Conservatism

Get Ready for Iowa 2016

(Flickr/Talk Radio News Service)
I'm of the same mindset as Salon 's Alex Pareene: it's far, far too early to begin 2016 speculation. Political prognosticating is a dangerous game; it's hard to know what lies on the horizon several months from now, let alone several years. A few years ago a star governor of South Carolina seemed like a probable Republican candidate until he took a few too many hikes on the Appalachian trail. Or six years back, when the junior Illinois senator seemed like a far more likely Democratic candidate in 2012 or even 2016. Hell, we don't even know if the Republicans will have a competitive primary in 2016 or if Mitt Romney will gather the forces for a reelection bid. I'm not sure every politician shares my wariness of long-term political forecasts. I received a pair of emails in my inbox yesterday afternoon alerting me of scheduled appearances by two hotshot Republicans in that harbinger of presidential campaigns, the Hawkeye State. Senator Rand Paul will headline the Iowa Faith and Freedom...

Anti-Abortion Measures Die with a Whimper

(Flickr/World Can't Wait)
Women's health and abortion access have dominated state legislatures across the country and, until recently, dominated the headlines as well. But as legislative sessions are wrapping up and final decisions get made, there's been less focus on the issues. Perhaps it's because, in several cases, the bills are dying with whimpers instead of bangs. This week, many of the measures look doomed. Idaho's pre-abortion sonogram bill died Tuesday, with pro-life activists accepting defeat—at least for this year. According to the Spokesman-Review , House State Affairs Chair Tom Loertscher worried that the controversy around the sonogram could threaten the state's other anti-abortion measures. The bill did not have any exemptions for rape or incest and would likely have required invasive, transvaginal sonograms—the kind that got Virginia so much attention. Right to Life of Idaho has said it plans to bring the bill back next year. In Pennsylvania, a similar sonogram measure has stalled after...

Republican Grassroots Trust Establishment Over Themselves

(Flickr/BlueRobot)
Reporters and Republicans alike have finally come to their senses and begun to treat Mitt Romney as the presumptive nominee. Republican officials such as Jeb Bush and Kevin McCarthy have recently endorsed Romney, and a Rick Santorum victory in a southern state (Lousiana this past weekend for those keeping track) no longer sets off a round of speculation on whether Romney might be derailed. Thankfully that shift has also largely put an end to talk of a brokered Republican convention. I've written in the past that even if Romney fails to secure the required 1,144 delegates, the party wouldn't have been inclined to overturn the popular vote, and the ranks of possible saviors are thinning as Bush and others throw their lot behind Romney. A CNN poll this week found that a majority of Republican voters have also tuned out Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum's fantasy of a brokered convention. But it was only a slight 53 percent majority. A whopping 43 percent said they would prefer to have the...

The Best Signs from Yesterday's Tea Party Rally

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
Tea Partiers descended on the Capitol Tuesday afternoon to voice their disapproval of Obamacare as the Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which will require citizens to purchase health insurance or else face a nominal fee once the bill has been fully implemented in 2014. Initially a conservative solution—originating at Bush's favorite think tank The Heritage Foundation—the mandate has come to symbolize conservative distaste with the bill that will expand coverage to millions of currently uninsured Americans. The rally on a lawn north of the Capitol was hosted by Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers' political arm that has funded many of the Tea Party's major gatherings. AFP president Tim Phillips kicked off the proceedings, leading the crowd in chants of "repeal the bill." A sea of over a thousand Tea Partiers—largely middle-aged or elderly, and almost all white—in red "Hands Off Health Care" t-shirts were in attendance from across the...

Tennessee Travels Back to 1925

(Flickr/latvian)
By the end of this week, teachers in Tennessee will likely have new protections if they teach creationism alongside evolution or rely on dubious reports that climate change is a myth. A measure awaiting gubernatorial approval explicitly protects teachers who give countering theories to evolution, climate change, and the like, in an effort to foster critical-thinking skills. The bill received overwhelming legislative support, and the governor is expected to approve it. "It's a really sad state of affairs," says Steven Newton, policy director at the California-based National Center for Science Education. "In an era where other countries are pushing forward … the United States is passing anti-science bills in some of its states." As I wrote last week , the measure create any requirements, and, as the Times Free Press reports , its sponsor has been adamant that it "does not endorse, promote or allow the teaching of any nonscientific, nonconventional theories in the scientific classroom."...

