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“Feeling A Little Left Out”: The Religious Right Won’t Tolerate Being Ignored

The defining debate within the Republican Party over the last several months has pitted Tea Partiers against the GOP’s Corporate wing. The two contingents have already begun gearing up for some notable primary fights in advance of this year’s midterm elections.

But there’s another wing of the party that’s apparently feeling a little left out.

On a recent snowy day in the Washington suburb of Tyson’s Corner, Va., some of the religious right’s wealthiest backers and top operatives gathered at the Ritz-Carlton to plot their entry into the conservative civil war.

Their plan: take a page out of the playbooks of Karl Rove and the Koch brothers by raising millions of dollars, coordinating their political spending and assiduously courting megadonors…. It’s all geared toward elevating the place of social issues like abortion and gay marriage in conservative politics.

To be sure, all of this makes sense. The religious right, as a political movement, wants to remain relevant with its allies, so it stands to reason that leading social conservatives would begin plotting to defend and expand its influence. It may make intra-party tensions a little more complicated in the coming months, but the religious right probably doesn’t much care.

The trouble, though, is in the assumption that social conservatives have been irrelevant of late.

Indeed, the Politico article stated as fact that social issues have “been largely relegated to the sidelines” in Republican politics, and the GOP’s competing wings have both “steered away from social issues they deem too divisive.”

I can appreciate why this might seem true – after all, it’s not as if John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Eric Cantor run around prioritizing the culture war above other GOP goals. But the closer one looks, the more these assumptions start to crumble.

For example ,the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit reproductive health research organization, found that “abortion was at the forefront of the state legislative debate during the past three years – so much so that states added more restrictions to the books from 2011-2013 than during the entire preceding decade.”

This isn’t the result of a party steering away from divisive social issues; this is the opposite.

What’s more, as we discussed a few months ago, let’s not forget that Republican leaders lined up to kiss the religious right movement’s ring at the 2013 Values Voter Summit, and GOP officials incorporated their opposition to contraception into the government-shutdown strategy. While Republican governors spent much of the year trying to limit women’s reproductive choices, it’s not limited to state government – just about the only bills House GOP lawmakers find it easy to pass deal with abortion.

The Republican Party’s commitment to the culture war remains alive and well. The religious right is worried about lost relevance, but the movement already has considerable influence over the GOP’s direction.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 3, 2014

January 5, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Religious Right | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get Ready For Buyer’s Remorse, Rick Santorum Edition

We’ve had two—or is it three?—helpings of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich,  more iterations of former Gov. Mitt Romney than you can shake $10,000 at, so should anyone  be surprised that we’re getting a second dose of Rick Santorum? The former  Pennsylvania senator scored a political hat trick with convincing victories in  Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota last night. Sure Missouri was a beauty  contest and Colorado and Minnesota didn’t actually select delegates, but  neither did Iowa and no one said that set of caucuses was meritless.

Now Santorum must accomplish the 2012 political  equivalent of defying  gravity. For if there has been one rule in this chaotic  nomination  race, it is that what goes up must come down.

As I wrote in my column this week:

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s  convincing victories in Florida on  Tuesday and Nevada on Saturday, perhaps the  GOP will rally to the  former Massachusetts governor and embrace him in a manner  which they  have resisted thus far.

But through the first month of primary contests,  Republican voters  haven’t been much about embracing. They’ve been too busy  running away  from candidates. Romney’s New Hampshire victory, for example,  sparked  pronouncements that with two wins under his belt (the Iowa caucuses not   yet having been retroactively awarded to Rick Santorum), he was  marching to the  nomination. This prompted a scramble away from Romney,  right into the waiting  arms of Newt Gingrich.

The former House speaker then easily won South Carolina  and gave Republicans another acute case of buyer’s remorse. …

So now maybe GOP voters  will settle in with Romney for the long haul.  Or maybe they’ll look again at  Romney and see a transparently  inauthentic conservative of convenience with a  propensity for  mind-boggling gaffes (“I’m also unemployed,” and  “Corporations are  people, my friend,” and “Well, the banks  aren’t bad people,” and so  on.)

