Tag Archives: 2012

Republicans vs. African Americans, Part 2,225

I like to read Rod Dreher’s blog over at the American Conservative and occassionally  like to add my view points.  I’m guessing that I’m not provocative enough, because no one ever notices what I say.  One of this most recent posts is on Conservatives and Black Folk and it has set off a discussion or at least a shoutfest.  Below are my comments to his post.  I have to add that I get a little bit tired of this debate mostly because it engages in blaming each other.  Liberals and African Americans talk about how racist conservatives are and conservatives fire back about how useless it is to reach blacks, blah, blah, blah.  I really wish that both sides would put aside their egos and sit down and listen to each other.

As I read this post, I had to heave a heavy sigh, frankly because I’m tired of dealing with it.

From the viewpoint of this African American that voted for Romney, I have a few points.

First, while there have been some racially tinged rhetoric coming from conservatives, I don’t think that conservatives are automatically racist.

Second, while I don’t think conservativatism = racism, that is the bias that conservatives have to live with. The larger society thinks this and speaking from experience, it is hard to break free of a sterotype.

Third, conservatives aren’t racist, but when it comes to the concerns of African Americans, they tend to neglect us and focus on white people. During the election, the only visible time that Romney spoke to African Americans was at the NAACP convention and there he was denouncing Obamacare and not offering a viable alternative. Since many African Americans tend to be in a more precarious situation than whites when it comes to employment, that means we are more likely to lose health insurance, which means not going to the doctor and dealing with all the health issues that blacks deal with like high blood pressure and diabetes. Again, Romney wasn’t racist, but in talking about repealing Obamacare and offering nothing in its place made African Americans think that the GOP doesn’t care about them.

Fourth, while Rod is correct that African Americans won’t ever become a major part of the GOP coalition, it really doesn’t need to get every vote, it just needs to get enough votes. In the 50-50 nation we live in, what matters is getting enough votes from different groups to eke a victory. The GOP will never get the majority of black votes, but if it can make in-roads; say make it a goal to get 15-20%, then you might make a difference.

Fifth, conservatives have to do more than what I call “showroom diversity.” You see this every four years at the convention when a number of persons of color speak at at the podium. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if there are very few delegates on the floor that match the diversity at the podium, then you aren’t going to get the attention of African Americans.

Sixth, the GOP has to actually go to black communities and listen to African Americans. Hear about our lives and what we think we need. The party doesn’t have to pander to us, but they need to tailor conservative ideas to the lives of black folks. I’m sorry, but a tax cut ain’t gonna help.

Finally, conservatives as a whole need to stop unintentional race baiting. Let me explain. After the Trayvon Martin incident, there was a lot of press in the conservative media about that insinuated that Martin was nothing but a thug. While there might have been no racist intent, to African Americans, especially those with sons, it seemed that conservatives were going after black men. I can tell you as a black man, I’ve been looked at as something to fear when in reality I’m about as harmless as a bunny rabbit. There were ways of talking about this without slandering a dead black kid. When such things happen, other conservatives need to speak up and set the record straight. You can’t just ignore it or act like it wasn’t a big deal because to blacks it is.

That’s my two cents.

Jon Huntsman, Conservative

One of the biggest problems that John McCain faced in 2000 and again in 2008 is how people portrayed him.  Because he had chastised the far right on one occasion or another, people started to paint McCain as a centrist Republican, completely ignoring his record which was actually pretty conservative.  People wanted to see in John McCain what they wanted to see and when reality stared them in the face, they were shocked that this candidate that they lauded as a moderate or centrist was really a conservative.

Now it’s Jon Huntman’s turn.  Because he has staked out positions to the left of the party on civil unions and the environment, he immediately got tagged as the reincarnation of Nelson Rockefeller.  Which is why I think Jess Chapman wrote this very odd post taking the conservative Utah governor for pandering to….conservatives.

Chapman links to this Yahoo story where Huntsman met with a group of Tea Party activists in South Carolina:

Those who braved the heat to show up to the presidential forum in the Palmetto State — home of the first Southern presidential primary — admitted they came skeptical of Huntsman’s conservative credentials.

“I think candidates need to have constructive criticism, and that’s what people are saying about him,” Jones, the woman who did the impromptu audience survey, told The Daily Caller. “That he’s a moderate.”

Despite the fact he governed in conservative Utah, how did he get that reputation?

His speeches aren’t exactly fiery like those of fellow candidates Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain or potential rival Sarah Palin. He once worked for President Obama, as ambassador. And last week, he was the only major presidential candidate to support the debt-ceiling compromise struck by Republicans on Capitol Hill and the White House.

Huntsman, who was tie-less on Sunday and shed his blazer once on-stage, spent the next hour at Scott’s forum trying to convince those like Jones that he is no moderate or liberal Republican.

