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“2016’s Scrambled Coalitions”: Trump’s GOP Foes Have Six Weeks To Topple Him From His High Wire

Republicans belong to a more ideological party, but ideology has mattered less in the GOP primaries this year than in the race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Clinton is in a nearly unassailable position to win her party’s nomination. But assuming she prevails, her primary fight with Sanders has underscored weaknesses she will have to deal with to win in November.

And Donald Trump’s moves toward moderation on social issues last week reflect not only his campaign’s understanding that he cannot win as a far-right candidate but also his need to tread carefully to maintain the crazy-quilt coalition he has built in the GOP primaries.

New York and Massachusetts Republicans are quite different from the ones found in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. Trump carried all five states, bringing together some of the most extreme voters on the right end of his party with a large share of those who consider themselves moderate.

As the 2016 primaries reach their decisive moment, the results so far point to a scrambling of alliances inside both parties.

To earn her delegate lead, Clinton has built a significantly different coalition in 2016 than she did in 2008. The most important and obvious shift is among African Americans, who formed Barack Obama’s base against her eight years ago and are now Clinton’s most loyal supporters. They will loom large in Tuesday’s primaries, particularly in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Clinton ran well behind Obama among voters under 30. She’s doing even worse among younger voters this year against Sanders.

She has done well among voters over 45, among those with a strong identification with the Democratic Party, and among the roughly one-third of primary voters who do not identify themselves as liberal (a group that includes many nonwhites). In her New York victory, she carried moderate and conservative Democrats by 2 to 1. But even where she has lost, this group has come her way. In Michigan, for example, she carried the non-liberals 52 percent to 43 percent.

Sanders speaks of increasing participation in Democratic primaries, but turnout this year has not exceeded the admittedly exceptional 2008. He does, however, seem to have mobilized more progressive voters: A comparison of the exit polls with surveys of Democrats nationally suggests that the primary electorate this year is more liberal than is the party as a whole.

Overall, turnout patterns have been mixed. They were down in many of the earliest states, such as New Hampshire, and sharply down in some later states, including Alabama, Texas and Ohio. But 2008 and 2016 turnouts were roughly comparable in other states, including New York, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

There is another factor in Sanders’s strength that points to a Clinton problem this fall: Even where she has won, she has run poorly among white men. In New York, Sanders got 57 percent of their votes; in Michigan, which Sanders won, he got 62 percent. She has also regularly lost in rural areas.

White men as a whole would likely prefer any Republican over any Democrat this fall, but Clinton would have to find a way to cut her losses. Against Trump, at least, polls suggest she would so overwhelm him among women that she could triumph anyway. This would be less clear if she faced a different Republican.

An awareness of his need to improve his standing among women may have prompted Trump to insist last week — to the consternation of social conservatives — that the GOP’s traditional platform plank against abortion include exceptions for rape, incest and protecting a mother’s life. He also spoke out against North Carolina’s anti-transgender law.

Trump’s willingness to part with social conservatives (for now, at least) also reflects the ways in which his vote defies the old Republican patterns.

In primary after primary, he has split white evangelical voters with Ted Cruz. At the same time, Trump has performed as well among moderates as he has among conservatives. A partial exception is New York, where Trump ran best among self-described conservatives. But even there, the exit polls still showed him defeating John Kasich narrowly, 46 percent to 42 percent, among moderates.

The failure of both movement conservatives and established Republican politicians to stop Trump so far arises from their inability to imagine that someone could appeal simultaneously to moderates — they see Trump more as a manager and leader who could get things done — and to the party’s most hardcore right-wingers on immigration and race, and also in the ferociousness of his opposition to Obama.

Trump’s GOP foes have six weeks to topple him from his high wire.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 24, 206

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Tribalism Vs Moral Imagination”: The Two Stories Of America On Display In This Election

From Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with President Obama, I’ve already written about how he isn’t enamored with “free riders” and how his foreign policy is a challenge to the Washington playbook. The president also talked about how tribalism is the root of the problem in the Middle East right now.

One of the most destructive forces in the Middle East, Obama believes, is tribalism—a force no president can neutralize. Tribalism, made manifest in the reversion to sect, creed, clan, and village by the desperate citizens of failing states, is the source of much of the Muslim Middle East’s problems, and it is another source of his fatalism. Obama has deep respect for the destructive resilience of tribalism—part of his memoir, Dreams From My Father, concerns the way in which tribalism in post-colonial Kenya helped ruin his father’s life—which goes some distance in explaining why he is so fastidious about avoiding entanglements in tribal conflicts.

