GOP Senator Richard Burr Wants to “Stir Up the Hornets’ Nest” on Obamacare—Let’s Electorally Sting Him in 2016 February 19, 2015
In the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day,” actor Bill Murray finds himself trapped in a constant replay of that day’s 24 hours. On February 3, 2015, one day after the real Ground Hog Day, the House GOP replayed for the 56th time its own political Ground Hog Day. That chamber voted to repeal Obamacare on a 239-186 party line vote (Milbank, Washington Post, 2/03/15, Matlin 2003 Movie & Video Guide). These useless repeal attempts get taken only to please the rabid Tea Party base. President Obama will veto any such legislation should it reach his desk. The House and Senate GOP majorities are, instead, betting that the U.S. Supreme Court will “bail them out” later this year by voting to directly or indirectly kill federal health care subsidies in the King v. Burwell case. Such a ruling, based upon a contorted reading of four words in a single phrase of the 900-page Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), would deny subsidies to 7.5 million people enrolled on federal health care exchanges. Obamacare would, under such a decision, go into an economic tailspin (See NY Times, Pear 2/04/15). GOP leaders previously indicated that they had no intention whatsoever of fixing the Obamacare legislation to make it crystal clear that people enrolled on federal exchanges can get subsidies like those on state ones (CNN Mears, 11/07/14,Kos, McCarter, 1/13/15). Economic “wizard” GOP Cong. Paul Ryan remains dead-set against such a fix (2/13/15 Ryan tweets @ Siddiqui). However, some House and Senate Republicans have “suddenly” decided to work on a health care “alternative.” Why? To allow the GOP-dominated Supreme Court to not look “political,” should it decide to send this case back to Congress for clarification. On 2/04/2015, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Senator Richard Burr (R- NC) unveiled a “blueprint” they claim would address health care reform (Pear, NY Times, 2/04/15).
On 2/05/2015, Burr told Fox News that Congress “wouldn’t coalesce around his or any other plan before Obama leaves office.” He hinted, however, that there would be a “stop gap, short-term interim fix after the King case (NewRepublic, Butler, B., 2/06/15).” Why believe Burr about doing any “short- term” subsidy fix? Look at Burr’s long-term alternative. It’s back to the “bad old pre-Obamacare days” and then some. In a new twist, workers would have to pay regular federal income taxes on the value of employer-provided health benefits that exceed $12,000 for individuals and $30,000 for families. The individual and employer mandates, crucial to health care’s success, would be repealed. People who make between 300% and 400% of the poverty level, $35,000 - $47,000, will permanently lose their subsidies. People would have to pay extra for maternity coverage. And if you have a pre-existing condition and are uninsured, you can only enroll in a “one-time open enrollment period.” After that, should you lose your job or coverage, tough luck. Medicaid expansion would be cut. States could “opt out” of allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plans till age 26 (Pear, NY Times, 2/04/15, Kos, Atkins, 2/08/15). Meet “fixer” Senator Burr.
Second-term N. Carolina Senator Richard Burr (59) prides himself on “stirring up the hornets’ nest” on health care (CQ 14 Political Almanac). Charlottesville, Virginia native Burr, a distant relative of 19th Century VP Aaron Burr, grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The son of a Protestant minister, Burr played football in high school and at WakeForestUniversity. After his 1978 graduation, Burr joined Carswell Distributing where he sold appliances and taught housewives how to use microwave ovens. He became Carswell’s national sales manager and an anti-tax activist. In 1991, political novice Burr surprised his wife by telling her he wanted to run for the House. In 1992, he unsuccessfully ran against the incumbent Democrat, but took 47% of the vote. When the incumbent decided not to run in 1994, Burr handily won with 57% of the vote. He was easily re-elected to four more House terms (CQ 14 & Barone 14 Almanacs).
In the House, Burr had a mostly conservative record. He had promised to serve only 5 House terms. In the early 2000s, Burr decided to run for the Senate. In 2004, when then Dem. Senator John Edwards ran for the presidency, Burr jumped into that contest against former Bill Clinton chief- of -staff Erskine Bowles. Although Bowles came from a well-known N. Carolina family and was leading in the polls through September, Burr defeated him by 5 points. W’s 12 point N. Carolina win helped, as did Burr’s House record blocking FDA tobacco regulation. Burr successfully attacked Bowles by tying him to Clinton’s tax increases, “welfare” for immigrants, and trade with China. In 2010, many pundits thought Burr would face serious competition because Obama had carried N. Carolina in 2008. However, Burr did not get a very strong opponent. In this Tea Party and anti-Obama 2010, Burr won by 12 points (CQ & Barone 14).
Burr was initially interested in moving up the GOP Senate leadership ranks, but lost a bid to become GOP conference chair in 2007. Burr was later named chief deputy whip. Burr declared himself a candidate for whip, but in 2012 dropped out of that race. He has no leadership post in the current 114th Congress. Burr presently sits on the Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committees. He chairs the Select Intelligence Committee, which he took over from Calif. Democrat Dianne Feinstein (CQ & Barone 14, Republican.Senate.Gov). Burr stated that he wants to use that “freedom” (from leadership) to “stir up the hornets’ nest” on subjects such as health care (CQ14). Burr does not have a high national profile. He told the Charlotte “Observer” that he is “more of a policy guy than I am a guy who shows up on 24 hour talk shows or a guy who goes to the floor and speaks (Barone 14).” However, where health care is involved, Burr does not reject interviews on GOP FOX News. IMHO, no better place exits than FOX for a Republican to stir up an angry “hornets’ nest” on health care. Even before putting forth his latest controversial “plan,” Burr aroused the health care “hornets’ nest” in 2012 by introducing a proposal to convert Medicare into a program where beneficiaries pay for insurance plans of their own choosing. Hornet-nest poking Burr originally argued in 2009, along with Congressman Paul Ryan, that reform should consist of providing a tax credit to individuals to purchase health insurance (CQ 14).
Burr has leaned conservative on economic and cultural issues. He has moved farther to the right on foreign policy since Obama became president (Barone 14). He called Sen. Feinstein’s release of a summary of CIA interrogation under W “fiction.” He has demanded that the Senate parliamentarian decide whether the release of that report violated the declassification process (“Politico,” 1/21/15, Everett, B.) The non-partisan group “On the Issues” labeled Burr a “Hard-Core Conservative (ontheissues.org, OnTheIssues.org/Senate/Richard Burr.htm).” As of 7/2014, Burr voted with his hard right party, 94.9% of the time, first among the then 45 GOP Senate members. His 6/2013 rating was 93.8%, second among the then 46 GOP Senators (opencongress.org). Burr wants to rewrite the tax code to replace most federal income taxes with a regressive national sales tax (CQ14).
Burr received negative publicity for comments he made during the 2008 financial crisis. He told his wife to withdraw as “much cash as possible for several days from the ATM machines.” He was later criticized as “Bank Run” Burr for these remarks. In 4/2009, Burr told a N. Carolina public radio station that he’d “absolutely do it (advise his wife the same way) again,” because of the freezes of banks going on (“The Hill,” Zimmermann, 5/01/09, Barone 14, newsobserver.com, Beckwith, 4/16/09, blueridgenow.com, Shea, 4/14/09). Burr took political flak for being just one of three Senators to vote in 2012 against banning congressional insider trading (Barone14). Burr is an immigration hardliner. As early as 2006, under W, he voted against an immigration overhaul bill calling it one that would lead to “blanket amnesty (Barone 14).” Senator Burr opposed Obama’s executive action to give legal status to more than 5 million illegal immigrants (Carolina Journal Online, 11/24/14, Smith, B.). Burr has a 100% anti-choice Right to Life Committee rating, but 0% scores from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America (votesmart.org). “G rand H ypocrite P arty” member Burr voted against aid for 2012 Hurricane Sandy victims, although he had requested disaster assistance after other severe storms (Israel, J., “Think Progress,” 1/29/13).
Even though his recent fundraising was slow, Burr stated he is planning to run for re-election. Burr is viewed as potentially vulnerable in N. Carolina. N. Carolina still leans GOP but has trended Democratic in recent years because of demographic change (“The Hill,” 1/7/15). Obama won this state in 2008 and barely lost it in 2012 (Barone 14). In Campaign 2016, the Democrats have a good opportunity to retake the GOP Senate which has terrible ratings. Team Blue needs to recapture just 4 seats if Hillary or some other Dem wins (Cillizza & Blake, “The Fix,” 1/16/15). When a party takes back a congressional chamber, it expands the seats in play. In 2014, Republicans successfully did that in Iowa and Colorado and almost took New Hampshire. Besides targeting Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, Democrats should add the Tar Heel State to their flip list. Democrats are trying hard to recruit former N. Carolina Senator Kay Hagan. Hagan is currently leading a series of student study groups at HarvardUniversity’s Institute of Politics. Her teaching will end in 5/2015. Hagan, in horrible 2014, ran a near perfect campaign. Although leading throughout most of the race, she lost to GOPer Thom Tillis by just 1.6%, when he employed ISIS and Ebola fear tactics at the end (Roll Call, Cahn, 1/15/15, National Journal, Roarty & NJ “Daily”, 11/06/14, Cohn NY Times, 12/15/14). If Hagan does not run, Democrats must get another strong candidate. Presently, Burr has mediocre numbers, with 34% for him, 35% against him, and 31% having no opinion. He leads Hagen by 6 points and other candidates by 7, numbers that can be reversed with strong campaigns (Kos, 1/07/15). Burr currently has just $700,000 in his political war chest. However, Koch Industries supports Burr. In 2010, Koch coughed up $10,750 for Burr. Expect this right wing group and similar ones to lavishly finance him again (OpenSecrets.org, Kos, 1/07/15). In his 2004 and 2010 Senate runs, Burr raised $13 million and $11 million respectively. Burr remains a prolific fundraiser. In 2012, Burr was named in “Washingtonian” Magazine’s survey of congressional staffers one of the Senate’s biggest “party animals,” because of his frequent money-raising events (Barone 14). Grateful GOP national organizations and “Red” Senators will buck him up in 2016. National Democrats and their groups must level the financial playing field for Burr’s challenger.
Finally, the 2016 N. Carolina Senate race will boil down to that one word that too many Democrats seem to ignore, “turnout.” As we saw in 2014 N. Carolina, GOPers easily got out their voters. Two million Tar Heelers who came out in 2012 did not show up in 2014. Had this overwhelmingly Democratic group voted, Hagan would have been re-elected (Cohn, NY Times, 12/15/14). Democrats must not repeat this mistake in 2016 N. Carolina nor anywhere else.
GOP Congressman Scott Garrett— A Freedom Caucus Founder February 5, 2015
In the House, leading GOP zealots have declared the far right Republican Study Committee (RSC), not ideologically “pure.” The approximately 170-member RSC has been the most conservative bloc and dominant force within the House GOP caucus (CQ 14, National Journal). The RSC’s purpose is to pressure House GOP leadership from the far, far right. On 1/26/2015, a new House GOP outfit, the Freedom Caucus, was established to push the RSC and GOP leaders rightward to the tenth power. It presently has 9 founding members, including firebrands Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Raul Labrador (R-ID), and Justin Amash (R-MICH). While it hopes to increase its membership, the Freedom Caucus plans to be a very exclusive club. While some Freedom Caucusers, such as Cong. Labrador, will leave the RSC, members can remain active in both groups. Membership in the Freedom Caucus is by invitation only. The Freedom Caucus will aim for around 30 members, the current House GOP majority. Thirty will become the “magic” number capable of blocking GOP legislation that the Freedom Caucus opposes. This small Freedom Caucus will, therefore, have a solid chance to affect legislative policy (“Politico,” French, L. 1/26/15, Quinn, M. “Daily Signal,” 1/26/15, Daily Kos, Clawson, 1/26/15). Here’s another “Freedom Caucus 9” founder, Rep. Scott Garrett.
Seventh- term GOP Congressman Scott Garrett (55) represents New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District (CD). The redistricted GardenState 5th includes the cities of Hackensack, Bergenfield, and Paramus. Bogota, Maywood, and Lodi also lie in the 5th. The 5th is shaped like an upside down “V” sitting on top of northern New Jersey. It goes from the Delaware Water Gap to the Palisades along the Hudson River. About 72% of the 5th’s population is in BergenCounty. The rural western part of the 5th takes in Warren, Sussex, and PassaicCounties. The 5th’s economy rests upon pharmaceuticals, electronics, shipping, and agriculture. HackensackUniversityMedicalCenter is one of the nation’s largest cancer treatment hospitals (Barone & CQ 14 Political Almanacs).
The 5th’s BergenCounty suburbs are home to some of the nation’s wealthiest zip codes. Celebrities Jay-Z, Chris Rock, and Stevie Wonder reside in the 5th’s Alpine. Paramus hosts one of the oldest and largest suburban retail malls. Hackensack has a growing number of Hispanics. Lodi, site of the “Sopranos” Bada Bing strip club, is 31% Latino. BergenCounty is politically competitive. However, Warren, Sussex, and PassaicCounties with their wipeout GOP victory margins give the 5th a small “Red” tilt, an R+4 Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI). Romney defeated Obama in the 5th, 52% -49% (Barone & CQ 14).
Englewood, New Jersey native Scott Garrett grew up on a farm in Wantage. His parents grew tomatoes, Christmas trees, and raised pigs. The family’s main income came from his father’s job as a Uniroyal salesman. Conservative from the “get-go,” young Garrett published an alternative high school newspaper that questioned the school administration’s spending policies. Garrett was elected student government treasurer. He kept a picture of Reagan Administration budget cutter David Stockman on his desk. After graduating from Montclair State College and RutgersLawSchool, Garrett practiced insurance trial law in SussexCounty (CQ & Barone 14). In 1989, Garrett won election to the New Jersey General Assembly where he served more than a decade, representing all of SussexCounty. Garrett belonged to a group of maverick and ultra- conservative GOPers, dubbed the “mountain men (garrett.house.gov, “Full Biography,” CQ & Barone 14).”
In the state legislature, born-again Christian Garrett proposed that public schools teach “intelligent design,” alongside evolution (BergenCounty “Record,” northjersey.com, Carroll, K., 9/30/05). In the 1998 and 2000 primaries, Garrett challenged moderate veteran GOP Congresswoman Marge Roukema. Garrett attacked her pro-choice and pro-gun control positions. Roukema, with help from BergenCounty, defeated Garrett both times. Garrett, however, garnered 47% of the vote in 1998 and 48% in 2000, getting big margins in the rural areas (Barone 14). When Roukema declined to run in 2002, Garrett entered the race. He won the primary, with two GOPers splitting much of the anti-Garrett opposition. In the general election, the Democratic candidate imploded when she called American patriotism “jingoistic.” Garrett won by 21 points. He even took urban BergenCounty, Roukema’s old base, by an 11% margin (Barone 14, NY Times, 6/05/02, Barone 04 Almanac).
Congressman Garrett is considered the most conservative member of the New Jersey delegation, and one of the most conservative congressmen to represent that state. He has a lifetime 99.6% ACU (American Conservative Union) rating. None of the other Garden State Congressmen have ACU scores higher than 69 (scribd.com/doc). From 2008-2012, Garrett voted with his hard right party 97% of the time (CQ14). In 2012, fellow New Jersey Dem. Cong. Bill Pascrell told the Hackensack “Record,” “I believe Scott, with all due respect, is to the right of Attila the Hun (Barone 14).” Garrett was the only member of the New Jersey delegation to oppose extending unemployment benefits, the only one to vote against making gasoline price-gouging a crime, and the only one to vote for lifting a gas and oil drilling ban off the New Jersey coast. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged much of New Jersey. In Garrett’s 5th CD, this monster 60 mph storm knocked down trees and power lines with much of BergenCounty losing electricity. Garrett, however, was the only Jersey congressman who initially refused to sign a letter asking for prompt action. He eventually signed such a letter and supported the Sandy aid that passed the House (Barone 14). Garrett was the sole member of his delegation to vote against emergency funding for 2005 Gulf Coast Hurricane Katrina victims. He was one of only 11 Congressmen to vote against Katrina aid (Roll Call, clerk.house.gov, 9/08/05, blog.nj.com, 1/2013). He was the only member of his delegation to vote against child safety locks on handguns (clerk.house.gov, 9/08/05). Garrett is a strong advocate of a federal prohibition against online poker (thomas.loc.gov). He opposes abortion and same sex marriage. He has voted to defund Planned Parenthood (CQ & Barone 14).