He got loud applause by praising the district’s freshman conservative congressman by saying, “thank god for Tim Scott.” They applauded again when he said President Obama has “failed us” and when he said the country needs a balanced budget amendment, a favorite of tea partiers.

And when it comes to paying down the country’s debt, he said “everything needs to be on the table,” including entitlements and defense.

“We can’t have any sacred cows in this debate,” Huntsman said.

 

Chapman saw this as a loss of nerve:

When former Ambassador Jon Huntsman (R-UT) announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, I was thrilled. He had a solid record on both domestic and foreign policy; he had executive experience; he had the potential to be a true political uniter; and even if the Republicans dropped him, we centrists could have someone around whom to rally if he went third-party. Then he hit the campaign trail and lost his balls. It’s quite a common tale.

Huntsman was in Charleston, SC, yesterday, at a town hall organized by Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), one of the young Tea Party guns. Put him together with a room full of like-minded people, and you can easily find yourself under enormous pressure to toe the line, which is exactly what Huntsman did. He asked the crowd to look at his record – and then took great pains to stress his status as a “conservative problem solver,” emphasis on the “conservative.” A few shots at President Obama and props to Scott, and he was in business. As far as we know.

 

When Huntsman announced his candidacy earlier in the year, I wrote a post about how folks have tended to misconstrue his conservative record.  What made him different was not that he was a moderate, but that he was a conservative that was open to reaching out to moderates.  Here’s what I wrote back then:

Huntsman’s support for civil unions and responding to climate change has had him pegged as some sort of Rockefeller Republican (which has been described as in one reading). But his moderation is one more of tone than it is one of politics. While such moderation might not be attractive to die hard centrists, I do think it might be more appealing to those who want to be persuaded to vote GOP, but don’t feel they can’t with some of the current crop of candidates (think Michelle Bachmann). I don’t think it’s an accident that Huntsman kicked off his campaign at the same place Ronald Reagan did a generation ago.  I think he is less about reviving a moderate, northeastern-style Republicanism, than he is reviving a Western conservatism ala Reagan.  Reagan was no doubt a conservative, but he is remembered as trying to expand the conservative family, instead forcing purity tests on folks.

Huntsman is not a moderate politically, but he is trying to hone a civil and civic-minded conservatism, something that just might appeal to moderates and independents.

Jess and others might want to read past articles by Daniel Alott and Ezra Klein to see that Huntsman has governed as a conservative.

As for meeting with Tea Party conservatives?  Well, they aren’t my (pardon the pun) cup of tea, but I know that this is part of politics.  If Huntsman is serious about winning the GOP nomination, he has to meet with all types of folks and that includes the Tea Party.  Coupled with a his recent outreach efforts to moderates in New Hampshire, he is doing what Ronald Reagan did 30 years ago: reach out to the different part of the GOP and even try to grow the party. If he went on television denouncing the Tea Party and calling them wingnuts, he might get the praise of centrists and liberals, but if he did that, he might as well give up any chance of winning in the GOP.  If he wants to win, he has to play nice with the Tea Party.  Jess might not like it.  I might not like it.  But this is politics.  It’s not like he’s started parroting Michelle Bachmann or something.

Which brings me back to the comparisons with John McCain.  McCain always had to deal with people who wanted to see in McCain what they wanted to see.  Huntsman is facing the same problem. Chapman wants Huntsman to stay moderate/centrist all the time, but that’s kind of impossible since he was never a moderate to begin with.  He’s a conservative that wants to reach out to moderates and in the world of Republican politics, that’s good enough.

 

A Plausible Third Party Scenario?

What happens to the political class if the debt ceiling talks fail?  Political analyst Jeff Greenfield thinks it might provide the backdrop for the rise of a third party:

At 2:30 on Monday morning, Aug. 1, 2011, the clerk of the House announced that the motion had failed. Within 24 hours, the government of the United States would be unable to pay its debts.

The political recriminations were as swift and ferocious as the economic fallout, which the hastily contrived debt-ceiling fix three days later did nothing to soften. The 1,400-point drop in the Dow, Moody’s move to downgrade the rating of federal debt, the fever spike in interest rates for mortgages and business loans, the delays in paying federal contractors, the impending layoffs — all had been predicted months before the debt limit was breached.

And the first wave of public reaction was equally predictable: Congress’s job-approval rating fell into the low teens, while President Obama’s dropped into the mid-20s. Nine in 10 Americans surveyed said they thought the country was on the wrong track (“The 10th one is in a coma,” Conan O’Brien quipped).

But then something else began to happen to American politics, something that turned a long-standing political fantasy into a reality…

Until now, when the two-party system had failed at one of the government’s most basic jobs: protecting the full faith and credit of the country’s obligations. The persistent, low-level discontent with Republicans and Democrats suddenly became a tidal wave sweeping across ideological lines, encapsulated by one tweetable, postable, share-able word: “Enough!”

