Monday 11 November 2013

Democracy in Texas


As we know, last Saturday a group of dun safety advocates tried to hold a meeting; this is a group that was formed after the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut. A bunch of armed gun nuts showed up at the site and pulled out their guns, with the deliberate aim of intimidating the gun safety people. This is a planned pattern of activity: when the same gun safety group showed up to meet elsewhere in the country, the same thing happened: goons with guns showed up to terrorize the locals.

So how does stuff like this start?

The word we’re looking at today is "fatwa".

That's one of those funny Islamic things, in which an imam or ayatollah says "it is permissible and desireable, under Islamic law, for good Muslims to go attack Americans, Israelis, and Jews anywhere." And then the cuckoobirds go and do just that. The Ayatollah Khomeini put a fatwa on Salman Rushdie, and Usama bin Laden put one on all Americans.

Issuing a fatwa, if it goes beyond a certain point, is a crime. Let’s look back at Umar ‘Abdul-Rahman, the blind Islamic shaikh from New York. He often spoke out against America, and issued a fatwa saying it was allowable to attack Jews and rob banks, called for jihad, and called on Muslims to attack the West, to include transportation targets, economic targets, companies, ships, planes, people. He hung out with the 1993 WTC bombers. When he issued a fatwa calling for attacks on targets in New York and New Jersey, he was thrown in prison.

The conservative movement has put out their fatwas, saying it’s okay, even patriotic, to attack liberals. In other words, the only remaining difference between the American conservative movement and a terrorist group is…turbans and beards.

Michael Steele wants to put Pelosi on the “firing line”
A key conservative website shows Pelosi perishing in flames.
The NRCC addresses the terrorist attack on the wife and kids of Perriellos’ brother by saying, effectively, that it’s all Congressman Perriello’s fault for voting for health care. The attacks are okay!
Fox argues on their morning show that the liberals should expect the violence and threats because they had the nerve to pass health reform.
Boehner implies that the violence was the liberals’ fault for daring to pass the health bill, and says a liberal colleague is a “dead man”.
McCain thinks it's okay to scream "RELOAD!"
Palin wants to put liberals in the cross-hairs and talks of firing salvos and “reload!” Then she throws gasoline on the fire by urging people to “stop” cars with Obama stickers, right after one wingnut “stopped” such a car by ramming it in a fit of road rage, even though there was a little girl in the car.
Several conservative politicians joke about killing liberals.
A conservative Congressman is calling Obama an enemy of humanity.
Beck calls for “revolution”.
Lou Dobbs blames the arrival of anti-Obama goon squads on…Obama.
Eric Cantor claimed that the liberals were really the ones who are at fault for fanning the flames of violence – because they passed a law the conservatives don’t like.

The conservative imams have been issuing fatwas against liberals.

The fatwa against Obama has worked like gangbusters, spurring attacks, threats, and more fatwas:

Skyrocketing Obama threats.
Sending armed thugs to Obama events.
Steven Anderson, pastor, tells his flock to pray for Obama to die and go to hell – another fatwa; parishioner shows up at Obama event the next day, with a gun.
Another fatwa: John Gimbel calls for Michelle Obama and the daughters to be killed right in front of Obama.
The wingnuts have a new slogan: pray for Obama, Psalm 109, “let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”
The wingnuts have set up an online “overthrow Obama” game.
Another wingnut runs an internet poll on whether Obama should be murdered.
A rightwing website runs a piece calling on the military to overthrow Obama.
A gubernatorial candidate jokes about buying a license to hunt Obama.

In praise of the Secret Service -- remember that this is a country that had three presidents murdered within 36 years. And none of the three, not even Lincoln, was subjected to the hate and vitriol aimed at Obama. Time for a pay bump for the Secret Service. Better yet, pay them in accordance with how many threats the President gets – Obama is getting five times as many as Bush did. Because if Obama does down, at least one of them probably goes down too.

