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“Why I’m Ashamed To Be Republican”: We’ve Become A Party That Preys On The Discouraged, Not One That Fosters Hope

Noticing the growing pile of rejected dresses, the saleswoman asked me what I was shopping for. I responded, “I know what I want, I just can’t seem to find it. Something conservative but cute, shorter than work length, longer than club length. I’m not opposed to a romper, but don’t really want a skirt. Help.” She laughed and asked me if I was shopping for a specific event. The words formulated in my brain but I couldn’t get them out. I didn’t want to tell her.

I couldn’t wait for the weekend reunion of my colleagues from the Bush-Cheney administration at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, but I didn’t want to say that. “A company picnic,” I said, “Nothing too riveting, but I’ll see co-workers I haven’t seen in a while.” As I looked in the mirror (having found the perfect shirt dress), I thought: Why did I say that? This event was exciting; I was going to see a former president, vice president, first lady and countless friends. When did I become so embarrassed to be a Republican?

I grew up in a conservative, Catholic family. I remember voting for President George H.W. Bush in my school’s straw ballot in the 1980s. I’ve voted mostly with the party over the years. I joined the College Republicans and planned rallies for the troops, went to seminars on entrepreneurship and volunteered for Sen. Jim Talent’s reelection campaign in Missouri. I swear I bled little red elephants. Following graduation, I worked on President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign in Florida and fell further in love with politics, the party and the process. I worked on the Presidential Inaugural Committee and was honored to receive an appointment in Bush’s administration. We even had a softball league. Some of my fondest memories are from those years; it was an incredible time to be alive. I was (and still am) truly proud to have been a part of it all.

As the years passed, though, I became more liberal on social issues, not understanding why my best friend from college couldn’t marry his longtime boyfriend. I struggled with the line between the right to life and a woman’s right to make her own decisions about what to do with her body. I read and reread the Constitution, studied the Federalist Papers and came to better understand the ideals on which our nation was founded. I quickly learned what it was like to make $30,000 a year in the District (along with the necessity of having multiple roommates).

I shifted closer to the middle, but there was still so much about the Republican Party that I loved. It was the party that fought to give more funding, better equipment and training to my husband — a Navy pilot. The party that pressed for veterans’ health reform. The party that gave us a president who delivered the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program to combat HIV in Africa. The party that encouraged and promoted the growth of small businesses.

But more than anything, it was the people. My colleagues in the Bush administration were compassionate, innovative and enthusiastic. We were men and women of various ages, demographics and backgrounds, woven together by our common belief in a president, a mission and, above all, the importance of character. The hours were long, but the years went fast. At the opening of Bush’s presidential library in Dallas three years ago, I was again surrounded by those colleagues. When President Obama was introduced, every person in attendance rose in thunderous applause. I realized then what made that group of colleagues so special: our respect for the office of the president.

Three years later, at this month’s reunion, tears came to my eyes as I listened to Bush speak about what made our country great. We fought for inclusion, not isolationism. We were patriots, not protectionists, and we worked to advance freedom, not fear.

I was proud to be a Republican. The GOP I worked for, fundraised for and fundamentally believed in put forward candidates who reflected my values. But now? I’m embarrassed to be a Republican because of who is leading in the polls. We’ve become a party that preys on the discouraged, not one that fosters hope. We’re incentivizing anger, not integrity. We tear down others to promote ourselves. If our current front-runner is the GOP candidate, I won’t vote Republican in November. I’m still stuck in that dressing room: I know what I want. I just can’t seem to find it.

 

By: T. T. Robinson, Author of the New York Times Deployment Diary and a political correspondent for NextGen MilSpouse; The Washington Post, April 24, 2016

April 25, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Donald Trump, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Same Misogyny, Different Season”: Liberal, Privileged, Predominantly White Male Adolescent Hate

Hillary Clinton’s ascendancy in the race for president has provided an opportunity for the rest of us women to step back and assess our standing in America.

This reflection is worth our time, particularly for those of us who are old enough to remember what it felt like to watch Clinton come so close to the nomination in 2008. This is a memory with many folds, some of them deep and dark and hard to shake out.

I’m not referring to her ’08 defeat. We got over that. Most of us got caught up in the inevitable — in retrospect, the impossible — optimism swirling around the young man who would become our first black president. I will never forget the sight of Barack and Michelle Obama and their beautiful daughters walking out on that Chicago stage on election night. I was standing in front of a television in a hotel room in Columbus, Ohio, holding my sleeping grandchild, Clayton, in my arms. I was so full of emotion I could not speak.

My infant grandson’s first president would be an African-American. How could he not grow up to know a different world?

