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“Locals Very Anxious About The Bad Vibes”: Republican Insiders Are Dreading Their Own Convention

Cleveland is one of those cities that has invested a whole lot in rehabilitating a once-dismal image, with some success. Now it’s probably better known as a vibrant music center (home of a fine symphony orchestra and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) than as another decaying Rust Belt graveyard full of industrial ghosts. There’s a major NASA facility there. Cleveland has its share of foodies and hipsters. The sports scene once probably best defined by the Ten Cent Beer Night riot that canceled an Indians’ game in 1974 now has produced an NBA championship.

But as is the case in a lot of cities fighting a bad rep, there’s a certain strained boosterism to Cleveland’s self-promotion, perhaps best characterized by the frenetic “Cleveland Rocks!” assertions that festooned comedian Drew Carey’s long-running ABC sitcom. So you have to figure the locals are very anxious about the bad vibes surrounding next week’s Republican National Convention. Will the event be remembered as another (to borrow the term of derision once commonly applied to the huge, frigid Cleveland Stadium until its demolition in 1996) Mistake by the Lake?

Of course, the widespread “dread” of the convention among GOP insiders that Politico‘s Alex Isenstadt wrote about today has less to do with the convention’s locale than with the Trump nomination it will formalize. An unprecedented number of elected officials are finding somewhere else to be next week. Political operatives who would normally no more miss a convention than a child would forget her or his own birthday are planning hit-and-run visits to conduct essential business only. Several big corporations are canceling what would normally be routine sponsorships (Isenstadt reports ominously that some local caterers are laying off staff because of the reduced number of corporate events).

There will not be a shortage, however, of media observers, many of whom are coming to Cleveland in hopes of seeing some sort of garish and horrific spectacle, whether it’s a fight over the convention rules, violence in the streets, or just an exceptionally cheesy Trump-driven agenda of C-class celebrities and washed-up athletes.

Totally aside from the hostility to Trump many Republican Establishment types feel, there’s a sense this convention could rank down there with Barry Goldwater’s Cow Palace convention in 1964 as the kickoff to a general-election fiasco.

But perhaps an even greater source of “dread” is the potential contrast between chaos outside the convention arena and tedium inside.

At a time when the nation is reeling from a series of mass shootings, there is widespread concern about safety in Cleveland. Increasing the worry is the nature of Trump’s campaign events, which have at times resulted in racially charged violence between his supporters and critics. The convention is expected to draw scores of protesters, ranging from Black Lives Matter to white-supremacist groups.

Thanks to Ohio’s robust “concealed carry” law, Cleveland police are being reduced to begging protesters not to bring along their shooting irons. Fortunately, the more respectable Trump supporters are ahead of the curve:

Tim Selaty, director of operations at Citizens for Trump, said his group was paying for private security to bolster the police presence. While Mr. Selaty said people should be allowed to carry guns, his group is banning long weapons from a rally in a park it is hosting on Monday.

“We’re going to insist that they leave any long arms out for sure because we believe that will make sure our people are safer,” he said. “In other words, no AR-15s, no shotguns or sniper rifles — all of the things that you would think somebody would bring in to hurt a lot of people in a very short time.”

Gee, that’s a relief: at least some people in the protest zone will have nothing more troublesome at hand than their hand cannons.

In a terrible affront to both the Second Amendment and the constitutional doctrine of federalism, the Obama Secret Service has banned firearms inside the convention perimeter itself. But the biggest worry Republicans have about what goes on inside Quicken Loans Arena involves Team Trump’s apparent disorganization in planning the convention. Six days out, and more than a week after Trump himself boasted the speaking schedule was full-to-overflowing, there’s still no convention schedule available. A relative handful of isolated announcements have been made about this or that elected official agreeing to speak at the convention, in a sharp departure from the usual assumption that all of them would be there and most of them above the rank of dogcatcher would be offered three minutes during a sleepy afternoon session. We’re all beginning to wonder if there will be a schedule in place when the convention officially opens on Monday.

All in all, it’s not looking good for Republicans or for Cleveland. If the convention is a mess or if violence erupts outside it, you can be sure that media types will reach for long-buried symbols of Cleveland disasters like the occasions in the 1960s and 1970s when the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River caught on fire. Thanks to a generation of environmental efforts nationally and locally, that doesn’t happen anymore. But it could be an apt metaphor if RNC ’16 goes up in flames.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 12, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Cleveland OH, Donald Trump, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Paul Ryan Is Doomed, Too”: He Will End Up In The Same Position As Boehner — Held Hostage By The Freedom Caucus

A week ago, Paul Ryan looked doomed. Now, he looks really, truly doomed.