And as surely as Mitt Romney rose, bringing new  pronouncements of his  inevitability, he fell. Conservatives still don’t like  him.

But can Santorum avoid a buyer’s remorse come-down? There  are a  number of factors weighing against him, starting with money and   organization. It seems likely that Team Romney will turn its focus on  Santorum  the way it did on Gingrich after South Carolina (though as of  this morning, Gingrich remained in the Mitt-bot’s sights). As Santorum  noted Tuesday night,  “Tonight we had an opportunity to see what a  campaign looks like when one  candidate isn’t outspent five- or  ten-to-one by negative ads impugning their  integrity and distorting  their record.” Does anyone think that Santorum will  get another clear  shot where he isn’t heavily outspent and drilled with  negative ads?

As National Journal’s Alex Roarty writes:

Romney won’t have to look hard  for way[s] to attack Santorum, whose  16-year career in Washington provides an  array of easy targets. The  former governor has already criticized his support  for congressional  earmarks, and Santorum will also be forced to explain his  2004  endorsement of then moderate Republican Sen. Arlen Specter against a   Republican challenger (Specter later switched into the Democratic  Party).

More broadly, Romney can argue his business background  makes him  better suited to turn around the country than a career politician–a   tactic that helped him overcome Gingrich.

We might also be reminded that Santorum’s last act in  public life  before running for president was receiving a historic drubbing from  the  voters of Pennsylvania, losing his seat by 18 points.

As for Romney, he must feel rather like Michael Corleone  in the otherwise forgettable Godfather:  Part III,  who laments, “Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back  in.”  No pivot to the center and the general election for Mitt. He’ll need to   turn his focus back to figuring out how to placate his own party,  possibly with  a hard tack to the right on the social issues which (a)  have been Santorum’s  bread and butter and (b) are suddenly at the heart  of the national political  conversation (birth control and gay  marriage). This is not the stuff of which  winning general election  candidates are made.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, February 8, 2012

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are There Any Pro-Choice Republicans Left In The House?

Yes, America, there are pro-choice Republicans. But after this week, there’s some question about whether are any left in the U.S. Congress.

H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act” that passed the House May 4 is not likely to become the law of the land. But the fact that it passed the House with unanimous Republican support means the pro-life members of the party, which includes all the House leadership, can tout their attachment to social issues, even after the supposedly fiscal-first tea party movement helped take over the GOP last year.

For pro-choice Republicans, the vote means embarrassing questions. Basically every pro-choice group says H.R. 3 is an anti-abortion bill that goes far beyond the government’s current prohibitions on abortion funding and actually raises taxes on women who want to seek abortion coverage in their private insurance plans.

That’s a double-whammy for pro-choice Republicans. One, raising taxes under any circumstances is a no-no for anyone in the modern GOP. And, two, the bill has been cast as the biggest assault on abortion rights in years.

Voting against such a measure, then, would seem like a no-brainer. Except it wasn’t. None of the about a dozen House GOP members of the Republican Majority For Choice PAC considered as allies, voted against H.R. 3. In fact, all of them voted yes.

“We opposed the bill, we considered it an anti-choice, big government intrusion and politically we think it’s a bad move for the Republicans to keep focusing on this,” K.R. Ferguson, executive director of the PAC told TPM.

Still, she says that she’s not prepared to say the members who voted for it have given up their pro-choice credentials. She pointed to the refusal of some Republicans to sign on to the House plan to defund Planned Parenthood as the kind of thing that will keep the PAC’s endorsement coming.

“I would not say we would stop supporting any of the members who took this vote,” Ferguson said. She said that though it’s hard to rectify being pro-choice and voting for H.R. 3, support from her PAC isn’t  “an all or nothing” prospect.

There are still Republicans who run as pro-choice members, despite the fact that the party in the House is about as far from supporting a woman’s right to choose as it could possibly be these days.

Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) touted his endorsement from Ferguson’s PAC back in 2010. Ferguson said he might get it again, despite his vote for H.R. 3. Dold’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Though repeatedly expressing her extreme disappointment with the vote, Ferguson suggested Dold and his fellow pro-choice Republicans really had no choice.

