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“Johnny Strikes Up The Band”: If You Didn’t Know Any Better, You’d Think Kasich Was Indeed A Moderate

The most fascinating news coming out of the 2016 Republican National Convention might not be the struggle between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz for the GOP nomination. It might be the prominent role that Ohio Governor and stealth radical John Kasich plays at the confab in Cleveland.

A case can be made that Kasich, the Boy Wonder of Wingnuttery, is actually the most dangerous of the three remaining Republicans running for the White House. Kasich has both Donald Trump’s extensive media training and Ted Cruz’s devotion to dogmatism: while he might not have a shot at the Republican nomination this time around, he stands an frighteningly good chance of being the GOP nominee four years from now if Trump (or Cruz) fails on November 8.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Kasich is chosen to be the keynote speaker; he will certainly provide a moment of calm in an otherwise contentious convention. He’ll also be running a long con.

If chosen as the keynote speaker, Kasich will deliver a sentimental speech, syrupy but not excessively so, urging Republicans to come together and embrace an uplifting, optimistic vision for the future. He will be “surprisingly” gentle in his criticisms of President Obama and the Democratic nominee. He will make full use of his formidable rhetorical gifts to make the case to viewers that the “real” Republican Party is compassionate, conscious and charitable.

It will all be a scam designed to convince gullible viewers that there are still signs of rationality in the GOP–and that Kasich represents old-school Eisenhower Republicanism. The idea is simple: if they lose with Trump or Cruz on Election Day, “establishment” Republicans will take advantage of whatever public goodwill Kasich generates as a result of his convention speech to promote the idea that only he can guarantee a GOP victory in 2020.

This gambit could work. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that Kasich was indeed a moderate, reasonable Republican; when it comes to portraying such a mythical figure on the stage of American politics, Kasich’s acting is so good it rivals Brando in his prime. If I didn’t know any better, I’d buy a used car from this man.

Yet those of us who know better know the real John Kasich–the cold and cynical heart that beats in his chest, the conservative mendacity in his calculating mind. Kasich talks one heck of a moderate game, but make no mistake: he’s the wingnuts’ warrior.

Kasich may emerge as the real star of the 2016 Republican National Convention. He may convince casual political observers that he’s an honorable man, one who just might deserve the presidency if voters are dissatisfied with Democrats in 2020. He might be able to fool just enough people to make him the 46th president on January 20, 2021. The only question is: if that happens, how long will it take for those who were fooled to smarten up?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 17, 2016

April 18, 2016 Posted by | Establishment Republicans, John Kasich, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Can’t Beat Somebody With Nobody”: The GOP Establishment Has Failed. It’s Up To Voters To Deny Trump

We the people are going to have to save ourselves from Donald Trump, because politicians don’t seem up to the task.

For the big-haired billionaire, it was another week, another romp. In winning three of the four states up for grabs Tuesday, Trump demonstrated once again the weaknesses of his rivals. Ted Cruz, whose core support is among staunch conservatives and evangelical Christians, should have won Mississippi. John Kasich, the sitting governor of Ohio, should have won next-door Michigan. And Marco Rubio . . . well, he should have competed somewhere.

Cruz did manage to win Idaho, somewhat bolstering his claim to be the only plausible anti-Trump candidate left in the field. But Trump has now won primaries in the Northeast, the South, the West and the Midwest. Exit polling showed he had strength among both conservative and moderate voters. If he were not so dangerously unsuitable for the presidency, at this point he’d be called the presumptive Republican nominee.

Fumbling efforts by what’s left of the GOP establishment to halt Trump’s march to power seem too little, too late. Mitt Romney’s never-Trump salvo may have been intended to influence voters in Michigan, where Romney grew up and his father was a popular governor. If so, it was a humiliating failure.

One problem was that after forcefully stating why Republicans should not vote for Trump, Romney refused to say whom they should choose instead. There’s an old saying in politics: “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” There is no way the establishment will derail Trump without settling on, and backing to the hilt, a viable alternative.

This will likely be remembered as the week when the establishment finally gave up on Rubio. He was always the fair-haired boy of party insiders, but not, alas, of the voters; he has managed to win only two contests, in Minnesota and Puerto Rico, and routinely finishes third or even fourth.

