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“For The GOP, It’s Always A Base Election”: Only Change Is The Idea Of How To Give The Base What It Wants

I wonder if anyone has come up with workable definition of a base election. The idea is simple enough. Some elections are won not by winning an argument with the other side and persuading swing voters or independents or undecideds, but by doing a better job than your opponents in convincing your core voters to turn out to vote.

It seems to me that this is roughly how the Republicans won the 2004 presidential election, and also probably how they won the 2002 midterms. It’s definitely how they won the midterms in 2010 and 2014. On the other hand, I think the Democrats were successful in 2006 and 2008 precisely because they convinced people in the middle (and even many Republicans) to come over to their side. I think you can probably make the same case for 2012, although that seems to have been more of a hybrid of the two.

In any case, it seems to me that the Republicans last won a presidential election using a base mobilization strategy in 2004, and we shouldn’t forget how close of a call that was. When the polls closed, most people looking at the exit polls thought that John Kerry had won. And he would have won if Bush hadn’t done such a great job getting out his base in Ohio. Yes, there were also shenanigans in Ohio that may have changed the outcome, but it’s definite that the red parts of Ohio turned out in huge numbers, largely motivated by their opposition to gay marriage.

So, 2004 is a fairly recent example that shows that the Republicans could theoretically win a base election. It won’t be easy to replicate, though. First, demographic changes since 2004 have made it harder for the Republicans to win a base election because their base is now smaller and the Democrats’ base is now larger. Second, it helped Bush a lot that he was the incumbent and could direct media coverage and attention at will. It also helped that he had a willing partner in shenanigans in then-Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

Since 2004, the Republicans have tried and failed twice to win an election by pandering to their base rather than pursuing voters in the middle. All the proof you need of that is that Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan were chosen as running mates, both of whom were supposed to please the mouth-breathers and rally them to the cause.

After the Republicans lost in 2012, the RNC’s after-report was clear about the futility of trying to win a base election again in 2016. Yet, the idea seems more popular right now than it was in the last two cycles. Perhaps the only thing that’s changed is the idea of how to give the base what it wants. Does it want someone who is frothing at the mouth about immigration even if they’re pretty inconsistent as a conservative on many other issues? Or, are they looking for the most hated man in Washington, DC, just because they hate Washington, DC so very much?

That’s really the choice they have between Trump and Cruz, although Trump promises to at least change the shape of the Republican base. That doesn’t mean he will enlarge it though.

This is admittedly a weird election season and unpredictable, but I think a base election is close to unwinnable for the Republican Party in a presidential year. If they win, I don’t think it will be because their base turned out and the Democrats’ base did not. If they win it will because the persuadable voters liked their candidate better than the Democratic candidate. And the more their candidate panders to the base, the less likely that the persuadable voters will like them better.


By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 13, 2016

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Base Elections, GOP Base, Independents, Swing Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Many Rebrandings Of Rick Santorum”: In The Middle Of At Least His Third Rebranding, And He’s Just Not Very Good At It

Rick Santorum is often portrayed as a stubborn man of principle, an unusual politician who’ll run for president in the face of terrible poll numbers, and despite an electorate increasingly hostile to his unsettlingly passionate social conservatism. But this isn’t really true. Santorum, who announced his 2016 presidential candidacy on Wednesday, is in the middle of at least his third rebranding. He’s just not very good at it.

In his announcement speech in Western Pennsylvania, Santorum pitched himself as a defender of the working man who also happens to be a foreign policy expert. Santorum bragged that in an issue of ISIS’s online magazine, Dabiq, “under the headline ‘In the Words of Our Enemy’ was my picture and a quote. … They know who I am, and I know who they are!” To be clear, while it would be unsettling to find your face in an ISIS magazine, it’s not that hard to get ISIS to know who you are. You basically just have to talk about ISIS. In the same section, Dabiq quoted two other “enemies”: Virginia State Senator Richard Black and former CIA officer Gary Berntsen, a frequent Fox and Friends guest who has less than 1,600 followers on Twitter. Gary 2016!