To me, the really scary fatwa is the effort to terrorize members of Congress, so that they either change their policies, or can’t do their jobs at all – threatening not just a politician but democracy itself:

A guy arrested for another death threat against Pelosi.
Another guy arrested for death threat against Patty Murray for voting in favor of health reform.
Wingnut congressional candidate tells audience to make a liberal congressman afraid to come out of his house. Get over there and scare the hell out of them!
They tried to blow up four children who are relatives of one Congressman.
Threats to assassinate the children of Congress members.
The teabaggers have promised to go “protest” at the home of a liberal Congressman and his wife and children – his kids can’t walk down the street anymore.
Painting swastikas on the doors of black Congressmen.
Screaming slurs at Congressmen on Capitol Hill, to intimidate them.
Michelle Bachmann directs her storm-trooper mob to run amok in the halls of Congress, to “scare” Pelosi and Congress members into stopping the health reform bill.
The Colorado liberal headquarters is trashed, thousands of dollars in damage.
Windows smashed at a liberal headquarters in Alaska.
An organized effort to smash windows with bricks.
Committing other acts of vandalism.
Wingnuts planning two armed riots in DC before and during the anniversary of the wingnut attack that killed more than one hundred people in Oklahoma.
Norman Leboon, threatens to kill both conservative and liberal politicians.

The fatwa to stop all government activity:

The Hutaree, arrested for plotting to kill police and resist the U.S. government.
Joe Stack, flies plane into IRS building, hated the U.S. government.
Richard Poplawski, kills three police after saying he fears Obama would take his guns and fulfil Glenn Beck’s warning about putting people in concentration camps.
John Bedell, shoots two police, hated the U.S. government.
Joshua Cartwright, kills two police, hated Obama and the U.S. government.
Greg Girard, arrested for stockpiling guns and bombs, fears martial law, loves Palin.
The second wingnut shooting in Pennsylvania.
An anti-government group joins in, calling for the “removal” of 30 governors if they don’t leave office voluntarily; the FBI and police prepare for ensuing violence against officials. More fatwas!
A wingnut spokesman is telling folks to get more guns and take back America so as to prevent Nazism.
Teabag wingnuts promised a “Second Amendment march” on Washington. On the anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing.

Oh, and the guy who helped inspire a lot of anti-liberal violence, militia-man Mike Vanderboegh, hates Obama, hates liberals, hates big government? He lives off of your tax dollars. Social Security Disability benefits. Turn your Irony Iron up to the “wool” setting. This guy is now promising “a thousand little Waco’s”.

The fatwa covers blacks: Daniel Cowart pleads guilty for planning a killing spree aimed against blacks. James von Brunn, kills a black guard at the Holocaust museum; a neo-Nazi who loved Palin and birthers.

The fatwa covers abortion: Roeder assassinating the abortion doctor. Another loon arrested for threatening violence at an abortion clinic. A Fox contributor puts addresses of abortion doctors online.

And my favorite fatwa: eleven-year-old girl asks Obama a question at a town hall; wingnuts put their family details online so other wingnuts can hunt them down.  Rather than back down and consider what they were doing, the rightwing folks characteristically doubled down their bets. "Another Liberal @#S% want to be, maybe she needs to be gangbanged at her local ghetto, I bet that will make her parents proud, especially if she gets pregnant with a mulatto baby….Amy Myers is a Jew vermin from NJ who hates America and loves Obama …This disrespectful little twit needs a good spanking. She lacks intelligence, wit, respect and common sense. On second thought she needs a good beating." Then attacks intensified against the father, and then his employer. Then they denied the threats against the girl had been made. Then they said it was okay to publish the employer’s name, ridiculing those who complained.

Vigilante groups and militias proliferate across the country, recruiting soldiers and policemen to resist the allegedly illegal Obama “regime”, stockpiling guns, launching attacks, making “citizen’s arrests”, shooting policemen, attacking government buildings, harassing gay bars, seeking to provoke violence in the hope of creating martyrs to the cause.

This is a gigantic wave of terrorist attacks openly encouraged by the leaders of a political party, with the specific aim of preventing liberals from actually governing. A fatwa against America and against American democracy….by a major political party.

If we use the Blind Shaikh rule, the conservative leaders who egged these people on should all be in jail, right?

The nastiness can also target conservatives who aren’t sufficiently hard-core for the hard-core. An extraordinary example involves the Senate parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, a mild-mannered lawyer who referees disputes on Senate rules. Frumin was appointed to the parliamentarian’s job by arch-conservative Trent Lott. Lott fired the previous parliamentarian because that guy, irritatingly, interpreted the rules impartially, which inconvenienced the conservative as they – what’s the phrase? – rammed their bills through the Senate. Lott wanted a guy with a conservative bias, and screw the rules! So this guy Frumin was appointed in the hope that he would do the conservatives’ dirty work for them, by giving the conservatives all the close calls in procedural disputes.

