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“As Confused As Goats On Astroturf”: The Clueless GOP Establishment Is Fueling Hurricane Donnie Trump

Elites tend to be… well, elite. As in, “clueless” about what your everyday working stiff is thinking.

This is not a problem for most hoity-toities, for they don’t deal with the great unwashed. But cluelessness about the masses can become a major occupational hazard for political elites — including campaign operatives, candidates, pundits, and the big-money donor class. And while this is a problem for the establishments of both major political parties, today’s Republican establishment now finds that it is so out of touch with regular voters that it now faces a howling, Category-5 hurricane that’s threatening to implode the Grand Old Party.

None of the elites saw Hurricane Donnie coming, and with the blow-hard now raging at full force, the GOP’s upper-crusters still don’t seem to know what hit them, much less what to do about it. They are so out of it that they even tried to blunt his surge by having Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush rush out and say bad things about The Donald, imploring voters to turn their backs on him. To see these two buttoned-down pillars of the moneyed establishment huffing and puffing at the storm was hilarious – and as hopeless as them trying to blow away a real hurricane.

What the aloof, affluent leaders of the Republican Party don’t get is that the source of the storm presently wrecking them is not Trump, but infuriated, rank-and-file, working-class voters who feel betrayed by them. None other than Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, the Koch brothers, the corporate CEOs and lobbyists, Mitt & Jeb, and the other well-off swells who run the GOP are the ones who’ve stripped the party of any blue-collar appeal. They’ve single-mindedly pushed a plutocratic agenda of trade scams, tax cuts for the rich, and subsidies for runaway corporations, while constantly slashing at Social Security, Medicare, and other programs that their own non-affluent voters need.

The Party powers now wail that Trump is stealing their voters. But he’s not — he’s just picking up the people the GOP elites threw away.

All that said, the Republican Party’s establishment has come up with a secret plan to peel off its long-faithful, blue-collar supporters from the Donnie Trump spectacle. Their plan is code-named: “Operation Paul Ryan.”

Good grief — the GOP’s old line clique of congressional bulls, corporate funders, lobbyists and right-wing think tanks is as confused as goats on Astroturf when it comes to grasping a core part of Trump’s appeal. He’s reaching out to longtime Republican voters who’ve finally realized that it’s the party’s own Wall Street elites who knocked them down economically and the party’s insider cadre of K-Street influence peddlers who’ve shut them out politically.

The party powers are trying to comfort themselves by insisting that The Donald is winning only because he’s drawing voters who’re ignorant, racist, xenophobic and misogynistic. In fact, he’s drawing huge numbers of disaffected Republicans who’re mainly antiestablishment and deeply-anti the party’s own power players. These hard-hit, angry voters are not Koch-headed, laissez-faire ideologues — they like Trump’s opposition to job-busting trade scams, his mocking of big-money campaign donations, his call to hike taxes on Wall Street’s pampered hedge-funders, his support for Social Security, etc.

For these voters, “Operation Paul Ryan” is a dud, a farce … and an insult. Rep. Ryan has long been the kept-darling of the Wall Street/K Street crowd and the Koch brothers. The obtuse establishment snootily calls him “serious” presidential material — only because he champions such plutocratic policies as privatizing Social Security, cutting taxes on the superrich, deregulating Wall Street, and turning Medicare into a voucher system. The only thing serious about Ryan’s agenda is that it’s a dead-serious loser with the great majority of Americans.

Trying to knock-off Trump for Ryan is a sign of the GOP’s irreversible decline into cluelessness and political irrelevance.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, April 6, 2016

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Worst Has Yet To Come”: Scrambling To Clean Up A Failed Republican Governor’s Mess

In November, Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards received some great news: by a wide margin, the Democrat had been elected governor. At the same time, however, he also received some rather dreadful news: Edwards was now the governor of Louisiana, responsible for cleaning up a catastrophic mess left by Republican Bobby Jindal.

