Weekly Musing 3-29-15
Courageous Conservative – reigniting the Miracle of America!
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Cruz’s strategy: Destroy the ‘mushy middle’
Ted Cruz premises his presidential hopes on the proposition that anti-establishment voters of all stripes won’t settle again for a nominee like Mitt Romney or John McCain. And the Texas senator believes that he has as good a chance as anyone to emerge as the leading alternative to Jeb Bush or whoever else becomes the favorite of what he likes to call “the mushy middle.”Cruz is not closely identified with issues like abortion and has not been covered as one of the evangelical candidates in the 2016 field. So his decision to formally kick off his presidential campaign at Liberty University in rural Virginia on Monday surprised many Republicans, including social conservative stalwarts from the camps of Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
Advisers to the 44-year-old say he is not trying to repackage himself as primarily a social conservative. Instead, the senator’s team sees four brackets in the GOP primary field: the tea party, evangelicals, libertarians and establishment Republicans. The goal, they explain, is to establish Cruz as the first choice of tea partyers and become at least the second choice of evangelicals.
Ted Cruz declares candidacy, vows to ‘reignite the promise of America’
“I believe God isn’t done with America yet,” Mr. Cruz said during a speech at Liberty University , sending a strong signal that he plans to compete for the evangelical Christians that traditionally play a big role in the GOP nomination race.
“I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise in America,” he said. “And that is why today I am announcing that I am running for president of the United States.”
The big question for Mr. Cruz is whether he can build a big enough coalition to claim the mantle of the conservative alternative to the establishment candidate in a Republican race that will likely also feature former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“He potentially can rebuild the Reagan coalition by adding a populist, anti-Washington message that attracted disaffected Democrats and Independents,” said Craig Shirley, a biographer of President Reagan.
Liberty University was founded in 1971 by the late Jerry Falwell, the televangelist preacher who also led the formation of the moral majority that helped propel Ronald Reagan to the presidency in the 1980 election.
Meet Ted Cruz, “The Republican Barack Obama”
No member of the 113th Congress will arrive in Washington with as much hype as Cruz, who in late July survived one of the most expensive primaries in Texas history to knock off Gov. Rick Perry’s second-in-command, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. George Will calls Cruz, the Princeton- and Harvard Law School-educated son of a former Cuban revolutionary, “as good as it gets”; National Review dubbed him “the next great conservative hope,” gushing that “Cruz is to public speaking what Michael Phelps was to swimming.” Political strategist Mark McKinnon channeled the thinking of many in the party when he proclaimed Cruz “the Republican Barack Obama.” He is, with apologies to fellow Cuban American Marco Rubio, the up-and-comer du jour of the conservative movement.
Cruz, who turns 42 in December, represents an amalgam of far-right dogmas—a Paulian distaste for international law; a Huckabee-esque strain of Christian conservatism; and a Perry-like reverence for the 10th Amendment, which he believes grants the states all powers not explicitly outlined in the Constitution while severely curtailing the federal government’s authority to infringe on them. Toss in a dose of Alex P. Keaton and a dash of Cold War nostalgia, and you’ve got a tea party torch carrier the establishment can embrace.
…Cruz’s worldview has remained unflinchingly consistent. Challenged at a Federalist Society panel in 2010 to defend his proposal to convene a constitutional convention to draft new amendments aimed at scaling back federal power, he paraphrased his 21-year-old self: “If one embraces the views of Madison…which is that men are not angels and that elected politicians will almost always seek to expand their power, then the single most effective way to restrain government power is to provide a constraint they can’t change.”
One thing had changed, though, in the two decades since Cruz penned his thesis: His views had started to creep from the fringe to the fore.
3 Reasons Ted Cruz Could Win
Welcome to Thunderdome, Ted Cruz! And wow, that’s a video straight out of the consultant minds of Veep. Maybe throw in a puppy? Seriously, though, if announcing via Twitter is the new thing, I’m all for it. It could’ve saved us sending a reporter to Lynchburg this morning. Maybe somebody will announce via Meerkat and we can all stay at our desks and not drive somewhere to see candidates give the same speech they gave at CPAC but with a couple more paragraphs? It’d save us all a lot of time and it’d be environmentally friendly, too. Lower your carbon footprint: announce by Tweet.
The Acela corridor mindset about Ted Cruz is basically: “he has no path”, “why is he doing this”, or “he’s a disruptive pain in the butt and should shut up and go away”. Allow me to quote one of the emails I received last night on this topic: “he’s a disruptive pain in the butt and should shut up and go away”. Yes, I understand that Cruz’s approach to politics and speechmaking rubs some people the wrong way, but there is actually a counterintuitive case to be made that he has a clearer path to the nomination than his critics might like.
