Tag Archives: Republican Party

Talking Points — Reference Points

These White House Talking Points have been publicized, compliments of The Atlantic, and should be used to evaluate the comments of local, state, and national Republicans as they respond to the White Nationalist assault on Charlottesville, VA.

The President was entirely correct — both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility.
Despite the criticism, the President reaffirmed some of our most important Founding principles: We are equal in the eyes of our Creator, equal under the law, and equal under our Constitution.

What-About-Ism run rampant. “Both sides??”  They have to be kidding — a group of goons marching with their Tiki Torches onto a university campus trying to replicate the torch parades of Hitler’s minions, were acting “appropriately?”

He has been a voice for unity and calm, encouraging the country to “rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that brings us together as Americans.”
He called for the end of violence on all sides so that no more innocent lives would be lost.

“Voice for unity?”  Would you be speaking of the self-same individual who was cited by the Nixon Administration for violations of the Fair Housing statutes?  Of the person who called for the death penalty for the Central Park 5, and who later refused to accept that these kids were innocent beyond any reasonable — and scientific — doubt?  The person who tasked his Department of Justice with investigating college affirmative action programs to see if they discriminated against whites?  The person who convened a fraudulent vote suppression commission to perpetuate his lies about vote fraud, and to rationalize vote suppression?

The President condemned – with no ambiguity – the hate groups fueled by bigotry and racism over the weekend, and did so by name yesterday, but for the media that will never be enough.

Yes, after a ton (or a tonne) of public pressure and a wave of approbation came flying his way.

The media reacted with hysteria to the notion that counter-protesters showed up with clubs spoiling for a fight, a fact that reporters on the ground have repeatedly stated.
Even a New York Times reporter tweeted that she “saw club-wielding “antifa” beating white nationalists being led out of the park.”
The local ACLU chapter also tweeted that
We should not overlook the facts just because the media finds them inconvenient:
From cop killing and violence at political rallies, to shooting at Congressmen at a practice baseball game, extremists on the left have engaged in terrible acts of violence.

And at this point he returns to the “Fake News” theatrical gas lighting.  Yes, there have been killings — but the incidents cited by the White House are a loose amalgam of guilt by association incidents, while the Charlottesville rally was planned by white supremacists, for white supremacists, and these despicable people wanted to ‘nationalize’ their message.

The President is taking swift action to hold violent hate groups accountable.
The DOJ has opened a civil rights investigation into this weekend’s deadly car attack.
Last Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it had completed the largest prosecution of white supremacists in the nation’s history.
Leaders and the media in our country should join the president in trying to unite and heal our country rather than incite more division.

Yes, and the Department of Justice decided to decline a grant for an organization which helps restore former neo-Nazis to productive lives, and to take the spotlight OFF white supremacist and other American Terrorists instead focusing on foreign terrorism?

“Unite and heal our country?”  This, from the man who said Mexicans were drug dealers and rapists? From the man who said a judge with an Hispanic name couldn’t be fair to him? From the man who said Muslim refugees are all potential terrorists?  From the man who demonized Muslims in his campaign rallies?  From the man who couldn’t remember David Duke, whom he’d previously condemned? From the man who said if he was rich enough, entitled enough, that grabbing women in the private lady parts was OK?

So, we can take the White House talking points and use them to measure the statements issued by state and local GOP politicians.

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Filed under Nativism, Politics, racism, Republicans

GOP and the Great White Whine

There are Neo-Nazis parading in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Young mostly, male mostly, and all white.  They’re convinced, probably radicalized online, that (1) they are the master race; (2) they are victims; and (3) they are ‘free’ to display their hatred and bigotry in public spaces.  They are the Great White Whine.

And the man in the White House is silent.

If they weren’t white and they decided to conduct a march with burning tiki torches they’d probably find out what ‘oppression’ feels like.  If they weren’t white and decided to show up for their rally armed, then they’d probably find out what ‘oppression’ looks like.  If they weren’t white, and they showed up calling for “Power” they’d assuredly find out what ‘oppression’ sounds like.

And the man in the White House is silent.

A thug, and these are thugs, don’t necessarily have to wear hoodies and jeans; they can just as easily be clad in khaki trousers and golf shirts.  If the Neo-Nazis proved nothing else today they’ve at least provided proof of this truth.  Interesting isn’t it, that African Americans, some 13% of the American population, honor Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, fly the Stars and Stripes with pride, and make up 17% of our active duty military.  People of Hispanic heritage constitute about 18% of our population, and make up 12% of our active duty military — three times their number in 1980.  The Neo-Nazis gathered in Virginia waved the Stars and Bars, the battle flag of treason and traitors to the Union instead of the Stars and Stripes.  It takes a major amount of chutzpah for them to declare themselves “Patriots.”

And the man in the White House is silent.

Thus far the only comment from the White House came from the First Lady, herself an immigrant, to say: “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence.”  Granted this isn’t a full throated denunciation of Neo-Nazism, but it’s more than any other White House figure has ventured.

And, still the man in the White House is silent.

