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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 Low Sanity Threshold”: In Georgia, The Bar Is Scraping The Ground

Being back in Georgia always reminds me of the very different norms governing politics in Deep Red country. Yesterday I mentioned that in Georgia’s 11th district GOP runoff, Barry Loudermilk and Bob Barr were in disagreement about what, if anything, the U.S. should be doing in Iraq. I didn’t mention they both favored the impeachment of the president (Bob Barr touts his experience as a Clinton impeachment manager as a plus), though Loudermilk thinks maybe it’s a waste of time to pursue it so long as Senate action to finish it is unlikely.

In another GOP runoff in north Georgia, in the 10th congressional district, the Rev. Jody Hice, who finished first on May 20, is an aggressive supporter of the point of view that only Christians should benefit from First Amendment protection of religious liberties, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Jay Bookman reports:

“Although Islam has a religious component, it is much more than a simple religious ideology,” Hice wrote in his 2012 book. “It is a complete geo-political structure and, as such, does not deserve First Amendment protection.”

Hice believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating the United States, with the intent to impose Sharia law on all of us. He also believes that it’s fine for women to seek political office, at least if certain conditions are met. “If the woman’s within the authority of her husband, I don’t see a problem,” he told the Athens Banner-Herald in 2004.

That makes him a spiritual brother to 11th District candidate Loudermilk:

Loudermilk is an eager member of the Glenn Beck wing of the GOP. He is also an apostle of faux historian David Barton, who preaches that the U.S. Constitution is a document intended to create a conservative Christian government. Like Hice, they reject the notion of a separation between Christianity and state, and argue that the First Amendment was intended only to keep government from favoring one particular Christian denomination.

In their world view, Obama is anti-Christian and pro-Islamic, and they hint at darker motives.

Of course they do.

Loudermilk and Hice, of course, are seeking to succeed Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, respectively, in the House. So the sanity threshold is set pretty low.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 24, 2014

June 25, 2014 Posted by | Georgia, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mission Accomplished”: Tea Party Has Succeeded In Moving GOP Further Right

Last week, primary elections in several states killed off a few ultraconservative candidates whose views flirted with nuttiness. In Georgia, for example, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun — a physician who has called evolution and the big-bang theory “lies straight from the pit of hell” — drew only 9.8 percent of the vote in a crowded race to become the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate.

In the same Georgia primary contest, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, an obstetrician-gynecologist, pulled down just 10 percent of the vote. Last year, the gaffe-prone Gingrey drew national ridicule for defending former Missouri congressman Todd Akin, who had said that natural processes protect a woman from pregnancy after rape.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell easily dispatched a Republican challenger, Matt Bevin, who had suggested that legalizing gay marriage could lead to parents marrying their children.

Those results, among others, cheered the Republican establishment, which has grown tired of fielding weird candidates who cannot win general elections, and led to a round of obituaries for the Tea Party movement, which had backed several of the losers. According to the chattering classes, the election results prove that the Tea Party is on life support, a dying force in conservative politics. That goes double for the doyenne of the Tea Party movement, Sarah Palin, whose chosen candidate in the Georgia Senate primary, Karen Handel, also lost.

But that view is just wrong. Tea Partiers have already accomplished what they set out to do: move the Republican Party much further to the right. While the foot-in-mouth, reality-challenged candidates may have been swept from the stage, the Tea Party has grafted its DNA onto the GOP. The Republican Party is now a small tent of hard-right absolutists who deny science, worship the rich and detest compromise.

Ronald Reagan wouldn’t recognize his party — and wouldn’t be welcome there either, as former Florida governor Jeb Bush noted two years ago. “Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican Party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground,” he said.

Georgia’s Republican primary for an open U.S. Senate seat (as Senator Saxby Chambliss retires) was instructive. It was a frenzy of Obama-bashing, an unedifying contest among candidates who repeated far-right orthodoxy like a mantra. They pledged to fight Obamacare, to resist tax increases, to cut spending on social programs, to defend every citizen’s right to own a shoulder-fired rocket launcher. Each of them pledged to fight abortion, though they all want to cut the programs that help keep poor babies healthy.

When the leading candidate, millionaire businessman David Perdue, said something rational, it was denounced as a gaffe and used as fodder by his opponents. Asked by a Macon Telegraph editorial writer whether he would chose spending cuts or increased revenue to improve the economy, Perdue said “both.” His opponents jumped on the remark quickly, claiming he had given notice that he would raise taxes.

