Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cantor gets 'bagged

Yeah yeah, "no one could have predicted that terrorists would fly airplanes into buildings", but they did.

In the most stunning upset since Republicans took over the House of Representatives four years ago, Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his GOP primary Tuesday to a poorly funded and disorganized Tea Party activist. David Brat, an economics professor, beat Cantor by 12 points when the Associated Press called the race shortly after 8 p.m. Cantor served as the congressman from Virginia's 7th district since 2001 and as the leader of House Republicans since 2011.

 Cantor was the chief opponent of President Obama in the House, organizing unanimous opposition to the stimulus act in 2009 and opposing a deal led by John Boehner to end the government shutdown in 2011 in part by raising revenue. Cantor felt the heat from Brat over immigration, airing ads in the closing days saying he opposed "amnesty." Brat will face Democrat Jack Trammell in the general election.

There's a few more interesting angles to take on the morning after than "Tea Party rises! Flexes muscle! Eats GOP! Fires all of its guns at once and explodes into space!!!1!"

The first revealed itself early yesterday evening: that Virginia Democrats heeded the call from former Georgia Congressman Ben Jones -- also known as Cooter from 'The Dukes of Hazard'.

Cooter, who ran against Cantor in 2002, has penned an open letter calling upon Democrats in his former Virginia district to vote in the open primary next Tuesday for tea party opponent Dave Brat in order to defeat U.S. House Majority Leader Cantor.

Crossing party lines to vote in an open primary has a long tradition in the solidly one-party South, Cooter argues in his letter. "[B]y voting for David Brat in the Seventh District Republican primary, we Democrats, independents, and Libertarians can make a big difference in American politics," he argues. "It is your right to cast that vote. It is an 'open' primary and it doesn’t preclude anyone from voting anyway they wish in November. It may be the only way to empower those who want to make a statement about the dysfunctional Congress and 'politics as usual.'"

This is what happens in Texas frequently, and what Rush Limbaugh branded Operation Chaos in 2008.  Be sure you read both of these links, all the way to the end, in order to gauge the value of the tactic versus its ultimate 2008 result.  Nobody can apparently measure the effectiveness of this sort of thing (unless I just can't find the evidence, that is). So I'm going to go with 'urban legend' on the power of the crossover vote, as the district went 57-42 for Romney in 2012, until I see something more convincing in terms of empirical data.


While Republican primary turnout spiked by 28 percent over 2012, according to the State Board of Elections, Cantor received nearly 8,500 fewer votes this year than he did in the 2012 Republican primary, a drop that was larger than Brat's 7,200-vote margin of victory. Regardless of how many Democrats turned out to oppose Cantor, he still would have prevailed had he maintained the same level of support as in his 2012 landslide.

If Democrats showed up in large numbers to vote against Cantor, turnout should have spiked highest from 2012 in Democratic-leaning areas, with Cantor seeing an especially large drop-off in support. In fact, turnout rose slightly more in counties that voted more heavily for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.

The second, from Politico this morning, reveals that immigration reform -- or amnesty, as conservatives now derisively call it -- isn't the reason Cantor got upset by Bagger Brat.

Democrats are making the case that it was Cantor himself – not immigration – that dealt a powerful blow to the one-time rising Republican star’s political career. And they are releasing new data on Wednesday to back up their argument.

About 72 percent of registered voters in Cantor’s district polled on Tuesday said they either “strongly” or “somewhat” support immigration reform that would secure the borders, block employers from hiring those here illegally, and allow undocumented residents without criminal backgrounds to gain legal status – three key tenets of an overhaul, according to a poll by the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change.

Looking just at Republicans in Cantor’s district, the poll found that 70 percent of GOP registered voters would support such a plan, while 27 percent would oppose.

Meanwhile, Cantor was deeply unpopular in his district, the PPP poll found. About 63 percent of those surveyed in his district said they did not approve of the job Cantor has been doing, with 30 percent of registered voters approving. Among Republicans, 43 percent approved of Cantor’s job performance, while 49 percent disapproved, the survey found.

“Cantor didn’t lose because of immigration,” pollster Tom Jensen wrote in the memo obtained in advance by POLITICO. “He lost because of the deep unpopularity of both himself personally and of the Republican House leadership. Even in his conservative district voters still want immigration reform passed, and they want it this year.”

Well, it was a "librul" poll, so cons sure aren't going to believe it.  They would rather place their faith in God's will or their own self determination, after all.

Update: There are a few Republicans also saying that it wasn't immigration that brought him down.

Candidly, the most interesting thing to me is that we might have a Texan as Speaker of the US House, sooner than later.  Because it's always about us, after all.

And because (Cantor) was next in line to be Speaker of the House, his ouster means that Dallas Rep. Jeb Hensarling could be in for a promotion. It had already been widely assumed that Speaker John Boehner may call it quits within a year, tired of tangling with tea partiers.

