Conservatism

Charles Portis's Guide to the GOP

An obscure book that just might explain the GOP race better than any pundit could

(Flickr/Austin Kleon)
Does today's Republican Party baffle you? Then I can help. A too-little-known book called Masters of Atlantis explains absolutely everything: They're Gnomons. Gnomons, every last one. While this is an inflammatory charge, I don't think I'm being reckless. If Masters of Atlantis can be trusted—and for reasons that will soon be apparent, I see no reason why it shouldn't be—Gnomonism, or Gnomonry, was introduced to the United States soon after World War I by Lamar Jimmerson, an ex-doughboy reared under Indiana's placid blue sky. While serving in France, he came into possession of a rare copy of the Codex Pappus: the only surviving repository of Atlantean wisdom, "committed to the waves on that terrible day when the rumbling began." Swiftly converted from his dabblings in Freemasonry, Jimmerson—whose utter sincerity is in no doubt, by the way—founded the American branch of the Gnomon Society. His proselytizing for Atlantis's teachings won few adherents at first, but Gnomonry's vogue among...

Romney's Trouble On The Ground

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I've been arguing over the last few days for journalists to be wary of the Santorum bubble, which I think will pop before it amounts to much, despite the current bounce in the polls. But Nate Silver raised an important point I missed earlier this week: It is not clear, however, how much emphasis Mr. Romney has placed on this part of his campaign. When I visited the various campaign headquarters in New Hampshire, Mr. Romney’s office was the busiest and the best run (although Ron Paul’s was reasonably close). Still, Mr. Romney’s office in Manchester was the only one he had in the state. In contrast, Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards each had 16 field offices in New Hampshire in advance of the 2008 primaries there. I noticed a similar dynamic when I was on the trail in Iowa and Florida. Romney certainly outpaced his rivals when it came to campaign organization, even on the basics. It was at times bewildering covering Gingrich events without knowing where to park,...

Republican Haves and Have Nots

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Republicans have reached their 1984. I don’t mean this in the Orwellian sense, though Republicans have more than their share of Orwellian impulses. Rather, I mean that the kind of divisions that have characterized Democratic presidential primaries since the 1984 contest between Walter Mondale and Gary Hart have now popped up in GOP primaries as well: This year, Republicans are dividing along lines of class. According to data compiled by the Wall Street Journal , in all the states that have voted thus far, Mitt Romney has won 46 percent of the counties with incomes higher than the statewide median , and just 15 percent of those with incomes beneath the statewide median. Rick Santorum, by contrast, has won 39 percent of the counties with higher income, and 46 percent of those with lower income. These numbers—a product of the kind of residential-sorting-by-class that Charles Murray documents in his new book, “ Coming Apart ”—reinforce exit polling that shows Romney’s strongest supporters...

Romney Is in Trouble, Just Not for the Primary

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
In an otherwise sharp article about Mitt Romney's sudden troubles in Michigan, The Atlantic 's Molly Ball opens with an analysis that's been parroted by many in the media since Rick Santorum's sudden rise last week: In one view, Mitt Romney has had it effectively wrapped up for weeks. Rick Santorum's freak victory in three contests last week was a meaningless blip -- a speed bump. Sure, Santorum now leads in some polls, but he's fundamentally a small-time candidate who's about to get crushed like a bug by Romney and his allies. What we're witnessing now isn't drama -- it's death throes. The other view: Romney has never been weaker. The conservative brushfire that powered Santorum in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado is now a raging inferno that threatens to engulf the fragile front-runner. Desperate and flailing, Romney is on the verge of total collapse. With a natural and specific appeal in many of the upcoming primary states, Santorum is poised to sweep into Super Tuesday and become...

Zombie Politics

Zombie politics—a play on Zombie Economics —refers to ideas about politics that have become so cemented in conventional wisdom that it is virtually impossible to dislodge them. It doesn’t matter what the data says, or what published research says, or what this blog or any blog says. Zombie politics means that even though the ideas are dead, they just can’t be killed. I regret using the by-now-hackneyed zombie metaphor, but it remains apt. And so, George Packer : Perhaps the biggest political puzzle of our time is why, as the lives of working-class whites have descended from the stability and comfort of “All in the Family” to the chaos and despair of “Gran Torino” and “Winter’s Bone,” these same Americans have voted more and more reliably Republican. This would be a puzzle, if it were really true. From Larry Bartels : The graph only the merest hint of a secular trend in the voting behavior of whites without college degrees. It also shows that there is not much of a difference between...

