Although I see myself as socially conservative in terms of how I live my life, I’m well aware that those who are active on the SoCon wing of the Republican Party (and certainly the SoCons of the R4 community) do not see me as ‘one of us’. Which is a long way of getting around to this: I’m a little surprised this hasn’t been posted here yet, but I’ll bet you didn’t expect me to be the one who posted it.
“Of course he’s not a conservative.” – Andrew Breitbart on Donald Trump
There is something very wrong at Breitbart News. The organization founded by the late Andrew Breitbart has morphed from a conservative voice standing up to liberal orthodoxy in the mainstream media to an anti-immigration smear machine hell-bent on the personal destruction of anyone who attempts to fix the problem of illegal immigration in a comprehensive way. Distortions, lies, and overt racism is the new modus operandi of Breitbart’s crusade, and support for the newly christened anti-immigrant poster boy, Donald J. Trump, is the new cornerstone of Breitbart’s brand of conservatism. The organization’s new direction has been spearheaded by Matthew Boyle, a right-wing activist who masquerades as an investigative journalist. The writer has made a career out of shameless propaganda, personal attacks, questionable integrity, and outright lies and distortions. If you are unfamiliar with Boyle’s work, here is a quick reminder:
These incidents are coupled with a career of bizarre inaccuracies, like claiming New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s poll numbers are tanking (they’re not) or that former Gov. Mitt Romney failed to defeat the “weakest incumbent in history” (Obama wasn’t). Whether these incidents are simply sloppy journalism, failed reading comprehension of basic polling data, wishful thinking, or a sign of some greater personal issue is not for me to say. However, these incidents of distortion and factual inaccuracy pale in comparison to Boyle’s latest crusade: the smearing of Cuban American Sen. Marco Rubio.
Boyle’s Twitter feed is a dizzying collection of Rubio attacks, mixed with dutiful promotions for anti-immigrant author Anne Coulter and support for the 2016 candidacy of liberal billionaire Donald Trump. There are dozens and dozens of attacks on the Florida senator since his announcement in April, far and away the most frequent of Boyle’s targets. Coincidently, Rubio is the only Hispanic candidate in the race who supports immigration reform. There are occasional immigration criticisms of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, but the attacks on other white candidates combined come nowhere close to the number fired at Rubio. The level of invective and hostility is also quite different towards Rubio compared to the tenor of criticism used for his white opponents.
Mr. Boyle’s latest report on the first-generation American from Florida is op-ed unsubtly disguised as journalism. Covering Rubio’s speech in Las Vegas, he twists and distorts the facts of the event, painting a picture that resembles nothing comparable to reality. Boyle declares that Rubio “offered no policy specifics whatsoever” in his biographical speech, ignoring the irony that the journo-activist’s preferred candidate (Trump) has offered no policy specifics in any speech, on any webpage, or in any campaign press release. He suggests Rubio “ducked, dodged, weaved” his way through his remarks; a patently false and dishonest take on Rubio’s standard, eloquent recitation of his family history and personal beliefs. Boyle’s distortion of Rubio’s presentation was only made more clear at the very end of his tirade, when he sullenly admitted the crowd cheered for Sen. Rubio. You would think if his remarks were filled with ducking, dodging, and weaving that the ardently conservative audience would have rained boos down upon the nation’s most prominent Hispanic elected official. Perhaps the booing was only occurring inside of Boyle’s Trump-infected mind.
This shoddy journalism could be dismissed if it were the only occurrence of distortions by Mr. Boyle at Sen. Rubio’s expense, but sadly it is the norm. A thorough reading of Breitbart’s archive will reveal the 44-year-old Latino as the most frequent Republican target of the organization’s attack pieces, from Mr. Boyle and several of his colleagues. Boyle even went so far as to blame Rubio for an amendment to the Gang of Eight bill from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), despite not supporting the amendment himself. The story is highlighted with a photo of Juan-Francisco Lopez Sanchez, who admitted to shooting Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco. The prominent placement of a photo of a Latino felon in a story falsely attacking a Latino politician landed with all of the subtly of the Willie Horton ad campaign.