And, his silence is a grave danger to the Republican Party.  Ordinarily I’d not spend much thought on how the Republican Party should position itself for success in this country, but this is serious.  I do believe in a two party system, I do believe there is a place and purpose for conservative policy arguments — I don’t have to agree with them, but that “free speech” part is important.  If the current administration continues to be associated with Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other thugs then the human propensity to append guilt by association will engage.  If David Duke marches with his fellow Neo-Nazi White Supremacist thugs, and the administration make no official (and stern) condemnation, then the guilt by association will have more potential traction.

And still the man in the White House is silent.

The man in the White House has yet to condemn the attack on the Bloomington, MN mosque — indeed, one of his spokespersons opined it might have been a “fake hate crime.”  He’s not apologized in any way, shape, or form for comments about immigrants from Mexico and Central American countries being “bad hombres.”  He’s not offered any solace for African Americans who are searching for ways to attract attention to their efforts to bring their communities and their local law enforcement personnel closer toward the goal of better, and more cooperative, relationships.  Therefore, we ought not be surprised that…

The man in the White House is silent.

His followers declare that President Obama’s politics were divisive.  Perhaps because he heard the complaints of the African American communities, as Trump’s followers do not? Perhaps because he understood the economic and cultural contributions of immigrants to this country, as Trump’s followers do not? Perhaps because he appreciated the humanity and worth of members of the LBGT community, as followers of Trump do not?  An individual’s failure to recognize the humanity and worth of those who are unlike himself isn’t the fault of any politician — it is seated in the insecurity of that individual himself, by himself, selfishly for himself.

And the man in the White House is silent.

Silent as the thugs align with his political party, emboldened to march without hoods and masks, to wave their flags alongside his banner, inviting the notion that to be a Republican is to be a Neo-Nazi, a White Supremacist, and an intolerant bigot.  Or, that to join the Party is to align oneself with the Neo-Nazis, the White Supremacists, and the bigots.  What I hope for the Republican Party is…

A man in the White House who will not remain silent, who will banish from his administration those who harbor Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist, bigoted, intolerant views.  Republican members of Congress who will condemn the Neo-Nazis, the bigots and the intolerant.  Republican Party leaders at the national, state, and local levels who will vehemently assert that the Republicans today decry intolerance, bigotry, and racism, and will not associate themselves with it.  I hope to see Republicans with the courage to say,  we can do perfectly well in our elections without the staining of our honor with your bigotry, racism, Neo-Nazism, and White Supremacy. sil

The man in the White House is silently leading the Party to a narrow and dark place.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

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Filed under civil liberties, conservatism, Politics, racism, Republicans

Will Someone Please Save The Republican Party?

I’d have assisted with this, but I left the Republican Party years (decades) ago.  There was something about the distribution of the utterly debunked “None Dare Call It Treason” that was intrinsically repulsive.  There’s no small amount of irony in the fact that the book alleged the Leftist Elite were sabotaging America for the benefit of the Soviet Union, and that now we’re looking at a situation in which some erstwhile cold-warriors are now espousing “better relations with Moscow.”

What made Moscow dangerous then as now is that it’s the capital of a second world nation with a first world arsenal, complete with nuclear weapons.  It wants “respect,” translated to mean it wants a sphere of influence outsized in relation to its actual economic and political power.  Since its notion of a counter-weight to NATO, the Warsaw Pact, has collapsed the replacement concept is the renewed Russian intrusion into former Warsaw Pact nations — witness those “soldiers on vacation” advancing into eastern Ukraine. Witness the cyber-assault of Estonia.  Witness the efforts to undermine the NATO alliance.

It’s as much an adversary as ever, it’s just discovered a much more effective, and far cheaper way to attack the United States — bots and trolls and fake news and hacking; hacking into the data of at least 39 states.   However, now the descendants of Sen. “Tailgunner” Joe McCarthy aren’t touting the anti-Soviet line, some are clutching ideas such as “the vote tallies weren’t actually violated,” or “this is an hysterical response from Democrats who lost an election that looked like a sure thing.”   The Republican Party seems to have moved from the defender of free elections and the American Way to the cult of Personalities Without Principles — other than possibly self-aggrandizement and the controls of the apparatus of State.

The June 11 Gallup polling shows the presidential approval rating at 37%.  To declare this a measure of the “Republican Base” might be a bit deceiving — it’s actually the measure of those who approve of what the president is doing and saying.  The majority 63% no doubt contains a chunk of Republicans, many of whom would easily declare themselves as such.  The Punditry has opined at length about the Democratic Party’s issues with primary elections and candidate selection — however, the larger problem appears to be with the Republican Party the central organization of which could not hold against an insurgency of primary voters who defied conventional party wisdom and leadership.

The party of William F. Buckley and Clare Booth Luce has become the party of Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump, and the Shade of Theodore Bilbo.  Bilbo would have fit right in with today’s vote suppressionists, perhaps with a bit more nuance, like advocating that “CrossCheck” flag everyone named Washington or Sanchez instead of promoting the use of whipping (Etoy Fletcher) with a wire cable.

