivered, amendments included, directly from God; where there are no gay people or only silent ones, where the world is not getting warmer; where there have been no struggles in the process of forging a more perfect union. This, of course, would have been its very own kind of political statement — and one that was just rejected by the majority of American voters.

If embracing America as it is rather than as a shimmery vision of what it never was constitutes partisanship, and if it turns off people who cling to that dishonest vision, let’s have more of it.


By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, January 24, 2013

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Inauguration 2013 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Core, No Backbone”: Far Right Would Lead Romney Around By A Ring In His Nose

Believe that, as President, Mitt Romney would revert to his days as a “Massachusetts Moderate?” Think again.

Every bit of evidence indicates that if he were President, the Far Right would lead Romney around by a ring in his nose.

Just last week, we saw it clearly on display. It didn’t take but two weeks for the Far Right to force the Romney campaign to sever its ties with openly gay Richard Grinnell, who it had hired as its foreign policy spokesman. The campaign itself argued that it had begged Grinnell to stay. But right wing talk show host Brian Fischer of the American Family Association, who had led the drive to force Grinnell’s resignation, declared it a major victory.

On his radio show, Fischer bragged that Romney had learned his lesson and would never again hire a gay or lesbian in a major campaign role. And you certainly didn’t see Romney contesting that assessment.

Instead we’ve seen Romney lined up shoulder to shoulder on TV with Tea Party icon Michele Bachmann, and Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell — a potential Romney VP pick and a champion of “trans-vaginal ultrasounds.”

The reason why there is not a chance that Romney will ever reinvent himself once again as a “moderate” is that he wasn’t really a “moderate” in the first place. He’s always practiced one version or the other of ultra right wing, “let Wall Street run wild” Romney economics. And he’s never given one thought to firing workers, cutting pensions, loading companies with debt and bleeding them dry of millions of dollars.

But you can’t really say that he is a committed believer in any economic principle or political value. Mitt Romney is committed to one thing and one thing alone — his own success. He has shown he has no core values whatsoever.

That’s why it wasn’t hard at all for Romney to shed his “moderate” past positions on issues like abortion rights, contraception, gay rights and immigration and to become what he himself calls a “severe conservative.”

Why will he remain a “severe conservative” if he is elected President? Because people who have no core values have no backbone. You won’t find Mitt Romney taking a stand against the dyed-in-the-wool ideologues that dominate the Republican caucus in Congress.

Those Republican ideologues may be way out of the mainstream, but they definitely have core values. Some of them were so committed to those values that they were willing to take our country to the brink of bankruptcy last year due to their unwillingness to give an inch of compromise.

The plain fact is that people with no core values never stand up to people who have core values. The fact is that Mitt Romney has the backbone of a jelly fish and that is precisely why the first time the ultra right wing pulls his chain and demands that he heel, he will fall right into line.

Even if he decided he wanted to challenge the right wing agenda propounded by the committed minions of the Tea Party, in a confrontation he would fold in an instant. When you have no core values, it’s always much easier to go along with the demands of passionate, committed true-believers than it is to stand your ground.

And the Far Right knows this is true. Last week, right wing icon Grover Norquist was very clear. He said he was not looking for presidential leadership from Romney. He believes that the leadership of the Republican Party will continue to come from right wing Republicans in Congress. All he asked of a president, he added, was enough digits on his hand to hold a pen to sign the bills embodying Congress’ right wing agenda.

Watch how Romney behaves when he delivers the commencement speech at far right Liberty University on May 12. Liberty University was founded by the late Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell. Now it’s run by his son, Jerry Falwell Jr.

After the 9/11 attacks, Falwell Sr. said that “abortionists,” “feminists,” and “the gays and the lesbians” helped cause the 9/11 attacks. According to CNN:

On the broadcast of the Christian television program ‘The 700 Club,’ Falwell made the following statement: ‘I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’

Until recently, Liberty University banned inter-racial marriages between its students. Today it requires parental permission.

As recently as 2010, Liberty University Law School withdrew as a co-sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference in protest after the conference allowed the homosexual group GOProud to co-sponsor the event.

When Romney speaks at Liberty University will he speak out against that kind of intolerance? Or, true to form, will he instead worship at the altar of ultra-right wing ideology and say just what the leadership of Liberty University wants to hear? I might be wrong, but I’ll bet that not one critical word escapes his lips.

Romney’s unwillingness to challenge the far right does not pertain solely to the social conservative right. It also goes for economic right wingers like Grover Norquist, who want to return America to the bad old days of more Bush-like tax cuts for the wealthy, and the deregulation of Wall Street that did such damage to the middle class and led to the Great Recession that cost 8 million jobs.

And it also goes for the Neo-Con foreign policy right. Seventy percent of the 40 individuals identified by the Romney campaign as its foreign policy advisers served in the Bush administration and were responsible for the catastrophic Neo-Con foreign policy.