“It is literally in my DNA to be suspicious of tribalism,” he told me. “I understand the tribal impulse, and acknowledge the power of tribal division. I’ve been navigating tribal divisions my whole life. In the end, it’s the source of a lot of destructive acts.”

Tribalism isn’t merely a phenomenon in the Middle East. It is also obviously animating the “white nostalgia” of Trump’s supporters. We’ve seen similar reactions in Europe. So it’s interesting to contemplate what is driving all this.

Following President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 2009, he was interviewed by Will and Jada Smith and discussed our options to the fact that – due to advances in technology – the world is shrinking.

In response to globalization, we can either pull back into our own identities (race, tribe, religion) or we can work to expand our moral imagination. The latter is why the President so often talks about expanding our definition of “we.” In the context of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, that is not merely a call to do so across the lines of race, class, religion in this country – but to expand our moral imagination to encompass the world of a young mother in Bangladesh.

As President Obama said, to retreat into tribalism at this moment is dangerous. While the forces of a changing America and increasing globalization are unsettling and challenging, it is a recipe for disaster to simply identify with those who think/look like ourselves and draw battle lines with those who don’t. The goal is not to assume we can all agree with each other on everything – but to be able to see and value the humanity of those with whom we don’t.

As Jon Favreau wrote recently: “Every election is a competition between two stories about America.” Right now, one of those stories is about tribalism – the need to “take our country back” to a mythological day when a lot of white people assume that things were better. That story rests on demonizing, expelling and/or punishing those who are blamed for the changes that we don’t like.

The other story is the one President Obama is talking about…the potential we have to expand our moral imagination. That is not some ideal that humans are incapable of reaching. We see people do it every day. And it is old enough to be embedded in every major religion as something resembling the Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Here is how Barack Obama spelled it out in his speech back in 2004 that brought him into the national spotlight.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief – I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper – that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. “E pluribus unum.” Out of many, one.

The story of this election isn’t so much about the fact that people are angry – it is about what we chose to do with that anger. Do we retreat into tribalism in the face of these challenges or do we work to expand our moral imagination?


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 14, 2016

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Globalization, Tribalism, White Nostalgia | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Classier Of Two Evils”: Cruz Is The Leader Of A Faction; Trump Is A One-Man Band

With less than two weeks till the Iowa Caucus, the shape of the Republican race could hardly be more frightening for the Republican establishment. Both of the two leading candidates, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, carry baggage that would make winning the general election a tough slog. But while some establishment types still hold out hope that one of their preferred candidates—Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or even Chris Christie—can pull off a surprise resurgence, there is a growing acceptance of the reality of having to chose between Cruz and Trump. And the surprise is that all signs are pointing to Trump being the establishment’s favored candidate—or, more accurately, the lesser of two evils.

In an interview with the New York Times yesterday, Bob Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996 and the very epitome of the party establishment, said that picking Cruz as the presidential nominee would be “cataclysmic,” and the party would have better success with Trump. And it’s not just on the electability issue that Dole prefers Trump. Dole denounced Cruz as an “extremist,” but said that Trump has the type of deal-making personality that would allow him to work with Congress if elected. Cruz, he said, would not. “I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress,” Dole told the Times. “Nobody likes him.”

Dole is far from alone in making a move toward Trump’s camp. According to a report in the Washington Post, the GOP donor class is increasingly seeing Trump as a better bet than Cruz. “A lot of donors are trying to figure their way into Trump’s orbit,” said Spencer Zwick, who ran the finances for Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid.

On the face of it, preferring Trump to Cruz seems bizarre. After all, Cruz is a more conventional politician. He sits in the Senate, and he has longstanding ties to the conservative movement and speaks their language. Why spurn him and hook up with a wild card like Trump, who has no political experience—and a record of making reckless racist and sexist comments that will damage the Republican brand?

But it’s possible that it is precisely because Trump is such an unusual figure that he might be more attractive to establishment Republicans. Cruz is the leader of a faction; Trump is a one-man band. This means Cruz has the potential to do much more damage to the Republican Party in the long run. “If Trump loses, we wash our hands of him,” a leading GOP strategist told CNN. “Cruz will think we need to be more crazy and be a long-term nightmare.”

If Cruz wins the nomination, that extreme-right faction will dominate the Republican Party not just in the presidential run but for the foreseeable future—even if Cruz loses. Just as the followers of Barry Goldwater held key positions in the party long after 1964, Cruz’s followers will be lodged tight and will be in a stronger position to combat the RINOs.