Whether Hensarling would have challenged Cantor, the party’s No. 2 leader, for Speaker was never clear. The Texan, elected in 2002, gave up his post as the party’s No. 4 leader last year to become chairman of the House Financial Services Committee — a perch that comes with lots of attention from deep-pocket donors. He has been widely viewed as a plausible contender for Boehner’s job, having led the Republican Study Committee, a key conservative bloc, before joining the party’s leadership team.

Cantor’s defeat will trigger a leadership scramble that will play out in coming months, and it opens a fresh path for Hensarling’s further ascent.

Plenty of tea leaves still to be read on these developments.  You can start with Booman and TPM, and I'll add more if it tells anything more significant than the stock takes.

Update: For Jewish Republicans... oy vey.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A few more words about Bergdahl and his family

-- Our local cretin Burt Levine (yes, cretin) posted this on his Facebook page.

Never underestimate the depths to which conservatives can lower themselves.  Can they dive deeper into their own sewage than suggesting Bergdahl's mother is making sexual overtures to the president?  We would hope not, but the truth is they probably can.

-- On Bergdahl's father:

Bob Bergdahl is a devout Presbyterian, not a Muslim; he self-taught himself Pashto and Urdu to better understand his son’s captors and the “world he could not escape;” he followed jihadis on Twitter to gain information; he researched Afghanistan to acquire information he didn’t have; along with his son, he questioned the war.  All of this has made Mr. Bergdahl an incomprehensible entity in this unfolding story. And as we have seen over the past many years, what the right doesn’t understand, what it can’t grasp, what eludes the very limited thinking it engages in, has to be something malodorous, something foreign, and therefore evil. Mr. Bergdahl, despite his deep religious beliefs, a strong commitment to his son, obvious intelligence and resourcefulness and patience – all positive attributes –  is not easily placed in one of the little boxes the right-wingers love to use. After all, if you’re unable to critically think, the only option left is to label.

As Sean Elder at Newsweek wrote of Mr. Bergdahl, “He wept, he suffered, but he persevered, and like any resourceful man, he tried to understand the nature and origin of the problem.”

-- Last, on the soldier/POW himself.

Republicans are so consumed by racial animus and rage that they have finally sunk to a level of attacking a white American soldier, a prisoner of war, as surrogate for Barack Obama. The conservative movement appeared to have sunk to the depths of depravity when they shutdown the government and tried to destroy the good faith and credit of the United States that was borne of racial hatred for this president. However, all their anti-American actions over the past five years pale in comparison to attacking a young man who volunteered to fight and die for his country, was held in captivity as a prisoner of war for five years, and escaped his captors twice, only to be the recipient of Republicans’ racial hatred for the president that negotiated his return home.

Racism is a vile cancer that has metastasized to such a level in the conservative movement that their animus extends to a white American soldier as surrogate for the black president who brought him home. Conservatives have indeed hit rock bottom.

No, they haven't.  There is no fathomable depth -- and not much waiting, either -- to the next craven display of political opportunism.  There is nothing too revolting for them to say, nothing too vile for them to attempt.

This is where we are in the state of our political discourse today.  Conservatives will say any hideous thing they can think of to score a point with their side, and the rest of us are left with our mouths agape in disgust.

Update: A soft call for sanity from the right.

I'd like to have that conversation, but...

-- ...what's the point? As long as the RepubliTea Party of Texas keeps calling it a narcotic, it's just a parlor game to speculate on the future date when Texas will make some progress on marijuana decriminalization/legalization.

It turns out that the Houston Chronicle’s Baker Institute blog has put up a range of views on the idea of changing Texas’ marijuana laws. The Statesman has posted two pieces on the subject, one from the ACLU and one from an opponent. The opponent, who heads the Drug Free America Foundation, looked down her nose this way at pot vacationers who head to Colorado: “Colorado experienced an infestation of ‘drug tourism.’ ”

I don’t imagine people consider Napa Valley wine tourism an “infestation”. Napa Valley tourists will spend tons more more money and sport fewer tattoos. They may head to Napa to get a buzz, but it’s a refined, expensive buzz.

Until those people who want to see that progress happen start lining themselves up at polling places across Texas and vote to remove from office those who oppose it, that is.

Yes, it could happen in less than five months... or it could take as long as ten years.  Not even Colorado's swelling tax coffers and a corresponding reduction in crime will sway the religious fundies.  They're the ones who lifted Dan Patrick up and have placed him at the gates of heaven.

If weed is your issue, then you are going to have to vote them out.

-- ... that immigration conversation needs to happen among Republicans.  And apparently it is.

Delegate Maria Espinoza, who has compared the Texas Solution to the Nazi’s Final Solution, told the thousands gathered in the convention hall that granting any kind of legal status to those here illegally would be tantamount to negotiating with terrorists. Instead of laughter, her comparison was greeted with thunderous applause.