The peculiar aversion to compromise runs counter to the example set by Reagan, the patron saint of the modern conservative movement. He famously bartered with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill to arrive at a 1983 agreement to cut spending and raise taxes, which firmed up Social Security for a generation.

Yet, the Tea Party takeover of the GOP is holding strong, producing an adherence to far-right dogma. That’s what voters are likely to see in the runoff for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat, in which frontrunner Perdue will face U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston on July 22. Both candidates will feel pressure to prove themselves to the Tea Party supporters who voted for Gingrey, Broun and Handel, so they’ll engage in even more ultraconservative rhetoric and indulge even more right-wing impulses.

The Republican establishment thought that it was going to use the energy of far-right activists to win elections while remaining firmly in control. If any members of the GOP establishment — including old-line institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce — still believe that’s what happened, they are only fooling themselves.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, Visiting Professor at the University of Georgia; The National Memo, May 24, 2014

May 25, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“McConnell’s Tea Party Nightmare”: He Can’t Kill Them Because They Run His Party

OK, Sen. Mitch McConnell wasn’t brandishing a rifle at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday in order to shoot Tea Party marauders. The unpopular Senate Minority Leader was just trying to avoid being booed by the crowd, using the most reliable prop on the far right, a gun (President Obama in handcuffs would probably work well too). But the embattled leader did go ballistic this weekend, figuratively, on his party’s restive far-right activists. The Tea Party is not going to be able to knock off GOP senators in red states, McConnell warned.

“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” McConnell told the New York Times. “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”

Not surprisingly, McConnell is starting with his own Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin. He released a new ad trashing not only Bevin but the Senate Conservatives Fund that’s backing him, charging the group “solicits money under the guise of advocating for conservative principles but then spends it on a $1.4 million luxury townhouse with a wine cellar and hot tub in Washington, D.C.” Wine and hot tubs, you know what that means – these folks are probably just uppity liberal hypocrites in conservative clothing!

But McConnell’s crusade comes a few years too late. Clearly the Tea Party is already the mainstream of his party.  Just last week, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that Republican voters say a candidate’s Tea Party ties make it more likely they’ll support them, by a margin of nearly 2-1. Unfortunately for the GOP, Tea Party affiliation makes the broader electorate less likely to vote for a candidate by about the same margin.

Even some Republicans who the media oddly place in the “moderate” or pragmatic camp don’t belong there. Wisconsin’s scandal-challenged Gov. Scott Walker has bragged about being the original Tea Party in Wisconsin.” In a popular CPAC session using Wisconsin as “the model” for union-busting and right-wing coalition politics, the RNC’s Reince Priebus credited “total and complete unity between the state party, quite frankly, Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party groups, the Grandsons of Liberty. The [Glenn Beck-instigated] 9/12ers were involved. It was a total and complete agreement that …everyone was going to run down the tracks together.”

And while it’s true that Congressman Paul Ryan, endorsed in 2012 by the Tea Party Express as “the strong Tea Party candidate for Vice President,” has had tension with Tea Partiers since he partnered with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray to pass a budget, at CPAC Ryan downplayed the notion of a rift between himself and the party’s right, comparing intra-party debates to a “family reunion” among Irish-Americans. (Actually, nobody in my family wants to take lunches away from poor children, not even the Republicans among us.)

Now it is true that Tea Party challengers in three red states – Kentucky, Mississippi and Kansas – are having a hard time getting traction against reliably conservative GOP senate incumbents. One poll has McConnell up 42 points over Bevin; another has his lead at 26 points. Thad Cochran and Pat Roberts are likewise leading their Tea Party challengers.

But oddly, McConnell – and the Times – don’t even mention Georgia, where five extremists have been virtually tied for the lead in the GOP senate primary to succeed retiring Saxby Chambliss, competing for the opportunity to run against Michelle Nunn. The most extreme of the five, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, just pulled ahead in the last PPP poll. Broun would abolish the IRS, the EPA and the Department of Education, and wants the U.S. to pull out of the United Nations. He’s called evolution and the big bang theory “lies from the pit of hell.” Interestingly though, Broun is the only GOP candidate with a (slight) lead over Nunn in an early head to head match up; the others trail her. Presumably, in a one on one race, Nunn and the Democrats would have a lot to work with battling Broun. He is an early contender to be the Todd Akin of the 2014 cycle.