“If Cruz wins, the Loony Bird takeover of the GOP is complete,” Ian Millhiser, Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, told me by email, sketching out the establishment’s nightmare scenario: “GOP candidates view Cruz’s election as vindication of Cruz’s tactics, and they rush to emulate him. Rank-and-file voters embrace Cruz’s message that the best candidates are belligerent conservatives. And interest groups decide that they no longer need to back the proverbial most conservative candidate who can win, because the very most conservative candidate has just won the presidency. So they use their money to back Cruz clones in primaries.

“Mitch McConnell and possibly even Paul Ryan’s relevance disappears overnight, as does quite possibly their career in politics. And because all of the sitting Republican lawmakers are Cruz clones who view them as traitorous RINOs, the deposed establishment cannot even cash in as lobbyists.”

Trump, on the other hand, is so anomalous a figure that the GOP establishment can console themselves with the knowledge that he leads no faction. Even if he wins the nomination, Trump can be safely relegated to the category of a one-off, a freak mutation, never to be repeated. Trump would be like the character The Mule, in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels. In the schema of Asimov’s far future science-fiction series, The Mule is a galactic conquerer who throws history off the course that it was expected to take, but the changes he introduces are ultimately minor because he has no successor.

From the point of view of the Republican elite, it’s easy to see Trump as The Mule: He’s unexpected, he disrupted their plans to coronate Jeb Bush, but he’s also someone who can’t leave a lasting legacy because the traits that made him who he is are not replicable. There are not that many billionaire reality-show stars who are interested in taking over a political party.

Further, because Trump is much more pragmatic than Cruz, it’s easier to imagine him being tamed if he won the presidency. Already, on the issue of tax cuts for the rich, Trump has reverted to GOP orthodoxy. Unlike Cruz, Trump has no army of ideological loyalists working with him. President Trump would need advisers and policymakers, which the Republican Party could happily provide him.

If this is the gamble the GOP is taking, though, it is not necessarily the right one. Trump is an unstable and unpredictable figure, governed by personal piques that take him in strange directions—like his recent, bizarre twitter feud with the actor Samuel L. Jackson over cheating at golf. As a presidential nominee, Trump would likely continue to be flighty and capricious. If Hillary Clinton is his rival for the White House, it’s a near-certainty that Trump will make sexist tirades that will damage the GOP’s reputation, as he already has with comments on Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina. Moreover, unlike Cruz or the other, more polished candidates, Trump does not know how to disguise his racism with dog-whistles. This may not hurt Trump with GOP primary voters, but it would be toxic on the national stage.

The fact that the GOP elite is sidling up to Trump is remarkable—and perhaps the ultimate reflection on Ted Cruz as a man and politician. After all, how wretched must he be that there are people who prefer to stake their money and reputations on Donald Trump?


By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, January 21, 2016


January 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Making Ridiculous Claims On Purpose”: Huckabee: Obama May Want People ‘To Memorize Koran Verses’

When it comes to right-wing rejection of Syrian refugees, Mike Huckabee was ahead of the curve. Back in September, when most policymakers were debating how many – not if – the United States would welcome fleeing families, Huckabee asked, “Are they really escaping tyranny, are they escaping poverty, or are they really just coming because we’ve got cable TV?”

After the terrorist violence in Paris, the former Arkansas governor’s posture took an even uglier turn. After Huckabee used the attacks as a rationale for scrapping the Iran nuclear deal – he didn’t seem to realize ISIS and Iran are bitter enemies – he went on to say refugees should “end up in the neighborhood where the limousine liberal lives” or perhaps the “dorm rooms” at the University of Missouri.

This week, however, Huckabee is shifting his focus, directing his ire away from the refugees and towards the president trying to show leadership on the issue. Politico reported:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee charged Monday that President Barack Obama’s “new domestic terrorism plan probably requires Americans to memorize Koran verses.”

That line – which has no basis in fact – came in a new op-ed the 2016 Republican presidential candidate penned for

“Why does the Obama administration express more outrage at conservatives than at radical Islamic terrorists? President Obama seems more interested in protecting the reputation of Islam than protecting the American people,” Huckabee wrote.

The Republican added that the refugees would be “unchecked” and “unscreened,” which is a brazen lie.