“The extreme who was pushing this bill did a masterful job of spinning it as a no taxpayer fundings for abortion [measure] and putting these members in an almost impossible position,” she said. “We don’t like it, we will continue to call on our members to try to educate them” on the truth of the bill.

Illinois Republican Rep. Judy Biggert, a past co-chair of the House pro-choice caucus, says that her vote for H.R. 3 was completely consistent with her pro-choice views.

“Rep. Biggert is pro-choice. She supports a women’s right to chose, but she does not support public funding for abortion,” spokesperson Zachary Cikanek told TPM. “Abortion is a private decision, and it should be paid for with private dollars – without government involvement. That’s why she voted for H.R. 3.”

Cikanek noted that Biggert “has stated publically that she thinks Congress should be keeping its attention focused on spending and jobs, and not spending its time locked in debate on divisive social issues.”

Not all pro-choice advocates are willing to accept that kind of answer. NARAL President Nancy Keenan told TPM that a pro-choice vote for H.R. 3 is a political oxymoron. Though her group is non-partisan, NARAL hasn’t endorsed any Republicans serving in the current House, despite the fact that members like Biggert claim to be supporters of the cause.

“No member of congress can vote for this egregious bill and be considered pro-choice,” Keenan said. “Bottom line.”

By: Evan McMorris-Santoro, Talking Points Memo, May 7, 2011

May 7, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Congress, Conservatives, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Planned Parenthood, Politics, Pro-Choice, Republicans, Taxes, Tea Party, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flirting With The Fringe: Stop Pretending Michele Bachmann Can Win The Iowa Caucuses

Ever since Michele Bachmann announced her intention to form a presidential exploratory committee, pundits, including Ed Kilgore at TNR, have been making the case that she has a good chance at winning Iowa—or if not winning, then doing well enough to hurt one or more of the stronger candidates. Republican caucus-goers in the state, they argue, are at least half-nuts, and therefore may well support Bachmann or some other candidate who doesn’t pass conventional standards of seriousness.

Certainly, Iowa Republicans are very socially conservative, more so than in some other states. But a closer look at Iowa caucus history shows that their history of supporting fringe candidates is not quite what it’s made out to be.

The case that “wacky Iowans will do anything” essentially comes down to interpreting a handful of episodes from recent decades. The first occurred in 1988 when Pat Robertson stunned everyone by finishing second with 25 percent of the vote, besting George H.W. Bush and Jack Kemp. But Pat Robertson was a social conservative—and no ordinary one at that—in a year in which the frontrunner (George H.W. Bush) was not. Moreover, that example is now over two decades old, and since then Iowa Republicans have had no trouble voting for mainstream candidates with conventional credentials, as long as those candidates—Lamar Alexander, George W. Bush—had solid records on social conservative issues.

That leaves us with three other supposed episodes of Iowan craziness: Pat Buchanan’s second place finish in 1996; the surprising showings of fringe candidates Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer in 2000; and Huckabee’s victory in 2008. Closer inspection of each of these episodes, however, reveals that none were quite as crazy as they appear.

Take Pat Buchannan in 1996. As odd as it might seem now, he was almost a serious candidate at the time: He had already run for president in 1992, and while he was never quite a plausible nominee, he did have some serious claim as a repeat candidate that Bachmann doesn’t have now. Nor was Buchannan’s success in Iowa especially unique. In fact, he proceeded to win the primary in New Hampshire, and wound up beating his Iowa percentage in sixteen states (several of those, to be sure, were after other candidates had dropped out, so the higher percentage was less impressive).

As for Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer in 2000, they certainly were fringe candidates—even more so than Bachmann—and their combined 25 percent was both impressive and anomalous; they combined for only 7 percent in New Hampshire, although Keyes did have some stronger showings in late states after the nomination was decided. However, it’s also the case that they didn’t have a whole lot of competition. John McCain campaigned in Iowa in 2000, but he did not fully commit to the state, and the only other candidate they beat was Orrin Hatch, who hardly ran any campaign at all. And even with their totals combined, Keyes and Bauer finished well back of Steve Forbes for second, and even further behind winner George W. Bush.

