Weekly Musing 12-25-15
2016 GOP candidates: It’s time for a Republican president
The huge field of potential GOP presidential candidates responded to President Obama’s State of the Union address with a message of their own on Tuesday: It’s time for the country to put a Republican in charge.
“I wish I had better news for you, but all is not well for America,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said to begin his YouTube rebuttal to the president. “America is adrift. Something is clearly wrong. America needs many things, but what America desperately needs is new leadership.”
Paul was the most aggressive of the bunch, lambasting the president in a 12-minute YouTube address, mocking him on Twitter, and fact-checking him on Facebook. In addition, Paul test-drove what could be the early framework for his message on the campaign trail, focusing on economic inequality and lifting people out of poverty by means other than the federal government.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sought to draw attention to his record as governor, which would be his touchstone for a presidential run. Walker took aim at Obama’s “top-down, government-knows-best philosophy,” contrasting the political gridlock in D.C. with what he and other Republicans have accomplished at the state level.
“While Washington stands at an impasse, Americans are increasingly turning to state leaders for answers because we are pushing big, bold reforms,” Walker said in a statement. “Our American revival is not going to be led by a lame duck president who would rather pick fights with Congress. It will be led by reformers who know how to get things done.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) echoed that sentiment, arguing that Obama’s policies and goals “don’t match up” and that the GOP is equipped to bring better solutions.
“I think he’s exactly right when he says one of the fundamental challenges of our time is this disconnect of middle-class life in comparison to what it was in our country a decade or two decades ago. And there’s this disconnect — people are being squeezed between the higher cost of living and paychecks that aren’t keeping pace,” he said. “The problem is that I think our ideas to solve them are better.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said it’s “time to move beyond” Obama and instead focus on the “bold leadership” Republicans could provide to “bring back jobs, to bring back economic growth, to bring back opportunity, to rekindle the miracle of America.”
The 2016 race is turning into a fight between veterans and newcomers
The Republican Party has long been riven between its establishment and conservative wings, a split that plays out every four years in the race for the White House.
But for 2016, the divide in the early race for the GOP nomination is as much generational as ideological — pitting familiar, entrenched party figures from past battles against a younger crowd of ambitious senators and governors whose politics have been forged during the Obama years.
Moves by business-friendly favorites Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush toward 2016 bids have only served to widen the gap, as has the return of conservative Mike Huckabee, who had been perched at Fox News since George W. Bush was in the Oval Office.
Calls for a new GOP order have intensified in part because the budding contenders know they need to act fast: By the time the primaries begin, Republicans traditionally rally around seasoned candidates. The competing hopefuls — from Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.) to Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.) and Chris Christie (N.J.) — believe they have a narrow window of time to make the case for an alternative.
12 keys to the GOP presidential race right now
As the Freedom Summit marks the unofficial start of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign here in Iowa, the race is already too sprawling, with too many characters and too many crosscurrents, to have a single theme. But here are a dozen keys to understand what is happening now:
See the article…
Those are 12 factors at play in the race now. One could easily list 12 more, and 12 more after that. It’s going to be a very complicated campaign.
Obama Blows Smoke
We know that supply-side economics emphasizes serious cuts in tax rates and Keynesianism relies on massive amounts of government spending. But how in the world does “middle class economics” work? After President Obama cited it repeatedly in State of the Union speech, I waited and waited for him to explain how it works. He never did.
Instead, he confused a cause with a result. Middle class economics, he said, “is the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” That’s a nice sentiment, but it’s not an economic policy.
“So what does middle-class economics require in our time,” he asked rhetorically. First, “it means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change.” That’s a worthy goal. Second, “we have to do more to help upgrade their skills.” That suggests still another government job training program is on the way. And finally, “we need the new economy to keep churning out high-wage jobs for our workers to fill.” That sounds like a hope and a prayer.
Obama’s Attempt to Turn the Page Undermined by Policy Failures
It’s not in the printed text, but the most revealing words in President Obama’s seventh State of the Union address came near the end. After the scripted line, “I have no more campaigns to run,” elicited Republican applause, Obama ad libbed, “I know, because I won both of them.”
Thus the last quarter of Obama’s presidency resembles the first quarter, when he shut off discussion with House Republicans by saying, “I won.” But his second winning percentage was lower than his first — the only American president of which that can be said — and the House now has a record and the Senate a near-record Republican majority.
The first half of Obama’s speech was a deft attempt to, as he said, “turn the page.” The year 2014, he said, was “a breakthrough year for America,” the economy was finally growing at a respectable rate and U.S. troop deployments in war zones are nearly down to zero.
He was playing on the uptick — a “small” but real uptick, as FiveThirtyEight put it — in his polling numbers and in positive assessments of the economy. To give it voice, he quoted, twice, a woman (a former Democratic staffer, it seems) in the gallery.
In contrast to previous Obama speeches, he took some care to cite accurate statistics. No mention of the discredited claim that one in five college women will be raped or the misleading claim that women’s earnings are only 77 percent of men’s.
He cheered America for being number one in oil and gas production — something his administration has tried to prevent. He boasted that wages are rising — though not by much. His brief allusions to Obamacare sparked applause from Democrats — but the law remains highly unpopular.
Ted Cruz: Loose Cannon or Libertarian Reformer?
As they used to say in the old westerns, it was quiet out there-too quiet. So no one was really surprised when Ted Cruz announced to The Washington Post the weekend before the November election that his brief flirtation with civilized behavior was nearing its end.
For months, the Texas senator had abandoned his “the guy with dynamite strapped to his chest” persona, as one Republican political strategist describes it, to be a team player, crisscrossing the country to campaign for GOP candidates. No filibusters on the Senate floor to hold the federal budget hostage to the repeal of Obamacare; no fundraising letters on behalf of Tea Party insurgents seeking to knock off what Cruz likes to call “squishy” Republican incumbents.
