Friday, October 9, 2015

Last Call For Bevin Blowing It

It's looking more and more like Matt Bevin is going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the Kentucky governor's race as the backbiting from the Kentucky GOP is already beginning.

Some prominent Northern Kentucky Republicans have told the Enquirer they support Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway. 
The bitterness among many Republicans against the tea party, which has challenged many in leadership recent years, might catch up to Republican candidate Matt Bevin, often seen as an outsider candidate who has heavy tea party support. 
In particular, Bevin's nasty primary challenge of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014 has left a sour taste in the mouths of some Republicans. They believe the lack of support for Bevin in his own party could allow Conway to win, despite Conway having to deal with President Barack Obama's unpopularity in the state. 
"I think the chickens are coming home to roost," said Alexandria Republican Mike Combs, who has given $250 to Conway's campaign. "They made it such a personal attack in so many ways." 

Bevin made so many enemies trying to beat Mitch McConnell last year that when he needs Republicans here in the NKY to turn out to support him, he's coming up empty handed.

The tension between traditional Republicans and the tea party wing that includes Bevin, who won the gubernatorial nomination largely by carrying Northern Kentucky, came to the surface in the keynote speech at last month's Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce annual dinner. 
Incoming chamber chairman Dave Heidrich didn't directly name vocal conservative voters and groups such as the tea party in his speech. But he called out businesses to help current elected officials get things done. 
"The business community must gather around our elected officials and provide support. They need to know they can take a bold position and not be immediately defeated by a small vocal minority in the next primary," said Heidrich, a registered Republican who has held a fundraiser for Conway this year. 
In his speech, Heidrich specifically doubled down on the chamber's commitment to getting a new bridge next to the Brent Spence Bridge, a plan that tea party supports oppose because the plan currently relies on tolls. The crowd of more than 500 at the dinner loudly applauded Heidrich. 
Conway's campaign website lists a group of 24 leading Republicans, known as Republicans for Conway. Two locals on the list are Campbell County real estate broker Ken Perry and lawyer Michael Plummer. 
Could less than complete GOP support keep Bevin from winning? 
Bevin and Conway remain close in the polls, with the last Bluegrass Poll at the end of September by the Louisville Courier-Journal showing Conway leading Bevin 42 percent to 37 percent. The poll showed tepid support among their bases for both candidates, with 16 percent of registered Democrats saying they'd vote for Bevin and 15 percent of registered Republicans saying they'd vote for Conway. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

And that's true, with Conway up by five and Bevin finding burnt bridges around every corner, Conway just might pull this off.

The Fool On The Hill(ary)

Daily Beast columnist Ben Domenech rips into Hillary Clinton's reversal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and wonders out loud if she thinks undecided Democratic primary voters like myself are as stupid as she thinks we are.

For years, Hillary Clinton has championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership as one of her signal achievements in her time as secretary of state
She called it the “gold standard in trade agreements” in 2012. She listed it in her book as one of her key accomplishments. But now, four weeks before the final TPP text is released, she has announced a change of heart. “As of today,” she told Judy Woodruff, “I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.” 
Clinton’s flip-flop would be laughable if it weren’t exactly what the American people expect of her—and a trap for Republicans blind to her game. 
From the perspective that assumes Clinton operates according to principles and ideology, the shift is potentially damaging. Vox, for example, headlines its coverage: “Hillary Clinton’s flip-flop on the TPP makes no sense.” 
And it doesn’t, for someone who is a consistent, principled, ideologically driven politician
But this move makes total sense if you understand that Clinton is none of these things. She is changing her mind on this, as she has on so many other things, based on nothing more than political pressure from her left and analysis of political trend lines. The media loves to talk about how GOP primaries pull Republicans so far to the right they can’t win a general election, but that’s what’s happening in real time to Clinton, who is locked in a bidding war with a Vermont socialist over the progressive base.

Clinton has always been a perfect barometer of where her party is. She is a follower, not a leader. She has correctly perceived that the Democratic base is now a dominated by a coalition of economic know-nothings and culture-war leftists who are less interested in “progressive” policy than in freezing the status quo in place. 
As an expression of throwback reflexes on trade and growth, it amounts to Trumpism in a pantsuit. And it’s something more: It’s evidence that a second Clinton presidency can only be won on the ashes of the legacy and vision of the first—a triangulating presidency during which entitlements were reformed significantly and free trade expanded. 
Yet I wonder if all the campaign operatives right and left now saying, “Oh, Hillary’s flip-flopping, she’s contradicting what’s in her book—this could damage her,” have been paying attention to anything the voters have learned about Hillary Clinton in the intervening years. Of course it won’t damage her to flip-flop. She has been for all the things before she was against them.

