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“Hell Bent On Creating Chaos And Crisis”: How Republicans Are Learning To Love The Shutdown

Conventional wisdom is malleable, and it appears that conventional wisdom on the wisdom of shutting down the government is shifting, at least within the Republican party. While the old CW was that it was a terrible idea that Republicans suffered for, and it would be foolish to do it again, the new CW seems to be, “Hey, didn’t we shut down the government and win the next election?”

The other day, influential conservative journalist Byron York began pushing this line, writing that the 2013 shutdown “so deeply damaged GOP prospects that Republicans exceeded expectations in 2014, winning control of the Senate in spectacular fashion and making unexpected gains in the House.” And now, as Dave Weigel reports, Republicans are taking it up:

In [conservative] circles, it’s clear that the president can be stared down on immigration. And it’s clear that a fight, even if it led to shutdown, would be either rewarded or forgotten by voters when they returned to the polling booths in November 2016. The reality of the Affordable Care Act had, after all, ended up winning elections for them in 2014. Why wouldn’t the reality of Obama’s new blunders elect the Republicans of 2016?

It’s all deeply frustrating to Democrats. Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly, whose district’s contractors and federal employees recoiled at the shutdown, had subsequently watched his state reelect its Republican congressmen and nearly knock off its popular Democratic senator. There clearly was no shutdown hangover for Republicans.

“From their point of view, frankly, while it had a temporary impact on their polling numbers, they fully recovered from that and paid no price at all on Nov. 4,” said Connolly as he headed into a vote. “Politicians are all Pavlovian at a very elemental level. What’s rewarded, what’s punished. They look at that, and they think it seems to have been rewarded. It certainly wasn’t punished.”

This is entirely true. Approval of the Republican party took a nose dive in the wake of the shutdown, and though it is still viewed negatively by most Americans, that didn’t stop Republicans from having a great election day. Because as at least some within the GOP understand, you can create chaos and crisis, and large numbers of voters will conclude not that Republicans are bent on creating chaos and crisis but that “Washington” is broken, and the way to fix it is to elect the people who aren’t in the president’s party. That in this case that happened to be precisely the people who broke it escaped many voters. The fact that the electorate skewed so heavily Republican in an election with the lowest turnout since 1942 also helped them escape the consequences of their behavior.

One of the things that interests me here is Weigel’s observation, which I’ve heard from others before, that conservatives believe “that the president can be stared down on immigration.” The fact that they’ve lost these showdowns again and again doesn’t seem to register. They simultaneously believe that Barack Obama is a tyrant in the grip of a mad obsession to destroy America, and that he’s a wimp who will back down if they show some spine.

If that’s what you think, a shutdown becomes a win-win scenario. If you threaten to shut the government down and Obama relents, then you’ve won. If he doesn’t relent and the government does shut down, you’ll win anyway, because that’s what happened before.

It now looks like Obama is going to announce his new immigration policy this week, at which point Republicans will freak out. And we may be seeing the front end of an evolution in their thinking, not just from “Shutting down the government would be bad for us” to “We could shut down the government and be just fine,” but from there all the way to “Shutting down the government would be genius.” Just you wait.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 19, 2014

November 20, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Put Up Or Shut Up”: An Open Letter To The GOP Regarding Its Dearest Enemy

Dear Republican Party:

Impeach President Obama.

Go ahead, you know you want to do it. The very thought makes you warm and gooey inside.

Yes, your leadership has disavowed any intention of initiating impeachment, but that sure hasn’t stopped your rank and file from speculating on the possibility with undisguised glee. The prospect has long had them salivating.

Soon-to-be former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann once said nary a weekend goes by without someone asking her what Congress is waiting for. Once-and-perhaps-future presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee once said the president has done many things “worthy of impeachment.” Texas Rep. Randy Weber once said the president “absolutely” deserves that fate. Earlier this year, a CNN poll found 57 percent of your party in agreement.

And surely this year’s midterms, wherein you tightened your hold on the House and took over the Senate only makes the idea more tantalizing. Indeed, just this week, Texas Rep. Joe Barton said impeachment was a definite possibility.

Impeach President Obama.

