The Krazy Konservative Kleavage

Seventy-two percent of the voters in 2012 identified as white. Thirty-five percent of the electorate self-identified as conservative. Mitt Romney won these groups 59% and 82% respectively. Still, though, Romney lost. He lost because President Barack Obama won three quarters of the non-white vote, including a staggering 71% of Latinos. This led to the Republican “post mortem” report, an exhaustive examination of the many challenges that face the party, especially in Presidential Elections. The report named many areas of improvement, but the most controversial prescription called on the Party to increase its minority outreach.

 

“If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them and show our sincerity.” Furthermore, “we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.”

 

Many Republicans–Big Tent Republicans–agree with these findings. Romney’s vow to make life for illegal immigrants so difficult that they would “self-deport;” failed to comfort the millions of immigrants and their families, and sent the message to Latinos that Republicans don’t “care about people like me.”  Moreover, Romney’s approach failed to address the complexity of the illegal immigration problem.

 

On the other hand, many other Republicans reviled this conclusion. They argue, instead, that Romney lost the 2012 election because he wasn’t–like them–a “true conservative,” ignoring that he represented the “true conservative” choice in 2008, when he ran against John McCain. “True conservatives” say that they believe in absolute ideological purity, but that does not appear to be so. Instead, “true conservatives” are singly concerned about Mexican immigration. These Republicans believe that across the nation, white conservatives simply refuse to come to the polls to vote for Republican candidates who are not conservative enough, and until a “true conservative” becomes the nominee, Republicans will continue to lose elections.

 

The numbers, however, belie this conclusion.

 

By “true conservative’s” estimates, for example, George W. Bush is more conservative than both McCain and Romney. In 2000, 29% of voters self-identified as conservative, 34% in 2008, and 35% in 2012. Bush earned 82% of the conservative vote in 2000, McCain earned 78% in 2008, and Romney won 82% in 2012. In other words, Romney won more conservative votes than each of these recent predecessors, McCain earned more conservative votes than Bush, and fewer self-identified conservatives came out for Bush than did for both McCain and Romney.

 

Was George W. Bush not conservative enough to attract these phantom “true conservatives?” Why did so many more conservatives come out to support a “less conservative” Mitt Romney? Impervious to evidence, “true conservatives” dig in their heels.

 

As candidates entered the 2016 Presidential Race, the dichotomy couldn’t be clearer: Among others; senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Governors Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and John Kasich; conspicuously represented the Big Tent Republicans–the Republicans who got the memo in 2012. Senator Ted Cruz, and hotelier Donald Trump represented the “true conservative” wing of the Party.

 

In an appeal to his Republican constituents, Trump attacked Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish. Cruz did the same to Marco Rubio. This line of attack meant to elicit visceral concerns about Mexican immigration, also suggested that the Big Tent candidates shared a secret agenda to serve the interests of Hispanics over American (white) interests, and implied that neither Bush nor Rubio can be trusted. In fact, Cruz openly accused Rubio of saying one thing on Univision–in Spanish–and another to the American public–most of whom do not speak Spanish and cannot fact check Cruz’ claim with certainty or ease. Interestingly, in 2012, Newt Gingrich argued that he was the “real conservative,” as opposed to Romney, and he employed this very same kind of attack, arguing that Romney’s bilingualism (French, in his case) raised questions about his fealty to America.

 

Big Tent Republicans, on the other hand, make the case, as did Rubio, that speaking Spanish helps deliver the conservative message to more people. In keeping with the Big Tent goal of expanding the Party, Bush and Rubio argued that bilingualism was a tool to welcome new people into the GOP.

 

“True conservatives’” favorite attack against Big Tent Republicans regards immigration policy. Rubio faced intense castigation for working with a bipartisan team of Senators to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The bill would have penalized, with a fine and repayment of back taxes, any of the 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States who chose to accept this punishment. Then, this group could earn legal status–even citizenship. The bill strengthened the E-verify program, and mandated businesses to participate. It passed the Senate with 68 votes, but died in the House.

 

“True conservatives” cheer the bill’s failure, calling it “amnesty,” as if the word has no definition. Rubio bears the scars for participating in The Gang of 8 (not to be confused with the Gang of 14 that “true conservatives” hung around John McCain’s neck in 2008). “True conservatives” believe that law enforcement officers should hunt illegal immigrants, take them from their houses and places of employment, send them to immigration courts, detain and deport them. Both Trump and Cruz say that they will do all of this and build a 50 foot wall along the Southern border.

 

At this point in the 2016 election, half of the 4 remaining candidates are “true conservatives,” while the other half are Big Tent Republicans. Unfortunately, the “true conservatives” are winning.

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This schism suggests that Republicans have learned nothing from their 2012 defeat. “True conservatives’” appeals to xenophobia have unsurprisingly attracted support from the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, and other white supremacist groups. Trump’s reticence to denounce this wing of his supporters further validates the fears minorities have about the GOP. If ever one would wonder whether or not Republicans “care about people like me,” one only need remember that rather than trying to appeal to minorities, the Republican Party prefers to court nonexistent white people.