Most of the bad memories that linger from that campaign season involve the media coverage and all that punditry — particularly from the left — that preceded it.

Rebecca Traister, in her 2010 book “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” took on the “frat boys” at MSNBC, and the misogyny and sexism heaped on Clinton by too many young, white males on social media and in the Obama campaign. I reviewed her book for The Washington Post, and her description of their behavior has stayed with me:

“A pattern was emerging in the liberal, privileged, predominantly white climes in which I worked and lived: young men were starry-eyed about Obama and puffed with outsized antipathy toward Clinton. … I was made uncomfortable by the persistent note of aggression that marked their reactions to Clinton, and puzzled by the increasingly cult-like devotion to Obama, a man whose policy positions were not so different, after all, from those of his opponent. Hating Hillary had for decades been the provenance of Republican blowhards, but now men on the left were spewing vitriol about her voice, her looks, her presumption — and without realizing it were radicalizing me in my support for Clinton more than the candidate herself ever could have.”

Sound familiar? This year, I mean.

Only now, as I daily behold the latest round of anti-Clinton misogyny from — ta da! — mostly young white male lefties, do I realize how much that 2008 campaign season changed me. Like many of my female friends, I no longer gasp or wonder how these boys could be so mean. This time around, I mentally flick them away like gnats. Age has few glory-be benefits, but this immunity to such adolescent hate is definitely one of them. What grown man — what real man — thinks like this? We haven’t the time, my friends.

I am reminded of an exchange I had 14 years ago with my editor, Stuart Warner, soon after I first became a newspaper columnist. I was dumbstruck by the sudden, relentless flood of hate mail from a certain percentage of white, male readers.

“What am I doing to incite this?” I asked.

“Nothing you can change,” he said.

His words emboldened me, and for that I will always be grateful. If they hate you only because you’re a woman, you’ve already won.

Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person running in this election, and she will be the first female president of the United States. I am certain of this, as I am certain that we will never stop hearing from that small percentage on the left who want to cast her as something less than human. It is impossible for a woman to reach her level of success and be anyone’s saint. So be it.

Last weekend, I was standing in our backyard when our 2-year-old granddaughter, Jackie, walked out the door and across the porch to join me. I lifted my camera and captured a memory that will stay with me for all of my cognizant days.

In the photo, she is a little girl with eyes forward, arms swinging, stride unstoppable.

In my heart, she is a little girl who, like so many girls, deserves to see a version of herself in the White House.

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and Professional in Residence at Kent State University’s School of Journalism; The National Memo, April 21, 2016

April 22, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Misogyny, White Men | , , , , | Leave a comment

“On Tax Deductions, Sanders Is No Hypocrite”: Conservatives Confused About How Hypocrisy Works On A Conceptual Level

When Bernie Sanders said his tax returns would turn out to be pretty boring, he wasn’t kidding. After a bit of a delay, the senator’s campaign released his 2014 returns last Friday night, and as expected, there wasn’t much in there of interest.

At least, that’s what I thought. National Review published a piece this week making hay of the senator’s deductions.

Sanders released his 2014 tax return this weekend, revealing that he and his wife took $60,208 in deductions from their taxable income. These deductions are all perfectly legal and permitted under the U.S. tax code, but they present a morally inconvenient, if delicious, irony: The Democratic socialist from Vermont, a man who rages against high earners paying a lower effective tax rate than blue-collar workers, saved himself thousands using many of the tricks that would be banned under his own tax plan. […]

What Sanders did, using every option and advantage available under a Byzantine tax code to minimize his tax payment, is a normal practice for many Americans. But it’s also exactly what the targets of his anger do. You can argue about whether or not that’s greed, but it’s impossible to argue that it isn’t hypocrisy. The paragon of liberal purity is not as pure as he’d like the world to believe.

Actually, it’s quite possible to argue that this isn’t hypocrisy, because, well, that’s not what hypocrisy means.

Current tax laws allow Americans to take a variety of deductions, and Sanders followed the laws as they’re written. Does Sanders hope to change the laws related to deductions? He absolutely does, even if that means he and his family have to pay more. But those changes haven’t yet happened, so the senator continues to do what he’s permitted to do.

As Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum put it, “If you don’t like the designated hitter rule in baseball, does that mean you should send your pitcher to the plate just to prove how sincere you are? Of course not. You play by the rules, whatever those rules are.”

All of which leads me to an ongoing point of concern. When I argue that many conservatives don’t seem to understand what hypocrisy means, I’m not being coy or snarky. I mean it quite literally: some on the right throw around accusations about various figures on the left being hypocrites in a way that suggests they’re genuinely confused about how hypocrisy works on a conceptual level.

