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“Republicans Created Trump, They Must Stand Up To Him”: They Must Reckon With What Their Party Has Become

Donald Trump made one of the most stunning political statements in recent memory yesterday when he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Campaign spokespeople quickly clarified that Trump was referring not only to a blanket ban on Muslim immigrants, but also to preventing Muslims from coming to the U.S. as tourists and possibly even preventing American citizens who are traveling or living abroad from returning home. (He generously made an exception for Muslim members of the military.)

Trump continues to be the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary. It’s time for party officials to reckon with what they have created.

Trump is the product of a party that has for decades thrived on stirring up fears of a scary “other” — from the Southern Strategy to Willie Horton to the persistent rumors that President Obama is a secret Muslim or Kenyan or both. The Republican establishment has for years tolerated its candidates rubbing shoulders with the most extreme elements of its base, whether it’s the white nationalists who have spoken at CPAC or the parade of extremists at each year’s Values Voter Summit.

But there are certain things leading Republicans have largely been careful not to say out loud. Until now.

Trump, building off the Right’s campaign to paint undocumented immigrants as dangerous invaders, launched his campaign by announcing that Mexican immigrants were rapists, drug dealers and other criminals. Then, when the news cycle shifted, he shifted his bigotry. He has spent the last several weeks repeating the objectively untrue claim that “thousands and thousands” of Muslim Americans in New Jersey took to the streets to celebrate the 9/11 attacks. He suggested shutting down some mosques and refused to rule out the possibility of a national database of American Muslims.

Trump’s relentless stream of bigotry isn’t turning away the far-right base of the GOP. Instead, he remains at the top of Republican presidential polls.

It’s not enough for Trump’s rivals and the party’s leadership to say they disagree with his absurd plan to bar Muslims from the country. They must reckon with what their party has become and, if they don’t like it, speak out forcefully on behalf of the American values of freedom, liberty and pluralism. It’s not enough for them to reject one outrageous plan. They must speak out against bigotry and prejudice. And they must make clear that even if Trump were to become the party’s nominee, he would be on his own.

The Republican Party created Trump. Now it’s time for them to take responsibility and, if they don’t like what Trump is saying, take a strong stand for what is right.


By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way, The Blog, The Huffington Post, December 8, 2015

December 16, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Establishment, GOP Voters | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The GOP’s Delusions”: Politicians And Voters, Both Pretending Their Party Can Do Things It Can’t

These days, conservatives have to take their victories where they can find them. After all, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land, gay people are getting married, our noble job creators suffer under the tortuous and unjust burden of high marginal income tax rates, the government continues to provide food stamps to layabouts who think their children ought to eat, immigrants walk amongst us speaking strange and indecipherable tongues, and worst of all, that usurper Barack Obama strolls into the Oval Office every day like he’s the president or something.

In the face of all this horror, even small victories can be cause for celebration. So it was when Marco Rubio told attendees at the Values Voter Summit on Friday that Speaker of the House John Boehner had announced his resignation, and was met with whoops and cheers lasting a full 30 seconds. I couldn’t help wondering: What exactly do they think is going to happen now? Is there any way that Boehner’s departure makes it more likely that any of the things conservatives say they want will actually come to pass?

Today’s Republicans are hardly the first party to spend more time worrying about betrayal from their colleagues than from their opponents on the other side; it’s a dynamic nearly as old as politics itself. But they truly have created not just a politics of anger, but a politics utterly removed from any substance at all. Policy goals may be the nominal justification for all the anger, but in truth nobody bothers figuring out how they might be achieved. The performance is its own end.

Ted Cruz is in many ways the prototypical legislator for this Republican era. On the campaign trail, he tells audiences he has “a proven record” that qualifies him for the presidency. But what is that record? Since he got to Washington two and a half years ago, he has not authored any legislation that passed, or used his position on various committees to some important policy purpose. He’ll tell you a lot about “standing up” — against Obamacare, against increasing the debt ceiling, against Planned Parenthood. And what were the results of all that standing? Did Ted Cruz get the Affordable Care Act repealed, get taxes cut, get government restrained — did he get a single solitary thing that conservatives would look at and say, “Yes, that was one of our goals, and he helped make it happen”?

Of course not. Cruz is not a legislator, he’s a performer, a kind of right-wing version of the Code Pink activists who disrupt Capitol Hill hearings. He doesn’t accomplish anything, but he certainly does stand up. So it’s no accident that many House Republicans look to him as a mentor when they’re considering shutting down the government — another bit of political performance art that inevitably gains conservatives nothing, as long as you’re thinking about the goals they claim to espouse.

You might say it’s not his fault — after all, he’s a first-term senator in the party that doesn’t control the White House. The problem is that Cruz and others like him continually tell their constituents that none of that will matter as long as Republicans despise Obama with sufficient fervor and show sufficient immovability once they do all that “standing up.” And so their voters are inevitably disappointed.