For someone who is supposedly dedicated to what he thinks is right, not what is popular, a list of Santorum’s political books makes for a decent guide to the trends of the Republican Party of the last ten years. It Takes a Family, released in 2005, was a rebuttal to Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village. It is concerned with apparently controversial social issues such as women working outside the home. His 2012 book American Patriots, printed on faux antique paper, is a Tea Partyish celebration of Revolutionary War-era Americans “heroes and heroines from all walks of life” (not just white guys). Last year’s Blue Collar Conservatives is about helping the working class. (“There was a time not long ago when Americans without college degrees could expect to earn a decent and steady income in exchange for hard work.”) His publisher says, “Santorum provides a game plan for Republicans to bounce back, regain popularity, and return to the party’s original values.” It’s less a game plan for the party’s comeback than one for Santorum’s.

Santorum tried to remake himself in both of his last two losing campaigns, in 2006 and 2012. His political career began in the 90s, when Republicans were focused on welfare reform and teen moms and the crime rate, and he ran with those issues. He campaigned on welfare reform, he said single moms were “breeding more criminals” and that politicians shouldn’t be afraid of “kicking them in the butt.” The target of that kind of rhetoric was not lost on black voters at the time. But for a while, it worked really well. The Harrisburg Patriot News reported in July 2005, “A Santorum victory in a state that has voted Democratic in recent presidential elections would solidify his reputation within the GOP and with conservatives nationally. It would also add fuel to a rumored 2008 presidential run, party officials and analysts said.” Maybe that’s why Santorum keeps running these long-shot campaigns. He was promised this, and he can’t believe it didn’t work out for him.

But by summer 2005, Santorum was clearly in trouble, trailing opponents by as much as 14 points in polls. He was closely tied to the increasingly unpopular president, and his social conservatism had started to rub people the wrong way. In 2002, Santorum had blamed the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal on Boston’s liberal culture. In 2003, he suggested that if we allowed gay marriage, we’d have to allow “man on child, man on dog.” It was “man on dog” that led to Santorum’s greatest branding issue: his Google problem. Sex columnist Dan Savage held a contest to turn “santorum” into a sex term. Savage’s rose in Google rankings to outrank the candidate’s campaign site. The top result is now a Wikipedia page for “Campaign for ‘santorum’ neologism,” where it remains a reminder of, if not the neologism, the way that Santorum was turned into an online joke by gay rights activists.

Going into his 2006 Senate reelection campaign, Santorum’s persona changed to reflect the times. Demographic trends meant bashing inner cities and women with jobs and gays had diminishing returns. The white share of the vote shrunk from 84.6 percent in 1992 to 76.3 in 2008, according to Pew Research Center. Opposition to gay marriage dropped more than 10 points from 1996 to 2006, though a majority still opposed it. In 2004, as Senate Republican Conference Committee chair, he met with presidents of historically black colleges and universities in an attempt to get the GOP to reach out to minorities. In 2005, The New York Times Magazine explained that Santorum was an earnest man of faith who’d earned endorsements from leaders in the African-American community in Philadelphia. In April 2006, his campaign staged a photo op in which Santorum packed up food for low-income people. (Alas, the TV news cameras did not show up.)

By July 2006, he was distributing a listicle titled ”Fifty Things You May Not Know About Rick Santorum,” which included warm and fuzzy items like cracking down on puppy millsThe New York Times reported:

He needs to reintroduce himself over the next four months, he said, to get beyond the stereotypes. …

A kinder, gentler Rick Santorum? ”People already know about the other stuff,” he said. ”You guys remind them every day about the other stuff. Let’s tell the rest of the story.”

The listicle did not stop the senator from losing by 18 points to now-Senator Bob Casey.

During the 2012 Republican primary, Santorum faced a very different electorate, and he reshaped himself to appeal to people hurt by the Great Recession, trying to distinguish himself as the voice of the working class. He called for manufacturing subsidies. He was the son of immigrants. His grandfather “sort of coal-mined his way to freedom.” (Back in 1994, Santorum talked about how his father got his “biggest break” with World War II; he escaped the mines through the G.I. Bill, which paid for his psychology degree.) He came out against the term “middle class” because it was some kind of class warfare. He even tried to recast his signature issues, telling a Michigan crowd in February 2012, “All reporters in the back, they say, ‘Oh there’s Santorum talking about social issues again.’ … No, I’m talking about freedom. I’m talking about government imposing themselves on your lives.”

Santorum stuck with his new blue-collar image after he lost to Mitt Romney. “When all you do is talk to people who are owners, talk to folks who are Type As who want to succeed economically, we’re talking to a very small group of people,” he said in 2013.