How does the Republican Party deal with the elements associated with the Great White Whine?  A party which once argued persuasively that prosperity for all was the way to achieve economic power has driveled into a cult like organization promoting platitudes not platforms.  “Freedom” degenerates into a call for the deregulation of powerful institutions (especially financial) which define success in terms of quarterly earnings reports not national economic achievement.  “Liberty” devolves into an expression of justified avarice, rather than the adoption of the idea that equal opportunity is the force behind that Rising Tide that Raises All Boats.

Where is the party of “Personal Responsibility” when excuses are made for members of local police forces who embarrass their cities and towns with unjustified behavior based on irrational fears — generally of young black men.  Where are the calls for justice and responsibility when polluters are given permission to degrade local environments such that property values decline and development is all but impossible?

Where is the party of American Exceptionalism when industrial innovation and technological research, especially in regard to energy technologies, are blunted in favor of fossil fuels and late 19th century technologies like gas powered engines?

How did the party of progress become an amplifier for the dismal complaints of those who see victim-hood in a reduction of their sense of self worth, fueled by the funds from corporate interests which are primarily interested in analysts’ projections of corporate earnings in the next 90 days?

We have a two party system, which in many ways is far preferable to the European model of multi-party parliamentary systems.  At what point does the broadcast punditry cease fretting over the relatively minor debates within the Democratic Party and begin to focus on the forces which are driving the Republican Party into the realm of a regional party promoting the imagined grievances of the selfish, the ignorant, and the bigots?  It isn’t the Democratic Party that needs “saving.”  They’ve had decades to perfect the art of internal combustion and national re-invention — it’s the Republicans who need the help.

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Filed under Politics, Republicans, Vote Suppression

Post Tragedy Observations from the Outback

Microscope Lens

My county went bright crimson RED.  The Orange One got 70.28% of the vote. [HuSoS]  Representative Joe Heck, ousted from Congress by Catherine Cortez Masto’s well organized operation in the southland, got 68.8%.  This is deep Red Country.  No surprise here, since of the 8696 voters in this outback area some 4663 of them are Republicans.   Heaven help them they voted against their own interests, without  perhaps giving the matter too much thought?

We brand things in this region – things described as having “hides” rather than “skin.”  Republican type  branding has been very successful with these folks, and it has been since the 1980s.  The packaging has been effective even when the policies were not.

Republicans grabbed the FLAG. It’s all over town. It’s Patriotic! (If not just a little bit alarmingly militaristic.)  They decried “Big Government” and “socialism” even if they really didn’t exactly understand the nature of regulation – they understood the Big Idea – not necessarily the ramifications of it. 

For example, they don’t like government regulations.  They do, however, want to drink clean water, breathe clean air, and eat in sanitary restaurants.  They don’t want “Big Government,” but they do like having a massive military system with world class armaments.  Some of the anti-government types are all for big government when it means no safe and legal abortions and birth control for women.   The point is that by speaking in broad, highly generalized, catch phrases the Republicans branded themselves with Americana in bright hues and tones.   Taken to its obvious extrapolation we get the disaster that is currently Kansas.  There are some ways out of this mess, but it’s going to take a bit of time and effort.  Some ‘off the top of the head suggestions:’

#1. Former Governor Howard Dean is correct: “Mechanics Matter.”  The recent Senate race in Nevada is evidence of that point.  Representative Heck was, quite simply, out-organized. Cortez-Masto got her people to the polls in large enough numbers to beat back Heck’s efforts. She held her base in the rurals and won the two urban counties. That takes organization.

However, organization takes infrastructure.  While the Democrats have done an exemplary job of increasing voter registrations in urban areas, they’ve not been all that visible in the rural areas. And, it’s hard to blame them. They’re fighting uphill and into the wind.  It’s going to require both a top down and bottom up effort.

Top Down – the national Democratic Party needs to focus.  They have an issue available  which should serve well to organize the opposition to the Orange One’s administration, a path suggested by primary candidate Bernie Sanders – income inequality.  There’s no reason not to grab onto this one and run, and keep running.

The Democrats also have an opportunity to re-brand the GOP.  It’s no longer the Party of Lincoln – and hasn’t been for some time.  With neo-Nazi anti-Semite Steve Bannon selected as the 2nd in command in the west wing, the argument isn’t hard to make that the GOP has become the Party of Intolerance and Bigotry.  With the North Carolina KKK holding a parade in honor of The Orange One’s election, the argument is even clearer.  There’s no reason not to grab this opportunity as well, and run, and keep running.

Third, the Democrats are going to have to address the crumbled infrastructure of its organization in rural areas.  A fifty state plan is nice, but if there’s no effort to get into the rural areas of all 50 states and build from the ground up with young people who aren’t comfortable with income inequality and bigotry, then Democrats will continue to be the urban party of “anti-elitists.”

The Party will also be best served if it has some institutional infrastructure built in.  It’s no accident that the Richard Mellon Scaife’s and Koch Brothers of this world have established national think tanks and information outlets which support conservative – and ultra conservative – causes.  The Democrats and liberals need to boost their efforts in this department.

