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“Trump Is Empowering Extremists In Congress”: His Campaign Will Do Damage Even If He Loses In A Landslide

Every once in a while, I have to remind folks of some basic facts about Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. This is one of those times.

In 1986 (otherwise known as the year of Iran-Contra), President Ronald Reagan nominated Beauregard the Third to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. During the Judiciary Committee hearings on his nomination, it became clear that Sessions suffered from a common conservative fear: namely, mouth-rape.

Like so many of his Republican brethren, Sessions was terrified of having things “rammed down his throat” by the NAACP, ACLU, or some “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” guy who might decide to attack his home with a small arsenal.

When it became clear that Jefferson Beauregard the Third was not only named for the president of the Confederacy and one its more effective generals, but actually held the same beliefs in common with those two gentlemen, the Judiciary Committee declined to send his nomination to the floor. Alabama Senator Howell Heflin decided that Sessions was simply too racist to serve on the bench in Alabama, and so Reagan had to go back to the drawing board.

Of course, Sessions got his revenge by getting elected to the same Senate that had rejected him as a judge and then winning an appointment to the same Judiciary Committee that had declined to send his nomination to the floor. Keeping Alabama racism at bay is like trying to drown a cork, and Sessions soon defined himself as one of the most extreme and intemperate opponents of Latino immigration in this country’s power structure. He was also the first U.S. Senator to endorse Donald Trump, and that’s now paying dividends.

In the Senate, Jeff Sessions (R-AL) may not have been a backbencher, but his extreme positions on immigration relegated him to the fringe of his party during the 2013 immigration debate when many Republicans came out publicly in support of giving immigrants a chance to stay in the U.S. legally if not a path to citizenship. After the Republican National Committee’s autopsy report outlined the need to make inroads with Hispanic voters, Sessions’ positions were seen as a relic of the past. Now, he is smack dab in the middle of the Trump campaign…

…”He’s right now the congressional guy most connected to the campaign so right now if there is any question about anything we want to raise with the campaign, he’d probably be the guy you’d want to go through,” says Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the GOP leadership team.

Something similar has happened over on the House side, where Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania and Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee have seen their profile and influence rise substantially as a result of their early endorsements of Trump.

Barletta rose to prominence as the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he enacted a series of local ordinances that were so anti-immigrant that they were ultimately ruled unconstitutional. His reward was a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Party of Lincoln.

Scott DesJarlais was recently dubbed “America’s worst congressman” by the National Review, and for once the Review had a good point.

In 2014, [DesJarlais] won his primary election by 38 votes after reports surfaced that DesJarlais, a doctor, “had sexual relationships with two patients, three coworkers and a drug representative.” It was reported that in one instance the anti-abortion advocate had encouraged one of the women he’d had a brief affair with to have an abortion.

I know that winning by 38 votes is not a lot, but is there anything a Republican can do besides agree to pay our bills on time that will get them beaten in a primary?

In any case, DesJarlais is no longer the House Republicans’ biggest embarrassment:

As establishment Republicans in Washington come around to a bombastic Trump, DesJarlais has emerged as a liaison between skeptics, the media and the Trump campaign, massaging fears that Trump is a loose cannon with promises that Trump is more reserved and thoughtful behind the scenes.

DesJarlais says he helped organize a meeting between the Freedom Caucus board and Trump’s campaign operative Paul Manafort last week. And before Trump met with House Speaker Paul Ryan last month, DesJarlais was one of a handful of members who sat down with the speaker and encouraged Ryan to unite behind the nominee.

As for Barletta, Talking Points Memo reports that he “now spends more time in the middle of the action and has sent his policy ideas over to Trump on immigration.”

If history is our guide, those ideas on immigration policy are probably unconstitutional.

So, we begin to see something take form, which is how the rise of Trump will change the Republican Party by empowering some of its worst people.

In this way, Trump’s campaign will do damage to our country even if he loses in a landslide.

And that’s not even considering what it will do to your neighbors who find ways to excuse Trump’s moral lapses and hate-baiting, thereby losing a tight grip on their moral compasses.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 25, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mr. Trump’s All-White Nostalgia Movement”: It’s Demographic Panic, Not Economic Panic, That’s Driving His Rise

Donald Trump, sounding something like Bernie Sanders, says he’s building a “movement.”

And in a sense, Trump is right. He is building a movement, of sorts, but not the kind that will help grow the Republican Party.

While Trump has won a record number of primary votes, he hasn’t done that by creating new Republican voters. Instead, he’s pulled GOP general election voters into the primaries by exciting white male voters like few candidates since Ronald Reagan.

