I have often pointed out that actual views of past conservatives, even ones still held up as founders of the conservative movement, would not be welcome by the extremist and reactionary members of the current conservative movement. Barry Goldwater was strongly opposed to social conservatism and the influence of the religious right on the Republican Party to the point where he considered himself a liberal in his later years. Richard Nixon supported social conservatism but also supported a form of activist government which neither liberals or conservatives support. Ronald Reagan had the right rhetoric for the conservative movement, but was not as out of touch with reality as modern conservatives, supporting increases in taxes and the debt ceiling which today’s conservatives would protest without even considering their merit. Bob Dole correctly added himself to this list.
In an interview on Fox News Sunday Bob Dole responded to questions on the Republican abuse of the filibuster and whether he could have made it in today’s party:
“I doubt it,” he said in an interview aired on “Fox News Sunday” when asked if his generation of Republican leaders could make it in today’s GOP. “Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly, Nixon couldn’t have made it, cause he had ideas. We might’ve made it, but I doubt it.”
Dole, a wounded World War II veteran from Kansas and icon of the party, said he believes it needs to rethink the direction it’s heading in.
“They ought to put a sign on the National Committee doors that says ‘Closed for repairs,’ until New Year’s Day next year,” he said. “And spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.”
Video is above.
Dole agreed the filibuster is being over-used and criticized Barack Obama for not reaching out more to lawmakers during his first term. In reality Obama moved far to the right in attempts to reach agreement with Republicans. This was not successful as Republican leaders placed opposition to Obama, and their goal of trying to deny him a second term, over support for policies they have supported in the past as well as over the good of the country.
There was once a time in which there were moderate Republicans who did not hold positions which are bat-shit crazy. These included former Governor George Romney of Michigan, whose greatest sins were admitting he was brainwashed in Viet Nam and having a pathological liar for a son. One longtime aide to George Romney has been speaking out about Mitt:
A longtime aide to George W. Romney issued a harshly worded critique of Mitt Romney, accusing him of shifting political positions in “erratic and startling ways” and failing to live up to the distinguished record of his father, the former governor of Michigan.
Walter De Vries, who worked for the senior Mr. Romney throughout the 1960s, wrote that Mitt Romney’s bid for the White House was “a far cry from the kind of campaign and conduct, as a public servant, I saw during the seven years I worked in George Romney’s campaigns and served him as governor.”
“While it seems that Mitt would say and do anything to close a deal – or an election,” he wrote, “George Romney’s strength as a politician and public officeholder was his ability and determination to develop and hold consistent policy positions over his life.”
Mr. De Vries’s stinging assessment was contained in a nearly 700-word essay that he distributed to a small group of journalists with whom he has spoken over the past year. He said it was an outline for a book that may or may not be published. A spokeswoman for the Romney campaign declined to comment.
A registered independent, who said he voted for Barack Obama in 2008, Mr. De Vries has previously expressed reservations about Mr. Romney’s political postures in interviews, but never with such sweep.
In a telephone interview, he said he was motivated to write the essay by “an accumulation” of Mr. Romney’s actions, like his comment about 47 percent of Americans and his decision to campaign with Donald Trump.
Mr. De Vries said he was annoyed by Mr. Romney’s repeated references recently to his father as inspiration and influence on him.
“I just don’t see it,” he said. “Where is it? Is it on issues, no? On the way he campaigns? No.”
Mr. De Vries continued, “George would never have been seen with the likes of Sheldon Adelson or Donald Trump.”
I know some might discount this because De Vries has voted Democratic, but it must be kept in mind that the same is true of many Republicans of the 1960′s who did not move as far to the extreme right as today’s Republican Party. This is not limited to the now-dead moderate faction of the GOP. In his later years Barry Goldwater called himself a liberal while protesting the growing domination of the religious right over the party. Despite how often his name is raised, the party has also moved far to the right of Ronald Reagan.
Recently, after Mitt Romney shook the Etch-A-Sketch, there has been a myth of a Moderate Mitt. While he has reversed himself on some positions, his views remain quite extreme. Besides, even if there really was a Moderate Mitt, there is no doubt that if president, Romney would rubber-stamp all the extremist laws passed by the far right GOP Congress and there is also little doubt that he would nominate Supreme Court justices who are acceptable to today’s Republican Party. The result of a Romney presidency would be far greater government intrusion in the private lives of individuals, further rigging of the system to transfer the nation’s wealth to the top one-tenth of one percent, and increased risk of war.
If Democrats are to have a chance at retaining the White House and possibly controlling both houses of Congress, it is necessary to get out the message to voters who have voted Republican in the past that this is not the same Republican Party. It has moved so far to the extreme right that it is no longer the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater. Rather than being the party of William F. Buckley, Jr., the Republican Party is now dominated by the type of far right wing extremists that Buckley once fought to exclude from the conservative movement. Today two columnists who often push for a centrist agenda discussed the extremism of today’s Republican Party.