I really can't find fault in Domenech's logic here.  Clinton has been a finger-in-the-wind triangulator like her husband for decades now, and it hasn't hurt her so far.  This demure "As of today" move leaves the door wide open for her to change her position again as she "learns more about" the TPP and everyone knows it.

Of course, the problem is the alternative to Clinton right now is Bernie Sanders, and both of them are more than happy to run away from President Obama and his policies.  Right now I'm wishing Joe Biden would get into the race if only to have at least one Democrat actually run on the fact that President Obama did a pretty damned good job considering the hand he was dealt by both the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress.

That would be nice.

What Happened To Rand Paul?

If there's one silver lining to the rise of Donald Trump's toxic brand of overtly racist, protectionist populism, it's that it buried Rand Paul's toxic brand of more subtly racist, protectionist glibertarian nonsense and that Paul's aspirations for higher office are quite dead. Salon's Conor Lynch:

Trump has taken advantage of the fears and insecurities of a significant portion of white Americans, who see the influx of non-white immigrants — Hispanic, Asian, Muslim — as a threat to their way of life. In their view, Muslims are terrorists (i.e., Syrian refugees are members of ISIS — even though half are children), Mexicans are rapists and job-stealers, foreigners are cheaters, black people are lazy, and so on. They also distrust intellectuals and experts. Consider, for example, the denial of scientific realities like climate change and evolution. Even though the vast majority of scientists agree that human beings are warming the planet with their carbon output, most Republican supporters simply refuse to believe. Overall, the Tea Party movement appears to be a combination of white-identity politics and anti-intellectualism. Even Glenn Beck, the former patron saint of the Tea Party, has called Trump’s Tea Party supporters racists. (I guess he never interacted with supporters at those rallies of his.)

What does all this say about a great percentage of Republican voters? First of all, it reveals that many are ideologically inconsistent (except when it comes to their social views) and politically ignorant. After all, Trump is no small government conservative, and as former congressman Ron Paul said recently, he sounds increasingly authoritarian. It also reveals that most GOP voters are not libertarian like Rand Paul, and that his honesty on certain issues, especially when he speaks out against war, advocates diplomacy, and criticizes the government spying on its own citizens, hurts his standing in the Grand Old Party.

In closing, Jerry Taylor writes about issues that libertarians have been successful with over the past few years: 
Libertarians… can take heart from the fact that political sentiment is moving their way in some areas. Gay rights, drug decriminalization, increasing outrage over heavy-handed police tactics, growing concern over an unjust legal system, disgust over crony capitalism, and opposition to military deployments abroad all suggest that libertarian arguments can have political force.

The thing is, these issues are all areas where libertarians and those on the left agree. Indeed, liberals and libertarians tend to see eye to eye on somewhere around half of the issues (typically relating to civil rights), while they disagree on other things like the free market and income inequality. These issues — war, civil rights, criminal justice reform — are what make Paul an outsider in the Republican Party.

Whether you agreed with him or not during the last two debates, Paul did bring substance to otherwise fruitless events. But it seems that most GOP voters do not care about substance, and prefer entertaining and pompous loudmouths who embrace their irrational fears, insecurities and prejudices. One can disagree with a political opponent and still have great respect for him or her, but only when real substance and debate is involved. How can one have respect for an opponent like Trump, who makes outlandish claims without any evidence and popularizes untrue and dangerous generalizations about entire segments of the population? How can one respect someone who operates in fear-mongering and embraces some of the darkest qualities of human beings, like racism, to get ahead in the polls?

Unfortunately, the GOP is headed in this ugly direction, and the fall of Rand Paul, who is one of the few Republicans with a consistent and discernible philosophy — wrong as it may be — reveals this crude drift towards a political movement that will inevitably leave many victims in its wake.

And when the Trump boil bursts, it's going to be truly ugly, infectious, and sickening.  But at least the guy got rid of Rand Paul's snotty version of "Well, actually" racist libertarianism.  It just replaced it with something far worse.


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