As the New York Times reported yesterday, Pelican State policymakers – a Democratic governor’s office working with a Republican-led legislature – are moving forward with a plan to undo some of what Jindal did, at least temporarily.

Facing the threat of layoffs, cancellation of university classes and a suspension of health care services, state lawmakers avoided more than $900 million in budget cuts by passing a package of tax increases and spending reductions Wednesday in the closing moments of a special session.

But large shortfalls still plague the state and will continue to play out as a regular session convenes on Monday.

The package includes restructuring the state sales tax – removing exemptions and increasing it a penny – but at Republicans’ insistence, the increases are temporary. The New York Times article added that the new agreement also includes “higher taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, car rentals, cellphones, landlines and short-term rooms booked through websites.” Policymakers also “rolled back a tax credit enjoyed by the insurance industry, and they approved a framework for collecting sales taxes from online retailers.”

Despite this, the package didn’t close all of the state’s massive budget shortfall, and more cuts are on the way.

Bobby Jindal’s failures were just that bad. The Washington Post added last week:

Already, the state of Louisiana had gutted university spending and depleted its rainy-day funds. It had cut 30,000 employees and furloughed others. It had slashed the number of child services staffers, including those devoted to foster family recruitment, and young abuse victims for the first time were spending nights at government offices.

And then, the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards (D), came on TV and said the worst was yet to come.

The source of the crisis is hardly a mystery. As the Post reported, experts have found that Louisiana’s structural budget deficit “emerged and then grew under former governor Bobby Jindal, who, during his eight years in office, reduced the state’s revenue by offering tax breaks to the middle class and wealthy. He also created new subsidies aimed at luring and keeping businesses. Those policies, state data show, didn’t deliver the desired economic growth.”

In other words, a right-wing governor, working with a Republican legislature, tried to implement a conservative governing agenda. The result is a disaster Louisiana is going to struggle for years to clean up.

If you missed Rachel’s segment last week on states damaged by Republican governance, it’s worth revisiting – especially for its focus on Louisiana.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 11, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Louisiana, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Most Damning Insult Of All”: Here’s What The GOP Needs To Say To Scare Voters Away From Trump

How has the Republican establishment tried, and failed, to take out Donald Trump?

Let me count the ways.

The GOP’s first line of defense against Trump is usually to claim that his policies would be disastrous. Last week Mitt Romney declared that, “If Donald Trump’s plans were ever implemented, the country would sink into prolonged recession.”

This argument is less than compelling, though, when you consider how little daylight lies between Trump’s policies and those of his two chief rivals, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

All three would blow up the deficit by trillions of dollars, losing more tax revenue as a share of economic output than any tax cut on record. Their health-care plans are virtually indistinguishable. All three promise to build a wall on the Mexican border, and both Cruz and Trump want to round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. None accepts the scientific consensus on man-made climate change. All want to further restrict access to abortion and further expand access to guns. And so on.

Caught undercutting their own arguments that Trump’s policies would be uniquely intolerable, Republican elites then confusingly resort to arguing that Trump may not actually believe all those intolerable policies after all.

Party elders and campaign rivals have doubled down on claims that Trump’s not a “true conservative,” and that he may not uphold his hard-line rightist stances, because not so long ago he espoused more liberal views. But this merely gives Trump an opportunity to invoke Ronald Reagan, another late-in-life party-switcher. More important, voters just don’t seem to care much about ideological purity.

When that tactic fails, Republican bigwigs attack Trump’s indecorousness and vulgarity. But there’s little high ground for them to stand on here, either, given that their preferred candidate recently crawled into the gutter, too.

Recall that it was Rubio, not Trump, who first invoked Trump’s genital size on the campaign trail. In an instant, what had been a subtext in Trump’s campaign — his big wall, big buildings, big wealth, big poll numbers — became text. But that was Rubio’s doing, not Trump’s.

Condemnations of Trump’s race-baiting and nationalism likewise fall flat, for the same reason: hypocrisy. Party leadership turned a blind eye when Trump spewed birtherist nonsense about President Obama’s citizenship and faith, and when talk radio hosts rallied the base with their own racially tinged rhetoric. Why should anyone, let alone Trump supporters, be swayed by the party’s protestations about such bile now?