Rubio acknowledged this week that he rues his decision to go after Trump with playground insults. He is right to be remorseful, because that ploy probably cost him any chance at the nomination. His grand display of juvenile behavior reinforced the notion that he is too young and unformed to be president. Trump, who knows how to find the jugular, started calling him “Little Marco.” It stuck.

Rubio is trying desperately to win his home state of Florida on Tuesday, and a new Washington Post-Univision News poll shows him perhaps within striking distance; Trump leads with 38 percent, but Rubio is fairly close at 31 percent. Kasich, meanwhile, is gaining on Trump in Ohio; a recent Fox News poll even showed the governor with a small lead.

If Trump wins those states, the Rubio and Kasich candidacies are effectively over. More important, the winner-take-all haul of delegates — and Trump is also leading in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina, the other three states that vote Tuesday — would increase the possibility that Trump could win the nomination outright, rather than have to fight for it at a contested party convention.

Put me down as extremely skeptical that the party will try to deny Trump the nomination if he comes to the convention with anywhere near the required majority of delegates. To do so would require a fortitude and a willingness to stand up to Trump’s bullying that the establishment has not shown thus far.

The low point came at last week’s debate when Trump’s opponents all described him as unfit for the presidency — then meekly pledged to support him if he is the nominee.

Stopping Trump, either before or during the convention, would require party leaders to swallow hard and support Cruz, who is right to portray himself as the only realistic alternative. Cruz has, after all, won seven states. He is widely disliked by party leaders, many of whom believe he would almost surely lose in the general election — and potentially bring down some GOP Senate and House candidates with him. But if the establishment does not agree on someone else, Donald Trump will be the standard-bearer of a political organization that calls itself the “party of Lincoln.”

Can Republicans really stomach such a thing? Do they watch those Trump rallies, with protesters being roughed up by angry mobs, and feel proud? Do they agree with his call to reinstitute torture? Do they really believe that Mexico will pay for the wall?

The GOP allowed Trump to get this far and seems powerless to stop him. In November, it appears, voters will have to do the job.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 10, 2016

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, GOP Voters, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“John Kasich – Only Moderately Extreme”: Remember The Last Time We Had A “Compassionately Conservative” President?

If you’ve watched John Kasich at any of the Republican presidential debates so far, two things stand out about him: (1) he wants to be the “Republican with a heart,” and (2) he completely embraces trickle-down economics. That’s pretty much the kind of thing we heard from George W. Bush in the 2000 election when he called himself a “compassionate conservative.” Compared to the rest of the field this time around, that has a lot of pundits calling Kasich the moderate of the group.

The problem is that we all got a pretty good lesson on the failure of trickle-down economics during the Bush/Cheney years. And right now, Kasich is demonstrating just how un-moderate he is on some important issues. For example, here’s what happened at a town hall event in Virginia today.

Notice that even one of his supporters called him out for saying that “women came out of their kitchens” to work on his campaign. That little gem comes the day after Kasich did this:

Gov. John Kasich has signed legislation to strip government money from Planned Parenthood in Ohio…

The bill targets roughly $1.3 million in funding that Planned Parenthood receives through Ohio’s health department. The money, which is mostly federal, supports initiatives for HIV testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and prevention of violence against women.

All of that reminded me of something that happened just after Kasich was elected Governor of Ohio. He came under heavy fire in his home state for the fact that all of the appointments in his administration went to white people. For a Republican, that isn’t terribly surprising. But it was his response that was jarring. Instead of working with communities of color to improve, he got defensive.

“We pick people on the basis of who’s qualified. We don’t pick them on the basis of quotas. I mean I think quotas are yesterday,” Kasich said on Jan. 2.

Kasich said he’s color blind when it comes to hiring.

“I mean let’s get the best people for the job,” said Kasich.

In other words, “the best people for the job” just happened to all be white. People of color need not apply. When Ohio’s Legislative Black Caucus offered to help him out with that, Kasich said, “I don’t need your people.”

So the moderate in the Republican presidential race is the guy who believes that:

1. if we just give rich people more tax cuts our economy will boom for everyone,
2. women are still in the kitchen and don’t deserve access to reproductive health care, and
3. the best person for any job in his administration just so happens to be white.