Mitt Romney came from wealth and went on to build his own quarter-of-a-billion dollar fortune. Paul Ryan, who has never worked a day in the private sector (outside a few months in the family firm) reports a net worth of as much as $7 million, thanks to trusts and inheritances from his and his wife’s family.
Wealthy political candidates are nothing new, of course. But we’ve never had two wealthy candidates on a national ticket whose top priority is to reduce already low taxes on the well-to-do while raising taxes on everyone else — even as they propose to slash programs that serve the poor, or that (like college aid) create chances for the lowly born to rise.
Call them the Drawbridge Republicans. As the moniker implies, these are wealthy Republicans who have no qualms about pulling up the drawbridge behind them. Such sentiments used to be reserved for the political fringe. The most prominent example was Steve Forbes, whose twin obsessions during his vanity presidential runs in 1996 and 2000 — marginal tax rates and inflation — were precisely what you’d expect from an heir in a cocoon…
Today’s Drawbridge Republicans can’t be bothered. Yes, when their political back is to the wall — as Romney’s increasingly is — they’ll slap together a page of bullet points and dub it “a plan for the middle class.” But this is only under duress. The rest of the time they seem blissfully unaware of how off-key they sound. As the humorist Andy Borowitz tweeted the other day, “As a general matter, it’s a bad idea to talk about austerity if you just had a horse lose in the Olympics.”
Contrast conservative Prime Minister (and heir) David Cameron’s decision to defer his plans to lower the top 50 percent marginal rate in the UK. “When you’re taking the country through difficult times and difficult decisions,” Cameron said, “you’ve got to take the country with you. That means permanently trying to make the argument that what you’re doing is fair and seen to be fair.” As his spokesman added: “We need to ask those with the broadest shoulders to contribute the most.”
Now that’s a conservative ruling class with a conscience! Can anyone imagine Romney and Ryan saying the same?
Thomas Friedman’s column is about the need for a conservative party, quoting some conservatives who hold reasonable conservative positions as opposed to the extremist positions now held by the Republicans. Friedman, who often calls for centrist policies, now realizes that he is far more likely to see centrist policies from Barack Obama than the current Republican Party, with the extremism of the GOP preventing the government from passing reasonable solutions to today’s problems:
We are not going to make any progress on our biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and center-left. But, for that, we need the center-right conservatives, not the radicals, to be running the G.O.P., as well as the center-left in the Democratic Party. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed center-left solutions to all four of these challenges. I wish he had pushed some in a bigger, consistent, more daring and more forceful manner — and made them the centerpiece of his campaign. Nevertheless, if the G.O.P. were in a different place, either a second-term Obama or a first-term Romney would have a real chance at making progress on all four. As things stand now, though, there is little hope this campaign will give the winner any basis for governing. Too bad — a presidential campaign is a terrible thing to waste.
This is an important message to get out. This election is not a choice between a liberal Democratic Party and a conservative Republican Party. It is a choice between a center-left Democratic Party and an extremely far right Republican Party. The middle of the road is not somewhere between the Democrats and Republicans–it is near where the Democrats stand on most issues and far from where the Republicans now are. Those who seek centrist, or even old Republican ideas, are more likely to find their views represented by Democrats than Republicans if they go beyond all the misinformation being spread by the far right.
Doctor Who is rumored to be returning on September 1, with many of the cast and crew interviews are concentrating on an event to take place later in the season. In the video above, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and producers Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner discussed the Ponds leaving the show and the introduction of Jenna-Louise Coleman’s character. While we still know little about Clara, Coleman’s character, there are unconfirmed reports that the character is going to be a computer expert.
Steven Moffat says he completely rewrote the final scenes with Amy and Rory:
Moffat told Digital Spy that he “completely” rewrote the pair’s last scenes in upcoming episode, ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’.
“I completely changed the ending as I was writing it, thinking ‘No, I’ve got it wrong… I’m on the wrong emphasis’ – but it’s a good one and it’s properly emotional,” he promised.
Of the final script, Who star Matt Smith said: “I was very moved, very moved indeed, because not only is it two characters that I love, it’s two actors that I love working with. To see them go – and I think go so beautifully… it’s moving.”
Karen Gillan – who plays Amy – added: “I instantly phoned Matt [when I read the episode] and I was crying and laughing hysterically… because it’s so good!”
“It was like getting the last chapter of the best book you’ve ever read and being really surprised by the ending… and really satisfied,” explained Rory actor Arthur Darvill. “It was pretty emotional.
“It’s Doctor Who – I’m so proud of being part of such a big show. The show is bigger than all of us and it will outlive all of us… I’m really proud to have been a part of it.”
“It’s definitely the most ambitious series yet,” says actor Colin Morgan, who plays the titular Merlin in BBC One’s medieval fantasy. “They’ve pushed our characters into manhood, and this is the Merlin I’ve been waiting for.”