Where Hating Liberals Leads

Case...um...closed?
The Trayvon Martin case is both an individual tragedy and a symbol of a larger problem, the way some people are treated as "suspicious," as George Zimmerman described Martin, and the myriad consequences that suspicion brings. Lots of conservatives don't really think that larger problem is much of a big deal, and apparently, the way they've decided to make that case is by focusing on this individual incident, namely by trying to convince everyone that Trayvon Martin was a no-good punk who had it coming. Dave Weigel informs us that the right-wing blogosphere is alight with pieces attacking the teenager, and "The Drudge Report has become a one-stop shop for Trayvon contrarianism," pushing one article after another about the alleged defects in Martin's character. The conservative web site The Daily Caller obtained and published Trayvon Martin's tweets, for the purpose of ... what, exactly? Showing that he was a teenager and capable of tweeting stupid stuff and therefore demonstrating that...

Drug Tests for Everyone!

Right this way Representative... (Flickr/Francis Storr)
Drug testing is in these days. Already, Arizona and Missouri test anyone receiving government aid who's suspected of drug use. (In other words, leave your Bob Marley shirt at home.) In Florida, meanwhile, the humiliating process is guaranteed—everyone getting aid must also pee in a cup. 23 states are considering such laws this year, according to USA Today. On Monday alone, a panel in Oklahoma approved one drug-testing measure , while Utah's governor signed a measure into law. If tax dollars are heading in your direction, the thinking goes, we have to make sure you're not some junkie. Many frame the issue as one of fiscal responsibility—if you can afford to do drugs, you should not receive aid. (The extra dose of humiliation recipients face is just a side benefit, I guess.) It's not just those receiving aid who are suspect. Florida beefed up its laws this year with a measure requiring random drug tests for those receiving a state paycheck. Governor Rick Scott just signed it into law a...

Newt Just Wants to Help TV Networks

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Even with his own sense of grandiosity, I doubt even Newt Gingrich truly believes a brokered convention is on the horizon. Mitt Romney, while still a weak candidate for the general election, is working his way steadily up to the required delegate count, and the leaders of the Republican Party—such as possible White Knight Jeb Bush—are throwing their lot behind Romney. But Gingrich isn't quite ready to drop the line, and his reasoning for why a brokered convention would help his party has become specious to a hilarious degree. Yesterday he suggested that it'd help Republicans because a brokered convention would just be so much darn fun to watch. Via GOP12, here's what Gingrich said on CNN: "That would be the most exciting 60 days of civic participation in the age of Facebook and Youtube. ... the convention would be the most exciting convention in modern times, and whoever became the nominee would have the highest attendance, the highest viewership in history for their acceptance speech...

A House Race To Keep an Eye On

(Flickr/Iowa Democratic Party)
With 435 spots at stake every two years, it can be hard to keep track of all the important House races. After a round of redistricting, experts are still trying to figure out the new political maps and how they might favor one party or the other. One race to keep a close eye on is Iowa's Fourth Congressional District, which swallowed up the Fifth District (it was contracted out of existence because of a decrease in the state's population). Republican Representative Steve King, a favorite among the Tea Party and former best buddies with Michele Bachmann, is the incumbent in the race. He'll face off against the well-known and respected Christie Vilsack, wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; Tom Vilsack is a former governor of Iowa. King's old district covered the staunch conservative western edge of the state, and he typically faced off against lukewarm Democratic opponents. That won't be the case this year. His district has been expanded to cover a swath of more independent-minded...

A Sure-Fire Way to Liven Up Committee Meetings

(Flickr/VectorPortal)
As someone who has sat through a lot of them, I can say with authority that legislative committee hearings are, on the whole, a bit arduous. There are exciting moments—a major bill debate, a particularly interesting or moving witness, and the like—but often, it's fairly uneventful. Unless, of course, you're in a packed committee meeting on public safety and a state rep drops his gun . The moment occurred in New Hampshire Tuesday. The gun was loaded, but didn't go off thanks to a safety mechanism. The freshman rep responsible blamed his "shoulder holder"—and the fact he was a bit lightheaded from giving blood. Somehow I guessing everyone was a little more alert after that.