Then, elites try targeting Trump’s opacity and lack of accountability in his financial dealings.

But the other candidates also only pretend at transparency. Rubio, Cruz and John Kasich all purport to have released their “tax returns,” but in fact the abbreviated documents they’ve published leave out charitable donations, income sources and all the other substantive details that are part of a real tax return — you know, the full documents that every major-party nominee has released since 1980.

Cruz likewise complains that the lamestream media has withheld negative coverage and exposés of Trump and his financial activities. This accusation is both demonstrably false and demonstrably funny, when you consider Cruz’s declarations that you shouldn’t trust anything you see in the media anyway.

Republicans have hacked away at both the customs and the institutions that impose accountability and now have the gall to complain that a party insurrectionist is not held to account.

Of all the ploys that Republican leadership has deployed to curb Trumpmentum, perhaps the most pitiful is the #NeverTrump campaign. Anti-Trump enthusiasts have spread the hashtag far and wide on social media. Rubio’s website even sells hats, stickers and other swag featuring the slogan.

Yet when asked during the last debate whether they’d support Trump if he became the Republican nominee, every candidate left standing pledged he would. If the other candidates believe a Trump presidency would really be so unendurable, agreeing to support him in November is a strange way to show it. Perhaps #NeverTrump is short for #NeverTrumpExceptDuringTheGeneralElection.

So why have none of the GOP’s attacks on Trump stuck? Maybe it’s because Trump, the new Teflon Don, has unusually effective nonstick properties. Or maybe it’s because party honchos have been too cowardly to do the one thing — an admittedly very unpleasant thing — that might convince Republican voters that Trump is a real threat to the liberal world order.

They’d need to voice the most damning insult of all, at least in the minds of Republicans: an acknowledgment that even Hillary Clinton would make a better president than Donald J. Trump.

 

By: Catherine Rampell, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Marco Rubio’s Terrible New Idea”: Pandering To Voters’ Most Simplistic And Uninformed Impulses

Campaigning for president requires one to come up with policy proposals, a need that from time to time produces innovative and promising ideas. But it also produces some extraordinarily dumb ones, as Marco Rubio is now demonstrating. Here’s his latest plan to fix what’s wrong with Washington:

Shortly after 11 a.m. on the East Coast, Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign alerted the media to their candidate’s latest position, inspired by the Founding Fathers and by Congress’s seeming inability to pass conservative legislation.

“One of the things I’m going to do on my first day in office is I will put the prestige and power of the presidency behind a constitutional convention of the states,” Rubio said as he campaigned in Iowa. “You know why? Because that is the only way that we are ever going to get term limits on members of Congress or the judiciary and that is the only way we are ever going to get a balanced-budget amendment.”

With this, Rubio manages to combine a promise for something that will never happen with a spectacularly terrible idea.

We’ll start with the constitutional convention. There are two ways an amendment to the Constitution can be proposed: when two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to do so, or when two-thirds of the states call for a convention to propose amendments. Rubio is saying that because you couldn’t get super-majorities in Congress to support his three ideas, he wants to push for the states to assemble a convention to offer these amendments.

The first thing to understand is that the president has nothing to do with this process. What Rubio is promising is that in between trying to pass his tax cuts and outlaw abortion and repeal Obamacare and wage war on the Islamic State, he’ll use the bully pulpit to advocate for a constitutional convention. So President Rubio will give a speech or two about it? Mention it in the State of the Union? That’s fine, but at best it might bring the chances of getting two-thirds of the states to sign on from approximately zero to ever slightly more than zero. Getting a constitutional convention might be a bit easier than assembling two-thirds majorities in Congress, but not by much.