During the health care debate a couple of years ago, the liberals were hoping that Frumin would simply rubber-stamp the health care bill and let it sail through the Senate without any changes , but instead, Frumin did what the conservatives hoped he would: he stopped the bill, pointed out language in the bill that violated Senate rule, just as Lott would have hoped. But because Frumin didn’t slow down the health bill enough, the hard-core conservatives are screaming for his blood. Word leaked out that the teabagger nuts planned to go to his house to “protest” and to do God only knows what else – perhaps try to blow up the house like they tried to do with that Congressman’s brother. Senate officials and the police had to leap into action to protect this innocent conservative-appointed bureaucrat from domestic terrorists. Because he isn’t goggle-eyed-crazy enough to suit the wingnuts, his life was in danger. This is akin to losing the Super Bowl and then rounding up your players to kill the referee.

Another example: one conservative, Bush speechwriter David Frum, recently pointed out the obvious, that the conservatives suffered a serious defeat on health care. Within days, he was fired from his job at a conservative think tank, where he had worked for years – just for speaking the inconvenient truth. Then, after going public, Frum denied he’d been fired – they just weren’t going to pay him any money. Um, when your boss says he’s not going to give you money to do your job anymore….

In addition to fatwas, there are the night letters.

In Afghanistan the Taliban have a system called “night letters” – they drop a letter at your house, threatening violence unless you do what the Taliban says. So let’s read a few:

“You’re a dead man. We’re coming to your house. We already smashed your window. Now we’re coming back to kill your wife and your kids. We might even run you off the road, and your kids too. We’re in your town every day, with our guns, all reloaded. We’ll kill the local police too. We pray to God for you to die. Because you dared to defy us. And we’re telling all our friends that attacking you is okay. Because you dared to defy us. You can never hide. If I was a boss, I would fire you. If I was a doctor, I would refuse to treat you. The revolution has come.”

Oh wait, that’s the American conservatives. Since the passage of health care, the conservatives have gone all Mullah Omar on us.

But think of that last bit. Rightwing whackjobs talking about firing liberals, or refusing them medical treatment. What if they try to take that national? What if businesses across the country try to figure out your politics, and refuse to serve you if you admit you’re a liberal? Or refuse to hire you? What would that make us, as a nation?

It would make us 1935 Germany.

“Jews? No groceries for you! Get out of my store! Juden raus!”

Or perhaps the South in the 1950s, when blacks couldn’t use the hotels, the bathrooms, the restaurants…

So what have we got? The violent terrorism of the Taliban and the Klan, and the incipient economic terrorism of the Nazis and Jim Crow. What else do we have? Wow, it’s straight out of Mein Kampf. Using mass communication to drown out facts with lies, semi-irregular groups of thugs to intimidate opponents, shadowy backers from big business, scary rhetoric about Communists, the bombastic militarism, the big rallies, the constant search for new enemies and new scapegoats, the daily incitement of fear and hate, the racism, the eternal appeal to everything that is small-minded and short-sighted and mean-spirited and just plain stupid and ignorant in the human soul….

Kristallnacht has come to America.

While we were worrying about important stuff like the Kardashians, America stopped being America.

It doesn’t matter that the liberals control the White House, if the conservatives are allowed to shut down government entirely. Mitch McConnell promised to shut down the Senate unless Obama picks a fascist Supreme Court justice, other Senators were promising total shut-down in retaliation for the health care bill. If democracy is meaningless, if elections are meaningless, if the Constitution is meaningless, there’s no America. America as we know it could be dead.

There was no particular point in the 1930s when the German people suddenly realized that the Nazis had enslaved them.

Hitler won the chancellor’s office and the Germans cheered.

He burned down the Reichstag and suspended the parliament, and they yawned.

He persecuted the Jews, and they shrugged.

He took Czechoslovakia and Austria, and they applauded.

And then it was all too late.


Friday 8 November 2013

Who really wrecked the Obamacare rollout?


We’ve heard a lot of hollering about the terrible job the Democrats did with the Obamacare rollout.

Um, no. Not so fast.

How about the Republicans, who refused to appropriate money to fund the construction of the website? Is anybody going to hold them accountable?

How about the Republicans, who massively multiplied the traffic plowing into the Obamacare website by blocking state marketplaces and resisting Medicaid expansion?

How about the Republicans, whose government shutdown took HHS employees off the Obamacare rollout the day it opened? For two weeks?

How about the Republicans, who passed rules preventing professionals from guiding customers through the enrollment process?