At the end of series 4, the wizard dealt a fatal magical blow to Arthur’s villainous uncle, Agravaine de Bois, who was in league with Morgana. Things have altered dramatically since then, and when the show returns later this year, Camelot will have jumped forward three years. Arthur has settled into his new role as King of Camelot with Queen Guinevere at his side, and Merlin is continuing along his new path…
“We left Merlin at the end of the last season tipping over into a darker side, and I think that’s a reference for me for the rest of this season,” Morgan continues. “I think he is so confident in himself now, and in who he is and what he is destined to do. He has a resilience and power that drives him for this season. He gives as good as he gets.”
This, apparently, is going to lead us to some of the “most important scenes there has ever been in terms of Merlin’s magic.” Could this mean that the secret is finally coming out? Morgan teased: “Arthur is forced to confront magic a lot in this series, and that could change everything, for Merlin and for everyone.”
What do you think that means? Is the time right for Merlin to reveal his magical mojo?
Fringe returns September 28. Two different trailers which tease the season in different ways are above.
Homeland returns September 30–trailer above.
From time to time there has been talk of rebooting Alias. I never saw any point in this. The story ran its course. A new spy series would be better off going in its own direction rather than trying to recreate what was already done. I also had doubts that a reboot could compete with the original because of how great the cast was on the original. While I doubt this would ever happen, Jennifer Garner provides hope that if there ever is a reboot of Alias it might be with the original cast:
If Alias was ever rebooted, would you want to be a part of it?
I think J.J. Abrams has got his hands full. I don’t see him turning around and rebooting Alias anytime soon. If he was involved, I’m sure the rest of us would sign right up. We had a blast making that show and we’re all still superclose, so I’m sure you would find an eager group of participants right there.
David Simon, creator of The Wire, blasts Mitt Romney on his taxes:
Can we stand back and pause a short minute to take in the spectacle of a man who wants to be President of The United States, who wants us to seriously regard him as a paragon of the American civic ideal, declaiming proudly and in public that he has paid his taxes at a third of the rate normally associated with gentlemen of his economic benefit.
Am I supposed to congratulate this man? Thank him for his good citizenship? Compliment him for being clever enough to arm himself with enough tax lawyers so that he could legally minimize his obligations?
Thirteen percent. The last time I paid taxes at that rate, I believe I might still have been in college. If not, it was my first couple years as a newspaper reporter. Since then, the paychecks have been just fine, thanks, and I don’t see any reason not to pay at the rate appropriate to my earnings, given that I’m writing the check to the same government that provided the economic environment that allowed for such incomes.
I can’t get over the absurdity of this moment, honestly: Hey, I never paid less than thirteen percent. I swear. And no, you can’t examine my tax returns in any more detail. But I promise you all, my fellow American citizens, I never once slipped to single digits. I’m just not that kind of guy.
This republic is just about over, isn’t it?
George R.R. Smith knows about power plays as he portrays them on Game of Thrones. He commented on Republican voter suppression:
I am way too busy these days for long political rants.
But I would be remiss if I do not at least make passing mention of how depressed, disgusted, and, yes, angry I’ve become as I watch the ongoing attempts at voter suppression in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Iowa, and other states where Republicans and their Teabagger allies control key seats of power.
It is one thing to attempt to win elections. But trying to do so by denying the most basic and important right of any American citizen to hundreds and thousands of people, on entirely spurious grounds… that goes beyond reprehensible. That is despicable.
It would really be nice if there were still some Republicans of conscience out there who would stand up and loudly denounce these efforts, a few men of honor and integrity for whom “win the election” does not “win the election at any cost.” There were once many Republicans I admired, even I disagreed with them: men like Everett Dirksen, Clifford Case, Henry Cabot Lodge, William Scranton… yes, even Barry Goldwater, conservative as he is. I do not believe for a moment that Goldwater would have approved of this, any more than Robert A. Heinlein would have. They were conservatives, but they were not bigots, nor racists, nor corrupt. The Vote Suppressors have far more in common with Lester Maddox, George Wallace, John Stennis, and their ilk than they do with their distinguished GOP forebears.
The people behind these efforts at disenfranchising large groups of voters (the young, the old, the black, the brown) are not Republicans, since clearly they have scant regard for our republic or its values. They are oligarchs and racists clad in the skins of dead elephants.
And don’t tell me they are libertarians either. No true libertarians would ever support a culture where citizens must “show their papers” to vote or travel. That’s a hallmark of a police state, not a free country.
Finally this picture, with apologies to the Munster family:
I think the biggest mistake made by John Kerry in his campaign against George Bush was to insist that all the speakers at the Democratic convention be positive without attacking George Bush. Needless to say, the Republicans did not follow the same policy. Kerry was leading during the summer, but fell significantly behind Bush after the Republican hate-fest. I’m glad to find that Barack Obama will not be making that mistake:
Advisers to President Barack Obama are scripting a Democratic National Convention featuring several Republicans in a prime-time appeal to independents — and planning a blistering portrayal of Mitt Romney as a heartless aristocrat who “would devastate the American middle class,” Democratic sources tell POLITICO.