I think Greenfield puts forth a plausible scenario, but I’m still skeptical.  Is the Great American Middle angry enough to demand change?  Is it willing to get involved to making government work?  Would the debt ceiling crisis be the catalyst to launching a great reform in America?

I want to believe that something could happen, something that will move us beyond this deadlock that has made American politics so toxic.  I’m just not so sure Americans give a damn as much as to bring about something new.

I’d like to be proven wrong.

Political Parties Versus Political Movements

So, is the GOP a normal political party?  David Brooks has his doubts, and to be honest at times, so do I.  In a normal world someone like former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman would have a chance a presidential candidate.  People would look at his record and see that at least when it comes to fiscal matters, the governor is a conservative.

But like Brooks said yesterday, I don’t the GOP or at least large swaths of it is a regular political party, but is instead a political movement.  Jonthan Tobin explains why he and his fellow writers at Commontary magazine are  not that crazy about Huntsman:

Utah’s economic record does speak well for Huntsman, but the problem with his candidacy does not stem from worries about that aspect of his record. Huntsman has entered the GOP race as a moderate dripping with contempt for conservatives and clearly attempting to position himself as the darling of media elites and country club Republicans. After serving two years as President Obama’s ambassador to China, he has been slow to understand the one thing that unites the GOP is anger about the president’s policies.

This comes after a Huntsman supporter gave reasons why the magazine should consider Huntman.  Among the arguments:

Opinion polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans rank “the economy” and “jobs” as the top political issue.  Huntsman’s past economic performance speaks of nothing but success.   As governor of Utah, Huntsman signed the largest tax cut ($225 million) in the conservative state’s history, winning him the 2008 Cato Institute tax award and the 2007 Taxpayer Advocate Award; he fought against regulations hampering commerce (including, controversially, some of Utah’s more stringent liquor limitations); and he brought new high-tech businesses to the states.  The result? The American Legislative Exchange Council called Utah the top state for expected economic recovery.

On paper, Huntman is a pretty competent conservative.  His fiscal policy should be a dream to most conservatives.  As far as I’ve known, Huntsman has never said a harsh thing about other Republicans.  And why is the conservative media so fixated on how much the mainstream media loves Huntsman?  I don’t think the love fest is as big as people think (a few articles does not make a love afair.)  And if we are going to talk about media love affairs with certain Republican candidates, can we talk about the conservative media elite’s love for Michelle Bachmann? (She’s on the cover of both National Review and the Weekly Standard.)

I think it doesn’t matter to many if a candidate has a conservative fiscal record.  If they don’t run around talking about the Democrats as the spawn of Satan, or see President Obama as a socialist, then they don’t matter among the conservative media.  It’s the telltale sign a political movement versus a political party.

See Mitch Run?

David Brooks sends some love to a certain Midwestern governor:

On Feb. 11, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana met with a group of college students. According to The Yale Daily News, he told them that there is an “excellent chance” he will not run for president. Then he mounted the podium at the Conservative Political Action Conference and delivered one of the best Republican speeches in recent decades.

This is the G.O.P. quandary. The man who would be the party’s strongest candidate for the presidency is seriously thinking about not running. The country could use a serious, competent manager, which Governor Daniels has been, and still he’s thinking about not running. The historic moment calls for someone who can restrain debt while still helping government efficiently perform its duties. Daniels has spent his whole career preparing for this kind of moment, and still he’s thinking about not running.

Or so Daniels says.  While my heart leans towards a Huntsman or Johnson, Daniels is the candidate of the mind, one that can bring together Tea Party-type conservatives as well as those that might be outside the GOP tent.  I think the GOP is in need of someone that’s not a bombthrower (see Walker, Scott) and that can put for the a more intelligent and disciplined conservatism.

Daniels at CPAC

Amidst all of the hubbub at CPAC about Michelle Bachman or Tim Pawlenty or Ron Paul, it would be easy to forget the speech made by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.  Daniels is considered a contender for 2012 and his speech at CPAC was one that called for a more inclusive, civil and civic conservatism.  You can read the full text of the speech here.  What was striking about it is that he strike very conservative themes, but without the stemwinder kind of talk that so dominates our current political discourse. 

With folks like Daniels, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the 2012 GOP race might be worth watching.

h/t: Pejman Yousefzadeh

Another Case for Jon Huntsman

Taylor Marsh:

The thing is that Republicans know Barack Obama is vulnerable in ‘12, but they’ve got no one in their roster right now who can come close to doing the job. There’s an opening, with whoever it is that takes on Obama needing to be a heavyweight in order to win. Ambassador Huntsman fits that description, plus has the resume and stature that the gang of Tea Party politicians trying to grab for the lowest rung simply cannot match. However, Huntsman won’t be a favorite among the feverish primary crowd, with no one yet able to explain what happens with Sarah if she doesn’t run and who’ll get her nod if she doesn’t, because it will matter. At least he’s a deficit hawk.