“I never went to a country club until I was in college,” Santorum told the National Review recently, like a true man of the people. But now he’s blue collar plus. National Review explained:

If he runs in 2016, he says, it won’t be as a candidate defined by his Catholic, socially conservative views. He’s been there and done that, he says. In 2016, he is more likely to define himself as an economic populist and foreign-policy hawk.

In the months before his official campaign announcement, Santorum started playing up the hawk thing. In April, Santorum said that in 2016, Republicans will be “going up against a secretary of state, someone with a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in this area—most of it wrong—but someone who’s knowledgeable, someone who’s an expert.” That means they “need to look at someone to go up against Mrs. Clinton who has background experience and knowledge and has gotten it right when she’s gotten it wrong.” (They both supported the Iraq war.) He pointed to the eight years he served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. At the South Carolina Freedom Summit this month, Santorm said of ISIS, “If these folks want to return to a 7th Century version of Islam, then let’s load up our bombers and bomb them back to the 7th Century.”

“Going up against a potential nominee who’s a former secretary of state, it’d be good to have someone with more experience than just a briefing book for the debate,” Santorum told NPR recently. A couple weeks earlier, he told voters in Iowa, “We have to have a president who understands the difference between a friend and an enemy. … Iran, enemy. Israel, friend. It’s real simple.” Briefing book? No. Little Golden Book? Yes!

Given that he’s polling at about 2.3 percent, Santorum is likely hoping that the 2016 primary is something like 2012’s, and voters will cycle through alternatives to the mainstream moderate Republican candidate until they get to him. What can he do to get Americans’ attention? Voters rarely care that much about foreign policy. Santorum will try on a new identity. For the sake of entertainment, let’s hope he’ll try to compete with Hillary Clinton not on foreign policy but on being a champion of single ladies.


By: Elspeth Reeve,  Senior Editor, The New Republic, May 28, 2015

May 31, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Rick Santorum, Social Conservativism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Lindsey Graham And ‘The Gay Conspiracy'”: Set Aside The Ambiguities Of Gossip And Paranoia And See Him In His Proper Light

I’m going to mention briefly that the never-married senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), has been dogged for years by rumors that he’s gay, but that’s not the point of this article. It’s only the lede.

I don’t know if he’s gay; he has denied repeatedly that he is; and at this moment in American history, when gay marriage has entered new levels of normalcy, breathless inquiries into a senator’s sexuality ought to exceed everyone’s threshold for boredom.

My point is that there may be something more detrimental to his presidential aspirations (to be announced formally next month): the conspiracy theory based on the rumors.

Conspiracy theories aren’t like rumors. Rumors are based on ambiguities.

Conspiracy theories are much more.

As Arthur Goldwag, an authority on the politics of conspiracy theories, explained in The Washington Spectator, they are more like a religion. He wrote last year, “a kind of theology that turns on an absolute idea about the way things are — and on the immutable nature of the supposed enemy. … Paranoid conspiracism… proposes that some among us, whether Jewish bankers or heirs to ancient astronauts, owe their ultimate allegiance to Satan.”

That’s a key point — the enemy.

And you know who that is.

If Graham were gay — and we should take him at his word that he is not — that might offend some in the GOP’s evangelical wing, but a more serious problem is the suspicion that he’s in cahoots with “the enemy.” Why has he repeatedly joined the Democrats on immigration reform? Simple — “out of fear that the Democrats might otherwise expose his homosexuality,” according to 2010 a profile in The New York Times Magazine.

The Times’ profile echoed accusations by William Gheen, the head of the nativist PAC Americans for Legal Immigration, who had urged Graham to avoid being blackmailed into supporting immigration reform by outing himself. At a rally on April 17, 2010, he asked Graham to “tell people about your alternative lifestyle and your homosexuality.”

In an April 20, 2010 press release, Gheen elaborated: “I personally do not care about Graham’s private life, but in this situation his desire to keep this a secret may explain why he is doing a lot of political dirty work for others who have the power to reveal his secrets.” The entire episode might have been ignored but for Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert. He said Graham could easily prove his heterosexuality by releasing a sex tape.

