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“RINO Trophies”: In Georgia, Two Republicans Face Primary Challenges For Not Being Extremist Enough

With the Republican nomination contest being essentially over (yes, there’s a primary in Washington, but it doesn’t matter who wins or loses) and the Democratic battle taking a brief break (yes, Washington Democrats will vote, but it’s only a nonbinding “beauty contest” primary), it will be a quiet political Tuesday night except for runoff elections in Texas and down-ballot primaries in Georgia.

In the latter primaries, though, there’s an intriguing right-wing effort to purge two North Georgia Republican congressmen for being insufficiently right-wing: specifically for voting for John Boehner for speaker before the Ohioan quit and for voting to keep the federal government open despite its funding of Obamacare and Planned Parenthood.

What makes it all interesting is that the two solons in question — 11th-district representative Barry Loudermilk and ninth-district representative Doug Collins — would be considered a tad out there themselves in much of the country. Loudermilk (a freshman who ran to the right of another hero of the mad fringe, Bob Barr, in his original primary) is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and an outspoken “constitutional conservative.” Collins, who’s notable for being both an ordained Baptist minister and a lawyer, is probably best known for defending military chaplains (he’s one himself in the Reserves) who get a little carried away with proselytizing.

But while both congressmen are facing multiple opponents all shrieking at them for their alleged betrayal of True Conservatism, Collins has drawn the marquee challenger: his former House colleague Paul Broun, a favorite of extremism aficionados everywhere.

Until he left the House for a failed Senate bid in 2014, Broun was one of those pols who said incredible things with every other breath. Perhaps his most famous moment was when this member of the House Science Committee delivered a speech in his district referring to evolution and various other scientific teachings that conflict with his conservative Evangelical views as “lies from the pit of hell.” So notorious was Broun as a proud know-nothing that a significant number of write-in votes in his district were cast for Charles Darwin.

Now Broun is aiming his peculiar brand of thunder and lightning at Collins, and he has the advantage of having represented about half the current ninth district before the last rounds of redistricting. But Broun is being dogged by ethics charges dating from his congressional service that recently led to a criminal indictment of his former top chief of staff.

Both Loudermilk and Collins are expected to come out on top in tonight’s returns. But the catch is that Georgia requires majorities for nominations, and being knocked into a crazy-low-turnout runoff would be perilous for either incumbent. A wild card is that North Georgia right-wing activists have already been stirred up by the treachery of another of their own: Governor (and former ninth-district congressman) Nathan Deal, who recently vetoed a “religious liberty” bill aimed at making anti-LGBT discrimination easier. (On the principle of in-for-a-penny, in-for-a-pound, Deal, who is safely in his second and final term, subsequently infuriated the gun lobby by vetoing a “campus carry” bill getting rid of restrictions on shooting irons at colleges and universities. Where will the betrayals end?)

The one thing we know for sure is that there’s no degree of extremism in the GOP that will give Democrats a chance at either House seat. These are two of the most profoundly Republican districts east of Utah. And, so far as we know, Charles Darwin’s not even in the race.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 26, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Down Ballot Candidates, Georgia, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Steady Drumbeat”: Republican Governors Buck Party Tenets To Seek Expanded Medicaid

Republican governors are pressing forward to expand Medicaid even after being stymied by lawmakers in their own party.

As the Obama administration vows to help develop plans that will pass muster with conservatives, the governors of Utah and Wyoming said they still want the health care program for the poor broadened. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who declined to act in 2013, may seek a federal waiver to make insurance available to more residents. Louisiana’s Republican legislature also opened a legal door.

Their views challenge party orthodoxy, even if some governors are crafting their own proposals and denying that what they’re doing is expanding Medicaid. Twenty states have refused the expansion under President Barack Obama’s 2009 health care overhaul because of cost and ideological opposition. The resistance is easing as states see a chance to recoup tax dollars and help hospitals get paid for charity care.

