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“Products Of Today’s Republican Party”: The Only Way GOP Governors Can Run For President Is By Shafting Their Own States

Given that there are currently 31 Republican governors, it’s natural that more than a few of them would be both successful enough and ambitious enough to run for president. Two more governors are about to formally enter the race: Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal will announce his candidacy today, and New Jersey’s Chris Christie is reportedly ready to join as early as next week. There will end up being as many as four current governors in the race (those two, plus Scott Walker and John Kasich), plus four former governors (Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki).

Let’s put the former governors aside for the moment. There’s something curious going on with the sitting governors: three of them are extremely unpopular at home, and the fourth may be the one who provides the explanation why.

Let’s start with the new entrants. Bobby Jindal has long been regarded as a future presidential candidate, but his current profile makes you wonder why he’s bothering to run for president. It’s not just that he’s currently averaging 0.7 percent in presidential polls, putting him in 15th place. Jindal just got through a budget crisis with a ridiculous tax gimmick that made him an object of national ridicule, and nobody is arguing they need to emulate Louisiana’s record of success. One recent poll put his approval in the state at 31 percent.

Chris Christie isn’t doing any better. His approval is now at 30 percent, and it’s pretty clear his tough-guy schtick wore thin a while ago, even in New Jersey (let alone in places like Iowa).

Then there’s Scott Walker, who’s in the first tier of presidential candidates, but has the approval of only 41 percent of Wisconsinites. As the New York Times describes today, he’s in a battle with Republicans in the state legislature:

Leaders of Mr. Walker’s party, which controls the Legislature, are balking at his demands for the state’s budget. Critics say the governor’s spending blueprint is aimed more at appealing to conservatives in early-voting states like Iowa than doing what is best for Wisconsin.

Lawmakers are stymied over how to pay for road and bridge repairs without raising taxes or fees, which Mr. Walker has ruled out.

The governor’s fellow Republicans rejected his proposal to borrow $1.3 billion for the roadwork, arguing that adding to the state’s debt is irresponsible.

And therein lies part of the problem: appealing to the GOP primary electorate means, among other things, never raising taxes, even when refusing to do so initiates a budget crisis. It also means rejecting the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which shoots your state in the foot for the purpose of ideological anti-Obama purity.

In many ways, Walker has governed from the outset like someone thinking about a presidential primary. He set out to destroy the state’s public employee unions, and now wants to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the University of Wisconsin budget, not to mention going after tenure (take that, elitists!), which would make it much harder to recruit quality faculty to the state’s beloved university. Those kinds of moves guarantee that he’ll always be a divisive governor, cheering members of his own party and alienating those in the opposing party.

But that’s how you need to govern if you’re going to be able to mount a presidential campaign that isn’t consumed by explaining your heresies. Which brings us to Ohio governor John Kasich, who not only accepted the Medicaid expansion, he invoked a religious imperative to explain his decision to do so. “I don’t know about you, lady,” he told a GOP donor who criticized him for it, “but when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.”

Chris Christie accepted the Medicaid expansion too, but at least he can argue that he did so under pressure from a Democratic legislature. And he has attempted to make up for his sin of allowing 400,000 low-income people to get health insurance by proposing to cut Social Security. But Kasich could find himself explaining over and over that he’s a real conservative despite his accommodation to the ACA.

Kasich might try this argument: If this was so terrible, how come I’m the only governor in this race with approval ratings at home over 50 percent?

The problem is that GOP primary voters will probably reply, Who cares? As far as they’re concerned, “success” isn’t defined by whether your constituents are happy with the job you’ve done. Practical achievements like improving the health of your state or even fostering strong job creation are all well and good, but they have to take a back seat to ideological achievements like crushing a labor union, fighting Obamacare, or resisting tax increases.

Governors who run for president are happy to tell you that being a governor is the best preparation for being president, and they have a point. While senators can get away with just making self-aggrandizing speeches without actually accomplishing anything (see Cruz, Ted), governors have no choice but to make similar kinds of decisions to the ones presidents make. They have to set priorities, formulate budgets, and work with a legislature, not to mention the fact that most governors eventually face some kind of crisis that tests their ability to act in trying circumstances. While senators can say “I sponsored some nice bills,” governors have lengthier records to run on.