Another Conservative Language Victory

The TANF web site, apparently still using its 1996 design.
If I told you that Ron Paul (remember him?) said that Secret Service protection for presidential candidates is "welfare" and he didn't need it, what would you think he meant? Why of course, you'd think he meant that the kind of protection the Secret Service provides is necessary, but sometimes a candidate has fallen on hard times and can't afford to pay for it themselves, so the government steps in to do it for them. And if Paul doesn't need it, it's because his campaign, unlike those of his rivals, is on sound financial footing. That's what you'd think he meant, right? Well, no. You'd know that when Ron Paul says "welfare," what he means is "an undeserved government handout." Welfare was established as part of a safety net to insure that people in poverty wouldn't spiral into absolute destitution, but today not only has the program (now called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF) been slashed to the bone , we barely ever debate it at all, unless it's to discuss a...

The Javelin Takes Down a Saint

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Secret Service names, while irrelevant for the actual election, are always a good source for a little amusement. In 2007 Barack Obama was designated the "Renegade" as he sought to takedown "Evergreen"—the name given to Hillary Clinton back when she was first lady. Gerald Ford's "Pass Key" seemed to presage his early departure from the White House. George H.W. Bush's "Timberwolf" seems a little rough and tumble for the demure president. Personally I'm preferential to the evocative "Rawhide" that Reagan went by. Now that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are being guarded by our nation's finest they've picked up new monikers for themselves. GQ nabbed the exclusive reveal last night. Romney will go by the handle "Javelin," one presumably directed to fell the incumbent president. For the few remaining months Santorum is in the race he'll be labeled "Petrus." The first results from Googling indicate that Petrus is Gordon Ramsey restaurant or a wine of the Bordeaux variety, but Santorum would...

Are Conservatives Getting Crazier?

Flickr/Talk Radio News Service
Every four years, presidential candidates from both parties say, "This is the most important election of our lifetimes." Reporters predict that this will be the most negative campaign in history. Partisans say that if their side loses, the disaster will echo through decades, and we believe that our opponents are more dastardly than they've ever been. And over the last couple of years, we liberals have looked at conservatives and thought that they have reached levels of craziness unseen before. So historian/author/smart guy Rick Perlstein, who knows more about the conservative movement of the last half-century than pretty much anyone, warns us that what we're seeing now is really nothing new: Over fifteen years of studying the American right professionally — especially in their communications with each other , in their own memos and media since the 1950s — I have yet to find a truly novel development, a real innovation, in far-right "thought." Right-wing radio hosts fingering liberal...

Don't Believe the Hype

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It wasn't much of a surprise that Mitt Romney waltzed to victory in the Puerto Rico caucus yesterday. Rick Santorum had campaigned minimally in the territory and tried his best to offend the region's majority Spanish speaking population while he was there, whereas Romney had the backing of the island's major political figures, including popular governor and potential rising GOP star Luis Fortuno. But in many ways, it still represents a big win. Romney won 88 percent of the vote, shutting out Rick Santorum from collecting any new delegates. The estimated 22 delegates Romney collected in Puerto Rico are three more than Santorum won in Alabama and 13 more than he reaped in Mississippi. Yet scan the newspapers this morning, and you'll find scant coverage of the caucus. Unlike the states Santorum won last week, Romney's dominating victory hasn't triggered a series of articles questioning whether the state of the race has been overturned. Instead, you get thoughts like Jeff Zeleny's in the...

Pennsylvania Shouldn't Have Any Senators

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Earlier this week Rick Santorum decided he didn't want to win Puerto Rico's upcoming GOP primary. "They'd have to speak English, that would be a requirement." Santorum said as a stipulation for Puerto Rico attaining statehood. "That's a requirement we put on other states. It's a condition for entering the union." Santorum walked the comment halfway back Thursday, but continued to insist on the supremacy of English in state law. "English should be taught here, and everyone should speak English here," he said . Santorum recognizes that he is going to likely lose Puerto Rico—the popular governor of the island has endorsed Mitt Romney—so he's trading in some dog whistling for xenophobic GOP voters in the rest of the country. What's amusing though is Rick Santorum's clear lack of understanding in U.S. law. If, as he first insisted, English had to be on the books as official state law, Santorum would have never been able to enter the United States Senate. His home Pennsylvania is one of 19...

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