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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

21 Truths That Prove Republicans Have Been Wrong About Everything


It's no secret that politicians tend to use exaggerated political rhetoric to get people to vote for them.

In recent decades, Republicans in particular have repeatedly made very ominous predictions about the horrors that will result from Democratic policies while painting a very rosy picture of what will result from Republican policies.
Now that we have the luxury of looking back over the years to examine those predictions and policies, I've listed 21 specific examples. After each item I've included links where you can verify this information and I encourage you to do your own research to verify all of this yourself.

1. In the 1960s, Republicans wrongly claimed that passage of Medicare would be the end of capitalism.

California Governor Ronald Reagan even proclaimed Medicare would lead to the death of freedom in America.
Of course they were wrong. Since the passage of Medicare, capitalism has thrived in America and millions of elderly Americans have had longer, healthier lives and greater personal freedom. Medicare remains the most popular form of health insurance in the United States.

2. In 1993, when Bill Clinton raised taxes on the wealthiest 1.5%, Republicans predicted a recession, increased unemployment and a growing budget deficit.

They weren't just wrong; the results were exactly the opposite of everything they predicted. After that tax increase went into effect, the country experienced the seven best years of economic growth in history.
  • Twenty-two million new jobs were created
  • Unemployment dropped below 4%
  • The poverty rate went down for 7 straight years
  • The budget deficit was eliminated
  • America enjoyed a growing budget surplus which economists projected would pay off our national debt in 20 years.

3. In 2001, when George W. Bush cut taxes for the wealthy, Republicans predicted record job growth, increased budget surplus and nationwide prosperity.

Once again, the prosperity they promised never quite happened. In fact we saw the exact opposite occur.
After the Bush tax cuts were enacted:
  • The budget surplus immediately disappeared
  • Less than 3 million net jobs were added during Bush’s 8 years
  • The poverty rate began climbing again
  • We experienced two recessions along with the greatest collapse of our financial system since the Great Depression
  • The budget deficit eventually grew to $1.4 trillion by the time Bush left office
In 1993, President Clinton signed the Brady Law mandating nationwide background checks and a waiting period to buy a gun.
In 1993, President Clinton signed the Brady Law mandating nationwide background checks and a waiting period to buy a gun.

4. In 1993, when the Brady Law and the Assault Weapons Ban were passed, Republicans predicted increasing rates of crime and murder.

Thankfully just the opposite happened. From the 1970s, through the early 1990s violent crime had been increasing steadily. After 1993, however, the violent crime and overall murder rates suddenly began to drop. This decline continued for more than ten years.
What could have precipitated such a sudden and prolonged drop in the crime rate beginning in 1993? That’s the year Congress passed the Assault Weapons Ban and the Brady Law, which mandated background checks and a waiting period to buy a gun.
Despite Republican predictions to the contrary, the Brady Law and the Assault Weapons Ban were followed by the most dramatic reduction in violent crime since the FBI started keeping statistics.
The two graphs below show the rates of murder and violent crime in the US over a span of 35 years based on the actual numbers from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports web site. Notice how the crime rate dropped suddenly after the 1993 Brady Law and Assault Weapons Ban were passed .
These charts show the rate of murder and violent crime over 35 years based on numbers from the FBI Uniform Crime reports.
These charts show the rate of murder and violent crime over 35 years based on numbers from the FBI Uniform Crime reports.

See the video of President Bush discussing the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction.

5. Republicans predicted that we would find Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction even though UN weapons inspectors said that those weapons didn't exist.

The Bush administration continued to insist the WMDs would be found even when the CIA said some of the evidence was questionable.
As we all know, the WMDs predicted by the Bush administration did not exist and Saddam had not resumed his nuclear weapons program as they claimed. Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney ultimately had to admit that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

6. Prior to going to war in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld optimistically predicted the Iraq war might last “six days, six weeks, I doubt six months”.