Of Course Ted Cruz Could Win
“Reagan can’t win, Ford says.” That’s the 1976 version. The 1980 New York Times version, with the nearly identical headline: “Ford Declares Reagan Can’t Win.” Ford was really quite sure of himself: “Every place I go, and everything I hear, there is a growing, growing sentiment that Governor Reagan cannot win the election.” New York magazine: “The reason Reagan can’t win. . . . ” “Preposterous,” sociologist Robert Coles wrote about the idea of a Reagan victory.
The founder of this magazine worried that Reagan simply could not win in 1980, and several National Review luminaries quietly hoped that George H. W. Bush would be the nominee. There were serious, thoughtful conservatives who thought in 1980 that their best hope was to have Daniel Patrick Moynihan run as a Democrat that year, while many others were looking to ex-Democrat John Connally to carry the conservative banner on the GOP side. Things have a funny way of working out differently than expected. (And then much, much differently.)
Michigan for Ted Cruz
Here is where a bunch of Michigan supporters for Ted Cruz who are gathering to share information.
Maybe the biggest recent development has been in the Tea Party/Populist bracket. Rand Paul was the early leader here, but Ted Cruz’s impressive performance in his announcement speech at Liberty University elevates him to running even with Paul. Cruz’s stock was probably undervalued early on, as few seemed to appreciate his impressive intellect and communications skills. (He wasn’t a championship debater in college for nothing.) Instead, pundits focused on his often acerbic and polarizing manner on Capitol Hill. Cruz’s reception in Congress brings to mind the old joke about a guy asking, “Why do people immediately dislike me so much?” The response: “Because it saves time.”
But at a dinner I attended with a small number of journalists and Cruz last year, he didn’t come across as a jerk or a bully. Instead, he seemed like a very smart guy who may be less attentive than he ought to be to the feelings and reactions of others. More important, unlike the libertarian Paul, he doesn’t have unorthodox positions that could put him at odds with some conservative voters.
20 Republicans who are gearing up to run for president
As many as 20 Republicans are taking a serious look at running for the White House in 2016. A handful of candidates have moved aggressively into the field, and others are expected to ramp up in the coming weeks, with several announcements expected in April.
Recent races haven’t attracted such a large and unsettled field before, and time is sure to winnow the contenders before the first debate in August 2015.
In 2011, as many as nine Republicans participated in one early debate. The field of declared candidates in that cycle was never greater than 10 at any one time.
Here are the 20 Republicans likely to make a run for the GOP nomination.
Republicans Have Little to Fear From a Divisive Primary
In reality, winning a nomination fight elevates the stature of the victor, who quickly brings partisans into the fold (especially during conventions), offsetting any damage to party loyalty or unity that the primary might seem to have incurred. By the time of the general election, the state of the economy plays a dominant role in determining who wins and loses, not whether one party’s candidates were mean to one another at a time when relatively few people were paying attention.
Moreover, while the winning candidate may have to spend more money or campaign harder to win in a divisive primary, he or she can also benefit from the organizational efforts required to win a tough primary fight. President Obama, for instance, seemed to perform slightly better during the 2008 general election in states that were more competitive during his nomination fight against Mrs. Clinton.
Why, then, is belief in the theory of divisive primaries so pervasive? One factor is the seeming correlation between divisive presidential primaries and general election losses. But vulnerable incumbents tend to attract credible challengers, whereas strong incumbents do not. When researchers take the state of the economy and the approval ratings of the president into account, the relationship disappears.
Bush and Rubio might swing Florida for the GOP. It probably wouldn’t matter, though.
Put together the chance of a home-state swing and the likelihood of it being decisive, and there’s a 5 percent chance a Florida home-state advantage for Bush/Rubio would swing the presidency in 2016. That dips to 4 percent for Ohio and 2 percent for Wisconsin. This estimate is rough and might be an underestimate, since two of the closest four elections have occurred recently. But even if we look at competitiveness of six elections since 1992, the chance of a Florida or Ohio home state bump swinging the presidency rises to 11 percent — a one in nine shot.
Another reason to be skeptical is looking at the candidates whose home-state advantage was decisive in winning the state. Only one – Benjamin Harrison – actually became president, while many others got trounced. Here’s a comprehensive rundown of how those “wins” played out.
Some Americans paying attention – favorability rating dropped from 38% to 26% since the email scandal.
