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“An Appeal To The GOP”: Don’t Listen To The Pundits, Stick To Your Principles

An appeal to Republicans: don’t listen to the pundits who say the lesson of 2012 is that you should change course to appeal to women and minorities in order to win elections. You should stick to your principles—and with the the old white men who provided tens of millions of votes on Election Day.

The country needs leaders who will speak from their hearts about “legitimate rape.” It’s true that 55 percent of women voted against Romney—but it’s wrong to say the Republicans don’t have women in their camp. You have that wrestling lady in Connecticut!

And it’s a lie that the white men who make up the base of the Republican party don’t like black people. Remember that your leading presidential candidate in the primaries at one point was Herman Cain.

It’s true that Latinos voted against the Republicans, 70-30 percent. But you’ve already moderated your policy where they are concerned: instead of calling for a police round-up of 10 million illegal immigrants, you favor the compassionate route: “self-deportation.” And as for those illegal kids who want to go to college under the so-called “Dream Act”—that’s just another case of the Democrats creating more people who are dependent on government (for their education).

Another thing: please keep up those attacks on Nate Silver. Yes, he did predict that the Democrats would win, but that is simply more evidence of his pro-Obama bias. He’s no more “scientific” than the people who say the climate is changing.

Twenty twelve was only one election—remember the last one, the midterms in 2010? Sticking to Republican principles there paid off handsomely. Please keep your focus on that year, not on 2012.

A choice, not an echo—that’s what America needs. Instead of becoming more “moderate,” you should be getting rid of the moderates in the Republican Party—like former Republican senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. It’s true that if he had run for re-election, he would have won with 65 percent of the vote, and the Republicans would have had a chance to gain control of the Senate. But it was more important for a Tea Party true believer to defeat him in the primary. That gave the Republicans a chance to run on the argument that conception resulting from rape is “something God intended to happen.”

The only problem with this advice to get rid of the moderate Republicans is that I don’t think there are any left. Mission accomplished!


By: Joe Wiener, The Nation, November 10, 2012

November 12, 2012 Posted by | Elections | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No GOP Moderates Need Apply”: Republican “Robo-Teams” Mindlessly Towing The Line

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has had a fair amount of success in his first two years implementing a very conservative agenda. Most notably, Brownback’s tax “reform” plan, which sharply cut income taxes on Kansas’ wealthy while punishing the poor, was signed into law in May.

But it apparently wasn’t quite enough to satisfy the right. We talked earlier this week about a group of congressional Republican moderates — an endangered and ineffectual contingent — feeling increasingly frustrated, but reader R.P. flagged an item out of Kansas, where the GOP is actively purging centrists from their midst.

Frustrated by their inability to achieve some policy goals, conservatives in Republican states are turning against moderate members of their own party, trying to drive them out of state legislatures to clear the way for reshaping government across a wide swath of mid-America controlled by the GOP. […]

The push is most intense in Kansas, where conservatives are attempting to replace a dozen moderate Republican senators who bucked new Gov. Sam Brownback’s move to slash state income taxes.

Greg Smith, a Kansas state representative who’s running for the state Senate, told the AP, “If you don’t believe in that playbook, then why are you on the team?”

What an illustrative quote. The far right is drawing up the plays, and those who disagree, even a little, ought to be replaced with loyal, almost robotic, teammates who will do what they’re told.

In Kansas, this translates into a series of contentious GOP primaries, which will be held early next week, in which right-wing activists try to replace the moderates (or at least those who seem moderate by 2012 standards) in their midst. This includes, the Republican Senate President, Senate Majority Leader, and several key committee chairs whose fealty to the far-right cause has disappointed the party’s base. The Koch brothers and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are providing the financial resources to fuel the purge.

For his part, Brownback has already turned on many Republican incumbents, throwing his support to primary challengers because the moderates, in his words, help “promote a Democrat [sic] agenda.”

A traditional poli-sci model might suggest this is risky. Most voters consider themselves mainstream and “somewhere in the middle,” and traditionally punish parties that become too extreme.

But in states like Kansas, Republicans figure they have nothing to worry about — the GOP dominates, and winning the primary means winning the seat.

For the activist right, this means there’s very little risk in fighting to replace more reasonable Republicans with ones who’ll mindlessly toe the party line.

In the post-Bush, post-financial-crisis, post-war era, the Republican Party has slowly been confronted with questions about what kind of party it wants to be in the 21st century. It appears the decision has been made: the GOP wants a small, rigid, right-wing party that tolerates very little dissent and even fewer moderates.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 3, 2012

August 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Opossum Republicans”: Olympia Snowe’s Stunning Surprise

When prominent members of Congress are considering retirement, there’s nearly always some kind of hint in advance of the announcement. Maybe they stop raising money; perhaps they’re slow to put a campaign organization together; maybe key staffers are seen moving to new jobs elsewhere; something.

