Conservatism

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...

This Is Why You Can't Have Nice Things

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The class of commentators who celebrate politicians outside the two-party system might finally realize their dreams of a third-party candidacy in 2012. These agitators of a middle path—typically white, upper-middle-class elites terrified of the nation's debt but ill at ease with social conservatism—have tried their hand in past years at disrupting the normal political process. In 2008, a group called Unity '08 planned to run a bipartisan presidential ticket but fell apart before the election. This "disempowered center" is back and appears primed for some serious troublemaking in 2012. Americans Elect has qualified for the ballot in 16 states and plans to reach all 50 before November. Founded by *investment banker Peter Ackerman, the group has raised at least $22 million to bankroll this third-party run. Their candidate will be selected through online balloting rather than the normal caucus/primary slog, and the only requirement is that the ticket must be split between a Republican and...

Football: Game of Life—and Texas Senate Races

Flickr/Parker Michael Knight
Meet Craig James. If you aren't a football fan, you've probably never heard of the guy. If you are inclined toward the pigskin, well, James's voice should be pretty familiar to you—he's been commentating at ESPN for 20 years after a short but successful career with the New England Patriots. He's also running for U.S. Senate in Texas. In a state where football is pretty much holy, James hews closely to the stereotype. He calls the Constitution "the playbook" and speaks in broad platitudes about hating Obama and loving America. Why isn't he afraid to stand up to power? Because, he explains, the last guy he was awed by was Patriots' quarterback Steve Grogan. While he argues that it's his experience as a rancher, father, and real-estate mogul that qualify him for office, he falls back on football as his primary qualification an awful lot. One Boston Globe profile gives a pretty clear portrait of the image that James wants to project: At home, James dons his blue jeans, cowboy hat, and...

New Results, Same Race

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum might be the media darling of the day after his clean sweep in last night's three elections. But that likely won't mean much for his future electoral prospects. Those three elections did not actually award any delegates—two (Minnesota and Colorado) were nonbinding caucuses, and the Missouri primary has been termed a beauty contest, with the states' delegates actually selected by another vote later this spring. Much like Iowa, these were small-scale contests where Santorum's town halls could win over enough votes to tip the scales. These were also the first contests where the Romney super PAC stayed largely on the sidelines, running few ads. That won't be the case in the remaining two February contests; Arizona and Michigan are large states where TV ads and traditional campaign infrastructure will trump grassroots appeal. After those states vote, the nomination finally ditches its state-by-state progression and becomes a truly national primary on Super Tuesday. Every poll...

Minnesota Not So Nice

(Flickr/J. Stephen Conn)
My home state of Minnesota holds its caucus today, and no one really knows how the election will turn out. Public Policy Polling rolled out numbers last night that gave Rick Santorum a decent lead with 33 percent of the vote followed by Mitt Romney at 24 percent, Newt Gingrich at 22 percent, and Ron Paul bringing up the rear with 20 percent. Besides PPP there has been little polling in the state, and tracking numbers on Sunday had all of the candidates clustered together, so it's really anyone's guess how the caucus vote will roll in tonight. It's a nonbinding caucus, so the results themselves won't play a role in delegate math. The narrative tomorrow will be about whether Santorum has capitalized on Gingrich's missteps to gain momentum and reposition himself as the anti-Romney alternative. The more interesting story is the state of the Republican Party in Minnesota—yet another contest in a potential swing state for the general election—giving us a glimpse at how each candidate's...

Miracle in Vegas

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
On Saturday night, as CNN’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Nevada caucuses was wilting from lack of anything to cover (candidates had yet to appear, vote totals were both low and unchanging, commentators had nothing to say), the network decided to air the one caucus still ongoing: the post-Shabbat Vegas caucus that the state GOP had set up to accommodate those observant Jewish Republicans who couldn’t turn out till the sun set. But the caucus was unbearable. Under caucus rules, the moderator was compelled to call on anyone who raised his or her hand to speak, and an inordinate number of Ron Paulistas, when duly recognized, droned on about the apocalypse to come now that we no longer peg the dollar to gold. (Of course, we ceased such pegging during Richard Nixon’s presidency, so the apocalypse has been a long time comin’.) When one speaker finished, another rose to repeat the previous speaker’s points—so much so that the event’s moderator politely suggested that if prospective speakers...

Conservatives Ditch Corporate Spending After Eastwood Ad

(Flickr/Sachyn)
Conservatives spent Monday being outraged about the Chrysler Super Bowl ad featuring Clint Eastwood. They were upset that the great Western hero and former Republican would highlight Detroit manufacturing, which they argued was an implicit endorsement of Obama's policies. “I was, frankly, offended by it,” Karl Rove said on Fox News. “I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising." "The commercial’s theme was more closely informed by Barack Obama’s recent SOTU call for the country to put aside its differences and march to the president’s tune than by the rugged individualism that one usually associates with the star who played Dirty Harry and The Man with No Name," National Review 's Charles C.W. Cooke wrote . I was more ambivalent. It's nice to see...

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

AP Photo
This was supposed to be the year of Ron Paul. Sure, no one outside his band of misfit supporters expected Paul to come anywhere close to winning the Republican nomination, but he was on a path to be the spoiler of the race. His baseline support had apparently ticked up since 2008—the rise of the Tea Party brought new love for his career-long opposition to the Federal Reserve—and the Texas congressman had used those intervening four years to develop the most ruthlessly efficient organization combined with an enviable budget of any of the candidates—except for maybe Mitt Romney. His path was set: Paul could consistently finish somewhere around 20 percent in most state primaries, rarely enough to win but still respectable. That's a low enough total to push most candidates out of the race eventually, but Paul is committed to his ideological purity, not the Republican Party. He'd likely carry on past the outcries from the Grand Old Party's establishment. While that might not secure the...

What Happens in Vegas

Flickr/califrayray
The next stop on the national humiliate Newt Gingrich tour lands in Nevada tomorrow when, if recent polls have even an ounce of truth, Mitt Romney will trounce the competition. Every survey this week has Romney up by staggeringly wide margins. Public Policy Polling's latest numbers have Romney doubling Gingrich and gathering support from 50 percent of Nevadans. The Las Vegas Review-Journal' s numbers aren't quite as rosy for the former Massachusetts governor; Romney tops Gingrich by only a 20 percent margin. The polls that give Romney a dominating lead can probably be trusted given his performance in the state last time around. The real question is who finishes in second. All of the factors that make a caucus state hard to accurately poll are the ones that lend themselves to outsize turnout among Paul supporters—organization and enthusiasm. Even though the latest polls put Paul in solid double-digits behind Gingrich, it won't be too surprising if Paul in fact finishes second tomorrow.

In Case You Were Underestimating ALEC's Role

Florida Representative Rachel Burgin recently filed a pretty typical bill for a conservative Republican, asking the federal government to lower corporate taxes. But there was one thing that made Burgin's measure a little unusual: It began by stating the mission of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That's likely because Burgin's bill had its origins with the corporate-funded nonprofit. Most Americans have never heard of ALEC. The innocuously named group offers a meeting ground for conservative state legislators and corporations. The organization boasts nearly 2,000 members and partnerships with almost 300 corporations and private nonprofits. The "partnerships" give major businesses the opportunity to shape policy in states around the country. Last year, The Nation embarked on a six-part series called "ALEC Exposed," investigating the group's overwhelming influence on everything from deregulation to privatizing education to killing off unions. But much of the group...

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