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Tag: "2012 Republican Primary"

The Ballad of Prick Erry

[ 55 ] January 4, 2012 |

As the procession of people on book tours and social conservative vanity candidates to match or exceed Romney’s popularity shows, the GOP nomination was Rick Perry’s to lose. And, boy, did he lose it. Again, I’m very impressed that someone proved that you can be too dumb to be the Republican candidate for president.

It looks like Mittens might be the narrow nominal winner in Iowa after it looked like the froth would rise to the top for much of the night, but as Dave says he’s the winner either way. The only other candidates standing an unappealing conservative with no money and little national organization and a paleocon crank running a vanity campaign. It will be mildly fun to watch Newt go nuclear against him, but the most determined journalist is going to struggle to get drama out of this race.

…Shorter Santorum: “I am motivated by the dignity of every human life, except for the majority of the population I want to be second-class citizens.”

…Landslide Mittens takes it by 8 votes.


Something Worthy of Note

[ 8 ] January 3, 2012 |

A candidate who thinks that Griswold v. Connecticut was wrong could win the Iowa Republican primary.

Well, maybe I should predict this as if there’s significant doubt about the Republican nomination. I’ll say Santorum/Paul/Romney [major gap] Perry/Newt. Thaddeus McCotter could still surprise you!

Clown Show Day

[ 68 ] January 3, 2012 |

I wish everyone a happy Clown Show Day. The Iowa caucuses have as strong a predictive power for the Republican nomination as I do in the LGM bowl pool. Notable Iowa winners like Mike Huckabee and surprise competitors like Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan have gone on to have a huge impact on the nomination…. Yet we must take this event VERY SERIOUSLY and members of the media must spend months of their lives talking of nothing else.

As for me, I’m lending my support to noted rounder and 19th century pitching extraordinaire @OldHossRadbourn who is running on the platform:

I support guns, germs, and steel. These things made America great, and we must return to them to restore our grandeur. #VoteRadbourn

It’s hard to distill Republican ideology on foreign policy any purer. As someone who studies the past exclusively to learn how to better oppress people today, this is a candidate I can support!

The Paul Problem

[ 254 ] January 3, 2012 |

I think a couple commenters have been persuasive that I was too charitable toward Ron Paul, as my closing line implies that he’s having a meaningful and positive impact on the debate. It would probably have been better just to say that he is indeed better than Obama on a handful of issues in addition to having hideously immoral positions on countless issues, because Paul’s impact probably isn’t positive. The first problem, as Kevin Drum notes, is that his handful of good positions are just false positives generated by an exceptionally pernicious and reactionary worldview:

Can we talk? Ron Paul is not a charming oddball with a few peculiar notions. He’s not merely “out of the mainstream.” Ron Paul is a full bore crank. In fact he’s practically the dictionary definition of a crank: a person who has a single obsessive, all-encompassing idea for how the world should work and is utterly blinded to the value of any competing ideas or competing interests.

This obsessive idea has, at various times in his career, led him to: denounce the Civil Rights Act because it infringed the free-market right of a monolithic white establishment to immiserate blacks; dabble in gold buggery and advocate the elimination of the Federal Reserve, apparently because the global economy worked so well back in the era before central banks; suggest that the border fence is being built to keep Americans from leaving the country; claim that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional and should be dismantled; mount repeated warnings that hyperinflation is right around the corner; insist that global warming is a gigantic hoax; hint that maybe the CIA helped to coordinate the 9/11 attacks; oppose government-sponsored flu shots; and allege that the UN wants to confiscate our guns.

This isn’t the biography of a person with one or two unusual hobbyhorses. It’s not something you can pretend doesn’t matter. This is Grade A crankery, and all by itself it’s reason enough to want nothing to do with Ron Paul. But of course, that’s not all. As we’ve all known for the past four years, you can layer on top of this Paul’s now infamous newsletters, in which he condoned a political strategy consciously designed to appeal to the worst strains of American homophobia, racial paranoia, militia hucksterism, and new-world-order fear-mongering. And on top of that, you can layer on the fact that Paul is plainly lying about these newsletters and his role in them.