Moreover, Graham is seeking his party’s nomination, as other Republican contenders are going to the wall in connecting homosexuality with unseen, dark, and malevolent forces. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) this week told the Christian Broadcasting Network: “We are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech, because today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage, you are labeled a homophobe and a hater.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), meanwhile, rails against a liberal fascist plan to impose a new gay-world order. “Today’s Democratic Party has decided there is no room for Christians,” he said at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering in April. “Today’s Democratic Party has become so radicalized for legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states that there is no longer any room for religious liberty.”

But conservatives need not fret.

Like John McCain, Graham might clash occasionally with Tea Party Republicans, but that’s style, not substance. Like every congressional Republican, Graham voted against the Affordable Care Act and virtually everything President Obama has asked for. Graham’s views on social issues are unfailingly partisan — he holds a hard line against abortion and opposes gay marriage and gays serving in the military. And his views on foreign affairs are uniformly doctrinaire, in keeping with the Republican Party’s orthodox view of American exceptionalism vis-à-vis military might.

Unlike Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who appear worried about being tied to the foreign policy failures of the George W. Bush administration, Graham is unrepentant about the Iraq War, telling CNN recently that the invasion was not mistake, that the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein, and that if there’s anyone to blame for the current mess in the Middle East, it’s Obama.

Consider also the “conservative scores” assigned by special interest groups. In 2014, Americans for Prosperity, a PAC that bankrolls the Tea Party, gave Graham a lifetime score of 84 percent. In 2013, the American Conservative Union gave him a lifetime score of 88 percent. The Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Christian Coalition, both having enormous sway over the GOP’s evangelical Christian faction, gave him a score of 91 percent in 2014 and 100 percent in 2011, respectively. On taxes, he got 97 percent in 2010 from the National Taxpayers Union. And on business matters, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave him a lifetime score of 84 percent in 2013. I could go on. And on.

I don’t think conservatives have to worry much about Graham with respect to immigration, either. True, he says he favors a pathway to citizenship, but the last major push for immigration reform in 2013 called for a pathway lasting some 10 years with numerous hurdles to overcome. Given the stringency of the provisions in that bipartisan Senate bill, I’m thinking Graham and his fellow neocons supported it because they knew few immigrants could finish the process. And if they never finish, they never vote. The result is a twofer for the GOP establishment: a decriminalized workforce that can provide cheap labor, but can’t support the Democrats.

As I said, Graham is a friend to the conservative base of the Republican Party. One need only set aside the ambiguities of gossip and paranoia to see him in his proper light. Of course, that’s not going to help. The people Graham needs are the people most hostile to evidence and fact. Indeed, given the role of gay conspiracies thus far in the 2016 cycle, the “confirmed bachelor” from South Carolina may embody the sum of all their fears.


By: John Stoer, The National Memo, May 29, 2015

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Homophobia, Lindsey Graham | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Indiana Takes On America”: Discrimination Against Gays, Religious Freedom And Rewriting The Constitution

The easy part is over. Americans now understand what the Indiana “Religious Freedom” law was intended to do: legalize discrimination by private businesses against homosexuals. It’s not a secret, as Eric Miller of Advance America said. Indiana acted “to help protect churches, Christian businesses and individuals from those who want to punish them because of their Biblical beliefs! Christian businesses and individuals deserve protection from those who support homosexual marriages. A Christian business should not be punished for refusing to allow a man to use the women’s restroom!”

Anti-gay bias and intent to discriminate are itself reasons to oppose the new law. But there’s much more at stake. The organized Right is re-writing the Constitution and the impact will not be limited to gay Americans.

The supporters of the Indiana law are more diverse, intellectually capable, and more widely found across America than we think. Nineteen states have such laws, and not just the Old Confederacy. Liberal Rhode Island has one. The Indiana Catholic Conference supported the law (It “is very important to secure its passage”). The Indiana legislature considered it carefully, had hearings and received pages of testimony from distinguished legal scholars. (The Bill and the Testimony can be found at: The Bill; The Testimony)

There are elements of their argument that most Americans would support. We widely accept that religious organizations and places of worship should be free to practice what they believe. Should a church have to marry people outside its faith and beliefs? Should a Catholic church be legally required to perform a same-sex marriage? Should an Orthodox shul or a mosque be legally required to hire female rabbis and imams? Probably not.

It makes you think. Most Americans would say that some laws, even good ones, don’t apply inside a place of worship. If that is all the Indiana law did, it would not have stirred up the current commotion.