According to convention planning documents, the three-night convention in Charlotte, N.C., early next month will seek to “[e]xpose Mitt Romney as someone who doesn’t understand middle class challenges” while also burnishing “the President’s image as someone whose life story is about fighting for middle class Americans and those working to get into the middle class.”
It is fun to watch the Republicans whine when Obama hits them with critical but generally honest attacks considering that Republicans have been running far harsher attacks on Democrats for years which also are notable for their dishonesty. There is nothing coming from Obama ((unless you believe this story in The Onion) which compares to Republican lies that Obama is a Muslim born outside of the United States, that he is a socialist, that he is bringing about a government take over of health care, that he raised taxes when he actually cut them, or blaming him for the Bush deficit. There’s no Democratic comparison to the all the recent noise misquoting Obama, falsely claiming he said that businessmen did not build their business or the lies about Obama’s welfare proposal. Same is true of several other misquotations Republicans have campaigned on. There’s nothing coming from Obama which compares to the Swift Boat Lies, which have been tied directly to Karl Rove and the Bush White House. There’s no Democratic 24-hour cable channel which spends the day promoting partisan talking points and lies disguised as news.
It will be interesting to see which Republicans will be included. Will they be individuals from outside of government who have voted Republican in the past and are now backing Obama, or will there be former Republican office holders? There certainly are a lot of moderate Republicans, and even some conservatives, who are no longer welcome in this far, far right wing GOP. I’m hoping for a seance in which Barry Goldwater repeats his old warnings about the religious right taking over the party and Ronald Reagan explains how the party has moved far to the right of him.
Earlier in the week there was reason to hope that the most entertaining Republicans of this election cycle, the Huntsman daughters, might be convinced to change parties. Abby Huntsman did say she was joining the Democrats but later said she was kidding. She also remains unsure as to who she will be voting for, so there is still hope of seeing videos from the Huntsman daughters backing Obama. It might be a family affair. There is speculation that Jon Huntsman, Sr. is the source for Harry Reid’s questionable claim that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for ten years. Who knows, maybe Jon Huntsman, who already served as Obama’s ambassador to China, might show up at the Democratic Convention to back Obama.
“In order to achieve the widest possible distribution of political power, financial contributions to political campaigns should be made by individuals, and individuals alone. I see no reason for labor, or corporations, to participate in politics. Let us henceforth make war on all monopolies — whether corporate or union. The enemy of freedom is unrestrained power, and the champions of freedom will fight against the concentration of power wherever they find it.” –Barry Goldwater from The Conscience of a Conservative
Americans Elect has failed to come up with a candidate to challenge the Democratic and Republican Party’s hold on the electoral system. There were problems with their idea. The group was backed by centrists but whenever you look at the types of policies self-described centrists want, you have a platform which is only very slightly to the right of that of the Democratic Party. Old concepts about moderation and centrism no longer hold when one party has moved to the extreme right, and the other party has responded by moving towards the center.
I was also not terribly impressed by the idea of picking a presidential candidate from one party and vice presidential candidate from the other. It just sounds like a gimmick, as if having candidates from different parties would make the party more representative of the entire nation. If I were to seriously consider a party, it is the ideas promoted by the candidates and not their party affiliation which really matter. Match Ben Nelson and any Republican and for all practical purposes you would still have two Republicans. Substitute Joe Lieberman and it wouldn’t be much better.
There is one purpose I could see for gaining ballot access for a party which is center-right The move by the Republicans to the extreme right does not leave a home for less extreme Republicans. Perhaps some day the typical Republican voter will get a better idea as to what has happened to the Republican Party and will want a choice which reflects their views. Where does a supporter of Ronald Reagan vote these days with the GOP moving so far to the right of Reagan?
If people really wanted centrist positions, they would be backing Barack Obama, who has gone overboard in offering policies which compromise with Republican ideas even though Republicans refused to come to the table to honestly negotiate with him. It was a noble idea on Obama’s part, but the wrong time for this. Fortunately Obama has realized this and has gone on the offensive against Republican extremism.
Chuck Hagel, while still too conservative for my tastes, would be preferable to the current GOP leadership. Last week Hagel discussed why Ronald Reagan would not identify with the current Republican Party:
“Reagan would be stunned by the party today,” Hagel said in a long interview in his office at Georgetown University, where he now teaches. He also serves as co-chair of President Barack Obama‘s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
Reagan wanted to do away with nuclear weapons, raised taxes, made deals with congressional Democrats, sought compromises and consensus to fix problems, and surrounded himself with moderates as well as Republican hard-liners, Hagel noted. None of that is characterized by the current GOP leadership, he said. In his eyes, the rise of the Tea Party and the influx of new GOP lawmakers in Congress have driven the party away from common sense and consensus-based solutions.