What's more, Vice-President Dick Cheney said we would be greeted as liberators by the Iraqi people after we overthrow Saddam.
They were both horribly wrong. Instead of six weeks or six months, the Iraq war lasted 8 long and bloody years costing thousands of American lives. It led to an Iraqi civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites which took hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. Many Iraqi militia groups were formed to fight against the U.S. forces that occupied Iraq. What’s more, Al Qaeda, which did not exist in Iraq before the war, used the turmoil in Iraq to establish a new foothold in that country.
The Iraq war was arguably the most tragic foreign policy blunder in US history.

7. Republicans said waterboarding and other forms of “enhanced interrogation” are not torture and are necessary in fighting Islamic extremism.

In reality, waterboarding and other forms of enhanced interrogation which inflict pain, suffering or fear of death are outlawed by US law, the US Constitution and international treaties. Japanese soldiers after World War II were prosecuted by the United States for war crimes because of their use of waterboarding on American POWs.
Professional interrogators have known for decades that torture is the most ineffective and unreliable method of getting accurate information. People being tortured say anything to get the torture to end but will not likely tell the truth.
An FBI interrogator named Ali Soufan was able to get al Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah to reveal crucial information without the use of torture. When CIA interrogators started using waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation methods, Zubaydah stopped cooperating and gave his interrogators false information.
Far from being necessary in the fight against terrorism, torture is completely unreliable and counter-productive in obtaining useful information.

8. In 2008, Republicans said that if we elect a Democratic president, we would be hit by Al Qaeda again, perhaps worse than the attack on 9/11.

Former Vice-President Dick Cheney stated that electing a Democrat as president would all but guarantee that there would be another major attack on America by Al Qaeda.
Cheney and other Republicans were, thankfully, completely wrong. Since Obama became president, we have had zero deaths on U.S. soil from Al Qaeda attacks and we succeeded in killing Bin Laden along with dozens of other high ranking Al Qaeda leaders.
Looking at the rate of job loss and job creation, its easy to see that the stimulus of 2009 was highly successful in stopping the job losses and turning the economy around.
Looking at the rate of job loss and job creation, its easy to see that the stimulus of 2009 was highly successful in stopping the job losses and turning the economy around.

9. In 2009, Republicans predicted that the economic stimulus package would only make the recession worse and cause more unemployment.

The results show they couldn't have been more wrong. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ended the recession after only a few months. Although 750,000 people were losing their jobs each month when Obama took office, after the Recovery Act was passed the rate of job loss immediately decreased each month and within a year the economy showed positive job growth.
Considering the severity of the 2008 economic collapse and the total opposition by Republicans to do anything at all to stimulate the economy, it is remarkable that the US economy recovered as quickly as it did.

10. Most Republicans said that President Obama should be impeached because of the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.

Their own investigations, however, have proved them wrong. Every Congressional inquiry, including those by the Republican led House Intelligence Committee, have concluded the Obama administration did nothing wrong regarding Benghazi, that there was no “stand down” order given and that neither the President nor anyone in his administration lied about it.
Each and every Republican investigation has reached this same conclusion but Republicans continue to exploit this tragedy for political gain.

11. Republicans said we must deregulate businesses so they can be more profitable and we will all enjoy the wealth created by deregulation.

This theory failed back in the 1980s when the Reagan administration deregulated the Savings and Loan industry. All the S&Ls collapsed and it cost taxpayers billions of dollars to bail them out.
They were proven wrong again in 2008 when years of deregulation of the financial industry resulted in the worst financial collapse and recession since the Great Depression. Taxpayers had to spend nearly a trillion dollars to bail out these large corporations.
Instead of spreading the wealth around, deregulation cost millions of jobs and created economic turmoil that took the country years to recover from.
Senator Mitch McConnell claimed Obamacare would cost the economy 2 million jobs.
Senator Mitch McConnell claimed Obamacare would cost the economy 2 million jobs.

12. Republicans predicted that Obamacare would hurt the economy and kill jobs.

As you may have guessed, they were wrong. 2014 was the first full year that Obamacare was in effect. During that year the United States saw the fastest rate of job creation in 14 years and the best rate of economic growth in over ten years. More jobs were created in 2014 than in any year of the Bush presidency.
Not only did Obamacare not harm the economy, it coincided with the best economic expansion in a dozen years.
Gas prices have dropped dramatically during 2013 and 2014.
Gas prices have dropped dramatically during 2013 and 2014.

