Category Archives: U.S. politics

AFP coming to a local election near you?

Americans for Prosperity, the free-market group founded by Charles and David Koch, has been focusing more of its attention and money lately on state elections. Now it is inserting itself into local elections. AFP has been aggressively campaigning in Tuesday’s mayoral and city council elections in Coralville, Iowa, a town with fewer than 20,000 residents, the New York Times reported. Why AFP cares in unclear. AFP is criticizing the city’s debt and economic development strategy. A Democratic state representative from Coralville thinks that AFP officials are “doing whatever groundwork they can for the 2014 elections.”

Norquist kicks defund caucus while it’s down

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform didn’t temper his criticism of the fellow Republicans who gained nothing in their quest to defund Obamacare by shutting down the government and risking default. “It’d be a good idea if they stopped referring to other Republicans as Hitler appeasers because they opposed the strategy they put forward which failed,” Norquist told reporters, clearly referring to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Norquist added: “I think if you make a mistake as big as what they did, you owe your fellow senators and congressmen a big apology – and your constituents, as well, because nothing they did advanced the cause of repealing or dismantling Obamacare.” He even likened the would-be defunders’ strategy to that of the Iraq invasion. “These are the people who said, ‘Plan: Step One. Invade Iraq. Step Two. It turns into Kansas.’ Could I ask if there’s anything in between Step One and Step Two? ‘Oh, ye of little faith.’”

Conservatives forming firing squad

Not only did congressional Republicans get hammered in public opinion polls over the government shutdown, but many of their traditional allies turned on them, too. A Wall Street Journal editorial this week complained: “This is the quality of thinking – or lack thereof – that has afflicted many GOP conservatives from the beginning of this budget showdown. They picked a goal they couldn’t achieve in trying to defund Obamacare from one house of Congress, and then they picked a means they couldn’t sustain politically by pursuing a long government shutdown and threatening to blow through the debt limit.” Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post said that the only good thing about the shutdown was that it helped people identify which conservatives were reality-based and which ones were “unwilling or unable to combine conservative ideology with real-world political strategy.”

Government shutdown had winners, losers

The government shutdown and threat of default made just about everybody in Washington, D.C., look bad, as evidenced by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showing that 60 percent of Americans would like to fire everyone in Congress, including their own representative. But some came out better than others. Among the “winners,” according to Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza, were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. (“a master political tactician”), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (“knows how to close deals”), and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (“the most not-Washington Republican politician with a national profile”). “Losers” included House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio (tried to “forge consensus within a conference where that simply is not possible”), and the GOP brand (“congressional Republicans hit new lows in overall approval”). Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, both won (“he is now first among equals when it comes to the anti-Obama in the 2016 field”) and lost (“he hurt his image” everywhere but the GOP base).

Polling keeps getting worse for GOP

Only 24 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable opinion of the tea party, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. Those are record lows for both. What’s more, by a 22-point margin, the public thinks the GOP is more to blame for the shutdown than President Obama, which is a wider margin than during the last shutdown in 1995-96. And to make it even worse for the GOP, both Obama’s approval rating and the percentage of Americans who think Obamacare is a good idea increased in the poll.

GOP favorability rating hits record low

Only 28 percent of Americans view the Republican Party favorably, according to a new Gallup poll. That’s the lowest rating for either party since Gallup began asking the question in 1992. The government standoff is driving the low approval, as the GOP’s favorability rating dropped 10 percentage points from last month. The Democratic Party rates better but not great: 43 percent view it favorably, down 4 points from last month. Not surprisingly, Americans now cite dissatisfaction with government and elected representatives as the top issue facing the nation, according to Gallup.

Norquist frustrated by GOP House, Cruz

Include anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist among those baffled and frustrated by the GOP House’s decision to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act. He told the Washington Post that Republicans should have negotiated for entitlement reform in exchange for lifting some of the sequestration cuts, which President Obama and Democrats want to do. Instead, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, demonized any Republican who didn’t support a shutdown showdown, even though he didn’t have the votes in the Senate to block Obamacare. “He pushed House Republicans into traffic and wandered away,” Norquist said.

GOP’s problem in two sentences

Here’s the Republican Party’s problem in two sentences, wrote Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas of the Washington Post: “It would be a disaster for the party to shut down the government over Obamacare. But it’s good for every individual Republican politician to support shutting down the government over Obamacare.” Unlike in the past, GOP leaders no longer have enough power and influence to convince lawmakers to do what is best for their party. Robert Costa of National Review tweeted that power has shifted away from the Capitol leadership offices to Tea Party Inc. and backbench members of Congress.