Bottom Up – All it will take to give the GOP total control over constitutional amendments is the loss of one more state legislature.  Think about that for a moment.  This means that State Party organizations are going to have to do a better job of state election campaigning.  Better candidate preparation, including getting candidates elected to city and county positions; better candidate recruitment; better candidate support.  And this will take … money.   These things don’t happen without staff, without advertising, without press and media relations, without printing and media expenses, and all of these cost money.   Volunteers are wonderful people, but if they don’t have staff support, and media advisers, their efforts can be ephemeral.

Money, of course, is much easier to come by during presidential campaign years, but those city, municipal, county, and state elections often come in by-years.  It’s during those elections that the organization and staffing levels become crucial.  Not sure? Take a look at the 2010 and 2014 election results.  What State Party organizations should be doing right now is getting geared up for the 2018 mid-terms and any off year local elections in between national election cycles.

#2.  Focus Focus Focus.  One of the nice things about being a Democrat is that everyone has a pet project, a hobby horse, a favorite issue that is important beyond all else.  It’s also one of the party’s weaknesses.  We get distracted. We want income equality, we want a clean environment, we want a living wage, we want women’s reproductive rights, we want voting rights, we want civil and human rights … and we are all too ready to castigate candidates who don’t match our predetermined formula for perfection.

The “Democrats in disarray” theme in the national media is no accident.  We’ve squabbled about Perfection long enough to give the GOP ample time to describe us as “fractured,” “divided,” and “dissidents.”   It’s time to FOCUS.

Cato the Elder focused: “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” The man died in 149 BC and 2165 years later we still know that he said “Carthage must be defeated.”

What might we achieve if every elected Democrat pointed out at every possible opportunity that the wealth for the top 0.1% is increasing while everyone else is still practically running in place?  There have been some gains for the middle class, but nothing like what’s been happening for the top 0.1%.

What might happen if every elected Democrat and every local organizer pointed out that the upcoming Republican administration is associated with the KKK?

And, what might happen if we ask, and continue to ask at every possible opportunity – What was it that Donald J. Trump was so anxious to hide in his tax returns that he dropped four decades of precedent to keep everyone in the dark?

What might happen if every chance we had we asked in the media and elsewhere, what about his ties to the Russians as described in the Dworkin Report?  Exhibit 10 is the most interesting. Did we know that there are 249 registered businesses in Russia with Trump as part of the name in the documentation?  Would that help to explain:

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said that officials had been in contact with members of Trump’s entourage. “I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives,” he told the state-run Interfax news agency. [cnn]

It might be interesting if the public were as aware of the name of the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister (Ryabkov) as they are with “emails.”

Four points shouldn’t be all that difficult to manage.  Income inequality, intolerance/violence, tax returns, the Russian connection.  If the Republicans can manage to speak of practically nothing but Benghazi and emails for 19 months surely Democrats can keep up a chant of income inequality, intolerance, tax returns, and Russian connections for 24. 

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics

When Did the Hat Come Off? Heck Withdraws Trump Endorsement

Heck Trump Hat Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) candidate for the Nevada senate seat, issued a nice long statement about why he can no longer support the candidacy of Donald Trump. [RGJ]  This is Saturday, October 8, 2016. 

Wasn’t it enough when Trump insulted Mexico, the third largest US trade partner (Census)?  It’s not like we don’t get $280.5 billion in imports from that country, and export $226.2 billion in US goods and services.

“Trump lambasted the southern neighbor. “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems,” he said on May 30 at his campaign launch. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” The remarks led a number of businesses to cut their ties with him.” [The Hill]

It isn’t like some 28% of Nevada’s population is of Hispanic heritage.  Or, that 43% of Hispanic Nevadans are homeowners, or they represent 41% of all Nevada’s k-12 students.  [Pew]  Nor, could Mr. Trump abide the idea that an Indiana born judge of Mexican heritage could be impartial. [HuffPo] Insulting about 1/3 of Nevada’s population wasn’t enough to make Representative Heck remove the hat – and the endorsement? 

Wasn’t Representative Heck just a little disturbed to discover that the Department of Justice had to sue the Trump Management firm not once, but twice, for housing discrimination in the 1970’s. [HuffPo] Wasn’t it troubling that years later Trump disparaged his black casino workers as “lazy” (1991)?

“And isn’t it funny. I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it,” O’Donnell recalled Trump saying. “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

“I think the guy is lazy,” Trump said of a black employee, according to O’Donnell. “And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” [HuffPo]

That commentary managed to be both anti-black and anti-Semitic at the same time – a two’fer.   It’s not like this is any kind of news – this and other statements have been in the public domain for ages.  Longer than the highly inflammatory statements about the Central Park Five.  No matter the coerced confessions, the lack of physical evidence – no matter that DNA evidence clearly demonstrates the five young men were innocent – no matter that a legitimate confession came forth in 2002 – to Mr. Trump they’re still guilty.  No apologies forthcoming.  Chalk off another 9.3% of the Nevada population – the African American percentage.  And still Representative Heck kept the hat.