You have already floated many rationales for doing so. You’ve wanted to impeach him both for things he’s done and for things you only think he’s done: failing to protect the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi; trading Taliban fighters for a captured American soldier; passing legislation — the Affordable Care Act — you dislike; making unconstitutional appointments to executive branch offices. You’ve also wanted to impeach him for things he’s only been reported to be thinking about: sending troops to Syria or using executive orders to change the immigration system.

Pick one of those. Or just impeach him for being from Kenya. At this point, does the rationale even matter? Impeach President Obama.

Do it for America.

The U.S. electorate, after all, has a short memory and shorter attention span. It periodically needs what you have periodically provided and what impeachment proceedings would provide yet again: a reminder that something has gone awry in the Grand Old Party. It is no longer the party of Eisenhower or Reagan, nor the party of Bush the elder nor even the party of Bob Dole, your 1996 standard bearer who said in April, “I thought I was a conservative, but we’ve got some in Congress now who are so far right they’re about to fall out of the Capitol.”

The ever-blunt Dole was only saying what other GOP elders and other concerned observers have been saying for years: You have become an outlier, a haven of cranks and extremists. And you are driven by hatred — the word is not too strong — of the 44th president.

You don’t like his politics, nor should you. But this is not solely about politics and never has been. This is personal. You don’t like him. Your reasons for that antipathy have never been definitively defined — at least, not by you — but its existence can no longer be denied, not after all you’ve done to make it plain.

You’ve refused to accept the legitimacy of his presidency, though he was twice elected without Supreme Court help. You’ve supported false theories of foreign birth. You’ve damaged the nation’s credit rating rather than pass a routine authorization. You’ve killed your own legislation when you learned that he supported it. You’ve made compromise a curse word. You’ve raised obstruction to high art and made getting nothing done a badge of perverse honor.

Yet, you haven’t managed to get rid of him. What’s left except the ultimate sanction? So for yourself and for the rest of us, please put up or shut up:

Impeach President Obama.

Show America what you’re made of. Yet again.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, November 12, 2014

November 12, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Impeachment, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Won’t Stop Suppressing Our Votes”: Access To The Ballot Has Become A Feverishly Partisan Issue

For me, voting rights aren’t a partisan matter. They are a fundamental right that all adult citizens should enjoy without restriction. I don’t even think there should be such a thing as “getting out the vote” because I think all citizens should be required to participate, even if it is just to express their lack of endorsement for any candidates, initiatives, or referendums. People should get themselves to the polls and political parties should focus exclusively on winning over their support. That’s how I feel, but I recognize that access to the ballot has become a feverishly partisan issue. And, I wonder if restricting ballot access was actually successful enough in these midterms that it changed the outcome of some elections. Perhaps in North Carolina?

Voters in fourteen states faced new voting restrictions at the polls for first time in 2014—in the first election in nearly fifty years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. The number of voters impacted by the new restrictions exceeded the margin of victory in close races for senate and governor in North Carolina, Kansas, Virginia and Florida, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

In the North Carolina senate race, Republican Thom Tillis, who as speaker of the North Carolina General Assembly oversaw the state’s new voting law, defeated Democrat Kay Hagan by 50,000 votes. Nearly five times as many voters in 2010 used the voting reforms eliminated by the North Carolina GOP—200,000 voted during the now-eliminated first week of early voting, 20,000 used same-day registration and 7,000 cast out-of-precinct ballots.

The intention in placing these new roadblocks to voting was to change the outcome of elections. Only the worst dupe in the world thinks that the intent was to increase the integrity of the count. Even if these restrictions didn’t change any actual outcomes, the perception that they did in Republican circles assures that they will keep at it since they think it’s a winning strategy.

And it probably is.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, November 9, 2014

November 10, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights | , , , , | Leave a comment

“McConnell, Boehner”: Sorry Voters, You Just Put Crazy People In Charge Of Congress

For as long as John Boehner has been Speaker of the House, his majority has been defined by its intransigence. This isn’t spin cooked up by Boehner’s liberal critics or by Democrats on the other side of the aisle. Boehner himself has at times seemed to revel in the barking madness of his hardline members.