But it may be no accident that most of the Republican governors currently running for president aren’t popular at home. They’re products of today’s Republican Party, where unflagging commitment to conservative doctrine is what counts as success.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, June 24, 2015

June 27, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Governors | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Edge Of Ruthlessness”: Scott Walker; Uncle Scrooge’s Lackey In Wisconsin

Economically speaking, all 237 GOP presidential candidates are selling the same magic beans.

Everybody knows the script by now: Tax cuts for wealthy “job creators” bring widespread prosperity; top off Scrooge McDuck’s bullion pool, and the benefits flow outward to everybody else, the economy surges, budget deficits melt away, and the song of the turtle dove will be heard in the land.

Almost needless to say, these “supply side” miracles have never actually happened in the visible world. State budget debacles in Kansas and Louisiana only signify the latest failures of right-wing dogma. Hardly anybody peddling these magic beans actually believes in them anymore. Nevertheless, feigning belief signifies tribal loyalty to the partisan Republicans who will choose the party’s nominee.

However, with everybody in the field playing “let’s pretend,” a candidate needs another way to distinguish himself. I suspect that Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, may have found it.

See, Walker won’t just put money back in “hardworking taxpayers’” pockets. Like a latter-day Richard Nixon, Walker will also stick it to people he doesn’t like: lollygagging schoolteachers, feather-bedding union members, and smug, tenured college professors who think they’re smarter than everybody else. If Walker lacks charisma, there’s an edge of ruthlessness in his otherwise bland demeanor that hits GOP primary voters right where they live.

No less an authority than Uncle Scrooge himself — i.e. David Koch of Koch Industries, who with his brother Charles has pledged to spend $900 million to elect a Republican in 2016 — told the New York Observer after a closed-door gathering at Manhattan’s Empire Club that Walker will win the nomination and crush Hillary Clinton in a general election “by a major margin.”

Viewed from a distance, the determination of prosperous, well-educated Wisconsin to convert itself into an anti-union right-to-work state like Alabama or Arkansas appears mystifying. To risk the standing of the University of Wisconsin system by abolishing academic tenure, as Walker intends, is damn near incomprehensible.

Attack one of America’s great public research universities for the sake of humiliating (Democratic-leaning) professors over nickel-and-dime budgetary issues? Do Wisconsinites have the first clue how modern economies work?

Maybe not. But Walker’s supporters definitely appear to know who their enemies are, culturally speaking. Incredulity aside, it would be a mistake not to notice the craftiness with which he’s brought off the transformation. Not to mention that Walker’s won three elections since 2010 in a “blue” state that hasn’t supported a Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan.

Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes don’t mean much by themselves, but throw in Michigan and Ohio, Midwestern states also trending similarly, and you’ve definitely got something.

Act 10, the 2011 law that took away collective bargaining rights for many public employees in Wisconsin (except, at first, for police and firefighters), brought crowds of angry teachers (also mostly Democrats) to the state capitol in Madison for weeks of demonstrations. As much as MSNBC was thrilled, many Wisconsinites appear to have been irked.

In the end, the state ended up saving roughly $3 billion by shifting the funding of fringe benefits such as health insurance and pensions from employer to employee, costing the average teacher roughly 16 percent of his or her compensation. Mindful of budget shortfalls, the unions had proposed negotiations, but that wasn’t enough for Gov. Walker.

For the record, Act 10 was an almost verbatim copy of a bill promoted by the Arlington, Virginia-based American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a think-tank largely funded by, you guessed it, the Brothers Koch.

Four years ago, a documentary filmmaker caught Walker on camera telling wealthy supporters that the new law was just the beginning. “The first step is, we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public-­employee unions,” he said, “because you use divide-­and-­conquer.”

“If we can do it in Wisconsin, we can do it anywhere — even in our nation’s capital,” Walker wrote in his book, Unintimidated, notes Dan Kaufman in the New York Times Magazine. Elsewhere, Walker has boasted that as president, he could take on foreign policy challenges because, he’s said, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”

Ridiculous, of course, but it plays.

Meanwhile, rueful trade unionists who endorsed Walker in 2010 are crying the blues, because they never imagined that having vanquished the women’s union he’d come after the ironworkers and the electricians in their pickup trucks. Divided, they’ve been conquered.

So right-to-work it is: diminished salaries, job security, pensions, health and safety regulations will inevitably follow.

More bullion for Scrooge McDuck’s pool.