Finally, there’s Huckabee’s surprise victory in 2008; but the extent to which his candidacy was in any way similar to Bachmann’s has been vastly overstated. Yes, he won with the support of social issues voters. But Huckabee wasn’t some backbench member of the House; he was a recent former governor, and, in that sense, just as legitimate a candidate as Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.

Compared to Huckabee, Michele Bachmann is an altogether different sort of candidate. Since 1972, no candidate in any way similar has run a competitive campaign. The only three members of the House who had plausible shots at winning—Mo Udall in 1976, Jack Kemp in 1988, and Dick Gephardt in 1988 and 2004—were all senior members with leadership positions, legislative accomplishments, or both. No, Bachmann belongs in a different category, with other sideshow acts who may attract attention but have no real chance to win the nomination. And even in allegedly crazy Iowa, those candidates rarely impress on caucus day.

By: Jonathan Bernstein, The New Republic, April 16, 2011

April 17, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Exploratory Presidential Committees, GOP, Governors, Ideology, Independents, Iowa Caucuses, Journalists, Media, Politics, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Swing Voters, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Kochs And Libertarian Hypersensitivity

I find the extreme sensitivity displayed by libertarians toward criticism of the Koch brothers is really strange. Here’s a typical example, from David Bernstein:

The ongoing twenty minutes of hate against the billionaire libertarian Koch brothers for being, well, billionaire libertarians is yet another nail in the already well-sealed coffin of “liberaltarianism”–the attempt of some libertarians to ally with the progressive left.

The underlying premise of liberaltarianism was that libertarians could emphasize their policy positions that appeal to liberals but not conservatives–drug legalization, hostility to war and military spending, support for civil liberties and for gay marriage–while liberals, chastened by the Bush years, would tone down their support for big government in other areas.

The Kochs would appear to be the perfect liberaltarians–they support gay marriage, drug legalization, opposed the Iraq War, want to substantially cut military spending, and gave $20 million to the ACLU to oppose the Patriot Act (compared to a relatively piddling $43,000 to Scott Walker’s election campaign).

The comparison to 1984 lends this complaint an especially melodramatic touch — the point of the two-minute hate was that it targeted powerless or fictitious villains. I’m pretty sure that Emmanuel Goldstein was not supposed to have been actually exerting enormous influence over the political system in Oceania.

And the notion that the Kochs are “perfect liberaltarians,” of course, completely misses the point of liberaltarianism, which was to emphasize social issues and foreign policy over economics, and to define economics as evidence based and less hostile to redistribution and the possibility of market failure. Koch-brand libertarianism is obviously the precise opposite of each of those characteristics.

And while I certainly can’t speak for the liberaltarians, I suspect liberal criticism of the Kochs is unlikely to send them back to Koch-funded right-aligned libertarian organizations, given that those organizations very recently purged the liberaltarians.

But leave all that aside. Why do libertarians find it so offensive that people would criticize the Kochs? They exert a great deal of influence over the political system. Nobody is challenging their right to do so, but the fact of their involvement makes them natural subjects for criticism. Conservatives (and libertarians) enjoy criticizing and ridiculing figures such as Al Gore, Dan Rather and Paul Krugman, who influence public opinion as well, and whose pecuniary interest in doing so is, at best, much less obvious than the Kochs’.

The hypersensitivity about this honestly baffles me. Some of it has to do with the discomfort libertarians, who enjoy their self-image as scrappy outsiders, feel an association with powerful moguls. Some of it may result from the fact that it’s unusual for a libertarian to assume such a high-profile role in American politics, and so libertarians may not blink at criticism of a George Soros or an Adolph Coors but suddenly find their hearts bleeding at the sight of libertarian moguls facing actual public scrutiny. In any case, the sheer self-pity on behalf of these extremely wealthy, powerful individuals is quite a spectacle.

By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, March 16, 2011

March 17, 2011 Posted by | Koch Brothers, Liberatarians, Politics, Public Opinion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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