Jonathan Chait has written about the “Republican policy of recruiting its female political talent heavily from the beauty pageant circuit.” The list includes Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sarah Palin.
Marin Cogan explains the right wing-beauty queen connection:
Conservatives love their beauty queens, I think, in part for the obvious reasons—the pageant fetishizes the traditional values conservatives go gaga over—not only strictly prescribed gender roles but also moral rectitude, patriotism, and charity.
Well, beauty queens aren’t all right-wing reactionaries. This year’s Miss Stratham Fair, Sarah Mousseau, publicly opposed HB 39 — which would have dropped art education, world languages, health, and technology classes from the state’s definition of an adequate education — and lobbied the New Hampshire House for its defeat.
Jonathan Chait says the lesson from Newt Gingrich’s “hilarious implosion” is that polls offer limited value at assessing the prospects of presidential contenders this early in the process.
Based on the polls, Newt Gingrich had a reasonably good chance to win the nomination, hovering around 10% for much of the year. But I never took his candidacy with even the slightest bit of seriousness.
His speakership was a trainwreck, with him finally being deposed by a coup after several near-coups. He has no establishment support and would make a horrible nominee, and he also has repeatedly taken positions that alienate activists. He’s wildly undisciplined professionally and personally and is regarded all around as a has-been. Of course he wasn’t going to win the nomination.
Candidates with high name recognition have an advantage over candidates with low name recognition — they don’t need to break into the consciousness of the electorate. But when name recognition is the only thing you have going for you, you’re probably in worse shape than the polls suggest.
While there is no historical precedent for the party of a president seeking reelection gaining more than 15 House seats (Democrats need 24 to retake control), Jonathan Chait points out two unique factors that could invalidate the historical precedents in 2012.
The first is the extraordinary age schism of the electorate. Democrats have grown highly dependent on young voters, who are the least likely to turn out for midterm elections, while the GOP base is increasingly dependent on the elderly, who turn out at very high rates. Obama swept in a large cohort of House members on the strength of the youth vote, which stayed home in 2010. But if those young voters return in 2012, then the tide could shift right back….
The second factor is the power of the House Republican budget. It is wildly unpopular and gives Democrats a strong message to unseat incumbents. It’s quite unusual for the Congressional majority to embrace radical, unpopular legislation in lockstep, so historical precedents may not apply here.
Bruce Keough, the former New Hampshire state senator who managed Romney’s 2008 Granite State campaign, says he declined an offer to join the 2012 campaign because “he’s no longer sure what Romney stands for.”
Keough says Romney’s wishy-washy political identity and inability to stake out firm, consistent positions as a candidate were the reasons for his decision to cut ties with Romney. “He struggled with that in the last campaign,” Keough explains, “and to some extent I think he’s still struggling with it.”
Jonathan Chait begs to differ.
The reality is that Romney is the same candidate as he was in 2008. It’s the GOP that’s changed. In 2008, a health care policy of subsidies, a regulated market and a mandate to prevent freeloading was considered a reasonable, even admirable, policy for a Republican to hold. Now it’s the Death Of Freedom. Romney has gone from being a conservative in good standing to a left-wing deviant without changing his position at all.
Jonathan Chait points out one of the truisms of American politics, “Americans hate government in the abstract and favor it in the specific.”
Republicans win when the conversation centers around the broad issues of taxes and spending and lose when the discussion turns to their specific proposals, like cutting taxes on high income and gutting Medicare.
For Republicans to succeed, Chait says, they’re forced to “muddy the waters” regarding the particulars. And he points to New Hampshire Rep. Charlie Bass’ recent town hall performance as a case in point.
Bass, for his part, struggled with the tax part of the plan, flatly denying that the proposal would cut taxes on wealthy individuals and saying incorrectly that the reduction applied only to corporations.
He later told a reporter he wasn’t sure exactly what the budget resolution would do: “It’s unclear to me whether it’s a corporate tax cut or a personal tax cut,” he said, suggesting he might not support a lowering of the individual rate.
Now, it’s hard to separate how much of the muddying is Bass honestly not understanding the budget he voted for, and how much is him deliberately obfuscating. But when you’re trying to convert abstract beliefs into support for wildly unpopular particulars, obfuscation is pretty much the only play.