And, then there was that entire Birther debacle, with Mr. Trump leading the charge, with Mr. Trump sending “investigators to Hawaii, with Mr. Trump rick rolling the press into covering his hotel opening in DC with a snippet in which he declared that he’d “solved” the President’s problem – the President (who just happens to be African American) didn’t have a birth certificate problem until Mr. Trump decided to make a major issue of it – and NO the stories didn’t emerge from the Clinton Campaign in 2008. [Snopes] African Americans are unlikely to forget Mr. Trump’s attempt to de-legitimize the first African American president of the US.  Nor are they likely to forget that Representative Heck didn’t seem to have doubts at the time about Mr. Trump’s candidacy.  Then, there was that matter of White Supremacists as part of Trump’s base of support:

“His white supremacist fan club includes the Daily Stormer, a leading neo-Nazi news site; Richard Spencer, director of the National Policy Institute, which aims to promote the “heritage, identity, and future of European people”; Jared Taylor, editor of American Renaissance, a Virginia-based white nationalist magazine; Michael Hill, head of the League of the South, an Alabama-based white supremacist secessionist group; and Brad Griffin, a member of Hill’s League of the South and author of the popular white supremacist blog Hunter Wallace.

A leader of the Virginia KKK who is backing Trump told a local TV reporter earlier this month, “The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes, we believe in.” [HuffPo]

Surely, when this pile began to grow it was time to head for the exits?  Heck kept wearing the hat.

But wait, there’s more – Native Americans:

In 1993, when Trump wanted to open a casino in Bridgeport, Connecticut, that would compete with one owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, a local Native American tribe, he told the House subcommittee on Native American Affairs that “they don’t look like Indians to me… They don’t look like Indians to Indians.”

Trump then elaborated on those remarks, which were unearthed last year in the Hartford Courant, by saying the mafia had infiltrated Indian casinos. [HuffPo]

There goes another 1.6% of the Nevada population.  Still Heck kept the hat.

Was Representative Heck getting edgy when the story of how Trump insulted (nay, humiliated) Alicia Machado? Speaking of cruel and unusual punishment… “Miss Piggy?” Miss Housekeeping?” Still Heck kept the hat on his head.  Some publications were keeping track of Trump’s insults to women, Cosmopolitan counted 23 major incidentsHuffington Post accumulated 18 in that category. Fortune magazine published a ‘history’ of Trump’s comments about women in August 2015.   It’s not that the information and the incidents weren’t in the public realm; it’s not that no one knew about Trump’s attitude towards women were – surely Representative Heck wasn’t surprised by the Access tapes?  Heck is on the horns of a dilemma herein: If he knew Trump’s history with women and still endorsed him he falls neatly into Secretary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” as a willful misogynist; If he didn’t know of Trump’s history of uncomplimentary and downright nasty statements about women he has to be the least well informed candidate since … Aleppo? Name a major world leader?  That’s not likely to make women, who constitute 49.8% of Nevada’s population very happy either.

So NOW Representative Heck says:

“I’ve spent much of my life serving in the military where I stood beside some of the bravest men and women this country has to offer — willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect the freedoms upon which this country was founded. They live by a code of honor, of decency and of respect.

“As a husband and a father, I strive to bring that same code of honor into my personal life.

“I believe any candidate for President of the United States should campaign with common ethical and moral values and decency. I accept that none of us are perfect. However, I can no longer look past this pattern of behavior and inappropriate comments from Donald Trump. Therefore, I cannot, in good conscience, continue to support him nor can I vote for Hillary Clinton.” [RGJ]

Well, there was the  little flap with the son – that code of honor seemed to slip a bit in the Heck household.  What was “common ethical and moral values and decency” in a man who was twice sued by the Department of Justice for housing discrimination?  Where was the decency when Trump launched into snide and disparaging comments about breast feeding? Diaper changing? Women in the workplace? Women’s physical attributes?   How many incidents have to stack up before Representative Heck is willing to call out a “pattern of behavior and inappropriate comments?”

Heck goes on:

“My hope is that this will not divide us and that we can unite behind Republican principles. We deserve a candidate who can ask him or herself at the end of the day, ‘Did I live my life with honor and do I deserve to be elected president of the United States.’ [RGJ]

Mr. Trump announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015, or 480 days ago. For the meticulous that’s one year, three months, and twenty-two days since the announcement.   Are we to believe that it took Representative Heck 479 days to figure out that Mr. Trump didn’t meet the standards of “common ethical and moral values and decency?”

We might look to another source of wisdom about consorting with those who lack ethical and moral values.

He that toucheth pitch shall be defiled therewith; and he that hath fellowship with a proud man shall be like unto him. 2 Burden not thyself above thy power while thou livest; and have no fellowship with one that is mightier and richer than thyself: for how agree the kettle and the earthen pot together? for if the one be smitten against the other, it shall be broken. 3 The rich man hath done wrong, and yet he threateneth withal: the poor is wronged, and he must intreat also. 4 If thou be for his profit, he will use thee: but if thou have nothing, he will forsake thee.  Ecclesiasticus 13:1

In endorsing the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, Representative Heck surely stuck his hand in the pitch pot.  Meanwhile, as of September 21 Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) was Trump’s man on the ground in Nevada; it remains to be heard if he’s removed the hat and gotten his hands out of the pitch pot.

