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“Good Old Conservative Days Fading?”: Regardless of Republican Obstruction, The Supreme Court Is Already Changing

If Republicans have their way, it might be a long time before another Supreme Court Justice joins the bench. But Dahlia Lithwick documents all the ways the Court is already changing in the short time since Antonin Scalia’s death in an article titled: The Conservative Era is Over.

* As she wrote previously, the women took over during oral arguments on an abortion case.

* A unanimous order affirming the right of same-sex partners to adopt children and the tossing of a death penalty conviction in Louisiana.

* “Friday’s unsigned order allowing several abortion clinics in Louisiana to reopen their doors, following an emergency decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that would have shuttered all but one clinic in that state.”

* Embattled Justices Thomas and Alito have formed an alliance of two as a bulwark against “the path set out by their six colleagues.”

* There’s also “a growing sense among conservative interest groups and litigation shops that the good times and rich bounty of the old Roberts court are no longer on offer and that it may be better to cut and run than stick around and lose.” That includes a recent settlement by Dow Chemical in their major anti-trust appeal and the fact that a key gun rights group opted to drop its challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act.

Lithwick draws this conclusion from what she’s seen so far:

Expect a lot more weirdness and subtle signaling from the court as the term rolls on. An institution that never wished to be an election issue has become one. What might have once been routine orders have now turned into a complex game of reputation management. Whether it’s the chief justice trying to appear apolitical, the conservative justices trying to fly the flag of ideology, or the liberals making hay while the sun briefly shines, nothing at the court these days is exactly what it appears to be, and it appears it will be that way for a while.

As public pressure on Republican Senators ramps up against their obstruction strategy and the prospect of Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee portends the potential loss of their Senate majority, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to justify their position. If the trends Lithwick identified continue, you can add to that the specter of an increasingly liberalized Supreme Court.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Obstructionism, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | 1 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

“The Establishment Gets What It Deserves”: Republicans Stopped Producing Moderates And Wound Up With Trump

The Republican establishment, the one we hear so much about: That wall is crumbling in plain sight.

You may ask how I know this. Once the media and powers that be chose Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as the last best hope to slow Donald Trump’s rise to the nomination on Super Tuesday, things felt surreal. If that’s true, then the establishment deserves to lose. It is sending too few moderate Republicans to Congress.

From what I’ve seen in the Senate, Rubio does not have the chops to challenge Trump, despite their nasty verbal brawling. In his 40s, Rubio is a slight figure in the Senate, when he is actually there. A bit vacuous, he’s what they call a showhorse, not a workhorse. Few bills bear his name. He balked at his big chance to take part in actually passing legislation, a bipartisan immigration bill that failed in 2013 in a close call.

Rubio comes from the Cuban-American community in Miami and rose on the financial wings of a wealthy car dealer. His base is hard-right, especially bitter when it comes to Fidel Castro and Cuba. Rubio held up an administration diplomatic appointment because the woman had worked on normalizing relations with Cuba. The exiled generation that raised Rubio – and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, roughly the same age – vowed to never forget nor forgive the revolution. They tend to have a dark outlook on foreign policy. At home, Rubio is equally stark, all for requiring – forcing – girls and women victimized by rape or incest (or both) to carry their pregnancies to term. I don’t think he will sell well outside the South.

It’s a lot for the Republican establishment to take in a week. First there was Jeb Bush’s unimaginable fall from tall heights of family and fortune. He had to leave the party early after a fatal fourth finish in South Carolina. It was fun to watch him unwind. The pundits said the environment wasn’t right for Jeb Bush this cycle. The truth is, he was a terribly flat candidate, whatever the cycle. He could not spin anything to his advantage. And it is not as if there is anything noble about his family tree. The Bushes play rough to win, as his father and brother did in their presidential campaigns; just remember the Willie Horton ads against Gov. Michael Dukakis and the Swift Boat campaign wielded against Sen. John Kerry in 2004

So it likely comes down to Trump vs. Rubio. Let’s not forget Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are resilient, stubborn candidates. Cruz is wicked smart – both in equal measure – and Kasich comes across as the reasonable man in this field. Still, it’s a safe bet Trump will take the party on a forced march to the nomination like General Sherman to the sea in the Civil War. He’s just the bracing medicine the formerly grand old party needs to see what it has become.