“Reagan wouldn’t identify with this party. There’s a streak of intolerance in the Republican Party today that scares people. Intolerance is a very dangerous thing in a society because it always leads to a tragic ending,” he said. “Ronald Reagan was never driven by ideology. He was a conservative but he was a practical conservative. He wanted limited government but he used government and he used it many times. And he would work with the other party.”
The situation today is similar to where the GOP found itself in the early 1950s, when there was a battle for the direction of the party over the party’s identity, Hagel said. Dwight Eisenhower and his moderate allies won that fight, diminishing the influence of extremists like Joe McCarthy, Hagel said.
But today, the extremists are winning.
“Now the Republican Party is in the hands of the right, I would say the extreme right, more than ever before,” said Hagel. “You’ve got a Republican Party that is having difficulty facing up to the fact that if you look at what happened during the first 8 years of the century, it was under Republican direction.”
We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.
When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.
“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.
After discussing the work of Mann and Ornstein, Frum went on to explain how the Republicans build support out of fear–with many acting out of fear to vote for Republicans contrary to their self-interest:
In these times, we are debating whether government should impose large reductions in programs or impose big increases in taxes — taking from people benefits that they now enjoy.
Human beings will typically fight much more ferociously to keep what they possess than to gain something new. And the constituencies that vote Republican happen to possess the most and thus to be exposed to the worst risks of loss.
The Republican voting base includes not only the wealthy with the most to fear from tax increases, but also the elderly and the rural, the two constituencies that benefit the most from federal spending and thus have the most to lose from spending cuts.
All those constituencies together fear that almost any conceivable change will be change for the worse from their point of view: higher taxes, less Medicare, or possibly both. Any attempt to do more for other constituencies — the unemployed, the young — represents an extra, urgent threat to them.
That sense of threat radicalizes voters and donors — and has built a huge reservoir of votes and money for politicians and activists who speak as radically as the donors and voters feel.
Which means the solution to the problems so astutely diagnosed by Mann and Ornstein must ultimately be found outside the American political system — and will not be solved until America’s rich and America’s elderly become either less fearful or more generous.
Add to that the racism, homophobia, and xenophobia of the Republicans, who scare conservative voters into fearing that people who are not exactly like them will take away what they have or otherwise represent a threat.
In an atmosphere such as this, there is no point in searching for a centrist position, treating the Republicans and Democrats as being on opposite ends of the spectrum with equally valid viewpoints to consider. As Mann and Ornstein pointed out, the problem comes from one party being extreme, and unwilling to work towards real solutions.
The differences between left and right have increasingly become a matter not of differences in opinion but in differences in facts which are accepted. This has been studied the most with regards to science, with conservative belief in science now hitting new lows. This has also been commonly seen with high profile issues ranging from false conservative beliefs that Saddam threatened the United States with WMD or was involved in the 9/11 attacks to their false beliefs that Barack Obama is a Muslim, a Socialist, and someone born outside of the United States.
Conservative rejection of science is most striking to those who understand that science is the best way to study the world around us based upon verifiable facts, but Republican anti-intellectualism is not limited to science. They promote a revisionist history to justify their policies, and promote economic views which have no basis in any sensible economic theory, even ignoring the actual economic views of capitalist economists they claim to follow. If Adam Smith were to come back to life, he would die laughing over the economic views which today’s conservatives promote, often claiming they are based upon his views.
Chris Mooney, who has written a lot on this topic, has an article in Mother Jones coinciding with the publication of his new book on The Republican Brain. Studies have shown biological differences between conservatives and liberals. These differences certainly might have some influence as to the ideology someone holds, but I suspect that this is something influenced by both nature and the influences on an individual. Therefore we see far more liberals on the coasts then in the deep south.
Kevin Drum raises the question of why American conservatives are more anti-science than those in Europe. Similar questions could be raised based upon time. At some times, such as during the McCarthy era, conservatives were as fanatic as those today, while at other times the bulk of the conservative movement tended to be less extreme. William F. Buckley, with all his faults, would probably have tried to keep the Tea Party followers out of the conservative movement as he did with the Birchers. Barry Goldwater was so repulsed by the direction that he saw the conservative movement moving that he considered himself a liberal in his later years. If Ronald Reagan were still alive and alert I suspect he would do the same.
I think this also comes down to the importance of environment impacting on possible biological factors. While other factors are at play, there are two main characteristics of today’s conservative movement which makes them more likely to reject facts. First, the conservative movement consists of alliances which have a vested interest in ignoring facts. This ranges from the religious right to those being duped into denying science change to support the interests of the petroleum industry.
Secondly, today’s American conservative movement has a propaganda machine which might be powerful than has ever been seen in human history, with the ability to get conservatives to internalize and spread beliefs which are totally irrational. Fox has been far more successful in promoting misinformation than the propaganda machines of Hitler or Stalin. In many ways the American conservative movement is far closer to the authoritarian movements of the 20th century than to any beliefs held in the past by Americans. Unlike Hitler and Stalin, the conservative movement does not need to eliminate the trappings of democracy when they can fool their followers into thinking that they are promoting freedom and limited government. Orwell certainly saw this coming.