 

Most of the candidates who worked to expand the Party have dropped from the race for lack of support. While some conservative commentators may argue that a majority of Republican voters do not agree with Donald Trump, the fact remains that Ted Cruz represents the same wing of the divided Republican Party. Neither candidate works to welcome new members to the GOP rolls. In fact, they both push minorities away. As a result, millions of potential Republican voters will vote Democrat, and the Democrats will win another Presidential election.

 

Voting for Marco Rubio, on the other hand, presents the Democrats with a true challenge: no longer can they take minority votes for granted, because Rubio actively courts them. For every Democrat surrogate sent to speak in Spanish on behalf of their white candidate, Rubio, himself, can answer on his own behalf. The image of Rubio sharing a stage with Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy will be a galvanizing image for the Republican Party.

 
As it happens, though, “true conservatives” continue to win more Republican votes. So when Republicans lose in November, prepare for another hand wringing report about the lack of minority outreach. Prepare for the accusations that the GOP nominee was ideologically tainted. For had he been a “true conservative,” millions upon millions of whites would have shown up to vote Republican.

Ryan’s Reformicons Lead the Way

In an election year, politicians tend to be light on policy specifics (closer to Donald Trump’s platitudes than to Mitt Romney’s 59-point jobs plan). That’s because revealing too much too soon creates a target that opponents can attack for a longer period of time. Paul Ryan recognized this in 2012 when Romney approached him about joining the presidential ticket.

 

“When he [Romney] asked me, I said, ‘you do realize that I’m the guy with all the budget cuts. If you put me on the ticket, you own this budget.'”

 

Romney accepted Ryan, budget cuts and all, but lost the 2012 election anyway.

 

This time around, Speaker Ryan looks to push a congressional reform agenda he describes as “propositional” not “oppositional.” His goal is to have a tangible plan laid out this spring–before the 2016 general election. In other words, whoever becomes the Republican nominee will own Ryan’s congressional agenda.

 

I want our party to be the party of opportunity, upward mobility and the party with better ideas for fighting poverty…[and] since I want our party to be that, it goes without saying I want the House Republicans to do that, as well.”

 

Inspired by the late Jack Kemp, Ryan addresses poverty, an issue on which Republicans have traditionally led from behind. Preliminary insights suggest that the Speaker wants to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and to consolidate the sprawling federal funding for various poverty initiatives into “opportunity grants” that can be managed by the states. In addition to the poverty proposals, Ryan’s reform priorities include erecting a sturdier firewall to prevent an overactive executive from usurping Congress’ legislative duties.

 

But will Paul Ryan’s reform agenda burden the Republican presidential nominee? That depends on who wins the nomination, of course.

 

Ryan’s tone competes with the angry voices vowing to buck “establishment RINOs” who “don’t fight back” against “amnesty.” On the presidential campaign trail, this tonal divide is clear: Governors Jeb Bush and John Kasich join Senator Marco Rubio in Ryan’s eagerness to transform the GOP from loyal opposition party into a forward leaning majority party. In fact, when Ryan held a three day retreat in Baltimore to discuss the 2016 agenda, each of these gentlemen attended. Notably absent from the retreat, the two candidates most identified by anger, Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz.

 

Let’s be frank about it: Paul does not want Donald Trump or Ted Cruz speaking for the party,” says one Republican leadership source, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

 

Herein lies the problem. Many Republicans believe that Democrats benefit by framing their policies in an affirmative fashion. Democrats want to “give” people health insurance. They want to “give” people free college education. They want to “give” women the right to choose an abortion. Republicans, on the other hand, appear to be “against” healthcare, free college and reproductive choice. Most voters want more of everything, not less. This puts Republicans at a disadvantage, unless we learn to reframe the conversation.

 

Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush, appeal to the Republican mainstream because they speak in terms of aspiration and optimism. They speak with the very tone Paul Ryan would like to advance. By contrast, Ted Cruz regularly uses verbs like “annihilate,” “destroy,” and “dismantle.” Donald Trump’s ban on Muslim visitors and immigrants, his staunch desire to erect a physical barrier to immigration, and his promise to punish businesses who choose to operate in a friendlier climate, all use threatening language that does not advance a positive view of conservatism.

 

Speaker Ryan understands that he and Mitt Romney won the 2012 election on issues, but lost on empathy. He understands Jack Kemp’s axiom: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” That is why Ryan is working tirelessly to unite the Republican Party and grow it, by showing the country what positive politics looks like.
If we nominate the wrong candidate, though, we may do more than lose the election–we may significantly damage the conservative movement.

Marco’s Meltdown. Republican Rancor. And the Futility of Negativity.

Without a doubt, Senator Marco Rubio performed poorly in the first part of the New Hampshire debate. Even he admits it. Governors Chris Christie and Jeb Bush spent the days after the Iowa Caucus openly declaring war on Rubio’s ascendant campaign–questioning Rubio’s conservative convictions and casting him as a stereotypical politician meticulously crafted by Frank Luntz focus groups. In the Saturday debate, the only debate between the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary, Christie led the way in battering Rubio–sending the young senator into a Howard Hughes loop of repetition that earned him well-deserved booing.