The George Washington Candidate

For a time, it looked as though Newt Gingrich would be the Romney alternative that the religious right and Tea Partiers would coalesce around. Now Rick Santorum has taken that spot after a string of victories in primaries last week and a huge rise in national polls. In a new ad, Santorum challenges Gingrich on another front: Which candidate can claim the most historical gravitas . The ad features a series of quotes over soaring orchestral music as images of Santorum flash across the screen. "I adore Rick Santorum's conviction," the ad quotes Mike Huckabee, despite the former Arkansas governor's neutral stance on the 2012 race. "Santorum … one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America," the ad quotes Time . But the best quote is pulled from a now forgotten former Fox News host. "'Santorum is the next George Washington,' ~ Glenn Beck." Republican candidates always rush over one another to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan, and they gleefully highlight their history as the party...

Republicans' Deceptive Payroll Tax Compromise

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Republicans finally came to their senses yesterday and realized they were waging a losing battle with their opposition to a payroll tax extension. The two-month extension Congress passed in December was set to expire by the end of this month, and Republicans were adamant that any further extension be paired with equal spending cuts. Democrats balked, instead suggesting a surtax on millionaires that the Republicans would never accept, and another last minute legislative showdown appeared inevitable. Then out of nowhere yesterday afternoon Congressional Republicans announced that they would drop their resistance: “Because the president and Senate Democratic leaders have not allowed their conferees to support a responsible bipartisan agreement, today House Republicans will introduce a backup plan that would simply extend the payroll tax holiday for the remainder of the year while the conference negotiations continue regarding offsets, unemployment insurance, and the ‘doc fix,’” said GOP...

Republicans Risk Their Future in Opposing Gay Marriage

(Flickr/Marissa Babin)
Marriage-equality advocates notched a major win yesterday when Washington became the seventh state—and just the second west of the Mississippi River—to legalize same-sex marriage. There was less jubilation when, on the same day, the New Jersey Senate passed a marriage-equality bill by a 24-to-16 margin. The legislation is expected to pass the state Assembly when it comes up for a vote later this week, but Governor Chris Christie has promised to veto the bill when it comes across his desk. The Senate vote didn't meet the two-thirds threshold to override the governor's veto, likely leaving same-sex marriage stalled in the Garden State until the next crop of legislators are elected. Christie's likely veto is a clear attempt to gain stature among national Republicans rather than appeal to New Jersey voters. A Quinnipiac poll last month found that New Jersey residents favor legalizing same-sex marriage by a 52-to-42 percent margin. But Christie pictures himself as a national figure poised...

Obama's Fact-Checkers

(Flickr/The White House/Pete Souza)
The Obama campaign announced Monday morning that it would launch a new initiative termed Truth Team designed to combat Republican misrepresentation of the president's record. It's the successor to the 2008 campaign's Fight the Smears website, which corrected the common myths—such as his birth certificate or secret Muslim faith—through e-mail chains that year. "The GOP candidates are spending a huge amount of time attacking President Obama—no surprise," Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "But instead of basing their attacks on our differences of opinion, they've chosen to run on claims about his record that just aren't true." The new website is subdivided into three sections: AttackWatch, KeepingGOPHonest, and KeepingHisWord. The first blog item criticizes Romney's economic plan as one that "helps millionaires and hurts the middle class" (filed under KeepingGOPHonest), followed by a string of favorable Obama accomplishments, such as sanctions on...

CPAC Takes Aim at Birth Control

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Volunteers promote Republican presidential hopefuls as America's political right gathers for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012. WASHINGTON, D.C. —The economy might have been at the forefront when organizers constructed the schedule for this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but the the Obama administration's announcement that certain religious-affiliated organizations would not be exempted from contraception coverage galvanized social conservatives. Almost every politician took the opportunity to grandstand against the president. "The federal government does not have the power to force religious organizations to pay for things that an organization thinks is wrong," Marco Rubio said to thunderous applause in a prominent address on the confab's opening morning. The Obama administration's compromise on the contraception rule—that the responsibility for providing contraceptive...