The Republican Party has moved to the far right in recent years–far to the right of Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan–while the Democrats have moved towards the middle. The voteview blog has analyzed recent presidents and the result is exactly what we already knew:
Our findings here echo those discussed in a prior post that Republicans have moved further to the right than Democrats to the left in the contemporary period. Indeed, as seen below, President Obama is the most moderate Democratic president since the end of World War II, while President George W. Bush was the most conservative president in the post-war era.
On the other hand, in many ways Obama has had success at passing liberal polices in some areas where other Democratic presidents have failed. This success might be partially because of his moderation, and that a more liberal Democrat might have had fewer successes.
With the candidates for the GOP nomination failing to have a sensible platform of their own, they are trying to latch onto the reputation of Ronald Reagan. Newt Gingrich is the most guilty of this. Mitt Romney, who has taken both sides of virtually question imaginable, has declared his independence from Bush-Reagan in the past. Conservatives disagree as to whether Gingrich is the new Ronald Reagan. National Review ran a story showing that Gingrich frequently attacked Reagan, while many conservative blogs are running a video in which Nancy Reagan said her husband had turned over the torch to Newt.
I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late. If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices. Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway.
Gingrich served as Speaker from 1995 to 1999 and had trouble within his own party. By 1997 a number of House Republican members wanted to throw him out as Speaker. But he hung on until after the 1998 elections when Newt could read the writing on the wall. His mounting ethics problems caused him to resign in early 1999. I know whereof I speak as I helped establish a line of credit of $150,000 to help Newt pay off the fine for his ethics violations. In the end, he paid the fine with money from other sources.
Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall. He loved picking a fight with President Clinton because he knew this would get the attention of the press. This and a myriad of other specifics like shutting down the government helped to topple Gingrich in 1998.
In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad. He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it, and I’m not certain he knew either.
The Democrats are spending millions of dollars running negative ads against Romney as they are hoping that Gingrich will be the nominee which could result in a landslide victory for Obama and a crushing defeat for Republicans from the courthouse to the White House. Democrats are not running ads against Gingrich which is further proof they want to derail Governor Romney.
In my opinion if we want to avoid a sweeping victory by Obama in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard bearer. He could win because he has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president in whom we could have confidence and he would make us proud.
Gingrich has also compared himself to Barry Goldwater, but that one is especially absurd. Goldwater made his opposition to the religious right very clear in many statements, including in a speech before the Senate on September 16, 1981:
On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?
And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”
Goldwater also expressed similar views in 1994:
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.
The Republicans have moved far to the right of both Barry Goldwater, who opposed the religious right and considered himself a liberal in his later years, and even Ronald Reagan would not get along with today’s conservatives. Eric Cantor was confronted with this fact when interviewed on Sixty Minutes last night (video above):
Stahl: But you know, your idol, as I’ve read anyway, was Ronald Reagan. And he compromised.
Cantor: He never compromised his principles.
Stahl: Well, he raised taxes and it was one of his principles not to raise taxes.
At that point, Cantor’s press secretary, off camera, interrupted the interview, yelling that Stahl was lying when she said Reagan raised taxes. As Stahl told “60 Minutes” viewers, “There seemed to be some difficulty accepting the fact that even though Ronald Reagan cut taxes, he also pushed through several tax increases, including one in 1982 during a recession.”
Let’s call “some difficulty” a dramatic understatement.
Unfortunately for Cantor and his press secretary, reality is stubborn. The facts are indisputable: in Ronald Reagan’s first term, he signed off on a series of tax increases — even when unemployment was nearing 11% — and proceeded to raise taxes seven out of the eight years he was in office. The truth is, “no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people” as Reagan.
Of particular interest is the “Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982,” the largest of Reagan’s tax increases, and generally considered the largest tax increase — as a percentage of the economy — in modern American history. In fact, between 1982 and 1984, Reagan raised taxes four times, and as Bruce Bartlett has explained more than once, Reagan raised taxes 12 times during his eight years in office.
Last year’s irresponsible actions by the GOP, under pressure from the Tea Party, also highlights another difference. Reagan never had a problem with increasing the debt ceiling.
The conventional wisdom is that Obama is doing poorly in the rust belt and that will have difficulty holding on to states he picked up in 2008 such as Ohio. Polls a year out are hardly conclusive, but a Public Policy Polling survey does show that Obama has large leads over his potential rivals in Ohio:
One person who should be feeling particularly good about last night’s election results in Ohio is Barack Obama. On our weekend poll, which got the final result of Issue 2 correct to within a point, Obama led all of his Republican opponents in the state by margins ranging from 9-17 points. After a very tough year for Democrats in Ohio in 2010, things are looking up.
