Sunday, October 25, 2015

What Makes The Far Right Fringe In Congress So... Difficult?


I suppose it's conceivable that if the hacks in the GOP Establishment drive Trump out of the presidential race-- something they are very much trying to do-- he could revert to being a Democrat and even endorse Hillary Clinton. He certainly hasn't been as harsh towards her as he's been towards Jeb and some of the other Republicans. He wouldn't be the first to wash his hands of the cracking-up, dysfunctional party. Hey, except for the dynastic ties, I could imagine Jeb doing the same thing-- just washing his hands of the crackpots and becoming a conservaDem like his vile, opportunistic Florida amigos Charlie Crist and Patrick Murphy. But one Bushite who has already quit the GOP is economist Ben Bernanke, George W. Bush's Fed Chairman. A lifelong Jewish Republican, always a sketchy proposition under any circumstances, Bernanke wrote in his new book that he had finally had it with the off-the-rails party.
In one of the more revealing passages of his just-published book The Courage to Act, the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve lays out his experience with Republican lawmakers during the twin financial and economic crises that dominated his term as the head of the world’s most important central bank. Continual run-ins with hard-right Republicans-- such as noted Fed critic Ron Paul, the former Texas congressman-- gradually pushed him away from the party that first put him in charge of the Fed in 2006. (He was nominated for the job by president George W. Bush, for whom Bernanke served as head of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.)

“[T]he increasing hostility of the Republicans to the Fed and to me personally troubled me, particularly since I had been appointed by a Republican president who had supported our actions during the crisis. I tried to listen carefully and accept thoughtful criticisms. But it seemed to me that the crisis had helped to radicalize large parts of the Republican Party,” Bernanke writes on page 432... [T]he former Princeton economics professor said he had “lost patience with Republicans’ susceptibility to the know-nothing-ism of the far right. I didn’t leave the Republican Party. I felt that the party left me.”
And it's that part of the GOP, and the turmoil and dysfunction it has engendered, that Tim Dickinson recently wrote about in Rolling Stone. "Composed of nearly 40 of the most committed ideologues in the House," he wrote, "the Freedom Caucus has a simple mission: to get GOP leadership to deliver on the extreme, anti-government and social-conservative rhetoric that nearly all Republicans spout to get elected... For Freedom Caucus members, careers in Washington are not defined by incremental legislative progress, but by a chest-beating performance of red-state identity. Winning is subordinate to fighting-- a dynamic that leads members to reverse Ronald Reagan's famous admonition: 'I'd rather get 80 percent of what I want than go over a cliff with my flags flying.'" And Dickinson writes that they're not as stupid or as crazy as they're made out to be in the media.
[T]here's little lunatic about this fringe. The Freedom Caucus features whip-smart politicians who know how to tell it plain to the folks back home-- but may prefer to keep their book-learning on the down-low. Take Rep. Tim Huelskamp. The third-term Kansan sports a buzz cut and a goatee and has the aw-shucks bearing of farmhand-gone-to-Washington. What he doesn't advertise is the political-science doctorate he earned at American University. "Please don't put this in the story," he says with a self-deprecating smile, "but my Ph.D. studies include public administration-- organizational theory."

...We most often think of the Tea Party in opposition to the Obama presidency. In fact, the seeds of division in the modern GOP were sown late in the Bush administration. This anti-establishment movement was born of hard-right furor over GOP government intervention in the economy-- including the bank and automaker bailouts-- following years of K Street corruption and deficit-bloating social spending.

Freedom Caucus members define themselves less in opposition to Democrats than to "establishment" Republicans-- politicians they see as quick to betray their voters, and subservient to K Street and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents big business in Washington. It's a view articulated by their Senate co-conspirator, Ted Cruz of Texas, who inveighs against a "Washington Cartel" of "lobbyists and career politicians" that "favors giant corporations over taxpayers." ... They serve blood-red districts-- "homogenous echo chambers," says Norman Ornstein, the American Enterprise Institute scholar who wrote the book on congressional dysfunction, It's Even Worse Than It Looks.

Their districts are typically composed of far-flung suburbs, exurbs and rural communities, sometimes with a third- or fourth-tier city-- Grand Rapids, Michigan-- thrown in. Economically, these districts fare slightly better than average: Their voters are hanging on in the middle class but hardly thriving, with a median household income of $54,000, just $1,000 above average.

The defining characteristic of these districts is race-- they are 83 percent white, or nearly 10 percentage points higher than the national average. That demography is reflected in the makeup of the Freedom Caucus itself. With the prominent exceptions of a woman named Cynthia and a man named Raúl, these are all white men.

The Freedom Caucus acts like a third party in Washington because the political fates of its members are not yoked to the national GOP. Their districts rate R+13, according to Cook Political Report data crunched by Rolling Stone. This means their districts vote 13 percent more Republican than the nation as a whole-- and are nearly a third more partisan than the median GOP seat (R+10).

When election season rolls around, these politicians don't fear moderate Democrats-- they are only threatened by even more right-wing Republicans in a primary fight. Instead of seeking to make inroads with Hispanics or independent women, their political imperative is to serve up red meat to furious constituents who say they want "their country back."

The purpose of the Freedom Caucus, [Idaho's Raúl] Labrador says, is to hold party leadership's feet to the fire of the activist base. All Republicans-- establishment and insurgent alike-- vow they'll combat "out of control" government spending, fight for small business and stand tall for conservative social values. But the Tea Party congressmen are convinced that few members of the GOP are truly committed. "Once they get here," Labrador says, "they reject those things."

