Friday, April 24, 2009

The Right Gets Angry

It’s Friday, April 24, 2009. Here’s what we’re looking at:

A string of stories from Politico this morning suggest that the GOP is angrier than ever in the few months since they’ve lost all power.

First, conservative members of the House want to see DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano step down following a memo that warns the government to watch out for "right-wing extremists".

"Singling out political opponents for working against the ruling party is precisely the tactic of every tyrannical government from Red China to Venezuela," said Texas Rep. John Carter, a member of the party's elected leadership who has organized an hour of floor speeches Wednesday night to call for Napolitano's ouster. "The first step in the process is creating unfounded public suspicion of political opponents, followed by arresting and jailing any who continue speaking against the regime."

Next up, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) has suggested that the GOP go on strike if any prosecutions are carried out on Bush Administration officials for ties to torture.

King, the outspoken ranking member of the House homeland security committee, said Republicans should "shut down [legislative] activity across the board" if any Bush-era officials are hauled into court.

"We would need to have a scorched-earth policy and use procedural means to bring the place to a halt — go to war".

And finally, a new resolution sits before the Republican National Committee. This is how it the end of it reads:

RESOLVED, that we the members of the Republican National Committee call on the Democratic Party to be truthful and honest with the American people by acknowledging that they have evolved from a party of tax and spend to a party of tax and nationalize and, therefore, should agree to rename themselves the Democrat Socialist Party.

Apparently in an email to his fellow committee members, James Bopp Jr. said "Just as President Reagan’s identification of the Soviet Union as the 'evil empire' galvanized opposition to communism, we hope that the accurate depiction of the Democrats as a Socialist Party will galvanize opposition to their march to socialism."

That's not a joke, by the way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gay Marriage Becomes Relevant Again - But Is It More Popular This Time?

During the Bush Administration, Republicans made a point of using gay marriage as a wedge issue, knowing it was unpopular to the majority of Americans and that it could bring conservative voters to the polls to support GOP politicians.

But then the economy collapsed, and gay marriage was not an issue in the 2008 Presidential race.

Now, because it is legal in Iowa and Vermont, gay marriage is an issue again - especially in the state of New York. Recently, Governor David Patterson (D-NY) proposed legislation to legalize gay marriages in the Empire State, and there is a small chance it could pass.

According to some recent polling, a plurality - or even a majority - of New Yorkers support gay marriage.

Even in Upstate New York, the majority of respondents are in favor.

The bill is expected to pass the New York Assembly easily, but may have trouble in the State Senate - Democrats only control 32 of the 62 seats, and at least 3 of them have voiced opposition to the legislation.

And with strong Republican opposition, the bill might not even come to a vote this year.

But as we have mentioned before, the tides are changing on this issue. The political statistics guru, Nate Silver, believes that more than half the states in the union could defeat theoretical gay marriage bans within the next five years.

By the middle of the next decade, we might very well talk about legalizing gay marriage nationally - and it may even be possible. Democratic Strategist Anne Greenberg recently told Salon that support for gay rights is increasing at a faster pace than support for race-and/or-gender-based civil rights did (although the rate of the support’s growth was still rather slow).

The GOP may be slow to recognize this growing support. Recently, the Miss USA pageant found itself in the middle of the gay marriage issue.

We never thought we’d say these next words: we have to agree with Perez Hilton.

Gay marriage is no longer an issue that conservatives should feel comfortable discussing on their terms - even religious terms. Far too many Americans have a deep support for LGBT rights these days, including marriage. Miss California's answer was too polarizing - not the question.

Some, like the former GOP Presidential candidate’s daughter, are catching on. Meghan McCain recently wrote in her Daily Beast column: “That more and more people are discussing gay rights speaks positively for the millions of young and progressive Republicans.” She has said in the past that if the GOP does not support gay marriage they will be on the losing side of history.

But who are some of these young and progressive Republicans? The answer might surprise you: evangelical kids.

From Greenberg’s answers to Salon:

"We did an oversample of young white evangelicals, and obviously this is a community who is very hostile to gay marriage. But what was interesting was that the same generational differences that we see in the population overall, we saw in evangelicals. It turns out that the majority of young white evangelicals oppose gay marriage; [but] a majority, 57 percent, [support] some sort of legal recognition."

If Republicans are going to have this sort of confusion within their ranks it seems even more unlikely that they will be able to use the gay marriage issue the way they have in the months and years ahead.

Is the gay marriage issue back? Yes.

Do liberals have to fear? Not anymore.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Purging the Republican Party

Tomorrow John McCain will officially have an opponent for 2010 - but it won’t be a Democrat.

Chris Simcox, founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, will be taking on the former GOP Presidential candidate in the Republican Primary. Politico’s Ben Smith includes a sample of tomorrow’s press release:

"John McCain has failed miserably in his duty to secure this nation's borders and protect the people of Arizona from the escalating violence and lawlessness," Simcox said. "He has fought real efforts over the years at every turn, opting to hold our nation's border security hostage to his amnesty schemes. Coupled with his votes for reckless bailout spending and big government solutions to our nation's problems, John McCain is out of touch with everyday Arizonans. Enough is enough."