13. Republicans said if President Obama is reelected, the price of gasoline would rise to $5.45 a gallon by January 2015.

In fact, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, said if Obama were reelected, the price of gas would reach $6.60 a gallon. Newt Gingrich, who was running for president in 2012, said Obama’s energy policies, EPA regulations, and failure to approve the XL pipeline would result in $10.00 a gallon gasoline.
Of course these predictions were laughably wrong. Instead of $5.45 per gallon or $10.00 per gallon, the price of gas in January, 2015, was $1.89, less than half of the all-time high of $4.15 a gallon under President Bush.

14. Republicans said President Obama would be terrible for the economy.

Although he inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression, President Obama has presided over the longest continuous period of uninterrupted job growth in American history. More jobs have been created under President Obama than under both Bush Presidents combined. The stock market has repeatedly set new records during Obama's presidency.
Although he inherited a much worse recession than the one Ronald Reagan dealt with, Obama ended that recession and turned around our economy in half the time it took Reagan.
During his first 6 full years in office, our economy had a net increase of 6.6 million new jobs. That takes into account over 4 million jobs that were lost during Obama's first year when he was trying to pull us out of the Bush Recession. From January 2010 through summer of 2015 our economy created 12 million new jobs.
Despite Republican attempts to stop all progress, President Obama has overseen the greatest economic turnaround in over 75 years without any help from Republicans.
This chart shows the unemployment rate through 2013 and 2014 based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This chart shows the unemployment rate through 2013 and 2014 based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

15. Republicans predicted that President Obama’s tax increase on the top 1% in 2013 would kill jobs, increase the deficit and cause another recession.

You guessed it. Just the opposite happened. In the two years from January 1, 2013 when that tax increase went into effect, through January, 2015, unemployment dropped from 7.9% to 5.6%, an average of more than 200,000 new jobs were created per month, Wall Street set new record highs and the budget deficit was cut in half.
Over 5.7 million new jobs were created in that 2 year period. That's more jobs created in two years than were created during the combined 12 years of both Bush presidencies.

16. Republicans said President Obama would raise taxes sky high.

It never happened. For over 95% of Americans, income taxes are the same or lower than they were before Obama was elected. The only people whose income taxes have increased are those who make more than $400,000 per year, and their taxes increased only 3%.
For most Americans, taxes are still lower now than they were under Reagan.

17. Republicans have long promised that “trickle-down economics”, is the best way to stimulate the economy.

Trickle-down economics is the practice of giving more money to the very wealthy so they can reinvest it, causing a "trickle-down" effect that creates jobs and stimulates growth. According to this theory, any tax increase on the wealthy will hurt the economy and cause another recession.
Again, this theory has been thoroughly disproven. The huge tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans enacted by George W. Bush did not result in great job creation or a robust economy. In fact, our economy took the worst nosedive since the Great Depression.
Conversely, the tax increases on the wealthiest 1% passed by Presidents Clinton and Obama were followed by strong job growth, shrinking budget deficits and lower unemployment rates. During the 8 years after President Clinton raised taxes on the top 1%, the poverty rate went down. After Bush enacted Trickle-down economic policies, the poverty rate began rising again.

18. In 2012, Republicans predicted that failure to approve the Keystone Pipeline would send the price of gasoline sky high and large numbers of jobs would be l

Even though the Keystone Pipeline was not approved, the price of gasoline continued to drop below $1.90 per gallon, millions of new jobs were created and unemployment dropped from 8% to 5.4% by early 2015.
The most optimistic predictions say that the Keystone Pipeline would only create a few dozen long term jobs and would do nothing to lower the price of gasoline.

19. Republicans insist that their policies create more jobs than Democrats and claim Democratic policies are “job killers”.

History, however, has proven them wrong. According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, under the last 3 Republican presidents there were a total of 21 million new jobs created during their combined 20 years in office (Reagan - 16 million, George H. W. Bush - 2 million, George W. Bush – 3 million).
However, under the last 3 Democratic presidents there were a total of 38 million new jobs created during their combined 18 years in office (Carter – 10 million, Clinton – 22 million, Obama – 6 million).
So the last three Democratic presidents have seen the creation of nearly twice as many jobs in 18 years as the last three Republican presidents did in 20.

