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“A Twisted Moral Value System”: In Lousiana Governor Loss, David Vitter Shows Just How Far A Republican Must Sink To Be Rejected In A Red State

As most Washington Monthly readers know by now, Democrat John Bel Edwards defeated disgraced Louisiana Senator David Vitter in his bid for governor to replace failed presidential candidate Bobby Jindal. Vitter was famously the center of several scandals, especially including a prostitution debacle in which he reportedly engaged in not-so-vanilla interests.

Vitter had been trailing heavily in the polls for quite some time, and pulled out all the usual Republican dogwhistle tricks, from scaremongering over Syrian refugees to his own version of the racist Willie Horton strategy, claiming that his opponent would assist President Obama in releasing “thugs” from jail.

None of it worked. Jon Bel Edwards isn’t the sort of Democrat progressives will croon over anytime soon: he is anti-abortion, pro-gun and opposed President Obama on refugees. But he’s the first Democrat to win major elected office in the South since 2009, and his victory will mean that a quarter of a million people will get healthcare who would almost certainly have been denied it under a Vitter administration. That’s definitely a good thing.

But it would be extremely premature to declare that this result bodes well for a Democratic resurgence in the South. Democrats fared far more poorly downballot from the governor’s race, proving that the John Bel Edwards’ victory owed more to Louisiana voters’ disgust with David Vitter than to sympathy for his own agenda. The example of Matt Bevin’s recent election in Kentucky shows that at least the voters who turn out in off-year cycles in the South are more than willing to deny hundreds of thousands of people their right to healthcare and other benefits. It was David Vitter’s personal troubles that hurt him badly enough to hand a Democrat an overwhelming victory.

And that itself is yet another indictment of Republican voters. David Vitter’s prostitution scandal is weird, creepy and untoward for a U.S. Senator. But a legislator’s fidelity and sexual proclivities have very little bearing on their job as a representative of the people, which is to protect the Constitution and do a responsible job providing the greatest good for the greatest number of constituents. Scapegoating refugees and denying medical care to hundreds of thousands are objectively both far greater moral crimes against common decency than a thousand trysts with sex workers. That the latter is illegal and the former is legal is a testament to the twisted moral value system perverted by puritan Calvinist ethics. Vitter should have been ousted for his overtly destructive public morality, not his far less consequential private failures.

But that’s not how Republicans roll. In their world, causing the needless deaths of thousands is fair game. Having sex with the wrong person, on the other hand, is unforgivable.

There may be a large number of people in this world who share that value system. But that doesn’t mean that those with a well-adjusted moral compass must respect it or grant it validity.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthy, November 22, 2015

November 23, 2015 Posted by | David Vitter, John Bel Edwards, Louisiana Governors Race | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“John Kasich And Matthew 25, Revisited”: We’re All Just One Big Freedom-Loving Family In The West

This is Republican Gov. John Kasich explaining in March why he expanded coverage for Ohio’s Medicaid recipients:

The conservative movement — a big chunk of which is faith-based — seems to have never read Matthew 25. … There’s so much we have to do to clean ourselves up. … So instead of getting into the judgment, why don’t we get into the feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and helping the imprisoned and helping the lonely? That’s what we’re commanded to do.

This is Republican presidential candidate John Kasich explaining on Tuesday why he has joined more than two dozen governors who say they’ll refuse to accept any of the 10,000 Syrian refugees, many of them widows and children, to arrive in the U.S. in the next fiscal year:

“We understand these people are in trouble, but think about … us putting somebody on our street, in our town or in our country who (means) us harm. … We just got to be very careful for our friends, our neighbors, our families and our country. … Until we get a handle on where we are, we need to stop. And once we have a rational program and we can determine who it is that’s coming, then it’s another story. But for this point in time, in light of what we’re seeing in the world, it’s reasonable to stop.”

What happened to Matthew 25?

Pfft. So pre-primary.

I listen to these governors — all of whom know they have no power to defy the president and close their borders — and marvel at how readily they pander to the worst among us. I don’t know what version of the Bible they’re thumping, but I sure would like a cloud-side seat on that storied day when they try to explain themselves to you-know-who.