But McCain is not the only prominent Republican to have such opposition from within the party. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has to worry about a Primary rematch with the more conservative Pat Toomey, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) has a Primary battle with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for his re-election, and former House Minority Whip Roy Blunt is not considered a shoe-in for the Missouri GOP’s Senate nomination.

Blunt had a disappointing first-quarter, raising about $542,000. As a result, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman is expected to jump in to the race soon. She might be the last person Blunt wants to face.

From Politico:

"I like Roy Blunt, but the Republican Party keeps going back to the same old names, and we’ve lost a lot of races doing that," said Lincoln County GOP Chairwoman Carol Wessel. "You got to have that money to run, and I just think people are just being cautious right now with their money."

"Roy Blunt has been a very big part of the mess we’re in. His new wife is a lobbyist. His children are lobbyists. We need a fresh face up there," said Norm Harty, a longtime Republican activist and donor from southeast Missouri. "He’s going to have blood dripping from him; he’s going to be so beaten up."

…Steelman ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for governor in 2008…[but she] managed to cultivate a populist following that she seems poised to tap into once again. Thus far, she has been running a shadow campaign, marked by two relatively quiet trips to Washington over the past two months and small, private meetings with prospective donors and organizers. More recently, Steelman has ramped up her visibility by speaking at a central Missouri tea party on Tax Day and unveiling a revamped political website.

The GOP has had to re-examine itself in recent years since the Democrats retook Congress in 2006. To many Republican activists, the GOP lost the confidence of the people for increasing the size of government, increasing the national debt, and increasing the influence of lobbyists. Before they return to power, these conservative, populist activists will want to purge their party of the politicians who embodied that Washington-insider culture.

Could it backfire on them?

Democrats seem to think the split in the GOP could be beneficial come 2010. In Pennsylvania, both Specter and Toomey are warning Republicans that their opponent would lose a General Election.

Specter says Toomey “is a surefire loser in November,” while Toomey insists that "Voters are just fed up with Sen. Specter”.

But Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney thinks that the GOP battle will be what helps the Democrats. "Now is a perfect time for people like myself to shut up and sit back and watch the show," he says.

Meanwhile in Texas, far-right Governor Perry is skating on thin ice for his recent comments about the right to secede from the union, and Democrats are hoping to capitalize in a big way.

Also from Politico:

Perry, who won with less than 40 percent in a four-way general election field in 2006, is not popular with the general voting public in Texas. He is, however, the darling of the far-right wing that dominates the Republican primary electorate. Chances are that he may defeat Hutchison in a mean, ugly, down-and-dirty primary next March. If he does, his victory could rip apart the Republican Party and open the door for a moderate Democratic to achieve a clean win in November.

Tom Schieffer may be just that candidate. He’s a former Texas Congressman who is business-friendly and served as an ambassador during the Bush Administration. While he might not be a darling of the Democratic base, he would certainly be acceptable in the eyes of moderate Texans if Perry should win the Primary.

It makes sense for the populists in the GOP to try to purge themselves of elected-officials that represent the beltway, but if they try replace them with figures further to the right they might be in for a big surprise - most Americans just aren’t as conservative as they are.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Was the Impact of the Tea Bag Protests?

Last week, conservative protesters caught national attention on Tax Day for Tea Party - or Tea Bag - protests. Approximately 300,000 people poured into the streets to sound off their opinions on current fiscal policy.

But how representative were they of the average American?

According to a Gallup poll conducted before the protests, views of personal income taxes are among the most positive since 1956. 48% of respondents said the taxes they paid this year were "about right" and only 46% said the taxes they paid this year were "too high".

Additionally, 61% of respondents said the taxes they are paying this year is “fair” - a figure that is consistent with the past several years.

Answers to both questions fell along predictable partisan lines, and respondents who had an income of $75,000 or more last year were more likely to say their taxes were “too high”.

Yet the concern for high government spending we saw in the Tea Party protests does seem to resonate with more Americans. Another recent Gallup poll finds that 55% of Americans believe Obama’s proposals to stimulate the economy call for “too much” government spending.

But here’s where the responses get interesting. The question of government spending was asked to a random sample of half of the respondents. The other half was asked if they believed Obama’s proposal called for too much expansion of government power. These were the results.

And overall, 53% of respondents said they approve of the way the government has responded to the economic crisis, while only 44% say they disapprove.

And while the Tea Baggers were deriding President Obama as a “socialist” in hundreds of cities, a third Gallup poll shows the American people feel overwhelmingly confident in his positions on the economy.

It would certainly appear that the Tea Baggers were only representing about 29% of Americans.

But will the demonstrations change the average American’s mind?

So far the change in public perception over Obama’s fiscal policy is yet to be seen - but the approval ratings have not really changed since Tax Day.

From April 10-13 the approval rating was 62% and the disapproval rating was 29%. The latest numbers from the graph were collected from April 17-19. The Rasmussen Obama Approval Index (which has consistently more conservative estimates) seems to confirm this lack of change.

Yet it would be negligent to say that the Tea Party protests had no great significance. Although it may not have changed any public opinion (as these things usually don’t) it has been an opportunity for the conservative base to get excited again. Republicans will want to capitalize on this excitement and use it to boost fundraising and strengthen volunteer networks.

And that might just have a big effect in 2010.