All of this might be acceptable if his presence might actually make opposition to the War on (some classes of people who use some) Drugs or anti-imperialism more common in American political discourse. But, of course, it will do no such thing. If you think either issue will play any role in the upcoming election, or that either candidate will pay a price for ignoring them, all I can say is “care to make it interesting?” Indeed, his constant neoconfederate arguments that federal power is inherently illegitimate — which Greenwald skated over in his tendentious-in-the-extreme comparison of the candidates, pretending that the differences between Obama and Paul on economics, civil rights, civil liberties protections against the state governments most likely to abuse them, and regulatory enforcement are marginal — is far more likely to affect political discourse than the handful of good positions he espouses.

The Inevtiability of Romney, An Ongoing Series

[ 90 ] January 2, 2012 |

Things are breaking especially well for Mittens, but it is indeed just a question of how long the media can pretend there’s a race, not whether there is a race. (I also, of course, agree with Ed Kilgore that his inevitability was not inevitable, but was a series of incredibly lucky breaks.)

Meanwhile, on the deeply puzzling question of why progressives prefer LBJ to Goldwater Obama to Paul, see Edroso, ABL, Barbara O’Brien, Tom Hilton, Tom Watson, Echidne and Steve M.

What’s Challenging About Paul?

[ 316 ] December 31, 2011 |

Apparently, a twitter storm has broken out about the post I don’t want to get into, but Greenwald’s latest has a couple things I wanted to respond to on the merits, so I thought I’d go ahead. On this:

As Matt Stoller argued in a genuinely brilliant essay on the history of progressivism and the Democratic Party which I cannot recommend highly enough: “the anger [Paul] inspires comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American liberals bear within their own worldview.” Ron Paul’s candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America’s Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it’s one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception.

One thing missing from both Greenwald and Stoller are cites from people who find that Paul challenges their “desired self-perception.” Who, exactly, expects Obama or any Democratic president to be good on the drug war? I’m as strident a critic of Naderist “not a dime’s worth a difference” arguments as you can find anywhere, but I certainly agree that the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs really is one area where the differences between the national parties are trivial. On national security, the differences are less trivial (I don’t think that Al Gore or Obama would have invaded Iraq and I don’t think McCain would have wound it down), but certainly Obama has advanced any number of awful policies. Paul’s isolationism isn’t my ideal foreign policy orientation, either, but if you want to say that on balance it’s preferable I won’t argue with you. The thing is, I don’t know who disagrees with this. I don’t think I’m alone in not finding Paul to be an admirable political figure but is happy that he’s expressing positions on these issues, and I don’t think any civil libertarian is under the impression that Obama or any Democratic president is likely to share their values in an absolute as opposed to relative sense. Progressives are prone to idealizing past Democratic presidents — although I note that if anything especially with FDR this is rather more common among the harshest Obama critics — but not really current ones. And I don’t think it’s news that Paul expresses more agreeable positions in isolation than the other Republican candidates; I don’t know who disputes this.

My second puzzlement is why Greenwald thinks that for a conventional left-liberal Obama vs. Paul might be a tough choice. If you scroll to the italicized section — which does do a pretty good job of evaluating the real tradeoffs inherent in supporting Obama — there are two related problems. First, what Paul would like to accomplish is compared what Obama can accomplish under institutional constraints, and second the comparison is cherry-picked in a way that underplays the grotesque extremism of Paul’s economic agenda. Paul wants to return to a 19th century state, supplemented by a constitutional amendment that would make performing an abortion first degree murder in all 50 states. It’s true that this means an end to much of the bad stuff that the federal government does, but the modern welfare and regulatory state is an immense amount of babies to throw away with this bathwater. (And while it’s true that Paul wouldn’t succeed in eliminating the 20th century welfare state, it’s also true that “America’s minorities” would continue to be “imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason,” as there are severe limits to what the president could unilaterally do to end the drug war.) If you want to say that Obama/Paul is a clash between lesser and greater evils I don’t have any objection to that, but Paul is very much more evil, and it’s not close.