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Filed under Amodei, Birthers, Heck, Nevada politics, Politics, Republicans, Women's Issues

One Great Distraction: Guns, GOP, and Mental Health

blood money The GOP response to gun violence in America is getting tiresome, and no diversion or distraction more so than when its members cite “mental health” as a topic for discussion.

The Republican Party really shouldn’t get anywhere near this distraction, not with their record on making mental health care available to American citizens. [AmerBlg]   It doesn’t do to blather on about Guns and Mental Health in one breath and then take 50+ votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the next.

Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act about 1/3rd of those who did have health insurance in the individual market had no coverage for substance use disorder to services, and 1/5th had no coverage for mental health services, including outpatient therapy, and inpatient crisis intervention and stabilization.  Additionally, even when a person did have coverage there was no guarantee mental health services would be covered comparably to medical and surgical care.   The situation in the small group market was a bit better, coverage for substance abuse and mental health services was more common, but many states did not have “parity” laws requiring comparable coverage with medical and surgical treatment.  Then, there were those 47.5 million Americans who didn’t have any health insurance, and the 25% of uninsured adults who have a mental health condition, a substance abuse problem, or both. [ASPE]

After the passage of the Affordable Care Act mental health and substance abuse are categories covered as part of the package of Essential Health Benefits.  With the finalization of rules as of January 1, 2014 consumers buying health insurance policies can be confident that the health plan will cover mental health services, and importantly, that there will be parity for mental health and substance abuse treatment coverage. [ASPE]

And what was the Republican reaction?  “Repeal.. Repeal.. Repeal…” at least 50+ times. [WaPo]  

January 8, 2011:  There was a mass shooting in Tucson, AZ  six were killed, eleven others wounded including a member of Congress, Rep. Gabby Giffords.   January 19, 2011: The House votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  On February 19, 2011 the House passed an FY 2011 continuing appropriations bill with several amendments to “severely limit” the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The measure passed with no Democratic support.  Further votes were taken to carve up and diminish the provisions of the Affordable Care Act on March 3, 2011, April 13, 2011, and April 14, 2011.  On April 14, 2011 a House resolution advised the Senate to defund all mandatory and discretionary spending associated with the Affordable Care Act.  April 15, 2011 the Republican controlled House passed its version of the budget repealing and defunding the Affordable Care Act.  During the four months after the Tucson Shooting the Republican controlled Congress spent much of its time trying to defund, limit, or outright repeal the law requiring health insurance companies to include mental health services as an “Essential Benefit” and on par with coverage for medical and surgical treatment.  And, they weren’t finished.  Republicans tried to gut the Affordable Care Act provisions on May 3, 2011; May 4, 2011May 24, 2011; and on August 1, 2011 the Budget Control Act cut some mandatory and discretionary funding tied to the Affordable Care Act.

October 12, 2011:  Eight people were killed and another critically wounded by a shooter in Seal Beach, California.  Ironically, on October 13, 2011 the House passed the “Protect Life Act” preventing any funding from be applied to abortion procedures.  More Congressional incursions were made on the Affordable Care Act on November 16, 2011, December 13, 2011, and December 16, 2011.  On February 1, 2012 Congress voted to repeal a long term care insurance program (CLASS).  February 17, 2012 the House voted to cut funding for Louisiana’s Medicaid program by $2.5 billion, and cut $11.6 billion including $5 billion from the Public Prevention and Health Fund.  The cut to the Medicaid program was significant because Medicaid is the insurance provider for low income people, some of whom might be in need of substance abuse or mental health care treatment.  On March 29, 2012 the House version of the FY 2013 budget called for repealing and defunding the Affordable Care Act.

April 2, 2012:  A former student at Oakland’s Oikos University opened fire in a classroom, seven were killed and three wounded.  The House attacked the Affordable Care Act again on April 27, 2012, and more significantly voted on May 10, 2012 to replace the automatic budget cuts to the Defense Department by defunding and repealing portions of the Affordable Care Act. June 7, 2012 the House voted to repeal the medical device tax, and limit the reimbursements for over the counter medications.  On July 11, 2012 the House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

July 20, 2012: 12 people were killed and another 58 were injured in the shooting at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater.  Yet again, opponents of gun safety regulations noted that the shooting was the result of mental illness.

August 8, 2012: A shooter gunned down six people and injured three others at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI.

September 28, 2012: Six were killed and two injured in a workplace shooting in Minneapolis, MN.

October 21, 2012:  Three died and four were injured in a shooting in Brookfield, WI.

December 14, 2012:  Newtown, CT; 27 died including 20 first grade children. On December 20, 2012 the House voted once more to replace discretionary spending cuts enacted as part of sequestration by defunding and repealing several provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  On January 1, 2013 the “fiscal cliff deal” passed the House including the repeal of the CLASS Act and cutting funds for the Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan. 

On May 16, 2013 the House voted to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act. 