The Wisconsin Republican, who achieved national prominence as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, seems more likely than ever to become the next speaker of the House. A devout man of faith, he will need your prayers.

When incumbent John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his resignation, Ryan made clear he did not want the job. Who on earth would? Boehner spent his tenure trying — and failing — to corral ultra-conservative Republicans into a working majority.

GOP victories in the 2010 midterm elections had swept into office a group of nihilistic renegades who believe the way to change Washington is to blow it up.

Now calling themselves the Freedom Caucus, these 40 or so legislative bomb-throwers insisted on fighting battles they had no chance of winning and repeatedly took the country to the brink of calamity.

They threatened government shutdowns (and achieved one). They tried to block routine increases in the federal debt ceiling. They kept the House from passing spending bills in key areas, such as transportation, where there once was bipartisan agreement. They insisted on more than 50 useless attempts to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act, knowing these measures would fail in the Senate or be vetoed by President Obama.

As presumptive speaker, Ryan can look forward to more of the same.

Ryan is seen as the only figure who could potentially unite the fractious GOP caucus. As such, he has leverage — and he is trying his best to use it.

He insisted on having the support of all 247 Republicans before he would accept the job. But now he is reportedly willing to settle for less.

The Freedom Caucus announced Wednesday that a “supermajority” of its members would back Ryan. There was no official endorsement from the group, however, which means the unspecified majority fell short of 80 percent.

That doesn’t sound so bad — perhaps 10 or fewer unreconciled renegades, who theoretically could be marginalized. “I believe this is a positive step toward a unified Republican team,” Ryan said. But in courting the ultra-conservatives, he reportedly made concessions that seem to guarantee that the speaker’s gavel will be a symbol of misery, not of power.

The main problem is that Ryan is said to have promised to follow the “Hastert rule,” named for former speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), requiring that legislation have the support of a majority of the GOP caucus before it is brought to the House floor.

Boehner had to break the Hastert rule whenever ultra-conservatives threatened to bring about disaster — a potentially catastrophic default because the debt limit needed to be raised, for example. In those instances, Boehner got the legislation passed with a cobbled-together majority comprising Democrats and moderate Republicans.

To keep his job, Boehner generally kept to the Hastert rule on other, less critical legislation. This is what made the Congresses he led so spectacularly unproductive.

In 2013, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Had Boehner brought the legislation to the floor of the House, it almost surely would have passed — but with the votes of Democrats and GOP moderates. A majority of the Republican caucus opposed comprehensive reform, so Boehner never allowed a vote on it.

Immigration, at least, is a hot-button issue; transportation is not. Yet Boehner could not even get a majority of his caucus to support a routine six-year transportation bill. This is the kind of legislation that used to be a simple matter of arithmetic and routinely passed with broad bipartisan support. For today’s House Republicans, however, fixing roads and bridges is somehow an ideological issue. Just about everything, in fact, is an ideological issue.

If Ryan does become speaker and respects the Hastert rule, he will end up in the same position as Boehner — held hostage by the Freedom Caucus. In his meeting with the group, moreover, he reportedly softened his demand to eliminate a House procedure in which any member can call for a vote to “vacate the chair,” or kick the speaker out of his job. And he also reportedly promised to devolve more power to the rank and file, which is precisely the opposite of what needs to happen.

If Ryan gets the job, he will likely enjoy a honeymoon period. But the fundamental problem — no functional GOP majority — will remain. Ryan believes government should be small. Much of his caucus believes it should be thwarted.

Sounds like doom to me.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 22, 2015

October 23, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Insufficiently Conservative”: It Doesn’t Matter Who The Next Speaker Is Because This Is A Permanent Conservative Rebellion

Many Republicans are looking at what’s happening in the House of Representatives right now with something between consternation and horror. The party is tearing itself apart, unable to pick a leader for one of its key institutional bases of power and riven by disagreements that seem unbridgeable.

But you want to know who isn’t upset about all this? The ultra-conservative members who are driving it, not to mention the conservative organizations and media figures who are cheering them on. They’re having a blast.

The most important thing to understand about what’s happening now is that this is a permanent rebellion. It has its demands, both substantive and procedural, but those demands aren’t the point, and if they were met, new ones would be forthcoming. For the people behind the chaos, rebellion itself is the point. It’s about the fight, not about the outcome of that fight. They will never stop rebelling.