But secure in the knowledge that private tracking polls showed a Republican landslide on the way, Cruz unchained his not-so-inner werewolf. The first thing on the agenda for the new, Republican-led Senate, he said, should be hearings on President Barack Obama’s “abuse of power, the executive abuse, the regulatory abuse, the lawlessness that sadly has pervaded his administration.” To break up the monotony, Cruz added, the Senate will mount a human-wave attack against Obamacare, voting to repeal the whole thing and then, when the president vetoes their measure, attacking the law one provision at a time, forcing another 10 or 20 or a hundred or a thousand vetoes.
To much of official Washington and its media courtiers, this sounds like insanity. As one of Trent Lott’s former staffers told the Post, Cruz “will certainly get the base jazzed up about what he’s doing, but he won’t get rid of the law.”
If you’re a presidential candidate, though, getting the base jazzed up is the whole point. The same weekend that Cruz announced his return to the warpath, The Des Moines Register published a poll showing that the single biggest issue motivating voters who supported Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (a Republican who a couple of days later would win an upset victory in her race for the U.S. Senate) was, by a large margin, “to get one step closer to repealing Obama-care.” Iowa also happens to be the site of the first 2016 presidential caucus. The man with the dynamite strapped to his chest will be there, and what explodes may be the chattering-class perception that Ted Cruz is too crazy to be considered a serious candidate for president.
With opposition research, Democrats look to define GOP candidates
Pushed up against the basement wall of the Democratic National Committee headquarters stands a drab, four-drawer file cabinet — an infamous reminder of political opposition research pressed to the criminal extreme.
The file cabinet was in the DNC’s Watergate office on June 17, 1972, the fateful day when five people were arrested for burglary — a crime that would lead to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Nearly 43 years later, a team of 20 Democratic staffers are working three floors above where the filing cabinet now stands, compiling opposition research on the more than two dozen Republicans who have expressed interest in running for the presidency. Just blocks away, a team of Republican researchers is doing the same thing — with a specific emphasis on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The difference in what the DNC and RNC aides are doing now and what happened in 1972 is that today’s research activities are legal.
The process of gathering and unearthing opposition research on individuals has evolved over the years, but the goal remains the same: find embarrassing information that can be used against your opponent or create an unflattering narrative that will turn voters off.
The folklore of political opposition research suggests that it can be dangerous work including having operatives go “dumpster diving” in search of information. DNC research director Lauren Dillon said that is simply not true.
“Believe it or not, we don’t go through people’s trash,” she said. “But we do find a lot of good stuff.”
The myth of the ‘Asian vote’
As demographer William Frey notes in his book, The Diversity Explosion, the Asian population has grown from 0.8 percent of the population in 1970 to nearly 5 percent in 2010. In fact, Frey writes, the Asian American population could soon reach 20 million “if Asians of mixed-race heritage are included.”
Asians have also tripled their share of the electorate in recent years, from just 1 percent of voters in 1992 to 3 percent in 2014. And while they’ve tilted Democratic in the last few presidential contests, Asians voted Republican in 2014 (50 percent to 49 percent), putting them firmly into “swing” territory and leading The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak to proclaim Asian-Americans “the new Florida.”
But while the ranks of Asians are swelling, is there really an “Asian vote” that campaigns can reliably court and an “Asian agenda” that candidates should pursue? Could Asians become another powerful interest group in the mold of labor or the religious right?
The answer might well be “no.”
Given their extreme diversity — ethnically, economically and ideologically — Asian voters simply aren’t a monolithic, formulaically winnable political constituency. In fact, they stand as testament to the limits of race-based, demographically driven politics.
For one thing, Asians are resistant to political pigeonholing because “Asian” covers vast geographic, ethnic and cultural territory, including 30 percent of the world’s landmass and nearly two-thirds of the world’s population.
Ukraine’s drive to become a European country leads Russians to see their country isn’t one
At the end of the 19th century, only 21 percent of Russians were literate, and 87 percent lived in the villages. Many of the townspeople were “closer to the Black Hundreds than to Europe. Indeed, “then as now, only about 10 to 15 percent of Russians could legitimately be called “‘Europeans.'”
“However strange it may sound, the deepest and most successful effort to Europeanize Russia was undertaken by the Bolsheviks: Marxism-Leninism unlike semi-Asiatic ‘Orthodox Autocracy’ was 100 percent a European ideology based on the ideas and pathos of the Enlightenment.” But at the same time, for the Soviets, “Europe was an opponent.”
The collapse of the USSR and communism led Russians to accept many of the aspects of capitalism, but beneath the “glamor” of wealth for some, there also reemerged something “enormous and dark” which has now assumed the dominant position – an antagonism to Europe and all things European.
One might call this “the triumph of ‘nationality'” in the Uvarov sense with its “ideology of ‘a new medievalism,'” something that might have been appropriate in the 14th century but looks like “a caricature” in the 21st.
“Present-day Russia does not have any allies unlike Europe or strength like China or an iron religion like the Arabs,” and thus it is increasingly defining itself not in terms of what it is but of what it is not – and it is not European, the Russian journalist suggests, however much some would like it to be otherwise.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt: “The Internet Will Disappear”
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt on Thursday predicted the end of the Internet as we know it.
At the end of a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where his comments were webcast, he was asked for his prediction on the future of the web. “I will answer very simply that the Internet will disappear,” Schmidt said.
“There will be so many IP addresses…so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won’t even sense it,” he explained. “It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room.”
Concluded Schmidt: “A highly personalized, highly interactive and very, very interesting world emerges.”
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