Anyway, Ron Paul will not be the Republican nominee and will not be president, so the question is whether his vision is an attractive one even compared to other political figures, and the answer is that obviously is an extremely unattractive one even if we leave his racist newsletters out of it. But I’m still glad he’s using his platform to make a case against the drug war and American imperialism.


I want to add a bit to this, focusing mainly on Tom Hilton’s post about the same subject:

Similarly, Paul’s positions on civil liberties issues aren’t actually about civil liberties as we understand them; they’re about his opposition to Federal authority. (An opposition that is somewhat conditional, it should be noted.) For example, in talking about the death penalty, he makes clear that he opposes it only at the Federal level. His opposition to the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, and domestic surveillance come from the same root as his opposition to the Civil Rights Act. He has no real objection to states violating the rights of their citizens; it’s only a problem if the Feds do it.

The assumption underlying this is that people are freer when states (as opposed to the Federal government) have more power. Now, it may seem obvious to some of us that the distinction between one arbitrary administrative unit and another isn’t exactly a human rights issue, but let’s just consider for a moment: does state or local control actually translate to more liberty?

It’s wrong to think of Ron Paul’s racism and his libertarianism as two distinct parts of his political persona, when in fact they are deeply tied together. White supremacists understand what Glenn, apparently, does not; the absence of Federal authority makes it easier for private actors and local governments to repress the civil and political rights of minorities. Paul’s libertarianism emerged in a regional and cultural context that was deeply hostile to Federal efforts at integration. The newsletters give strong indication that none of this is lost on Ron Paul. A notional President Paul is just as likely to use the powers of the office to gut Federal enforcement of a wide range of civil liberties protections as he is to do any of the things that Glenn would like him to do.

….Edroso with the shorter.


[ 12 ] December 29, 2011 |

Looks like little Ricky might get a decent showing in Iowa on the road to oblivion. I definitely expect him to beat Newt.

At Least Be Honest

[ 77 ] December 28, 2011 |

This won’t be a surprise to longtime readers, but I agree 100% with Atrios about Perry changing his position to oppose abortion in cases of rape or incest. These exemptions cannot be defended coherently, and they’re almost entirely worthless on the ground. Essentially, Perry’s new position amounts to arguing for the same policy in much less politically effective terms, so I say go right ahead.

Not, of course, that it isn’t barbaric to use state coercion to force a woman to bear her rapist’s child — but it’s barbaric for the state to coerce a woman to bear anyone’s child. That’s the fundamental issue.

…see also.

The Inevitably of Romney, An Ongoing Series

[ 35 ] December 28, 2011 |

There’s no way around it — having opponents who weren’t running for president or were only half-seriously running is a major advantage.

Relatedly, I think in his post arguing that Romney isn’t inevitable Nate Silver in fact makes an excellent case for his inevitability. His scenarios for how Romney “could lose” establish what we already know — Romney is theoretically very vulnerable, and has been remarkably lucky not to get a serious challenge from a plain vanilla conservative. But when it comes to identifying the candidate who could actually beat Romney, Silver draws a blank — for the obvious reason that there isn’t one. So Ron Paul wins in Iowa, so then what? So Romney has a relatively disappointing performance in Iowa, who’s beating him in New Hampshire? Let’s say by some miracle Huntsman gets some Jonmentum and finishes a strong second — anybody think his running against the party strategy plays in South Carolina? Sorry, but it’s Mittens in a cakewalk.

“It’s the media. They never report the good things that the Ku Klux Klan does.”

[ 44 ] December 23, 2011 |

On trying to challenge Ron Paul in Texas.