The Libertarian Romantic Thriller

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
REPUBLICAN CENTRAL, DC—Every Republican presidential nominee is speaking in CPAC's main ballroom today except Rep. Ron Paul. He sent his son, Sen. Rand Paul, in his stead last night and the libertarian's message is being spread—if not always explicitly—down in the CPAC dungeon of booths. (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Filmmakers have been marketing "Silver Circle" to comic book fans and conservatives. Set in 2019 during the aftermath of an economic collapse, the animated film "Silver Circle" is a "fun thriller romance," according to producer/director Pasha Roberts. I walked up to this booth expecting the typical Paul friendly organization arguing against fiat money, but was instead treated to behind the scenes clips of actors on a green screen stage edited with shots of the completed footage, fully animated in a manner evoking the rotoscoped effect of "Waking Life" but far more halting and amateurish in appearance. "Silver Circle" follows the soon-to-be true story of anti-...

Birth Control Chess

(Flickr/brains the head)
Last week, I argued that it was unlikely that many critics of President Obama's contraceptive coverage requirement would be mollified by a compromise that would allow a religious exemption but still mandate that employees be provided with contraceptive coverage at no extra cost. Apparently, we're about to find out if that’s the case. I was very concerned when I first read that Obama was planning to announce a "compromise," and part of me still wishes he had just stood firm given the that the arguments against the new regulation were so bad. But, as described, I believe that the “ accommodation ” that was announced by the administration is acceptable. The bottom line is that employees will still be able to receive contraceptive coverage at no extra cost, and as NARAL's statement explains "[i]t guarantees that women will encounter no barriers from their bosses or insurance plans in getting birth control without a copay." As long as the substantive rights and benefits of employees are...

Gold and Silver: Taking Heavy Metal Literally

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, DC—Bouncing between Republican campaign events over the past few months, I've often run into GOP voters who wish they could support Ron Paul, but just can't mark the box next to his name. They love his End the Fed, slash every government regulation take on the economy, but despair over his isolationist foreign policy. I've met none that exemplify that split more than Travis Englert, who I spoke with yesterday deep in the bowels of CPAC. Hidden in the very back corner of the basement, Englert was manning the booth for Procinctu, a group that he just launched on Wednesday. Their booth might have been out of the main path, but it certainly stood out among the traditional mix of conservative groups. Englert rocks the shaved head looked, ditching the typical CPAC suit for a black button down. Heavy metal music blasted from his booth, and the group's logo features a cartooned shirtless man wearing a headband and rifle across his back. (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) What...

CPAC Boothapalooza Part 1

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, D.C.—Day one of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was full of members of Congress palling around with white nationalists, conservatives offering dating advice, and Marco Rubio ripping into the president for considering birth control an essential health-care service. Day two is set to be dominated by talk of the 2012 race, with Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich all slotted to speak in the main ballroom of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel on Friday. The real fun of CPAC lies in the basement labyrinth of booths where conservative groups of all stripes hawk their wares. In addition to covering the above-ground speeches, over the course of the day I'm going to profile a few of the more colorful vendors hidden away from the light of day. First up is HSP Direct, a mail fundraising firm that is working for Santorum this cycle. For a candidate who isn't particularly known for pulling in the money or an extensive organization, HSP sure was proud of its...

White Nationalists Agree: Multiculturalism Is Bad

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Right-wing members of Congress have never shied away from associating with fringe agitators, but appearing with a white nationalist is beyond the pale. On Thursday afternoon, Iowa Representative Steve King jovially appeared on a panel with Peter Brimelow, an anti-immigrant author that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has termed a white nationalist. Brimelow wrote Alien Nation and founded the online community VDARE, which SPLC describes as "a nonprofit that warns against the polluting of America by non-whites, Catholics, and Spanish-speaking immigrants." King had no qualms about associating himself with Brimelow when I caught up with the congressman after the panel. "Consider the source, I'm not in a position to judge people in the fashion that they seem to be so free to do," King said of the SPLC. King was not on the public schedule for the panel held at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and showed up as a surprise guest an hour after the panel started. Hosted...

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