 

The Granite State cast its votes. No candidate came close to Donald Trump’s decisive victory; least of all, Marco Rubio, who fell from second to a fifth place finish. In spite of Rubio’s impressively broad collection of endorsements, his supporters must consider whether New Hampshire represents a minor setback, or if the wax on Rubio’s wings have melted. As Republicans consider this and reevaluate the landscape, looking forward to South Carolina, a nagging question still remains: Who benefited from the debate attacks?

 

Governor Christie fueled the attacks on Rubio, arguing that America’s electing a smooth-talking, first-term senator in 2008 led to the dire straits the country finds itself in now. Therefore, he argues, a vote for Rubio would be a vote for a similar outcome.

 

Forget, for now, the superficiality of the argument (which I address in the “On Rubio’s Experience” section of a prior article). Even had Christie not dropped out of the race after the primary, would the attack have helped him at all? His attacks on Rand Paul didn’t help him. Nor did he gain from his routine, categorical attacks on senators, which always led him into his own “memorized 25-second speech” about the difference between being a senator and being a governor–a speech that always ended with a dark and disturbing promise about not letting Hillary Clinton within 15 feet of the White House.

 

Governor Bush turned on his protegee during the New Hampshire debate when asked why he’s flip-flopping on his view of Rubio’s qualifications to be president.

 

“Marco Rubio is a gifted, gifted politician,” Bush said, “and he may have the skills to be a President of the United States, but we’ve tried it the old way with Barack Obama, with soaring eloquence and…we didn’t get a leader we got someone who wants to divide the country up.”

 

Let’s examine Bush’s causation-correlation fallacy: Barack Obama used soaring rhetoric and eloquence to win his party’s nomination, and then proceeded to divide the country as president. Therefore, because Marco Rubio speaks eloquently, we should not vote for him to win our party’s nomination for fear that if he wins the presidency, he will do the same.

 

Bush’s absurdities didn’t end there. The former governor, brother of the last Republican president and son of the Republican president prior, went on to attack Rubio in an interview with Glenn Thrush arguing that the son of a maid and a bartender had “never been challenged in his life.”

 

Despite this, Bush only earned about 1,200 more votes than Rubio–amounting to his campaign spending more than $1,200 per vote.

 

So did the attacks work? Sure, if the goal was to harm Rubio’s ascendancy. But did how did they serve the attackers? The Party? The voters?

 

Of course, none of these people benefited from the scurrilous attacks, except maybe Rubio, himself. Perhaps his debate performance will make him more self-aware. Maybe he will learn how to better take heat and recover. Maybe–but only if he learned some important lessons from the event.

 

Clearly, for example, Rubio does not handle attacks well. He responds to petty slights in kind: calling Rand Paul an isolationist, criticizing Christie for New Jersey’s credit downgrades and for not returning fast enough to his state after a snowstorm, etc. Only once did he successfully parry an attack, and that was from Jeb Bush in a much earlier Iowa debate. Perhaps, Rubio simply does not like going after other Republicans. Whether or not that is the case, he can benefit from this weakness by remembering that he bested Bush by taking the high road. Going forward, he can expect to sustain more friendly fire. If Rubio learns that he does best when he stays above the fray, he will have benefited from this experience.

 

Similarly, Rubio must become more self-aware. He hopefully understands that his response to Christie’s charges was self-defeating. Not only did he play into Christie’s narrative, but he also focused on Barack Obama–someone who will not be on the ballot in 2016. This went against the inspirational tenor of his campaign. If, instead, Rubio learns to stay focused on the challenges of tomorrow, rather than the politicians of yesterday, he will have benefited from this experience.
As the Republican race stands now, negativity reigns supreme: Trump insults everyone, Cruz does as well, and Bush does no better. Only Governor Kasich, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio have focused their campaigns on defeating the Democrats and improving the country. If Rubio can remain optimistic and positive, he will solidify himself as the most electable Republican, and the party and American voters will have benefited from this experience.

Sour Grapes, Slings and Arrows

Governors Jeb Bush and Chris Christie join forces with Senator Ted Cruz to attack the most popular Republican running for president in 2016–Marco Rubio. Both Bush and Christie struggle to get campaign momentum, and hope New Hampshire will offer a breath of new life and an end to the donor hemorrhaging. Senator Cruz, on the other hand, appears to have wounded Donald Trump’s candidacy by beating him in Iowa, and expects–as many do–that Trump’s time atop the field will wane as voting continues. His next most credible threat comes from Rubio, the consensus candidate who has been scooping up high profile endorsements–even from former 2016 contenders. For Rubio’s part, he must decide how to respond to the attacks: either by breaking with the aspirational tone of his campaign to return fire at his detractors, or by rising above the noise in hopes that his strategy will continue to bear fruit as his competitors fall away.