Garrett dislikes the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, aimed at preventing another 2008-type financial meltdown. He sits on the key Budget and Financial Services Committees and is considered a “trusted” GOP spokesman on financial matters. Budget hard-liner Garrett voted against raising the debt ceiling. Failure to pass that bill would have caused economic disaster. Garrett voted for Cong. Paul Ryan’s radical gut Medicare budget. In fact, he chaired a Republican Study Committee task force that issued proposals to slash the budget even further (CQ& Barone 14). He wants to cut spending by shrinking the government to the size he claims was dictated by the Constitution. Garrett co-founded a Constitutional Caucus and 10th Amendment Task Force to “educate” lawmakers and staffers on constitutional interpretations and to restore to the state powers he believes the federal government took (CQ 14). He voted to repeal Obamacare (Barone 14). After meeting with Tea Party and “birther” constituents in 11/2009, Garrett agreed that Pres. Obama should produce an original birth certificate to “prove” he was eligible to be President (Video 11/05/09 youtube.com, Weigel, D., 11/18/09,”The Washington Independent”).
Cong. Garrett’s record would fit well in a “burnt-Red” Deep South or “bright Red” RockyMountain district. However, in the “Blue” New Jersey swing- 5th, he is way out of the political mainstream. Democrats have tried to defeat him. However, several of Garrett’s Democratic opponents have been weak on the campaign trail, have been badly underfunded, or have run in GOP tidal wave years (See CQ 14 & Barone 14, csmonitor.com, 2002, huffingtonpost.com/11/04/14). The GOP has poured money into Garrett’s coffers along with Republican-leaning groups. During his national political career, right wing “sugar Daddy” Koch Industries has given Garrett at least $43,000, including $10,000 in 2014 (thinkprogress.com, 1/20/12, Johnson, B., OpenSecrets.org). It is money well spent. In the first half of the 112th Congress (1/2011-1/2012), Garrett received a 100% rating from Koch’s Americans for Prosperity (AFP) front group. AFP positively judged congressional legislators on voting to repeal Obamacare, opposing the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and voting for Cong. Paul Ryan’s anti- Medicare budget (Johnson, thinkprogress.com). Koch successfully spent over $290 million in 2014 on House and Senate races and has vowed to pony up over $889 million over the next two years (“Politico,” Parti, T., 1/29/15). Rest assured that in 2016, Garrett will receive Koch financial largesse. Democrats must open their wallets to level the national playing field. Koch’s plans are, hopefully, pushing many Democratic donors to respond in kind (See “Politico,” Parti, T, 1/29/15).
Democrats face a tough climb to win a net 30 seats to recapture the House in 2016. However, 2016 has the potential to be a Democratic wave year up and down the ballot. In “Blue” tsunami 2006, Democrats flipped exactly 30 GOP seats when they took back the House (Cillizza, “The Fix,”1/29/15). The GOP House and Senate have terrible ratings. A presidential election is at stake. Democrats have a good opportunity to retake the Senate, needing just 4 seats if Hillary or some other Dem wins (Cillizza & Blake, “The Fix,” 1/16/15). Team Blue must, of course, come out in droves. Democrats must also uniformly argue, as Obama noted, that they were “right” about health care, middle class jobs, and immigration. In 2014, they disastrously failed to make that case (Memoli, LA Times, 1/30/15). In the N. Jersey 5th, Democrats have to recruit and fund a top notch candidate. They must then turn out every “Blue” voter in competitive BergenCounty as well as urban newcomers coming into the 5th’s “Red” rural areas (CQ & Barone 14). Garrett’s Freedom Caucus’ far out views must be exposed. When it endorsed Garrett’s opponent in 2012, the Hackensack “Record” said it all, “America is a much more complicated place than it was in 1787.” In 21st -Century America, it is time for voters to reject Cong. Garrett and his colleagues.
Mitt’s “Binders Full of Women” Meets Senator Joni Ernst’s “Breadbags on My Feet” —January 21, 2015
In 2012, the GOP tried to brand “outsider” Mitt Romney as a successful businessman who could turn the economy around. Instead, outsourcer Mitt Romney’s campaign drowned itself in a series of unbelievable gaffes, “Corporations are people,” “I’m unemployed,” and “47% who won’t vote for us and are takers.” In a debate with President Obama, Romney spoke of how he asked women’s groups after he was elected Gov. of Mass. to bring him “binders full of women” he could appoint. The “binders” phrase burnt up the Twitter universe, but not in Romney’s favor.
Fast-forward to 1/20/2015. President Obama gave an inspiring State of the Union address. He laid out a middle class agenda and showed how America had economically recovered from the W years. The GOP called upon “up and comer,” newly- elected Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. Ernst, a fan of ideologue Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, managed to defeat Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley by 8.5% in the 11/2014 midterm. She took retiring progressive Democrat Tom Harkin’s seat. Braley threw away his chances by not acting “Iowa nice,” especially when he belittled farmers. Even though most Iowans disagreed with Ernst’s extremist views, they voted for her. Ernst marketed herself as a “mother, farmer, and soldier.” Hog castrator Ernst looked like “one of us real Iowans,” not an elitist.
In her State of the Union Response, Ernst spouted the usual nonsensical GOP talking points about repealing Obamacare, attacking government spending, and pushing for the “Keystone jobs bill.” She also went after Obama’s “executive overreach,” words that raise “impeachment” fever in the GOP base. She spoke about defending “the right to life,” read, not allowing women to get abortions (NYTimes, 1/20/15). IMHO, Ernst sounded like a robotic high school student speaking very slowly and condescendingly to an audience of third graders. She had a gigantic plastered smile on her face, even when she was discussing serious matters. Obama won Twitter with his ad lib remark to GOPers that he was not running for election again, “I know because I won both of ‘em.” Ernst’s most memorable comment? She stated that “on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them (her shoes) to keep them dry (NY Times, 1/20/15).” Twitter exploded under the hashtag “breadbagsonmyfeet.” Senator Ernst and your “bread bags,” meet Mitt Romney and his “Binders Full of Women.” Toward the end of her 2014 campaign, Ernst stayed away from most media outlets. Now we understand why.
Congressman Tom Price—“Republican Guerilla Warrior” January 19, 2015
From the mid- 1950’s, the GOP mantra proclaimed that “activist” federal judges, especially Supreme Court ones, were ruling against the “will of the people.” These “awful” jurists had to be replaced by Republican-appointed judges who practiced “judicial restraint.” These individuals would “strictly construe” the law, not “make” it. They would defer to Congress, the people’s representatives. This bitter wailing from Southern Dixiecrats, turned Republicans, and most GOPers started when the liberal Warren Supreme Court went against their views on segregation, church-state issues, civil liberties, and criminal procedure. Even the more conservative Burger Court was condemned for “discovering” a constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade. This anti-judiciary GOP view, however, has now been discarded like unfashionable clothing. In a 360 degree “flip-flop,” it is far right conservative GOPers and their special interest fronts, not progressives, who are going to the lower federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. They are arguing that federal judges must overturn Congress’ health care law, congressional and executive environmental rulings, and President Obama’s recent immigration order. Even with both the House and Senate under GOP control, the reactionary Republican agenda faces Democratic Senate filibusters and President Obama’s veto pen (See NY Times, Shear, M.,1/03/15). Federal GOP judges remain the GOP’s last “great” hope.
Many GOPers, including House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, can’t hide their glee over the prospect of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the current term to cut off Obamacare subsidies to 36 states. Such a move in the King v. Burwell case could imperil health care reform for millions of low-income Americans (CNN, Mears, 11/07/14, NY Times, 11/07/14). The conservative plaintiffs in the King case want an “activist” High Court to throw out these federal subsidies based on a “contorted reading” of four words in a single phrase in the 900-page health care reform law (NY Times, 11/07/14). Section 1401 of the health care law says that these subsidies are available on an exchange “established by the State.” The plaintiffs claim there can be no subsidies for anyone living in the 36 states where the federal government established a health exchange after state officials refused. Only 14 states and D.C. have their own state exchanges (CNN, Mears). Most federal judges who have considered this claim have rejected it as running counter to the explicit purpose and structure of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Everyone involved in drafting the law understood as a Senate staffer stated that, “We certainly wanted every individual in every state, regardless of their federal or state exchange status to receive the same subsidies (NY Times, 11/07/14).” The ACA’s Section 1321 provides that when a state defaults in providing exchanges, the Secretary of Health and Human Services “shall establish and operate such Exchange within the State.” Section 1321 implies, without explicitly saying so, that the federal exchange stands in for the missing state one and assumes its functions (Greenhouse, L., NY Times, 11/12/14). The plaintiffs’ argument that “only the state” and not the I.R.S. is authorized to give health care subsidies to more than 5 million people enrolled through federally run exchanges also goes against the 1984 Supreme Court administrative law decision Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Counsel. Chevron is one of the most invoked decisions of all time. In Chevron, the High Court held that when a federal statute is “ambiguous,” as some argue here, the administrative agency’s interpretation receives deference. In the King case, the I.R.S.’ interpretation that tax credits are available without regard to whether the exchange is state or federal, must, therefore, prevail (Greenhouse). The GOP hopes that the Roberts’ Supreme Court rules that only Congress can “fix” the law to allow subsidies to be purchased by federal as well as state exchanges. Based on the comments by GOP congressional and Senate leaders, the Republican-controlled Senate and House will make no such corrections in order to let Obamacare economically collapse. Congressman Tom Price is another member of the GOP clique ecstatic about the Supreme Court possibly cutting off federal Obamacare subsidies. At a 1/12/2015 conservative policy summit hosted by the Heritage Foundation, he called the King subsidy case a “great opportunity” for the GOP to “unravel Obamacare pretty damn quickly. That’s a good thing (Kos, McCarter, 1/13/15).” Who’s Cong. Price?
Sixth-term GOP Congressman Tom Price (60) represents Georgia’s 6th Congressional District (CD). The reconfigured PeachState 6th lies in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. The 6th stretches from the Atlanta city limits to the Appalachian foothills. The 6th CD consists of chunks of DeKalb, Cobb, and FultonCounties. This district contains the cities of Roswell, Alpharetta, and part of Sandy Springs. In the 1950’s, 100,000 people lived here. Today, over 1 million reside in this well developed area of office parks, malls, and established suburbs. Major corporate offices are part of the 6th.. Home Depot is based in Sandy Springs. ADP has two offices in Alpharetta. Kimberly-Clark has a corporate office in Roswell, and GE Energy Management has its headquarters in the 6th’s southern end (CQ & Barone 14 Almanacs). Hispanics and Asian communities have experienced large growth. The 6th, however, remains predominantly white and is safe-“Red” GOP. It has a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of R+14 and went for Romney in 2012 by 24 points (CQ & Barone 14). Sandy Springs has been an “innovator” in outsourcing basic government to private services. It rents its city hall and has no fleet of vehicles for road repair (Barone, NY Times).
Price grew up in Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan and its medical school. His father and grandfather were both doctors, his wife an anesthesiologist. After doing his orthopedic surgery residency at Atlanta’s EmoryMedicalSchool, Price moved to Roswell. Frustrated with government, he became involved in civic affairs. Price worked closely with the Ga. Medical Association and campaigned in the 1990’s against Pres. Bill Clinton’s health care plan. He became active in GOP politics as a fundraiser and organizer. In 1996, Price won election to the Ga. State Senate. He served there from 1997-2005, becoming its majority leader in 2003. In 2004, Price ran and won the GOP primary for the open 6th CD seat, when GOP Cong. Johnny Isakson successfully ran for the Senate. In this lopsided GOP district, Price ran unopposed in the general election. He has been handily re-elected (CQ & Barone 14, ourcampaigns.com, Early Guide 114th Cong.).
The Washington Post dubbed Congressman Price, “a Republican guerilla warrior.” Price has been compared to former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich and represents much of Gingrich’s suburban Atlanta district. Like Gingrich, Price has made a name for himself with his repeated challenges to Democrats. He is a confrontational GOP ideologue. In 2012, he even waged an unsuccessful race for GOP Conference Chair against Speaker Boehner’s ally, Wash. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (CQ & Barone 14). Price is committed to directing the course of the conservative movement and is a favorite TV talk show guest. Price was among the Tea Party Caucus’ original members and in 2011 tied for most-conservative House member in the National Journal’s 2011 vote rankings (Barone & CQ14). In the 111th Congress (2009-2010), Price chaired the Republican Study Committee (RSC). The 170- member RSC constitutes the most conservative bloc and dominant force within the House GOP caucus (CQ14, National Journal). In the current 114th Congress, Price has voted with his hard right party 95.3% of the time, exceeding Speaker Boehner’s 93.8% rating (opencongress.org). Price had 93% and 94% scores in the 113th and 112th Congresses (Wash. Post, U.S. Cong. Votes Database). During his congressional career, anti-regulation/anti-environmental Koch Industries has given Price at least $26,000 (OpenSecrets.org). Price has pushed to allow offshore exploration of U.S. coastal waters. Koch Industries stated that Cong. Price was a participant at one of their private strategy meetings (Barone 14, NY Times, Zernike, 10/19/10).
Despite Cong. Price’s conflicts with Boehner, his career has not suffered. He is no back bench “bomb-thrower.” GOP leadership “keeps him close.” He has been appointed to the powerhouse Budget, Education & the Workforce, and Ways & Means Committees. Ways & Means deals with health care and taxes. Price was part of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) which recruits, finances, and helps House GOPers get elected. In the present 114th Congress, Price chairs the House Budget Committee. GOP economic “wizard” and Price’s supporter, Paul Ryan, previously held that position (Barone & CQ 14, nlihc.org, Press Releases budget house.gov).
During the 2011 negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, Price told CNN that a default “represented no large risk because debt holders would be paid.” This assertion was labeled “False” by PolitiFact (Barone 14). Price called extending unemployment benefits “a moral hazard.” Price is against tax increases, co-sponsored a bill to eliminate the IRS, and wants to replace income taxes with a regressive national sales tax. Contrary to recent economic growth and job statistics, Price believes that you “Can’t have the current tax code and expect that the economy is going to boom (CQ & Barone 14).” Price unsuccessfully tried to eliminate all money for the National Labor Relations Board (CQ 14).
Price is socially conservative and unbending on “matters of principle (CQ14).” Price opposes abortion. He has a 100% National Right to LifeCenter rating, but a zero one from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America (votesmart.org, the hill.com). Dr. Price was the only member of the Education Committee to vote against expanding the definition of the word “disabled.” He argued that “if everyone is disabled, then nobody is actually disabled (CQ14).” Price has invested much of his state and federal legislative career in attacking Democratic health care reform. In the 112th Congress, Price offered a top-to-bottom overhaul of the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare). His conservative “alternative” would allow people to opt out of government health plans and shop for private insurance with the help of tax credits. His other proposals included limiting medical malpractice suits and legislation to exclude pathologists from Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments. All these “alternatives” are standard GOP drivel. They would gut health care reform and not help purchasers facing giant insurance companies. After Obama’s 2012 re-election, Speaker Boehner suggested abandoning efforts to repeal Obamacare. Price opposed that tactic. The GOP has followed Price. House Republicans have repeatedly voted to repeal Obamacare, although they know Obama will veto all these attempts. Price could care less. Price treated patients for 25 years, who “bristled at the notion that the federal government ought to be involved in health care (CQ & Barone 14).”
In 2012, Chief Justice Roberts cast the 5th vote to uphold Obamacare. In 2015, Chief Justice Roberts, will, hopefully, provide the 5th Supreme Court vote in ruling that health care subsidies apply to both federal as well as state-run exchanges. Roberts, who prides himself on polishing the Supreme Court’s historical image, should not behave like a rubber stamp for GOPers Price, Boehner, McConnell and Company. Price, of course, can keep getting re-elected easily in the “sunburnt-Red” Ga. 6th. In order to make Price’s reactionary views irrelevant, Democrats must come out in droves in 2016. They must then take back the House, recapture the Senate, and keep the Oval Office.