June 7, 2013: Five people were killed in a shooting incident in Santa Monica, CA which ended on the campus of Santa Monica College.  On July 17, 2013 the House voted to delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act for employers by one year.  Also on July 17, 2013, the House voted to delay the implementation of the individual mandate.  On August 2, 2013 the House voted to prevent the IRS from implementing or enforcing any portion of the Affordable Care Act.

September 16, 2013:  12 were killed and 3 injured in a shooting at the Washington, DC Naval Yard.  On September 20, 2013 the House voted to approve a short term FY 2014 continuing resolution in which the Affordable Care Act was fully defunded, including the prohibition of all discretionary and mandatory spending, and rescinding all of its unobligated balances.  On September 29, 2013 the House voted again to repeal the medical device tax, and to delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act by another year.  September 30, 2013, the House voted to delay the individual mandate, an action which would effectively render the law inoperable.

Votes were taken in the House on October 17, 2013; November 15, 2013; January 10, 2014; January 16, 2014, March 5, 2014 to weaken the enforcement of the Affordable Care Act.  More such votes were taken on March 11, 2014; March 12, 2014; and, March 14, 2014. [LAT]

April 2, 2014: Three were killed, sixteen injured in Fort Hood, TX, scene of a previous shooting in 2009.

On January 28, 2015 Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) introduced H.R 596, a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  The measure passed the House on February 3, 2015. [RC 58]*

May 23, 2015: Six dead, seven wounded in Isla Vista, CA. June 18, 2015: Nine dead at the Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC.  October 1, 2015: Nine dead, nine injured in Roseburg, OR.   Meanwhile, the Huffington Post asked Senators what might be done about the carnage:

“If there’s one issue that these senators wanted to talk about when asked about gun violence, it was the mental health component. Nearly all of those who were interviewed said their attention is on that aspect of the problem, instead of on gun laws.

“What I’ve been focused on, and I think it very much relates to, unfortunately, too many of these mass shootings, is improving our early intervention mental health system,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). “Hopefully we can take some immediate action and find common ground.” [HuffPo]

Improving our “early intervention mental health system?”   What appears to be more than slightly inane (if not outright insane)  is to believe that repealing the Affordable Care Act — such that we cannot assure health insurance coverage for substance abuse and mental health problems, on par with coverage for medical and surgical treatment – is going to augment our attempts at “early intervention,” – or for that matter, for intervention at any stage.

Unless, and until, the Republicans are willing to stop trying to repeal the law that requires mental health treatment coverage as part of an Essential Benefit package, and stop attempting to repeal the provisions saying that the coverage must be on par with other medical and surgical treatment benefits, the noise about “doing something about mental health” is just that – a distracting noise.

Unless, and until, the Republicans are willing to put legislation into the hopper (and bring it to the floor for a vote) increasing (1) federal support for mental health care services, and (2)  increasing the number of low income people in the Medicaid program who have access to expanded coverage, then they’ll have to pardon those who say the “mental health” rhetoric is a hollow, shallow, attempt to distract the nation from any serious and substantive discussion of gun violence as a public health issue.

References: Congressional Research Service, “Legislative Actions to Repeal, Defund, or Delay the Affordable Care Act, July 8, 2015. (pdf) Los Angeles Times, Deadliest Shooting Rampages, October 1, 2015.  Washington Post, House has voted 54 times in four years on Obamacare,” March 21, 2014.  AmericaBlog, “Republicans are using mental health as an excuse to do nothing about gun violence.” October 6, 2015.  International Business Times, “Republicans’ Mass Shooting Response Focuses Not On Gun Control But On Mental Health Reform,: October 5, 2015.  Huffington Post, “Despite Mass shootings, Republicans won’t touch gun laws,” October 6, 2015.

*Nevada Representatives Amodei, Hardy, and Heck, voted in favor of H.R. 596.  Representative Titus voted no.

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Filed under H.R. 1591, Mental Health, Nevada politics, Politics, public health

Pain Capable Panderers Get The Wedgies

Heller Goo 2

No matter how much he may try to stretch himself into a “moderate” shape Nevada Senator Dean Heller is aligned squarely with the radical right when it comes to women’s health.   The U.S. Senate can’t seem to address major items like climate change, infrastructure, and the voting rights act, but the Republican controlled body can certainly spend time on women’s bodies.  Witness: H.R. 36, and the vote thereon. [rc268]

H.R. 36 is the product of the House conservatives’ brain-flatulence and emphatic embrace of pseudo-scientific items like a “pain capable” fetus, in which abortions would be banned after twenty weeks.  What’s the science?

“Published research generally supports an experience of pain being possible only later in gestation than 20 weeks. A synthesis of available evidence was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 by experts from the University of California, San Francisco, and elsewhere, and their report concluded: “Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.” The third trimester begins at 27 to 28 weeks from conception.” [FactCheck]

There are a couple of things to notice in the summary above. First, “evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited,” or, restated, there is limited evidence (read: little) that the fetus is able to perceive pain. Secondly, if we accept the “limited’ evidence, then the perception is unlikely until 27-28 weeks after conception. However, nothing scientific stopped Senator Dean Heller from voting to bring H.R. 36 up for a vote.  The motion to break cloture failed.