The litany of attacks sent Sen. Rubio’s way by Mr. Boyle and Breitbart News has been at the very least dishonest, and has struck many as overtly racist. Of course, there is no way to know what is in Mr. Boyle’s heart, and we can only make judgements based on his pattern of coverage and treatment of the various candidates in the race. I imagine Breitbart News would deny any racial motivation for Mr. Boyle’s repeated attacks on Sen. Rubio. They would almost certainly claim that the criticism comes from the senator’s straying from conservative orthodoxy and not his ethnicity. Unfortunately for Mr. Boyle, this is something we can easily fact-check. If this is the standard of reporting at Breitbart News, then surely that pattern of coverage would be found for other members of the 2016 field. However, a similar record of holding other candidates accountable for their more liberal positions seems to be missing from the Breitbart archives, particularly regarding the candidacy of Donald Trump.
The real estate mogul and former reality show star has had a long, scattered, and inconsistent public record on his political leanings. The occurrences of his straying from conservatism are so numerous that perhaps the Breitbart staff found it too challenging to catalog, so I’ve done my best to lend a hand. Some of Trump’s stated positions and political activities are as follows:
There are other areas of concern, such as the use of illegal immigrant labor on many of his construction projects, the catastrophic bankruptcies of several of his casinos, and his scandalized personal life, including public attacks on his two ex-wives and disturbing comments about his physical attraction to his daughter, Ivanka.
Trump’s left-wing positions and sordid private life are coupled with the racist and nonsensical policies he’s now advocating for. Among his irrational declarations is his promise to force the Mexican government to finance the construction of a massive, impenetrable wall across the Southern border, with no realistic plan to achieve such a outrageous goal. Trump insists that he will defeat ISIS by being “so hard on them they won’t be able to come to the table” despite lacking any comprehensive military strategy or even a team of competent military and foreign policy advisors. He claims that his ability to negotiate contracts for beauty pageants and golf courses (deals that are collapsing all around him) will somehow enable him to combat China’s cheating on trade. Despite any experience or qualifications, despite policy specifics of any kind, despite any history of conservatism or personal integrity, and despite a private life devoid of any moral compass or common decency, the left-wing billionaire has earned the loyalty and support of the inheritors of Andrew Breitbart’s name.
Earlier this year, Mr. Boyle engaged in an angry Twitter dispute with respected conservative lawyer and talk show host Hugh Hewitt. As is typical of Boyle during these Twitter spats, he avoided facts and centered his argument on ad hominem attacks. Hewitt, famous for his well-reasoned opinions and congenial style, was stunned that his late friend, Andrew Breitbart, would have has such a person writing under his banner. Boyle angrily protested, claiming “Andrew and I were very close. Believe me, I know what he wanted.” Apparently, Mr. Boyle has chosen to exclude Andrew Breitbart’s loud denunciation of Donald Trump’s false conservatism from his memory, an exclusion that is tarnishing Breitbart’s legacy and ruining his good name.
The headline you never thought you’d live to see: “Bob Dole returns to save Kansas for Jittery GOP.”
During a favorable Republican election cycle, the party needs to recruit a 91 year old political has-been, whose 1996 presidential run remains the symbol of haplessness, in order to save an incumbent Republican from losing – in a state that hasn’t sent a non-Republican to the Senate since 1932.
Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is a symbol of much of what is wrong with American politics – and the GOP in particular. The 78 year old senator has been in Congress since 1981. He may be a fine man, but is really, really, past his prime in office. Roberts’s interest in campaigning and legislating has waned, and he’s reeling from reports that he doesn’t even own a home in the state he represents.
Now that Democrat Chad Taylor withdrew from the race and his name is tentatively off the ballot, we have a real race. Three fresh polls – PPP, Fox News and Rasmussen – show independent Greg Orman, who will likely caucus with Democrats, with a respectable lead in a one-on-one matchup with Roberts.
Roberts may very well still get reelected. Republicans and their allies will bombard the state, and Orman’s image is set to get tarnished. The state will potentially revert to its conservative bona fides and refuse to help tip the national balance in Democrats’ favor. PPP found that Kansas voters favor GOP control of the Senate by a 10% margin.
However, even in the best case scenario for Republicans, the party will have squandered precious resources in a state that should have been in their pocket – and voters will be unhappy with their GOP senator for the next six years. Per PPP, Roberts’s approval/disapproval rating is a disastrous 29%/46% – with no more than a 43% approval among Kansas Republicans.
Why is the GOP in this position?
Because the only person ready to wage a serious primary challenge against Roberts was Milton Wolf, an amateur candidate who managed to turn many people off, particularly following his x-ray scandal. The feeble 7% margin with which Roberts defeated Wolf leaves little room for doubt that a more qualified, agreeable primary challenger would likely have defeated Roberts in the primary and kept the seat in GOP hands without any headaches.