And it wasn’t overnight. It just seems that way with Bush’s meteoric fall from grace. Observers say Trump will set the party back for years if he becomes the standard-bearer. Let it be. In the meantime, the Republican Party has some serious soul-searching to do.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, February 29, 2016

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“John Kasich – Only Moderately Extreme”: Remember The Last Time We Had A “Compassionately Conservative” President?

If you’ve watched John Kasich at any of the Republican presidential debates so far, two things stand out about him: (1) he wants to be the “Republican with a heart,” and (2) he completely embraces trickle-down economics. That’s pretty much the kind of thing we heard from George W. Bush in the 2000 election when he called himself a “compassionate conservative.” Compared to the rest of the field this time around, that has a lot of pundits calling Kasich the moderate of the group.

The problem is that we all got a pretty good lesson on the failure of trickle-down economics during the Bush/Cheney years. And right now, Kasich is demonstrating just how un-moderate he is on some important issues. For example, here’s what happened at a town hall event in Virginia today.

Notice that even one of his supporters called him out for saying that “women came out of their kitchens” to work on his campaign. That little gem comes the day after Kasich did this:

Gov. John Kasich has signed legislation to strip government money from Planned Parenthood in Ohio…

The bill targets roughly $1.3 million in funding that Planned Parenthood receives through Ohio’s health department. The money, which is mostly federal, supports initiatives for HIV testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and prevention of violence against women.

All of that reminded me of something that happened just after Kasich was elected Governor of Ohio. He came under heavy fire in his home state for the fact that all of the appointments in his administration went to white people. For a Republican, that isn’t terribly surprising. But it was his response that was jarring. Instead of working with communities of color to improve, he got defensive.

“We pick people on the basis of who’s qualified. We don’t pick them on the basis of quotas. I mean I think quotas are yesterday,” Kasich said on Jan. 2.

Kasich said he’s color blind when it comes to hiring.

“I mean let’s get the best people for the job,” said Kasich.

In other words, “the best people for the job” just happened to all be white. People of color need not apply. When Ohio’s Legislative Black Caucus offered to help him out with that, Kasich said, “I don’t need your people.”

So the moderate in the Republican presidential race is the guy who believes that:

1. if we just give rich people more tax cuts our economy will boom for everyone,
2. women are still in the kitchen and don’t deserve access to reproductive health care, and
3. the best person for any job in his administration just so happens to be white.

I’ll grant you that compared to the other 4 candidates still in this race, Kasich is slightly less extreme. But then, I’m old enough to remember what happened the last time the country had a “compassionately conservative” president.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 22, 2016

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Compassionate Conservatism, George W Bush, John Kasich | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Electability Conundrum”: Scalia’s Death Only Reinforces The Need For Democrats To Choose Their Nominee Wisely

The death of Antonin Scalia has brought home two truths about the presidential race to voters in both parties. First, there may be no more important issue in the campaign than the Supreme Court (which some of us have been saying for some time). And second, if that’s true, then there may be no more important criterion in picking your party’s nominee than who has the best chance of winning in November.

Unfortunately, electability is a difficult thing to predict, no matter how much you know about politics. During the 2008 primaries, for instance, many intelligent Democrats believed there was no way that the voting public would ever elect an African American with a name like “Barack Hussein Obama.” Four years before, many Democrats thought that John Kerry was the most electable Democrat because Republicans couldn’t possibly attack the patriotism of a war hero, especially with a couple of draft-dodgers like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney at the top of their ticket. Neither of those assessments turned out to be correct.

Nevertheless, it’s an impossible question for partisans to ignore, given the stakes of the election. And just how high are they? Someone (usually someone running for president) will always say “This is the most important election of my lifetime,” and it’s easy to dismiss. After all, no matter what happens, the republic will survive. If you’re a Democrat, you can console yourself with the fact that it survived Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, as much damage as they might have done; if you’re a Republican you can say the same about Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Nevertheless, there are some reasons why this election could be particularly consequential, particularly for Democrats. The first is the Supreme Court, and Scalia’s passing is only part of that story. When the next president is sworn in, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 83, Anthony Kennedy will be 80, and Stephen Breyer will be 80. What if Republicans succeed in keeping President Obama from seating a replacement, then a Republican is elected, and some or all of those three fall ill or retire? You could have a Court made up of seven relatively young conservative justices and only two liberals, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The days of liberals losing cases by a 5-4 margin would be but a happy memory, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the end of affirmative action, and the crushing of labor union rights would be only the beginning of a judicial scorched-earth campaign that would not only lay waste to rights liberals hold dear, but would keep doing so for decades to come.