“This is about your citizens’ financial and health security, and it’s also about the economic health of your states,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, U.S. secretary of health and human services, said Saturday at a National Governors Association meeting in West Virginia. “We want to help you design a system.”

This month, Alaska became the 30th state to expand, including 10 with Republican governors, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-research group in Menlo Park, California. Gov. Bill Walker, a first-term independent, used his authority under state law to accept the expansion unless the legislature returns by September 1 and votes it down.

“I did it unilaterally because it was the right thing to do,” Walker said in an interview.

Governors in Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming lack the ability to act alone, and their Republican-led legislatures declined to adopt expansion this year.

Even so, Utah’s Gary Herbert plans to meet with legislative leaders this week and said he hopes to call a special session in September to pass what he’s calling an alternative to Medicaid expansion.

Herbert’s program also would require a waiver from Medicaid officials for elements designed to appeal to Republicans, such as having applicants get job training.

“I’m optimistic,” Herbert said in an interview. “I think our approach is better than traditional government-assistance Medicaid.”

In Georgia, lawmakers last year blocked the governor from expanding Medicaid without their approval. A provision tucked into this year’s budget, though, allows the state to pursue a waiver.

Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead called his expansion effort “a colossal failure.” Still, he hopes to bring it back in February’s budget session or in 2017.

“It’s going to take probably some time and continued work by all of us to eventually get to that point,” Mead said.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, said he doesn’t know whether he’ll try next year after failing in February.

While Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican presidential candidate, has been an adamant opponent, his state still could move, said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University.

Jindal leaves office at year’s end, and Republicans running to replace him have all expressed support for expansion in some form, she said. The legislature has passed a provision requiring hospitals to pay the state’s share of expansion.

“I don’t think we are going to see a super-large number of states moving forward,” Alker said. “But it is a steady drumbeat.”


By: Mark Niquette and Margaret Newkirk, The National Memo, July 29, 2015

August 1, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Medicaid Expansion, Republican Governors | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Devil Came Down To Georgia And Paid Off Judas”: Republicans Want Their Own Tidy Little Jim Crow Zone Of Discrimination

In some startling, if preliminary, good news from Georgia, members of a state House committee, including three Republicans, “gutted” a religious liberty bill by adding language foreswearing any preemption of anti-discrimination laws. Proponents of the bill quickly moved to table it for the session, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Aaron Gould Sheinin:

The stunning move to table Senate Bill 129 came after Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, succeeded in amending it to make clear that the bill would protect against “discrimination on any ground prohibited by federal, state or local law.”

“I take at face value the statements of proponents that they do not intend discrimination with this bill,” Jacobs said. “I also believe that if this is the case, we as the General Assembly should state that expressly in the bill itself.”

Ha ha! Good one!

But “religious liberty” fans are not amused by having their own words quoted back to them. Erick Erickson, who often treats Georgia politics like his own personal dominion, pitched a hissy fit that’s extreme even by his porous standards, focusing on two Republicans who appeared to switch sides by voting with Jacobs, and a third who didn’t vote on the amendment.

Yesterday, I encouraged everyone to call Beth Beskin, Jay Powell, and Wendell Willard to tell them thank you. They had stood with Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, and people of faith. They fought off attempts to gut the religious liberty legislation in Georgia.

After you had taken the time to call them, Beth Beskin, Jay Powell, and Wendell Willard stabbed you in the back.

A week before we remember the anniversary of Judas selling out our Lord for 30 pieces of silver, Beth Beskin, Jay Powell, and Wendell Willard have sold out people of faith.

The very amendments they stopped that would have gutted the religious liberty bill, they put back in yesterday. They saved RFRA in a subcommittee only to kill it in full committee. And they did it after you had thanked them for sparing the legislation.

This is a serious betrayal. They stabbed you in the back as you were thanking them for defending your faith.

Whoa, Erick, remember you’re supposed to be the fearful, persecuted victim here, not a raging vengeful homophobe. Start tossing around references to Judas and you might find yourself tempted to lead one of those medieval-style Good Friday pogroms if you are not careful (as the AJC pointed out this morning, the prime mover in “gutting” the bill, Mark Jacobs, is Jewish).