No, in exchange for the Republican nomination, Romney has sold his soul to the extreme right. He has willingly walked into the right wing inner sanctum, and even if he wanted to, he doesn’t have the backbone to escape.


By: Robert Creamer, The Huffington Post, May 6, 2012

May 9, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Murderers And Madmen”: The Heartland Institute Has A Message For You

As far-right groups go, the Heartland Institute hasn’t quite reached household-name status yet, but it’s working on it. The group’s strange new billboards, at a minimum, will probably help push the group’s notoriety.

The Heartland Institute is “a tax-exempt organization which promotes conspiracy theories about climate scientists, distorts climate science, and attacks regulation of air and water pollution.” Despite support from corporate allies, the group has become so extreme that high-profile supporters, including GM and AT&T, no longer want anything to do with the outfit.

Instead of moderating its views and aiming for the mainstream, the Heartland Institute is buying billboards along highways in Chicago. Joe Romm reported today:

The Heartland Institute has launched one of the most offensive billboard campaigns in U.S. history. The Chicago-based anti-science think tank is comparing all those who accept climate science — and the journalists who report on it accurately — to Charles Manson, the Unabomber, and Osama Bin Laden.

The Guardian described this as “possibly one of the most ill-judged poster campaigns in the history of ill-judged poster campaigns.”

Of course, the Heartland Institute doesn’t quite see it that way. In its defense of the group’s propaganda, the Heartland Institute says it’s eager to convince people that “believing in global warming” is not “sophisticated,” and to do so, it’s noting that “murderers and madmen” agree with those who accept climate science.

Perhaps the group can use some of its remaining funds to buy a textbook on Logical Fallacies 101?

Andrew Sullivan added, “In some ways, this is an almost perfect illustration of what has happened to the ‘right.’ A refusal to acknowledge scientific reality; and a brutalist style of public propaganda that focuses entirely on guilt by the most extreme association.”


By” Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 4, 2012

May 7, 2012 Posted by | Environment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Patron Saint For The Far Right”: Robert Bork, Mitt Romney’s Secret Constitutional Weapon

Now that Mitt Romney has ground out a victory against the weakest GOP field in a generation and the most extreme in history, he’s now turning his attention to the general election. To use a particularly vivid metaphor, he’s shaking his Etch-a-Sketch as hard as he can, trying to erase his far-right pandering in the primaries. But despite his head fakes towards moderation, no one should doubt that a President Mitt Romney would enact a dangerously extreme agenda for our country, and nothing makes that clearer than the person he selected as his constitutional and judicial advisor: Robert Bork.

Yes, that Robert Bork.

In a primary dominated by sideshows appealing to the fringe element, important issues like the Supreme Court were rarely discussed in detail, but Romney’s announcement that Bork would be his judicial advisor is the clearest possible signal of how far to the right Romney has moved since his days as a “moderate” Republican in Massachusetts and of his willingness to embrace all the fringiest opinions of all his primary opponents.

Sure, Rick Santorum promised to attack legalized birth control, Ron Paul says the Civil Rights Act “destroyed” privacy, and Newt Gingrich thinks child labor laws are “truly stupid.” But none of them can hold a candle to the extremism of Robert Bork, the patron saint of far-right ideologues. And Bork’s choice in this infamous field? Mitt Romney.

When Bork was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987, his nomination was rejected as too extreme by a bipartisan majority in a 58-42 vote. Since then he’s only moved further out of the mainstream.

Robert Bork insists that art and literature aren’t protected by the First Amendment. He defended the constitutionality of poll taxes and literacy tests for voters, and he called the Civil Rights Act “unsurpassed ugliness.” He’s defended state laws that made gay sex a criminal offense. As a judge he routinely ruled in favor of big business over individual Americans.

Perhaps most disturbing are Bork’s reactionary views on how the law treats women. Robert Bork doesn’t just think abortion should be criminalized, he thinks states should be free to outlaw birth control. He’s argued that the Equal Protection Clause doesn’t apply to women. And what seems almost too unbelievable to be real, he even ruled that a company is free to tell female employees to be sterilized or lose their jobs.

In any sane election, Robert Bork would be the hidden crazy uncle or at least denounced as a political liability, but then again this hasn’t been a sane election. Instead, Mitt Romney has bragged about nabbing the endorsement and held Bork up as a model for the judges he’d appoint to the bench, including the Supreme Court. He’s said he wishes Bork were on the court today. Any questions regarding the types of judges Romney would nominate?

With Election Day on the horizon, it’s all but inevitable that Mitt Romney will start reshaping his rhetoric for the general election. But regardless of his carefully calibrated statements or his poll-tested promises, no one should forget that by choosing Robert Bork as a key advisor, Mitt Romney has made crystal clear his frighteningly extreme agenda for America.


By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For The American Way, The Huffington Post, April 23, 2012

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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