Congressman Mac Thornberry—He’s Part of the Texas GOP “Cowboy Gang” Herding the House January 8, 2015
Again, every election counts. You can see that in the “tale of two states,” “Blue” California v. Southern “Red” Texas. When Democrats controlled the House, Californians had the leadership of 5 major committees several times. In the most recent Democratic-controlled 111th Congress (2009-2011), California’s “Team Blue” chaired 5 House panels while San Franciscan Nancy Pelosi held the Speaker’s gavel. In that Congress, the Speaker and her GoldenState committee chairs helped enact President Obama’s economic stimulus, Wall Street regulation, and health care reform, while House GOPers tried to block them. In the incoming 115th Congress, starting in January, 2015, Texas GOPers will chair 6 of the 21 House committees. These 6 Texas GOP committee chairs would be the largest number for a state delegation since at least 1979 (New York Times, 12/25/14, Willis, D.). Texan Mac Thornberry will head the powerhouse Armed Services Committee (NY Times, Willis). He will be a key part of the hard right Texas GOP “Cowboy Gang” herding the House and challenging President Obama on the legislative “D.C. Trail.” Meet Congressman Thornberry.
Eleventh-term Congressman William McClellan “Mac” Thornberry (56) represents Texas’ 13th Congressional District (CD). The Lone Star 13th contains the Texas Panhandle and the Red RiverValley. The 13th CD spans all or part of 41 counties, borders New Mexico and Oklahoma, and stops just short of Dallas. Amarillo and Wichita Falls are the district’s major cities. Agriculture, the military, and manufacturing are economic pillars. Amarillo was part of the historic Western Trail for cattle drivers/cowboys. Today, more than 3 million animals move through Amarillo’s feedlots to livestock auctions and meat processing plants, including Tyson Foods. The 13th produces cotton, wheat, and milo, a variety of sorghum. Outside Amarillo, the federal government has the world’s largest helium operation. The nearby Pantex Plant assembles and disassembles part of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. Boeing produces portions of the V-22 Osprey and other military helicopters. The 13th includes Sheppard Air Force base, outside Wichita Falls. The 13th has severe weather and is nicknamed “Tornado Alley.” Summers are sticky hot and winters bring in strong north winds from Canada. Amarillo is windier than Chicago. The 13th’s water supply is decreasing (Barone 14 & CQ 14 Political Almanacs).
More than half the 13th’s counties are home to fewer than 10,000 people. The population has been stagnant or in decline for 30 years. Settled by Confederate veterans, the 13th’s Red RiverValley was conservative Southern Democratic. The Panhandle’s High Plains leaned Republican. Because of the Democratic passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Republican social conservatism, Red River Dixiecrats are now as GOP as the High Plains’ residents. Although Hispanics constitute 24% of this district, the 13th is one of the nation’s “reddest,” with a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of +32. In 2012, the 13th gave Romney 80% of its votes, his highest percentage in GOP Texas (Barone & CQ 14).
Clarendon, Texas native Mac Thornberry has GOP politics encoded in his DNA. His great- great-grandfather, Amos Thornberry, a staunch Republican, moved to ClayCounty, east of Wichita Falls, in the 1880’s. After Amos’ 1925 death, his son bought the cattle ranch that Mac, his father, and brothers presently run. Mac traces his conservatism to having “someone in the federal government telling us what to do on a farm seven miles down a dirt road outside a town of 2,000 people.” Mac still owns one-third of the Thornberry Brothers Cattle Partnership. He is a big foe of the estate tax, like many well off 13th CD farmers and ranchers (CQ & Barone 14). Thornberry spent most of his time in D.C. A 1980 Texas Tech graduate, Thornberry received his law degree from the University of Texas in 1983. From 1983-1988, he was legislative counsel and chief of staff for two Texas Republican Congressmen. Thornberry was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for legislative affairs in the Reagan administration (1988-1989). From 1989-1994, he practiced law in Amarillo while helping run the family cattle ranch. In 1994, he challenged the Democratic Congressman in his district. Thornberry attacked him for voting for Bill Clinton’s budget and tax legislation. Thornberry won by10 points and has racked up overwhelming re-election margins ever since (Barone & CQ 14).
From 2008-2012, Congressman Thornberry voted with his hard right party 98% of the time (CQ14). He received 3% ratings from labor’s AFL-CIO and 2% from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action, ADA. The American Conservative Union, ACU, gave him a 95% ranking (CQ 14). In the most recent 113th Congress, Thornberry voted with the GOP 97% of the time, and 96% in the 112th Congress.
Thornberry’s major mission is to “advance national security.” In 2002, he played a key role in establishing the Department of Homeland Security (CQ & Barone 14). Besides Armed Services, Thornberry sits on the Select Intelligence Committee. Although considered “thoughtful and serious” on defense by both sides of the political aisle, Thornberry has numerous critics on the left and right. He is willing to give national security agencies expansive reach in exercising power, which many individuals, including several GOPers, view as a threat to civil liberties (CQ & Barone 14). Thornberry supported W’s conduct of the Iraq War. In 4/2009, when Obama released memos detailing W’s interrogation of detainees, Thornberry shied away from saying that they had been “tortured.” Thornberry stated on MSNBC that “people are too free with the use of that word.” He added, “Read these memos, because you will get a real feel for the carefully controlled, doctor-supervised circumstances under which these things were used (CQ 14).” After Senator Dianne Feinstein’s 12/09/2014 release of the Senate report on extensive CIA torture of detainees, Thornberry called it, “one-sided and partisan, reckless and irresponsible.” He attacked the Senate report as a “waste of $40 million that put Americans around the globe at a greater risk.” He disputed the Senate findings that such torture did not get useful information or save American lives (Ingle, J., Scripps Media, 12/11/14). Thornberry criticized Pres. Obama’s 2010 Senate-ratified arms control treaty with the Russians because it barred use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations (nationaljouranl.com/almanac). He attacked President Obama for drawing down U.S. troops from Afghanistan too quickly (the hill.com/policy/defense). And although he said it with “more class and decorum” than many other GOPers, Thornberry wrongly suggested that China is growing its defense budget at a greater rate than the U.S. He is “concerned” that it is “about to surpass us as the pre-eminent military power.” As recently as 2012, the U.S. defense budget was $739 billion. China’s was less than $90 billion (World Almanac Book of Facts). Defense hawk Thornberry wants the Pentagon to “do more with less,” cutting pensions and health care for veterans (defensennewstv.com). Thornberry voted with the Republican leadership to pass the recent spending bill. He emphasized that national security would be “protected,” especially funding for the 13th CD’s Sheppard Air Force Base, the Bell Helicopter’s V-22, and nuclear work at Pantex (Thornberry Press Release, 12/12/14, clerkhousegov, HR83).
Although Thornberry does not speak like a conspiracy “bomb thrower,” he is clearly in the hard right GOP social and economic set. He is for adopting a regressive national sales tax (Barone 14). He is anti-choice. The National Right to Life Committee has given Thornberry a 100% score (votesmart.org/candidate/evaluations). Thornberry is hostile to Obamacare, calling it a “train wreck.” He wants to defund it (Gillispie, G., “High Plains Observer,” 12/28/14). He has repeatedly voted to repeal this legislation that has insured millions of Americans, and will do so “every time he gets the chance.” He believes that “there is no law that will have more influence over our lives than Obamacare (Press Releases, thornberryhousegov/news).” He voted to delay major portions of Obamacare including employer and individual mandates (Press Releases, thornberryhousegov/news). In 1/2011, Thornberry introduced a bill to help states set up special health care courts staffed by judges with health policy expertise. The judges would serve as an alternative to juries that GOPers say are inclined to award unnecessarily large damage amounts in malpractice cases (Barone 14). Translation: judges with insurance company backgrounds opposing the will of the people.
Thornberry does not believe that global warming is science. He has declared that whether man is causing any change in the earth’s temperature “is hotly contested.” Thornberry stated that although many scientists have “come down on the side that man is causing the warming, an interesting question is whether it is science or politics that is leading to that conclusion.” Thornberry argues that “rushing through a political agenda (on global warming) will lead to the wrong decisions (thornberryhousegov).” Right wing oil and gas giant Koch Industries likes Thornberry’s views, and has given him at least $7,000 over the course of his campaigns (opensecretsorg). Cong. Thornberry is a proud member of the “GHP,” G rand H ypocrite P arty.” “Tornado Alley” Thornberry was one of 67 House GOPers voting against disaster aid for Eastern Hurricane Sandy victims. However, he blasted the denial of a disaster declaration amid Texas wildfires. Thornberry also had no problem voting for relief to Southern victims of Hurricane Katrina (NY Daily News, 1/05/13, Think Progress).
Thornberry opposes President Obama’s perfectly legal executive order barring deportation for millions of illegal immigrants. He found it “deeply disturbing that the President did not enforce the law of the land,” and was acting in an “arrogant, go-it-alone attitude” that “undermines the rule of law.” Thornberry said Obama “consistently shows utter disregard for the rule and enforcement of law.” Thornberry noted that “Congress is looking at a variety of options to limit the damage done by this announcement and to reverse it.” Some GOPers have already mentioned impeaching Obama. Thornberry has not directly used that “I”- word. However, his talk of “Obama’s undermining the rule of law and not enforcing the law of the land,” stirs up impeachment fervor in the GOP base. On 12/19/1998, Thornberry voted to impeach Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair (Press Release 11/21/14, thornberryhousegov/issues, H RES 611, clerkhousegov).
In this “Blood Red” GOP district, Thornberry can keep getting re-elected. However, too many Democrats ignore or don’t understand the importance of midterm elections. They stayed home in 2010 and 2014, giving us this House GOP majority. Mac Thornberry and Friends can now dictate their reactionary agenda. In 2016, Democrats must come out in droves to keep the White House, take back the Senate, and recapture the House. All elections matter.
GOP Senate Environment Chairman James Inhofe—King of the Global Warming Hoax Gang December 14, 2014
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Every election counts and turnout trumps all. When Democrats don’t vote, we lose. After the 11/04/2014 midterm, GOP House Speaker John Boehner padded his 17-seat margin with probably 13 more seats. Boehner will have the largest margin any GOP Speaker had since 1929 (NY Times, Hulse & Peters, 11/30/2014). GOPers also took back the Senate. They won 9 seats, 3 more than the 6 they needed. In his last two years, President Obama will face two congressional houses hostile to any progressive legislation. In a recent CNN/ORC poll, 50% said GOP control of the House and Senate “will be bad for the country,” v. 44% who stated it “will be good.” Just 16% saw the 2014 election results as a mandate for GOP policies. This same poll found that 52% believed there would be more gridlock with a GOP Congress, only 9% stating there would be less (“The Hill,” Sullivan, 12/01/14). Poll respondents, where were you on 11/04/2014, Election Day? Election Day was the only poll that mattered, and 2/3 of the public were no- shows.
President Obama will, therefore, need to use his veto pen to stop radical GOP ideas. As he did with immigration, he will have to issue many executive orders and regulations that don’t require congressional approval, especially in the environmental area. He has already pushed for more EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations to stem global warming. Using the 1970 Clean Air Act signed by Republican Pres. Richard Nixon, Obama recently issued a series of landmark regulations on air pollution designed to limit soot, smog, mercury, and planet-warming carbon dioxide. If these EPA regulations survive litigation, Obama could leave office with the most far-reaching environmental legacy of any White House occupant, despite no single major environmental law passing Congress during his two terms (NY Times, Davenport C., 11/26/14).
GOP reaction? Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), vowed to put forth legislation blocking or delaying Obama’s regulations. McConnell won re-election by yelling about Obama’s “war on coal.” And then, there is incoming Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK). Inhofe will head this committee starting in 1/2015. He will replace environmentalist Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) Unlike Boxer, a strong proponent of regulation to combat climate change, Inhofe is the king of global warming deniers. When climate change is involved, he “doesn’t give a damn (Schor & Burns, “Politico,” 11/10/14).” Meet Senator Inhofe.
GOP Senator James Inhofe (80), re-elected to a 5th term, is Oklahoma’s senior Senator. Inhofe (IN-hauff) grew up in Tulsa where his parents were in the insurance industry. At 15, Inhofe worked as a door-to-door insurance salesman. After Army service, Inhofe went into the insurance business and later real estate development. Inhofe became active in GOP politics because he was frustrated with an “over-regulated society.” He served in the Oklahoma state legislature for 10 years. In the Oklahoma legislature, Inhofe worked to promote a federal balanced budget constitutional amendment (CQ 14 & Barone 14 Political Almanacs). In 1974, he ran for Gov. and lost to Dem. David Boren. In 1976, Inhofe lost a race for Congress. Inhofe was mayor of Tulsa from 1978-1984. Defeated in 1984, Inhofe won the retiring Democratic Congressman’s seat in the Tulsa 1st Cong. District in 1986. In 1994, then conservative Dem. Senator David Boren retired with two years left in his term. Inhofe ran and defeated the Dem. nominee in that anti-Clinton year. In 1996, Inhofe easily won re-election to his own full term, clobbering David Boren’s cousin by 17 points. Inhofe has never had any tough Sen. re-election contests. In his 2014 race, he won by 39 points (Barone & CQ 14, Early Guide to 114th Cong., CQ Roll Call).
In the House, Inhofe had a conservative record. In 1987, he voted against Pres. Reagan’s budget because it had tax increases but no hikes in defense spending (james +inhofe&hl=en, news.google.com). His Senate record is no surprise. Inhofe is one of the most partisan senators, if not the most partisan. He’s a die-hard conservative who is adamantly opposed to most environmental federal regulation, and is willing to indulge in conspiracy theories about his opponents’ motives (CQ 14). From 2003-2012, he voted with his hard right party over 96% of the time (CQ14). In the current 113th Congress, Inhofe has a 91% score (Wash. Post, U.S. Congress Votes Database). Inhofe voted to pass the harmful balanced budget amendment and cast a “Nay” for raising the debt ceiling limit. Fortunately, the budget amendment failed and the debt ceiling was raised. Failure to have raised the debt ceiling would have led to a U.S. and international economic tailspin (Barone 14). When Inhofe makes up his mind, he often refuses to listen to opposing viewpoints. In 6/2009, he refused to even meet with Obama Supreme Court nominee, later Justice Sonia Sotomayor, because he had decided to oppose her (Barone 14). Inhofe is a charter member of the “GHP,”G rand H ypocrite P arty. He consistently votes against disaster relief, including for Eastern State Hurricane Sandy victims. However, in tornado-stricken Oklahoma, he is always arguing for federal aid. He called Oklahoma tornado relief and Sandy aid “totally different.” He claimed that “Everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy (Sandy) that took place. That won’t happen in Oklahoma (newyork.newsday.com, washingtonpost.com/blogs).”
Inhofe presently serves as the ranking or senior minority member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In this post, Inhofe used conspiracy theories to tar opponents (See CQ14). When former GOP Senator Chuck Hagel was nominated for Secretary of Defense, Inhofe, with no proof, called Hagel “cozy” with Iran. Inhofe did not discourage harsher criticisms from other GOPers. Inhofe stated that the White House was engaged in a “cover up” over the 2012 Benghazi, Libya terrorist attack. In 5/2013, Inhofe not-so- subtly hinted “that people may be starting to use the ‘I’ word (impeachment) before too long (politifact.com, 10/30/14, Carroll & Contorno).” Inhofe told a talk show host that the “Benghazi cover up was the most egregious one in American history.” Inhofe stated that Benghazi would “endure and impeachment could come after the 2014 elections, when Republicans hope to retake control of the Senate (“The Hill,” Herb, 5/10/13).”Seven investigations, including some done by GOP congressional committees, have found this nonsensical charge baseless. Even before Obama issued his perfectly legal executive order halting deportations for illegal immigrants, Inhofe stated this action would “be breaking the law.” Inhofe added that Obama “does break the law, and he does it all the time (Cox, “The Hill,” 11/20/14).” IMHO, Inhofe would not hesitate to convict Obama on any impeachment charges the GOP House might conjure up. In 1999, Sen. Inhofe voted to convict Bill Clinton of the two House impeachment charges brought over the Monica Lewinsky affair (CQ Almanac 1999). Inhofe has accused Obama of a “misguided search for a peace dividend that I don’t believe exists.” Inhofe opposed the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and is wary of a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan (CQ 14).