20. Republicans claim that raising the minimum wage would kill jobs and hurt the economy.

There is far more evidence to the contrary. Cities and states that have higher minimum wages tend to have better rates of job creation and economic growth.
Detailed analyses show that job losses due to increases in the minimum wage are almost negligible compared to the economic benefits of higher wages.
Previous increases in the minimum wage have never resulted in the dire consequences that Republicans have predicted.
Republicans have accused President Obama of "cutting defense spending to the bone". This chart of 2014 discretionary spending firmly disproves that argument.
Republicans have accused President Obama of "cutting defense spending to the bone". This chart of 2014 discretionary spending firmly disproves that argument.

21. Republicans routinely accuse Democrats of wanting to cut defense spending to the bone and leave us defenseless against our enemies.

History has repeatedly proven them wrong. Under Democratic presidents and Congresses the United States still spends more on defense than the next ten countries combined.
Republicans frequently insist on spending hundreds of billions of dollars on weapons systems that the Pentagon doesn't even want in order to benefit the multi-billion dollar defense contractors. Democrats who criticize this unnecessary spending, are accused of trying to cut defense spending to the bone.
These links below give more information about our military spending on weapons systems that the Pentagon doesn't want or need.

Just for fun, here's a lightning round of more things Republicans have been wrong about.

  • Republicans said that Obamacare would have “Death Panels” to decide who would live and who would die. Wrong. No such death panels were ever proposed and nothing of the kind ever happened.
  • They said the 2009 laws to improve automobile fuel efficiency standards would kill the US auto industry. Wrong. The new standards were followed by a resurgence of the US auto industry enabling them to hire back tens of thousands of workers.
  • They said environmental protection laws requiring companies to clean up their pollution would create undue burden and kill businesses. Nope, it never happened.
  • They said Ebola would spread across the country because President Obama allowed American Ebola patients to be treated in the US. The outbreak never happened. Only 3 people contracted Ebola in the US and all 3 survived the disease.
  • They said President Obama would open our borders to illegal immigrants. Wow, were they wrong. Under Obama we set new records for most illegal immigrants stopped at the border and sent home.
  • They said Obama would drive up the Federal budget deficit. Didn't happen. Obama cut the $1.4 trillion deficit he inherited by two-thirds.

Please don’t take my word for any of this. I encourage you to fact-check everything in this article.

While someone could no doubt find instances where Democrats engage in over-the-top rhetoric, nothing compares to the consistently false and erroneous claims made by the GOP in recent years.
When a political party has been so dismally wrong about nearly everything over the past 30 years, that party should lose all credibility.
My hope is that in the future, when Americans hear Republicans make predictions about Democratic policies that are doomed to failure, we will remember the fact that they have been utterly wrong about virtually everything they've predicted in recent years.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

GOP Debate Shows a Party Where Crazy Is the New Normal


It's great theater. But they want to rule the world.