Jonathan Chait notes a new Marist poll, showing registered voters favor increasing taxes on high income by a 64% - 33% margin, and wonders why the tax debate tilts so far right.
The interesting thing about tax cuts for the rich is that proposals to raise taxes on the rich aren’t some fringe, populist fad. They command support from economists at places like Brookings and the Tax Policy Center. …
So you have overwhelming public support for higher taxes on the rich, combined with strong expert support. And yet the only thing bipartisan about the issue is opposition to higher taxes on the rich. Why is that? Well, there’s the asymmetry of passion you find on any policy with concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. Then you just have the overwhelmingly disproportionate political influence of high-income individuals, who comprise the most influential members of elected politics, media, and political giving. The combination of the two factors makes a position that by ordinary standards would be totally marginal a powerful force in political life.
As I’ve noted before, the long-term budget deficit is about one thing: the explosive growth of health care costs. Jonathan Chait points out the farcical nature of the GOP response. They are working feverishly to undermine the very legislation that attempts to address that issue — all the while proclaiming that the administration is not serious about the deficit.
Virtually every cost containment program funded by the Affordable Care Act is targeted for elimination by Republican budget cutters: the Prevention and Public Health Fund, the Innovation Center at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, comparative effectiveness research and subsidies for health information technology, to name just a few.
It’s hard to capture the sheer absurdity of the situation. You have Republicans attempting to kill even no-brainer reforms to curtail the single greatest cause of skyrocketing spending. That’s crazy enough. On top of that, they’re doing so while lambasting the administration that pushed for these reforms for failing to address the deficit.
To be sure, we need to do more about the long-term deficit. But the entire discussion is ignoring the fact that one party is working very hard to make things vastly worse.
The incoming Republican majority has proposed “strict” new rules for the U.S. House of Representatives:
On the spending front, Republicans plan to implement a series of rules called CUT/GO — a conservative answer to the PAY/GO rules instituted by Democrats. Under CUT/GO, increases in mandatory spending would have to be offset by spending cuts in other programs.
Under CUT/GO, offsets could not be achieved by raising taxes, according to the summary.
Jonathan Chait breaks it down:
The old rules, created under the highly successful 1990 deficit reduction deal between George Bush and (mostly) Democrats in Congress, any new entitlement spending or tax cuts had to be offset with entitlement cuts or higher taxes.
[T]he GOP new rules mean that new tax cuts do not require any offsets at all. Which is to say, they are replacing a rule that prevented policies that add to the deficit with a rule that enables policies that add to the deficit. They may call that “strict,” but it is the opposite.
Jonathan Chait points out the intellectual dishonesty of Republicans who justify extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy by claiming it’s especially harmful to raise taxes during a recession. Call it, tax cut Keynesianism.
Basically, if you believe that recessions are bad times to raise taxes, then you should also believe they’re a bad time to cut spending. Alternatively, if you reject the Keynesian model, then you might think raising taxes is bad, but there’s no particular reason to think raising taxes during a recession is especially problematic.
The conservative rhetoric about raising taxing during a recession amounts to an ideologically incoherent pastiche of mutually exclusive theories. It literally makes no sense at all.
And who better to offer up an incoherent pastiche than our very own Sen.-Elect Kelly Ayotte:
“It’s the wrong philosophy to raise taxes during these difficult, economic times.”
Ayotte said the stimulus only created “temporary or government” jobs and more taxpayer-paid spending hurt the economy as national unemployment increased by 2.5 million jobs.
I’ve been assuming for a while that Sarah Palin is fairly likely to run for president, and reasonably likely to get the nomination if she does, and then if the economy is still bad she could win and then the country will crumble and suffer some apocalyptic disaster and the survivors will envy the dead.
—Jonathan Chait, before learning of Palin’s dysfunctional political operation.
One of the reasons I’ve been fascinated with Sharron Angle’s Senate campaign is that she is not merely a candidate with extremely radical views, like Rand Paul, she inhabits an ideological grey area where radicalism starts to become indistinguishable with actual mental illness.
—Jonathan Chait, on Angle’s religious-based objections to a high school football team wearing black jerseys