That’s why it doesn’t really matter much who actually ends up in the Speaker’s chair. Whoever that Speaker is, he’ll be judged inadequate, not enough of a fighter, too willing to roll over. After all, no matter who he is or what he does (and yes, I’m assuming it will be a man, because there aren’t any viable female candidates at this point), he won’t successfully repeal Obamacare, or send all the illegals away, or slash taxes rates, or outlaw abortion, or pound his gavel until the thunderous vibrations reach down Pennsylvania Avenue and drive that usurper Barack Obama out of the White House and back to Chicago. In the eyes of the rebels, the next Speaker will fail, just like his predecessor did. And the rebellion will have to continue.

Speculation today centers around Paul Ryan, who commands a good deal of respect within the caucus. Though Ryan has said repeatedly that he isn’t interested in being Speaker — he’s now chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a powerful position he sought for some time — he is coming under intense pressure from colleagues to accept the post. Here’s how Paul Kane and Robert Costa described the state of affairs this morning:

By mid-afternoon, outgoing speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had spoken to Ryan at least twice, trying to convince the reluctant congressman that he was the only man who could save House Republicans from their self-created chaos.

By day’s end, after hunkering down for two hours in his ceremonial office a few steps from the House floor, after listening to pleas from friends to take the reins of the bitterly divided Republican caucus, he emerged, declining to explicitly state his plans…

As they voted on the House floor late Thursday, Ryan was besieged by his GOP colleagues. As the lawmakers huddled, Ryan aides canceled his fundraising and political events for the next 48 hours, a move interpreted by his friends as a signal that he had gone from a hard “no” to undecided after speaking with Boehner.

The latest statement from Ryan’s office reiterates: “Chairman Ryan appreciates the support he’s getting from his colleagues but is still not running for Speaker.” Of course, this could still change.

The assumption among many is that Ryan could be a unifying figure, the only one who could bring together the fractious caucus. But not only is there no particular reason to think that’s true, his potential candidacy for Speaker is already dividing the party.

Ryan is being promoted by establishment sources like the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the National Review, which in itself is being read by the rebels as a reason to reject him. Influential radio host Laura Ingraham tweeted: “Are they talking abt the same Paul Ryan who once lost a VP debate to JOE BIDEN?” She added, “Chaos? Only if you are bought and paid for by the Establishment. Cathartic for most.” “Paul Ryan Is The Absolute Worst Choice For Speaker,” says Brietbart.com, explaining that he’s really a weakling who’ll knuckle under just like John Boehner did.

The House Freedom Caucus, which has become the center of the rebellion, has a document outlining its current demands in the form of a questionnaire for any potential Speaker, which includes things like not raising the debt ceiling without “significant structural entitlement reforms” (i.e. cutting and restructuring Medicare and Social Security); shutting down the government unless they can defund Planned Parenthood, repeal Obamacare, invalidate the Iran deal, and more; and perhaps most importantly, a series of process “reforms” that would take power away from the Speaker to determine how legislation proceeds and distribute it around to all the members of the caucus. They seem to want to ensure not only that the next Speaker is someone disinclined to make compromises with the Senate or the White House, but that he won’t be able to even if he wanted to.

They’re not going to get all that from the next Speaker, which they surely know. But deep down that’s probably okay with them, because in a way, not getting what they want is exactly what they want. They didn’t come to Washington to write legislation and craft policy. They came to fight — to fight Barack Obama, and just as important (if not more so), to fight their own party’s leadership. Many of them won their seats in the first place by either challenging incumbent Republicans who were deemed insufficiently conservative and confrontational, or besting a field of primary contenders by proving they would fight the establishment with more vigor and venom than anyone else. Every defeat only makes them more sure that the answer is to fight harder. This is their purpose. Fighting is energizing, exciting, and inspiring, much more than sitting in some boring subcommittee hearing.

There’s a reason old rebels keep talking about “the revolution” years and decades after they came out of the jungle and stormed the capital. Nothing about the work of governing can match the righteous thrill of the battle against the oppressors. The innovation the tea partiers brought to Washington was that you could get power, but then not bother to figure out how to use it to achieve the policy goals you claim to hold. Instead, you could just keep fighting, so the rebellion never ends. It’s obvious now that’s precisely what they intend to do, no matter who the next Speaker of the House is.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 9, 2015

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, House Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Not What The People Want”: Scott Walker Failed Because He Followed The Republican Party’s Playbook

On Monday evening, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that he was dropping out of the 2016 presidential race. “Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive conservative message can rise to the top of the field,” he said. He claimed his decision was motivated by a desire to help voters “focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive conservative alternative to the current front-runner,” a reference to Donald Trump.