Rubio’s choice will be evident beginning with the only debate between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. What should also be evident is how weak and petty his attackers’ cases purport to be. Christie and Bush plan to attack Rubio’s inexperience–a route the more junior senator, Cruz, cannot pursue. Cruz, in his typical fashion, wishes to score points by attacking Rubio’s immigration stance. Assuming Rubio remains poised and positive, none of these attacks should draw blood.

 

On Rubio’s Experience

If Republicans should have learned anything from Barack Obama’s candidacy and presidency, it should have been that inexperience is an overrated line of attack. For starters, the attack failed when employed by Senator John McCain in 2008 and by Governor Mitt Romney in 2012. Especially in an election year in which the media narrative names 2016 the year of the outsider. Rubio can turn the inexperience argument into a derivative of Ben Carson’s and Carly Fiorina’s speeches about career politicians’ culpability for America’s woes.

 

More to the point, though, inexperience has not harmed the Obama presidency. None of Obama’s most egregious acts resulted from his lack of experience. Rather, his worldview is to blame. Inexperience did not lead to the failed Stimulus Package–a belief in big government did. Inexperience did not lead to the Affordable Care Act–a belief in big government did. Obama’s failed foreign policy did not result from a lack of executive experience. Instead, he was led by the liberal belief that America should be less involved in world events.

 

Marco Rubio’s lack of executive experience says nothing about what matters most–his conservative convictions. A conservative as experienced as Barack Obama was in 2007 can still offer hope to a movement looking to turn the country in a better direction.

 

On Immigration

Senator Cruz’ attacks on immigration will likely fall flat for a few reasons. First, Rubio is right in insisting that the 12 million illegal immigrants to this country cannot be deported. The cost to detain, try and ultimately deport costs too much money for very little (if any) benefit. Furthermore, the economic costs of uprooting large swaths of the American workforce and home owners only compounds the impossibility of such a policy. Senator Cruz either knows this, and is promising to do so anyway (lying), or does not know this–making him stupid. Cruz is not stupid, but he does have a reputation for bending the truth for political gain.

 

Secondly, Rubio’s approach to immigration varies neither from Christie’s nor from Bush’s. Rubio can easily deflect Cruz’ criticism by using his enemies as a shield.

 

Thirdly, immigration ranks much lower on the list of issues most pressing to Americans at large than it does on Republicans’ priority list. New Hampshire; being less conservative than Iowa, and being a state that allows independents to vote in the primary; likely will not punish Rubio for whatever heresy he has committed on this issue.

 

Finally, Rubio has claimed to have learned his lesson from the Gang of 8 experience (which, incidentally passed in the Senate, unlike any legislation Ted Cruz was a part of). His stance on immigration falls within the mainstream of the Republican Party and within the country on a whole.

 

The attacks on Rubio have been loathsome, not just because they threaten to damage him if he becomes the nominee, but also because they lower the stature of some very good conservative patriots. Governor Christie has so much to boast about without resorting to negativity. Bush, too, possesses unmatched substance and intelligence to continue to bring to the conservative cause and the Republican Party. These attacks are beneath him, especially as Rubio’s mentor. The Republican Party–indeed the nation–needs unity now, more than ever. Republicans can neither win nor govern effectively without unity. Attacking a young, rising star will do more damage to the party, the attackers’ reputations, and to the country than perhaps Rubio’s detractors realize.

Can Marco Do the Job?

In the CNBC debate, Governor Jeb Bush damaged his campaign by attacking Senator Marco Rubio’s missed votes. In part, Bush harmed himself by taking a picayune line of attack. After all, would you notice if one of your U.S. Senators was missing 30% of his or her votes? We live in political gridlock that renders pointless much of Congress’ activities. The second reason his attack harmed his campaign lies in the characteristically deft manner in which Rubio answered the charge. Like a man punching at the air after sustaining a staggering uppercut, Bush parroted the criticism of Rubio’s missed votes for days afterward, even as his poll numbers fell inversely to Rubio’s. Now, with a more solid footing, the bloody-nosed Bush insists upon taking down his protege with attacks on his youth and inexperience. This new line of attack reveals an unbecoming characteristic Jeb shares with his brother, George–mulishness in the face of failure. Attacking Rubio’s inexperience can only work if Republicans demonstrate that we have similarly failed to learn from Barack Obama’s presidency that experience has very little bearing on political success.

 

To be sure, judging a senator’s tangible accomplishments proves a difficult task. Senators’ primary responsibilities include participating in committees, crafting legislation, analyzing policy and voting. To that end, Rubio served on the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee; the Committee on Foreign Relations; the Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship; and the Select Committee on Intelligence. He worked with Mike Lee to craft a tax plan and worked with seven other senators to create a comprehensive immigration plan. In short, he’s been hard at work.

 

Furthermore, Governor Bush cannot be allowed to escape his own words in 2012, when he urged Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, to consider Senator Rubio for the vice president position.

 

“Marco Rubio is my favorite [choice],” Bush told Charlie Rose in a PBS interview. “He has more experience than Barack Obama had when he ran, and…he’s certainly got the intelligent acumen and fortitude to be a good president.”

