Clown Car Pileup

There is a piece by Howard Fineman about Karl Rove’s fall from grace. The focus is on Rove promoting “moderate” candidates over more conservative ones throughout most of his career. While the Fineman makes it look like Rove played the base, he fails to point out one fact-conservatives have tolerated apostates.

People like to point out Reagan raised taxes. Also health care was expanded under Newt Gingrich via SCHIP and George W pushed through the biggest expansion of Medicare with his prescription drug program. Yet, conservative voters didn’t punish these Republicans for their unorthodoxy. The base has and will continue to vote for whoever the GOP nominates.

What ultimately did Rove in was one simple fact-he lost. 2012 was suppose to be a banner year for Republicans. They had a Democratic incumbent who was presiding over the worst economy since the 1930s and almost unlimited spending power. However, not only did Obama win reelection but the Democrats gained seats in the Senate and Republicans only held onto the House thanks to redistricting. In Karl they trusted and they lost.

The lesson Rove took away from defeat was optics-if only Republicans had nominated people who didn’t say stupid things-like Akin and Mourdock’s comments regarding rape-Republicans would have done great. So, with his vast resources, Rove decided to keep a lid on the crazies like Steve King of Iowa. However, to the base, Rove lecturing the Iowa GOP on winnability was like Tim Tebow giving quarterback advice. So, Rove has backed down and people are already dancing on his grave.

What always amazes me about these Establishment Republicans is how little they understand the monster they’ve created. Rove, and his buddy Lee Atwater, made the basis of Republican philosophy simple-put people against other people. Whether it was white against black, men against women, employer against employee, the strategy was divide and conquer. The key to their success was to properly stereotype their opponent. Welfare queens, lazy unions, educated snobs, effeminate gays-they all were the enemy. I remember their message on abortion very well-a partying slut gets knocked up and, 7 months into the pregnancy, she decides to lazily opt-out. With caricatures like that, how could you not be a conservative?

Yet, times change. People want to see women in control of their bodies. People have friends and family who are black or brown or gay. More and more young people are tired of the culture war and the drug war. Religion matters less and less. More and more, people are concerned about rising inequality and how people my age will have less than our parents did. The conservative solution to any economic problem is cut taxes, deregulate business and bust unions. Only we’ve tried that for the last 30 years and growth has been slower yet more concentrated at the top.

Guys like Rove have told conservatives they could have live in their make-believe world (remember, it was most likely Rove who popularized the term “reality-based community”) and still win elections. All they had to do was put a guy who could fake caring about broader issues and throw a bone to non-conservatives once in awhile and they’d be alright. However, the groups of people conservatives managed to piss off grew bigger and bigger and now make up the majority of the electorate. All the GOP has is structural flaws they can exploit (like gerrymandering) and the backing of major donors. However, in time, even these advantages will fade.

Karl Rove is a grifter, a huckster, and a charlatan. However, in politics, he is hardly the first and will hardly be the last. What Rove’s real sin was creating a major political party based on fear, hatred, and anger towards “the other.” Something tells me he is not going to be punished for that and this rage isn’t going to go away any time soon…

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On Immigration: Don’t Be A Jerk!

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There is a moment from the 2010 California Governor’s race I remember.  During the candidate’s only Spanish language debate, both candidates were asked by a star college student who’s immigration status was precarious what the candidates would do for her.  Democrat Jerry Brown’s response was to talk about the responsibility we all have to students to ensure they succeed, what ever their immigration status is.  Republican Meg Whitman, however, was condescending.  Beginning with “I’m glad you were able to get a good, free education in California’s K-12 public schools,” she talked about how the state didn’t have the resources to help her or any other student who was undocumented.

Jerry Brown won the election 54% to 41%, despite being outspent 4-1.

Many prominent Republicans have begun to support immigration reform.  They saw their defeat in 2012 as being due in no small part to lack of Latino support.  Given we have about 19 million people in the US who’s legal status needs to be resolved, I hope we can get a fair proposal through.  However, I don’t think Republicans really understand what their true problem is.

To quote my favorite blog post of all time

The funny thing about all of this is that no matter how bad all their ideas are, no matter how disastrous their governance has been, no matter how many horrible things they have done to the economy and this country, what really is killing the Republican party is that deep down, they are just complete assholes.

You see this in how Republicans treat not just Hispanic voters but all voters who don’t fall into their narrow group.  We came from an election where the top two candidates of the Republican ticket disagreed on whether 47% of Americans were moochers or merely 30%.  You saw Republicans insulting women who had been raped and calling the first black President a “food stamp president.”  On issues regarding Hispanics, we saw conservatives belittle the first Hispanic nominee to the Supreme Court to accusing undocumented workers of being hardened criminals.  And let’s not get into how conservatives feel about gay couples…

As I said, it’s great immigration reform is being taken up by prominent conservatives.  However, it may not get them much Hispanic support.  In 2012, Hispanic voters put other issues ahead of immigration.  With migration from Mexico to the US largely flat, issues like health care (where 40% of Hispanics are uninsured) to unemployment (Hispanic unemployment is over 11%) are taking greater precedence to the Latino community.  On these issues, Republicans don’t appear to be changing at all.

Now, a lot can happen in 4 years.  There also appears to be a “come to Jesus” moment with prominent conservatives realizing they need to broaden their coalition or they will cease to exist, regardless of what ever power grabbing schemes the concoct.  However, on the central issue of treating other people with dignity and respect, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or size of bank account, there doesn’t appear to be any meaningful change…