That Walker would leave on that note is only natural: No candidate has suffered more, or more directly, from Trump’s insurgent 2016 run. Eight months ago, Walker, a deeply red governor in a traditionally blue state, was a favorite to win his party’s nomination. He had garnered a national reputation among conservatives, including the wealthy donor class, thanks to victories in dogged local fights over budget austerity and labor issues. His environmental agenda was as dangerous as any we are likely to see this campaign season. With a folksy, Cheez Whiz sort of charm, and a proven record of conservative achievements, he seemed the perfect vessel through which to unite the increasingly powerless Republican establishment with its increasingly volatile fringe.

This was supposed to be the model for the Republican Party’s success in 2016 and beyond, as outlined in the GOP’s autopsy report following the 2012 election. “Republican governors, conservatives at their core, have campaigned and governed in a manner that is inclusive and appealing,” the report stated. “They point the way forward.”

Across the board, however, the aversion to established Republican leaders is making its presence felt in the 2016 race. Of the nine governors to enter the field, only one, Jeb Bush, is currently polling within the top five, according to a CNN poll released on Sunday. Rick Perry and now Walker have dropped out, and three more—Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore—may not be far behind. In the end, Walker’s demonstrable accomplishments paled in comparison to Trump’s bluster.

Trump certainly isn’t the only reason for the Walker campaign’s collapse. Liz Mair, a former Walker strategist, offered up a lengthy autopsy on Twitter, with likely causes ranging from poor staffing decisions to the candidate’s confusion as to his “real identity as a political leader.” Others have pointed to Walker’s seeming ignorance of foreign policy issues and his campaign’s myopic focus on Iowa. In what turned out to be a prescient dissection of his campaign last week, The Washington Post quoted one “major” Walker donor as speculating that “something’s missing in the demeanor” of the candidate. Last week, Walker himself, following his second consecutive debate-night disappearing act, was quick to blame the media.

Yet, in a race that has already discarded one of the other key premises of the GOP’s post-2012 assessment—the need to reach out to Hispanic voters—perhaps it was only a matter of time before governors, too, were brought crashing down. If there’s anything to be learned from Walker’s exit, it’s that being thought of as a promising candidate may be the kiss of death in the 2016 Republican primary. As Doug Gross, a Des Moines, Iowa, lawyer and Republican activist, told Bloomberg shortly before Walker bowed out of the race, the Wisconsin governor “looks and acts and talks like a politician and that’s not what people want.”

 

By: Steven Cohen, The New Republic, September 21, 2015

September 22, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Wallowing In Ignorance”: Epistemic Closure Comes Back To Haunt The GOP

Five years ago Julian Sanchez did us the favor of defining a pattern among conservatives that he called “epistemic closure.”

One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile…If disagreement is not in itself evidence of malign intent or moral degeneracy, people start feeling an obligation to engage it sincerely…And there is nothing more potentially fatal to the momentum of an insurgency fueled by anger than a conversation.

The entire basis for the existence of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News is the belief that the “mainstream media” cannot be trusted to tell the truth because they are all “liberals.” This fed something that we as human beings already tend to do anyway – reject information that doesn’t conform to our already-established beliefs. It feels good to not have to grapple with the cognitive dissonance that comes with consideration of conflicting facts. But the end result is that it kills curiosity and we wallow in ignorance.

The disastrous results of epistemic closure for conservatives have been on display for some time now. It explains how they continue to deny the science of climate change, assume that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is “cooking the books” on unemployment data and led to a whole movement during the 2012 election to unskew the polls. But for everyone from Murdoch to GOP leaders, it worked to keep the base angry and engaged.

And then…it got out of control. Take a look at the results of Frank Lunz’s focus group with Trump supporters.

“They’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore,'” Luntz said. “And (Trump) personifies it: Each sees in him what they want for the country. They want him to fix what makes them mad, and they believe he will.”

It is Trump’s ability to reflect back to voters their most fervent wishes for the nation, Luntz said, that makes the political outsider so dangerous to the rest of the 16 other GOP 2016 hopefuls. The main reason for this, Luntz found, was what he termed a willingness of Trump supporters to live in “an alternative universe” in which any attempt by the media to point out inconsistencies in Trump’s record or position was seen as a politically motivated conspiracy.

“When the media challenges the veracity of his statements, you take his side,” Luntz asked of his focus group. Only one person sat quietly, her hands in her lap, as 28 other arms shot up in agreement.

For these participants, the Republican establishment (and perhaps even Fox News itself) have now joined the liberal New York Times in peddling a politically motivated conspiracy when they challenge Donald Trump. That should come as no surprise when these same people have been told for years that they can pick and chose their facts based on how they make you feel. Stephen Colbert was positively prophetic when he coined the term “truthiness.” And now it’s all coming back to haunt the GOP.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 26, 2015

August 26, 2015 Posted by | Conservative Media, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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