Ditto for Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran – 76 years old and in Congress since 1972 – who cannot even count on half of his party’s voters in his state to approve of his job performance or commit to vote for him in November, and whose effectiveness over the next six years is in serious question.
Once again, it’s obvious that a strong mainstream Republican would likely have easily defeated Cochran in the primary. Cochran was barely able to defeat the erratic Chris McDaniel, whose past statements are an oppo researcher’s dream, even after the infamous nursing home photo scandal was added to the mix.
Unlike Roberts, Cochran appears to be safe in November, but the question still begs: Is this the best Republicans can do as they seek to attract and energize voters?
Herein lay the uncomfortable facts behind the GOP’s intractable establishment vs. Tea Party battle: Establishment politicians are so bent on protecting the status quo that they’ll virtually never work to unseat a weak incumbent or “heir apparent” in their party. For the most part, the only ones with the desire and chutzpa to do so are weak and/or loony candidates.
Hence, the establishment believes that Tea Party supporters and candidates are often unqualified and/or radical. And Tea Party supporters and many grassroots voters believe that the establishment is too weak, self-serving, and unwilling to move past the vanilla status quo.
Both are right.
Certainly, some level of loyalty to incumbents and others who’ve “earned their turn” is just. No party can thrive when its elected officials are thrown under the bus simply for being imperfect or because someone a tad more attractive came along. But it’s about time to lower the “it’s time to go” bar from the age old live boy/dead girl level. If you’re clearly out of touch and can’t get the approval of half your party’s voters in your state, perhaps we can all agree that you’re the wrong candidate.
Republicans champion the free market. If the GOP would eliminate the stigma and party pressure for credible mainstream Republican candidates looking to challenge incumbents and heir apparents – voters can have a real choice and make wiser decisions.
There are some Tea Party attributes that the GOP establishment is wise not to adopt. But the struggling party would do well to adopt some of the movement’s chutzpa.
-Simon Blum is a freelance writer and journalist specializing in political analysis and communication. You can follow Simon on Twitter @sbpundit.
I noted a few months ago that it appeared that the Republican Party and its grass roots were indicating they wanted to win the 2014 national midterm elections decisively with their best candidates for competitive U.S. house and senate seats.
Tuesday’s primaries in North Carolina reinforces my initial observations. Most notably, North Carolina state house Speaker Thom Tillis won enough votes to become the GOP nominee without going to a runoff. Tillis had been opposed in the primary by two so-called Tea Party protest candidates, and as they have done in recent elections, Democratic Party strategists spent money against him hoping it would elect one of the protest candidates (who would of course be easier to beat in November). Democrats did this successfully in races in 2010 and 2012, most notably in Missouri where they spent more than $1 million to defeat a strong GOP senate candidate, The result was a weak and gaffe-prone Republican senate nominee who lost in November to an otherwise vulnerable Democratic incumbent.
(There has been, incidentally, little media discussion of the political ethics of one party interfering and intruding in the candidate selection process of the other party. This has been particularly true of the biased so-called “mainstream” media, which in fact have mostly cheered this practice on, resulting in the success of their preferred candidates. After two cycles of this, however, the Republican electorate has evidently caught on to the mischief, as North Carolina and other primaries have demonstrated. Led by Harry Reid in competitive senate races, the practice continues, but it is now likely to turn out to be mostly a waste of campaign dollars that might be more needed in November. Doing this is not illegal, of course, but it might be interesting to see how loudly Democrats and their media friends complain if Republican strategists resorted to the same practice in future elections.)
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who led the fight to block Mr. Tillis’s primary win in North Carolina by campaigning for an obviously flawed Tea Party candidate, then did the right thing by immediately and strongly endorsing Tillis on primary night. Mr. Paul, who is emerging as a serious contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, hopefully learned an important lesson from this experience, especially as he has been reaching out beyond his libertarian base to gain support for 2016. As Governor Chris Christie learned in 2012 when he “embraced” Barack Obama in the closing days of that campaign, a certain party loyalty is necessary if one expects then to obtain party support for oneself. (It will be interesting to observe how Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another GOP protest figure with national ambitions, will conduct himself during the rest of the 2014 campaign.)
As I have pointed out repeatedly, the Tea Party movement was born as a legitimate economic protest by conservative voters, most of whom were Republicans, but also included many disaffected independents and some centrist Democrats. As their numbers grew, and their success, social issue factions began to dominate, especially in candidate selection, and the “Tea Party” brand began to acquire a negative image in Republican Party circles that were trying to win elections. Most of the grass roots Tea Party members by 2014 seem to have now rejoined the party, but some social issue partisans remain to create intraparty challenges.
