Tag Archives: Cruz

Losing the Wedge

Oh Ted! I hate to break it to you, but tapping a female culture warrior as your VP–even one who manages to be nearly as repulsive as you– isn’t going to get you the nomination.

Not even close.

There have been a number of signs during this unending primary season that the GOP’s “old reliable” tactic of focusing on social issues is no longer the sure-fire bet it was when George W. Bush won his second term with the help of fear of/hate for “the gays.” Part of the reason is demographic: fear of LGBT folks, hatred of immigrants, belief that women should stay in the kitchen (barefoot and most definitely pregnant), even racism are all attitudes more plentiful among older, whiter Americans–and they’re dying out.

Partly, of course, the lack of focus on social issues this time around is the flip side of the 24/7 focus on the strange orange candidate. Donald Trump doesn’t fixate on social issues. Or any issues, actually–he mostly focuses on himself, and his YUGE business ability. And large “hands.”

Actually, Trump is preferable to Cruz, in much the same way that a merciful death is preferable to an agonizing one….At any rate, according to the Boston Globe, Cruz is counting on a re-invigorated appeal to social conservatives in Indiana and elsewhere:

Over the past month, as the primary wove through Wisconsin, New York, and the socially moderate states that voted on Tuesday, the GOP candidates focused on issues like trade, jobs, and the economy. But the next contests on the calendar are in Indiana, West Virginia, and Nebraska, where evangelical voters make up more of the Republican electorate. That trend might even continue in California, which awards most of its large number of delegates by congressional district, some of which are very conservative.

It’s the first time social issues — such as abortion, gay marriage, and transgender rights — could take center stage in the primary since early March, when a swath of Southern states voted in the primary. That’s mostly good news for Cruz, who has already touted his social conservative credentials on the stump in Indiana, which holds its primary on Tuesday.

I may be wrong (wouldn’t be the first time!), but I think it’s too late for “fear of God” wedge issues. America has had same-sex marriage for a year now, and the apocalypse hasn’t occurred. Young people are more irate about their student loans than about who’s peeing in the next stall. The population keeps moving into cities, where there tend to be gay people and black people and brown people, and women in executive positions, and Americans have gotten used to the idea that the diversity is sort of nice.

Cruz isn’t going to win Indianapolis, for sure (and if he thinks Carly on the ticket is a great idea, he’s even nuttier than I previously thought), but he may win Indiana. In our more rural precincts, culture war wedge issues can still be pretty salient. And he is running against the Donald.

If Cruz does win the state, however, I really, really, REALLY need to move.

Civic Literacy and our 2016 Election Choices

As Indiana’s primary approaches, it’s time to look at the 2016 election landscape as objectively as possible.

None of us is truly objective, of course. I look at the “still standing” Presidential candidates from the perspective of someone who teaches public administration, supports civil liberties, and has had a fair amount of first-hand political experience. I’m also old enough to have some historical perspective. Those attributes, for good or ill, shape my opinions.

It will come as no shock to anyone who has followed this blog that I find all of the Republican candidates appalling. Donald Trump is arguably the most ignorant person ever to win a Presidential primary. He quite clearly knows nothing about the world, the Constitution, about how government works, or policy…And worse, he’s aggressively uncurious about any of those things.

Ted Cruz, a Dominionist, is actually more dangerous than Trump. The term “Dominionism” comes from Genesis, in which God gives Adam and Eve “dominion” over the Earth and its animals; it’s the belief that Christians are biblically mandated to control all earthly institutions until the second coming of Jesus. Sometimes called Christian Reconstructionists, Dominionists like Cruz believe biblical law should replace secular law. Cruz opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest; is unalterably opposed to equal rights for the LGBT community and promises to appoint Supreme Court Justices who agree with him.

Fortunately, neither of these characters is likely to win a general election. Polls suggest that most Americans detest Trump, and even his colleagues in the GOP loathe Cruz. John Kasich would be a far more effective candidate, but not because his policy views are significantly more palatable. He is a hard-right ideologue, but he does actually know what government is and  (at least compared to the other two) exhibits some human compassion.Not enough compassion to keep him from closing all of Ohio’s Planned Parenthood clinics and depriving poor women of health care, but some.

