Category Archives: U.S. politics

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.”

Why presidents are disappointing

Almost all U.S. presidents, whether Republican or Democrat, are disappointing. Why is that? Here are five reasons offered by scholar Aaron David Miller: The challenges that confront presidents far exceed the powers at their disposal. Our expectations are unrealistic. The presidency is too up close and personal. The job is just too big. We want presidents to have the common touch and be heroic.

Is GOP overreaching on scandals?

“It has been only a few days since two administration scandals – the IRS harassment of conservative groups and the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records – dropped into the Republicans’ lap,” Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post. “But instead of turning public outrage to their advantage, Republicans have already begun overreaching, turning legitimate areas of inquiry into just some more partisan food fights.” Among several examples of overreach Milbank cited was Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., saying it is “more than reasonable” to ask whether the Obama administration will deny health care to people “based upon a person’s political beliefs or their religiously held beliefs.”

GOP shouldn’t be a ‘Reagan historical society’

“The unfailing reverence on the American right for Ronald Reagan is understandable,” wrote conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin. But it also has bound the right to “policies and positions that were time-specific.” Rather than being a “Ronald Reagan historical society,” the GOP needs to attract “a diverse, media-savvy generation that understands the America we actually live in,” she wrote, adding that “only then can the essence of conservatism – the promotion of personal liberty – survive, and the GOP along with it.”

GOP takes one step forward, two back

The Republican Party wisely recognizes the need to broaden its appeal, but it keeps being undermined by yahoos who say something stupid or offensive. Last week Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, used a derogatory term for Latinos and then was slow to apologize. Also last week, Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema from Michigan promoted an article on Facebook labeling the homosexual lifestyle as “filthy,” then declined to take down the post. Though top Republicans – including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio – strongly condemned these comments, the damage was done.

GOP still dealing with wounds of Iraq War

The parade of commentaries looking at the Iraq War 10 years after “shock and awe” include Peggy Noonan’s blunt take on the wounds it inflicted on her Republican Party. Among her conclusions: “It ruined the party’s hard-earned reputation for foreign-affairs probity.” “It muddied up the meaning of conservatism and bloodied up its reputation.” “It ended the Republican political ascendance that had begun in 1980.” And “it undermined respect for Republican economic stewardship.” Noonan also writes that the war was bad for GOP debate: “The high stakes and high drama of the wars – and the sense within the Bush White House that it was fighting for our very life after 9/11 – stoked an atmosphere in which doubters and critics were dismissed as weak, unpatriotic, disloyal.” Meanwhile, she wonders, where are the Democrats’ self-examination and self-criticism about their foreign policy?

Demographics make Kansas imperfect model for GOP

Is Gov. Sam Brownback’s Kansas the model for the future Republican Party? The Atlantic Wire’s Elspeth Reeve has doubts. “The Kansas House of Representatives is 72 percent Republican. The Kansas Senate is 80 percent Republican. That might have something to do with the fact that Kansas looks a lot like the Republican Party. It’s 78 percent white,” Reeve wrote. And “according to 2012 exit polls, 39 percent of voters are conservative, 48 percent are moderate, and only 17 percent are liberal.” The Republican National Committee’s new internal review suggests that the nation’s 30 GOP governors, including Brownback, will lead the way for the party, and there are tax and education reforms to watch in those states. “It is time for Republicans on the federal level to learn from successful Republicans on the state level,” the report said. But Reeve argued that in the cases of “less reliably red states, governors’ conservative policy records are more mixed.”

GOP seen as out of touch

More tough polling for Republicans, as 62 percent of the public says the GOP is out of touch with the American people, 56 percent think it is not open to change, and 52 percent think it is too extreme, according to a Pew Research Center poll. The GOP didn’t even fare that well with its own members, as 36 percent of Republicans surveyed said the party was out of touch. However, the GOP rated slightly higher than the Democratic Party (63 to 57 percent) on having strong principles.

What was CPAC thinking?

The Conservative Political Action Conference is getting hammered by conservatives for not inviting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to its annual gathering in Washington, D.C., and for inviting Donald Trump (in photo). Though Christie isn’t as ideologically pure as some would like, conservatives should be ecstatic about his record of reform, columnist Cal Thomas argued. And inviting Trump – described by columnist Jennifer Rubin as “a self-promoting and unserious person” – made CPAC seem like a sideshow.