Most Americans (65 percent) say their opinion of Clinton has not changed in the wake of the email controversy, but 29 percent say their opinion of her has grown worse. Forty-nine percent of Republicans say their opinion of her is worse, as do 28 percent of independents.
More generally, 26 percent of Americans now have a favorable view of Hillary Clinton, while 37 percent view her unfavorably; another third are undecided or don’t have an opinion of her. As Clinton weighs a presidential bid, her favorable views are 12 points lower than they were in the fall of 2013, just months after leaving her position as secretary of state. Her unfavorable views have ticked up slightly, but the percentage that is undecided about her has risen eight points.
Clinton’s highest favorable rating in CBS News polling occurred in March 2009, early in her tenure as Secretary of State, when 58 percent of Americans viewed her favorably. Clinton received her lowest favorable rating – 24 percent – in June 2003, soon after the publication of her memoir Living History.
China’s Fragile Evolution
Last week, China’s anti-corruption campaign took a significant turn, though a largely overlooked one. The Supreme People’s Court released a statement accusing former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, the highest-ranked official thus far implicated in China’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign, of having “trampled the law, damaged unity within the Communist Party, and conducted non-organizational political activities.” In Chinese bureaucratic speak, this was only a few steps shy of confirming earlier rumors that Zhou and his former political ally and one-time rising political star from Chongqing, Bo Xilai, had plotted a coup to pre-empt or repeal the political ascension of Chinese President and Party General Secretary Xi Jinping. Thus, the court’s statement marks a radical departure from the hitherto depoliticized official language of the anti-corruption campaign.
Of course, it has long been clear that the Xi administration’s anti-corruption campaign is far more than just a fight against graft — it is also a political purge designed to tighten the new leadership’s control over Party, government and military apparatuses. But up to now, official language on the anti-corruption campaign has been couched in terms of fighting graft and abuse of power “for personal gain.” So far as we are aware, very few if any official statements have alluded to “political activities” by suspects — and certainly none concerning high-profile figures like Zhou, whose position at the top of the country’s energy industry and domestic security apparatus made him one of the most powerful Chinese politicians of the 2000s. Whatever the court’s precise intent, that it chose language even hinting at a coup by Bo and Zhou is extraordinary.
If we accept that the use of a phrase like “non-organizational political activities” is significant, then we have to ask what the decision to use that phrase at this time may signify. To our minds, two possible interpretations stand out. First, it could mark a nascent shift in the way Chinese authorities frame the anti-corruption campaign and imply that going forward the campaign will become more overtly political. Second, it could signal that Xi and his allies, confident of having fully eliminated any threat posed by Zhou and his associates, are acknowledging an end to one phase of the anti-corruption campaign — the elimination of competing factions — and are now embarking on the further consolidation of authority and control over the far reaches of the bureaucracy.
If the former interpretation is correct, the anti-corruption campaign is about to get more brutal and potentially more destabilizing, as it moves from a relatively focused purge and general cleansing of the Party to a full-on assault against those who have the strength to challenge Xi’s nascent authoritarianism. According to the latter hypothesis, with the would-be challengers routed and acknowledged as anti-Party plotters, and with political power firmly centralized under Xi and his allies, China’s leaders can now put politics aside and move on to the more difficult and important task of building a government ready to manage the profound social and political disruptions that will almost certainly accompany China’s economic slowdown.
…The fundamental question, however, is whether China has time for an evolutionary change. Other Asian nations that underwent significant economic and political transformation, from Meiji-era Japan to Park Chung-hee’s South Korea, each made more radical and rapid changes — something that may be forced upon China’s leaders. But each did so with the attending major social disruption and a heavy hand in domestic security. Major economic overhauls are messy affairs, and China has decades of dead wood to trim from its economy due to the lingering effects of Mao’s intentional drive to ensure massive industrial redundancy, as well as to mismanagement and frequent unprofitability among state companies.
Although Singapore and even Prussia may be idealized models for China as countries that were able to transform and retain tight central authority, Lee Kuan Yew and the kaiser never had to manage a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, more than two-thirds of whom have effectively been left behind over three decades of promises that everyone would get rich in the end. As China tries to transition away from low-end manufacturing and economic stimulus driven by government-financed construction, it is the low end of the economic spectrum that will be disproportionally affected. A gradual shift in its economic model would allow China to slowly metabolize these displaced workers, but it is far from certain that China has the time to allow for this slow change, as the rest of the global economy is shifting with or without Chinese consensus.
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