That’s why, despite his historically bad numbers with non-white voters—more than three in four Hispanics and nearly nine in ten African-Americans don’t like him—Trump has been closing in on Hillary Clinton in national polls and in statewide surveys too, particularly when the white vote share is bumped up as it was in Quinnipiac’s Ohio and Pennsylvania polls presuming a whiter electorate in those states in 2016 than in 2012.

Trump leads Clinton 52 percent to 36 percent among whites overall in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll; a figure driven by his 11-point lead with seniors, his nine-point advantage with men, and his five-point advantage with independents. And while the latter three figures are not broken down by race, Trump’s terrible ratings with nonwhite voters make it clear what lies beneath the top lines.

With Trump’s campaign, America has arrived at a moment that would be familiar in Europe, where ethno-nationalistic parties have surged in countries like France, Belgium and Austria, particularly as the crisis in Syria has driven Arab refugees onto the continent. In the U.S., the drivers of ethno-nationalism are different, but they are similarly related to the jarring impact of demographic change.

The exit polls from nearly two-dozen Republican primaries have yielded lots of data about who the Trump voters are, and the findings belie the myth that their anger is grounded in economic want. In fact, while they have lower incomes than Republicans who supported candidates like Marco Rubio or John Kasich, Trump voters are far from broke—their $72,000 average household income is will above the American average of is $56,000.

They are, instead, more like the profile of Tea Party voters; mostly 45 years of age and older, middle class, and a mix of non-college and some-college educated men and a smaller number of women who believe the country is dangerously off track.

Robert P. Jones of the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute has done extensive research into the “why” of the Trump rebellion, and it turns out to have more to do with demographic panic than economic panic.

Sixty-eight percent of Trump supporters believe American culture has become too “soft and feminine”; two-thirds say it bugs them when they engage with an immigrant who doesn’t speak English (just 46 percent of Cruz voters said the same), and nearly half worry about themselves or their families becoming victims of a terrorist attack. Nearly six in ten Trump voters believe the federal government has paid too much attention to the plight of black and other nonwhite groups (vs. nearly four in ten Cruz supporters). And Trump voters overwhelmingly support banning Muslims from the U.S., while a plurality believe Islam is incompatible with American values.

According to PRRI, a majority of Trump supporters agree with the statements that America was better off 50 years ago—when white, Christian men were culturally ascendant, before “women’s lib” and the big victories of the Civil Rights Movement, before busing and affirmative action and the liberalizing immigration actions of the federal government in 1965 and 1986.

Jones calls these voters, who are overwhelmingly white Protestant Christians, “nostalgia voters.” They are nostalgic for the America they believe existed before the tumult of the 1960s; when a white working class man could hold down a blue-collar job and take care of his family, with a secure job for life and a wife who stayed at home, kids who could go to an affordable college, and a retirement padded with a decent pension. Because that is not the America non-white Americans knew, they by and large feel more hopeful about the future, grounded in the knowledge that the country has come far enough to elect a black president.

But for nostalgic Trumpians, who a RAND Corporation March survey found express a sense of “personal powerlessness,” more than any other single trait, the future looks bleak indeed.

That’s why it doesn’t matter what outrageous things Trump says or does. His most fervent supporters want someone who looks and sounds like them but who has the charisma and personal economic clout to shake things up on their behalf. They want someone who makes both a series of connected promises (a wall across the southern border that Mexico is somehow forced to pay for, a ban on Muslim migrants, and no more nation building in the Middle East), and a central one: to put people like them back on top, both here and around the world. With “Mr. Trump” in charge, they figure, the world will look at the U.S. with awe and fear again, and in a way; that means the world will look at them that way, too.

The trouble for the GOP is that for all the passion and fervor of the Trump moment, there simply aren’t enough of these voters left in the population for them to easily have their way. Unlike in midterm elections, when voters of color typically opt out, if turnout rates remain as they have over the last 20 years of presidential election cycles, it will be tough for him to grow his “Trump bump” of around 46 percent today, to above the 50 percent threshold.

Especially since white voters are themselves split, with a plurality continuing to side with Democrats on economic and cultural matters, from union support to the minimum wage to a more liberal view of economics, immigration and culture. Trump may well match or even exceed Mitt Romney’s 59 percent white vote share in 2012, but he’ll likely need something more like Ronald Reagan’s never-since-equaled 66 percent in 1984 to overcome what could be an historic deficit with voters of color, who Pew Research estimates will comprise 30 percent of the electorate this year.

If Trump can do that, it will be a revolution indeed.