More contests with intraparty challenges lie ahead, most notably in Georgia, Kentucky, Alaska and Iowa. In these races so far, the strongest GOP candidates appear to be ahead, although surprises can yet happen. On the Democratic side, the left wing of the party appears to be stirring, especially against the prospects of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee in 2016, but so far Democrats are not indulging in intraparty fights against their own U.S. house and senate candidates. Democrats, to their advantage, avoided these squabbles in 2010 and 2012, and reaped rewards for their self-discipline.
Public opposition to Obamacare remains the largest issue of 2014 so far, but other issues are emerging, including President Obama’s stubborn refusal to permit the construction of the Keystone pipeline to please a few rich supporters (but not his union friends), and some pocketbook issues such as a sluggish economy and raising the minimum wage.
Although foreign policy issues very rarely affect midterm elections, the constant headlines featuring Russian aggressiveness in Ukraine, Chinese aggressiveness in Asia, North Korean provocations, and bestial murder and kidnapping by warlords in Africa, to name only the most prominent, could have an affect on voters, especially if they want to protest Mr. Obama’s foreign policy.
The curious advice by administration supporters and some Democratic strategists for candidates to “double down” by supporting unpopular and controversial Obama policies so far does not seem to be working for most of these vulnerable Democratic candidates. Those who early on have tried to separate themselves from Washington, DC seem to be having the most success. In the U.S. senate, now controlled by the Democrats, majority leader Harry Reid is becoming more and more erratic in his speeches and public comments, and thus further enabling the 2014 election to be nationalized, something which in this cycle clearly helps the Republicans.
With six months to go, and a potential electoral catastrophe for the Democrats approaching, it would seem only a matter of time before Mr. Reid, Mrs, Pelosi and other liberal hardliners are superseded or abandoned by cooler heads in their party who still want to win.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.
Hello, everyone! This marks my first post here at Race in quite some time – almost a year and a half!. Since then, my wife and I welcomed our first child, our daughter Emma. I’m doing my best to add her to the list of conservatives in America!
I wanted to return here to post a few thoughts regarding executive orders, which became the topic of the day after last week’s State of the Union address.
Predictably, the news reports about the President seeking to give executive orders a more central place in his second term agenda prompted exclamations of disapproval from Tea Party-affiliated Republican elected officials and figures. Amid all the heated rhetoric, as is my wont, I got to thinking, what do the data say? Has Obama really turned to executive orders more than his predecessors?
To investigate, I consulted the American President Project, of the University of California at Santa Barbara. This handy resource lists the numbers of executive orders for each commander-in-chief in the nation’s history.
In order to make the administrations analyzed as comparable as possible, I limited myself to presidents after WWII, due to the degree to which the government’s size and scope increased during the war (to make a long story short, I figured you couldn’t exactly compare pre- to post-war administrations). I started by charting the total count of executive orders by term (click to expand):
At first glance, a couple points jump out: Carter and LBJ “lead” the way, by large margins, and our two most recent Presidents score relatively low, in contrast to what we’ve heard from members of their opposing parties.
However, simple total order counts by term overlook an important factor of their differences: lengths of terms. For example, remember how LBJ “won” first place in the previous chart? Well, the American Presidency Project and I counted his entire administration, which lasted over five years, as one term. On the other end of the spectrum, Gerald Ford looks rather tame in the first graph, but he only occupied the Oval Office for about two and a half years. So, in an effort to somewhat normalize the numbers, I divided the totals by the years of each term:
This perspective pulls Carter into the “lead” and makes short-term presidents like the aforementioned Ford and JFK appear more active with their powers.
But what if we simply want to compare across presidencies at a high level? To enable this, I just added up the total order count for each president and then divided it by their total number of years in office. I would argue that this provides the “most normalized” perspective of the three in this post. The results:
So, what final takeaways does this exercise provide? Well, first and foremost, Obama and Bush have the lowest numbers of all! I’ll say that again: even though we’ve heard partisan Republicans and Democrats respectively affix terms like “imperial presidencies” to our 44th and 43rd commanders-in-chief, they each signed fewer executive orders than every recent predecessor in their parties! Now, one can certainly argue that executive order totals fail to encompass the breadth of the expanding powers of the presidency. For example, a recent Politico article cited estimates of the economic impacts of the regulations enacted by the Obama administration, which far outnumber those of Bush 43 and Clinton. However, specifically on executive orders, the data paint a far different picture than we’ve been led to believe.
