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“Part Of A Deliberate Strategy”: The Religious Right Finds Its Man

The pattern started in earnest in 1996. Social conservative leaders weren’t sold on Bob Dole as the Republicans’ presidential nominee, but the religious right movement struggled to rally behind a credible alternative.

As we discussed in March, in nearly every election cycle that followed, a similar dynamic unfolded. In 2000, the religious right wanted John Ashcroft, who didn’t run. In 2008, the religious right hated John McCain, but it couldn’t settle on a rival. In 2012, social conservatives were skeptical about Mitt Romney, but again, it failed to coalesce behind someone else.

The movement and its leaders were absolutely determined not to repeat their mistakes. This would finally be the cycle, the religious right’s heavyweights insisted, in which social conservatives en masse made an early decision, chose a competitive GOP candidate, and helped propel him or her towards the convention.

And though I was skeptical of their organizational skills, social conservative leaders, for the first time in a generation, are doing exactly what they set out to do. National Review reported late yesterday:

James Dobson, founder of the Christian group Focus on the Family and one of the nation’s most influential evangelicals, will endorse Ted Cruz for president today, according to sources briefed on the announcement. […]

Dobson, sources say, has long been an outspoken voice on Cruz’s behalf, arguing in previous private gatherings that Marco Rubio was not sufficiently conservative to earn the group’s support.

The endorsement from Dobson, a powerhouse in religious right circles, comes on the heels of similar support from the Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats, the National Organization for Marriage, and GOP activist/direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie.

This isn’t a situation in which prominent social conservatives suddenly saw the merits of the Texas Republican’s candidacy. On the contrary, it’s part of a deliberate strategy.

National Review reported earlier this week on the religious right’s initiative to formally choose the movement’s presidential hopeful.

The initiative, spearheaded by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, had originally brought together a loose coalition of some 50 like-minded conservative leaders from around the country. Together, beginning in early 2014, the group – referred to internally simply as “The GROUP” – met every few months to discuss the state of the race, to pray for guidance, and to conduct a straw poll to see which candidates enjoyed the most support at each stage of the campaign.

It had all built to this day and to this meeting, where members would vote until they reached a verdict. Once finalized, their decision would represent the culmination of an oft-dismissed undertaking that began several years earlier and aimed at one thing: coalescing the conservative movement’s leaders behind a single presidential candidate in a show of strength and solidarity that would position them to defeat the establishment-backed candidate in the head-to-head stage of the 2016 Republican primary.

And two weeks ago, in a hotel boardroom in Northern Virginia, Ted Cruz cleared the 75% supermajority threshold “required to bind the group’s membership to support him.”

Dobson’s endorsement is part of the initiative’s rollout, and his Cruz endorsement will reportedly soon be followed by the Senate Conservatives Fund Ken Cuccinelli and the FRC’s Tony Perkins.

Will this translate into success for the far-right senator? It’s true that social conservatives’ influence over the direction of the Republican Party isn’t as strong as it once was, but this constituency still represents a significant chunk of the GOP base, especially in states like Iowa.

In a competitive nominating fight, which will likely come down to three or four people, Cruz’s formal alliance with the religious right may very well make an enormous difference.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 18, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, Establishment Republicans, Evangelicals, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Longer And Deeper Than Just A Few Checks”: The 2 Degrees of Separation Between Dylann Roof And The Republican Party

News that Earl Holt, president of the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, has donated $65,000 to Republicans, including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum, has ricocheted around the media since The Guardian broke it last night. No wonder: It reveals a mere two degrees of separation between the racist murderer Dylann Roof, who says the CCC helped inspire him, and the GOP. It might be unfair to make this link if the support only went one way—after all, politicians can’t be held responsible for the views of everyone who gives them money. But the entanglement between the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Republican Party is longer and deeper than just a few checks, and for many years, it was mutual.

“The public sees the CCC and wants to think of it as an extremist group, which it is, but it’s also a group that’s had a foothold historically in mainstream politics,” says Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Before his killing spree, Roof published a half-literate manifesto crediting the CCC for his radicalization. He describes typing “black on White crime” into Google following the Trayvon Martin killing: “The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders. I was in disbelief. At this moment I realized that something was very wrong.” After Roof’s screed came to light, the CCC didn’t bother to distance itself from the views of its sociopathic admirer. “[W]e utterly condemn Roof’s despicable killings, but they do not detract in the slightest from the legitimacy of some of the positions he has expressed,” it says in a statement.

In a phone interview, CCC spokesman Jared Taylor elaborated on this legitimacy. “Let’s say Dylann Roof has a talent for programming. If he goes out to Silicon Valley, he will find that Apple and Intel have set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to hire people who look like anybody but him,” he says. Another “legitimate grievance,” Taylor says, is the “overwhelming amount of black-on-white rather than white-on-black violence,” particularly rape.