Labrador views his establishment colleagues as corrupt-- selling out small-government principles for PAC donations-- or, at best, mindless: "Any monkey can do what we do here, if all we're going to do is what our leadership tells us to do." He isn't bothered by being labeled an obstructionist: "When we stop bad legislation, it's just as functional as when you pass good legislation." And he couldn't care less if you think he's not a GOP team player: "I came here to represent my constituents," he tells Rolling Stone, "not the party."

Get Labrador rolling, and he reveals open contempt for GOP leadership: Contrasting the competence of Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to Nancy Pelosi, Labrador insists, "She's smarter than our leaders." He lets those treasonable words hang in the air for a moment before taking the same swipe at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "And so is Harry Reid."

In his unvarnished attacks on GOP leadership, Labrador echoes Cruz, the Texan who led the 2013 government-shutdown fight from the upper chamber. The senator's sway with the Tortilla Coast gang has led even top House Democrats to dub him "Speaker Cruz."

Cruz is an imperfect populist. A silver-tongued Princeton debater and Harvard-educated superlawyer, he is married to a Goldman Sachs banker. His bread has been buttered by the same Wall Street bailouts he denounces. Cruz's political patron is a billionaire hedge-fund manager, Robert Mercer, whose firm has been accused by the Senate of $6 billion in tax avoidance-- casting a less virtuous light on the senator's campaign to "abolish the IRS."

But Cruz connects with the Tea Party in his denunciation of the Kabuki theater of the GOP establishment-- wherein the party stages "show votes" of opposition to appease the party base, while stage-managing a process in which Obamacare gets funded or the debt ceiling rises.

Cruz doesn't see pragmatism in GOP leaders' refusal to pull out all the stops to advance a conservative agenda. He sees cowardice and an ulterior agenda-- to conserve political capital to keep the party's corporate patrons well tended.

Cruz's frustration with GOP leadership boiled over in July when he denounced McConnell, on the Senate floor, as a "flat-out" liar who cuts "corrupt" deals while running a "government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists and for the lobbyists."

Freedom Caucus members share Cruz's hatred of the Senate leader-- whose first name they practically spit as they say it. "Mitch McConnell is infinitely worse as a leader than Boehner," said Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona. "He surrenders at the sight of battle every time."

Over the horizon, it's not difficult to imagine how the establishment GOP solves its Freedom Caucus problem-- by coming at these obstructionists with guns blazing. The Chamber of Commerce has vowed it will avenge Boehner by targeting uncooperative GOP House incumbents in the 2016 primaries, seeking to repeat its success of pacifying the GOP Senate. The establishment doesn't require total victory; it just needs to flip enough seats to assure the next Republican speaker a lockstep 218-vote majority.

But in the near term, America should brace for chaos-- with Republican infighting jeopardizing not only the nation's credit, but funding for our roads and bridges, our veterans and the most vulnerable among us. Boehner was a unique politician: the son of a barback, most at ease at the country club. "He had unique skills bridging irreconcilable groups of Republicans and averting utter disaster," says Ornstein, the congressional scholar. "Nobody else, starting with Kevin McCarthy, has the ability to do it." The Freedom Caucus members have been emboldened by their coup, and anti-establishment presidential candidates will egg them on. This tiny band of radicals-- who have built careers on hatred of government-- won't be deterred until they've shaken the very foundation of the people's House.
Is there a role for Democrats to play, aside from sitting back and eating popcorn? Well, there is. The Freedom Caucus membership list is semi-secret but several members have identified themselves publicly. As Dickinson wrote, most of them represent blood red, all-white gerrymandered districts-- many in the Old Confederacy. But there are 4 members of the Freedom Caucus who could be beaten by good Democrats. Unfortunately, this-- like everything else-- is beyond the capacity of Pelosi's utterly useless DCCC. But these are the guys who could be beaten by Democrats:
Rod Blum (IA)- D+5
Ron DeSantis (FL)- running for U.S. Senate
Scott Garrett (NJ)- R+4
Steve Pearce (NM)- R+5
The way Steve Israel and sock-puppet Ben Ray Luján are addressing this is by recruiting a wealthy Republican, Monica Vernon, to run as a Democrat against the former Speaker of the state House, progressive hero, Pat Murphy. The DCCC claims it's neutral in the primary but they are working hard to boost Vernon and sabotage-- very actively sabotage (more about that in a couple days)-- Murphy. Murphy would almost definitely beat Blum. Vernon's presence of the ballot as a Democrat would discourage Democrats from even bothering to come out to the polls. But that's the dumb-as-a-brick DCCC! You can help Pat here.

In Florida DeSantis has a tough primary against a couple of GOP squishes. The far right constituency groups are rallying around him and he has a good chance to win. This is the seat that Alan Grayson is running for. But instead of rallying around him, the DSCC has promised their Wall Street financiers to deliver the nomination to "ex"-Republican Patrick (not to be confused with "Pat") Murphy, a wealthy, pro-bankster New Dem who votes with the GOP and is not well-liked by the Democratic base. You can help Alan here.

In the New Jersey race, the DCCC dug up another rich, pitiful conservative, Josh Gottheimer, with no chance to beat Garrett and in sock puppet Luján's home state, they haven't even bothered to find a candidate to run against Pearce. Another wasted cycle from the Establishment DC Dems!

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At 3:00 PM, Anonymous brian said...

Janet Yellen is better than Greenspan and Bernanke combined.

At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Janet Yellen is better than Greenspan and Bernanke combined.

How can we tell? She's not done much but lie low in the trenches.

At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Robert said...

Wealth is without practical limit. Science has turned on the cosmic reservoir and whatever needs to be done can be done. We need a new economic system based abundance. Interest raising is pure inflation.


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