 

Bush made these remarks when Rubio had even less experience than he has now. But, regardless of whether one believes that Mr. Rubio possesses enough governmental experience to be president, the very nature of the question neglects one of the most important lessons of the Obama presidency: governmental experience doesn’t matter.

 

Barack Obama ascended to the presidency after voting “present” throughout his short stint as Illinois’ junior senator. In office, Obama passed sweeping health insurance reform, redefined marriage, named two Supreme Court justices and filled the federal judiciaries with liberal judges. His lack of experience, in other words, did nothing to prevent him from serving the leftist agenda. Similarly, whatever experience Mr. Rubio has (or lacks) in 2016 will be irrelevant as he stares down 31 of 50 Republican governors, 68 of 98 Republican controlled state legislative houses, and a Republican House and Senate.

 

What should matter most to Republicans, and to Mr. Bush in particular, are the nominee’s values. More important than an incoming president knowing where the payroll department is located, is a president who knows that an expansive federal government shrinks individual freedom, that American retreat invites anti-American advances, and that expanding opportunity for all Americans will help us grow our way out of our economic stagnation and general malaise.

 

Again, Rubio meets these criteria.

 

As the campaign goes forth, I hope that Mr. Bush abandons his inane attacks on Rubio. At least, if Bush refrains from doing so in the upcoming debates, he can avoid suffering further embarrassing  tongue-lashings from a man he named “the most articulate conservative elected official on the scene today.”

 

We shall see.

Political Math

Imagine, if you will, a Venn Diagram in which the left circle (A) represents virtuous Americans who possess strong leadership skills, intelligence, amiability, and the ability to comprehend and solve complex problems. Let the right circle (B) represent Americans willing to have their reputations muddled, their words distorted, and their personal failings broadcast and analyzed by strangers ad nauseum. From the circles’ overlap (AᑎB) we choose our party nominees and eventually, our president.

 

Americans universally agree that media sensationalism and emphasis on scandal scares people in Circle A away from politics; leaving the American public to choose leaders from a throng of celebrities and empty narcissists. This election cycle, Republican candidates have weathered particularly biased media coverage and distortion. From detailed examinations of Marco and Jeannette Rubio’s moving violations, to Scott Walker’s educational credentials, to things Dr. Ben Carson did or didn’t say; media has provided the very cynical coverage that is so universally detested.

 

A prime example of this malfeasance regards coverage of Jeb Bush’s “stuff happens” remarks.

The Miami Herald’s Leonard Pitts wrote one of the less braindead pieces about Bush’s comments, a piece that begins:

 

“And the Bush family’s War on English continues.”

 

Pitts goes on to compare Bush’s “callous” remarks to a “stink bomb in the flower bed.” He calls them “dismissive,” and lectures Bush–and conservatives–about why the comment is so reprehensible.

 

“‘Stuff happens’?…It doesn’t happen like this in Great Britain. It doesn’t happen like this in Brazil. It doesn’t happen like this in Israel…It would behoove us to try and figure out what other countries know that we do not.”

 

Take away the fact that none of these countries’ history, culture or philosophy match our own, and that most of us would rather live in an American ghetto than a Brazilian favela, and Pitts simply penned a typically thoughtless liberal response to gun violence. So what makes his article “less braindead?” He acknowledges that Bush’s “callous” comments were taken out of context.

 

The story of Bush’s “stuff happens” comment started with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza tweeting the two words out of context. News media pounced. President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton scolded Bush over this account of Bush’s “indifference” to gun violence. When asked about his statement, Bush doubled down. Republican and independent voters, donors, and Bush supporters, who hadn’t the time to research the full quote; or who were depressed by the barrage of negative press were likely to be less enthusiastic about Bush in light of this “news.” Maybe Jeb’s inarticulateness is as bad as his brother’s. That’s how the media tells the story, after all.

 

When conservatives hounded Lizza to provide the full quote [here], it became clear that the “stuff happens” story was just another smear job. The kind of smear job that keeps people in Circle A away from politics. In fact, buried in Pitts’ daft rant against comments that were never made, he acknowledges that “this is just a new round of the gaffe gotcha game where you strip clumsy language of inconvenient context so as to imply the candidate said or meant something he never said or meant. So let’s be fair: Bush was not being callous toward the Oregon tragedy…”

 

Pitts’ article could end there. Perhaps it could even call on the media to be more responsible–less nakedly partisan. Pitts could have reminded us, as The Federalist Staff did, that the media response to Bush’s statement is eerily dissimilar to their coverage of the same language coming from a certain Democrat politician.

 

“When bad stuff happens around the world, the first question is what is the United States going to do about it,” President Obama said about children being gassed in Syria.

 

“This stuff happens way too often,” President Obama said about the Charleston shooting.

 

To turn our ire to President Obama for saying “stuff happens” misses the point. Our disgust should be aimed squarely at a media that reduces a conversation about the limits of legislation to two words that do not characterize Bush’s remarks or his sentiment. Our disgust should be aimed at the fourth estate–the very institution that makes a liberal democracy possible.