Secondly, executive orders have actually become less, not more, prevalent in recent decades; after topping out at an average of 80 per year under Carter, the number declined to 47.6 under Reagan, down to 33.6 under Obama. This, too, conflicts with conventional wisdom.
Now that we’ve walked through some of the cold, hard numbers, I’d like to add my take on the topic.
With the Obama administration’s frustration at perceived obstructionism by Republicans in Congress, punctuated by last year’s partial government shutdown, it should come as little surprise that the president would choose to unilaterally enact as much of his agenda as possible, for both personal and political reasons.
On the personal side, this is a man who quite clearly views himself as an agent of change, as a progressive in the modern sense of the term.
Politically, he owes a significant amount of his support to voters who profess a desire for the government to act, regardless of historical or constitutional precedence. Well-versed in details of constitutional law they are not (neither am I!); emotionally frustrated (with the current state of affairs in America) and/or ideologically passionate they are. Of course, these are generalizations, but I think we can safely say the Americans who voted for President Obama in 2008 and/or 2012 would allow, if asked, that they want the government to “do something” to address the issues important to them. As such, in order to serve these individuals, it makes rational sense for the President to “go it alone”, if possible, to “get things done”.
As for my opinion? I accept that the structure of the United States government naturally leads to slow changes and processes. Indeed, the founders likely wanted it this way, as many right-of-center voices have explained. And as someone inclined toward pragmatism and incremental change, I know I prefer it this way. Thus, any reversal of the downward trend in executive order frequency would concern me.
So, in the end, I’ll hold out hope that the aftermath of the President’s tough talk in his State of the Union comes to resemble what we typically hear about executive orders – more bark than bite, more rhetoric than reality.
This article originally appeared on Anthony’s personal blog, DatabyDalke.wordpress.com. You can find Anthony on Twitter, at @DatabyDalke.
The past few weeks have brought to light several troubling incidents of federal abuses of power. New information about the Benghazi affair and a string of revelations about secretive, overreaching policies by the IRS and the Justice Department have put the Obama Administration on the hot seat. But as our nation weighs the political ramifications of the trifecta of emerging scandals, they should also serve as a much-needed reminder about the unintended consequences of unchecked government power.
The discourse surrounding the terrorist attacks in Benghazi has revolved primarily around the culpability of major figures in the Obama Administration, especially the president himself and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But the political argument should not obscure the fact that the attack may never have taken place at all were it not for our imprudent intervention in what should have been seen as an internal conflict in Libya. Conservatives warn constantly against the recklessness of social engineering domestically — and rightly so — but they seem to be strangely divided on the question of social engineering abroad; that is: whether military force can somehow fundamentally change the direction of a foreign nation, with its own unique history and culture. The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ has proven so far to be less than friendly toward modern democratic ideals, and if the past decade has taught us anything about the nature of war and peace, it should be that there are limits to the capabilities of military power — and that the imprudent use of that power can easily backfire.
The scandalous behavior of the IRS, which singled out hundreds of conservative groups for absurd levels of scrutiny on their tax returns, is chilling, but it can hardly be considered surprising. The president rightly called the revelations “outrageous,” but they did not spontaneously emerge from the ether: they are the natural result of a self-parodying tax code that is so convoluted and complex that government agents can easily manipulate it at-will to further an ideological political agenda. The core lesson here could not be clearer: a simplified, accessible tax code empowers citizens, but a complex, obscure one only empowers Washington bureaucrats. The average citizen should never need a team of lawyers to successfully complete their tax returns. Our tax system is a national disgrace, and this scandal should serve as a reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive reform.
The revelations that the Justice Department was secretly wiretapping the Associated Press as part of a crackdown on leaks is similarly outrageous — yet, unfortunately, equally unsurprising. If the federal government fully respected the Fourth Amendment and its limits on state power, the practice of warrantless wiretapping would be simply unheard of. But these violations of privacy in the name of national security have become distressingly commonplace since the Bush Administration launched the War on Terrorism. The previous administration — no stranger to warrantless wiretapping — ushered in a disturbing precedent, and the Obama Administration seems intent on cementing it as a bipartisan policy. Genuine threats to national security deserve a serious and committed response from the federal government — but only one that takes place within the full confines of the law. It is not enough for a government official to believe that he has a ‘good reason’ to take the law into his own hands — it is a fundamental American principle, after all, that we are a nation of laws, not of men. If there is a good enough reason to violate the privacy of American citizens, then it should be one that can be justified before a court. It is not only the right thing to do: our Constitution demands it.