What the incident makes clear, of course, is that the whole point of “religious liberty” legislation is to sanction discrimination. These people fully intend to discriminate, and demand the right to do so, because they’ve convinced themselves (by conflating traditional secular culture with Christianity, and then finding a few lifted-out-of-context references in Scripture that seem to back it up) that God wants them to discriminate against gay people as unclean. They want their own tidy little Jim Crow zone of discrimination where they benefit from the laws and policies they approve of but are allowed to disregard the others.

But as Erickson demonstrates, the really hard thing for them is to reconcile the appropriate appearance of Christ-like suffering at their terrible victimization with the fury they clearly feel at losing control of the political and legal system, if only for a moment.

One other reason the Freedom to Discriminate coalition is angry is that it is being “betrayed” not just by RINO legislators, but by the business community, which in Georgia and elsewhere, doesn’t want to sacrifice convention business in order to let people defy anti-discrimination laws.

These in Erick’s analogy are the equivalents to the Jewish priests who paid off Judas to turn over Christ to Roman soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane. But the conspiracy apparently is even wider: Erickson points to Gov. Nathan Deal–a hard-core Christian Right pol–for allegedly being on the brink of appointing the chief betrayer of the faithful, Mark Jacobs, to a judgeship.

Having repeatedly appropriated to himself the right to determine who is and is not a “Christian,” ol’ Erick clearly needs to do some more purging of the Republican ranks to make the GOP safe for people who want to appropriate the right to determine which laws to obey.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 27, 2015

March 28, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Georgia, Religious Liberty | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Those Lazy Jobless”: The Urge To Blame The Victims Of A Depressed Economy Has Proved Impervious To Logic And Evidence

Last week John Boehner, the speaker of the House, explained to an audience at the American Enterprise Institute what’s holding back employment in America: laziness. People, he said, have “this idea” that “I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this. I think I’d rather just sit around.” Holy 47 percent, Batman!

It’s hardly the first time a prominent conservative has said something along these lines. Ever since a financial crisis plunged us into recession it has been a nonstop refrain on the right that the unemployed aren’t trying hard enough, that they are taking it easy thanks to generous unemployment benefits, which are constantly characterized as “paying people not to work.” And the urge to blame the victims of a depressed economy has proved impervious to logic and evidence.

But it’s still amazing — and revealing — to hear this line being repeated now. For the blame-the-victim crowd has gotten everything it wanted: Benefits, especially for the long-term unemployed, have been slashed or eliminated. So now we have rants against the bums on welfare when they aren’t bums — they never were — and there’s no welfare. Why?

First things first: I don’t know how many people realize just how successful the campaign against any kind of relief for those who can’t find jobs has been. But it’s a striking picture. The job market has improved lately, but there are still almost three million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months, the usual maximum duration of unemployment insurance. That’s nearly three times the pre-recession total. Yet extended benefits for the long-term unemployed have been eliminated — and in some states the duration of benefits has been slashed even further.

The result is that most of the unemployed have been cut off. Only 26 percent of jobless Americans are receiving any kind of unemployment benefit, the lowest level in many decades. The total value of unemployment benefits is less than 0.25 percent of G.D.P., half what it was in 2003, when the unemployment rate was roughly the same as it is now. It’s not hyperbole to say that America has abandoned its out-of-work citizens.

Strange to say, this outbreak of anti-compassionate conservatism hasn’t produced a job surge. In fact, the whole proposition that cruelty is the key to prosperity hasn’t been faring too well lately. Last week Nathan Deal, the Republican governor of Georgia, complained that many states with Republican governors have seen a rise in unemployment and suggested that the feds were cooking the books. But maybe the right’s preferred policies don’t work?

That is, however, a topic for another column. My question for today is instead one of psychology and politics: Why is there so much animus against the unemployed, such a strong conviction that they’re getting away with something, at a time when they’re actually being treated with unprecedented harshness?