Taylor sympathizes with the needs of Republicans like Cruz, who has returned the CCC’s donation, to distance themselves from the group. The presidential candidate, he says, “will come under tremendous pressure if he doesn’t give the money back. It’s not an easy situation.” That pressure has made it harder for Republicans to openly align with the CCC. “From time to time we have Republicans who are interested in our events, but it’s not as common as it has been in the past,” he says.

Indeed, in the past, Southern Republicans regularly patronized CCC gatherings; the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that 38 elected officials appeared between 2000 and 2004 alone, including Roger Wicker, now a Mississippi senator, and former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a major figure in the Christian right, spoke there in 2001. “Southern politicians going to CCC events is just a reflection of the GOP’s traditional Southern strategy,” says Cohen.

In the last decade, Republican politicians have realized that, in the age of social media, association with the CCC can be dangerous. An inflection point was the 2002 resignation of Senate majority leader Trent Lott—who spoke to the CCC at least five times—after a firestorm caused by his praise of Strom Thurmond’s segregationist 1948 third-party presidential campaign, remarks that were amplified by the blogosphere.

But the overlap between the CCC and the GOP has never entirely disappeared, particularly in South Carolina. Two years ago, for example, Roan Garcia-Quintana, a CCC board member and self-described “Confederate Cuban,” resigned his place on Governor Nikki Haley’s campaign steering committee after his links to the group made news. CCC webmaster Kyle Rogers—whose online store, Patriotic-Flags.com, sells the same Rhodesian flag patch worn by Roof in one of his photos—was a member of the Dorchester County Republican Executive Committee. (It’s also worth noting that high-profile conservative pundit Ann Coulter was defending the CCC as recently as 2009.)

This is part of why Republican candidates have been so hesitant to acknowledge that Roof was actually motivated by racism, despite his own unambiguous words. On some level, they realize that if they admit the truth, they will be held politically accountable. And it’s in that context that Holt’s donations are notable. “You can’t help it in this world sometimes who admires you,” says Cohen. “The much more damning thing for the Republican Party historically has been the legitimacy that it has conferred on the CCC.”

 

By: Michelle Goldberg, The Nation, June 22, 2015

June 29, 2015 Posted by | Council of Conservative Citizens, Republicans, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Oh, Please!”: Roy Moore Wants Ruth Bader Ginsburg Impeached

The U.S. Supreme Court probably won’t rule on marriage equality until the end of June, and when it does, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is likely to side in support of equal-marriage rights.

For the right, this will be deeply annoying – not just because of conservative opposition to marriage equality in general, but also because much of the right believes Ginsburg shouldn’t be able to participate in the case at all. Right Wing Watch had this report this afternoon:

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore spoke with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on Friday about his belief that states should “resist” a potential Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, saying that Congress and the states should simply defy a court decision they disagree with by stating “that there is no right to redefine marriage” in the U.S. Constitution.

“We have justices on the Supreme Court right now who have actually performed same-sex marriages, Ginsburg and Kagan,” Moore continued. “Congress should do something about this.”

Such as? Moore raised the prospect of impeachment proceedings.

Perkins concluded, in reference to Ginsburg, “This is undermining the rule of law in our country and ushers in an age of chaos.”

Oh, please.

First, the idea that Ginsburg can’t consider the constitutional questions surrounding marriage rights because she’s performed wedding ceremonies is pretty silly.

Second, let’s not lose sight of the context here. Roy Moore, who was once expelled from state Supreme Court because he declared an ability to ignore federal court rulings he doesn’t like, continues to argue that Alabama is not bound by the federal judiciary.

There’s someone in this story who’s “undermining the rule of law in our country,” and trying to create “chaotic” conditions, but it’s clearly not Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 26, 2015

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Marriage Equality, Roy Moore, Ruth Bader Ginsburg | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Scott Walker And The Christian Right”: Seeing What They Can Extort From Walker In Exchange For Their Blessing

Yesterday Politico‘s Alex Isenstadt created a stir by reporting that Scott Walker was rushing to deal with misgivings among Christian Right leaders about his fidelity to the Cause. The less-than-subtle headline–“Scott Walker’s crisis of faith”–suggested that he was speeding to a summit meeting with said leaders, who held his fate in their hands.

But if you read the piece carefully, it’s not clear exactly who’s among the “50 influential leaders” Walker is meeting with at the Capitol Hill Club–the top Republican Beltway hangout, and an unlikely place for any faith-based summit–other than social-issues warhorse Tony Perkins. Isenstadt actually used the meeting to solicit skeptical comments from an array of old-school Christian Right types, including Iowa’s Bob Vander Plaats (whose whole shtick is using his leverage in the first-in-the-nation Caucus state to intimidate Republican presidential candidates), Penny Nance of Concerned Women of America, a group that’s been closely associated with Mike Huckabee, and Liberty Counsel’s Matt Staver, co-author of a recent shrill anti-marriage equality manifesto.