Can Congress still solve big problems?

Though there have been some encouraging signals on immigration reform, the idea that the government can, will or even wants to come together to solve big issues is seeming like a total fallacy, Chris Cillizza wrote in the Washington Post. One reason is that the overwhelming majority of GOP House members come from heavily Republican districts and have a disincentive to compromise. “The only danger for most GOP members of the House is in a primary, not a general election,” Cillizza wrote. “And the best way to avoid a primary is to hold the ideological line on anything and everything.” Other factors that make a “grand bargain” unlikely are that polarization among the public is at an all-time high, according to polls, and Republicans lack a clear leader for negotiations.

Get your own Rubio water bottle

Good for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for having fun with his “water bottle-gate” moment during the GOP response to the State of the Union address, when he leaned off camera and grabbed a bottle of water. Rubio tweeted a photo of the bottle and has joked about it in interviews. Others are spoofing it as a way to promote conservative causes. The Reclaim America PAC is offering a Rubio water bottle to anyone who donates $25 or more to the PAC. “Send the liberal detractors a message that not only does Marco Rubio inspire you … he hydrates you, too,” the PAC advertises.

Does GOP have the guts, unity to fight Obama?

“It became obvious this week that the Republican Party top to bottom has to start taking Barack Obama seriously,” Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “All the famous criticisms of him are true: He has no talent for or interest in sustained, good-faith negotiations, he has no real sense of alarm about the great issue of the day, America’s debt. He’s a chill presence in a warm-blooded profession. But he means business. He means to change America in fundamental ways and along the lines of justice as he sees it The proper response to such a man is not – was not – that he’s a Muslim, he’s a Kenyan, he’s working out his feelings about colonialism. Those charges were meant to marginalize him, but they didn’t hurt him They damaged Republicans, who came to see him as easy to defeat…. It will take guts and unity to fight him. Can the GOP, just in Washington, for now, develop those things?”

Obama begins new term

President Obama stuck mostly to broad themes in his inauguration address today, calling on Americans to work together as one nation and one people to fulfill the promises of the Declaration of Independence. But he also listed several policy goals, including climate change, gay rights and immigration reform. Our editorial Sunday said that the president should make repairing the nation’s economy and the government’s finances his highest priority.

Women in charge in New Hampshire; not in Kansas

New Hampshire is doing its part to make women better represented in politics. Women now hold the state’s two congressional seats and its two Senate seats (the first and only state to ever have an all-female delegation). New Hampshire’s new governor, its speaker of the state House and its chief justice are also women. Women make up at least half of only three other states’ congressional delegations (Maine, Missouri and Washington), and 16 states don’t have any women in Congress, the New York Times reported. Kansas, which has one woman in Congress (Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka) and one woman in statewide office (Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger), will see its Legislature slip from 27.3 to 23 percent women in 2013, with the first-ever female Senate president (Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita) but six fewer women in the House.

Yoder’s swim got some year-end attention

When Politico rounded up the “10 craziest stories of 2012,” there was Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, and his Sea of Galilee skinny-dipping, alongside Clint Eastwood’s chair, Gen. David Petraeus’ sex scandal, the Secret Service’s prostitutes and Mitt Romney’s binders full of women. “Numerous GOP freshman lawmakers on a congressional trip reportedly were drinking and swimming at the holy site where Christians believe Jesus walked on water,” Politico recalled, noting the episode happened in summer 2011 but was only reported in 2012, and quoting another lawmaker as saying “when Congressman Yoder disrobed, that was inappropriate and it ceased the activity immediately.” In an editorial listing New Year’s “resolutions we’d like to see,” USA Today suggested that Yoder resolve to “always pack a bathing suit.”

Is there a good reason to keep marijuana illegal?

“While the use of cannabis has been illegal since the 1930s (when the name ‘marijuana’ was popularized by opponents to capitalize on anti-Mexican stereotypes), the ban – like alcohol prohibition before it – can be seen as the ultimate in intrusive government,” columnist Cathy Young wrote. “If the state’s going to tell us there are substances we’re not allowed to ingest or inhale, there had better be a very compelling reason to justify such intrusion.” Yet despite widespread public support for legalizing medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington state voters having legalized the sale of marijuana for any purpose, few national leaders have been willing to touch this topic.