So now it’s the professors’ turn. Walker, a Marquette dropout, has described his new law as “Act 10 for the university.” Tenure’s a dead letter in cases of “financial emergency… requiring program discontinuance, curtailment, modification or redirection.”

So who gets redirected first? Left-wing culture warriors or climate scientists? Hint: Scrooge is a fierce climate-change denier.

Meanwhile, Democrats underestimate Scott Walker at considerable peril.


By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 17, 2015

June 17, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker, Supply Side Economics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Are We Still Thugs When You Pay To Watch Us Play Sports?”: Deified On Campus While Being Disrespected When The Uniform Comes Off

It is difficult to imagine two more different university towns than Madison, Wisconsin, and Norman, Oklahoma. Madison has a reputation stretching back decades as liberal—even radical—territory. That ain’t Norman. This week however, both of these communities were connected by the resistance of black students—along with allies and supporters—against racism. Madison and Norman are bringing together different aspects of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and demonstrating how this struggle is now firmly implanted among the young—and among young athletes—in a manner that for now seems set in stone. In Madison, several thousand high school students marched and sat in the streets demanding answers and justice after Tony Robinson, an unarmed 19-year-old, was killed by Madison police. In addition to protests and sit-ins, high school basketball fans, players and even coaches arrived at several games wearing either all-black or shirts that read #JusticeForTony or #BlackLivesMatter.

At Oklahoma, the campus has been roiled by a leaked video of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, caught on camera chanting racist slurs. The school immediately cut all ties with the frat and university president David Boren pledged immediately that the school would become “an example to the entire country of how to deal with this issue.”

That wasn’t enought for the Oklahoma Sooners football team, who canceled their practice and, wearing all black, walked off the field to join demonstrations. It is worth noting that Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops joined his team and marched. It is also worth noting that Bob Stoops has already lost a top-rated high school recruit because of the video.

The players, in addition, held an impromptu press conference saying that they wanted to use this opportunity to also speak about their own grievances about how they are treated on campus. On Thursday, Sooners Quarterback Trevor Knight issued a statement on behalf of the team. People should read it in its entirety because it is a powerful piece of work. The money quote in my mind is:

As a team, our goal first and foremost is to raise awareness of racism and discrimination on college campuses nationwide…. But before we can change the nation, we make it our mission to change our campus. We seek to accomplish this goal by stepping out of the spotlight and integrating the student-athlete experience and the student experience. As student athletes of all races, classes and creeds, we hope to show the university and the community that we are defined by more than the numbers on our jerseys, and that we are human beings that desire to get to know our classmates as we all attempt to end the culture of exclusivity on this campus. Secondary to accomplishing these goals, we also seek disciplinary action for those responsible.

The simultaneous real-time demonstrations for #BlackLivesMatter in these two seemingly polar opposite places of Madison and Norman speak glaringly to the fact that what they have in common is greater than what separates them. Both are state schools with small percentages of black students. Madison, with more than 40,000 students, has a black population of 2.3 percent, and OU, with an enrollment of about 30,000, has a black population of about 5 percent. Both schools field football teams that are nationally ranked, financially lucrative and highly dependent on black talent. This also means that on both campuses sports might be the most integrated public space. Several players at Oklahoma, as sports writer Aaron Leibowitz pointed out, have taken to social media to spell out the ways so-called “student athletes” can be deified on campus while being disrespected when the uniform comes off.

Both the stories out of Madison and Norman brought to mind a sign held up by University of Maryland wide receiver Deon Long when attending a Black Lives Matter rally on campus that read, “Are we still thugs when you pay to watch us play sports?” The answer for too many seems to be yes. We learned this week that the cities of Madison and Norman had more in common than college life and big time football. Here is hoping that as the Oklahoma football team confronts how it is going to “step out of the spotlight” and “raise awareness of racism,” its vision includes Tony Robinson and the growing list of unarmed black women and men felled by police violence.


By: Dave Zirin, The Nation, March 13, 2015

March 15, 2015 Posted by | Black Atheletes, College Campuses, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP’s Scramble For The Stupid Vote”: Slumming For Support In The Fever Swamps Of White Cultural Resentment

Dinesh D’Souza is no one’s idea of a thoughtful participant in the nation’s public conversation. Still, his tweet on Wednesday morning may have set a new low for the right-wing rabble-rouser. Commenting on a widely circulated image of President Obama taking a picture of himself with a selfie stick, D’Souza tweeted the following message: “YOU CAN TAKE THE BOY OUT OF THE GHETTO… Watch this vulgar man show his stuff, while America cowers in embarrassment.”