On Twitter Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches quickly dismissed Walker’s DC “huddle” as a nothing-burger. Posner, as some of you may recall, wrote a piece recently suggesting that Walker may wind up being the favorite of rank-and-file conservative evangelicals, who aren’t necessarily following their old leaders these days.

As it happens, a rare early national poll with exceptionally detailed cross-tabs was released this week that casts some light on the question of conservative evangelical sympathies. The GWU/Battleground Poll showed Scott Walker with a 45/4 favorable/unfavorable rating among conservative white evangelicals, as compared to 54/34 for Jeb Bush, 69/15 for Mike Huckabee, 51/10 for Ted Cruz, 56/11 for Marco Rubio, and 50/26 for Ron Paul. So a lot of them don’t know Walker, but so far, those who do really like him. On the more revealing question of “would you consider voting for this candidate,” Walker paces the field with a yes/no ratio of 70/19, compared with 67/27 for Rubio, 67/28 for Huck, 65/24 for Cruz, 56/37 for Paul, and Jebbie bringing up the rear at 54/42.

So one way to look at it is that Scott Walker’s doing okay with the Christian Right rank-and-file no matter what their alleged leaders are saying. And the other way to look at it is that said leaders figure they’d better get in front of this particular train and see what they can extort from Walker in exchange for their blessing, or at least their non-hostility.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 15, 2015

May 18, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A High-Falutin’ Elitist”: Jeb Bush To Continue Family Tradition Of Pretending To Be A Reg’lar Fella

It’s presidential campaign time, which means that I will have ample opportunity to fulminate against my many pet peeves of political rhetoric in the months to come. There are few higher on that list than the repeated claim politicians make that they aren’t really politicians—they don’t really think or know much about politics, and they’re both repulsed by and unfamiliar with this strange and sinister place called “Washington, D.C.” that they just happen to be so desperate to move to. Obi-Wan Kenobi may have said of Mos Eisley, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy,” but he didn’t follow that up with, “But I don’t really know anything about the place, which is why I’m the best person to guide you through it.” Because that would have been ridiculous. Not so our politicians, however. And here’s the latest:

Jeb Bush isn’t a New York Times reader.

The former Florida governor and likely Republican presidential candidate appeared on Fox News Radio on Thursday and, when asked to respond to a quote in the paper, said he doesn’t read it.

“I don’t read The New York Times, to be honest with you,” Bush told Fox’s Brian Kilmeade.

The quote in question came from Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, who was quoted in the Times saying that the Christian right should begin discussing which candidate to back as an alternative to Bush, because he didn’t represent their views….

Kilmeade later asked, “Would [Perkins] be somebody you’d approach. Would you say, Tony, you’re misunderstanding me. We need to talk. I read that column today in The New York Times?”

“Maybe I’ll give him a call today, I don’t know,” Bush said. “I don’t read The New York Times. But if you’re going to force me to do so….”

You’ll notice that Bush points out that he doesn’t read The New York Times not once, but twice. Can I say for sure that this is a lie, and Jeb Bush does in fact read The New York Times? Of course not. But the point is that instead of just saying, “I didn’t see that article,” he has to make a point of letting people know he doesn’t read the Times, as some high-falutin’ elitist would.

Nobody has to read The New York Times in particular. It does remain the most important news outlet in America, not because its audience is the largest but because it has more influence than any other. When a story appears in the Times, it can set the agenda for the entire news media (media scholars have actually documented this effect). Unless you’re Sarah Palin, if you’re a politician it’s part of your job to keep abreast of what’s going on, which means you’ll at least glance at the Times, The Washington Post, and probably The Wall Street Journal. I’m sure that one of Jeb Bush’s staffers assembles for him a collection of clips that he can look at every day so he knows what’s happening in the world.

But Bush feels the need to display his own (alleged) ignorance and disinterest, lest anyone believe that this guy—whose grandfather was a senator, whose father and brother were both president, who was a governor, and whose entire life has been wrapped up in American politics—might actually be so crass and cynical as to keep up with the news.

In this, Bush is following a family tradition of pretending to be “jus’ folks.” George H.W. did it in typically hamhanded fashion, by letting everyone know he loved pork rinds. George W. was far more adept at it; in 1999, in advance of his run for the White House, he bought a “ranch” to which he would go for vigorous brush-clearing sessions, conducted in the appropriate cowboy costume (boots, hat, belt-buckle). I believe that the sole agricultural product the ranch produced was brush, which Bush would “clear,” i.e., move from one place to another, so that he could be photographed in action.

There are reasons one might vote for Jeb Bush, and reasons one might vote against him. But nobody is going to be convinced that he’s an outsider who will come to Washington, shake up the system, and bring his real-world common sense to bear on all those politicians and bureaucrats. So let’s drop the Unfrozen Caveman Politician bit, shall we?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 27, 2015

March 29, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush | , , , , | Leave a comment

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