You can blame ignorant voters who expect things they’ll never get, but the greatest responsibility lies with the politicians who keep telling them to expect it. At that same Values Voter Summit, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal (Is there anyone who has been more diminished by running for president this year?) got up and told the crowd, “That’s one down and 434 to go,” adding, “Here’s what I say in response to Speaker Boehner stepping down: Mitch McConnell, it is now your turn.”

Yeah, if every member of Congress were ousted, that would…um…I don’t know, but to hell with them! The fact is that no one has done more to thwart Barack Obama over the last seven years than Mitch McConnell has, and there is no Republican in Washington more shrewd. Tea Partiers hate him not because he’s some kind of moderate compromiser, but because he’s realistic about what is and isn’t possible — and because he isn’t shy about expressing his dislike for ultra-conservative members of Congress who couldn’t strategize their way to passing a National Puppy and Kitten Appreciation Week.

Jindal isn’t the only one saying conservatives should turn their unquenchable rage on McConnell now that Boehner is out of the way. And there’s no doubt that the idea that Boehner and McConnell have been ineffectual is driving much of the success of Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson, as they feed the childish and ignorant idea that an outsider president can swoop into Washington and make everything work through the force of his or her will. But to repeat the question I asked earlier, what do they think is going to happen now? If the next speaker of the House is conservative enough, will that mean Barack Obama will suddenly start signing all the ridiculous bills the House passes? Of course he won’t.

Intra-party conflict and tumult can leave a party stronger, as new ideas get tested and fresh approaches find their way to implementation. But it’s awfully hard to look at the GOP today and say that they are going to emerge from this period primed for great policy victories. They’ve got the anger thing down pat though.


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

September 29, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Almost Giddy”: Religious Conservatives Celebrate John Boehner’s Downfall—And Pray Mitch McConnell Is Next

This morning, when Senator Marco Rubio interrupted his address to the Values Voter Summit in Washington to break the news that House Speaker John Boehner was resigning, the crowd of conservative Christian activists immediately rose to their feet, breaking into cheers and shouts of “Amen!”

“The time has come to turn the page,” Rubio declared to raucous applause. After the speech, the overjoyed activists described Boehner as the emblem of all that’s wrong with Washington today: too weak, too moderate, and unwilling to listen to the conservative base. “Mr. Boehner has no backbone when it comes to standing up for principles that Christians believe in,” said Ron Goss, an activist from Locust Dale, Virginia.

“It’s absolutely best news I’ve heard in months,” said Judith Neal, a Christian activist from San Dimas, California.

“I am delighted because he’s been there too long,” said Gary Frazier, a Christian organizer from Colleyville, Texas. Like the other conservatives assembled from around the country for the weekend summit, Frazier has said that conservatives expected big things after the 2014 midterms and Republicans took full control of Congress. Instead, he continued, “it’s been a year and a half of nothing.” Nobody on the religious right has been fooled by the current Republican threat to shut down the govenment over Planned Parenthood funding, he said, calling it “nothing but political posturing.”

The moment they heard about Boehner, the mood among the activists—so long frustrated by electing Republicans who didn’t carry out their agenda effectively—became almost giddy. “I’m just a little overwhelmed,” Neal said, holding her hand to her heart. “He’s held back Congress from doing all the right things.” But he’s not the only one, she said. Like many activists, Neal immediately began hoping that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be next, adding that she was now feeling more hopeful that the Republican establishment was finally—finally!—starting to listen.

There was no consensus among activists as to who the next speaker should be, but they expressed confidence that it would be someone from the GOP’s right flank who’d be more friendly to their social agenda than Boehner. Shak Hill, a Ted Cruz supporter and Virginia-based activist, said that the new speaker should force President Obama to veto more bills. “We’re not putting forward enough issues to show [Obama’s] true colors,”  Hill said. Tammi Wilson, 51, a conservative activist from North Carolina, agreed: She’d specifically like to see the next Speaker bring up bills that challenge funding on a line-by-line basis, as opposed to the omnibus spending bills that have kept the government open. Republicans like Boehner, she said, haven’t done so because “they’re afraid of Obama.”

The right flank of the GOP has been calling for Boehner to resign for years, but the shadow of the 2016 elections seems to have done him in. In the short term, Boehner’s resignation could conceivably help Republican candidates convince disillusioned and frustrated GOP voters that change is possible after all, that there’s renewed hope of their agenda advancing. But those hopes could also backfire on the Republican establishment, precisely because of the renewed optimism that evangelicals were reveling in this morning: Cynicism and frustration with Washington have hurt the candidates who already hold office. But what happens when the frustrations set in again, and activists want the insurgents to flex their muscles and topple the establishment again?