 

By: Joy-Ann Reid, The Daily Beast, May 24, 2016

May 25, 2016 Posted by | Demographics, Donald Trump, White Male Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Tragedy Of Marco Rubio — And The Republican Party”: The Entire Story Of This Period In The History Of The GOP

Marco Rubio’s campaign for president isn’t dead yet, but it’s awfully close. In last night’s primaries he didn’t just do poorly — coming in a distant third place in Idaho and Hawaii, and an even worse fourth place in Michigan and Mississippi — he also failed to win a single delegate in any of the four states.

Today, Carly Fiorina endorsed Ted Cruz, making it sound as if there is no other alternative choice if Donald Trump is to be beaten. Rubio’s odds of becoming president in 2016 are now about the same as the odds I have of replacing Steph Curry in the Golden State Warriors’ starting lineup. Could it happen? Technically, yes; there’s certainly no law against it. But it’s unlikely.

Rubio’s fall is more than just the story of a promising politician who failed to do as well as he (and many others) hoped. In fact, it’s the entire story of this period in the history of the Republican Party, distilled down to a single politician.

It might be hard to remember now, at a time when so many of those in the Republican establishment support Rubio, but when he first got elected to the Senate in 2010, he was a rebel and a Tea Party darling. He took on then-governor Charlie Crist in the Republican primary for a Senate seat from Florida, moving so far ahead of him in the polls that Crist dropped out and became an independent. When he got to the Senate, that establishment embraced him — just as they embraced the Tea Party as a whole, choosing to feed the beast and make it even more vicious, not realizing that one day it would turn on them.

The GOP saw its future in Rubio. Young, smart, articulate, Hispanic, he was a new kind of Republican who could sell conservatism to a changing America. The buzz around Rubio intensified after the party lost another election behind another rich older white guy in 2012. At the beginning of 2013, Time magazine put him on its cover over the headline “The Republican Savior.” The accompanying article is extraordinary to read, given where Rubio is today. Here’s an excerpt:

Now, just two years after he arrived in Washington, the charismatic conservative often hailed as the Tea Party’s answer to Barack Obama has emerged as the most influential voice in the national debate over immigration reform. He’s also the key player in his party’s efforts to make up to Hispanic voters after a disastrous 2012 campaign featuring Republican candidates who proposed electric fences and alligators along the southern border, as well as Mitt Romney’s suggestion of “self-deportation” for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. GOP leaders know they have a demographic problem. They hope Rubio can help provide the solution, which is why they’ve chosen him to deliver the response to Obama’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12 — in English and Spanish.

Party leaders agreed that unless Congress passed comprehensive immigration reform, they could never convince Hispanics of their good faith. For Rubio, being part of the “Gang of 8″ was an opportunity to show he could be a real legislator and accomplish something important for the country and his party. That summer, the group passed its bill through the Senate, then sent it to the House, where it died.

And what was supposed to be a triumph for Rubio turned into a nightmare. Conservative talk radio declared him a traitor — both for advocating comprehensive reform that included a path to citizenship (albeit a long one) for undocumented immigrants, and for the very fact of working with Democrats on something, and he was all but excommunicated from the Tea Party. Both he and the GOP establishment realized that what was good for the party as a whole wasn’t necessarily what individual elected officials (particularly in the House) wanted or could tolerate. And they came to appreciate the full measure of the base’s anger at immigrants. It turned out that rank-and-file Republicans not only didn’t want comprehensive reform, they wanted just the opposite: build walls, crack down, throw the foreigners out. Forget about “reaching out” to minority groups — this party is whiter than ever.

So when Rubio decided to run for president, he made contempt for President Obama one of the themes of his campaign. Everywhere he went, he talked about Obama’s villainy. In every debate, Rubio would answer any question by immediately launching a blistering criticism of Obama, whether the question had anything to do with him or not. That “robotic” moment where he kept repeating himself even after Chris Christie mocked him for repeating himself? The message he was trying to communicate (“Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing”) was that Obama isn’t just a failure but is intentionally destroying the country.

Yet just mimicking the rhetoric of talk radio wasn’t enough — for Rubio, or for the party itself. He couldn’t escape his brief heresy on “amnesty.” No matter how he tried, he couldn’t be anti-establishment enough. And no argument about how good he looks on paper as a general election candidate would sway voters who want the primaries to be a primal scream of rage against not just Washington and not just Obama but against the Republican Party itself.

Whatever his talents, the party’s golden boy can’t be the vehicle for that rage. Rubio may have many more endorsements than any other candidate — 5 governors, 14 senators, and 48 members of the House — but that probably hurt him as much as helped him, by reinforcing the idea that he’s the one the party leaders want. In the end, the candidate who worked so hard to present himself as serious and knowledgeable was reduced to making fun of the size of another candidate’s hands. Like the party as a whole, he had no idea how to handle Donald Trump, and nothing he tried seemed to work.