Despite the large number of candidates on the stage at the Ronald Reagan Library, the second debate of Republican presidential candidates was an astounding display of how intellectually bankrupt the Republican Party has become in 2015.
Beyond the many subplots—such as a red-faced Donald Trump eating crow for his nasty remarks about ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s looks (he told a nationwide audience that she was beautiful) or Jeb Bush telling Trump that he failed to bribe Florida politicans into allowing a casino to be built when he was governor (Trump replied that wasn’t true because he would have gotten it if he wanted) the debaters, as a group, sought to highlight what Republican leadership consisted of and could mean for Americans and the world.
For most, it was a contest in who could take the hardest line: On cracking down on illegal immigration, on building up the military, on deploying ground troops against ISIS, on how to handle Vladimir Putin’s imperial goals, on rejecting the nuclear disarmament treaty with Iran, on whether continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood was a sufficient reason to shut down the federal government after September 30, and even on whether it was a mistake to appoint John Roberts as the Supreme Court Chief Justice because his court saved Obamacare and sanctioned same-sex marriage.
As CNN’s moderator noted, the maverick candidates with no elective experience—Trump, neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Fiorina—have been collectively getting more than 50 percent in polls. That anti-status quo outsider energy seemed to set the tone for much of what constituted the leadership qualities and agenda that the candidates embraced. But bluster aside, the new leadership was much the same old GOP model: take extreme right-wing positions wherever possible, and implement them with as much muscle as possible, both militarily overseas or domestically. Only Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Carson differentiated between smart ways to do things and muscular ways to do things.
The debate’s major focus was supposedly foreign policy, but the comments flew all over the map. The candidates all agreed that Obama was a weak international leader, saying the U.S. lost the respect of foreign friends and foes under his watch. Everything each said they’d do differently was predictable and a bit surreal. Trump said he would make deals with Putin, getting out of Syria and the Ukraine. As for details, Trump said those would come later. Fiorina said she’d cut off every contact with Putin and send troops and arms to Russia’s border to make him behave, even listing how many more ships, planes and military divisions were needed. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and a like-minded chorus of other candidates said ISIS, and an enriched and terrorist-friendly Iran, were existential threats to the mainland and ground troops were needed in Syria and Iraq. Everyone rejected Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. Only Kasich kept saying it was in the U.S. national interest to act with its allies abroad.
On a stage filled with would-be Dr. Strangeloves, all eager to rev up the military and turn them loose on the world, one of the oddest moments came after Bush earnestly declared the U.S. “must lead the world” again. That prompted Trump to say that while he loved the military, he was not in favor of using them all the time—such as invading Iraq. (Like a kid in the back row of a classroom, Rand Paul protested that he too opposed George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion). That led to a big clash between Bush and Trump over W’s war of choice, with Jeb jumping to W.’s defense, saying, “my brother kept us safe.”
Almost all on the stage agreed with that absurd revisionist history, blaming Obama solely for the region’s ongoing civil wars as if nothing happened before he took office. They all said with straight faces that Obama’s reluctance to use force and instead rely on diplomacy had left the U.S. isolated and without allies. Somehow, they seemed to forget that W’s doctrine of pre-emptive war left the U.S. reviled and far more isolated in international circles.
As CNN’s pre-debate commentators said, the current GOP electorate isn’t interested in governing right now, or policy details. Instead, there was plenty of political theatre that will surely fill the news on Thursday. Such as Sen. Rand Paul calling Trump “sophomoric.” Or Fiorina telling the moderator that women across America heard Trump's comments about her looks and shredding Trump for his failed Atlantic City casinos. Or Bush demanding that Trump apologize to his wife for saying that her Mexican heritage made him a weaker candidate (Trump refused). Or an array of candiates spending 15 minutes saying why Planned Parenthood should lose federal funding, but predicting that congressional Republican leaders would not have the nerve to shut the government over that issue. They probably mentioned their disappointment with the GOP-led Congress as many times as they mentioned Hillary Clinton’s record as Secretary of State.
The mainstream media will declare the night’s winners and losers, although it’s difficult to imagine that the follow-up polls will reveal shifts of more than a few percentage points in any direction. From that perspective, it seems the field of candidates is split into three tiers. In the top tier are Trump, who held his ground and whose legitimacy as a candidate was affirmed by other debate participants; Fiorina, who emerged as a forceful disciplined presence who suffers no fools; Bush, who stood his ground as he touted his right-wing record; Carson, who stuck the thoughtful but still very conservative tone that’s made him popular; Kasich, who showed that experience in elected office is a political virtue; and Rubio, who managed to project a shrill gravitas at the back of this pack.
In the second tier are the other candidates who shared the main stage but did not have any breakthroughs—either with their answers or stage presence: Rand Paul, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen Ted Cruz, and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The third tier were the four candidates in the first debate session—all of whom are polling the lowest levels: North Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, ex-Sen. Rick Santorum and ex-New York Gov. George Pataki.
The big picture, however, is that despite the large size of the GOP field, it is notable that Republicans aren’t offering many new ideas that have not been heard before. Just being tougher, meaner and more militant is not a new prescription for dealing with a troubled and increasingly interconnected world. That cliché doesn’t address the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, nor does it address climate change. But those issues, like many others, are not on the GOP’s agenda and don’t fit its vision of U.S. leadership.    