“I know this: Politics doesn’t like losers,” McConnell told the Times, suggesting defeats in primaries in places like Kentucky and Mississippi would discourage Tea Party insurgents. “If you don’t have anything to point to, it is kind of hard to keep it going.”

But while McConnell has a big lead over Bevin, he’s trailing his Democratic challenger, secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes. It’s far too early to count McConnell out, but it’s worth asking whether the far-right’s animus towards McConnell will make him the ultimate loser in November.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, March 10, 2014

March 11, 2014 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Heartbreak Of Extremism”: House Republican Leaders Are Afraid To Confront Radicals In Their Ranks

Seeing our government and our creditworthiness held hostage to the demands of a right-wing minority is infuriating. It’s also heartbreaking.

It’s heartbreaking because the only thing keeping our country from being its growing, innovative and successful self is genuinely and unnecessarily stupid politics.

The United States emerged from a horrific global recession in better shape than most other countries. Our recovery was slower than it had to be because of too much budget-cutting, too soon. Nonetheless, we avoided the more extreme forms of austerity and our economy has been coming back — at least until this made-in-the-House-Republican-Caucus crisis started.

It’s heartbreaking because a nation whose triumphs have always provided inspiration to proponents of democracy around the world is instead giving the champions of authoritarian rule a chance to use our dysfunction as an argument against democracy.

Does it really make House Speaker John Boehner proud that when the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank host global economic leaders on Thursday, one of their central pieces of business will be scolding the United States for using the debt limit as a political football?

It’s heartbreaking because the reward to President Obama for pursuing broadly middle-of-the-road policies is to be accused of being an ultra-liberal or, even more preposterously, a socialist. Are our right-wing multimillionaires and billionaires who are making more money than ever so unhinged that they can cast a modest tax hike as a large step toward a Soviet-style economy?

The most revealing example of the lunacy that now rules is the very health care plan that has Republicans so up in arms that they’re willing to wreck the economy to get it repealed. The Affordable Care Act is actually based on market principles that conservatives, including Mitt Romney and the Heritage Foundation, once endorsed. Its centerpiece promotes competition among insurers and subsidizes the purchase of private insurance.

It has little in common with the British National Health Service or the Canadian single-payer model — systems that work, by the way — except for sharing with them the goal of eventually covering everyone. Yet we have a shutdown driven by the idea, as Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) put it, that Obamacare constitutes the “greatest threat” to our economy. It should not surprise us when errant nonsense creates a nonsensical crisis.

And what’s going on is heartbreaking because this contrived emergency is distracting us from the problems we do need to solve, including rising inequality, declining mobility, under-investment in our infrastructure, a broken immigration system and inadequate approaches to educating and training our people.

Obama has finally decided he’s had enough of a politics based on “extortion” and “threats.” He has signaled that he is happy to negotiate, just not under a gun held by the most irresponsible elements of the GOP. He is exhausted, and rightly so, by the fecklessness of Boehner, who told Democrats early on that he would not shut the government down and then crumpled before a revolt by a corporal’s guard of 40 to 80 members of a 435-member House.

Now it is said by people who see themselves as realists that because he is dealing with irrational foes, Obama has to be the “adult in the room.” The definition of “adult” in this case is that he must cave a little because the other side is so bonkers that it just might upend the economy.

Giving in is exactly what Obama cannot do. The president offered Boehner a face-saving way out on Tuesday by suggesting he’d be happy to engage in broad budget talks if the government reopened and there was at least a short-term increase in the debt limit. To go any further would be to prove to the far right that its extra-constitutional extremism will pay dividends every time.

What’s required from the outside forces who want this mess to go away is unrelenting pressure on Boehner and the supposedly more reasonable Republicans who say they want to open the government and pay our debts. Up to now these Republicans have been the enablers of the Tea Party faction. They’re the ones who must become the “adults in the room” because they’re the ones who allowed all this to happen.

The Tea Party folks at least know what they believe and fight for it. The rest of the Republican Party cowers before them, lacking both conviction and courage. It would be truly heartbreaking if a once-great political party brought the country down because its leaders were so afraid of confronting unreason in their ranks.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 10, 2013

October 12, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Government Shut Down, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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