Libertarians believe freedom is catalyst for progress

A blog post last week raised the question: Would a libertarian society be doomed to fail? It linked to a commentary by Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu that argued that “radical libertarianism” would be a disaster “if ever put into practice at the scale of something bigger than a tiny enclave.” Aaron Ross Powell, a research fellow at the Cato Institute, has responded, arguing that “private individuals are capable of amazing things if given the opportunity to exercise their ingenuity,” and that “too often, the state stands in the way.” He contends that rather than being selfish or anti-community, libertarians “want to make the world better for everyone – and believe freedom is the best catalyst for progress.”

Ugly comments don’t represent American values, Miss Kansas

Theresa Vail (in photo) did a great job representing Kansas in this year’s Miss America pageant, winning the online “America’s Choice” vote to advance as a semifinalist. It’s a shame she has been mentioned in some ugly comments about Miss New York Nina Davuluri, the first contestant of Indian heritage to win the title. Todd Starnes, a Fox News radio host, tried to politicize the pageant by tweeting that “the liberal Miss America judges won’t say this – but Miss Kansas lost because she actually represented American values,” and that “Miss Kansas, a gun-toting, deer-hunting, military veteran was America’s choice – but not the liberal Miss America judges’ choice.”

A peek inside Koch brothers’ ‘secret bank’

In an article titled “The Koch brothers’ secret bank,” Politico reported on a little-known organization in Arlington, Va., that serves “as an outlet for the ideas and funds” of Charles and David Koch and other wealthy conservatives. Freedom Partners raised and spent $250 million in 2012, “cutting checks as large as $63 million to groups promoting conservative causes,” Politico reported. Those groups include Americans for Prosperity ($32.3 million); Themis Trust, a Koch-based voter database ($5.8 million); and American Future Fund ($13.6 million). In 2010, the Iowa-based American Future Fund spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads in support of GOP attorney general candidate Derek Schmidt. Freedom Partners has five directors, Politico reported, including Koch officials Wayne Gable, Richard Fink and Kevin Gentry and Wichita Realtor Nestor Weigand. A statement on the Koch Industries website says that Freedom Partners “operates independently of Koch Industries and educates the public about a broad range of issues.”

Would a libertarian society be doomed to fail?

Just as communism failed, “radical libertarianism, if ever put into practice at the scale of something bigger than a tiny enclave, would also be a disaster,” argued Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu. They contend that radical libertarians would be great at destroying but not at creating or governing. “It is in failed states such as Somalia that libertarianism finds its fullest actual expression,” they argued. What do you think?

Should churches be able to endorse candidates?

A new report by a group of faith leaders calls for an end to the ban on churches and other houses of worship endorsing political candidates, the Washington Post reported. The faith leaders – mostly conservative evangelical pastors – argue that it is a free-speech issue and complain that the current decades-old ban is poorly enforced. Some argue that lifting the endorsement ban might not have a significant impact, because many churches would be concerned about driving away members who don’t like mixing partisan politics and religion. Overall, only 27 percent of Americans think churches should endorse candidates, with 66 percent opposed, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Can ‘Carlos Danger’ still become New York’s mayor?

Can former congressman Anthony Weiner survive the disclosure of more sexting (including his online name, “Carlos Danger”) and still get elected mayor of New York City? The New York Times editorial board hopes not. “Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City,” its editorial said, arguing that Weiner has a “repellent pattern of misleading and evasion.”

Jenkins wants to fix problems

When U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, was a state lawmaker, she had a reputation for being pragmatic and middle-of-the-road. But after she was elected to Congress in 2008, she soon became, by her own admission, a proud member of the party of “no.” So it is encouraging that that she has joined the No Labels coalition seeking to break the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. “This Congress is terribly unpopular, and for good reason: Next to nothing is getting done,” Jenkins said in statement last week. She told the Topeka Capital-Journal that the solution to the dysfunction is for lawmakers to seek common ground. “In a divided Washington, neither Democrats nor Republicans can get things done unilaterally,” she said. “Either we work together to fix problems, or we achieve nothing.”

GOP base supports comprehensive immigration reform

A new survey by the Republican polling firm Basswood Research found that 70 percent of GOP primary voters support immigration reform that increases border security, requires employers to verify the legal status of job seekers, and establishes a pathway to U.S. citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country – key provisions of the Senate-passed immigration reform bill. The support for comprehensive reform existed in every region of the country and among tea party voters and social conservatives. “Contrary to some perceptions,” the survey concluded, “it is clear that Republican members of Congress who support comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship, do not run afoul of the majority opinion of their primary voters.”

California, Kansas waging ‘ideological battle’

Hoover Institution fellow David Davenport called California (his current home) and Kansas (where he grew up) “the blue and red point-counterpoint states of the nation” and the scenes of “a far more interesting and potentially important ideological battle than what we see in Washington, D.C., at the moment.” Writing for Forbes, Davenport said California has “become the model of blue-state governance (high taxes, high regulation)” while Kansas “is focused on shaping the mold for red-state governance (low taxes, high freedom). Even as California raised its tax rates, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is driving his state toward zero income tax, aiming to stimulate economic growth. It’s clearly a tale not only of two states but of two models of governance.”