For me, the joking ends here.

Just a few short weeks ago, we reeled at the sight of a little boy named Aylan Kurdi. The 3-year-old Syrian Kurd tried to flee with his family from Turkey to Europe. Their boat capsized, and Aylan’s lifeless body washed ashore. His 5-year-old brother and mother drowned, too, but it is Aylan we remember because of the photographs of him that were published online and in newspapers around the world.

In the pictures, he is wearing a red shirt and shorts, lying on his stomach. His face is turned ever so slightly to his left, his arms resting palms up by his side. His was the universal pose of a busy little boy surrendering to a nap. Maybe that’s why he got to us. He was every child we’ve ever known.

On the same day that Kasich said Syrian refugees are not welcome in the state he has abandoned for his presidential race, he announced his nifty idea to fight the Islamic State group: a new agency to impose “the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share.” He would target China, Iran, Russia, and the Middle East.

“We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have a Western ethic,” he said in an interview with NBC News. “It means freedom. It means opportunity. It means respect for women.”

Let’s stop right there.

Respect for women? This, from the governor who has championed some of the harshest abortion restrictions in the country.

And what about this notion of a universal set of Judeo-Christian values in the Western world?

On Wednesday, I spoke to Colin Swearingen, an assistant professor of political science at John Carroll University, near Cleveland, to talk about Kasich’s theory that we’re all just one big freedom-loving family in the West.

“The Declaration of Independence centered on liberty,” Swearingen said. “A lot of Western civilization focuses more on equality. This is a significant difference in how you set up government.”

So what does he make of Kasich’s idea?

“Well, the establishment clause certainly jumps out at you,” he said. “Was it a slip-up, or is he trying to reach out to the Iowa caucuses? In 2012, 57 percent of them were evangelicals. Maybe this is some sort of coherent strategy where Kasich sees an opening in Iowa.”

I have searched and searched my Bible, and I cannot find any holy dispensation for presidential candidates who turn away widows and orphans to help their poll numbers with people who like that sort of thing. I did, however, find last month’s Quinnipiac poll that showed Kasich trailing far behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson in his own state.

Overall, we’re seeing some interesting timing from Kasich, don’t you think?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this new interpretation of Matthew 25 works out for him.

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist: The National Memo, November 19, 2015

November 20, 2015 Posted by | ISIS, John Kasich, Syrian Refugees | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Another Train Wreck For McConnell”: Wow, Republicans Revolting Against The Elimination Of Medicaid Expansion. Imagine That!

You might remember that back in early 2010 Senate Democrats used a rule called budget reconciliation to by-pass a Republican filibuster and tweak their version of the Affordable Care Act to make it consistent with the one in the House. As a result, Republicans had a bit of a hissy fit, making the dubious claim that a simple majority vote in the Senate signaled the end of democracy as we know it.

In a move that should break all of our irony meters, Senate Republicans will soon attempt to use that same budget reconciliation rule in an attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act with a vote on a bill that has already passed the House. And we wonder why the practice of politics gets a bad name.

But hold onto your hats. This one is running into some trouble because, even with 54 Republicans in the Senate, McConnell is going to have trouble rounding up the 51 votes he needs.

The first problem comes from the Senate’s version of insurgents – Cruz, Rubio and Lee – who say that simply throwing a monkey wrench into Obamacare is not enough.

“On Friday the House of Representatives is set to vote on a reconciliation bill that repeals only parts of ObamaCare. This simply isn’t good enough. Each of us campaigned on a promise to fully repeal ObamaCare and a reconciliation bill is the best way to send such legislation to President Obama’s desk,” the three senators said.

The House version of the bill also contains provisions that defund Planned Parenthood – which is a problem for some Republican Senators representing more moderate states.

But if the Planned Parenthood provision is in the final bill — Senate Republican aides say no final decisions have been made — a handful of votes from the moderate wing could also break away. They include Murkowski, and Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine.

And now a third front of opposition has opened up.