Which brings us to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders–either of whom, despite their flaws, would be massively preferable to any of the GOP candidates.

I have never been a big Hillary fan, not because I believe the rap about her “dishonesty.” (Let’s get real: Republicans have spent millions of dollars for 20+ years throwing everything but the kitchen sink at her–if anything had been there, we’d know it.) My criticism is that she is a defensive and awkward candidate–in fact, she reminds me in that respect of “Poppy” Bush, who was always much more interested in governing than campaigning. As a result, she often doesn’t seem authentic. She is basically a technocrat who lacks Obama’s (and Sanders’) ability to inspire.

That said, she may be the most qualified person ever to run for President. She has seen government from multiple perspectives–from the White House, to the Senate, to the State Department. I don’t agree with every vote she’s ever cast or every position she’s ever taken, but let’s be fair: no one with a resume that long and varied is going to avoid positions with which I disagree.

I initially welcomed Bernie Sanders’ candidacy because I saw Hillary as too cautious on the campaign trail. Without his prodding, she was unlikely to address several issues that, while divisive, needed to be addressed. Despite the fact that their voting records and positions are very similar (she’s always been more progressive than Bill), Sanders pushed her to publicly discuss issues she might not otherwise have highlighted in the campaign.

So what about Bernie? He’s been able to generate lots of enthusiasm. He has raised a limited but important set of issues that we need to be talking about. I tend to agree with him about most of his “signature” issues: we should have universal health care, free higher education, more economic equity. But if lightning were to strike, and Bernie were somehow to become the nominee (of a party he doesn’t belong to, I should note), it’s pretty obvious he would not be able to deliver. As Paul Krugman recently wrote (in a must-read analysis):

On many major issues — including the signature issues of his campaign, especially financial reform — he seemed to go for easy slogans over hard thinking. And his political theory of change, his waving away of limits, seemed utterly unrealistic.

Let me just point to one little-noted difference between Clinton and Sanders. Clinton has spent years and considerable effort helping to elect down-ticket Democrats, and she is continuing to do so. Sanders has not, and recently indicated that if he were the nominee, he wouldn’t bother.

People who understand how our government works (or doesn’t) recognize that we have this pesky system called “checks and balances.” We don’t elect a monarch who gets to wave a magic wand for four years (it drives me nuts when people on the left–evidently oblivious to the degree of Republican obstruction he’s faced–criticize Obama because he didn’t do everything he said he wanted to do).

Elect either Hillary or Bernie–it won’t matter unless Democrats control the Senate and have far more sway in the House. Having great goals and values won’t matter if there is no realistic path to their realization. Civically-literate partisans understand that. (There’s a reason that Bernie’s wins have all come in states that allow independents to participate in the Democratic primary or caucus, while Hillary has won an overwhelming majority of registered Democrats.)

There isn’t going to be a revolution. Perhaps there should be, but it isn’t going to happen.

Americans are stuck with a system that is not working, and we need to put people in charge who know that fixing it requires mastery of boring and annoying details, people who are prepared for a hard, long, maddeningly incremental slog. Like her or not, that’s Hillary.

Bernie may be a one-note Pied Piper. Hillary may be uninspiring. But a President Trump, Cruz or Kasich, abetted by a Republican Congress, would be a disaster from which this country might never recover.

Vote like your grandchildren’s lives depend on it, because they do.

 

 

Horse and Rider

Who’s the horse and who’s the rider?

As the spectacle of Donald Trump continues, as we come to grips with the hitherto unthinkable possibility that he might actually ride a simmering stew of fear, rage and hate to the nomination, political observers are speculating about possible reactions and consequences.

At Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Ed Brayton looks back at other candidates who have caused heartburn—from Barry Goldwater to David Duke—and quotes Jeff Greenfield for a surprising prediction:

With Trump as its standard-bearer, the GOP would suddenly be asked to rally around a candidate who has been called by his once and former primary foes “a cancer on conservatism,” “unhinged,” “a drunk driver … helping the enemy.” A prominent conservative national security expert, Max Boot, has flatly labeled him “a fascist.” And the rhetoric is even stronger in private conversations I’ve had recently with Republicans of moderate and conservative stripes.

This is not the usual rhetoric of intraparty battles, the kind of thing that gets resolved in handshakes under the convention banners. These are stake-in-the-ground positions, strongly suggesting that a Trump nomination would create a fissure within the party as deep and indivisible as any in American political history, driven both by ideology and by questions of personal character.

Indeed, it would be a fissure so deep that, if the operatives I talked with are right, Trump running as a Republican could well face a third-party run—from the Republicans themselves.

Greenfield’s entire column, linked by Brayton, is worth reading and pondering. But even more thought-provoking is Brayton’s “take” on Greenfield’s analysis and the current deep divisions within the GOP:

As much as some on the left like to think of the enemy as a single monolith, there are very deep divisions within the GOP. If you don’t believe that, ask John Boehner. I’ve been writing about this since 2010, when the Republican party made the fateful decision to try to ride the Tea Party horse into power. It worked then, allowing them to take over the House and most state legislatures and governerships.

But as I said at the time, this was not a horse that they could break and they quickly realized that when they lost control of their own caucus in the House to extremists who view any compromise as a literal betrayal. This is what spawned the likes of Ted Cruz, and it’s the kind of temperament that Trump is giving voice to. There is a war within the GOP that at some point has to open up into open warfare, as it has for both parties at various times in the past. And Trump could either declare the war himself or have it declared upon him.

This is the sort of scenario that gives new meaning to the old admonition: be careful what you wish for.

And before you saddle up that horse, be sure you can ride it….

Not Your Father’s GOP…

Younger Americans don’t understand–probably cannot understand–how far the political pendulum has swung since 1980.

1980 was the year Ronald Reagan ran for President, and I ran for Congress. We were both Republicans, both excoriated as “too conservative.”

Today, Reagan would be too liberal for the “Freedom Caucus” and other far rightwing activists who have taken over the GOP in the intervening years. As for me, I haven’t changed my basic political philosophy at all (although I have changed my position on some issues after learning more, or examining accumulating evidence), and I’m now considered a wild-eyed liberal. At best.

Every once in a while, an old-time Republican decides to violate Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment (Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican), and publicly bemoan what has happened to a once-sane and responsible political party. Most recently, that person was Bob Dole. (I have a soft spot for Dole for a number of reasons, not least because his political action committee financially supported my campaign “back in the day.”)

In a recent interview on MSNBC, Dole bemoaned the current state of the Republican party, which he said had become “an extreme group on the right.” Dole harshly criticized Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, calling Trump “over the top” and saying that he “couldn’t understand” how people supported him.

Dole also opined that Ted Cruz is far too extreme, and not at all a traditional conservative. He criticized Cruz’ so-called Senate “achievements” of shutting down the government twice and calling Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) a liar on the Senate floor.

Dole, like many traditional and Reagan-era Republicans, represent an era that modern conservatives constantly idealize but is seriously disillusioned with the current extremism and ignorance of the Republican Party, which he’s said is “out of ideas.” Dole also said that he doubted Ronald Reagan would win the nomination if he ran in the current extremist climate of the Republican Party.

In the ultimate heresy, Dole also praised President Obama, calling him a “very good man.”

While saying that he probably wouldn’t support Hillary Clinton in a potential general election matchup with Trump or Cruz, Dole suggested that he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to vote for either of those Republican demagogues, saying with a laugh that he “might oversleep” on election day.

A good number of the remaining reasonable, disheartened Republicans are likely to oversleep on election day–or even vote Democratic.

After all, you don’t have to be excited about Hillary Clinton to recognize the gulf between competent and crazy.