 

It is no wonder 60% of Americans distrust the media. It is no wonder our politicians look more like Donald Trump and less like Adlai Stevenson. It’s no wonder AᑎB is so small. What more can we expect when this “stuff happens?”

Look Away! Dixieland

The Party of Lincoln Should Not Defend the Symbol of the Confederacy


Last week, disturbed, racist, Dylann Roof, shot 9 black Christians in South Carolina. The attack has led to Republicans facing myriad questions about gun control, racism and the tangential issues that arise when complex crimes like this occur. One of the foci of the tragedy is the Confederate Battle Flag that flies on the grounds of  South Carolina’s Capitol building in a Civil War memorial, and adorned Mr. Roof in many photos he took before the massacre. The Confederate Flag has long been a point of contention between Northerners and Southerners, liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites. That said, Republicans should take a firm stance against the Confederate Flag not just as a sign that we welcome blacks into our ranks, but because the flag symbolizes everything our Party is against.

In 2008, presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee addressed an audience in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina saying:

“You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag. In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell ’em what to do with the pole; that’s what we’d do.”

Michael Cooper of the New York Times reports that an independent conservative group used Huckabee’s comments to attack Senator John McCain (then, running for president; and an opponent of the flag flying over the state capitol), and praise Huckabee. The group ran an ad saying:

“John McCain assaults our values…Mike Huckabee understands the value of heritage.”

Using states’ rights to dodge questions of the flag’s morality, Huckabee said in 2008 that the decision to fly the flag over the capitol is one best left to the state and not to any president. He reiterated his position this year as he runs for president again, and the flag controversy resurfaces. Governor Scott Walker, expected to run for president, refused to answer what should be done with the flag. So far, only Mitt Romney (not running for president in 2016) and Jeb Bush say that the flag should be removed.

Are Republicans so clueless to the negative symbolism the Confederate Flag portrays–especially to blacks?

A moderate understanding of history acknowledges that the Confederacy wanted not just to enslave people, but to expand that enslavement throughout the new territories. Slavery runs contrary to our American ideals, yet Southerners at that time were so willing to enslave blacks that they killed whites in order to do so. The late Christopher Hitchens encapsulates the ugly symbolism of the flag thusly:

“Under this fiery cross of St. Andrew, the state of Pennsylvania was invaded and free Americans were rounded up and re-enslaved. Under this same cross, it was announced that any Union officer commanding freed-slave soldiers, or any of his men, would be executed if captured. (In other words, war crimes were boasted of in advance.) The 13 stars of the same flag include stars for two states—Kentucky and Missouri—that never did secede, and they thus express a clear ambition to conquer free and independent states.”

The ugly heritage of the Confederate flag continued even after the fall of the Confederacy. Various white supremacist groups and terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan flew the flag proudly. Even Dylann Roof understood the implications of the controversial banner.

So what is the “heritage” that Southerners want to preserve with the Confederate Battle Flag? Why do Republicans honor that “heritage?” South Carolina (and the GOP) should abandon the Confederate Battle Flag because it represents anti-Americanism and appropriately alienates blacks.
Republicans representing the Party of Lincoln should understand that better than anyone.

Republicans’ Trump Card…is a Joker

Say What You Will, Donald Trump is a Republican Nightmare


“[Donald Trump is] the personification of the Republican id, saying forthrightly the things most of them want to finesse, embodying their worst impulses, and doing it all with a spectacular if unwarranted confidence. Other Republicans may recoil from him, but when they look at Donald Trump, they’re only looking at a version of themselves.”

Before I criticize The Week’s Paul Waldman for writing an insulting article predicated on his ability to read Republicans’ minds, I must admit that I concur. However, concurrence does not equal agreement.  If your cat tells you that fish tastes delicious, you may think you agree. When the two of you discuss why you like the taste; your cat highlighting how much he loves the taste of the fins, crunchy pin bones, scales and blood; you learn the definition of concurrence.

So, is Donald Trump the GOP’s id? In many ways, yes. Just look at his polling: Real Clear Politics’ poll average shows Trump ahead of Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Rick Santorum, Governor Rick Perry, and Carly Fiorina. Each of these candidates has earned serious attention for their campaigns because each has shown dedicated support to conservatism and to the Republican Party. Governor George Pataki, another announced GOP candidate, does not even register on RCP’s poll average. Clearly, many conservatives like what Trump offers. They even prefer him to many serious candidates.

Trump’s visceral disgust for Mexico and South America resonates with many Republicans even while others are trying to broaden the party’s appeal among Latinos. While most Republicans may say that they do not feel as harshly as Trump’s clearly racist rhetoric suggests, the xenophobic writings of Pat Buchanan, Michelle Malkin, and most recently, Ann Coulter (author of “Adios, America”), enjoys large audiences among conservatives.

Even Trump’s remarks on trade with China impressed Republicans in spite of the fact that his policy prescriptions run contrary to the free market principles that conservatives champion.