Obama led Mitt Romney 50-41 on our poll. He was up 11 points on Herman Cain at 50-39, 13 on Newt Gingrich at 51-38, 14 on Ron Paul at 50-36, 14 on Michele Bachmann at 51-37 and a whooping 17 points on Rick Perry at 53-36. It used to be Sarah Palin’s numbers that we compared to Barry Goldwater, but Perry’s deficit would represent the largest Republican defeat in Ohio since 1964.
The biggest thing Obama has going for him right now is an extremely unified Democratic base. Obama gets 88-92% of his party’s vote against the six Republican candidates. What makes that particularly notable is that his approval rating with Democratic voters is actually only 73%. But these numbers suggest that when election time comes around the party base will get around Obama whether they’re totally thrilled with him or not, and that’s a very good sign for his reelection prospects.
Obama continues to suffer from poor approval ratings in Ohio with only 41% of voters approving of him to 49% who disapprove. But voters don’t seem to consider any of his opponents to be viable alternatives. Cain has the best favorability of the bunch at a still poor 33/43 and it just gets worse from there- 28/48 for Romney, 31/51 for Gingrich, 24/47 for Bachmann, 20/50 for Paul, and a truly woeful 17/58 for Perry. This field of GOP contenders just doesn’t seem to have much appeal to swing state voters.
Besides calling into question the predictions that Obama will lose Ohio next year, this poll also shows that there is limited correlation between approval ratings and ability to win a state. With the Republican Party now under the control of extremists who have moved far to the right of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, it is possible that Obama can win states despite mediocre approval ratings. It is also very likely that Obama’s approval will improve once he is seen in a head to head contest with a bat-shit crazy Republican.
By conventional measures Mitt Romney looks like he should run away with the nomination. His victory remains in doubt because the current Republican Party is no longer a conventional political party. The domination of the party by far right wing extremists raises questions as to whether a candidate opposed by the far right can actually win. There was another setback for Romney today as the unofficial spokesman for the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, declared that Romney is not a conservative:
The reason is simple: Romney is not a conservative. He’s not, folks. You can argue with me all day long on that, but he isn’t. What he has going for him is that he’s not Obama and that he is doing incredibly well in the debates because he’s done it a long time. He’s very seasoned. He never makes a mistake, and he’s going to keep winning these things if he never makes a mistake. It’s that simple. But I’m not personally ready to settle on anybody yet — and I know that neither are most of you, and I also know that most of you do not want this over now, before we’ve even had a single primary! All we’ve had are straw votes. You know that the Republican establishment’s trying to nail this down and end it. You know that that’s happening, and I know that you don’t want that to happen, and neither do I.
Now, as for Romney — and you should know, by the way, that I’ve met Romney. I’ve not played golf with him but I’ve met him, and I like all of these people. This isn’t personal, not with what country faces and so forth. I like him very much. I’ve spent some social time with him. He’s a fine guy. He’s very nice gentleman. He is a gentleman. But he’s not a conservative — and if you disagree, I’m open. The telephone lines are yours. Call and tell me what you think it is that makes him a principled conservative, what exactly is it. Is there something that he has said that shows conservative, principled leadership? What did he say? I’m open to it.
As a sign of how rapidly the conservative movement has been moving to the right, back in 2008 Rush Limbaugh endorsed Romney. Jame Joyner has a post on the changing definition of conservative, using this as one example. He also cited David Frum’s decision to leave NPR’s Marketplace, no longer feelling he could represent the current conservative movement:
He made his name as a conservative opinion writer at The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and the The American Spectator. His first book, Dead Right (1994), was described by William F. Buckley as “the most refreshing ideological experience in a generation.” A speechwriter to President George W. Bush, he penned the infamous phrase “axis of evil.” And he was a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute from 2003 until he was fired last March.
But now he’s so far outside the American conservative mainstream that he’s routinely vilified as a Republican in Name Only and a traitor to the movement.
Joyner had another example of a former conservative hero who no longer fits in:
As many have noted, while conservative politicians constantly reference Ronald Reagan’s legacy as the gold standard, it’s arguable whether the Gipper himself would pass tea-party muster. After all, he signed a huge amnesty bill for illegal aliens into law and his signature tax cut left the top marginal rate at 50 percent. As we all know, anything above 35 percent is socialism.
While the Republican move to the right has been more rapid in recent years, this has been occurring for quite a long time. Even Barry Goldwater considered himself a liberal in his later years, appalled by how far right the Republicans had moved in his lifetime.
The Republican base remains desperate for a not-Romney candidate and Herman Cain remains the top not-Romney following the collapse of the brief leads held by Michele Bachmann and then Rick Perry. Cain has even moved to a lead nationally in the latest Public Policy Survey, leading Romney 30 percent to 22 percent. Newt Gingrich has managed to move ahead of Perry.
National polls have their limitations in evaluating primary battles. The real question is whether the far right can deny Romney victories in the early contests. A Romney victory in New Hampshire would not help if the right wing can keep him from winning elsewhere. David Frum discussed why the far right does not want Romney to win:
Why is it that the GOP base seems not to care a whit about Mitt? Perhaps it’s because he is the anti-Tea Party, anti-talk-radio, anti-anti-government candidate.