The Establishment vs. the Tea Party, Round Two

Josh Krushaar of National Journal notes several Republican Senators might be facing primary challenges in 2012, and not all of them are “squishy moderates.”  One of those with the biggest target is Senator Richard Lugar:

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., is the poster child for Republicans putting their political health at risk. The six-termer is all but daring conservatives to challenge him, refusing to sign onto an earmark ban and being outspoken in supporting the New START nuclear weapons treaty. He’s his party’s leading maverick when his political survival is most threatened, and has already drawn interested challengers, even though he faced no Republican or Democratic opponent in 2006.

Two Republican officeholders are interested in running against Lugar. One of them, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, received the most statewide votes of any Indiana candidate this year. The other, state Sen. Mike Delph, writes on his legislative site he is “increasingly concerned with” Lugar’s actions.

If Lugar loses a primary, Republicans would have to concentrate on an otherwise safe seat, as Democrats would likely find a credible candidate, unlike 2006. Indiana is friendly to Republicans, but they would still have to spend resources to defend the seat.

Not surprisingly, Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, well known moderate, is also vulnerable and if she goes down in a primary, it might be a pickup for the Democrats:

In Maine, Sen. Olympia Snowe is different. If she loses the nomination, Democrats would be favored. She’s forged a moderate path in a Democratic state with longstanding success, but has never faced a serious challenge from her right. That could change as tea party groups make noise, particularly in the wake of getting their favored gubernatorial choice, Paul LePage, elected in November.

The state’s closed primary system only allows registered Republicans to choose their nominee, making Snowe potentially vulnerable. Like Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., who lost to an insurgent in a closed primary, Snowe is widely popular but less so among dedicated primary voters.

Snowe is highlighting her conservative credentials, voting for the earmark ban, emphasizing her fiscal stinginess and trumpeting her alliance with LePage. None ring particularly authentic.

As both parties become more and more ideologially pure, we should expect more primary challenges for those that go against the grain.

Students for Daniels

Indiana Republican Governor Mitch Daniels is getting a lot of talk about running for president and is also getting a lot of pushback

Enter a bipartisan group of college students who are running a Draft Mitch Daniels campaign.  This is what one of the group’s leaders, Max Eden said via Frum Forum:

What if there was a candidate both competent and sane who could take the Republican stage in 2012 and offer a real alternative to the Obama agenda? What if there was a Republican who would stand up and actually say what needs to be done — for a change?

Then we could do more than just “rally to restore sanity”; we could push for having a national election that wouldn’t be another, as Stewart says, “Cluster*@## to the White House.” So we are a group of young adults telling our parents to “grow up.” Can’t we just have an adult conversation about the legacy you are leaving us?

“Adult Conversation” is a catchphrase today among many Republican politicians and pundits, but you hear very little new being said from most of them. Governor Daniels, however, has gone out on a political limb by suggesting that we must declare a “social truce” in order to fix the economy and tackle the debt. We are all welcome to our social opinions, but when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says that the national debt is the top threat to our national security it is time to declare a truce in the culture war and do what needs to be done to cut the budget down to size and get our economy producing jobs.

Here again, Governor Daniels sets himself apart from other 2012 Republican contenders. He earned the nickname “The Blade” for his ability to cut out excess spending as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and as Indiana’s governor for turning a large deficit into consistent surpluses. While my generation has grown skeptical of Republican claims of practicing fiscal conservatism, there is no doubting Daniels’ record.

I like Daniels and his willingness to tell the truth on fiscal matters, but I wonder how realistic his chances are in 2012 or 2016 in these days of the Tea Party.  He’s getting flack from two strong wings of the GOP. He has talked about imposing a combination of a Value Added Tax with maybe a Flat Tax and has drawn ire from “fiscal conservatives” like Grover Norquist and his call for a “social truce” has made social conservatives mad.  I want to believe that someone like a Daniels could be a viable Republican candidate in two years, but I tend to think this party is in the thrall of someone like Sarah Palin who can bring together “fiscal conservatives” who don’t ever want to raise taxes and social conservatives who are against gay marriage and abortion.  The GOP has backed itself into an ideological cul-de-sac that it either can’t or won’t get out of and it will not tolerate anyone that deviates from that path.  I don’t know how you can grow a party that way, but the Republicans are trying to do that.

That said, I welcome this effort.  Maybe, just maybe these kids are the start of a movement towards some sanity in the land of American conservatism.