Waldman goes astray, eating halibut guts, when he tries to elucidate what Republicans truly believe. “It is the investors and inheritors…to whom we must attend–showering them with favors, relieving their burdens, tiptoeing around their tender feelings–for they are truly the best of us,” Waldman writes, mischaracterizing Republican arguments against the Democrat’s punitive tax schemes. He goes on to compare Trump’s self-aggrandizement to Republican belief in American exceptionalism–a ridiculous comparison. Finally, he finishes by comparing Republican ideas to the Birther quackery that Trump pedalled for years. Again, Waldman seems to know Republicans about as much as Trump knows subtlety.

Still, though, his piece offers some sobering insight, if we, Republicans, can be smart enough to benefit. That Mr. Trump; who donated copious amounts of money to Democrats, took cheap shots at other GOP candidates and pundits, paid actors to cheer on his 2016 presidential announcement, and publicly grifted foolish people with the Obama birth certificate fraud; polls better among Republicans than so many of our serious candidates, brings shame upon our party. If, in fact, Trump represents our collective id, though, we are not completely doomed. We’re humans, after all. We are not ruled completely by our ids. We have to rely on our superegos to deal with the problems posed by Mr. Trump, and elect a respectable nominee.

The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that one exists. In Trump, troubles abound: He’s garnered enough attention, on name recognition alone, to crowd out serious candidates from the debates. He’s prideful enough to recklessly spoil the GOP field by hurling insults and baseless charges, damaging the eventual nominee ahead of the general election. He’s wealthy enough to launch a third party campaign that could siphon votes away from the eventual Republican candidate. He could cause all of this mayhem without losing a wink of sleep. Donald Trump is a liability.

The next step is for Republican candidates to deal with him in a way that doesn’t raise his profile or his inclination to launch a third party bid. On the debate stage, Rick Wilson, a national Republican media consultant and campaign adviser, offers solid advice. Republican candidates, Wilson argues, must engage with Mr. Trump in a very delicate fashion that keeps interactions to a minimum, but doesn’t ignore him. Ignoring Trump could create the outsider vs. insider (establishment) dynamic that could play in his favor.

Finally, Republicans inclined to vote for, volunteer for, or donate to Donald Trump should be seriously dissuaded. Irresponsible conservative news outlets will treat him favorably because his controversial status boosts ratings. But serious coverage doesn’t equal serious ideas. Remind Trump supporters that he is an unprincipled fraud. David Graham, writing in The Atlantic, points out that Trump may not last beyond mid-October because disclosing his financial worth–a worth he claims is 9 billion dollars–will reveal that he is lying.

Whether or not Trump represents the GOP id, this nightmare scenario can only be defeated by our superego.

3 Reasons Why Republicans Should Keep an Open Mind about Jeb

After months of Hamlet-like vacillation, John Ellis (Jeb) Bush decides to join the 2016 Presidential race. The leader among all of the declared and undeclared Republican presidential candidates, Bush offers something most of the candidates do not–executive experience running a state that the GOP must win in order to win the 2016 election. Still though, many Republicans remain skeptical of Mr. Bush, some flatly refusing to vote for “another Bush.” Here are 3 reasons why Republicans should keep an open mind about the Jeb Bush candidacy.

 

Reason One: Jeb Bush Joins the Race Enjoying Advantages the Other Candidates Envy


Martin O’Malley, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson share a common first hurdle to a successful White House bid–earning widespread name recognition. For some candidates, their relative obscurity serves them well: Senator Marco Rubio, for example, can define himself on his own terms. Martin O’Malley, on the other hand, struggles to get any attention at all. For Jeb Bush, name recognition cuts both ways: on the one hand, Bush enjoys the benefits of belonging to a respected political family that Americans feel as if they know. After all, the only Republicans to win the White House since Ronald Reagan were Bushes. Still, though,Jeb must make the case that he is his own man, worthy of the job on his own merits, not just because of his last name. That task represents an opportunity similar to Senator Rubio’s.

 

Being from such a successful political family brings with it two more important advantages–networking and money. Leading up to his announcement, Bush has been cobbling together an enviable campaign team of big names like Danny Diaz, Heather Larrison, and Alex Lundry. Many of these people worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign and worked for George W. Bush as well.

 

Heather Larrison leads Bush’s dynamic fundraising team that has been greatly outpacing his rivals’. Mr. Rubio, also from Florida, has been struggling to build his fundraising base upon Florida donors, because Bush’s influence in the state is deeper and wider-reaching. In fact, whichever candidate performs worse in Florida’s winner take all primary will likely end his White House bid immediately thereafter.

 

Name recognition, deep political networks and strong fundraising abilities are important aspects to running a winning campaign.

 

Reason Two: America Values Individual Accomplishment More than Bloodlines


By far, the most braindead “argument” against a Jeb Bush presidential run (and in fairness, against Hillary Clinton as well) is “Not Another Bush.” This reticence to support Mr. Bush purely based on his last name indicates immaturity and irrational thinking. For those of us who have siblings, would it be fair to say that knowing one of you is the same as knowing the other? Do you think the same as your siblings on all matters? Do you think the same as your father on all matters? Most matters?