Romney will never be able to appeal to those who want “limited government.” He fundamentally cannot; he is, at bottom, a center-right candidate who believes that government, when run effectively and efficiently, can produce the best results for the most people. It’s a noble view—one that the GOP base seemingly hates him for.
Anti-Romney sentiment is clearly connected to the idea that if Romney wins, the Reagan Revolution somehow loses. A Romney presidency could actually restore the average American’s faith in the competency of Washington—a notion that GOP base voters find intolerable.
Conservatives and Tea Partiers were supposed to put an end to people like Romney. They had convinced themselves that the era of the Bush 41-style Republican was over and done with, and that the GOP would now and forever be controlled by the purebred conservatives, the ideological offspring of Reagan and Goldwater, the true believers who would finally cut Washington down to size and starve the statist beast until you could see its ribcage.
If Romney becomes the GOP nominee, it will prove that the Tea Party project was an abject failure, and that the momentum of 2010 was only temporary.
Romney doesn’t represent “taking the country back.” To the contrary, he represents taking the country forward, and recognizing government’s appropriate role in doing so.
It is tough enough for the Tea Party now that they are being eclipsed by the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has a major advantage over the Tea Party in at least recognizing were the problems are. The Tea Party, which is made up of ignorant pawns of the top one percent which seeks to replace American democracy and capitalism with plutocracy, would be seen as especially meaningless if they cannot prevent Romney from winning the nomination.
At this point it looks like the primary race will play out one of two ways. Most likely, without credible opposition, Romney will gradually accumulate delegates until he is unstoppable. The second most likely alternative is that one not-Romney candidate will peak early in the primary battle and, with the support of the GOP base, manage to defeat Romney. The manner in which different conservatives have peaked at different times raises a third possibility. Perhaps different conservatives will win at different times and in different states, preventing Romney from getting enough delegates to win, leaving an open convention battle between a large Romney delegation and multiple conservatives whose total delegates outnumber Romney’s. While unlikely, it is possible that it will be left to the Republican convention to choose the not-Romney candidate.
With Rick Perry moving into a lead for the GOP nomination, there are some conservatives who recognize that his nomination could be a disaster of Goldwater-proportions. Joe Scarborough says there is “No way” Perry could beat Obama. Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review has a realistic column for Bloomberg arguing that Obama’s weakness is leading to Republican overreach, making it hard for Republicans to win in a general election. Ponnuru wrote:
Already the Republican primaries have seen candidates take positions that will be hard sells in the fall of next year. Both Bachmann and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, for example, want to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. Polls suggest that while the public doesn’t consider environmental protection its top priority right now, it favors regulation and trusts Democrats over Republicans on the issue. Texas Governor Rick Perry has suggested that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional and that they should be replaced by state-run programs. There’s a reason no Republican candidate since 1964 has run on a platform anything like this one on entitlements: Both programs are extremely popular.
Perry has also suggested that he disapproves of the New Deal, seeing it as a moment when the federal government began to exceed the constitutional limits of its power. He hasn’t said he wants to undo the New Deal, but it’s not out of bounds for Democrats to make the charge, given the importance he attaches to constitutionalism.
In each of these cases, provocative positions have been met by silence from rival candidates. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney hasn’t come out in favor of abolishing the EPA or getting rid of federal entitlement programs, but he hasn’t denounced these ideas or even used them as an argument against the electability of the candidates who have advanced them. Evidently he believes either that the primary electorate doesn’t think these positions are politically toxic, or that it doesn’t consider electability a key concern.
If Republican voters had electability on their minds, they would also want to see the candidates address issues that concern the broader public: how to get wages growing again after years when they stagnated even during periods of growth; and what to replace Obama’s health-care reform with. But the candidates feel no pressure from primary voters to outline plans on those issues, and haven’t done so. Instead, they are focused on issues — such as the alleged threat of “sharia law” and the heavy share of income taxes paid by the rich — that are of interest only to the party faithful.
Ponnuru prefaced this discussion by a discussion of Obama’s difficulties in getting reelected, and hopefully underestimated Obama’s political skills:
Obama has never had to demonstrate great political skill in his general-election races. During both of them, he was blessed with good luck (a fringy opponent in his Senate race, and a collapsing economy during his presidential run).
To limit the discussion to general-election races ignores a major achievement in defeating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Although the economic situation made it difficult for a Republican to win in 20o8 (while giving Republicans an edge in 2012 due to the short memories of American voters), Obama still did run an excellent general election campaign. On the other hand, the manner in which the Republicans won the spin wars over health care reform and the stimulus after Obama took office do leave cause for concern. Obama’s chances are helped considerably due to his potential opponents being bat-shit crazy. He might also be helped by falling in the polls now, forcing him to campaign more as he did before be was elected.