And then there’s the matter of what a Republican president would be able to accomplish through legislation. If the GOP nominee wins in November, it will almost certainly also mean that Republicans have held on to the House and the Senate. That president might or not not be a radical conservative, though Donald Trump looks like the only contender with a chance who couldn’t be described that way. But Congress certainly will be radical. The Republican Party has been moving sharply to the right in recent years, and with unified control for the first time in a decade, it’s safe to say they will pretty much go nuts. Repealing the Affordable Care Act, slashing upper-income taxes, gutting the safety net, rolling back environmental regulations, passing federal restrictions on abortion—if it’s in any Republican’s fantasies, it’ll be able to pass through both houses and get signed by the president. And don’t think Democrats having the filibuster will stop that train; given the respect Republicans have shown for norms and traditions, do you think they’ll let that stand in their way?

So if you think electability ought to be part of your calculation, what do you need to consider? The Democratic primary makes it a little easier because there are only two candidates, but it’s still complicated. Here are the variables to consider:

  1. The reward to be gained from a Bernie Sanders presidency
  2. The reward to be gained from a Hillary Clinton presidency
  3. The chances of Sanders winning in November if he’s the nominee
  4. The chances of Clinton winning if she’s the nominee
  5. The consequences of a Republican victory in November

That’s not to mention how each Democrat would match up against any given Republican, which introduces another dimension of complexity. But here’s the basic calculation you have to make: Figure out whether, for your preferences, (1) is larger than (2) or vice-versa, and by how much; then figure out whether (3) or (4) is larger, and by how much; then weigh both of those figures against (5).

For instance, you might decide that Bernie Sanders’s presidency would be superior to Hillary Clinton’s, but Clinton has a higher chance of winning in November, and since a Republican presidency would be so dreadful, you’ll support Clinton even though you like Sanders better. Or you might decide that a Sanders presidency would be so good that even if Clinton might have a slightly better chance in November, it’s worth some measure of risk in nominating Sanders because the reward of him winning is so high.

The truth, of course, is that because we aren’t rational people we constantly construct post-hoc justifications for the choices we make. In this case, that means we’ll convince ourselves that whichever candidate we prefer is also the more electable one. While it might seem logical that Clinton has a higher chance of winning a general election than Sanders, I’ve yet to encounter a Sanders supporter who actually thinks so. They say that Clinton has her own electability problems (undoubtedly true), and that Sanders will bring in so many new voters that it will overcome the effect of the attacks Republicans will launch on him for his leftist views. Clinton supporters, on the other hand, find this argument laughable; they’ll tell you that Republicans will positively disembowel Sanders, and by the time they’re done with him he’ll seem like he’s too much of an extremist to get elected to the Burlington City Council.

I’ve also found that Sanders supporters are more likely to minimize the negative consequences of a Republican presidency. That might be because they don’t see as much of a difference between Clinton and the Republicans, but it’s also because they’re focused on the first variable, the potential rewards of a Sanders presidency. Clinton supporters, on the other hand, have no sweeping expectations from their candidate; for them, staving off disaster is more than enough reason to support her.

Even if your heart goes aflutter at Sanders’s mention of things like single-payer health care and free public college tuition, you’d have to grant that achieving those goals is anything but guaranteed even if he wins the White House. And most of what he would do doesn’t differ from what Clinton would do. That’s particularly true of the Supreme Court: Any Democratic president who had a chance to name a new justice would be choosing from the same pool of liberal jurists now serving in federal appeals courts or perhaps a few state supreme courts.

But even if you find the substantive differences between Clinton and Sanders to be enormous, it’s hard to see them as actually being bigger than the difference between them on one hand and the tsunami of change that will occur if a Republican is elected on the other. Which leaves Democratic voters with no choice but think hard about which candidate is more electable—even if there are no perfect answers to the question.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, February 15, 2016

February 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Electability, Hillary Clinton, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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