The tweet has created quite a stir, especially among people who think it demonstrates D’Souza’s racism. But I think it reveals something that might actually be worse: his willingness to pander shamelessly to racists in order to increase his own power and influence.

And really, isn’t that what’s most outrageous about the contemporary Republican Party — how ready and even eager it is to go slumming for support in the fever swamps of white cultural resentment?

Yes, even worse than its lamentable enthusiasm for prostrating itself before the super-rich. For one thing, while money can certainly influence the outcome of an election, it’s unclear how much or in what way. Just ask the notorious Koch brothers, who spent over $400 million during the last presidential election cycle with decidedly mixed results. Then there’s the fact that the Democrats have their own super-rich donors, showing that money doesn’t directly translate into a fixed ideological agenda. This is true even among the most reliably Republican donors, whose policy commitments can be as unpredictable as anyone’s.

Far greater civic damage is done by the GOP pandering to (and flattering the prejudices of) right-wing cultural populists.

It all began with Barry Goldwater’s 1964 bid to catapult himself into the White House on the backs of states-rights segregationists and Orange County conservatives. Goldwater lost in a landslide, but 16 years later Ronald Reagan succeeded with a similar strategy, combining culturally alienated Southern white voters with disaffected blue-collar northern Democrats to form a winning electoral coalition for the Republican Party.

As the size of that coalition has slowly shrunk over the intervening decades — due to a mixture of demographic attrition and changes in the ideological configuration of the Democratic Party since the early 1990s — the GOP has had to work ever-harder to motivate the coalition’s remaining members to show up at the polls on Election Day. And that has turned the Republican primaries into contests over who can pander to them the most egregiously.

That’s what’s inspired such sparkling policy gems as Mitt Romney’s proposal that undocumented workers “self-deport” and Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax cut gimmick. It’s also given us Sen. Ted Cruz — a politician whose every word and action seems driven by the singular desire to transform himself into an archetype of the median Fox News viewer.

And then there’s Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who’s already in the lead to win this election cycle’s award for Achievements in Pandering.

Exhibit A is a form of groveling that these days just about every Republican engages in when asked if he or she accepts the truth of Darwinian evolution. Walker played this sorry game on his recent trip to London, when the question was posed to him by a reporter and he chose to “punt.”

When members of the right-wing media dismiss such questions as exercises in confirming that conservatives belong to a different cultural “tribe” than liberals, they have a point. A president’s views on evolutionary biology are in almost all imaginable circumstances irrelevant to his job, and most liberals who scoff at Republican expressions of evolutionary agnosticism probably know no more about biological science than their ideological opponents.

Yet there is still something more than a little pathetic about the abject refusal of Republican candidates for high office to defend the reigning scientific consensus on the matter, at the risk of offending the most stridently fundamentalist Christians. Why not be similarly non-committal about whether the sun orbits the Earth or vice versa? Just because these believers have arbitrarily decided that it’s acceptable to defer to scientists on one issue but not the other?

A politician less terrified of antagonizing scientifically illiterate voters might respond to a question about evolution like this: “Yes, I believe life evolved on Earth, not because I’m a scientist but precisely because I’m not. Scientists study these questions, they revise their views in light of new evidence, all the evidence gathered today points toward evolution, and that’s good enough for me. As a Christian, I have faith that God played a role in evolution that we can’t fully grasp through science, but that doesn’t mean the science is wrong.”

A statement like that would take the faith of religious voters seriously while not pretending that ignorance is acceptable or treating it as something positively admirable. But of course it might also alienate a few Know Nothings, and that’s apparently not something Walker is willing to risk doing.

He is not only unwilling to risk offending fundamentalists, but also seems actively committed to wooing people who think that what America really needs in 2015 is to stick it to university professors.

That’s Exhibit B: Walker’s effort to cut $300 million from the budget for the University of Wisconsin system — coincidentally at the precise moment he’s gearing up to compete in the notoriously far-right GOP Iowa caucuses.