“I am very concerned about the 160,000 people who had Medicaid expansion in my state. I have difficulty with that being included,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia…

Sen. John Hoeven (R), who represents North Dakota, where an estimated 19,000 people gained access to Medicaid after Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple decided to broaden the program, said he was unsure about repealing the expansion.

“I respect the decision of our legislator and our governor on Medicaid expansion,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R) of Montana, which has a Democratic governor. “I’m one who respects their rights and voices.”

Wow, Republicans revolting against the elimination of the Medicaid expansion. Imagine that!

When you risk losing Republicans from red states like West Virginia, North Dakota and Montana, just imagine what that means to incumbents running for re-election in places like Illinois, Ohio, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

Mitch McConnell proved himself to be a master at corralling Republicans into line to obstruct everything the Democratic majority tried to do for six years. But the job of getting them together to actually pass legislation has proven to be a much more difficult task. The fact that this particular effort will simply result in a presidential veto – even if successful – shouldn’t be lost on anyone. It is increasingly looking like another train wreck for McConnell.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, November 12, 2015

November 14, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Mitch Mc Connell, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“From GOP ‘Con Man’ To Newly Elected Governor”: Health Coverage For Kentuckians Was On The Line, And They Appear To Have Lost

Under two-term Gov. Steve Beshear (D), Kentucky has been one of the best-run states in the nation. Not only is the Bluegrass State’s unemployment rate at a 14-year low, but Kentucky has been so successful in implementing health care reform, it’s cut its uninsured by over 40%.

Perhaps the state’s voters grew tired of success and decided to go in a different direction.

Voters in Kentucky elected Republican Matt Bevin as governor Tuesday.

Bevin beat Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway. Unofficial results from the Kentucky State Board of Elections had Bevin beating Conway 52.52% to 43.82% with all 120 counties reporting Tuesday night.

Independent Drew Curtis was also on the ballot, and garnered 3.6% support – not enough to affect the overall outcome. Statewide turnout was only about 30%, meaning that over two-thirds of the state’s voters didn’t bother to show up at all.

Bevin’s road to the governor’s office was, for lack of a better word, improbable. A year ago, the right-wing candidate, who’s never served a day in public office, launched a primary fight against incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Republicans quickly labeled Bevin a “con man” who lies “pathologically.” The first-time candidate was exposed a man who lied about his educational background, and who even struggled in the private sector – his business needed a taxpayer bailout.

At one point, he even delivered a speech at a cockfighting gathering and then lied about that, too.

Bevin lost that primary. A year later, he’s a governor-elect.

The smart money bet against him. Indeed, even as this year’s race unfolded, the Tea Partier seemed on track to lose. In September, the Republican Governors Association scaled back its investments in the Kentucky race, and as recently as mid-October, Bevin’s own internal polling showed him trailing.

Complicating matters, the GOP candidate “created a nightmare for Kentucky’s political reporters” by lying – about a wide variety of issues – on an almost habitual basis, and then creating an “enemies list” of journalists who challenged the accuracy of his falsehoods.

And yet, voters in Kentucky yesterday overlooked all of this and handed Bevin a relatively easy victory.

What happens now is likely to have a major impact on many of his constituents’ lives. One of the central tenets of Bevin’s odd platform has been scrapping Medicaid expansion, which would have the effect of taking away health care benefits from many low-income families statewide. And because outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D) used executive orders to create much of the state’s health network, the new right-wing governor-elect will have the power to undermine the health security of a significant chunk of Kentucky’s population rather quickly.

The question is simple: will he? This sets the stage for the the first real test of whether far-right officials are prepared to hurt their own constituents, on purpose, to advance a partisan goal. It’s one thing for Republican state policymakers to block Medicaid expansion from taking effect, but in Kentucky, the Affordable Care Act has already been fully implemented – and it’s working beautifully.

Bevin’s stated goal is to roll back the clock, consequences be damned. Coverage for over 400,000 struggling Kentuckians was on the line in yesterday’s election, and as of last night, they appear to have lost.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 4, 2015

November 5, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Kentucky, Matt Bevin | , , , , , , , | 9 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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