How about Darrell Issa, who has been caught lying about the predicted traffic capacity of the Obamacare website, claiming the White House lied about the capacity? Elijah Cummings, who has an admirable track record of shooting down Issa’s endless lies about non-scandals, busted Issa again.

How about the people who came up with the basic tenets of Obamacare – Republicans? Paying private insurers instead of going direct to the medical people and patients, more state activity, means testing – rather than a simple single-payer system? Keep that in mind, because Republicans want to do the same to Social Security and Medicare, to make them work like the ACA.

How about the insurers who have been caught sending scary letters to customers about Obamacare cancelling their coverage?

How about the insurers who have been lying to them about the benefits of Obamacare?

And the insurers pulling out of some markets?

And the insurers lying to customers to lock them into expensive policies before they found out how much Obamacare would save them?

Insurers cancelling policies because they don’t offer full coverage, and then blaming Obamacare?

And the insurers cancelling policies because they want to make new insurance plans that are illegal under Obamacare – and then blaming Obamacare?

How about Blue Cross, which has already been caught lying to their customers, incorrectly telling them their policies are being cancelled rather than grandfathered in? They lied so they could convince people to lose their “grandfathered” policies forever and switch them to new plans. And then they blamed Obamacare.

How about the rightwing media outlets who have been peddling nonsense about a “marriage tax”? This was debunked, but not before CNN breathlessly reported it to its viewers as fact.

And by the way, how about even the mainstream media outlets, who refused to do anything to help people understand the program? And then whined that it’s not the media’s job to separate the truth from the falsehoods? If that isn’t the job of the press, what is? Since when is the press unable or unwilling to call political liars….liars?

We’re going to lose the Obamacare battle just like we lost the public option battle in 2010, and the House later that year – because no one is combating the lies or placing the blame in the proper places.


Bullying in the NFL


As you may know, there is now a bullying scandal in the NFL. A white lineman for the Dolphins, assisted by other players, sent racist emails to a black teammate, harassed him on and off the field, demanded that he pay thousands of dollars so other players could vacation in Vegas, and abused him for more than a year. One of the other team mates promised to rape his sister without a condom and “come in her cunt”. This carried on into a second year, when even the worst rookie hazing is supposed to end. The white ringleader of all this abuse has been disciplined and thrown off many, many teams for outrageous behavior, including sexual harassment of a woman; some teams put him on a “do not hire” list.

The black teammate finally got fed up and left the team. And astoundingly, other players are siding with the bully over his victim, complaining that the victim should have just manned up and dealt with it.

Um, no. Wrong.

Every time some anonymous football player or front-office guy slams the victim instead of the bully, they are sending a very clear message to a hundred thousand athletes at the college and high school level:

Bullying is okay!
There are no moral boundaries, as long as you can back up what you’re doing with force!
Anybody who complains about injustice is a whiner!
Racism is okay as long as you’re protecting the quarterback!

Student athletes hear this and then set about beating up gays every afternoon, raping teenage girls and then slut-shaming them out of town. And growing up into…you know, Republicans.

I’ve heard it argued that football players have to be tough, and anyone who can’t handle the heat should get lost.
So what if we took the same attitude regarding our soldiers and policemen?
What if this was two policemen rather than two linemen?
Cops are supposed to be tough too, right?
If you knew that one of your local cops was an abusive racist jerk when he got back to his squad room – wouldn’t you want his captain to take his gun away, and fire him?
Military, same thing: what if we went back to the good old days when black soldiers were routinely abused and hazed?
Female soldiers sexually assaulted?
What if we allowed this to spread across our culture, the notion that real men abuse other people, and tolerate it when others are abusive – that the people who try to stop bullying are not real men?

We can raise a generation of men, or we can raise a generation of animals.



I'm old, I'm not dead.

I am drinking beer and taking a nap, because I am exhausted.
In the last ten days, in addition to the usual single-parent-working-cooking-dishes-trash-laundry-shopping superfecta, I have also been managing the following:
--The house appraiser, who had to come back again because the banker screwed up, and whose appraisal cost me $3000 for no reason
--Getting my ex and the bank to cooperate on refinancing my house, which involved 280 emails pleading with the brain-addled mortgage processor to give my ex the documents she insisted on, and my ex imposing demands on how the refinance was going to work, without which I'm dead broke
--Buying my girls iPhones, which involved extensive haggling to the Verizon Vampires so we could figure out how to give them even more of my money, and then hissy fits over cases and screen protectors, and then a return to Verizon to replace a phone which broke within a week
--The phone company which won't let me keep my internet connection unless I keep a landline I don't need
--The internet, which went off line for five days