Now, as anyone who has studied British policy during the Irish famine knows, self-righteous cruelty toward the victims of disaster, especially when the disaster goes on for an extended period, is common in history. Still, Republicans haven’t always been like this. In the 1930s they denounced the New Deal and called for free-market solutions — but when Alf Landon accepted the 1936 presidential nomination, he also emphasized the “plain duty” of “caring for the unemployed until recovery is attained.” Can you imagine hearing anything similar from today’s G.O.P.?

Is it race? That’s always a hypothesis worth considering in American politics. It’s true that most of the unemployed are white, and they make up an even larger share of those receiving unemployment benefits. But conservatives may not know this, treating the unemployed as part of a vaguely defined, dark-skinned crowd of “takers.”

My guess, however, is that it’s mainly about the closed information loop of the modern right. In a nation where the Republican base gets what it thinks are facts from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, where the party’s elite gets what it imagines to be policy analysis from the American Enterprise Institute or the Heritage Foundation, the right lives in its own intellectual universe, aware of neither the reality of unemployment nor what life is like for the jobless. You might think that personal experience — almost everyone has acquaintances or relatives who can’t find work — would still break through, but apparently not.

Whatever the explanation, Mr. Boehner was clearly saying what he and everyone around him really thinks, what they say to each other when they don’t expect others to hear. Some conservatives have been trying to reinvent their image, professing sympathy for the less fortunate. But what their party really believes is that if you’re poor or unemployed, it’s your own fault.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 22, 2014

September 23, 2014 Posted by | Economy, GOP, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Right-Wing Incumbent’s”: Five Awful GOP Governors Who Need To Go

Senate, Senate, Senate. Of course it’s the most important battle this fall, the top fight on the card. But there’s a lot of other action to watch. I’ll write plenty about Senate races between now and Election Day, but today, let’s look at the key governors races. From a liberal point of view, there are five that are clearly the most important; five where taking out the right-wing incumbent would be gratifying either for its own sake, for what it might suggest about 2016, or in some cases both. Here we go, in order:

1. Rick Scott, Florida. Scott seems to be maintaining a slender lead over Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, who’s running against him. But it’s all margin-of-error stuff at this point—Scott leads narrowly in most polls, and every so often one finds Crist ahead. There is a third candidate, Libertarian Adrian Wyllie, who’s running between 4 and 8 percent and, according to one poll, drawing equally from Scott and Crist.

The most important thing about this race is not political but—lo and behold!—substantive. If Crist wins, the biggest state in the union that is not participating in Obamacare may do so. Governor Crist would have to battle with the legislature about accepting the Medicaid money, but this has been a central plank of his campaign, just as refusing the money has been central to Scott’s campaign. If Crist were to win and push acceptance of the funds through, the state could gain $66 billion in federal dollars over the next decade and insure 1.1 million more people. It’d be a huge step forward for the Affordable Care Act.

And of course there are 2016 ramifications as well. In most states that have taken the Medicaid money, doing so has turned out to be pretty popular. If Crist gets in and manages to implement Obamacare in a reasonably successful way, that has to help whoever the Democratic candidate is. And when a party controls a governor’s mansion, its donor base is more engaged and its network of local activists and volunteers is more energized.

2. Scott Walker, Wisconsin. I’m confident I speak for all of American liberalism when I say we’d love to see this smarmy, smug, self-satisfied little blobfish go down to defeat. Right now, he’s basically tied with Democrat Mary Burke. He’s ahead by three points in one recent poll, she’s up four in another. One factor that could help Walker in turnout terms is that, of the state’s eight congressional districts, the only two in which the races are competitive are GOP-leaning districts, so that could push Republican turnout up a bit. On the other hand, Obama’s job approval in Wisconsin isn’t so bad, at 45-49, so it’s not like a Kentucky or Arkansas, where loads of conservative voters are going to vote just to register their animus toward the president.