I’ll grant you that compared to the other 4 candidates still in this race, Kasich is slightly less extreme. But then, I’m old enough to remember what happened the last time the country had a “compassionately conservative” president.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 22, 2016

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Compassionate Conservatism, George W Bush, John Kasich | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Team Crazy Wins The Sane State”: We’ve Still Got Some Time For Sanity To Catch Up

Former New Hampshire governor John Sununu is fond of saying “Iowa picks corn and New Hampshire picks presidents.” Let’s hope that he’s wrong this time, or America is headed for an apocalyptic “choice, not an echo” election.

Celebrity demagogue Donald Trump and Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders won massive victories on Tuesday, sweeping virtually every voter group in the Granite State. It was a night for pitchfork populism, with the politics of cultural and economic resentment hitting overdrive.

What’s truly troubling is that New Hampshire traditionally serves as a speed-bump in the crowded primary calendar, calming hyper-partisan passions and pandering. Unlike the low-turnout Iowa Caucuses and play-to-the-base South Carolina, the “Live Free or Die” state offers an electorate that reflects the independent centrist sensibility of the American general electorate.

Forty-four percent of New Hampshire voters are registered independents, essentially mirroring national self-identification numbers. It’s an open primary, increasing competition and voter participation. And it’s a swing state, one of only seven that is considered up for grabs in a presidential election.

For Republicans, New Hampshire is a rare state where the party is evenly divided between conservatives and moderates. Libertarians have a strong presence and perhaps not coincidentally it’s the least religious state in the nation. Social conservative litmus tests have limited appeal here. For example, New Hampshire became the first state to legalize marriage equality via the legislature in 2009.  While the state isn’t exactly a bastion of racial diversity, New Hampshire has ideological diversity and a proud live-and-let live culture. In the last two presidential primary cycles New Hampshire backed John McCain and Mitt Romney after the Iowa caucuses elevated Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Earlier in the cycle, it seemed like one of the strong center-right governors—Chris Christie, John Kasich, or Jeb Bush—would be primed to repeat the pattern.

So much for that streak. The record will now show that Donald Trump romped to victory in 2016 with a nativist campaign. He updated the conservative populism of Pat Buchanan, the right-wing pundit who narrowly won the state in 1996 with an anti-immigrant, anti-trade, and anti-establishment agenda. Trump’s proudly anti-PC appeals defined deviancy down in this campaign, delighting in the attention that outrageously ugly “us against them” rhetoric can bring. His Teflon comes from being a reality TV star with a reputation for ruthless business success. Fame and fury more than compensate for a lack of conservative philosophy to those folks who just want an anti-Obama in the White House. Trump’s victory cut across all age, income, and ideological groups, according to CNN’s exit polls—though the more educated and wealthy a voter is the less likely they are to buy his B.S.

The prospect of a billionaire populist should be enough to make your head explode. But for the earnest liberal activists who clustered around Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign, the idea must be particularly insulting.

After all, the energy behind Bernie’s campaign comes from righteous anger at income inequality that has only deepened in the wake of the great recession, making millennials more receptive to a democratic socialist agenda than at any time since post-war Progressive Party members insisted that “Uncle Joe” Stalin was simply misunderstood.

Sanders’s campaign has so far succeeded in making “moderate” a dirty word in the Democratic primary—a mirror image of what the dynamic Republicans have been wrestling with for decades. Whatever the ultimate impact, we are witnessing the birth of a left-wing Tea Party that may divide the Democratic Party—with predictable results—for decades to come.

No doubt Bernie’s big win was boosted by his status as a Senator from Vermont. New Hampshire traditionally rewards neighboring state elected officials from Paul Tsongas to John Kerry. But his campaign also became a crusade against the governing establishment represented by Hillary Clinton. In the psychology of support, it is cool to like Bernie now. And according to CNN’s exit polls, he won almost every voter cohort—including, somewhat surreally, moderate voters. Only non-white voters, senior citizens, and those who made over $200k supported Clinton in New Hampshire.

It’s worth noting that these two opposite-in-everything men share two broad policy positions: a distrust of free trade deals and a belief that big money super PACs are trying to buy elections.