--My doctor, who told me my cardiovascular data is so bad that I will need an entirely new exercise regime and more cardio pills to prevent heart attack and organ damage
--Walmart, which took four employees to violently break into their own electronics case so they could pull out the computer I was buying (after three of our computers died in a matter of a month or two, with the fourth computer soon to follow), and then sending me home with the wrong computer anyway
--Walmart again, for selling me the wrong version of Microsoft Office (which I had to buy because my daughter lost our Office code), and then refusing to give me a refund
--The bills and home repairs (including a busted sewage line) which took a gigantic slice out of my rapidly dwindling bank account
--My boss, who spent 45 minutes complaining about the flaws in the project I did for her, stemming from the fact that she has no clue how to lead people, plan goals and tasks, or give clear instructions; she finally acknowledged tacitly that working for her essentially requires ESP -- "you have to anticipate my questions"
--My daughter's grades, who have taken a nose-dive, requiring me to go over all her schoolwork each night, accompanied by much crying and yelling
--Sally's doctor visits which are probably accomplishing nothing at all and costing me a pack of money every month
--Filing the final paperwork to complete the divorce from my ex in court
So, that's the last week and a half. I am popping a few Blue Moons, watching some football, and sleeping all weekend. I'll be back when I'm back.

Another conservative scheme to steal the Senate


The Constitution bans states from seceding from the country – Article 1. But it does not ban portions of states splitting off to form new states. Several states, including Maine and West Virginia, were born that way.

Not long ago a number of arch-conservative counties in Colorado held a vote on whether to secede from Colorado and form a new state. The plan didn’t go anywhere. But we may see more efforts like this, by conservatives.

Conservatives can read the demographic writing on the wall and they know that the mass of Americans who reject their views is growing by the year. They know they can’t win fair democratic fights anymore. That is why they are gaming the system by trying to hijack democratic processes: using Citizens United by buy elections, preventing Democratic presidents from doing their job or appointing judges, keeping liberals out of the voting booth, using the filibuster to ensure that Democrats need 60 Senate votes to pass a bill while Republicans only need 51, gerrymandering House seats, trying to game the electoral college so that blue states are no longer winner-take-all, and so forth.

But this secession wrinkle is likely to be attractive to conservatives across the country, for two reasons. First, obviously they can carve out their own “people-like-us” states, where they can resist all efforts to drag them into the 21st century with laws protecting voting rights, marriages rights, women’s rights, environmental rights, health care, and other socialist claptrap like that.

And second, each time the conservative part of a state carves itself off from a blue state, they get to add two Republicans to the U.S. Senate. If western Pennsylvania carves itself off from Philadelphia, and southern Illinois secedes from Chicago, and northern Florida secedes from Miami, and southern Virginia secedes from the northern suburbs and so forth – something like ten new Republicans enter the Senate.


Wednesday 6 November 2013

The real reason Christie is overjoyed today


Earlier I reported on the strong position of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in the fight for the 2012 Republican nomination. But a very recent phenomenon may tilt the table a bit in the direction of Christ Christie, and I don’t mean his massive gubernatorial win, although that helps. I’m talking about the dramatic changes in the weird world of Republican money.

Before we get to Christie himself, let’s refresh our memories on how Republican money works. Right-wing money flows in two very different streams. The first stream, the pragmatists: Freedomworks, the Koch brothers’ Americans For Prosperity (AFP), Crossroads, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mitch McConnell. These guys want to win elections, even at the cost of a little “purity” on the ideological front.

Then the extremists: the Heritage Foundation, Club For Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), the Madison Project, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin (who may be targeting Lindsey Graham next). They are all about shutting down Obamacare and the government, and launching primary attacks against Republicans suspected of impurity.

The extremists seemingly had the upper hand during the drama about the government shutdown. Ted Cruz was the star, and congressional Republicans who were thinking about working with Obama to avoid catastrophe were warned by the extremists: if you go wobbly on us, we will find a primary challenger to run you out of office.

Meanwhile, corporate America and their pals in the financial sector, stout Republicans all, members of the pragmatist faction, peered nervously into the economic abyss that Ted Cruz wanted to gleefully fling America into, and cringed.

And then, the empire struck back. The pragmatists, deep of pocket, warned the extremists that they were going to start steering more money to sane candidates, and shut out the loonier tea-drinking candidates.