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Republican Party’s Secret Sauce: A Poisonous Cocktail of Nationalism, Libertarianism & Theocracy


Pundits have called Trump a populist hero. But the truth of his appeal lies at the core of the GOP philosophy.

A piece by Michael Lind in Politico Magazine this week makes the case that the Tea Party isn’t libertarian as was once widely assumed, but populist, which seems to be gelling into current conventional wisdom. And it’s true that the Tea Party was never libertarian in any doctrinaire sense. They certainly claimed to be for low taxes and against big government, particularly if it tried to create a system by which most Americans could buy affordable health insurance; but beyond that it always got a little bit vague. Its members talked a lot about liberty but they referred less to esoteric notions of property rights and individual liberty than to moral values and religion — which are hardly a tenet of Randian libertarianism. They did rail some about bailouts, but they certainly didn’t put the kind of energy into opposing AIG or Fed reform that they put into opposing Obamacare and supporting gun rights.
Lind further argues that Trump’s rise and his popularity among self-identified Tea Partiers proves that the Tea Party has always been populist in the tradition of William Jennings Bryant and Huey Long. He writes:
Trump is no libertarian; quite the opposite. He is a classic populist of the right who peddles suspicion of foreigners—it’s no accident that he was the country’s leading “birther” raising questions about Barack Obama’s citizenship—combined with a kind of “producerism.” In populist ideology, society is divided not among rich and poor but among producers and parasites.
Populists are suspicious of unearned wealth, including the interest charged by bankers who manipulate “other people’s money” (to use the phrase of Louis Brandeis). And populists the world over are hostile to the idle or undeserving poor who allegedly live on welfare at the expense of productive workers and capitalists. Populists tend to attribute the existence of large numbers of the idle rich and the idle poor to government corruption. In the words of the 1892 People’s Party platform: “From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes—tramps and millionaires.”
It may seem odd that populists would choose a bombastic billionaire to express their concerns but it must be noted that unlike any of the rest of the GOP field he has supported tax hikes on the wealthy, gone after hedge funds, and picked a big fight with the Club for Growth.
Even still, let’s be real: The focus of American right wing populism is generally aimed downward at immigrants and poor people, not upward at the wealthy.  The Republican base may have an abstract beef with “bail-outs” for the rich but they are utterly convinced that the government’s primary mission is to take their hard earned money and give it to lazy undeserving people who refuse to work.
So, by these definitions, Lind is correct: the Tea Party is much more populist than libertarian. But we’ve known who they really are since at least 2010 when the New York Times polled them, and it goes beyond ideology:
Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich.
The overwhelming majority of supporters say Mr. Obama does not share the values most Americans live by and that he does not understand the problems of people like themselves. More than half say the policies of the administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites — compared with 11 percent of the general public.
They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people…
They are far more pessimistic than Americans in general about the economy. More than 90 percent of Tea Party supporters think the country is headed in the wrong direction, compared with about 60 percent of the general public. About 6 in 10 say “America’s best years are behind us” when it comes to the availability of good jobs for American workers.
They also wanted to gut government spending for everyone but themselves, particularly social security and Medicare. Later, sociologists Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson surveyed the beliefs and ideology of the Tea Party for a book called “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism” and validated those results. They reported this for the NY Times during the presidential primary in 2011:
[W]e identified as Tea Partiers’ most fundamental concern … their belief that hardworking American taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill for undeserving freeloaders, particularly immigrants, the poor and the young. Young people “just feel like they are entitled,” one member of the Massachusetts Tea Party told us. A Virginia interviewee said that today’s youth “have lost the value of work.”
These views were occasionally tinged with ethnic stereotypes about immigrants “stealing” from tax-funded programs, or minorities with a “plantation mentality.” […]
Immigration was always a central, and sometimes the central, concern expressed by Tea Party activists, usually as a symbol of a broader national decline. Asked why she was a member of the movement, a woman from Virginia asked rhetorically, “what is going on in this country? What is going on with immigration?” A Tea Party leader in Massachusetts expressed her desire to stand on the border “with a gun” while an activist in Arizona jokingly referred to an immigration plan in the form of a “12 million passenger bus” to send unauthorized immigrants out of the United States. In a survey of Tea Party members in Massachusetts we conducted, immigration was second only to deficits on the list of issues the party should address.
Other pollsters studied different aspects of the Tea Party:
A new analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that Tea Party supporters tend to have conservative opinions not just about economic matters, but also about social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In addition, they are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues. And they draw disproportionate support from the ranks of white evangelical Protestants.
If all this sounds familiar, it should. It’s Donald Trump’s agenda. He is the ultimate Tea Party candidate, with a strong anti-Washington, anti-immigration, nationalist message combined with his assiduous cultivation of the religious right. And the fact that his followers don’t all identify as members of the Tea Party doesn’t mean anything because the movement itself was never really a discrete political faction but rather a reaction to the loss of the presidency to an African American Democrat, the embarrassment of George W. Bush’s massive failure and the usual sense of grievance that has characterized the right wing of the Republican Party for decades. The Tea Party was simply a re-branding of the conservative movement after a catastrophic market failure.
Is the conservative movement populist? Yes, in many respects. But it’s also nationalistic, theocratic and libertarian which is exactly how Donald Trump is packaging his campaign as a conservative movement hero. All you have to do verify that is take a look at right wing radio. The hosts aren’t just obsequious. They are fawning fanboys and fangirls. Indeed, Trump is largely a talk radio phenomenon, with rare exceptions the obvious favorite among the biggest start from Limbaugh to Savage to Ingraham. These media stars don’t identify as Tea Partyers or populists or libertarians. They identify as conservatives. The fact that they are supporting him as if he is the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan says everything you need to know about the Trump phenomenon. Trump’s agenda is simply the conservative agenda, circa 2015, nothing more, nothing less.