But while Bernie also rode a wave of populism to his victory, buoyed by his unscripted authenticity—any parallels to Trump stop there. While The Donald glories in incivility, Bernie refuses to go negative during the campaign. While Trump’s policies are all bumper-sticker bluster, Bernie glories in a five-year plan with detailed bullet points.

Perhaps the most relevant difference is that Trump has positive primary calendar ahead of him—he leads the polls in the upcoming conservative states throughout the South. Bernie has a much tougher road ahead in states that are both more conservative and more diverse. Democratic socialists from Vermont via Brooklyn don’t expect a friendly reception in the South.

Adrenalin is surging for Trump and Sanders supporters after their lopsided wins in a centrist state. But there is something nihilistic behind the anti-establishment anger that drove them to the polls. Because polarization doesn’t solve problems—it compounds them.

The authoritarian-tinged appeal of a strong-man or the promise of ideological purity makes true-believers feel invincible until they collide with reality in a constitutional democracy. Victory in presidential elections requires reaching out beyond the base and winning over the reasonable edge of the opposition. Effective presidential leadership requires working with congress in a spirit of principled compromise, defining common ground and achieving common goals.

The frustration that many folks feel with Washington stems from its current division and dysfunction, the sense that special interests are ignoring the national interest. They’re right. But the populist protest candidacies of Trump and Sanders will only deepen Washington’s division and dysfunction because they don’t offer any practical bipartisan solutions as a matter of pride. Banning Muslim immigration or single-payer healthcare may have their constituencies but they aren’t going to pass congress. Insults and ideological purity are only a recipe for further polarization, creating a feedback loop of frustration and alienation. Their prescriptions double-down on the disease.

Some hardcore partisan supporters no doubt love the idea of a Trump-Sanders general election, effectively forcing America to choose between two extreme visions. But despite their current popularity with the partisan base, neither man represents the vast majority of Americans. And here’s a proof-point to keep the moderate majority from fearing the future: Less than 0.3 percent of Americans have voted so far in the 2016 primaries. We’ve still got some time for sanity to catch up with all the crazy talk.

 

By: John Avlon, The Daily Beast, February 10, 2016

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, New Hampshire Primaries, Populism | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“A Stew Of Resentment And Hatred”: Republicans Say Obama Has Been Historically Divisive. That’s Very, Very Revealing

There’s no doubt that when historians assess the Obama presidency, they will pay a great deal of attention to the deep political divisions within the country, and how those divisions shaped political events. There are racial divisions, class divisions, and, most of all, political divisions. Within Congress, for instance, the parties have been moving apart for the last 40 years, as fewer and fewer moderates get elected and the median of both parties moves toward the edge. But the reality is that while Democrats have moved left, Republicans have been moving right much more sharply — a fact not only established by political science but evident to anyone remotely familiar with Capitol Hill.

Yet Republicans are sure that the fault for all this — long-term trends and recent developments alike — can be laid at the feet of Barack Obama, who is terribly, appallingly, despicably divisive.

If we are divided, it’s only because Obama has divided us. “We have not seen such a divisive figure in modern American history” as Barack Obama, Marco Rubio said in 2012. Four years later, his opinion hasn’t changed; last week he tweeted, “This president has been the single most divisive political figure this country has had over the last decade.” After Obama’s recent State of the Union address, Ted Cruz fumed, “He lectures us on civility yet has been one of the most divisive presidents in American history.” Or as one Republican congressman said last week, “There probably has not been a more racially-divisive, economic-divisive president in the White House since we had presidents who supported slavery.” You won’t find too many Republicans who would disagree.

Yet if you spend some time investigating what evidence Republicans offer when they call Obama divisive, what you find is not actually evidence at all, but their own skewed interpretations of events. “He says ‘It’s my way or the highway’ on legislation!”, they charge — although he doesn’t actually say that. It’s just that he has a different legislative agenda than they do. “He crammed ObamaCare down our throats!” — this is a sentence that has been written and spoken a thousand times (just Google it for yourself). Back on Planet Earth, the Affordable Care Act spent over a year going through endless hearings, floor speeches, and debates, and in the end passed the House and Senate and was signed by the president, which you may recall is how a bill becomes a law.

Here’s the truth: You might like Barack Obama or you might not; you might think he has been a good president or a bad one. But the idea that blame for the political divisions we confront lies solely or even primarily at his door is positively deranged.