First, as I reported earlier, they began cutting off funds to tea-related political groups, just to get their attention. And now they are wheeling out the big guns. When the extremist SCF began spending money to beat Mitch McConnell in his 2014 reelection race and attack other Senators who rejected Cruz’s shutdown effort, establishment Republicans imposed the death penalty on SCF: they said they would not do business with any firm which also worked with the SCF. Cruz was forced to promise not to openly support the SCF effort to purge moderates. The NRSC has already cut off money to one firm which works with SCF; other firms who do business with them haven’t gotten the axe yet, but the battle has just begun. Also, the pragmatists are setting up a new fund-raising team, Defending Main Street, to defend sane Republicans from primary challenges by the extremist wing, a deliberate, open challenge to the extremists. That group raised millions of dollars very quickly, because the old-school Republican money boys are really angry.

This strategy proved itself with shocking clarity in the Virginia gubernatorial race between McAuliffe and tea-drinker Ken Cucinelli. The Chamber Of Commerce turned their backs on Cucinelli. The Republican National Committee only gave him a tiny amount for ads. Chris Christie refused to campaign for him. But most insulting of all, the Republican Governors Association dumped a ton of totally unnecessary money into Chris Christie’s fore-ordained blowout, while pulling their money out of the Cucinelli race, where even a modest amount of money could have squeaked him past McAuliffe. That was…a message to the hard-core tea people.

The argument the pragmatists are making, is truly striking: “We pragmatists are spending money to beat Democrats, so why are you extremists spending money to beat fellow Republicans?”

Here and there, you can see the pragmatists tiptoeing carefully, tacking to the right now and then, retreating now and then. AFP has been spending aggressively in local elections and local officials are starting to resent it, so they are likely to be more careful where they dump their money. And Freedomworks, a pragmatic group, oddly decided to back Thad Cochran’s challenger, the neo-Confederate, possibly to regain their street cred with the extremists.

The GOP politicians themselves are becoming a bit braver, standing up to Ted Cruz in a way that we wouldn’t have seen two months ago. Tea-Party hero Rick Santorum said that Ted Cruz had a praiseworthy objective in trying to kill Obamacare, but he did unintentionally more harm than good because he failed in planning and in presentation. Just imagine Santorum poking Cruz in the eye like that a month ago!

Chris Christie pointedly contrasted his fight to stop gay marriage, which he quit when he saw it was hopeless, with Ted Cruz’s fight to stop Obamacare. Christie ridiculed the notion of engaging in “pointless, self-destructive actions that make a lot of noise but don’t accomplish anything”, and specifically criticized the costs of the government shutdown. “I’m a conservative, but I’m also a smart, realistic one. We can’t afford to nominate a Don Quixote conservative for President.”

Woah. Yeah, he’s running. And he’s already throwing elbows rightward.

Meanwhile, even some of the extremist groups are trimming their sails to the left, just a bit. The Ending Spending PAC, the group set up by the Ameritrade people, supported Ted Cruz when he was running for Senate. But in the 2013 special congressional election in Alabama, pitting business-oriented Bradley Byrne against tea-drinking Cruz-worshipper Dean Young, the PAC backed Byrne, the sane candidate. Of course Byrne was so obviously crazy that even the Tea Party axis – Club For Growth, Cruz, Palin – shunned him.

But the main trend here, is that moderate country-club Republicans want to take back the party. And their guy is Chris Christie, their most competitive 2016 candidate. Because they like winning.

Although I have pointed out the obvious fact that the far right is still suspicious of the Kenyan-hugging Christie, there are ways he could overcome that problem once the 2016 primary season begins.

First of all, when he’s not hugging Obama, Christie is mostly a reliable conservative, on social issues, fiscal issues, etc. He did give up the fight to stop gay marriage in New Jersey, but he did fight on in that battle until it finally became a lost cause. The far right’s suspicion of him is perhaps more about his blue-state address than about his actual opinions.

Second of all, the dreaded gauntlet of the Iowa caucuses may not be so dreadful after all. The caucuses have lost some of their cred with the political commentariat precisely because the Iowa GOP is so obviously dominated by extremists. Notice that in the last two presidential caucuses Iowa supported the far-right candidate, who then went on to lose New Hampshire, and the nomination, to a more moderate candidate. Accordingly, moderate Iowa Republicans like Terry Branstad are pushing back against the zealots, who are themselves beginning to split into pieces, with the social conservatives and the Tea Party showing more and more irritation with the Paul supporters. It’s not impossible that Christie could wade into this chaos and, at the very least, win enough votes to avoid embarrassment.