So he can’t make these constitutional amendments happen. But what about the amendments themselves? Term limits for judges is the only one that might not be all that problematic, but it’s a little hard to tell what the problem is that Rubio is trying to solve. Lifetime tenure for judges is supposed to insulate them from momentary political concerns, but in practice it turns out that there’s plenty of politics on the bench. Presidents pick nominees they hope will reflect their own political values, and most of the time they’re right, with an occasional exception here and there. Some have suggested that the Supreme Court could use more turnover, so there should be a limit of some long but not endless stretch for justices (18 years is one common number). That might be fine, but it’s hard to see what kind of transformation in American justice would result from limiting all federal judges’ terms. If anything, the nominating and confirmation process would become even more political, since you’d need more judges.

But that’s the least bad of these ideas. The next is term limits for Congress, an idea that fell out of favor for a while and Rubio now wants to bring back. But what is it supposed to accomplish? Is Washington going to run more smoothly with more members who don’t know how to pass legislation? We’ve seen a huge influx of new members (mostly Republicans) in the last few congressional elections, and they haven’t exactly been committed to making government work. To the contrary, they’re the ones who care least about having a functioning government and are more likely to be nihilistic extremists who want to shut down the government, default on the national debt and govern by crisis.

Rubio is smart enough to know that the myth of the citizen legislator unsullied by contact with sinister lobbyists, who comes to Washington armed with nothing but common sense and a strong moral fiber and cleans up government, is just that — a myth. But he also knows that saying “Kick all the bums out!” is an easy way to pander to voters’ most simplistic and uninformed impulses.

I’ve saved the worst for last: a balanced-budget amendment. It has long been a popular item on the conservative wish list, but if you put it into practice, it would be an absolute disaster.

The childish way of thinking about it is that a requirement that the government spend no more than it takes in every year would impose fiscal discipline and make government live within its means. But in truth it would require radical cutbacks in everything government does — which means not only the programs Republicans don’t like anyway, but also the ones they do like. In the last half century, through Republican and Democratic presidencies and Republican and Democratic Congresses, we’ve had only five years when the government’s budget was balanced (four of which came during the boom of the Clinton years). Without the ability to issue bonds to cover each year’s shortfall, we’d be left without the ability to do what’s necessary to serve all of our many public needs.

Consider what would happen during an economic downturn if we had a balanced-budget amendment. What you want in that situation is for government to step in and help people — by providing things like food stamps and unemployment compensation to keep people from falling into truly desperate situations of hunger and homelessness, and also to do what it can to spur job creation and keep the recession from being worse than it would otherwise be.

But in a recession, tax revenue also falls, because people are losing jobs and incomes are plummeting; as an example, between 2008 and 2009, the federal government’s revenues declined by more than $400 billion. With a balanced-budget requirement in place, just at the moment when government’s help is needed most, not only would it be powerless to do anything to mitigate the toll of the recession, it also would be required to impose brutal budget cuts, pulling money out of the economy and making things even worse. If Rubio got his way, every recession the country experienced would be deeper, longer and more punishing.

Some conservatives say, “Nearly every state has a balanced-budget amendment, so why can’t the federal government have one too?” But that’s actually another reason why a federal balanced-budget amendment would be so dangerous. When a recession hits, states have no choice but to cut back, slashing needed services and firing workers just when their economies are suffering. At those times, the federal government can step in to limit the damage, boosting the hundreds of billions of dollars it already provides in aid to the states. As it happens, many of the states run by Republicans are the ones most dependent on federal government aid. In 2012, according to the Tax Foundation, the federal government picked up 31.5 percent of all state budgets, including 44 percent of Louisiana’s, 45 percent of Mississippi’s and 41 percent of Tennessee’s. So in places where Republicans are denouncing the federal government in the loudest terms, without the federal government’s help their state finances would utterly collapse.