Note, the fact that this was written is no small detail. It’s easy to say stupid things on the fly, without giving the comments forethought, but when a national candidate writes ridiculous arguments in a published piece, it reinforces the deliberate nature of the absurdity.

In other words, Huckabee didn’t just blurt out nonsense in an interview, failing to think his argument through; he went to the trouble of thinking about it, writing it down, and making ridiculous claims on purpose.

We talked briefly about this yesterday, but I think the larger point isn’t that Huckabee has the capacity to be an offensive buffoon. We already knew that. The broader concern is that much of the political establishment likes to think of Huckabee as a charming, avuncular guy who’s easily to admire.

It’s past time for pundits to reassess those assumptions. Huckabee isn’t just some conservative political personality – he’s an anti-gay attack dog, someone who embraces racially charged conspiracy theories, and a snake-oil salesman with a record of over-the-top vitriol.

His Fox News op-ed is a reminder that the Beltway pundits who tell the public that Huckabee is a great guy apparently don’t know what they’re talking about.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 25, 2015

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Mike Huckabee, Racism, Syrian Refugees | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“For Better Or Worse, You Be The Judge”: Speaker Paul Ryan Is The Tea Party’s Greatest Triumph

People of all political convictions should be excited about Paul Ryan’s assumption of the House speaker’s gavel. Even if you disagree with Ryan’s fiscally conservative politics, you have to admit that the Wisconsin congressman is smart, focused on policy, and generally an honest broker. Regardless of your political affiliation, we should all be happy when the political process puts someone of this caliber in such an important job.

Which raises the question: How did we get such a good speaker?

The short answer is this: Credit the Tea Party.

Without the Tea Party, you wouldn’t have the House Freedom Caucus, made up mostly of rambunctious, hardcore, conservative back-benchers. Without the rabble-rousing Freedom Caucus, John Boehner probably wouldn’t have been driven to resign, and Kevin McCarthy probably wouldn’t have been driven out of the speakership race. Paul Ryan is not exactly a Tea Party firebrand. But he is still highly respected within the Tea Party. And they paved the way to his speakership.

For all of the bleating in opinion columns about the supposed anti-intellectualism of the Tea Party, Ryan’s policy seriousness is very much part of his movement appeal. Tea Partiers (and I count myself among them) are serious about reforming government, and a great many of them actually do understand that you need a serious plan to get it done, not just theatrics. People in the Tea Party also know they’re often disdained as simpletons by elites on both sides of the aisle, and so they very much respect credentialed people who they feel are part of their camp. This is at least partly why the Tea Party likes Ted Cruz (former Supreme Court clerk!) and Ben Carson (former neurosurgeon!).

Another key: The conservative base feels betrayed by politicians they elect who then turn around to pass moderate policies, and they want to see credibility from politicians. The best way to assert credibility is by picking a fight on an unpopular issue. Paul Ryan first became a national figure because he took on entitlement reform, the third rail in U.S. politics. The Tea Party admires his bravery and honesty in sticking to his conservative principles, even when much of the American media and political establishment crush him for it.

I like John Boehner, but it’s clear that he is an insider politician with little taste for serious policy wonkery. He lacks the courage to put forward an ambitious entitlement reform plan on his own. And so it was with the previous Republican speakers of the House. The Tea Party-backed Speaker Ryan, on the other hand, is serious about conservative ideas, and bold in promoting them.

I point this out because this isn’t just true in the House. In general, the Tea Party has elevated a better class of politician. There’s Marco Rubio, who has put forward innovative plans on taxes, on higher education, on jobs with wage subsidies, and, at least until he got cold feet, was a leader on immigration reform (another third rail). There’s Rand Paul who, as a libertarian, is someone I don’t agree with on every issue, but certainly brings much-needed representation of that perspective in the Senate (along with the admirable libertarian Justin Amash in the House, who personally explains every single vote on his Facebook page). There’s Mike Lee who is quickly shaping up to be one of the most important policy leaders in the Senate, taking charge on everything from tax reform to criminal justice reform and even defeating the Big Government Egg Cartel in his spare time (bet you didn’t know that was a thing).

There have been a few Tea Party misfires, like Ted Cruz and that “I’m not a witch” lady, but seven years into the Tea Party, it is now clear that overall, the movement has brought to Washington a class of politicians that, whether you agree with them on the issues or not, are a refreshing improvement over their establishment predecessors.

That’s something everyone should celebrate. So keep it in mind next time you see another column about supposed Tea Party know-nothingism.


By: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, October 29, 2015

October 30, 2015 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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