Senator Ted Cruz, who’s counting on the religious right to be a cornerstone of his campaign, wasn’t worrying about that for now: Taking the stage shortly after his presidential rival, Rubio, broke the news about Boehner, Cruz used the speaker’s resignation as a rallying cry. “You want to know how much each of you terrify Washington?” Cruz asked, clearly feeling the buzz of unexpected optimism in the crowd. “Yesterday, John Boehner was speaker of the House. Y’all come to town and all of a sudden that changes. My only request is that you come more often.”


By: Suzy Khimm, Senior Editor, The New Republic; September 25, 2015

September 28, 2015 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Evangelicals, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mitt Romney The Weathervane: What Our Most Changeable Politician Can Tell Us About The Modern GOP

As Mitt Romney enters the Republican presidential race this week, there will be plenty of attention on his shifting political views. But Romney’s changing positions are not just the tragicomic tale of a man so desperate for the presidency he’ll say anything to get there: they’re also a valuable measure of what it takes to make it in the modern GOP.

Romney’s many breathtaking U-turns — on universal health care, on gay rights, on abortion rights — have been extensively documented and parsed, and have become a reliable punchline. The former governor’s willingness to adopt the position that he thinks will get him the most votes in whatever election he happens to be running in does speak to his own character. But Romney’s ease at shifting also makes him a perfect weathervane for measuring the audiences he is trying to appeal to. And the speed with which Romney has been spinning to the right is an alarming sign of the political winds within the Republican Party.

This weekend, Romney will be making an important appearance among a group that has historically mistrusted him: the Religious Right. Speaking at the annual conference of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, Romney can be expected to once again disavow his previously convenient reasonable positions on abortion rights and gay equality. But he is also likely to go a step farther.

At a similar event in 2007, as he tried to shake off his image as a socially moderate Massachusetts Republican in preparation for his first presidential run, Romney spoke at the Values Voter Summit hosted by a coalition of right-wing social issues groups. In his speech, he rattled off Religious Right catchphrases, speaking of the United States’ “Judeo-Christian heritage,” the “breakdown of the family,” and making “out-of-wedlock birth out of fashion again” and passing an anti-gay marriage amendment to “protect marriage from liberal, unelected judges.” He promised a federal “marriage amendment,” funding for vouchers for religious schools and across-the-board anti-choice policies. By earlier that year, he had impressed Ann Coulter enough that she endorsed him in a speech made famous by her use of an anti-gay slur.

At last year’s Values Voter Summit, having done full penance to the Religious Right for his previous statements in favor of gay rights and choice, Romney focused his speech on right-wing economic policies, including an odd tribute comparing Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton to the Founding Fathers. But the company he kept revealed the friends he was hoping to make. The event was sponsored in part by the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, two groups who were soon to be named “hate groups” by the SPLC for their long histories of false anti-gay rhetoric. Romney’s fellow speakers included Religious Right stalwarts Phyllis Schlafly, Tony Perkins, Planned Parenthood scam artist Lila Rose, and the AFA’s Bryan Fischer, who has gained infamy with his vicious rhetoric about gays and lesbians, Muslims, African Americans and progressives. I wrote a letter to Romney warning him about associating himself with Fischer — he didn’t respond.

The Religious Right leaders that Romney is eager to curry favor with aren’t just hostile to gays, Muslims and the social safety net — many have expressed concern or even outright hostility to Romney’s own Mormon faith. Fischer recently confronted Romney’s faith, declaring that there is “a direct contradiction between Mormon theology and the teaching of Jesus Christ.” A writer for a leading Religious Right publication declared, “If Mitt Romney believes what the Mormon Church teaches about the world and how it operates, then he is unfit to serve.” As Romney angles himself into an increasingly extreme GOP, he will have to make nice to those who insult not only his past politics but his core religious beliefs.

At the Faith and Freedom Conference this weekend, Romney will have a similar opportunity to reinforce his social conservative bona fides while tying in his newly adamant anti-gay and anti-choice positions with the Tea Party’s love of pro-corporate anti-tax talk. Ralph Reed, the resurgent mastermind behind the Christian Coalition, will perhaps be the perfect ally in his effort to paint himself as a true Tea Party candidate who wants small government for corporations and big government for individuals. Reed was, after all, partly responsible for bringing the passion of American evangelicals to the Republican anti-regulation agenda and schmoozes equally comfortably with Pat Robertson and Jack Abramoff. He is the perfect power-broker for an age when GOP politicians are supposed to oppose universal health care while supporting IRS involvement in abortions – the niche that Romney is trying to carefully fit himself into.

Romney will try to take advantage of the GOP base’s newfound love of tax breaks for the rich, while continuing to pretend that he never supported choice and gay rights and reasonable environmental and health policies. If he can get away with it, he’ll be the perfect candidate for today’s ultraconservative GOP. But either way, he’s bound to become a powerful symbol of just how far to the Right you have to go to make it in today’s Republican Party.


By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For The American Way: Posted June 3, 2011 in The Huffington Post.

June 5, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Economy, Elections, GOP, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Mitt Romney, Politics, Public Opinion, Religion, Republicans, Right Wing, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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