When Congress discusses environmental issues, Inhofe is at his “conspiracy theory/off the wall” best. Inhofe did a previous stint as Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (2003-2007). He will surely replay his “golden wacko environmental oldies,” when he retakes that post. Inhofe does not believe that human activities cause climate change, despite the consensus of scientific opinion that Earth’s climate is being affected by humans. He has repeatedly and bluntly called global warming a “hoax (Goldenberg, S. 5/05/09, “The Guardian,” Oreskes, N., “Science,” 12/03/04, Mooney, C., “The Republican War on Science,” 2006).” Inhofe often states that human-influenced climate change is a “hoax and impossible because God’s still up there and it is outrageous and arrogant for people to believe human beings are able to change what He is doing in the climate (rightwing watch.org, 3/8/12).” Inhofe once called global warming the “second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after separation of church and state (Newton-Small, J., 1/21/05, Bloomberg News).” Inhofe, obviously, does not understand the Constitution’s First Amendment concerning religious freedom. Inhofe once compared the EPA to the “Gestapo,” and EPA Clinton head Carol Browner to “Tokyo Rose (Mooney, C., “American Prospect,” 4/13/14, Tulsa World, 11/18/97).” In 2003, Inhofe wrote a paper saying “rising temperatures may have a beneficial effect.” He compared a UN Panel on Climate Change to a “Soviet-style trial (“Politico”, Schor &Burns, 11/10/04).” In 2005, Chairman Inhofe went after opponents of a W-backed bill to gut the Clean Air Act. He asked two groups testifying against it to hand over their financial statements, membership lists, and tax returns (Cox News, 2/18/05). And Sen. Inhofe belongs to a party that brays ceaselessly about IRS harassment.
When environmental reform is at stake, nothing is too crazy for Inhofe. In 2009, Inhofe found a new scapegoat in his environmental wars, “Funny Girl.” In 12/2009, reporter David Corn interviewed Inhofe at a UN climate gathering in Copenhagen, where the participants hoped to hammer out an accord to reduce harmful emissions. Corn asked Inhofe if all these thousands of intelligent scientists, experts, and leaders “had been fooled about climate change being serious.”
Inhofe : “Yes.”
Corn: “Were these people victims of a ‘well-orchestrated hoax?’”
Inhofe : “Yes.”
Corn: “Who engineered such a scam?”
Inhofe : “Hollywood liberals and extreme environmentalists to advance their radical agenda.”
Corn: “Who in Hollywood was doing this?”
Inhofe: “The whole liberal crowd.”
Corn: “But who?”
Inhofe: “Barbra Streisand.”
Corn: “A singer and actor perpetuating the grandest con of the past 100 years?”
Inhofe, with a straight face: “That’s right, and others (Corn, D. “Mother Jones,” 12/02/14).”
In his 2012 book Inhofe wrote about his obsession, “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. Inhofe then lumped Streisand with DiCaprio, Travolta, Al Gore, MoveOn.org, and “the Hollywood elites.” He labeled them global warming “charlatans and hoaxers (Corn).” Such talk is normally heard in NY’s Times Square or Los Angeles’ Pershing Square, not from a Senate committee chairman. Koch Industries, however, remains pleased with Inhofe’s beliefs and attempts to block all pollution and emission standards. From 1989 to 2014, Koch gave Inhofe $101,150. Other big oil companies are Inhofe supporters. Environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called Inhofe “big oil’s top call girl (Barone 14, opensecrets.org).”
The liberal opposition group AmericanBridge and others are planning to monitor every Inhofe utterance on climate change. They will use his chairmanship to attack other GOPers in Campaign 2016. In Campaign 2014, few GOPers spoke like Inhofe. They just said “they weren’t scientists,” and claimed to keep an “open mind.” Pro-environmental voters were not alarmed and did not heavily vote. Inhofe can keep on getting re-elected in “Bloody Red” Oklahoma. However, Democratic no-shows in Campaign 2014 have put him and his reactionary oil and gas allies in charge. In 2016, Democrats must come out in droves to keep the White House, take back the Senate, and recapture the House. The GOP must be told that it has no mandate to gut the environment.
Post- 2014 Mid-Term Election President Obama—He’s Relevant November 24, 2014
April 18, 1995. At a press conference, President Bill Clinton was asked whether he worried about “making sure your voice will be heard” over the coverage given to GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Five months earlier, Gingrich had taken the House from the Democrats, which pundits saw as a rebuke to Clinton’s policies. Clinton replied, “The president is relevant here. The Constitution gives me relevance. The power of our ideas gives me relevance.” Much of the media sneered at Clinton’s comments, calling them the “lowest point of his presidency.” On the following day, 4/19/95, domestic anti-government terrorists bombed the MurrahFederalBuilding in Oklahoma City. Clinton’s strong response demolished the relevancy issue and put him on track to an easy 1996 re-election (Fournier, National Journal, 11/15/14).
Fast-forward 18 years. Second-term President Barack Obama had just suffered an 11/04/2014 midterm drubbing. The GOP took over the Senate, gaining 8 seats (and probably 9 after the Louisiana December run off where Mary Landrieu faces stiff odds). In the GOP-controlled House, Tea Party “Team Red,” padded their 17 point 2010 margin with about a dozen seats. Republicans won 31 governorships to the Democrats’ present 17 (CNN Politics, 11/15/14). Turnout was abysmal. Just 36.3% cast ballots, the second worst midterm in modern times. Only the WWII 1942 midterm had a lower participation rate, 33.9%. Two-thirds of the country did not vote. Democratic turn out throughout the country was awful (NY Times, 11/11/14). In his post-midterm news conference Obama did not whine about being “relevant.” He came out swinging, acting as a “can do” President. He felt liberated from many of the defeated Democrats who tried to run away from him. These Democrats failed to trumpet Obama’s employment, health care, and other numerous accomplishments. After the election, “weakened” Obama negotiated a climate deal with China to cut greenhouse gas pollution. Obama stated he would soon announce a U.S. contribution of $3 billion to an international fund to help poor countries address climate change. He pushed for more Environmental Protection Agency regulations to stem global warming. He is rightly bypassing the GOP Congress, daring them to attack environmental reform, popular with the public (NY Times, Davenport, 11/12/14, Blow, 11/16/14). Ignoring GOP howls favoring cable companies, Obama came out in support of net neutrality for the first time, a position which his base and most voters back. Obama made it clear he was listening to “all of the people,” including the disillusioned 2/3 non-voters. He noted he was twice re-elected by all the people and he has a mandate to carry out his policies. These include raising the federal minimum wage, backed by 70% of Americans. “Red” Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota voters passed state minimum wage increases while electing GOP Senators in 2014 (Huffington Post, Jamieson, 11/05/14). Draconian anti-abortion “personhood” measures, opposed by Obama, went down to defeat. Had pro-“personhood” GOP Colorado Cong. Cory Gardner not conveniently “flipped” on that issue, he would not have beaten Democratic Senator Mark Udall. Obama understands that nothing he does will ever be accepted by an obstructionist GOP. He will finish his last two years continuing to help the majority of the American people, not the top 1% ers (See Daily Kos,Willes, 11/16/14).
And, then, there’s immigration. In an 11/20/2014 address to the nation, President Obama offered reprieves from deportation to at least 5 million illegal immigrants. In this executive order, not requiring a congressional vote, Obama invited parents of either U.S. citizens or of long-term permanent residents to apply for a work permit and a three-year protection from deportation. In order to qualify, applicants will have to prove they have been in this country for at least five years, pass background checks, and pay back taxes. Obama will remove the upper age limit of 30 years from his previous executive order, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or “Dreamers,” for people who arrived as children. However, those offered a reprieve from deportation will not be offered a path to citizenship or be eligible for health care programs. Obama repeated that this executive order, despite what his critics say, is not “amnesty,” but an attempt to address a broken system. He called immigration reform the “morally right thing to do.” He quoted Scripture, Exodus 22:20 and 23:9, about not wronging or oppressing strangers for “we were once strangers.” Immigration officers will be instructed to emphasize deportation of felons and gang members, not families. Obama told the potentially millions affected by this order that they can “come out of the shadows.” Families will not live in fear of being torn apart (CNN Politics, Acosta&Collison, LA Times, Mascaro, Bennett, & Parsons, 11/20/14, Shear, NY Times, 11/20/14). Obama correctly emphasized that the actions he’s taking are “not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican and Democratic president for the past half century.” These included Reagan stopping deportations of Nicaraguans, H.W. Bush halting the deportation of Chinese and Kuwaitis, and W’s limiting the deportation of Salvadorans (LA Times, Chemerinsky & Keller, 11/20/14). Obama added, “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill (Shear, NY Times).” Obama noted that a bipartisan group of Senators had previously passed an immigration reform bill that the House has refused to vote upon. The Senate bill establishes a path for citizenship for roughly 11 million people here illegally. In 11/2014 exit polls, nearly 6 out of 10 voters in a largely white, GOP-leaning electorate, supported this legislation (LA Times, Barabak, 11/23/14). On 11/21/2014, Obama told a Las Vegas high school that it has now been 512 days, a year and a half, during which the House has refused to take a “yes” or “no” vote on this bill (NY Times, Shear & Parker, 11/21/14). Executive orders are not permanent, and do not bind future presidents (Mascaro, LA Times). However, should millions take advantage of this order, future presidents might be reluctant to repeal this policy and antagonize Hispanics and other immigrant groups.
GOP reaction? Before and after Obama announced his executive order, Republicans were jumping off the thermonuclear political scale. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell compared such an executive order to “waving a red flag in front of a bull (LA Times, Mascaro & Memoli, 11/19/14).” (Dog whistle #1 to the GOP’s anti-immigrant base— Mexican immigrants’ love of bull fights.) GOP Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn spoke of not only a “political firestorm” but “acts of civil disobedience and even violence” to such an executive immigration order (Page, USA Today, 11/20/14). GOP House Speaker John Boehner stated Obama was acting like “a king or an emperor (Shear, NY Times, 11/20/14).” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), accused Obama of being like a monarch and of having a “temper tantrum.” Loud anti-immigrant Iowa Cong. Steve King is up in arms. Retiring Minn. Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party Caucus founder who intends to stay politically active, stated on 11/19/2014 that Obama’s executive order was an attempt to “increase the number of illiterate Democrat voters (Calmes, NY Times, 11/20/14).” (Dog whistle #2—Hispanics are illiterates). Some apoplectic GOPers are thinking of shutting down the government. Others want to block the Senate confirmation of Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department, top African American Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. Another group wants to defund agencies, including Homeland Security that will deal with this program. FYI, Republican firebrands, the major portion of this program is dependent on application fees, not congressional appropriations (Mascaro, Bennett, & Parsons, LA Times). Many GOPers, don’t seem to know or care about this reality. Other Republicans want to add Obama’s executive immigration order to the ridiculous lawsuit Speaker Boehner filed on 11/21/2014 against the President over health care reform (CNN Politics, Walsh & Bash, Chemerinsky & Keller).
Finally, there is more than just a bit of talk about the “I”- word, “impeachment.” The Federalist Society, the influential conservative legal group Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia helped develop, found that Obama had wide prosecutorial discretion to defer deportation via an executive order (Huffington Post, Stein, 11/1914). Many GOP Congressmen don’t seem to know or care. Cong. Steve King (R-Ia.) has not ruled out impeachment. He is not alone. Cong. Matt Salmon circulated a letter with 50 other signers to withhold funds over this executive order, setting up a possible government shut down. Salmon also agreed with Fox conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer that Obama’s planned immigration action would constitute an “impeachable offense (Huffington Post, Bobic, 11/14/14).”
Kudos, Mr. President for standing up to these obstructionist political bullies! They bellyache non-stop about Obama’s actions on health care reform, immigration, the budget, and everything else “poisoning the well (See Daily Kos, Clawson, 11/20/14, AmericanBridge).” What well of bipartisan co-operation? A well that never existed. On 1/18/2009 two days before Obama’s first inauguration, GOP stalwarts including Cong. Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, (now House Majority Leader), and Sen. Tom Coburn, among others, met and agreed to solidly oppose everything Obama did. They wanted to make him fail so the GOP could recapture Congress, and, hopefully, the White House. One person they heard egging them on was the fellow who initiated the politics of personal destruction and unyielding opposition to achieve power, former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich (Draper, “Do Not Ask What What Good We Do”). All the socializing and dinners with Obama mean nothing to this clique. Obama never “poisoned the political well.” The GOP alone laced it with huge concentrations of legislative cyanide. In my next blog post, I will discuss Congressman Matt “Impeachment” Salmon. Stay tuned.
Congressman Matt Salmon—The Leader of the GOP’s “Impeach Obama” Cavalry Charge November 24, 2014
The GOP makes a horrible governing party, saying “No,” to everyone and everything but the top 1%ers. However, it remains one superb marketing outfit. In the GOP’s book, marketing trumps all. Republicans examined previous failed campaigns they ran. They decided to change their tactics, while concealing their true views. If GOP candidates go down babbling about abortion and rape (Todd Akin/Richard Murdock), make sure never to discuss these issues in subsequent campaigns. Get women to be candidates who project, “mom, soldier, and farmer” images even if they vote like reactionary Rep. Michele Bachmann. Exhibit A—Iowa Senator-elect Joni Ernst. Exhibit B-- recruit happy face/ non-threatening looking Colorado Cong. Cory Gardner to challenge Dem. freshman Senator Mark Udall. Behind his affable mask, Gardner holds a voting record that is one of the most reactionary in Congress. Have Gardner, a staunch advocate of the radical anti-abortion personhood amendment in Congress and in Colorado, say he has “evolved” and changed his personhood view (LOL!). Gardner becomes one big proponent of handing out birth control pills that a personhood amendment might hurt. When serious-looking Udall repeatedly attacks Gardner for not really changing his personhood stance, get the Denver Post and other outlets to call Udall a “Mark-one-note” who only panders to women and has no agenda. Vulgarly label Udall, with media help, “Mark Uterus.” Fewer Colorado women become alarmed. They do not show up at the polls, and Gardner wins. Above all, keep any talk of impeaching Obama out of the public before the 2014 midterms. When former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich spoke of impeaching Bill Clinton over Monica Lewinsky and Special Prosecutor Ken Starr issued his prurient report prior to the Nov.1998 midterm elections, the GOP lost House seats. After you win the Senate and pad about a dozen seats to your House margin in Campaign 2014, talk of government shut downs can begin. Speaker Boehner, in debt to the Tea Party loonies, then sues Obama over health care. Impeachment threats surface. Many of the zany wing nuts break out of their political attics where the GOP “establishment” had locked them during the 2014 midterms. The wackadoodles, once again, are running the “Red Team” congressional asylum.
As noted in my previous blog post, Republican Congressman Matt Salmon is ready to lead the GOP’s “Impeach Obama” cavalry charge. Rep. Salmon, recall, circulated a letter to 50 other signers to withhold funds over an Obama executive immigration order, setting up a possible government shut down. Even before Obama issued his executive order, Salmon agreed with Fox News conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer that Obama’s planned immigration action would constitute an “impeachable offense (Hufington Post, Bobic, 11/14/14).” After Obama’s 11/20/2014 executive order immigration speech to the nation, Salmon was out of the gate wailing endlessly. Salmon attacked Obama for “disregarding the Constitution and the will of the American people.” Salmon called the American public “sick and tired of a President who continues to unilaterally change our laws through executive orders and govern as if he were a monarch.” Salmon went on to declare that “in the coming days, I will continue to work with my colleagues in the House to find any and every avenue provided to stop President Obama from continuing to ignore the will of the American people.” He added, “I, like the President, made an oath to uphold the Constitution. I have every intention to continue to keep that promise (11/20/14 Salmon Press Release).” Translation: Salmon is upholding the Constitution, not President Obama, and in such a situation, the “I”- word, “impeachment” must be on the table. Who is Congressman Matt Salmon?
Congressman Matt Salmon (56) currently represents Arizona’s 5th Congressional District (CD). In 2014, he was re-elected to his fifth term in the House (Early Guide, to 114th Congress, CQ Roll Call). The redistricted Arizona 5th is made up of Phoenix’s EastValley suburbs including Mesa, Chandler, and Gilbert. Chandler is nicknamed, “SiliconDesert.” Intel is the largest employer in the region and maintains its second-biggest facility in Chandler. Mesa was founded by Mormons in 1878 and is the site of an LDS temple. Mesa has grown from 17,000 people in 1950 to 447,000 in 2011. Close to 70% of Mesa’s voters live in the 5th CD, many of them in retirement communities. The Phoenix-MesaGatewayAirport is located in Mesa and houses Frontier and Spirit Airlines. Boeing builds Apache helicopters in Mesa. Gilbert’s population doubled to 208,543 between 2000 and 2010 and surpassed Tempe’s. Gilbert has cancer treatment and research centers, making biomedicine and life science industries major employers. There are some affluent areas in the 5th but the cultural tone is middle class. The Mormon and senior citizens’ presence makes this area blood “Red.” The 5th ‘s Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) stands at R+17. The 5th is the Grand Canyon’s State second most GOP district. In 2012, the 5th gave Romney 64% of its vote (Barone Political 14 and CQ 14 Almanacs).