But Indiana went well beyond that. The law extends the inside-the-church exemption to commercial enterprises. Business corporations get the same protection that a church gets.

If you think you’ve heard this before, you’re right. It’s the same argument used to attack Obamacare in the “Hobby Lobby” lawsuit. That time is was about insurance coverage for contraception, but the argument was the same.

And you also heard a variant in Citizens United, where the Supreme Court conservative majority said corporations have the same constitutional free speech rights as do living, breathing people.

The traditional view was that by engaging in business, you agreed to live by the laws of commerce. If not, then religious belief could justify segregation, or refusal to hire or serve women, or Muslims, or Catholics, or Jews. Or gays. There were, and are, a lot of sincerely religious people who would jump at that opportunity. The Indiana law re-establishes the right to commercially discriminate, especially against gays, if that’s your religious teaching.

The Indiana brouhaha illuminates the broader, and more dangerous legal strategy at the heart of Tea Party, right-wing ideology, the personification of corporations. By enlarging the constitutional rights of powerful, wealthy and largely conservative corporations, the Right is diminishing the constitutional rights of most Americans.

It isn’t the least bit “conservative”. It is a radical, un-American, reactionary re-writing of our basic freedoms. We had struck a constitutional balance between private religious observance and public commercial activity. Real conservatives would be looking for a way to reasonably accommodate both interests.

With any luck, what’s going on in Indiana will provoke a better understanding of what the Right is attempting. In the end, Tea Party skepticism of government intrusion on personal liberty is perfectly reasonable. But in this century, our liberties can be equally threatened by rewriting the Constitution to empower corporations that impinge on our liberty with equal effect.

Practice your religion in peace and dignity. Do business without discrimination and bigotry. Sounds easy.


By: Richard Brodsky, Senior Fellow, Demos; The Blog, The Huffington Post, March 29, 2015

March 30, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Mike Pence, Religious Beliefs, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Antonin Scalia Is Angry, Again”: The Only Principle That Guides Him Is What He Can Get Away With

Ten years ago, when the Supreme Court ruled that laws outlawing sodomy between consenting adults were unconstitutional in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a blistering dissent. “What a massive disruption of the current social order,” he practically wailed from the page. He said that the Court had “largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda,” and contrasted the Court with the good people of America, who “do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.” And perhaps most notably, Scalia lamented that under the rationale the Court’s majority was using, the government wouldn’t be able to prohibit gay people from getting married. To each other!

He was right about that, anyway. But his dissent in today’s case invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act is a somewhat different beast. Scalia spends the first 18 pages of his 26-page dissent far from the moral questions that had so animated him before; instead, he confines himself to arguing that the Court shouldn’t have decided the case at all. Scalia is apparently deeply concerned that the Court is butting its nose in where the legislature should have the final say (more on that in a moment).

But when he finally gets to discussing the merits of the case, Scalia does not disappoint. While the rousing moral condemnations of homosexuality may be absent, Scalia deploys the cries of victimhood now so popular on the right with gusto. By forbidding us from discriminating against gays, you’re discriminating against us. By calling our prejudice against gays what it is, you’re injuring us.

Scalia is outraged at the majority’s contention that the core purpose of DOMA was to discriminate against gay people, and this, he asserts, means that they’re calling everyone who supports it a monster. “To defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution,” he writes.

And more: “It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.” Woah, there, buddy! Did anyone actually call you an enemy of the human race? Touchy, touchy.

But then Scalia updates his prediction from ten years ago, and he probably has a point: “It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here—when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’s hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will ‘confine’ the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.”

On this point, Scalia probably knows what he’s talking about. After all, this is a guy who, in a decision delivered just yesterday, helped gut the Voting Rights Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress and one that was reauthorized in 2006 by votes of 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate, yet spends two-thirds of this very dissent arguing that the Supreme Court is a bunch of black-robed tyrants when they invalidate a law passed by Congress. In other words, despite his carefully cultivated reputation as a principled “originalist,” the only principle that guides Antonin Scalia is “what he can get away with.” For him, it’s the outcome that matters. The justification comes after. Is that true of the Court’s liberals as well? Maybe. But it’s a little rich to make that charge when your own hypocrisy is on such obvious display.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, June 26, 2013

June 27, 2013 Posted by | SCOTUS | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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