 

Most bothersome about the “Not Another Bush” line, is that it runs contrary to America’s greatest ideal, that which sets us apart from our European kin: America values the individual more than the bloodline. And we should continue to do so. Betraying that idea betrays the notion that anyone can “make it” in America if he or she just works hard and plays by the rules.

 

By this standard, Jeb Bush has earned his right to be taken seriously along with the other candidates because he governed Florida successfully and conservatively. At present, he appears to be an upstanding man with a good family (all families face challenges, of course). He holds his own policy positions that may vary from his brother and father, and still fall within the conservative spectrum. On these elements should he be judged, not on his family lineage.

 

Reason Three: Jeb Bush Falls within the GOP Mainstream


The 2016 GOP candidate will surely need the support from the broadest coalitions of the conservative movement. He or she will need to speak most of all to social conservatives, economic conservatives, and defense-minded conservatives. On the issues most important to these constituencies, Jeb Bush falls within the mainstream. Unlike George Pataki, Bush holds a consistent record opposing abortion. Unlike Mike Huckabee, Bush does not need to defend himself against allegations of reliance on federal funds during his governorship. Unlike Rand Paul, Bush speaks clearly about reinstating a forward-leaning foreign policy.

 

Furthermore, for Bush’s conservative bona fides, he strikes a moderate tone–an important ingredient for any GOP candidate to win the general election.

 

Without a doubt, Mr. Bush faces a list of challenges and formidable candidates in his 2016 bid. While he leads the pack in most polls, his lead wanes–most notably, in Florida. Still, though, Bush represents a serious candidate in whom Republicans can take pride. A welcome addition to the large field of candidates, Jeb Bush deserves serious consideration in his own right.

Rubio in the Running

Yesterday is Over


Standing before a throng of supporters chanting his name, Marco Rubio delivered his inspiring campaign kickoff speech. The young Florida senator spoke movingly about his family’s history and about how that history coincided with the American Dream. The most important parts of his speech illustrate the everyday people Rubio’s campaign seeks to champion–among them: maids, janitors, bartenders, single mothers, and students. These illustrations demonstrate his superb ability to connect with people beyond cold statistics. Touching on policy positions, highlighting his ability to speak Spanish, expressing his Christian faith and defining his campaign as forward-looking did much to connect his message to Republicans who want to grow the party and win the 2016 presidential race. National Review’s editors rightly declare Rubio “the most charismatic potential Republican nominee,” and “the most articulate advocate of strong American leadership in foreign affairs.”

But, can he win the nomination?

Jamelle Bouie, writing for Slate, argues that Rubio will likely fail.

“It’s not that [Rubio] can’t win. It’s that he’s almost no one’s first choice…56% of Republican voters say they could vote for him,” but “just 5.4% list him as a top choice.”

Bouie argues that a phenomenon Republicans typically regard as a strength–the vast field of candidates–may harm Rubio’s ability to stand out from the pack.

“…depending on your place in the GOP, there are potentially better options. If you’re a conservative who wants consensus and a more inclusive message, you have Jeb Bush, who melds Rubio’s potential appeal to Latino voters (his wife is Mexican, and he speaks fluent Spanish) with executive experience, fundraising prowess, and the all the benefits (and burdens) of the Bush name. Likewise, if you want a more aggressive choice—someone with the chops it takes to beat Democrats and advance a conservative agenda—you have Walker…If you’re a conservative evangelical…there’s Cruz (and potentially Mike Huckabee)…if you want a more libertarian choice, there’s Paul. Rubio may appeal to every base, but every base is already covered.”

Crystal Wright’s editorial appearing on CNN laments the potential crowded field:

“Instead of sitting on the sidelines and helping the party win the White House with a small, electable candidate pool, Republicans are threatening to dive into 2016 like spawning salmon,” she writes.

“When the Republican nominee finally emerges in the middle of 2016, the public’s perception of him or her will be negative, like it was of Romney, because the candidate will have had to defend against accusations of being a RINO (Republican in Name Only) from ideologues like [Ted]Cruz.”

Wright’s comments concern Rubio, whose first order of business before launching a presidential bid was to offer a mea culpa on immigration reform that sets him right with the Party, but wrong on the issue.

However, these hurdles facing Rubio may not embody the challenges skeptics predict. While Jeb Bush (still unannounced) boasts the deepest pockets and a similar ecumenical appeal, Bush lacks popular support. Rand Paul must square many of his positions–especially on foreign intervention at a time when the GOP has reaffirmed its hawkish foreign policy views in the face of ISIS, Iranian nuclear talks, Russian aggression, and decline in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. Cruz’ short Senate tenure is marked by a long list of enemies within the GOP, and Walker may lack the appeal to Latino voters that the GOP wants to attract to the party.

In short, if Republicans take Wright’s advice and refrain from damaging each other in the primary, everyone comes out on top–possibly even Marco Rubio.

David Harsanyi writes:

“the most vital skill any candidate can have is the ability to transcend coverage and make his case to voters…is there any other Republican who could do that more effectively than Rubio?”

We shall see.