Salt Lake City, Utah native Matt Salmon settled near Mesa, Ariz., where he graduated high school as student body president. From 1977-1979, he was a Mormon missionary in Taiwan, where he became fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He received a 1981 Bachelor’s from ArizonaState and a 1986 Masters from BrighamYoungUniversity in public administration. In 1990, he won election to the Arizona Senate and became assistant majority leader. He ran for and was first elected to Congress in 1994, as part of the Newt Gingrich wave of “revolutionaries” that captured the House from the Democrats for the first time in 40 years. Salmon signed Gingrich’s “Contract with America.” One of its provisions was congressional term limits. While many of the 1994 GOP Gingrich class did not follow the term limits pledge, Salmon did. He served three terms in the Arizona 1st CD (1995-2001). He had a strong conservative record. In the 106th Congress (1999-2001), he voted with his right wing party 90% of the time (Wash. Post, U.S. Cong. Votes Database, Barone 14 & CQ 14). In 1999, Salmon advocated carving Reagan’s face into Mount Rushmore (BBC News, 3/1/99). Salmon is not afraid to vote for impeachment. In 12/1998, he was one of the GOP Congressmen who voted to impeach Clinton (msnbc, Benen, 9/18/14).
After leaving Congress in 2001, Salmon worked as a lobbyist in telecommunications and as president of COMPTEL, a high tech association. In 2002, he lost the gubernatorial race to Democrat Janet Napolitano, later Homeland Security Secretary. Salmon chaired the Ariz. GOP for several years (Barone & CQ 14). In 2011, Salmon decided to seek his old congressional seat, now the 5th. His view of term limits had “evolved.” He believed term limits were a “flawed concept” unless “applied across the board (weeklystandard.com).” Many people encouraged him to run and Salmon’s wife “tipped the balance.” Salmon wanted to make a “difference in curbing the national debt.” He vehemently opposed Obamacare. In the GOP primary, he was endorsed by the anti-tax Club for Growth, Az. Gov. Jan Brewer, former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush, and anti-immigrant zealot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. After winning the 8/2012 primary, the general election in this “lobster Red” district became a footnote. Salmon won this contest by over 34 points (Barone & CQ 14). In 2012, right wing Koch Industries gave Salmon $5,000. From 2013-2014, Koch bankrolled Salmon with $3,500 (conservativetrasparency.org). In 11/2014, Salmon clobbered his Democratic opponent by 38 points (CQ Roll Call Early New Congress Guide).
Congressman Salmon’s “second act” in the House was similar to his first one. In the current 113th Congress, Salmon voted with his party 92% of the time. Salmon voted against the farm bill act, supported by the majority of his fellow GOPers. Unlike most of his Republican colleagues, he was a “Nay” on the budget and spending agreements. They didn’t go far enough in cuts to stem the deficit (U.S. Cong. Votes Database). Salmon opposed raising the debt limit and any new spending without matching cuts (salmon.house.gov/media-center, 1/23/13). In a 1/2013 “Face the Nation” appearance, Cong. Salmon praised the 1995 Gingrich-led government shut down. He told host Bob Schieffer that it would be a “good idea,” or “about time to” not raise the debt ceiling, unless radical budget cuts were made (See Kos, Mother Mags, 1/08/14).” Get it? Salmon wanted the U.S. government to default, putting the nation and world into a disastrous economic tail spin over his ridiculous economic ideology. Salmon is anti-choice. He opposes the federal funding of abortions and family assistance that includes abortions. He voted to ban abortion after 20 weeks (Cong. Votes Database, Salmon “On the Issues,” “Project Vote Smart”). He opposes gay marriage and voted to bar gay couples from adopting children. In 4/2013, Cong. Salmon stated he would continue to oppose same-sex marriage, even though his son is openly gay (Salmon “On the Issues,” Huffington Post, Wong, 4/09/13, Washington Post, Weiner, R.). Salmon is a Tea Party supporter. He delivered a weekly address to this group, attacking Obama for “misleading” the American people (tppp.com, Burke, 1/12/14). Salmon wants to radically balance the budget within five years, a plan authored by the conservative Republican Study group of which he is a member. He wants a revamp, read, “gutting” of Social Security and Medicare that includes changes in eligibility ages (CQ14).
At the start of the 113th Congress (2013-2014), Salmon initially did not vote to give Republican John Boehner a second term as House Speaker. He later changed his vote to support Boehner. Salmon stated he initially abstained to “send a message” to House leaders that the Tea Party was gaining influence. Why be surprised? Boehner “got off” easily. During his first congressional stint, Cong. Salmon was among the hard-core conservatives who led an unsuccessful 1997 coup against Gingrich (Huffington Post, 2/27/14, Mulero). Salmon maintained a sustained public criticism of Gingrich, who resigned in early 1999 (CQ 14).
GOP “leadership” in both the House and Senate currently claim that they are not going or moving to impeach Obama, (Huffington Post, Harvard, S., 11/21/14). However, never “misunderestimate” the ability of Congressman Salmon, a veteran legislator, to rile up the Tea Party set non-stop over impeachment. GOP “leaders” know that without the Tea Party base trooping out en masse to vote, they would have not recaptured the Senate and added House seats. They are “big time” indebted to Tea Partiers. Salmon has impeachment sympathizers in the House, including Steve King, newly elected N. Carolina Cong. Mark Walker, and Alabama’s Mo Brooks. Brooks floated the idea of “impeachment proceedings and even prison time” for Obama (Harvard, Huffington Post). Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has a similar claque of Senate hard-liners at the ready. The fanatic GOP Tea Party base will “primary out” any Republican Congressman who even “hints” of making a deal on immigration or is deemed “soft” on Obama. Ask former Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who suffered a 2014 primary defeat in his gerrymandered Va. district. Cantor fatally spoke of his “willingness” to consider immigration legislation. GOP talk about Obama “going beyond the law/ acting like a king,” despite his completely legal executive order, gins up Tea Party impeachment fervor and general “do nothing” obstructionism. In 2016, Democrats must come out in droves to keep the Presidency and take back the House and Senate. President Obama delivers on his promises, climate, immigration, and health care. The Democratic base must deliver its support too by voting in EVERY national election, whether presidential or midterm.
What Happens When the Democratic Base Doesn’t Vote?— Welcome GOP Gridlock Champ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, More “Red” Governors, and Extra-Zany GOP Congressmen November 7, 2014
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” is a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein. You don’t have to be a Nobel Laureate to understand the definition of political insanity as practiced by Democratic voters in midterm elections. In 1994, Democrats stayed home whining about Bill Clinton’s failure to pass health care reform and to immediately right the economy. The result? Angry GOP voters took back the U.S. House and Senate. House Speaker Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Dole then shut down the government for failing to repeal Medicare. It took the Democrats 12 years to recapture both congressional chambers and the majority of governorships. In 2008, Democratic voters came out in droves to elect Obama and keep the House and Senate “Blue.” In the 2010 midterm, just two years later, the party base, women, young voters, blacks, and Hispanics stayed home. They were upset with all the legislative “sausage making” and GOP bickering involved in passing health care, Wall Street reform, and the economic stimulus package. They blamed Obama for not getting us out at once from a humungous GOP-caused recession. The result? The GOP and its Tea Party extremists took back the House in an electoral tsunami. They made gains in the Senate but failed to recapture that body because of several outright wackadoodle anti-feminists and a candidate into the occult (“I am not a witch,” Christine O’ Donnell). With the Democratic base coming out in force in 2012, Obama won re-election and the Democrats gained Senate seats, once more because of GOP anti-women cracks about rape and abortion (Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock).
In Campaign 2014, despite a herculean effort by Democrats to increase turnout in states with hot Senatorial races, the Democratic base fell off the political radar. The result? The GOP won at least 7 seats, more than the 6 needed to capture control. Obstructionist gridlock king Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will become Senate Majority Leader. GOPers increased the number of seats they have in the House, giving them the largest “Red” majority since at least 1946 (Hook, Wall Street Journal, 11/06/14). Republicans surprisingly continued to hold a majority of the governorships, even increasing their margin. They won more than 68 state legislative chambers, the largest number since 1920 (Hook, J. Wall Street Journal 11/06/14). In state legislatures, not as gridlocked as Congress, many laws get passed. In those houses, Republicans continue to enact radical budget cuts, voting rights restrictions, and draconian abortion laws. These chambers, with GOP governors, block Medicaid expansion under Obamacare for many people. Let’s look at the abysmal results of Campaign 2014 and what Democrats can do.
Again, again, again, I will repeat this till the proverbial “cows come home.” The majority of Democratic voters have to understand that EVERY election counts, midterms as well as presidential. National Public Radio’s 11/05/2014 “All Things Considered” program discussed the grim turn out statistics. In the 2012 presidential election, 130 million Americans voted. In the 2010 Tea Party-dominated midterm election, 91 million voted, about 42% of all eligible voters. Preliminary numbers suggest that only 83 million Americans voted in Campaign 2014. This total amounts to just 36.6 % of the electorate. Get it? Two-thirds of American voters stayed home. NPR added that if the final tally doesn’t raise the turnout to 38.1%, the 2014 midterm would become the record disaster in terms of voter participation. The 38.1% figure is currently the lowest modern midterm turnout and it occurred in 1942, during WWII.
True, Democrats were dealt a bad political Senatorial hand in Campaign 2014. GOPers went into the 2014 midterms favored to make significant gains. The president’s party is on the defensive in most midterm contests. “Team Blue” knew it had to defend 21 Senate seats. Six of them were in conservative states Romney carried in 2012. The GOP also went on offense, expanding its playing field in three swing states which Obama carried in 2012. In those states, Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire, Obama’s ratings had plummeted since his 2012 victories. Democrats faced very challenging races there. In Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire, Joni Ernst, Cory Gardner, and Scott Brown put on happy/ non-threatening faces “pretending” to be moderates. They received tons of positive media and key endorsements. Witness the Denver Post’s ridiculous endorsement of Cory Gardner. Dem. Bruce Braley ultimately threw away the Iowa race by demeaning farmers before a gathering of trial lawyers. Iowa voters then went for Michele Bachmann clone Joni Ernst.
However, Democratic no shows were the main element in defeating Mark Udall, Bruce Braley, and Kay Hagan in Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina respectively. Without these losses, McConnell still would not be Majority Leader. (The race in Alaska between Dem. Mark Begich and GOPer Dan Sullivan has yet to be called, and Dem. Mary Landrieu faces a December run off in Louisiana). The base voters in the modern Democratic coalition consists of what columnist Ronald Brownstein calls the “coalition of the ascendant,” the young, single women, African Americans, and Latinos. Despite strong Get Out the Vote Democratic efforts, the 2014 “coalition of the ascendant,” morphed into the “coalition of the descending or the disappearing.” After the 11/04/2014 vote, the Democratic base posted numbers very similar to 2010, the year of the Democratic “shellacking.” Democrats, in 2010, lost a combined 69 House and Senate seats. Virginia 2014 “Blue” turn out was so poor that Dem. Mark Warner, considered a re-election shoo-in, nearly lost his seat (LA Times, Reston, 11/06/14).
The 18-29 year olds—This group was only 13% of the 2014 electorate, comparable to its 12% 2010 total. In 2012, when Obama won re-election, the 18-29 year olds were nearly 20% of the electorate. The 18-29 voters showed up at even lower rates in key 2014 Senate contests (North Carolina, 12%, Georgia, 10%, Arkansas, 12%, and Louisiana, 12%). Democrats can not win Senate, House, or gubernatorial races with such numbers and they didn’t (NBC News, Ververs, 11/05/14).
Single women— This group was just over 20% of the electorate in 2014 and went Democratic by 32 points. In 2012, this group was close to 25% and went for Obama over Romney by 36 points. Democrats can not win the Senate, House, and governorships with such decreasing numbers and they didn’t (Ververs, NBC).
African Americans—In 2014, they made up 12% of the national electorate, similar to their 11% showing in 2010. In 2012, when Obama won, blacks were 13%. In southern states like Ga. and N. Carolina, Democrats need high black turnout to offset many racially polarized whites. In N. Carolina, where Kay Hagan lost a 1.7% race to GOPer Thom Tillis, black voters made up 21% of the electorate. In 2012, the figure was 23% (NBC). Democrats can not win with such decreasing numbers and they didn’t (“Politico,” Ververs NBC).
Latinos—Latinos only made up 8% of the 2014 electorate v. 10% in 2012. They chose Obama over Romney by 44%. This time, they picked Democrats by only 28%, almost halving the margin. These results probably hurt Coloradan Mark Udall who lost by 2.9 points (“Politico”). Democrats can not win with such decreasing numbers and they didn’t (Ververs, NBC).
While the young don’t vote during midterm elections, the senior citizens GOP- leaning crowd does. In Campaign 2014, 37% of the voters were over age 60, but only 12% under 30. This 25 point difference is larger than the 16-20 point age gap seen in the last three midterms (NBC News). Democrats can not win with such a huge old-young gap and they didn’t.
Yes, the Democrats won a majority of women voters in the Senate battlegrounds of Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, and N. Carolina. However, it was not enough, because male voters overwhelmingly supported the GOP. According to a Pew Poll, women in general favored Democrats by just 4%, while men went GOP by 16%, similar to 2010. Democrats held on to union households and gays similar to 2010. Democrats won Asians, city dwellers, and Jewish voters. However, again, too few “Blues” showed up. Too many Democrats stay home because of apathy or because their candidate did not vote a pure 100% for their particular issues. The GOP base of white males, evangelical Protestants, Southerners, older residents, and rural dwellers held their noses over Ga. corporate outsourcer David Perdue but voted for him in droves. They were not happy with out -of -touch Kansas GOP Senator Pat Roberts but dutifully flocked to the polls for him. They realize, unlike Democrats, that politics is a pragmatic business. The Democratic or Republican winner backs their party’s agenda 90+% of the time. Democrats, unlike GOPers, erroneously think that they have to “fall in love” with a candidate. Too many Democrats blame Obama for not righting the economy at once. They forgot or didn’t know that conditions are greatly improving, (a 5.9% pre-election unemployment rate, now 5.8%). Voters did not understand that the failure to pass more jobs legislation was caused by GOP obstructionism led by incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Democrats and their candidates stand for health care reform, women’s rights, minimum wage increases, and environmental protection. Republicans, no matter how nicely presented, believe in laissez-faire dog-eat dog economics for the top 1%ers. Again, too many people fail to remember these basic facts.
Democrats, so far, have won one contested race. We will not have Mass. carpetbagger Scott Brown back in the Senate representing New Hampshire. New Hampshire residents defeated Wall Street’s champion and re-elected Dem. Jeanne Shaheen. And GOPers failed to defeat Oregon’s Jeff Merkley with wacky Monica Wehby. Minn.’s Al Franken easily won and so did Michigan’s Gary Peters against Koch-backed Terri Lynn Land. The GOP coached their candidates not to talk about rape or abortion. They made them look wholesome and non-threatening. When they flipped flopped on abortion, like Cory Gardner, too many voters and too many members of the media gave them a free pass. In 2016, Democrats must get stronger candidates and call out GOP hypocrites better. In 2016, Republicans will have to defend many seats they won in 2010. Hillary, hopefully, will then be running for President.