But with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine, all of the evidence pointed in the other direction. Not only were there no hints about a pending departure, the Republican senator gave every indication of seeking another term, even moving considerably to the right.

It’s what made Snowe’s retirement announcement late yesterday such a stunning surprise.

“As I enter a new chapter, I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern, and I believe there are unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate. I intend to help give voice to my fellow citizens who believe, as I do, that we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America.”

There are a few angles to a story like this. First, in terms of the electoral consequences, Snowe’s announcement is a brutal setback for Republican plans to retake the Senate majority next year. As Steve Kornacki explained, “With Snowe in it, Democrats had virtually no chance of winning the Maine Senate race this year. Now they are likely to do so, given the state’s partisan bent.”

Second, I can’t help but wonder how much Snowe regrets her shift to the right, taking positions she never would have adopted earlier in her career.

Consider just the last few months. In October, she partnered with a right-wing Alabama senator to push a plan to make the legislative process even more difficult.  A week earlier, she demanded the administration act with “urgency” to address the jobs crisis, only to filibuster a popular jobs bill a day later. The week before that, Snowe prioritized tax cuts for millionaires over job creation. Shortly before that, Snowe tried to argue that  government spending is “clearly … the problem” when it comes to the  nation’s finances, which is a popular line among conservatives, despite being completely wrong.

There can be little doubt that Snowe has been Congress’ most moderate Republican for the last several years, but that doesn’t change the fact that as her party moved sharply to the right, she moved with it. Indeed, no matter how extreme the GOP became in recent years, Snowe simply kept her head down, going along with the crowd. When David Brooks complains about “Opossum Republicans,” he might as well have been referring to the senior senator from Maine.

And third, there’s the mystery surrounding what, exactly, led to yesterday’s announcement.

Snowe’s retirement wasn’t just a surprise; it’s practically bizarre. After three terms in the Senate, and giving every indication of seeking re-election, Olympia Snowe waited until two weeks before Maine’s filing deadline to bow out, and didn’t even tell her staff until yesterday afternoon. It all happened so quickly, the senator’s office hasn’t even posted her announcement online yet.

The news doesn’t appear to have been planned at all.

What’s more, Snowe’s statement is a little cryptic. Instead of the obligatory “spend more time with my family” rhetoric, the senator references “unique opportunities … outside the United States Senate.” What opportunities? She didn’t say.

Jon Chait’s theory may sound silly, but it’s a strange year and ideas that may seem foolish at first blush probably shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

This sounds exactly like the kind of rhetoric emanating from Americans Elect, the third-party group that believes that both parties should put aside partisanship and come together to enact an ever-so-slightly more conservative version of Barack Obama’s agenda. Moderate retiring senators often deliver lofty, vacuous paeans to bipartisanship on their way to a lucrative lobbying career. But Snowe’s statement seems unusually specific (“unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate”) about her intent to do something.

This strikes me as unlikely, but I guess it’s something to keep an eye on.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 29, 2012

February 29, 2012 Posted by | Right Wing, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not That Kind Of Conservative”: Do Republican Primary Voters Actually Prefer Moderates?

George H.W. Bush. Bob Dole. George W. Bush. John McCain. For all the talk about how Republicans are desperate for a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney — and the audition process that elevated Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum in turn — a look back at the men who’ve won the GOP nomination since Ronald Reagan left office suggests that maybe a majority of Republicans are happy to have a moderate as their nominee. On some issues, the Republican Party has moved to the right over time. Still, Republicans behave at the ballot box as if 1964 and 1980 were exceptional years when the conservative choices, Barry Goldwater and Reagan, won the nomination. More often, the conservative candidates lose, and while the losers are explained away by ticking off their particular flaws, the fact is that the more moderate alternatives have always been flawed too.

This year Mitt Romney won handily in Iowa and New Hampshire. Nate Silver has him leading in South Carolina. This despite the fact that no one would mistake him for a flawless candidate. But if Republican primary voters aren’t really as interested in nominating a conservative as is generally thought, what explains the conventional wisdom to the contrary? What mixes us up?

One place to begin is the thesis that most Republicans do want a conservative alternative, but they’re splitting their vote among a bunch of different choices. This is perhaps true, but misleading. A social conservative might prefer someone who is more conservative on abortion, like Rick Santorum. But if he drops out, the social con may decide to support Romney because he’s turned off by Rick Perry’s avowed desire to send troops back into Iraq and Ron Paul’s insistence on ending the Fed. He’s to Romney’s right on abortion, but to Perry’s “left” on foreign policy and Paul’s left on size of government. The moderate winds up being the best choice, which is to say, the one that most closely reflects his views on the whole spectrum of issues.

The label “conservative” tends to obscure the fact that the religious right, neo-cons, and fiscal conservatives diverge a lot in their attitudes about various matters, and the “most conservative” (here I mean farthest right) voice in each group tends to freak out all of the others. They all say they want a conservative, but confronted with actual choices, they wind up thinking to themselves, but not that kind of conservative, which is basically what Newt Gingrich meant when he stated that he couldn’t bring himself to support Paul if he’s the nominee.