More white voters not enough for GOP

GOP political strategist Karl Rove disagrees with those who argue that the Republican Party just needs to increase turnout among white voters in order to win elections. He noted that Mitt Romney still would have lost in 2012 even if the turnout among white voters had been the same as in 2008. “The nonwhite vote as a share of total voters has increased in every presidential election since 1996 by 2 percent (much of it Hispanic), while the share of the white vote has dropped by 2 percent each election,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “If the GOP leaves nonwhite voters to the Democrats, then its margins in safe congressional districts and red states will dwindle – not overnight, but over years and decades.”

Brownback wants GOP to keep talking about social issues

Gov. Sam Brownback thinks Mitt Romney focused too much on economic issues during his 2012 presidential campaign. “I think he would have been better off talking about the social issues more,” Brownback told the Associated Press before speaking Friday at a fundraiser for the Arkansas Republican Party. Many strategists have urged the GOP to talk less about social issues, noting how anti-abortion comments cost them two winnable Senate races and have hurt their appeal to women. But Brownback, who may be eyeing another presidential run, said Republicans need to continue fighting abortion. “If you believe this is a life,” he said, “how do you not fight for a life?” The website Kansas Watchdog paraphrased Brownback’s message as, “It’s not the economy, stupid.”

How GOP can win young voters

“GOP politicians need to stop turning off younger voters by living up to their stereotype of intolerance, and they need to explain why their agenda is better for young people,” columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote. That agenda, she said, should be “built on optimism, growth, opportunity and self-determination.” She noted that President Reagan “won the youth vote as the oldest elected president because he was offering something fresh, a vision larger than self-interest and a demeanor of openness. That, not crabbiness and perpetual anger at foes (imagined and otherwise), is an outlook worth emulating.”

Social conservatives still wield influence in GOP

After Republicans badly lost the women’s vote in the 2012 presidential election, and after anti-abortion comments cost them Senate races they should have won, there were calls by party leaders and strategists to focus less on social issues. That word apparently didn’t get to Republican U.S. House members. Or, more likely, Tuesday’s vote to restrict almost all abortions to the first 20 weeks after conception reflects the influence that social conservatives still have in the GOP – and their unwillingness to be marginalized. The bill has no chance of making it through the Senate.

Still waiting to see libertarianism work

Many Americans favor limiting government and are attracted to libertarian ideals. But why are there no libertarian countries? asked Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne. He noted that tea party members “say they want to shrink government in a big way but are uneasy about embracing this concept when reducing Social Security and Medicare comes up.” Dionne also wrote: “This matters to our current politics because too many politicians are making decisions on the basis of a grand, utopian theory that they never can – or will – put into practice. They then use this theory to avoid a candid conversation about the messy choices governance requires.” Suggesting no ideal state of any kind will ever exist, columnist Jonah Goldberg responded: “The revolution wrought by John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith and the Founding Fathers is the only real revolution going. And it’s still unfolding.”

Young voters not enamored with either party, but especially GOP

“It is not that young voters are enamored of the Democratic Party. They simply dislike the Republican Party more,” according to a recent report by the College Republican National Committee. Actually, they dislike the GOP quite a bit more. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that found that 65 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 think the Republican Party is out of touch with concerns of most people today, while 47 percent of them think the Democratic Party is out of touch. However, 58 percent of younger Americans think President Obama is “in touch” with concerns of most people, which is one reason why he dominated the youth vote the past two elections.

No partisan divide on military involvement in Syria

Well, here is one thing that Republicans and Democrats agree on: They don’t want the U.S. militarily involved in Syria. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that only 17 percent of Democrats and 15 percent of Republicans favor direct military action in Syria to stop the killing of civilians. And only 11 percent of Democrats and 10 percent of Republicans favor providing arms to Syrian rebels. “Even those who voted for President Barack Obama and those who voted for Mitt Romney last year hold virtually identical views on this topic, perhaps uniquely in the panoply of current public-policy issues,” wrote Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal.

Some tax-exempt groups deserve scrutiny

The Internal Revenue Service deserves scrutiny and criticism for targeting conservative and tea party groups. But some of those groups also could use some scrutiny (as could some liberal groups). Though they claimed tax-exempt status as “social welfare” organizations, their activities seem primarily political. For example, while it was applying for tax exemption, the Wetumpka Tea Party of Alabama was sponsoring training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the “defeat of President Barack Obama,” and CVFC, a conservative veterans’ group in California, was spending thousands of dollars on radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress, the New York Times reported. “While some of the IRS questions may have been overbroad,” said Donald B. Tobin, a former lawyer with the Justice Department’s tax division, “you can look at some of these groups and understand why these questions were being asked.”