Sure, the Democrats had a tough field to defend in the Senate in 2014. However, most analysts believed the GOP would lose a majority of governorships. They were defending 22 seats and many of them were in areas that Obama carried twice. It didn’t work out that way. Poor “Blue” turnout destroyed Democratic hopes of defeating Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. Fla. Democrat Charlie Crist surprisingly lost to right wing Rick Scott by 1.1% of the vote. Latino voters only made up 13% of the electorate, compared to 17% of the state when Obama took Fla. in 2012 (NBC Ververs, “Politico”). In racially polarized Ga., unpopular Governor Nathan Deal defeated Jason Carter, former Pres. Carter’s grandson, with a poor showing of young Democratic voters. Poor turn out in Michigan allowed GOP Rick Snyder to win. And in Kansas where GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s extreme budget cuts made him a risky bet to win a second term, GOPers still came out strongly to re-elect him by nearly 4 points (“Politico”). In Maine, Independent Eliot “Ralph Nader” Cutler took 8.4% of the vote allowing buffoonish Tea Partier Paul LePage to defeat Dem. Mike Michaud by nearly 5 points (“Politico”). Democrats lost the governorship in Illinois where millionaire outsourcer Bruce Rauner beat Pat Quinn. Inept Martha Coakley, who gave us Scott Brown, lost another Mass. election, this time for the governorship to GOPer Charlie Baker (“Politico”). Another GOP pickup was in “Blue” Maryland, where Dem. Anthony Brown lost to GOPer Larry Hogan (CNN, 11/05/14). Brown was a poor candidate, but turnout did not help the “Blue Team.” On the plus side, Calif.’s Jerry Brown coasted to victory. Colorado’s Dem. Gov. John Hickenlooper, unlike Sen. Mark Udall, won his race and so did Conn. Dem. Gov. Dan Malloy (“Politico,” CNN). The brightest spot was Pennsylvania where Democrat Tom Wolf defeated Tom Corbett by nearly 20 points (“Politico”). The GOP now has gone from 29 to 31 governorships (Wall Street Journal, Hook, 11/06/14). Again, it’s the “T” word, “Turnout,” stupid.
Few people expected the Democrats to retake the House because after 2010, the GOP governors and state legislatures creatively gerrymandered congressional districts to make them safe for the GOP majority. Democrats, in 2014, were, however, hoping to cut into the GOP margin of 17 seats. Again, it didn’t work that way. Poor Democratic turnouts destroyed not only Senate and governors’ races, but were disastrous in the House. Although several races have not been decided, the GOP has added at least about 9 seats and will probably end up with mid-double digit gains (Wash. Post, “The Fix,” A. Blake, 11/05/14). Poor Illinois turnout caused the loss of 2 Democratic seats, Brad Schneider and Bill Eynart. A Republican took Bruce Braley’s Iowa congressional seat. In New Hampshire, Carol Shea Porter lost a rematch to Frank Guinta. In low turnout Fla., Dem. Joe Garcia lost his race. He had replaced the corrupt GOPer David Rivera. However, in one bright spot, Dem. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Senator Bob Graham, defeated zany undertaker Steve Southerland in the Tallahassee area. Southerland forgot the GOP “playbook” about not making fun of women. He spoke about women “liking lingerie showers (Kos, Clawson, 11/05/14).” One of the Democrats’ brightest stars, Andrew Romanoff was clobbered by Mike Coffman in the Aurora, Col. 6th District. Romanoff made the mistake of not running in 2012 against Coffman, who barely won then against an unknown Democrat. Romanoff chose, instead, to challenge Coffman, a former anti-immigration fellow who dabbled in anti-Obama “birther” talk in poor turnout 2014. Coffman “flipped” on immigration and started learning Spanish to calm his new Hispanic constituents (Denver Post, 11/04/14). In the Md. 6th, which includes Democratic Washington suburbs, John Delaney had a close race because of poor turnout. And Staten Island voters re-elected indicted Cong. Mike Grimm in the NY 11th . Grimm had threatened to throw a reporter off the Capitol Hill balcony. And many of the newly elected Republican Congressmen will give Tex. wacko Rep. Louie Gohmert a run for the “House Loony King” crown. These include Wisconsin’s Glenn Grothmann who brags about stopping the “gay agenda in our nation’s classrooms.” Ga. Cong. Jody Hice is anti-gay and believes women should only enter politics “with the authority of her husband.” Unfortunately, Mark Walker, won his race in the N. Carolina 6th . In this fairly swing district, he said he’d vote to “impeach Obama.” He also proposed to “laser or blitz” Mexico over immigrants crossing our borders (Kos, Hunter, 11/05/14). You get the idea.
Democrats must understand that the public agrees with them on almost everything including raising the minimum wage, making the super rich pay more taxes, and letting many illegal immigrants stay in the U.S. The public supports legalizing same sex marriage, keeping health care reform, and stemming global warming. The lame duck Senate must push through as many as possible of the hundreds of judicial and other Obama appointees waiting approval. Obama must soon issue deportation relief to millions of undocumented immigrants by executive order, and let the GOP howl. Too many Hispanics and some progressives may not have voted because Obama did not act on this before the midterms (See CNN, Jones, 11/07/14). Obama must not try to compromise with any GOP draconian budget proposals or attempts to gut health care. He must act strongly in the face of the GOP congressional majorities. Too many Democrats felt he was less than a strong leader in the run up to the midterms.
Democrats must work night and day to explain to their base that EVERY election counts. Democrats must constantly speak to school groups, their own volunteers, and other associations about why voting in every election is key. This issue must be repeatedly talked about way before any campaigns start. Contacting lists of voters just before election time will not do the job. Democrats must also hone their economic and social messages into clear sound bites. GOP voter intensity must not trump voter propensity in any national election. We only look like a center-right nation because the majority of our base does not show up. S. Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham knows this. In his words, “When a diverse electorate shows up, Republicans struggle to win (NY Times, Martin, 11/05/14).” Or again, as Bill Clinton said it, “When Democrats vote, we win.” Just vote in every election.
On a personal note, today is the tenth anniversary of my starting this blog. I began this blog after W edged out Kerry in the 2004 election with the hope of encouraging Democrats to take back the Presidency and Congress. Since then, I have written over 520 blog posts about national political issues. I have analyzed various races, candidates, and legislators. I hope to continue discussing these matters. I will keep emphasizing that all elections count and that turn out is everything.
GOP Hog Farmer Joni Ernst—She Wants to Neuter Iowa in the United States Senate June 18, 2014
School may be out for summer, but the “math war” for control of the U.S. Senate is heating up. Minority Leader Mitch “obstructionist” McConnell (R-KY) becomes Senate Majority Leader if the GOP flips just 6 seats. Senate Democrats currently have a working majority of 55-45. However, in Campaign 2014, “Team Blue” must defend 21 seats. Six of them are toss ups, including North Carolina, Arkansas, and Alaska. The GOP is attempting to grab even more Senate seats, including Iowa. In Iowa, 5th term popular progressive Democrat Tom Harkin declined to run in 2014 (National Journal, Kraushaar, 1/26/13, Time Mag. Election Special, Daily Kos, dpinzow, 11/20/12). GOPers believe they have the “perfect” nominee. In the 6/03/2014 Hawkeye State Republican primary, Joni Ernst clobbered her opposition winning 56% of the vote. Ernst can now train her gun sights on Congressman Bruce Braley who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary (J. Jacobs, desmoinesregister.com, 6/04/14, “Politico,” Hohmann, 6/04/14). Let’s look at Ernst and this critical race.
Red Oak, Iowa native Joni Ernst (43) is the present GOP State Senator in that chamber’s 12th District, which serves Iowa’s southwestern area (legis.iowa.gov). A graduate of IowaState, she received a Master’s from Georgia’s ColumbusStateUniversity (ABOUT JONI, joniforiowa.com/bio). Ernst won a special election to the State Senate in 2011 and re-election in 2012 (ABOUT JONI, joniforiowa.com/bio). Ernst served in the U.S. Army Reserves and the Iowa National Guard. In the Iraq War, she did an overseas tour of Kuwait from 2003-2004. Her unit ran logistical convoys. Ernst is currently a Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard (whotv.com, 4/07/14).
Ernst was an obscure state senator when she decided to enter the U.S. Senate race. She faced competition from stock broker executive and energy CEO Mark Jacobs who put $3.1 million of his own money into the race. On March 24, 2014, Ernst released her first ad on cable in the Des Moines media market and shook up the race. The ad had Ernst speaking along with pictures of pigs in pens. Ernst stated: “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm so when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.” A smiling Ernst promised to “make ‘em squeal in Washington (“Politico,” Hohmann, 6/04/14, “The Hill,”3/25/14).” Consultants praised this ad as a textbook case on getting free media. This provocative spot received “buzz,” on morning and late night shows and was heavily covered by local news. More than half a million people saw the spot on YouTube (Hohmann).
Ernst went on to grab the backing of both the GOP “establishment,” and the Tea Party Express. One of her top consultants ran Romney’s 2012 Iowa campaign. Her ad maker is a strategist for Fla. GOP Senator /Tea Party idol Marco Rubio. Rubio campaigned for Ernst. The Des Moines Register endorsed her. Mitt Romney backed her. The Senate Conservative Fund gave Ernst $112,000. The GOP-leaning Chamber of Commerce joined Ernst’s camp. Sarah Palin campaigned for Ernst in the days before the primary and stood with Ernst in a TV ad (“Politico,” Hohmann, 5/29/14, 6/04/14). After Ernst’s primary win, GOP pundits bragged about how Ernst received the endorsements and votes of both Tea Partiers and the “establishment,” avoiding a civil war. Get real! LA Times reporter Lisa Mascaro correctly noted, “establishment” is a “relative” term these days. The whole GOP, in Mascaro’s words, has been “pushed to the right (5/07/14).”
In the final 5/29/2014 pre-primary debate, Ernst could not have been clearer. In agricultural Iowa, farmer’s daughter/ hog castrator Ernst declared she would have voted against the farm bill, legislation even radical Iowa GOP Cong. Steve King voted for. She is for abolishing the Dept. of Education, which Steve King opposes. She came out against raising the federal minimum wage, which Iowans favor. Ernst recently voted against a minimum wage increase in the State Senate. Ernst embraced private accounts for young workers paying into Social Security which would gut this New Deal safety net. Ernst named the Clean Water Act as one of the most damaging laws for business. She’s on the side of big agricultural interests who pollute Iowa’s waterways with crop fertilizer and pig manure (“Politico,”Hohmann, 5/29/14 & 6/04/14, NY Times, Firestone, 6/04/14, PPP Poll on Iowans and Minimum Wage, Kos Elections, Nir, 5/30/14, Kos, 6/04/14). She volunteered she would vote for a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and that she had co-sponsored a bill in the Iowa Senate to amend the state constitution to bar gay marriage. Ernst spoke out against “amnesty” in immigration reform. Ernst denied global warming is causing climate change. An abortion opponent, Ernst had previously endorsed an anti-abortion “personhood” amendment that failed in Mississippi. Ernst told the Des Moines Register that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s. In her debate, Ernst named the Senators she hoped to follow, Tea Party extremist Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Cruz disciples, Nebraska GOPer Deb Fischer and Utah’s Republican zealot Mike Lee (Erickson, “Red State,” 5/21/14).
Ernst is an Obamacare opponent. A month after her hog castration ad, Ernst was at it again. In a new TV ad, Ernst rolls up in a Harley, pulls her purse from a saddlebag, and loads up a handgun for some target practice, pointing the weapon straight at viewers. A male voice intones: “She’s not your typical candidate. Conservative Joni Ernst: mom, farm girl and a lieutenant colonel who carries more than just lipstick in her purse. Joni Ernst will take aim at wasteful spending. And when she sets her sights on Obamacare, Joni’s going to unload.” A “blam, blam, blam” of gunshot sounds follow (Des Moines Register, 5/15/14). The debate moderator asked Ernst if she would change this ad or its timing after the UC Santa Barbara shootings. Ernst declared the UCSB shootings an “unfortunate accident,” but defended the commercial by calling it an attempt to “highlight” her belief in “repealing and replacing Bruce Braley’s Obamacare.” Ernst stated that this ad shows she is a “strong supporter of the Second Amendment. That is a fundamental right (TPM, 5/30/14).” The NRA has given Ernst an “A” rating (Des Moines Register, 3/26/14). Cong. Braley’s campaign rightly took offense at Ernst calling the UCSB massacre “an accident.” The Braley campaign told the Des Moines Register,“this was a rampage against women with knives and guns.” The dead killer’s writings, videos, and actions clearly constituted premeditation.
Fourth-term Cong. Bruce Braley (55) is heir to Sen. Harkin’s progressivism. Braley represents the Iowa 1st Cong. District (CD) where agriculture and farm machinery constitute economic mainstays. The 1st contains Waterloo, Dubuque, and Cedar Rapids (CQ 14 & Barone 14 Almanacs). Braley was given “F” grades by the NRA because he wanted to pursue “reasonable common ground on gun regulation (See Des Moines Register, 12/19/12, Noble).” At Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, Braley gave his guest ticket to former Az. Cong. Gabby Giffords, a gunshot victim (whot.com 2/12/13). Braley is pro-choice and received perfect scores from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-choice America. He voted to reduce gas emissions and for the cap-and-trade bill to limit greenhouse gases that died in the Senate. Braley, like pro-environmental Harkin, will not fight for water polluters. Braley has pushed for more federal funding of “clean energy.” Braley voted for Obamacare. In GOP-tsunami year 2010, Braley stood by his health care votes and won a close re-election (Barone 14, CQ 14). Even before the VA hospital problems made headlines, Braley fought for veterans’ rights including better medical treatment and housing. Two of his veterans’ bills became law (CQ 14). Raising the federal minimum wage is a cornerstone of Braley’s Senate campaign (See “Politico,” 5/29/14, Hohmann).
Braley, who was initially considered the heavy favorite, had a rough primary season. In a 1/2014 fundraising event before trial lawyers, a video showed Braley criticizing fellow Iowa GOP Senator Chuck Grassley. Braley stated that should the GOP take the Senate, Grassley, “a farmer from Iowa, who never went to law school,” would chair the Judiciary Committee. These remarks created a firestorm and Braley was accused of attacking farmers. Braley was deemed “out-of-touch” by many Iowans (Des Moines Register, Jacobs, 6/04/14). Attorney Braley apologized to Sen. Grassley and to all Iowans. Braley, although not a farmer, stressed his farming roots and his strong support for agricultural issues (votesmart.org, govtrack.us). Braley’s great-great-grandfather walked from Vermont and staked out an Iowa farm 150 years ago. Braley’s farmer father died of injuries sustained in a fall down a grain elevator. To support his family, Braley did farm work, including bailing hay, removing corn tassels, and working at a grain elevator (Barone 12 & 14 Almanacs, CQ 12 &14). At the time of the primary, Braley, despite this gaffe, seemed to have recovered and was leading Ernst (Kos, 6/04/14).
Braley knows that he can not “misunderestimate” Ernst. Some post-primary polls (Rasmussen, Loras, and Vox Populi), show Ernst in the lead. In the more reliable Quinnipiac (“Q”) Poll, taken between 6/12/-6/16/2014, Braley leads Ernst by just 4 points, 44%-40%. In the 3/13/2014 “Q” Poll, then unknown Ernst trailed Braley by 13 points (J. Jacobs, Des Moines Register, 6/18/14). Ernst keeps repeating that she is a “mother, soldier, and conservative,” to bring out the GOP base in an off- year election. Sarah Palin and fellow Republicans believe that Ernst’s sex will keep Democrats from effectively calling her anti-women. “There the GOP goes again,” using a woman to claim it is not reactionary, despite Ernst’s anti-choice/anti-middle class record. Braley has much more money than Ernst, but bet on Koch Industries, Karl Rove, Romney, and others to flood Ernst’s coffers.
Braley has already attacked Ernst with an ad showing a baby chicken making peeping sounds. The ad, “Peep,” criticized Ernst for not curbing state spending. It says: “We’ve heard the one about pigs squealing. But when Joni Ernst had the chance to do something in Iowa (about cutting pork and spending) we didn’t hear a peep.” The GOP reaction? Fake outrage that Braley was calling Ernst a “chick” (Wash. Post, Sullivan, 6/05/14). IMHO, pure Republican hog manure! And talk about sexism. Gail Ernst, Joni’s husband, has a Facebook page which rallies supporters to her campaign. In a 1/2013 Facebook posting, Mr. Ernst called Hillary Clinton a “Lying hag” on Benghazi. In a 5/2013 posting, Mr. Ernst called Hillary Clinton, “Truly more of a ‘hag’ now than when she was 1st Lady.” In a 4/19/2013 posting, Mr. Ernst called then Homeland Security Secretary Jane Napolitano a “Traitorous skank!” One year later, during a Senate campaign, Joni Ernst has “finally” decided to criticize her husband’s comments as “uncalled for and clearly inappropriate (Huffington Post, 6/10/14).”
Ernst’s record is way out of Iowa’s mainstream. Forty percent of Iowa voters are independents. Her record should not appeal to them (See Jacobs, Des Moines Register). Braley must hit Ernst hard, especially on her opposition to the farm bill, the minimum wage, and women’s issues. Ernst is the candidate truly out of touch, representing the 1% elite. This November, Iowa Democrats, independents, and women must come out in droves to elect Harkin heir Braley and keep the Senate “Blue.” Iowa’s concerns must not be neutered in the Senate.