Government is not like private enterprise, which must respond to its customers’ needs or face the threat of losing business. Government’s distinguishing feature is its power to compel, which is why self-government requires constant vigilance by an informed society that respects individual rights and liberties. Our Founders understood this truth well, which is why checks on power are at the very heart of our Constitution. The antidote to government run amok is the reapplication of the wisdom of our political heritage. It is an enduring truth that a government with limited and simple aims will be the most effective. And a government that knows its proper role — to respect and protect individual rights and liberties — will be less likely to produce the sort of scandalous behavior that has come to light in the past week. If conservatives want to truly undermine the Obama Administration, they must move beyond trying to ensnare the president — and use these scandals as an opportunity to promote a positive agenda of limited government and individual liberty.
Gabriel Gomez, the Republican nominee for the U.S. senate seat special election in Massachusetts on June 25, 2013, is suddenly being taken seriously as a Democratic poll shows him trailing the Democratic nominee, Congressman Ed Markey, by only 44-40 (16% undecided). That’s an ominous sign for the Democrats who initially thought this race would be a no-contest in the heavily Democratic Bay State.
When a special election was held in this state in January, 2010 to fill the seat of the late Edward Kennedy, Democrats also assumed the seat was automatically theirs, and were stunned when Republican newcomer Scott Brown won. This time, the seat has been vacated by John Kerry when he resigned to become U.S. secretary of state.
Incumbent Brown was defeated last year in a bitter contest, and despite being well-liked by Massachusetts voters, he could not overcome the huge Democratic turnout caused by the presidential election. But 2013 is not a presidential year, and Mr. Markey, although a long-time U.S. house veteran, is considered aloof and a relatively weak statewide candidate.
Mr. Gomez is a former Navy Seal, but his political personality has not yet been widely established, and that represents an opportunity for both the Republicans and his Democratic opponent. Cash will thus play a large role in this race, as political advertising is a major component of creating or denigrating a new political figure. It should be no surprise that Mr. Markey has challenged Mr. Gomez to sign a pledge not to accept campaign contributions from outside the state. Mr. Markey is already well-funded from within the state, and greatly fears that GOP donors from around the country could equalize the race financially.
This is, in my opinion, a major test of how seriously the national Republican Party will contest the 2014 midterm U.S. senate elections to regain control of the Congress. Mr. Gomez is reportedly a bit more moderate on social issues than some southern and midwestern GOP senators, and funding for his campaign has reportedly been slow so far.
The national Republican Party is a conservative party, particularly on economic, entitlement and defense issues. But certain regions in the nation, particularly the northeast, produce a different kind of conservative. Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are cases in point. There are Democratic incumbent senators who are vulnerable in 2014, but they could only be defeated by GOP opponents who reflect the general views of their states on social issues, and that means a willingness
by Republican donors and officials to support their strongest candidate in each race, notwithstanding their “purity” or 100% “orthodoxy” on individual issues.
My calculation is that there are now about nine or ten Democratic-held senate seats that could be won by Republicans in 2014, but only about four or five that now appear likely to change hands (even that, as we learned in 2012, is no certainty). Republicans need to regain at least six senate seats to win control.
Scott Brown demonstrated that even in an overwhelmingly liberal Democratic state such as Massachusetts an attractive Republican candidate can win statewide office. When Brown won a special election to succeed the late Ted Kennedy, it portended the 2010 GOP midterm landslide later that year.
But the issue is larger than one special election. The real question is whether or not Republicans are prepared to govern again. While it is true that the nation is now rather polarized between conservatives and liberals, regional and urban/rural demographics most accurately define the American voter and make political issues
Grover Norquist, a favorite target of Democrats and liberals for demonization, has recently been speaking about a more pragmatic GOP approach to the elections of 2013-14. Associated with the hard-line lower taxes issue, he has now, without compromising his primary issue, argued that the first function of a political party is to win elections. He knows that any Republican majority is far more likely to respond positively to his issue than any Democratic majority. If more conservative leaders approach 2014 as Mr Norquist has, the GOP has much brighter prospects than if those self-styled conservative leaders who want GOP candidates to reflect their own views 100% would prevail.
That is why the special U.S. senate election in Massachusetts this year is so important.
-Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.
Yesterday, Kavon called our attention to an interesting analysis by Nate Silver in his New York Times Five Thirty-Eight column. A few points made by Silver as well as certain aspects of his statistical results measuring “the conservatism” of past and potential presidential candidates have provoked me to offer thoughts of my own as to what these statistics actually mean and what they tell us (or don’t tell us) about candidates and their prospective success.
First of all, statistical ratings of politicians tend to be subjective in that they often reflect a covert or overt bias of those making the determination as to what to count and how. That being said, Silver seems to have done a good and credible job of analyzing and scoring in support of his commentary. The question is what does it all really mean and what does it tells us about the future of these prospective candidates and their likelihood of success both in an election campaign and once in office.
Silver’s table compiling the conservatism scores of potential presidential candidates (past and present) identifies a particularly glaring and illustrative point: that being Ronald Reagan’s score of 44 compared with George W. Bush’s score of 46. Well now, anyone care to compare the record of these two-term Republican presidents from the standpoint of successful conservative governance, of developing and implementing constructive conservative reforms? Bush had a GOP controlled Congress for most of his first six years; Reagan only had a GOP Senate during his first six years. In addition, anyone want to compare the overall posture of the country (including the economy) at the end vs beginning of their respective presidencies? Or, the strategic position, credibility, and popularity of the Republican Party and the conservative movement at the end of their respective presidencies? Hmmm.
Perhaps the respective Reagan and Bush scores, as well as the scores of the more contemporary candidates, tell us more about what passes for Conservatism and titilates Republican-Conservative activists these days who seem to focus more on rhetoric than on substance or actual net accomplishment. Note that in the category of public statements Bush scored 47 while Reagan scored only 37. The scoring methodologies used in this analysis may be interesting and fun to talk about, but they tell us very little at this point as to what we can actually expect from any of the prospective candidates. What’s missing is some measure of performance and accomplishment that can be compared to rhetoric or support from interest groups and ideological commentators. For executive office holds that is easier than for members of the legislature, but legislators also have a track record beyond a simple voting record. Some are able to demonstrate an ability to develop constructive reform initiatives and build support for such, even among those who might not be initial allies, and to appeal to non-traditional constituencies. Jack Kemp was legendary in this regard. Marco Rubio shows signs of such ability but he is only beginning his third year in the Senate while in the national spotlight, so only time will tell. He did have a track record in the Florida State House which should be evaluated.
While I would have chosen Bill Clinton as a better example than Obama (who I consider to be arrogant and polarizing), the closing point in Silver’s article is spot on:
One measure of political talent, and something that characterized both Mr. Reagan and Mr. Obama, is the ability to sell ideas to voters across a wide range of the political spectrum. Perhaps Mr. Rubio will prove to be such a talent. Otherwise, if Mr. Rubio holds a fairly ordinary (and conservative) set of Republican positions, his popularity ratings may wind up being ordinary as well.
What Silver is saying here, albeit somewhat subtly, is that if Rubio plays only to the existing GOP base as it is currently configured he is likely to fail. But, if he is able to create a coalition that includes those who have not recently identified with the GOP base— thus creating a new base of sorts—while holding most of the existing base, he may likely succeed. That is how both Reagan and Clinton succeeded within their respective parties and among the general electorate. They brought new people into the nominating process and expanded their parties’ coalition beyond what had been its traditional character. A similar strategy will be required for any successful GOP candidate in 2016.
Whoa… All I can say is that you should read Erick Erickson’s post over at Redstate here.
The back-and-forth carnage between Israelis and Palestinians appears to possibly be headed towards a (temporary) lull. As we reflect upon this harsh period of rockets and sorties, we cannot overlook one of Operation Pillar of Defense’s greatest bombshells: Credit where credit is due, President Obama and his administration have clearly articulated Israel’s right to self-defense and have only very tepidly urged any restraint.
This has no doubt been the most pro-Israel posture that this administration has taken during any trying period between our respective countries since Barack Obama took office. Perhaps Obama woke up after being reelected and suddenly recognized the wisdom of hawkish military operations initiated by Bibi Netanyahu, a man he implied was a liar and who subtly urged Americans to vote for Mitt Romney. But perhaps Obama’s changed attitude had –at least something- to do with American Politics 101.
Little noticed in Romney’s slaughter by minorities on November 6th was the fact that –even on a terrible night- he garnered 30% of the Jewish vote, the highest GOP share in 24 years. In the last 5 presidential elections, the GOP nominee garnered an average 18.4% of the Jewish vote.