Third, southerners may see Christie as a rude, sneaky New Yorker, but the southern strategy for extreme conservatives ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. The 2012 Republican nomination was essentially wrapped up in early April when Santorum gave up. At that point, the candidates had fought 37 contests. Only a few of those races were in the deep south: Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee. Overall Romney took 21 of the 37, while the far-right favorite, Santorum, took 11. So a nominee doesn’t need the south to win the nomination, although of course it helps.

Fourth, in 2012 Romney was one moderate going against a whole barnyard of right-wing jackasses. Deep into the primary season, he was still benefitting from the fact that Gingrich, Santorum and Paul were splitting the far-right anti-Romney vote. If Christie is the lone non-tea drinker running against a gaggle of Cruzes, Pauls and Ryans in 2016, he could benefit from the same split in the loony vote, particularly in Iowa, which as the first contest is going to see the widest range of whackaloon candidates.

Fifth, the party rules may help Christie. Many Republican primary contests are open or semi-open, allowing moderate voters to take part and give Christie a leg up against far-right candidates supported by party loyalists. A number of delegate clusters are winner-take-all, which would help Christie if he is likely to win a plurality against multiple tea-party challengers, in other words a 40-30-30 split, for example, or a 30-20-20-20 split. Most states send their delegates to conventions and committees to hash out the results, which potentially allows party professionals to give Christie a helping hand against the zealous voter base.

Sixth, Tea Fatigue. In 2010 the tea movement was a cool way to bash Obama and trumpet your patriotism. Now it stands for Ted Cruz, shutdowns, and a growing series of patently insane statements from the tea people, on rape, birth certificates, secession, and other nonsense. America is finally starting to get weirded out by Team Tea. Once a comical demagogue like Ted Cruz faces the harsh light of the national media, he often wilts: Joe McCarthy and Huey Long only lasted a few years before people got sick of them, and McCarthy in particular melted quite quickly under the harsh, unforgiving glare of television lights. The clock may be ticking even faster for Ted Cruz, who may be embracing the television cameras more than is good for him. Ditto for Rand Paul, who was just eviscerated by Rachel Maddow.

And of course Tea Fatigue will be exacerbated if the leading Tea People continue to drop trou. The Ted Cruz backlash is moving with neck-snapping speed through the political establishment. And poor Rand Paul, who went postal when he got busted for plagiarizing Wiki -- so he has an absurdly thin skin, and the staffers who prep his events are juvenile morons, and he’s probably very uninformed too. So he will be unprepared when the 2015 debates begin; and although he's hoping his dad's posses in the Iowa caucuses will get him a win there, he will then have to face the big grownup GOP guns in New Hampshire and on Super Tuesday. And then could will get ugly. Already the far-right Washington Times took the extraordinary step of dropping Paul’s weekly column, after he got caught plagiarizing: when a rightwing rag like the Time says you’re a crap journalist, you’re really at the bottom of the food chain.

The two main ways for the tea people to puncture the Christie balloon are as follows. First, go after his messy ethical record, which I’ve already reported on. Among other things, Christie gained a reputation as U.S. Attorney, for racking up gigantic travel expenses and then stonewalling investigations into the spending. Romney rejected him as running mate because even after vetting: there were still too many questions.

And then go after Christie in the debates: when he is challenged by another politician or a reporter, he loses his cool and becomes very nasty. Yelling, insulting, interrupting. First law of 21st-century politics: don’t look like an idiot on TV.

And of course Team Blue has one, and exactly one, candidate who can puncture Christie: Hillary. She wins across the board, and she even beats Christie in New Jersey: she led him by six there, the day he won reelection by more than twenty points. Against Christie, she can even compete in a lot of southern states, although contrariwise Christie might be more competitive in northern states like Ohio and Pennsylvania than a tobacco-spitting loon like Cruz or Paul would be. 

Saturday 2 November 2013

Why Hillary is vital for the 2016 race


There is more data to support the argument that Hillary Clinton would be absolutely insane not to run for president in 2016.

As we know from polling data, Hillary is the only liberal candidate who performs consistently well against all conservative challengers, even Chris Christie, in head-to-head national polls for 2016. She beats all of them. The other potential liberal candidates like Biden and Cuomo regularly lose a lot of those head-to-head matchups.