To be clear, Republican voters don’t dislike Rubio. In fact, he still gets higher approval ratings than Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, both of whom are crushing him at the ballot box (see here or here). He’s just not what those voters want right now. He probably would be the most formidable general election candidate. But Republican voters don’t seem to care. If the price of expressing their anger is that the Republican nominee loses in November, they seem okay with that. So as the party gets torn to pieces, the young man in a hurry who was supposed to be its savior is just one more casualty.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Establishment Republicans, GOP, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Questions About Why Rubio Is So Soft On Immigrants”: The Irony In Marco Rubio And Ted Cruz’s Argument Over “Amnesty”

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are for now the only real candidates with a chance to become the Republican nominee for president (granting that Donald Trump, whatever his chances, is an utterly unreal candidate), and to Rubio’s chagrin, they are engaged in a dispute over immigration that grows progressively more venomous.

This complex policy challenge has been reduced to the question of which of them is more fervently opposed to “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, but the debate obscures an odd fact. Though Cruz is getting the better of the argument, the substance of Rubio’s position on the issue—which he is now desperately trying to justify—is actually more popular with Republican voters. But in this atmosphere, when fear and resentment are the order of the day, even that isn’t enough to help him.

A brief bit of background. In 2013, Rubio joined with a bipartisan group of senators called the Gang of Eight to write a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which passed the Senate but died in the House. Along with increasing border security and beefing up the E-Verify system through which employers check their employees’ immigration status, it provided for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But it was an extremely lengthy path. They would have to register, pay a fine, pass a background check, and at that point they would be granted provisional legal status. After waiting ten years, paying another fine, and showing that they had learned English, they could apply for a green card. Then if they got the green card, they could apply for citizenship three years after that. So it could be fifteen years or more before someone who is currently an undocumented immigrant became a citizen.

As for Ted Cruz’s part, he offered an amendment at the time stripping out the path to citizenship but allowing undocumented immigrants to get work permits. Rubio charges that this means Cruz supported legal status for the undocumented (horrors!), while Cruz says that his amendment was just a poison pill meant to sabotage the bill.

While Rubio has backed away from the bill—he now says he learned that comprehensive reform is impossible, and the answer is to do it piece by piece, with the enforcement pieces coming first—he still says he supports an eventual path to citizenship. But he’s always careful to stress how long it would be before that would even be discussed, much less implemented.

So right now, Rubio is defensively answering all kinds of questions about why he’s so soft on immigrants, while Cruz is the one attacking (and Rubio’s counter that Cruz is kind of an amnesty supporter too has fallen short). Yet Rubio’s position on the path to citizenship question—yes, but after a lengthy process—is quite popular within the party.

It matters a lot how you ask the question, but polling shows that, as a group, Republican voters are perfectly open to letting undocumented immigrants stay in the United States. When Pew asked recently if undocumented immigrants who “meet certain requirements” should be allowed to say, 66 percent of Republicans say yes, with 37 percent supporting citizenship and 28 percent supporting permanent residency.

But the more specific you make the question, the more open Republicans are to citizenship. When pollsters have asked whether undocumented immigrants should be able to apply for citizenship if they pay fines and learn English, clear majorities of Republicans say yes: 72 percent in a January 2014 CNN poll; 69 percent in an October 2013 CBS poll; 63 percent in a February 2013 Fox poll (those and others are collected here).

Those results demonstrate that if you can assure people—even Republicans—that undocumented immigrants will pay a price and assimilate, they have no problem with a path to citizenship. And that’s exactly what the Gang of Eight bill did.

So why isn’t Rubio winning on this issue? One reason is that his position is complex, while Cruz’s position is a rather simpler “He loves amnesty!”—and simpler messages usually prevail. Another reason is that the candidates aren’t actually appealing to all Republican voters, but the somewhat smaller and more conservative group that will actually vote in primaries. And finally, Donald Trump’s campaign, not to mention the general atmosphere of fear stirred up by the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, has made anything resembling rational discussion on this issue all but impossible. Ted Cruz is capitalizing on that atmosphere with an enthusiasm bordering on the gleeful; he’s now airing an ad claiming that the Gang of Eight bill “would have given Obama the authority to admit Syrian refugees, including ISIS terrorists. That’s just wrong.” It should go without saying that his claim is absolutely ludicrous.