A few years ago, for example, President Obama attended a fundraiser with some wealthy donors. The Republican National Committee insisted it was “the definition of hypocrisy” for the president to “run against” the wealthy while seeking campaign contributions from wealthy contributors.

The trouble, of course, is that this wasn’t even close to the “the definition of hypocrisy.” Having a policy agenda that asks more from the very wealthy does not preclude seeking contributions from those who also support that agenda, including accepting donations from the very wealthy.

Last year, Hillary Clinton was accused of being “hypocritical” for criticizing the existing campaign-finance system, even while raising money within that system. But again, that’s not what “hypocrisy” means – there is no contradiction when a candidate plays by the rules while hoping to someday change those rules.

Circling back to an old post, hypocrisy in politics is not uncommon, and it’s worth calling out once it’s uncovered. But can we try to separate legitimate instances of hypocrisy and stuff that looks kind of funny if you don’t give it a lot of thought? They are two very different things.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, April 20, 2016

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Conservatives, Hillary Clinton, Tax Code | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Truth Is What The Truth Is”: Conservatives Lie About History To Exonerate Conscience

This one’s for John. He’s a reader who took issue with my recent column arguing that conservatism has become an angry and incoherent mess.

John was particularly upset that I described conservatives as resistant to social change. Wrote John:

“[sic] Tell that to the right side of the aisle who signed in the civil rights voting act in 1965. Which party resisted that? … Who resisted the proclamation that freed the slaves? Southern democrat party of course and who was it’s military arm during reconstruction? The KKK. Today that organization is tied into the liberalism more than conservatism. … Your party, the liberals who now call themselves progressives, are the party of Strom thurmond, Robert Byrd, Lester Maddox, George wallace — and … Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.”

Please note what John did there. He responded to a critique of social conservatism by mounting a defense of the Republican Party, as if the two were synonymous. Granted, they are now, but in the eras John mentions? Not so much.

Indeed, when Abraham Lincoln issued that proclamation John is so proud of, it was considered an act not of conservatism, but of radical extremism. And those Republicans who voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were moderates, i.e., the kind of people who have been driven out of a harshly conservative party that now considers moderation apostasy.

The truth, as any first-year history student could tell you, is that Republicans were the more socially liberal party and Democrats the more socially conservative for at least seven decades after Lincoln. But in the years since then, they have essentially swapped ideologies.

The reason John engages in this linguistic shell game, the reason he defends the party that wasn’t attacked instead of the ideology that was, is simple: The ideology is indefensible, at least where civil rights is concerned. You must be a liar, a fool or an ignoramus of Brobdingnagian proportions to suggest social conservatives have ever supported African-American interests.

They didn’t do it a century ago when “conservative” meant Democrats. They don’t do it now.

Sadly for John, pretending otherwise requires him to twist logic like a birthday party clown making balloon animals. How addlepated must you be to see common ground between the segregationist Lester Maddox and civil-rights activist Al Sharpton? How cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs are you when you consider the Ku Klux Klan and Strom Thurmond “liberal”?

And yes, you may think this a lot of energy to lavish on one man. But it isn’t one man. I hear John’s “reasoning” literally a hundred times a year from conservative readers. Indeed, a few weeks ago on CNN, a Donald Trump apologist pimp-slapped reality by branding the Klan a “leftist” group. So John is hardly the only one.

These people must lie about history in order to exonerate conscience. Yet the truth is what the truth is. John need not take my word for what conservative means. Merriam-Webster backs me up. He need not even take my word for the history. A hundred history books back me up.

But honest, grown-up Republicans, assuming there are any left, may want to take my word for this: They cannot achieve their stated goal of a more-welcoming and inclusive party while clinging to an ideology whose entire raison d’etre is exclusion. You see, social conservatism only works for those who have something to lose, those who have an investment in status quo.

I’m reminded of an anecdote about a Howard University professor who visited the Soviet Union in the 1930s. He explained to his hosts that some “Negroes” were politically conservative. They were astonished.

“Why?” asked one. “What do they have to conserve?”

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald;The National Memo, April 17, 2016

April 18, 2016 Posted by | American History, Conservatism, Conservatives | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Because They’re Actually Not”: Why Republicans Struggle To Convince Ordinary Americans The GOP Is On Their Side

Attention, Republicans: if you want to know why Americans never seem to believe you when you say you have ordinary people’s interests at heart, look no further than the new regulation governing investment advisers the Obama administration has now released.

I realize that few readers will lean forward with excitement upon reading the words “fiduciary standard,” but this is actually an important topic, both substantively and politically, so stay with me. The new regulation, which had been in the works for some time, says that investment advisers are required to follow a fiduciary standard, which means nothing more than that they have to be guided by what’s in their client’s best interests, just like a doctor or lawyer must.