It’s Tar Heel State 2014 “November Madness”— Extremist GOPer Thom Tillis v. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan May 22, 2014
North Carolina is known for its college basketball teams including Duke, University of North Carolina, North Carolina State, and WakeForest. One or more of them often end up in the NCAA’s “March Madness” basketball tournaments and have frequently won it all. The Tar Heel State is currently heading toward a 2014 political “November Madness” match. The stakes remain more important than winning office betting pools. It’s control of the United States Senate. All the GOP needs to make obstructionist Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader are 6 seats. Currently, Democrats hold a 55-45 Senate working majority, but are defending 21 of 36 seats. Many of these races are not “slam dunks.” Six of those 2014 contests remain “toss ups” in states Romney carried in 2012. Many analysts consider Senate “toss up” North Carolina political “Ground Zero.” GOPer Thom Tillis and Democratic Senator Kay Hagan are facing off in what could become the most politically brutal and costly Senate race (LA Times, L. Mascaro, 5/07/14).
Although considered vulnerable by many GOPers and pundits, first-term Senator Kay Hagan (60) knows a “thing or two” about politics. As a child, Shelby, N. Carolina native Hagan moved to Lakeland, Florida. Hagan’s father, Joe Ruthven, became Lakeland’s mayor. Hagan’s uncle, Democrat Lawton Chiles, a 1960’s Lakeland State Senator, won election to the U.S. Senate in 1970 and became Fla.’s Governor in 1990. As a youngster, Hagan placed Chiles bumper stickers on cars and while growing up, continued to help with her uncle’s campaigns. After getting her 1975 degree from Fla. State, Hagan interned for her uncle while operating a Senators-only elevator (Barone 14 &CQ 14 Political Almanacs, U.S. News and World Report, 11/04/08). She returned to N. Carolina to attend WakeForestLawSchool, where she graduated in 1978 and met her husband Chip Hagan. Hagan settled in her husband’s hometown of Greensboro where she worked as a trust attorney at NationsBank, now Bank of America. After the birth of her third child, Hagan became involved in politics. Democratic Governor James Hunt selected Hagan to lead his GuilfordCounty organizations in his 1992 and 1996 campaigns. In 1998, Hunt persuaded her to run for the State Senate. Hagan defeated a GOP incumbent and went on to serve five State Senate terms (CQ & Barone 14).
In the State Senate, Hagan received important committee posts. She voted for a state lottery, for corporate financial incentives to create jobs, for funding a civil rights museum, and for a two-year moratorium on executions. In 2008, Hagan challenged GOP N. Carolina Senator Elizabeth (Liddy) Dole, wife of former Senator and GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole. Liddy Dole heavily outraised Hagan. “Conventional wisdom” favored Dole. Hagan called Dole a D.C. insider often absent from N. Carolina. Dole attacked Hagan, a Presbyterian Sunday School teacher and elder, as an “atheist,” which backfired. Obama won the state by .3% and Hagan by over 8 points (Barone & CQ 14).
Hagan sits on the Senate Armed Services, Banking, Health, and Small Business Committees (CQ 14). North Carolina contains many military bases, including the 82nd Airborne’s FortBragg and the Marine Corps’ CampLejeune. Hagan’s father-in-law was a two-star Marine general, her brother and father Navy veterans, and her husband a Vietnam veteran. N. Carolina is home to the Research Triangle, between Durham and Raleigh that generates business innovations. Charlotte, the state’s largest city, is No. 2 in financial assets, behind New York (CQ & Barone 14). From 2009-2012, Hagan voted with her party 89% of the time. In the current 113th Congress and the previous 112th , she voted with Democrats 92% of the time. From 2009-2012, she had a 92% rating from labor’s AFL-CIO. Hagan joined a working group of fiscal conservative Senators in search of a middle political ground and has a 38% Chamber of Commerce score (2009-2012). Representing N. Carolina, Hagan does not support most gun control measures. However, she voted for the unsuccessful 4/2013 proposal to expand federal background checks. In a state having many social conservatives, Hagan stood firmly for gay rights. She voted to repeal the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” anti-gay military standard and supports same-sex marriage. She voted for health care reform and strongly supports it. At a Senate hearing, Hagan attacked the N. Carolina GOP Governor and the Republican State Legislature for barring expansion of health care reform for 500,000 Tar Heel residents through Medicaid (Barone & CQ 14, Wash. Post, U.S. Cong. Votes Database, Kos, 5/08/14, talkingpointsmemo.com). Hagan votes as a pragmatic progressive-leaning Democrat within her state’s mainstream.
Meet Hagan’s GOP opponent, Thom Tillis. The GOP “establishment” hyped Tillis as a “mainstream” candidate. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and the Republican-leaning Chamber of Commerce poured millions of dollars into the North Carolina 5/06/2014 GOP primary to make sure Tillis won more than 40% of the vote. Tillis, therefore, avoided a damaging July run off against the libertarian, Tea Party-backed candidate Greg Brannon (NY Times, J. Martin, 5/06/14). However, as the Los Angeles Times aptly stated, “establishment” is a “relative term these days (LA Times, L. Mascaro, 5/07/14).” LA Times reporter Lisa Mascaro correctly noted that the whole GOP has been “pushed to the right,” and Tillis is “hardly a bipartisan pragmatist in the old-school GOP style (5/07/14).”
Jacksonville, Florida native Thom Tillis (53) worked in the Price Waterhouse accounting firm in systems and operational management jobs. In 1996, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, the same year he became a Price Waterhouse partner. In 1998, Tillis moved to N. Carolina with his family. He joined IBM in 2002. Tillis, a resident in a GOP section of the Charlotte metro area, won election in 2006 to the North Carolina House. Tillis defeated the GOP incumbent in the primary and ran unopposed in the general election. Tillis was easily re-elected in 2008, 2010, and 2012. In 2010, the GOP won a majority of the N. Carolina House for the first time in 20 years. Tillis was instrumental in this “Red” takeover. He targeted districts and recruited candidates, and in 2011 was rewarded with election as House Speaker. After the 2012 elections, in which the GOP widened its legislative majorities and won the governorship, Tillis was unanimously re-elected Speaker (Lacour, Charlotte Magazine, 11/2013, Barone 14, WRAL/AP, 2012 General Election Results Summary, wral.com/news).
Tillis, acting as a business “moderate,” was always a reactionary extremist. He wants to “shrink” government, and calls Obamacare a “cancer” that needs to be repealed. (LA Times, Mascaro, 5/07/14). For his work as N. Carolina Speaker, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) named Tillis its 2011 Legislator of the Year (Lacour, Charlotte Magazine). Since 2013, Tillis has been a member of ALEC’s Board of Directors. He had previously been a member of ALEC for several years. He called ALEC “a great organization (N. Carolina Dem. Party).” ALEC is composed of conservative state legislators, think-tanks, and business representatives that collaborate on drafting state bills. About 200 of these bills become law each year. ALEC bills that have passed include reducing corporate regulation and taxes. ALEC helped pass strict voter identification rules, which suppress minority and elderly turnout, and the controversial “Stand Your Ground” legislation, involved in the Trayvon Martin, Fla. shooting case (alec.org, Greeley, “Businessweek,” TPMMuckraker, Barnes, Wash. Post, 6/25/12). Tillis is proud of the role he had in rejecting health care reform under Medicaid, passing a strict voter ID law, and private school vouchers, all ALEC priorities (Charlotte Observer, 5/30/14, Winston- Salem Journal, 5/06/13). Tillis led his legislature in cutting taxes by more than $2 billion without giving teachers a penny in raises (Kos, Clawson, 5/07/14). Most House Speakers rarely vote on legislation. Tillis went out of his way to vote on a bill that would close abortion clinics if they didn’t make expensive improvements. Anti-choice Tillis told reporters he voted on this bill that passed 74-41 because he “needed to demonstrate ‘courage (Lacour, Charlotte Magazine).’”
Tillis said that climate change “was not a fact” and that the Department of Education should be abolished (Charlotte Observer, 5/06/14). Tillis stated that raising the minimum wage is “a dangerous idea,” and that the minimum wage itself is an “artificial threshold (Huffington Post, Lachman, 2/27/14).” Mitt Romney backed Tillis in the 2014 primary (NY Times, Martin, 5/06/14) Mitt, “I don’t care about the 47%,” Romney has a kindred soul in Tillis. In a 2011 video circulated by the Hagan campaign, Tillis stated to a GOP group: “What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance. We need to get those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government and say, ‘At some point, you’re on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies, but we’re not going to take care of you (LA Times, Mascaro, 5/07/14).’”
Tillis, with his corporate systems operating background, does his homework. He focuses on the end game, always “three, four, steps ahead.” He is a great fund raiser, able to tap into a roster of N. Carolina’s prominent corporate executives (Lacour, Charlotte Magazine). Tillis has the Koch Brothers in his camp. The Koch Brothers saw N. Carolina as a “model state,” a place where they had an opportunity to work their economic changes, according to Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity (AFP) president Tim Phillips. In 2012, Romney barely carried N. Carolina. Koch, however, poured in money to help the GOP win the governor’s race and expand its state legislative numbers, catching Democrats by surprise (Kos, 5/17/13). Koch put 130,000 activists into N. Carolina to help Tillis defeat Medicaid expansion for half a million residents. Koch is singularly focused on defeating Hagan. Even before Tillis won the primary, Koch’s AFP poured $8.2 million into TV, radio, and digital ads attacking Hagan. If AFP keeps up this pace, it will spend more than $27 million by Election Day in the Tar Heel State alone (“Politico,” Raju & Palmer, 2/12/14, Mascaro, LA Times, 5/07/14).
Hagan has labeled Tillis’ stands “fringe positions” and says “special interests are dragging him across the finish line (LA Times, Mascaro).” Planned Parenthood plans a $3 million get-out-the vote effort. The “Moral Monday” movement, a group of progressives protesting Tillis and the GOP- controlled state legislature, must back her strongly. However, many in the Democratic base are not “enthused” about Hagan. They wrongly grouse about her making compromises in this “purplish” swing state. Too many Democratic voters know little about Hagan, while GOPers loathe her over Obamacare (Buzzfeed.com, 5/07/14). Hagan barely leads Tillis in the latest PPP Poll, 38%-36%. If a third-party candidate’s voters are re-allocated based on which party they lean towards, the race becomes a 41%-41% tie. The undecideds are Democrats who went 55%-37% for Obama (Kos Elections, 5/14/14, Nir). In 2012, unlike 2008, Romney was able to carry N. Carolina by 2 points because Obama’s percentage declined among the young, those with graduate degrees, and among people in the big metro areas (Barone, 14). Again, turnout is everything. In order to keep the Senate “Blue,” Democrats must come out in droves both in N. Carolina and nationally. On 11/04/2014, Hagan must win the “November Madness” political contest.
GOP Senate “Dream Candidate” Cory Gardner—Just Another Tea Party Nightmare March 21, 2014
For GOPers, the Campaign 2014 mantra boils down to one phrase, “It’s rebranding, stupid.” Translation: outwardly rebranding as a “kinder, gentler, mainstream” looking party, but still holding the same far out views of its unpopular Tea Party base. The GOP “establishment” wants to re-paint extremist candidates voting the Tea Party line as pragmatic “moderates,” deceiving voters in the 11/2014 congressional midterms. In order for the GOP to make obstructionist Mitch McConnell Senate Majority Leader, “Team Red,” has to win 6 seats. Democrats, with a current working majority of 55-45, are defending 21 seats. Six of those remain toss ups in states Romney won in 2012 (J. Healey, NY Times, 2/07/14, “Politico,” Raju & Sherman, Time Mag., Election Special). Democrats are attempting to go on the offensive in Georgia and Ky. to try to pick up “Red” Senate seats. GOPers, however, in addition to fighting for the 6 toss up seats, believe they can go on offense in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Iowa. Add Colorado to the GOP “offense” mix. In a coup paralleling the machinations practiced by Cong. Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) in NETFLIX’S “House of Cards” drama, the GOP recruited Cong. Cory Gardner to oppose freshman Democrat Mark Udall. Gardner had originally declined to run. When Gardner entered the Col. GOP Senate primary race at the end of 2/2014, District Attorney Ken Buck, the Tea Party zany who lost to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010, dropped out and endorsed Gardner. Buck decided to run for Gardner’s congressional seat. Another GOP candidate, also left the race (Wash. Post., Cillizza, 2/28/14, Peters, NY Times, 2/26/14). The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza described Udall as going from a safe incumbent into one of the “most endangered” Senators within 48 hours (Post Opinions, 2/28/14). Let’s look at Sen. Mark Udall, challenger Cory Gardner, and this RockyMountain brawl.
Colorado first-term Senator Mark Udall (53) comes from a political family dubbed the “Kennedys of the West.” Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Mark is the son of the late former Ariz. Congressman “Mo” Udall, who unsuccessfully sought the presidency in 1976. Mark’s uncle, the late former Ariz. Cong. Stewart Udall, served as Interior Secretary under JFK and LBJ. Mark is the first cousin of current freshman U.S. New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, Stewart’s son. Cousins Mark and Tom share progressive views. Mark’s mother, who served 5 years in Nepal in the Peace Corps in her late 50’s, also inspired him to go into public service (Barone and CQ Almanacs 14). After graduating WilliamsCollege in 1972, Mark moved to Boulder, Colorado where he worked 20 years for the ColoradoOutwardBoundSchool. He was that school’s executive director for 10 years. An accomplished mountaineer, Mark climbed the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere and scaled Mt.Everest’s north face (CQ and Barone 14).
Mark won election to the Col. House of Representatives in 1996. When the Dem. Congressman representing Boulder retired in 1998, Mark took that seat. He defeated the GOP Mayor of Boulder by 5,500 votes, going door to door while raising lots of money. He emphasized environmental protection, growth management, and education. Mark served in the U.S. House for 5 terms and won re-election by increasing margins (CQ & Barone 14). In the House, Mark had a mostly liberal voting record, going with his party over 90% of the time (CQ14). He opposed allowing states to designate roads in wilderness areas. He persuaded the U.S. House to pass renewable energy standards in 2007. Mark, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, voted against W’s 2002 Iraq War resolution. He spoke of his father’s regret over voting in 1964 for the Vietnam Gulf of Tonkin resolution which led to escalation. Mark called one of his “proudest moments” witnessing his father becoming the first prominent Democrat to vote against the 1967 Vietnam troop buildup (CQ 14, Barone 14). In 2008, when Colorado GOP’s Senator retired, Mark defeated his opponent by over 10 points, while Cousin Tom won a New Mexico Senate seat (Barone 14, CQ 14).
In the Senate, Mark serves on the Armed Services, Energy & Natural Resources, and Select Intelligence Committees (CQ14, Barone 14). He voted with his party 93% in the current 113th and previous 112th Congresses (Wash. Post, U.S. Cong. Votes Database). He voted for the budget and spending bills that removed many of the harsh automatic sequester cuts. He supports filibuster reform (CQ14, coloradoforethics.org, 11/21/13).He generally advocates environmental legislation, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Mark gets high 90 plus marks from progressive groups. He voted for the failed background check proposal for gun buyers in 4/2013 (LA Times, 4/18/13).
Mark has always opposed the Patriot Act. He is very skeptical of expanded surveillance powers. He is against unchecked CIA power and cover ups, especially in the areas of detentions and interrogations. Mark wants to know just how many Americans have had emails and phone conversations monitored (Barone 14, NY Times, Mazzetti, 3/04/14). He was for repeal of the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and for same-sex marriage (Barone 14, Think Progress, 8/22/11, Volsky). He has a stellar pro-choice record and stands up for issues affecting women, including equal pay (Col. Independent, 3/05/15, Tomasic). He voted for and supports Obamacare. He advocates comprehensive immigration reform (markudall.senate.gov).
Meet GOP Senate wannabe Cory Gardner. Two-term Cong. Gardner (39) presently represents Colorado’s 4th Congressional District (CD). The 4th looks more like the Kansas prairies than part of Rocky MountainColorado. The 4th, in Colorado’s eastern part, borders five states including Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Agriculture and food processing are economic mainstays. Most of the 4th’s population lives in the Denver suburbs of Weld and fast growing DouglasCounty. The 4th contains the cities of Greeley, Longmont, and Castle Rock. In 2011, DouglasCounty was the 9th wealthiest in the nation. The 4th Col. CD follows the voting patterns of its neighboring “Red” states. DouglasCounty voters are cultural conservatives and gave Romney 62% of their vote. The 4th CD has a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of R+11 (Barone 14, CQ14).