It’s possible that each passing day in which Donald Trump is on TV talking about border walls and excluding Muslims has the effect of nudging the Republican electorate to the right on anything that has to do with foreigners. But the polling results of the last few years show that Republicans are not a monolith, and there should be a market for a position like Rubio’s.

There’s another truth we should acknowledge in this debate. What a President Cruz would actually do on immigration is almost identical to what a President Rubio would do: not much. The last few years have proven that the Republican House has no appetite for comprehensive reform, no matter what the circumstances. And today’s GOP caucus is even more conservative than it was in 2013, after the sweep of 2014 brought in a whole new class of ultra-right members. Most Republicans hail from safe Republican districts, where they fear only a challenge from the right, so there’s no reason why they’d embrace comprehensive reform. The Republican Party itself may want to reach out to Hispanic voters, but your average Republican member of Congress has little reason to; indeed, all his interests run toward vehement opposition.

And if a Republican does somehow win the presidency, the urgency in demonstrating any goodwill toward Hispanics will be gone. So what will happen? The Republican Congress will pass a bill or two hiring more Border Patrol and ICE agents and building some more fences, the Republican president will sign those bills, and they’ll all call it a day—whether the public, including even Republican voters, would favor a path to citizenship or not.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, December 21, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | Amnesty, Immigration Reform, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Living The Realities Of Supply-Side Economic Failures”: Debate Questions Naturally Lean Left Because Mainstream Voters And Reality Do

Timothy Carney at the Washington Examiner wrote a piece getting a decent amount of attention today proclaiming that liberal media bias exists and that it affected the CNBC debate. Unlike most of bloviating on the topic from the right, Carney actually adduces evidence for his point of view. After the usual blather about how most journalists lean Democratic (most professionals in almost every field requiring professional education do, which should tell conservatives something), he does something useful by illustrating what a debate from a conservative perspective might look like:

They could have asked Kasich: “Why did you increase Medicaid under Obamacare in Ohio?” They could have asked Trump, “How can eminent domain for corporate gain be squared with free-enterprise views?” They could have asked Rubio about sugar subsidies, or Cruz if his “defund Obamacare” fight did any good, or Jeb Bush about his support for more immigration. They could have asked Christie about his liberal court appointments.

They instead asked for price controls and regulations, they asked about the social compact in entitlement spendings, they asked why not to support budget-busting deals. Most questions were either non-ideological, and many were from a liberal perspective. When they asked about marijuana legalization it wasn’t from an anti-drug perspective or a libertarian perspective, but a “more government revenue” perspective.

OK fine, but here’s the problem with that: most voters don’t care about those things, or they’re couched in a way that would only reinforce the hostility of mainstream voters. Any moderator that asked a GOP candidate like Kasich why they increased Medicaid as though that were a bad thing, would be inviting all the candidates to lay into him and provide endless soundbites for Democrats in a general election. Because most voters like Medicaid expansion when it’s explained to them. Most voters don’t give a damn about “eminent domain for corporate gain”–not even conservative ones. Corn and sugar subsidies, while important public policy problems that expose crony capitalism and contradictions in conservative ideology, don’t even begin to rate as top issues on the minds of voters or remotely interesting. Nor would inviting other candidates to attack subsidies for farmers be good politics, either to please donors or the public at large. Ted Cruz was asked about his government shutdown tactics, and the question was such a landmine for him that he dodged the question entirely. Meanwhile, immigration has been a big debate question for GOP candidates and Jeb Bush in particular: Bush’s support for immigration reform is the biggest reason for his poor performance in the polls, and the biggest reason for Donald Trump’s ascendance. Asking about immigration reform from a hostile, conservative point of view would only serve to give Trump and Cruz more ammunition, and further alienate Hispanic voters in the general election.

By contrast, taxes and budgets really matter. Education matters. Healthcare matters. Jobs matter. The fact that the public has decidedly liberal positions on those issues, and that the lived reality of supply-side economic failures and government healthcare successes disadvantages conservative ideology, isn’t the fault of debate moderators. It’s the fault of conservative ideology, which should in theory be forced to adjust just as certain aspects of liberalism had to during the 1970s.

These are also the issues on which the Republican nominee will be tested come the general election. Democratic candidates will be forced to answer for issues on which voters have skepticism of liberal positions, from guns to foreign policy to the welfare state–and challenging questions on those issues are consistently asked during Democratic debates, nor are they prejudicial. Republicans are likewise expected to answer for their unpopular positions, because they’ll be forced to defend them in the general election.

The fact that Republicans have more unpopular positions and a weaker track record of success isn’t the fault of debate moderators. It’s the fault of Republican candidates and their ideology.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 31, 2015

November 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Voters, Supply Side Economics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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