The good news is that none of what Rubio is advocating for will ever happen. But advocating for constitutional amendments is what you do when you don’t have the stomach for actual governing. It’s certainly seductive — we’ll just change the Constitution, and that will sweep away all the messiness that comes with politics. But it’s a fantasy. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of presidential candidates who don’t respect the voters enough to tell them that passing laws and solving problems is difficult and complicated, and to get what you want to you have to slog your way through it. That’s not an inspiring campaign message, but it’s the truth.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, December 31, 2015

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Congress, Constitution, Governing, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The GOP’s Self-Inflicted Wounds”: Keep One Thing In Mind; The Party Establishment Brought This Plague Upon Itself

As the leading Republican presidential candidates rant and rave about deporting 11 million immigrants, fighting some kind of world war against Islam, implementing gimmicky tax plans that would bankrupt the nation and other such madness, keep one thing in mind: The party establishment brought this plague upon itself.

The self-harming was unintentional but inevitable — and should have been foreseeable. Donald Trump and Ben Carson didn’t come out of nowhere. Fully half of the party’s voters didn’t wake up one morning and decide, for no particular reason, that experience as a Republican elected official was the last thing they wanted in a presidential candidate.

The insurrection that has reduced Jeb Bush to single-digit support while Trump and Carson soar is nothing more than the understandable reaction of the jilted. Republican leaders have spent the years of the Obama presidency inflaming GOP base voters with extreme rhetoric and wooing them with empty promises. The establishment won its goal — electoral gains in Congress and many statehouses — but in the process may have lost the party.

Unrest was brewing among true-believer conservatives even before Barack Obama took office as the first African-American president. George W. Bush had angered the base with his budget-busting expenditures for Middle East wars and a new prescription drug benefit under Medicare. What had happened to the party’s commitment to fiscal responsibility?

The final straw for many came when the financial crisis hit in 2008 and Bush, in his final days, won authorization of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program — a massive bailout for the big Wall Street banks. It was a wholesale violation of conservative principles that helped inspire the birth of the tea party movement.

With the economy still in crisis, Obama took actions that further riled conservatives — pushing through Congress a messy economic stimulus package and rescuing General Motors and Chrysler. And then the president turned to health care, ultimately winning passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The GOP saw a golden political opportunity. Rather than work with Obama toward compromise, Republicans positioned themselves as implacable foes of the president and all he stood for.

As the tea party increasingly came to demonize Obama for being an alleged Muslim or socialist — and even to delegitimize him as supposedly having been born in Kenya — the Republican establishment shamefully played along despite knowing that none of this rubbish was true.

The result was a sweeping victory in the 2010 election. Republicans captured the House by electing dozens of tea party-backed candidates, who came to Washington with revolution on their minds.

Experienced GOP politicians who should have known better allowed this insurgency to push the party into a series of showdowns with Obama that Republicans could not possibly win. Having told the base that great things could be accomplished by shutting down the government or threatening default on the national debt, the establishment had to say, in effect, never mind.

Voters began to realize that they’d been had. The Republican leadership talked a good game at election time, but never delivered.

Is it any wonder, then, that 51 percent of Republican voters (according to the Real Clear Politics poll average) say they favor Trump, Carson or Carly Fiorina, none of whom has ever held public office? Or that another 11 percent support Ted Cruz, whose career in the Senate has consisted of vehemently opposing his own party’s leadership as a bunch of weak-kneed quislings?

If you add it up, roughly six of 10 GOP voters tell pollsters they reject any candidate the Republican establishment likes. That amounts to a party in open revolt.

There are those in the Republican establishment who look at prior elections and predict the outsider candidates will eventually fade. There are those who believe the fear of terrorism, post-Paris, will lead voters to choose safety over adventure. Perhaps this is something other than whistling past the graveyard, but that’s what it sounds like to me.

Are voters who have been on the raucous, anything-goes Trump bandwagon for months going to fall meekly in line behind someone like Bush or Marco Rubio? It gets harder and harder to imagine such a thing.

Meanwhile, the whole field is being pulled so far to the right on issues such as immigration and taxes that any of the likely nominees will have a hard time winning the general election. This is a fine mess the Republican Party has gotten itself into, and we won’t know until the early primaries whether there’s any hope of a way out.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 26, 2015

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Base, GOP Establishment, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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