How did Mitt Romney beat that number so significantly?
A close look reveals some crucial lessons for the GOP as it desperately attempts to gain ground among Hispanics, Asian Americans and other minorities. Jews have for long been a tough nut for Republicans to crack. A very large segment of American Jews descend from immigrants who arrived to major urban centers during the World War Two era, who saw FDR and labor unions as sacred cows to be idolized from generation to generation. Outside staunchly Orthodox circles, Jews’ outlook on life tends to lean to the left as well.
At the same time, Jews have shown a little-known openness to voting Republican in the mid-to-late 20th century. Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon in 1972, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush in 1988, all earned over 30% of the Jewish vote – but it was downhill from there. Bush 41’s share of the Jewish vote slid from 32% in 1988 to 11% in 1992 and the GOP never quite recovered from that until this year.
Yes, even George W. Bush, minority friendly and regarded by many Jews as the most pro-Israel president of their lifetime, could not get more than 24% of the Jewish vote against John Kerry in 2004. John McCain, another hawkish pro-Israel stalwart, could not get more than 22% against Barack Obama, a man with links to Palestinian sympathizers and notorious anti-Semites.
These numbers suggest that Bush 41 did heavy residual damage to the GOP brand. It is fair to say that the primary factors in this are Bush’s perceived weak support for Israel, and particularly his outspoken cool-to-Israel underlings such as Chief of Staff John Sununu and Secretary of State James Baker. Most importantly, you cannot underestimate the damage that Baker’s infamous comment, “(Expletive) the Jews; they don’t vote for us anyway,” and Pat Buchanan’s 1992 “culture war” convention speech inflicted on the GOP image among Jews.
The Republicans and their Jewish allies have been playing catch-up ever since and it appears to have taken over a generation to have finally been corrected. (Jews remain overwhelmingly Democratic, but a much larger segment of them are at least open to voting for either party.) It took extensive grassroots outreach by Jewish Republicans, a staunchly pro-Israel Republican president for two terms and a Democratic president whose first term was more hostile to Israel and its leaders than any administration in memory for that to occur.
Additionally, it took a GOP ticket comprised of a northeastern Ivy League educated businessman from a historically persecuted religious minority and a soft spoken young Catholic from Wisconsin to finally make the sale. Fair or not, Sarah Palin hurt McCain’s prospects among Jews and polls showed, for instance, that Newt Gingrich fared worse than Romney among Jews despite his unflinching pro-Israel record. The ability to culturally relate to a candidate matters.
It takes a scenario as peculiar as Election 2000, when the fate of the presidency rested upon a sliver of Floridian votes, to have a swing among the Jewish vote decide a presidential election. However, even relatively mild swings among Hispanics can have an outsized influence on national elections, and Republicans would be wise to learn from their journey with the Jews to woo more of this demographic into their camp.
Like Jews, Hispanics have always voted solidly Democratic –even, as conservatives like to note, when pro-amnesty Ronald Reagan was the GOP nominee- but the GOP trajectory among the group was likewise headed upwards not all that long ago. Elections 2008 and 2012 saw the trajectory turn sharply downward, with a historic near-lethal resistance to national GOP candidates. No doubt, fierce GOP opposition to immigration reform in 2007, Arizona’s immigration law, and Romney’s heated anti-immigration stand during the primary scared off potential Hispanic GOP voters.
As Republicans scramble to win Hispanic support, they must bear in mind that it won’t be simple –or quick. Changing policy and tone regarding immigration will merely stop the damage. It can easily take a decade or more to go from Romney’s 27% of the Hispanic vote to the 40% or so earned by George W. Bush, and even longer to potentially gain parity. It will take years of aggressive community outreach and a series of culturally relatable GOP candidates –Hispanic or otherwise- to make significant inroads.
At the same time, Republicans can take heart that –like the Jews- Hispanics have historically shown a far greater openness to voting Republican than, say, African-Americans have. These voters are there for the taking. Even if Republicans will see little or no progress among Hispanics during the initial post-2012 cycles, they should not despair. Patience and perseverance will ultimately win the day.
For their part, Hispanic voters would be wise to listen to Obama’s new found courage on behalf of Israel and recognize the enviable clout they can gain if they show even a modest level of flexibility between the two major political parties.
-Simon Blum is a freelance writer and journalist specializing in political analysis and communication. You can follow Simon on Twitter @sbpundit.