That’s not to say Boehner enjoys this aspect of his job. It’s generally been a problem for him. But his willingness to grapple publicly with the difficulties he faces isn’t just self-effacing charm. It’s also cunning. To make progress, it follows, his members must be placated. How can he be expected to corral his herd of beasts if Democrats refuse to appease them?

It’s what has allowed him to say things like, “[t]he votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit,” when the opposite is clearly true.

But that was before. Starting in January, Republicans will control Congress completely. Obviously this doesn’t obligate them to advance any particular, or constructive agenda. The last six years have demonstrated that there’s more political upside for Republicans in gridlock than in cooperation with Democrats. But now that they’re calling all of the shots, you might think Boehner, along with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, would stop talking about their own members as irrational animals that can’t easily be controlled.

Nope!

Per Bloomberg: “McConnell said Obama’s plans to take executive action on immigration, if Congress doesn’t act, would amount to ‘waving a red flag in front of a bull.’”

It’s hard to fault GOP leaders for playing expectations games, if expectations games allow them to escape accountability for the actions and agency of their members. But that really shouldn’t be an effective tactic anymore. Republicans and Democrats are coequals now. President Obama will do some stuff that Congressional Republicans won’t like, and vice versa. But the fact that Boehner and McConnell announced that they would “renew our commitment to repeal Obamacare” doesn’t give Obama an excuse to write off Congress, or act recklessly, or even to duck negotiations over specific reforms to the Affordable Care Act.

The administration would endure endless derision if Obama or his top aides said Obama wouldn’t cooperate with Republicans because their latest Obamacare repeal vote had “poisoned the well.” When congressional Republicans used the same language prior to the election, you could at least chalk it up to the fact that the Democrats controlled more of the agenda than they did, and that they weren’t pleased with the terms. But that’s not true anymore. If Republicans decide not to tee up immigration legislation, it’s because they don’t want to pass immigration legislation.

They shouldn’t be able to lay that decision at Obama’s feet, on the grounds that they’re too unruly to be controlled. And if they are, then consider the implications of placing a party that’s been commandeered by such waspish politicians in charge of votes on issues like ISIS, Ebola, or the debt limit.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, November 7, 2014

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Congress, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“After Voter Suppression”: Focusing The Nation’s Attention On The Magnitude Of The Problem

So much has happened in so many parts of the judicial system regarding Voter ID and other recent efforts to restrict the franchise that it’s hard to get a fix on the big picture. But at the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin has seen the future of SCOTUS action on voting rights in its rulings on Wisconsin (halting implementation on grounds of timing) and Texas (giving that state the green light) Voter ID laws, and it’s not good:

The Wisconsin and Texas rulings were just preliminary requests for emergency relief, and the Supreme Court may yet hear the cases in full on the merits. But there seems little chance that a majority of the current Court will rein in these changes in any significant way. In courtrooms around the country, it’s been made clear that these Republican initiatives have been designed and implemented to disenfranchise Democrats (again, usually of color). But the Supreme Court doesn’t care.

So Toobin thinks it’s time to make a mental adjustment back to the mid-1960s, when hostile state laws and practices on voting were overwhelmed by the sheer moral and physical presence of people exercising the rights they still had and participating in elections whatever the difficulty:

Certainly, the obstacles for voters in the contemporary South do not compare to those that the civil-rights pioneers, black and white, faced until the early nineteen-sixties. In the Freedom Summer of 1964, the still nascent civil-rights movement coalesced around an effort to register voters in Mississippi. It was during that summer that the infamous murders of the civil-rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner took place. In addition, of course, black Mississippi residents endured less well-known but equally horrific abuse from state authorities during this time. In those days before the Voting Rights Act, the effort did not succeed in registering great numbers of voters, but it did focus the nation’s attention on the magnitude of the problem.

So it could today. In light of the changes in the state laws, it’s difficult but not impossible to register voters and make sure that they get to cast their ballots. And it’s absolutely mandatory in a democracy for that to be done.

The title of Toobin’s essay is “Freedom Summer, 2015.” It’s sobering to realize that’s what we may need to restore voting rights long thought to be relatively secure. But it’s also a reminder that reactionaries who fear democracy (not just judicial conservatives, but the Con Cons who think “losers” have forfeited the right to have any say in what “winners” do with their money and power) have been defeated before in more extreme circumstances.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, October 28, 2014

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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