There is also the fact that presidential elections are the moment in American politics when conservatives enjoy the fewest advantages. Think about it. In House elections, redistricting and safe seats has made it easier for folks farther right or left than the population as a whole to get elected. Fox News and talk radio cater to and amplify the voices of the niche conservative audience inclined to consume ideological media, not to moderate Republican voters. In contrast, presidential primaries encompass the whole pool of Republican Party voters, and more than usual, even the conservatives among them are concerned about electability. It’s no wonder that in some ways the process reveals the GOP to be more moderate than it does when it’s mouthpieces are firebrand House members or Rush Limbaugh or National Review.

Perhaps the GOP always has been and always will be inclined to nominate relative moderates, and conservatives only break through if they manage an exceptional mix of principle and charisma, and come along at exactly the right moment. By those metrics and others Goldwater and Reagan were candidates unusually well suited to the primaries in which they triumphed. This year Paul is the only Romney alternative who has managed to excite anyone for an extended period of time. And if that’s the choice, more Republicans than not will probably prefer the moderate.


By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, January 11, 2012



January 12, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can The Left Stage A Tea Party?

Why hasn’t there been a Tea Party on the left? And can President Obama and the American left develop a functional relationship?

That those two questions are not asked very often is a sign of how much of the nation’s political energy has been monopolized by the right from the beginning of Obama’s term. This has skewed media coverage of almost every issue, created the impression that the president is far more liberal than he is, and turned the nation’s agenda away from progressive reform.

A quiet left has also been very bad for political moderates. The entire political agenda has shifted far to the right because the Tea Party and extremely conservative ideas have earned so much attention. The political center doesn’t stand a chance unless there is a fair fight between the right and the left.

It’s not surprising that Obama’s election unleashed a conservative backlash. Ironically, disillusionment with George W. Bush’s presidency had pushed Republican politics right, not left. Given the public’s negative verdict on Bush, conservatives shrewdly argued that his failures were caused by his lack of fealty to conservative doctrine. He was cast as a big spender (even if a large chunk of the largess went to Iraq). He was called too liberal on immigration and a big-government guy for bailing out the banks, using federal power to reform the schools and championing a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Conservative funders realized that pumping up the Tea Party movement was the most efficient way to build opposition to Obama’s initiatives. And the media became infatuated with the Tea Party in the summer of 2009, covering its disruptions of congressional town halls with an enthusiasm not visible this summer when many Republicans faced tough questions from their more progressive constituents.

Obama’s victory, in the meantime, partly demobilized the left. With Democrats in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, stepped-up organizing didn’t seem quite so urgent.

The administration was complicit in this, viewing the left’s primary role as supporting whatever the president believed needed to be done. Dissent was discouraged as counterproductive.

This was not entirely foolish. Facing ferocious resistance from the right, Obama needed all the friends he could get. He feared that left-wing criticism would meld in the public mind with right-wing criticism and weaken him overall.

But the absence of a strong, organized left made it easier for conservatives to label Obama as a left-winger. His health-care reform is remarkably conservative — yes, it did build on the ideas implemented in Massachusetts that Mitt Romney once bragged about. It was nothing close to the single-payer plan the left always preferred. His stimulus proposal was too small, not too large. His new Wall Street regulations were a long way from a complete overhaul of American capitalism. Yet Republicans swept the 2010 elections because they painted Obama and the Democrats as being far to the left of their actual achievements.

This week, progressives will highlight a new effort to pursue the road not taken at a conference convened by the Campaign for America’s Future that opens Monday. It is a cooperative venture with a large number of other organizations, notably the American Dream Movement led by Van Jones, a former Obama administration official who wants to show the country what a truly progressive agenda around jobs, health care and equality would look like.  Jones freely acknowledges that “we can learn many important lessons from the recent achievements of the libertarian, populist right” and says of the progressive left: “This is our ‘Tea Party’ moment — in a positive sense.” The anti-Wall Street demonstators seem to have that sense, too.

What’s been missing in the Obama presidency is the productive interaction with outside groups that Franklin Roosevelt enjoyed with the labor movement and Lyndon B. Johnson with the civil rights movement. Both pushed FDR and LBJ in more progressive directions while also lending them support against their conservative adversaries.

The question for the left now, says Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America’s Future, is whether progressives can “establish independence and momentum” while also being able “to make a strategic voting choice.” The idea is not to pretend that Obama is as progressive as his core supporters want him to be, but to rally support for him nonetheless as the man standing between the country and the right wing.

A real left could usefully instruct Americans as to just how moderate the president they elected in 2008 is — and how far to the right conservatives have strayed.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 2, 2011

October 3, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Elections, GOP, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Voters | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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