Let’s just remind ourselves of how Republicans have treated Obama over his seven years in office, with a few of the greatest hits. You can start right on the day of his inauguration, when congressional Republicans gathered for a dinner at which they decided that rather than seek areas of cooperation with the new president, they would employ a strategy of maximum confrontation and obstruction in order to deny him any legislative victories.

They followed through on this plan. As Mitch McConnell explained proudly in 2010, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny Barack Obama a second term.”

At Obama’s speech in front of Congress in 2009, a Republican member of the House, acting like a drunk frat boy in a comedy club, decided to heckle him, shouting “You lie!” In the time since, conservative Republicans have regularly acted as though Obama is presumptuous for even acting like the president; they’ve suggested things like not inviting him to deliver the SOTU, or depriving him of the use of Air Force One.

And then there’s the question of how they explain it when Obama does things they don’t like. Before you protest that Obama himself sometimes questions his opponents’ motives, it’s important to realize that when he does so, it’s in a narrow way focused on the issue at hand — they really want to cut taxes for the wealthy, they don’t think women ought to have access to abortion, they’re too eager to start a new war, and so on — to explain their behavior at a particular moment. What he doesn’t do, and what he has never done, is accuse them of hating their country. But this is something Republicans have done constantly — not once or twice, not a dozen times or even a hundred, but constantly for seven years.

“I do not believe that the president loves America,” said Rudy Giuliani last year, in a statement notable only for being a tad more explicit than the way Republicans usually talk about this question.”He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” Often they will argue that the policies they disagree with are part of a secret plan of Obama’s to hamper, diminish, or even destroy the country. Among the things said in the last debate by Marco Rubio — supposedly the reasonable establishment candidate — were that Obama “believes that America is an arrogant global power that needs to be cut down to size,” that when elected in 2008 he “didn’t want to fix America,” that he “doesn’t believe in the Constitution,” and that he “doesn’t believe in the free enterprise system.”

In fact, any time you hear a Republican begin a sentence with “Barack Obama believes…” it’s an absolute guarantee that what follows will be an utter lie about how Obama doesn’t accept the basic values nearly all Americans agree on, that his ideas are alien and threatening. As Newt Gingrich said in 2010, “What if he is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

Their voters believe it — indeed, many if not most of them believe that Obama is not American at all. A recent poll by the Democratic firm PPP found that only 29 percent of Republicans would grant that the president is an American citizen. A majority of Republicans also believe he is a Muslim; in other words, that when he goes to church or talks about his Christian beliefs, he’s just lying. Polls have shown similar findings for much of his presidency. A poll by the same firm just after the 2012 election showed 49 percent of Republicans saying ACORN stole the election for Obama (which would have been quite a feat, since the organization ceased to exist in 2010).

They don’t get these ideas from nowhere. They get them from the leading lights of the GOP, the politicians and media figures who tell them day in and day out that Obama hates them and hates America, and that he is a black nationalist whose policy proposals are about exacting reparations from whites for imaginary racial sins of the past.

If you’re even a marginally aware conservative, you’ve been marinating for seven years in this toxic stew of resentment and hatred. So no one should be surprised that this year Republican voters are angry. But that’s Obama’s fault too, of course — you might have heard many of them blame the fact that their party has been taken over by a xenophobic blowhard on, you guessed it, Barack Obama.

Yes, it was terribly poor manners of him to make them hate him so, to bring out such ugliness in Republicans. But what choice did they have? And this is the best explanation for their argument that Obama is so terribly divisive: it’s projection. They’re blaming him for their own shortcomings, their own misdeeds, the political divisions that they have worked so hard to exacerbate.

“It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency,” Obama said in his State of the Union address this year, “that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide.” Maybe, but probably not.

Obama could have invited more Republicans to play golf with him, or invested more time trying to convince them that the Affordable Care Act was a good idea. But would those things — or anything he might have done — really changed how they acted? The party who wouldn’t work with him on any legislation, who shut down the government, who vilified him from the moment he took office, who literally made him show his birth certificate to prove he’s an American? Not a chance.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, January 19, 2016

January 22, 2016 Posted by | Congress, GOP, Racism, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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