Go back and read that graf again.

When it was over, one hardliner proclaimed: “Boom, the Texas Solution is dead.”

“What kind of message is that for Hispanic voters?” said Norman Adams, a Houston insurance agent who was part of the team that got the Texas Solution inserted into the platform in the first place. “As far as I’m concerned we’ve moved the party back 10 years,” he said.


“While I have tremendous respect for the will of the people and the direction of our Party’s grass roots activists, I am saddened today by the substantive elimination of the Texas Solution from the Party’s platform,” Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, told Quorum Report.


A young Latina who did not wish to be identified because she has worked on various Republican campaigns in North Texas said she wasn’t giving up on the GOP, but the events that unfolded on Saturday were “breathtaking,” as she put it.

“I’m going to see if my friends want to help Leticia Van de Putte,” she said, referring to the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor.

Now we're talking.  That is progress.

Monday, June 09, 2014

GOP plots revenge against Cruz

After his sweet two weeks of high exposure and straw-poll dominance in Fort Worth, it certainly is nice to see that not every conservative in the land is swallowing Poop Cruz's BS.

Ted Cruz has not made himself a popular man in Washington. The Texas Republican would argue that’s the point. But even for a Senator — an elected office with the backing of an entire state — ticking off powerful people can have consequences.

In his first two years in Washington, Cruz has managed to help force a government shutdown, undermine the GOP’s chances of taking over the Senate and force uncomfortable votes for his fellow Republicans — not to mention the verbal bombs he lobs on a regular basis, many aimed at his own party. His colleagues, aware of the threats they face from primary challengers, have mostly held their tongues and their fire so far. But Cruz has already done some damage without much trying. A week after his election to the Senate in 2012, Cruz was named vice chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which works to elect Republicans to the Senate. But he subsequently refused to endorse incumbent Senators, or help them in their races, a fact that many Tea Party insurgents have seized upon. He hasn’t set foot in the NRSC in more than a year, sources say.

“They tried to channel him to be somewhat productive. They tried that with NRSC,” says John Feehery, a former longtime GOP Hill aide. “Lyndon Johnson once said he’d rather have people inside the tent pissing out. But (Cruz) seems to be inside the tent pissing in. (my emphasis)”

That towel-pop from a high-ranking GOP consultant is so revealing.

Cruz hasn’t campaigned or raised money for GOP challengers, but he has forced a series of uncomfortable votes — the most prominent one being a debt-ceiling bill in February — that put imperiled incumbents on the spot. “After already forcing a strategic blunder on the conference, he stood up, looked his Republican colleagues in their eyes and said he wouldn’t work against them in the primaries.” says Kyle Downey, a former GOP Senate leadership aide. “Then he broke his word. Breaking your word, or lying, has consequences in the Senate, both seen and unseen. When it comes to the currency of relationships, he’s running up big debts.”

Not that Cruz needs much help. He remains enormously popular with a small but vocal part of the base. That has given him a powerful grassroots-fundraising platform. Even though he’s not up for re-election for another four years, Cruz has raised $1.8 million so far this cycle, $1.5 million of it coming from individual donations. He’ll need this kind of support and much more if he decides to run for President in 2016. By all accounts, Cruz’s push to shut down the government did not play well with business and corporate donors. “He’s the last person Wall Street would give money to,” says a big Republican donor. “They’re more interested in a Chris Christie or Jeb Bush. Even Rand Paul would be a preferable alternative to Cruz. How [Cruz] is going to run for President without big donors is beyond me.”

Ted will just 'trust the grassroots' to sign over their life savings, AND take out a reverse mortgage and donate it all to him.  He's a populist, you see.

At home in Texas, Cruz has little to worry about, given the Tea Party’s dominance of Texas primaries. He’s much more secure than fellow Senate Tea Party Caucus member Mike Lee, a Utah Republican Senator who’s up for re-election in 2016 and is likely to be facing a tough primary at home. That said, Texas is a state with changing demographics. “If he’s not careful the changing demographics in Texas is going to make it harder for him to get re-elected,” Feehery says.

Yeah, sooner or later the Latinos -- and women and young voters of all creeds and the 50%+ of Texans in general who would rather watch the Emmys or soccer or the NBA Finals or whatever else was on TV this weekend, and every weekend -- will show up at the polls and turn the tide from rabid red to some nice shade of purple.  Hope it happens in my lifetime.

While we wait, there'll be another TexTrib poll released any day now.  They were polling at the end of May (as a YouGov panelist, I was polled nine days ago), all statewide executive races and all four ballot-accessible parties (D, R, G, L) on the November slate.  Maybe those results will give everyone who's not drinking the tea-flavored Kool Aid a whiff of encouragement.