I have no idea if Walker actually believes professors are parasites on the Wisconsin state budget — or if he’s merely ingratiating himself to those who do. What matters is that in taking this stance he’s allied himself with the forces in American society that consider Advanced Placement history courses to be a problem rather than a plus, and who know so little about university life that they actually think professors are coddled wards of the state instead of richly educated researchers and teachers who work endless hours for modest pay and (thanks in part to slanderous statements by public figures like Scott Walker) precious little social esteem.

Is this really what America needs now — a scramble to nail down the stupid vote? That is the spectacle the Republican Party seems once again poised to provide.

Add it to the list of reasons I won’t be voting for the GOP anytime soon.


By: Damon Linker, The Week, February 20, 2015

February 21, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Handy Way To Shift The Discussion”: How Republicans Will Use Scott Walker’s Lack Of A College Degree To Stir Class Resentment

Since we’re now all fascinated by Scott Walker, there’s been some discussion in the past few days of the fact that Walker would be the first president in many decades who didn’t have a college degree. He left Marquette after four years, and though he apparently was quite a few credits short of graduating, most people would regard it as an unwise career move when you’ve come that far. Nevertheless, Walker did fine for himself, and some conservatives are now holding up his example as a triumphant rebuke to liberal elitism. Anticipating the scorn Walker will receive from those elitists, they rattle off lists of the high-achievers who didn’t get a degree, like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

From what I can tell, the only liberal who has actually said that Walker’s lack of a degree is problematic was Howard Dean, in an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. But Dean’s one comment keeps getting cited (see Glenn Reynolds or Deroy Murdock or Charles C.W. Cooke or Chris Cillizza) as evidence that “liberals” are looking down their snooty noses at Walker, and by extension, at the majority of Americans who don’t have a college degree.

Which leads me to believe that this is a vein Republicans may be tapping into repeatedly, particularly if Walker becomes the GOP nominee. It wouldn’t be anything new, though if he himself indulged in it, Walker could come by resentment of pointy-headed intellectuals a little more honestly than, say, George H.W. Bush, graduate of Phillips Andover and Yale, who sneered in 1988 that Michael Dukakis represented the “Harvard boutique.” Walker also recently started battling the University of Wisconsin (beloved within the state, but about which voters in Iowa have no similar feelings, I’m guessing), which should help him portray himself as a crusader against the tenured enemies of real Americans.

Anti-intellectualism has often been an effective way for Republicans to stir up class resentment while distracting from economic issues. It says to voters: Don’t think about who has economic power and which party is advocating for their interests. Don’t aim your disgruntlement at Wall Street, or corporations that don’t pay taxes, or the people who want to keep wages low and make unions a memory. Point it in a different direction, at college professors and intellectuals (and Hollywood, while you’re at it). They’re the ones keeping you down. You got laid off while the CEO took home $20 million last year? Forget about that: The real person to be angry at is a professor of anthropology somewhere who said something mean about Scott Walker because he doesn’t have a degree.

There are going to be more than a few Republicans who see in that argument a handy way to shift the discussion away from economic inequality while still sending the message that they’re on the side of ordinary folks. Here, for instance, is Rush Limbaugh yesterday:

The stories are legion of all the great Americans, successful, who have not graduated from college. And of course the two names that come to people’s mind right off the bat are me and Steve Jobs. And then some people throw Gates in there. So there are three people who have reached the pinnacle, who have not gone to college, and those two or three names get bandied about all the time in this discussion.

But it doesn’t matter. To the elites, that doesn’t matter, it doesn’t mean that they are qualified to be in the elite group. And the elite group in Washington is what we call the ruling class or the D.C. establishment, both parties, or what have you. And it’s especially bad in the Drive-By Media. That is one of the most exclusive and I should say exclusionary groups of people that you can imagine.

If you look at it as a club and look at the admittance requirements, it is one of the most exclusives things to get into. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, doesn’t matter how much money you make, whether you’re more successful than they are, whether you earn more than they do, whether you have a bigger audience than they, doesn’t matter, you are not getting in that club.

Something tells me that somewhere at the RNC there’s an intern who just got an assignment to monitor every bit of mainstream and social media she can for any moment where a liberal says something condescending about Walker. Then Republicans can wave it about like the bloody shirt of liberal elitism. It’s a lot easier than coming up with an economic plan that doesn’t involve upper-income tax cuts.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, February 17, 2015

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Education, Republicans, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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