While growing up, Gardner worked on his family’s farm implement dealership. At the University of Col. Law School, he joined the conservative Federalist Society. After receiving his law degree in 2001, Gardner became the communications director for the National Corn Growers Association. In 2002, he became an aide to conservative Col. GOP Senator Wayne Allard, whose seat Mark Udall later won. In 2005, Gardner was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Colorado House. He won a full term in 2006, and won re-election unopposed in 2008 (CQ 14, Barone 14, ourcampaigns.com). In 2010, Gardner ran against Dem. rookie Betsy Markey and handily defeated her (Barone 14).
In the House, Cong. Gardner has been one of the more faithful followers of the GOP leadership. He voted with his hard-right party 93% of the time in both the 112th and 113th Congresses (Wash. Post, U.S. Cong. Votes Database). Gardner was a close friend of House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and joined him on the 2012 vice-presidential campaign trail. Gardner repeatedly voted for repealing Obamacare. He added an amendment to the 2011 GOP House-passed spending bill that denied startup funds for Obama’s health care exchanges (Barone 14, Huffington Post Seay, 3/03/14). At a 2013 hearing, Gardner lost his cool when he badgered Health and Human Services Sec. Sibelius over Obamacare (Col. Independent, Tomasic, 2/27/14).
Fiscal conservative Gardner “deviated” a few times from the GOP leadership. He voted against supporting spending bills for 2011 and 2012. He voted against the budget agreement Ryan and Democrats later worked out to remove some sequester cuts. He joined most GOPers in opposing the successful fiscal cliff compromise that prevented economic disaster (U.S. Cong. Votes Database, CQ 14). Gardner was in favor of the GOP government 10/2013 shut down and against raising the debt ceiling. He even encouraged talk that Obama was not a U.S. born citizen, pandering to the loony “birther” fringe (Col. Indep. 2/27/14).
Despite these views, House GOP leadership trusted Gardner, rewarding him as a freshman with the Energy and Commerce Committee assignment. GOPers saw Gardner as “youthful and tactful,” a fellow they needed to “tweak their ‘branding (CQ14, See Col. Independent, Tomasic, 3/05/14).’”
Gardner is an heir to wacky Ken Buck, hard right beer baron Pete Coors, and anti-immigrant Tom Tancredo, people Coloradans have rejected at the ballot box (Tomasic, Col. Independent, 2/27/14). Gardner has a Tea Party voting record. In both the 2010 and 2012 cycle, extremist/anti-regulatory Koch Industries directly gave Gardner $10,000. By 2011, Koch, through additional committees and lobbyists it funded, gave Gardner about $300,000-$450,000 (OpenSecrets.org, DCCC, gardnerpath.com). Gardner repaid Koch. Environmentalists labeled Gardner, “the most anti-environmental Congressman in Colorado history (Barone 14).”
Gardner is a member of the GOP’s “war on women caucus.” While in the Col. Legislature, Gardner sponsored a bill to outlaw abortion, including in cases of rape and incest. In Congress, he gained notoriety for sponsoring a bill to redefine rape to include only “forcible” instances of the crime. Gardner supported numerous failed attempts to pass a so-called personhood constitutional amendment that would grant fertilized eggs legal recognition, outlaw abortion in all cases, and threaten fertility research and treatment. A YouTube video of Gardner campaigning in 2010 has him saying he supported this measure and passed around personhood petitions in his church. Pro-choice Colorado defeated the personhood amendments in 2008 and 2010. In 2012, personhood supporters failed to win enough signatures to get on the ballot. Ken Buck lost his 2010 Senate race to Michael Bennet because he supported similar positions, losing the women’s vote by 16 points (Tomasic, Col. Independent, Tomasic, 2/27 & 3/05/14). Gardner just endorsed Buck to take over Gardner’s congressional seat (Denver Post, Bartels, 3/201/4).
The Human Rights Campaign gave Cong. Gardner a Zero grade on gay rights. In the Colorado legislature, Gardner voted against allowing gays to become adoptive parents and giving them health care benefits. Gardner supports the hard right stance on immigration. He favored Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law (Col. Indep. 2/27/14).
After Gardner declared his Senate candidacy, Sen. Mark Udall and his fellow Democrats immediately started attacking him for his anti-women state and federal record to define him early as outside Colorado’s mainstream (Tomasic, Col. Indep. 3/05/14). Udall’s spokesman correctly argued that “We’ve swapped one Tea Partier (Buck) for another (Gardner).” He added that “unlike radical Cong. Tancredo, who never cracked the top 50, Gardner’s record made him the 10th most conservative House member (National Journal, KDVR, 3/04/14).” Udall’s camp has stated that the Koch Brothers have poured at least $970,000 of “tainted money” in ads into this Colorado contest (Scripps Media & AP 3/18/14).
The officially Tea Party-endorsed candidate, State Senator Owen Hill, initially refused to leave the race and called the Gardner-Buck switch “corruption.” On 3/17/2014, Hill dropped out and endorsed Gardner. He stated the GOP needed a “united front.” State Senator Randy Baumgartner remains in the GOP primary, but is not very popular. Who knows if he will stay. Koch and other GOP groups will keep on shoveling money to Gardner. Democrats and Democratic-leaning groups must answer ASAP. They are starting to bolster Udall and attack Koch, but must keep it up. (NY Times, Parker, 3/21/14). The latest PPP poll has Udall leading Gardner by just 2 points. One year ago, PPP had Udall leading Gardner by 10 (Nir, Kos Elections, 3/18/14). Democrats, women, gays, Hispanics, and moderates must come out in droves to re-elect Mark Udall, not “rebranded” Cory Gardner, Ken Buck’s political twin.
The Old Dominion’s Message for 2014— The Democratic “Coalition of the Ascendant” Trumps All November 15, 2013
The GOP and their media allies are yammering about how Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the Virginia Governorship on 11/05/2013 by less than 3% of the vote, despite previous polling indicating he would coast to victory (“Politico,” J. Hohmann, 11/06/13). Ignore them. For the first time in 36 years, the party holding the White House won a governor’s race in the Old Dominion and Democrats scored a “Blue” pickup in this “Purplish” state (Kos, 11/06/13). Virginia Democrats handily won the race for Lt. Governor and, probably, a 164 vote nail-biter for Attorney General (USA Today, 11/13/11). To quote basketball wizard Phil Jackson, “A ‘W’ (a win) is a ‘W.’” Call GOP ace Karl Rove a Jackson disciple. He didn’t care whether client-in-chief George W. Bush won by 1 vote in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 or by 2.9% in 2004. Rove trumpeted these victories as “mandates” and had George W. govern accordingly. After W’s 2000 victory, Rove determined that to win in 2004 with a divided “Red/Blue” State nation, the presidential race must be a GOP “base” election. In 2004, the Rove/W team concentrated on bringing out all the conservatives who had voted in 2000, plus millions more with similar beliefs (See “One Party Country,” Hamburger & Wallsten).
In 2008, Obama ran as being above party lines and received many GOP and independent votes. Campaign 2012, however, required a Democratic base election. In 2012, few GOP voters were willing to aid Obama. Republicans had spent 2009-2012 blocking everything Obama did trying to make him, in GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell’s words, “a one-term President.” With changing national demographics favoring “Team Blue,” Obama handily defeated Romney with what columnist Ron Brownstein labeled the “coalition of the ascendant.” This group consists of African Americans, Hispanics, and women. Add young voters, Asian Americans, gays, and people with advanced degrees to this bloc (Alter, “The Center Holds”). When much of this Democratic base stayed home in the 2010 midterms, the GOP took back the House, gained Senate seats, and captured the majority of governorships. Let’s look at Governor- elect Terry McAuliffe, how he won Virginia, and the lessons of this race.
Terry McAuliffe (56) is no stranger to Democratic politics. McAuliffe’s father was treasurer of a NY Democratic organization (M. Dowd, NY Times, 7/07/87). A 1979 graduate of D.C.’s Catholic University, son Terry took a job in Pres. Carter’s 1980 re-election campaign and became the national finance director. In 1984, McAuliffe received a law degree from Georgetown University (“Leaders Magazine,” 7/03/07). McAuliffe made millions in banking and business (“What a Party!” Kettman & McAuliffe).
McAuliffe remains best known for his political and personal relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as his Democratic Party fundraising (“This Town,” Leibovich). With Bill Clinton in office, McAuliffe raised $275 million for him. McAuliffe stated his many business and political ties were “interrelated (Gerth, NY Times, 12/12/09).” He became Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2001, serving until 2005. During that period, the DNC raised $578 million and became debt-free for the first time (LA Times, 6/09/00, Wash. Post, 10/21/05). Before his DNC term ended, McAuliffe gave $5 million to Tim Kaine for his successful Va. gubernatorial race. Kaine became DNC Chair and was elected Senator from Va. in 2012 (Garver, 3/23/05, “American Prospect,” CQ 14 Almanac). McAuliffe served as one of Hillary’s campaign chairmen in her 2008 presidential race and was a 2008 Democratic Convention super-delegate (Baltimore Sun, 3/16/08).
In 2009, McAuliffe ran in the Democratic primary for Governor of Virginia. He came in second to Creigh Deeds, who was clobbered by Republican Bob McDonnell (Barone 14 Almanac). Deeds hesitated to adopt progressive economic and social stands that might turn off rural whites but bring out the Democratic base in a non-presidential election. In 2013, McAuliffe took the opposite tack (Barone 14, R. Brownstein, National Journal, 10/17/13). He gambled that in a non-presidential year, he could get out “the coalition of the ascendant” Democratic base by adopting national Democratic views. McAuliffe endorsed gay marriage, universal background checks for gun purchases, and Obamacare, including free contraceptive coverage. He stood for reversing tight restrictions on abortion clinics, a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, and limits on carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants (Brownstein, National Journal, 10/17/13).
McAuliffe was counting on Va.’s demographic trends, a state Obama carried twice. No Democrat presidential candidate had won Va. since 1964. Socially liberal Northern Virginia, part of the D.C. suburbs, now makes up 33% of that state’s population. It has many tech and government workers. Hampton Roads, a Democratic area, contains at least another 21% of the population, and metropolitan Richmond 16%. The GOP areas, rural Southside Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, and the Southwest’s coal area, have shrunk (Brownstein, Barone 14). Blacks are 19% of the state, Hispanics 8%, and Asians 6%. Northern Va., which accounted for 55% of the 2000-2010 population increase, has large Hispanic and Asian populations. In 2010, Fairfax County was 17% Asian and 16% Hispanic. Fast-growing Loudoun County is 15% Asian and 12% Hispanic (Barone 14).
Under Virginia law, GOP Governor Bob McDonnell could not run for a second term. McAuliffe’s GOP opponent was Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. A third party Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis was in the race. Cuccinelli, a former Va. State Senator (2002-2009), won election as Attorney General in the 2009. Cuccinelli is a true-believer social conservative. He has spent his career battling abortion and trying to limit divorce (Hohmann, “Politico,”11/06/13). Cuccinelli opposed abortion for rape, incest, and the mother’s health. His “ultimate goal” is “to make abortion disappear in America and make people want it that way.” He compares his opposition to abortion to the “fight against slavery (Planned Parenthood Action Fund).” Cuccinelli is a Tea Party favorite (LA Times, Halper, 11/05/13). He is anti- gay marriage, and has stated that “homosexuality is against natural law (“Cuccinelli.com,” Wash. Post, 6/29/03).” He opposes gun control and received the backing of the National Rifle Association. In the State Senate, Cuccinelli sponsored a 2009 resolution urging Congress to amend the Constitution to deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. In a radio interview, he equated immigration policy with “rat control (NY Times, J. Preston, 11/06/13).” Cuccinelli is best known for his opposition to Obamacare. He was one of the key state attorneys general filing lawsuits to challenge Obamacare’s constitutionality. Cuccinelli unsuccessfully tried to leapfrog directly to the Supreme Court before all the federal appeals courts had ruled on Obamacare. Cuccinelli and Company ultimately lost in the High Court (M. Coyle, “The Roberts Court,” 2013).
Cuccinelli’s right wing record gave McAuliffe the opportunity to hammer him non-stop about his being out of Virginia’s mainstream. McAuliffe ran a disciplined campaign pushing job creation. His numerous ads pounded Cuccinelli with being anti-abortion, anti-contraception, and for being only one of three attorneys general in the nation to oppose the Violence Against Women Act (T. Gabriel, NY Times, 11/05/13). Sixty-three percent of Va. voters believe abortion should remain legal in at least some or all cases (Planned Parenthood Action Fund). McAuliffe raised more than $35 million, nearly double Cuccinelli (Wash. Post, B. Pershing, Wash. Post, 11/06/13). Although Cuccinelli was the early favorite, many business-oriented GOPers, including the mayor of Va. Beach, the state’s largest city, endorsed McAuliffe. Cuccinelli’s stances against abortion, gays, and climate science rattled them (Gabriel, NY Times, CQ 14).
Pundits were “shocked, shocked,” that McAuliffe only won by 2.5%. The final polling averages had him ahead by an average of 7 and the Wash. Post Poll had him up by 12 (Wash. Post, “The Fix,” Craighill & Clement, 11/06/2013). “Conventional wisdom” attributed his narrow win to the techno-botched roll-out of the Obamacare federal website. As the race ended, Cuccinelli emphasized his hostility to Obamacare (See Hohmann, “Politico,” 11/06/13). Most pollsters had been “carried away” by the temporary pro-McAuliffe “bump” that occurred during the GOP/Tea Party shutdown which ended in mid-October. Many GOPers backing third-party candidate Sarvis also “came home” after appearances by GOP/ Tea Party icons Ted Cruz and Ron Paul (See Gabriel, NY Times).
McAuliffe’s financial edge enabled him to hire the Blue Labs firm. Blue Labs was a group of about 20 people who were veterans of Obama’s 2012 analytics operation. They figured out, with mathematical accuracy and extensive data research, the percentages McAuliffe needed of women, Hispanics, African Americans, and others to win on 11/05/2013. They had McAuliffe advertise starting in the summer on shows such as “Judge Judy” and “Dr. Oz.” to get out women. They made sure Bill Clinton campaigned to pull a strong African American turnout (See Pershing, Wash. Post, Gabriel, NY Times). McAuliffe’s group achieved strong Hispanic turn out by running ads attacking Cuccinelli for his “rat control” immigration remarks(Preston, NY Times, 11/05/13). In 2013, as in 2012, 20% of Va. African Americans voted and 4% of Latinos did, just a 1% drop-off from 2012 (CNN & Fox Exit Polls).These numbers put McAuliffe over the top. And despite the GOP and general “spin,” Obmacare was not a chain around McAuliffe’s neck that nearly defeated him. After the election, McAuliffe’s Democratic pollster Geoff Garin told reporters that their final 10/31/2013 internal poll had McAuliffe up on Cuccinelli by 3% (45%-42% with 5% for Sarvis). The Blue Labs firm had modeled this contest as a 2-point race. This lead remained a stable 2%-4% from mid-summer on, except for a big McAuliffe bump during the shutdown. There was no last minute tightening of the race. Garin noted that Cuccinelli’s bragging about being the first attorney general to sue over Obamacare made voters polled less likely to support him. The structure of the Va. electorate would have always made this race close (Ward, Huffington Post, 11/06/13, @geoffgarin, G. Sargent, “The Plum Line,” Wash. Post, 11/06/13). In 2012, Obama won Va. by just 4% (CQ 14, Barone14).
What are Virginia’s lessons for the 2014 midterm and beyond? Obamacare techno glitches must be fixed ASAP. Millions must be enrolled to get better healthcare. However, Democratic turnout, especially its “coalition of the ascendant,” trumps all. McAuliffe’s Va. win was way too close because groups other than blacks and Hispanics, especially women, liberals, and the 18-29 set, decreased their turnout from 2012 by 4-6 points (See Fox & CNN Exit Polls, kos, 11/06/13). In order for Democrats to take back the House, keep the Senate, and gain governorships, the “coalition of the ascendant” must live up to its name. It can’t become the “coalition of the descending or the disappearing.”