But the gap between Hillary and the other liberals is even more striking when you look at the state-level polls. Believe it or not, there is already state-level polling for 2016. In those polls, Biden, Cuomo and the like do not do very well at all against Team Red. But Hillary has an opportunity, not just to win, but to win in the South, and break the conservative stranglehold on the southern states forever.

First, the other parts of the country. Up north, the polls tell us that Hillary would win Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. She would win New Jersey even against Christie. She would almost certainly win Wisconsin, although Paul Ryan could potentially make it a fight. She wins Ohio, although Christie could make it close.

Hillary loses in the places you would expect: Kansas, Wyoming, West Virginia. She could actually lose Colorado if Christie runs. She probably loses Montana unless Brian Schweitzer is on the ticket. She loses to almost everybody in Alaska, but she beats Palin who is well known to the locals – ouch!

But the big surprise is in the South. Even when running against Christie, Hillary has tiny leads in Arkansas and Louisiana. In Georgia she trails Christie by a hair, ties Bush, and beats everyone else. In North Carolina she is beating Paul and Rubio, and in South Carolina she beats Cruz while losing to Christie and Rubio. In Kentucky she ties with hometown favorite Rand Paul and beats Rubio. She probably wins Florida, although she hasn’t been polled against Christie there. And the big one: in Texas she gets a split with Christie, beats Perry and Rubio, but loses to Bush and Cruz, although that last data came before Cruz became a national punch line over the government shutdown.

In other words, if Hillary runs, she not only holds onto almost every state Obama won in his two very comfortable wins: she can also attack the conservatives on their own turf, in the South. Wins a crushing landslide, even if she only gets a split down south. And helps build up liberal candidates and organizations across the South, uniting blacks, Latinos, women, gays, liberals, and people who are sick of the conservatives and the Tea Party. And overturns a lot of laws on union rights, gays and lesbians, abortion, Medicaid expansion, Obamacare exchanges, and voting rights.

Without the South, Team Red has nothing. Nowhere to hide.

Just imagine if Hillary picks a running mate who can appeal to a lot of new voters down south: Brian Schweitzer with his bolo ties and branding iron, Julian Castro, Charlie Crist, Bill Nelson, one of the Virginia Senators. Mary Landrieu!

Just imagine her campaigning with Castro, Wendy Davis, Allison Lundergan. And Big Bill and Obama.

In 2016, the Republicans will have an added problem defending the South against Hillary, because their southern donors will have other places they need to spend their money. Team Red must defend no less than ten Senate seats in the South alone: Shelby, Boozman in Arkansas, Rubio, Isakson in Georgia, Rand Paul, Vitter, Blunt in Missouri, Burr in North Carolina, Coburn in Oklahoma, and Scott in South Carolina.

And they can’t steal national money from Senate races elsewhere in the country, because they have yet another 14 Senate seats they must also defend: Murkowski, McCain, Crapo, Kirk, Coats, Grassley, Moran, Ayotte, Hoeven, Portman, Toomey, Thune, Lee, and Ron Johnson. Remember the big wave of 2010 that brought in all those new Republicans: six years later, the Democrats are only defending 10 seats while the Republicans defend 24. So the Republicans will be cash-strapped, even if they manage to overcome the current civil war among conservative fund-raisers. The Democrats could finally get that 60th Senate seat and crush McConnell's dreams, if Lundergan hasn’t already done so.

This is why you’re going to hear the word “BENGHAZI!!” five billion times over the next two years. And see continuing conservative sabotage of the economy, which they will then blame on the liberals. The conservatives know they need a weak economy and a bloody re-vetting of Hillary, to beat her.

If she runs.

Liberals could plan for a campaign that looks like this:

A Biden-Christie race? Just to give you an idea, if he goes up against Christie, Biden loses Colorado by 17, Iowa by 17, New Jersey by 11, Ohio by 18, Virginia by 7. That’s 60 electoral votes right there, draining the electoral college tally down to 272. And if Biden is taking on that much water in those states, then he is also likely to lose Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, Wisconsin, maybe even Michigan and Minnesota. A landslide loss. And of course you can forget about invading the South.

Cuomo’s numbers are worse than Biden’s. Just to give you an illustration of how bad: imagine you’re DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. You turn on your computer, and you see Quinnipiac polling data indicating that (and this is perfectly true) Chris Christie is within 8 points of Andrew Cuomo – in New York state. Your sphincter puckers so hard that you sprain your anus. And then you pick up the phone and promise your first-born child to Hillary Clinton if only she will promise to run in 2016.