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Donald Trump is Not the Problem, He's a Symptom of GOP Insanity


It's their voters.

| Thu Sep. 3, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Only a few weeks ago, pundits and political observers roundly proclaimed that Donald Trump, the reality-show tycoon who's mounted a takeover of the GOP, would flame out, fade, implode, or whatever. Jeb Bush's campaign aides were telling journalists that they had no concerns about Trump threatening a third Bush regime. "Trump is, frankly, other people's problem," saidMichael Murphy, the chief strategist for Bush's super-PAC. It's becoming clearer, though, that Trump, still dominating the polls and the headlines as the Republican front-runner, could well pose an existential threat to the Grand Old Party (or at least its establishment, including the Bush campaign). But the fundamental problem for the Rs is not Trump; it's Republican voters.
Trump is a brash and arrogant celebrity who is well skilled in pushing buttons, belittling foes, uttering outrageous remarks, causing a ruckus, and drawing attention to one thing: himself. He's a smart marketer and a brilliant self-promoter. His name recognition is over 100 percent. He cooked up a wonderful ready-for-swag tagline: "Make America Great Again." He's incredible. He's yooge. But none of this would matter if there was no demand for his bombastic, anger-fueled, anti-immigrant populism—that is, if Republican voters did not crave a leader who equates undocumented immigrants with rapists and who claims that everyone else in political life is a nincompoop selling out the US of A to the Chinese, the Mexicans, and just about every other government.
The polite way to say this is that Trump's message is resonating with Republicans. And polls show that his support is not ideological. He's winning over GOPers across the spectrum, from conservatives to evangelicals to supposedly moderate Rs. His assault on the GOP powers that be (or powers that were) is not the rebellion of one wing against another. (Political commentators are so programmed to view party conflicts as battles between conflicting factions.) Instead, Trump is tapping into a current that runs throughout the various strains of the GOP. It's a current of frustration, despair, anger, and yearning—a yearning for a time when the United States will not be confronted by difficult economic and national security challenges, and when you will not have to press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish.
Republicans are pissed off. (In polls, they express far more dissatisfaction with the nation's present course than Democrats.) And they believe the nation has been hijacked by President Barack Obama, whose legitimacy most Rs still reject. A recent Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus participants found that 35 percent of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the United States. A quarter said they were not sure. (Nine out of ten Democrats said the president was born in the United States.) So nearly 60 percent of Rs believe there is cause to suspect Obama has hornswoggled the nation. Meanwhile, according to another poll, 54 percent of Republican voters say Obama is a Muslim. A third were not sure. Only 14 percent identified the president as a Christian.
These findings—which echo a long string of surveys conducted during the Obama years—would seem to indicate that at least half of the GOP is unhinged and living in its own fact-free and perhaps Fox-fed reality. To top it off, many Republican voters have expected the GOPers in control of Congress to kill Obamacare, shut down the government and slash the budget, prevent Obama from issuing executive orders, and impeach the pretender who inhabits the White House. Oh, and there's this: Benghazi! So they are mighty ticked off and seriously disappointed. The Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll found that half of GOP caucus-goers said they were unsatisfied with the US government and 38 percent were "mad as hell" at it. Slightly more than half were unsatisfied with Republicans in Congress; a fifth were mad as hell at them.