Obviously, Republican elites are starting to pay attention to these newsletters for opportunistic reasons. But is nonetheless true that he spent years publishing grotesque racism under his own name. And while I agree that he was most likely a strategic deployer of racism and ally of racists in the George Wallace tradition as opposed to an actual racist, this isn’t actually any kind of defense.

More on Newt and the Courts

[ 5 ] December 20, 2011 |

Lithwick valiantly tries to explain what Newt was up to.    In addition to the fact that he’s envisioning himself as president, I think it’s also a example of how a little history is a dangerous thing.   Newt is very vain about his very modest intellectual achievements, and yes indeedy FDR did try to pack the courts and Jefferson did succeed in getting federal circuit courts abolished with Supreme Court approval.*    But we may want to go a step further and inquire how these plans worked out, and whether established constitutional norms would still permit them.

In addition, of course, I’m sure Lithwick is right that Newt is trying to specifically pander to Iowa voters.    But I think the instincts of his opponents are sounder on this one.   Attacking individual “activist” judges is much more effective than attacking the judiciary as a whole.   But, then, I think a couple years from now we’ll be looking back at the two or three weeks when Gingrch was actually taken seriously as a potential presidential nominee with puzzlement.   (I can’t agree that his collapse is “ahead of schedule.”   The only surprising thing is that the bubble ever inflated in the first place.)

*As we know now from private correspondence, the Marshall Court didn’t uphold the legislation abolishing circuit courts because they actually believed this was constitutional, but because it was that or be impeached.   A good indication of how Marshall felt is that he recused himself.  He didn’t recuse himself in Marbury v. Madison — although his failure to deliver the commission was what triggered the lawsuit.   I should also note, in fairness to the Jeffersonians, that these particular circuit courts also involved taking advantage of an obvious defect in Our Perfect Constitution — allowing a lame duck Congress and president to make major institutional changes after losing an election.    The remedy was problematic but they had legitimate reason to be angry.

Shorter Newt: Impeach Earl Warren and Bring Back the Trail of Tears

[ 40 ] December 19, 2011 |

I have a piece up at the Prospect about the attacks on the federal judiciary increasingly made by several Republican candidates, all of whom apparently have yet to be informed about the death of Earl Warren:

This returns us the question of why attacks on the federal courts have been so common in the Republican primary, when in fact the Rehnquist and Roberts Courts have largely been bonanzas for Republican interests. The four judges praised by most of the Republican candidates in the Iowa debate are not remotely deferential to the political branches. If there is any case that represents an “arrogant misreading” of the American public, it is the Citizens United decision. The public mood may have turned against corporate America, but the Roberts Court remains its best friend. And, of course, the same Republican candidates who have spent a great deal of time decrying “judicial activism” are also urging the Supreme Court to strike down the centerpiece legislation of Barack Obama’s first term on the basis of an extremely dubious legal argument….

Not only are many of the Republican attacks on the courts potentially dangerous; they also reflect a bizarre world in which Republican-dominated federal courts are seen as bastions of liberalism. As on so many other issues, wealthy, privileged Republicans have the remarkable ability to be permanently aggrieved no matter how much they’re winning.

The thing is is that, while Gingrich’s arguments are obviously unserious, I am actually not a big fan of judicial supremacy, and don’t think that all of the policy proposals being made by Republicans are unreasonable. I actively support non-renewable fixed terms of Supreme Court justices, and have no objection to a legislative override (although as a look across the northern border would make clear these changes would have much less of an effect on the institution of judicial review than the politicians making the proposals seem to understand.) Granted, I wouldn’t bring up Andrew “John Marshall has made his ruling, now let us proceed with ethnic cleansing” Jackson or Jefferson’s abolition of federal circuit courts as salutary examples, but I certainly don’t think that courts should have any kind of monopoly on constitutional interpretation. But what amazes me is that to listen to the Republican candidates you’d think it was still 1965.

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