I rank Walker second on my list because he’s a potential presidential contender for 2016. The conventional wisdom now in Washington is that he’s the 2016 Tim Pawlenty—the guy who looks good on paper but isn’t ready for prime time. But who knows, the conventional wisdom is wrong all the time about these things. And if somehow Walker were to demonstrate that he’s ready for prime time and capture the Republican nomination, then there’s a chance he could win—only a chance, I think—his home state, and that’s 10 electoral votes that would really alter the Electoral College calculus (the Democrats haven’t lost Wisconsin since 1984). Better just to take him out now and not have to worry about such exigencies.

3. Nathan Deal, Georgia. A true wingnut, former House member Deal has presided over the new gun law that lets people pack heat in America’s busiest airport, spoken fondly of the old Stars and Bars, and sent most of the other signals you’d expect someone like that to send to reactionary white voters. While in the House, he was something of a birth-certificate “truther.” That all combines to stand a chance of rendering Deal a bit much even by the hardened standards of the Peach State, where polls show him one or two goober peas ahead of Jason Carter, grandson of Jimmy. Carter is well to grandpap’s right—he supported the new gun law, for example. But at least he’d probably not say things like, “My wife tells me she could look at her sixth-grade class and tell ya which ones are going to prison and which ones are going to college.”

But here’s the real importance of this race: A Carter win would terrify the GOP heading into 2016. Remember, Obama lost the state by just eight points. I can guarantee you that on the day after the election in 2012, when political pros on both sides saw that result, their universal next thought was: Holy smokes, Hillary could win that state. And indeed, while statewide opinion polling on Clinton vs. GOP field in ’16 is scant, as often as not, it shows that she leads the major Republicans already. A Carter victory would start intensive “Will Georgia Turn Blue?” talk. Whereas a flip of Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes would make life a little more complicated for the Democrats, a flip of Georgia’s 16 would pulverize any GOP chances of the White House.

4. Rick Snyder, Michigan. Like Walker, Snyder is an anomaly, a conservative Republican who won in a usually slightly left-of-center state in 2010, the tea party year. He’s been better than Walker—he did, for example, come around to accepting the Obamacare Medicaid money after having initially opposed it. And he signed a bill raising the minimum wage. But he’s been plenty conservative, too, pushing for hugely controversial right-to-work legislation, and presiding over the usual scorched-earth public education policies. Snyder is basically tied with Democrat Mark Schauer.

Snyder is too conservative for that state. It’s as if, oh, Indiana had a Democratic governor—it’s something that happens, but it’s just not the natural order of things. Besides which, if he wins reelection, we’re going to have to endure a mountain of GOP spin about how the party is going to take back Michigan in ’16, even though Republicans haven’t carried it since 1988. If he loses, there’s a sporting chance the media will be less gullible about such nonsense

5. Paul LePage, Maine. This one has no 2016 ramifications. The Democratic presidential candidate will win Maine, although the state is one of two where it’s legal to split electors, so the Republican could conceivably win one of the state’s four electoral votes. But LePage is just America’s highest-ranking elected baboon, with a long string of comments that aren’t just “incendiary,” to employ one of the standard euphemisms, but simply embarrassing to the Republican Party, the state of Maine, and the human race. He’s running just a hair behind Democrat Mike Michaud, a member of the House of Representatives. There’s an independent candidate polling in the low double digits and stealing more from Michaud than LePage, so he might be the incumbent’s salvation.

There are several other important governor’s races. I left Kansas’ Sam Brownback off my list because it already looks as if, while there’s still plenty of time on the clock, he’s going to lose. But the significance of a Republican incumbent governor losing in Kansas would be pretty great, although obviously it wouldn’t impact 2016, since a Democratic presidential candidate will win Kansas the same year the great and powerful Oz returns in his hot-air balloon to the state fair. Arizona, Colorado, and Illinois are all tight races, too. There’s no denying it. Election night is likely to be a long night for liberals. But catching glimpses of the concession speeches from the above quintumverate would make the night a lot less painful.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 22, 2014

September 23, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republican Governors | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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