You might ask, who on earth could possibly object to that? Other than the investment advising industry, of course. The answer is…the Republican Party.

Not the whole party, actually. Most Republicans would rather not discuss this issue at all, because doing so puts them in an uncomfortable place. But I have yet to find a single elected Republican who comes down on the side of the fiduciary standard.

To explain briefly: As things exist today, when you hire a financial adviser, they’re under no obligation to actually give you advice that’s in your best interests. What they often do instead is sell you products from which they’ll obtain bigger commissions, pushing you into investments that make them more money but won’t necessarily be good for you. The new regulation changes that, imposing the fiduciary standard on those advisers. This is a very big deal, because we’re talking about an industry that manages trillions of dollars in Americans’ money.

This morning I spoke to University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack, co-author (with Helaine Olen) of The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be Complicated and a longtime advocate of the fiduciary standard. He was, unsurprisingly, enormously pleased by the administration’s move.

“People are unaware of the many conflicts of interest that exist in the financial advice industry and how much money it costs them over the course of their lives,” Pollack said, noting that selling clients products they don’t need is a core part of the industry’s business model.

But Pollack is quick to note that financial advisers provide an essential service, since most of us don’t have the expertise to make good investments and save properly for retirement or our children’s education. It’s also an extremely intimate relationship — Americans are notoriously secretive about their finances, which means you’ll share details of your life with your financial advisor that you wouldn’t tell friends or even some family members. That’s why it’s essential that the relationship is based on a core of trust.

“When people are dealing with financial advisers,” Pollack says, “they need to know that what they are getting is actual advice and not a sales pitch.” He also pointed out: “The research that has come out about the poor performance of actively managed investments has had a huge impact.” More and more people are becoming aware that the best investment strategy is often to simply park most of your money in a low-fee index fund; no matter how smart your adviser is, you aren’t going to beat the market.

So what are the political implications of this new rule? On the surface, you’d think that a position in opposition to the administration’s move would be almost impossible to defend. Who’s going to argue that your financial adviser ought to be able to push you into buying something you don’t need? That’s just a couple of steps away from outright fraud.

But if you listen to Republicans, it becomes clear they don’t like the rule, but not for any specific reason relating to the rule itself. They’ll talk about Washington bureaucrats and Obama overreach, but the tell is in their repeated use of the phrase “Obamacare for financial planning!” (here’s an example from Paul Ryan). Whenever Republicans say something is “Obamacare for X,” it’s a way of saying, “We don’t like this thing, but we don’t want to say exactly why, so we’ll just say it’s like that other thing we don’t like.”

This gets to the heart of the different perspective the two parties bring to questions of the economy and government’s role in regulating it. The conservative perspective is essentially laissez-faire: if financial advisers take advantage of their clients, well, that may be regrettable, but we don’t want the government to actually do anything to prevent it, because we have to let the market do what it will. And when it comes to the affirmative policy changes they want to make, for ordinary people most of it involves waiting for things to trickle down. Let us cut taxes on the wealthy and reduce regulations on corporations, they say, and that will create the conditions that will foster economic growth, so that at some time in the future it will be easier for you to find a good-paying job (those getting the tax cuts and regulatory breaks, on the other hand, get their benefits right away).

Liberals, in contrast, are comfortable with making policies like the fiduciary rule — or increases in the minimum wage, or paid family leave, or more inclusive overtime rules — that are designed to deliver immediate benefit to ordinary people. And as complicated as economic policy can sometimes get, most voters can understand this fundamental difference. That’s why Republicans constantly have to struggle to explain why they actually have ordinary people’s interests at heart, and why Democrats can just say, “Yep, there go the Republicans again, just trying to help the rich and screw the little guy,” and voters nod their heads in recognition. Republicans may think it’s unfair, but when they oppose things like the fiduciary rule or try to shut down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (protecting consumers, egad!), what do they expect voters to conclude?

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders came out in favor of the fiduciary rule last fall; it remains to be seen whether they’ll bring it up again on the campaign trail. But as Pollack notes, the change might not have been possible without the attention it has already gotten. Though people in positions of power often say, “good policy is good politics” as a way of claiming that they have only the purest of (non-political) intentions for their decisions, sometimes exactly the opposite is true.

“This is an example where good politics is actually critical to good policy,” Pollack says, “because if this had been decided quietly in Congress, there’s a good possibility it would have been weakened.” The more attention it got, the more room the administration had to do the right thing. And now that they have, Democrats should keep talking about it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, April 7, 2016

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Fiduciary Standard, Financial Industry, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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