Given the psychological state of the GOP base, it's not surprising that the fellow expressing the most outrage on the campaign trail—the guy who sounds like he, too, is mad as hell—has taken the express elevator to the penthouse floor of the polls. After all, he's the only one in the pack who has confronted Obama on his birthplace. Trump has not renounced his birther ways. He has already made that point for this audience and can move on. (In the past few days, Trump also came close to endorsing another far-right conspiracy theory. He essentially accused Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's longtime aide, of being a security problem because she is married to disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner and presumably shared classified State Department information with this "perv." For years, conservative conspiracy theorists have claimed Abedin was a Muslim Brotherhood mole within the US government.)
The anti-immigrant, anti-Obama, anti-establishment sentiment that Trump is tapping runs deep within the Republican electorate. Many Republicans clearly see the president as a foreign-born secret Muslim with a clandestine plan to weaken, if not ruin, the United States—remember the death panels—and they have a dark, nearly apocalyptic view of Obama’s America. (My email box of late is full of fundraising notes from right-wing groups claiming Obama is about to confiscate all guns, suspend the Constitution so he can run for a third term, relinquish American sovereignty to the United Nations, and mount a military operation within the United States to subdue any opposition to him.)
If this is your perspective when seeking a presidential candidate who will represent your desires and demands, you are unlikely to be drawn to a politician who wants to gain your vote by presenting a 27-point economic plan or by advocating charter schools. Voters this dissatisfied and this detached from reality will be looking for someone who can vent for them. Trump does that. He also promises quick and simple action to address their concerns: a wall (not  a fence), great trade deals at a snap of the finger, the end of ISIS, you name it. And you just won't believe how great this country will be after four years of President Trump. A focus group of Trump backers recently conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that Trumpites fancied Trump as much for his cut-the-crap manner as for the substance of his remarks.
As a way to counter Obama, the Republicans eagerly courted the tea partiers and other dissatisfied voters. They rode that tiger into the congressional majority in the low-turnout elections of 2010 and 2014. They whipped up the frenzy. (During the Obamacare fight, House Speaker John Boehner hosted a tea party rally on Capitol Hill, during which the crowd shouted, "Nazis, Nazis" when referring to Democrats.) Washington Republicans vowed they would take the country back from Obama for the tea party. They exploited the Obama hatred, but their often effective obstructionism was still not enough to feed the beast that had carried them into power.
Though Trump may beg to differ, Trumpmania is not about Trump. He's merely supplying the rhetoric and emotion craved by a large chunk of the GOP electorate. That yearning won't go away. Ben Carson, who in the latest Iowa poll tied for first place with Trump, is pushing a similar message—America is going to hell and the nation needs an outraged outsider to clean up the mess. His tone is kinder and gentler (and musical!). But like Trump, he is mining profound dissatisfaction and promising a national revival. Combine the Trump and Carson electorates at this point, and it's close to a majority of Republicans.
A Trump-Carson ticket? Maybe not. (But if so, you heard it here first.) The point is, the GOP is overflowing with voters who long for a candidate who echoes their rage and resentment. Whatever happens with Trump in the months ahead, this bloc of voters won't go away. Neither will their fury. This is the true dilemma for the Republican Party and its pooh-bahs. Trump, the deal-making businessman, is merely responding to market forces. He's just the supplier. Trump is the drug, and the voters need to score. The demand is what counts.