Nevada’s other Senator, Harry Reid, offered the following summation of GOP efforts:

“It is said that you cannot make the same mistake twice. The second time you make it, it’s a choice. On every issue imaginable Republicans are choosing to  employ the same failed strategy. Over and over again, they drag Congress and the American people through votes that are publicity stunts designed to boost their conservative records.

Today we stand in the midst of yet another Republican show-vote designed to honor the political wish list of extremists. Once again, Republicans have decided to place women’s health at the center of their ideological campaign. We’ve seen this tactic before.  It doesn’t work. Americans are tired of Republican attacks on women’s health.”

And yes, the bill is going nowhere, and the vote was a waste of time.  However, it does appear indicative of a Republican strategy in this Constant Campaign season.

Enter The Wedgies

For the sake of argument, let’s define a wedge issue as a social or cultural topic introduced into a campaign which seeks to attract and galvanize persuadable voters who might otherwise focus on economic or other major issues.  There’s nothing particularly new about this technique.  We could start almost anywhere, but 1968 seems as good a place as any, as an election into which two divisive issues were raised: “Public Order,” and “busing.”  The former sought to brand Democrats as the party of chaos (Chicago civil unrest) and the party supporting “forced integration” for which “busing” was the stand-in.  The busing (race) issue morphed into “States Rights”  and “welfare queens” (race) during the 1980 campaign, which was, in turn,  revised into the “Affirmative Action” (race)  issue in 1996. The “gay marriage wedge issue” was used to good effect in the 2004 election season.

Clinging to the Wedgies

While wedge issues are extremely helpful during primary elections, their utility may diminish during general elections depending on the level of voter turnout.  The danger of the wedge strategy is that it may be viewed as what is on offer from a party which has very little else to publicize to a national audience.  The second danger inherent in the wedge strategy is that the issue itself may become marginalized and less effective in national elections.

It’s a useful exercise during any campaign season to take a step away from the publicity attached to single issues or single candidates and see what the polling says about national priorities.  For example, the July 28, 2015 polling done by Quinnipiac University shows registered voters placing the highest priority on the economy and jobs (37%), health care (13%), terrorism (12%), and foreign policy (9%).  Immigration (9%), Climate Change (6%), federal deficit (6%), taxes (3%) rounded out the polling.  Those social and cultural issues garner about 2% to 3% in other polling. [TPP]

Note that of the contemporary wedge issues only immigration is seen as a major national priority (9%) and the polls don’t indicate the perspective of the voters in terms of either passing comprehensive immigration policy reform, or on the other hand, a policy of mass deportation. Gay marriage and abortion barely register with a majority of American voters.

Using gay marriage as a wedge issue appears to be one of those issues whose time has come and gone. Gay marriage might have been a potent wedge issue in 1996 when only 27% of the population thought those marriages should be valid, however its luster faded by 2015 when approximately 60% of the American public agreed that gay marriages should be legal. [Gallup] The fact that only the most radical of the Republican Party’s presidential candidates sought to exploit the issue of the Kentucky county clerk leads to the conclusion that this issue has also been marginalized.

The next available wedge issue for social  conservatives is abortion, and it appears to be moving center stage for its close up in the 2015 primary season.  The priority given to the abortion issue by the GOP has been explained thusly:

“The answer lies in the Republican Party’s shift to the right. A decade ago, between 30 and 40 percent of Republicans identified as pro-choice. This May, (2012) that number was a scant 22 percent. It’s hard to know whether that’s the result of Republicans changing their minds about abortion, or pro-choice respondents ceasing to identify as Republicans. But the result is the same: The party is increasingly uniform in its opposition to abortion.” [AmProsp]

This might help to explain why H.R. 36 (and other similar legislation) is perceived as a cohesive issue for Republicans and why Senator Heller and others have attached themselves to it.  Trends in voter affiliation may support the thesis that some are ceasing to identify as Republicans since polling was done in  2003.  As of 2014 32% responded as Democrats, 39% as Independents, and 23% as Republicans; a loss of 7% in self-identification with the GOP since 2003. [PRC]  If the trend continues, we might reasonably conclude that the fixation in the GOP with what appears to be a wedge issue of limited utility could have serious consequences for that party in upcoming national elections.

Given the Republican Party’s march to the right, the willingness of its national leadership to adopt a wedge issue like abortion, and the continual emphasis placed on the topic by ultra-conservatives, probably means we will see more publicity about Planned Parenthood, more non-scientific legislation, and more lock step votes such as that of Senator Heller in the U.S. Senate.   And it’s still over 400 days until the next national election.

Recommended/Reference: N. Coca, “Wedge Issues: A 2008 Historical Preview,” NithinCoca, January 2008.  D.S. Hillygus, T.G. Shields, “The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns, Princeton University Press, 2009.  K. Walsh, “Wedge Issues Take Center Stage in 2016 Race,” USNWR, April 2015.  Sen. Harry Reid, “Republican Attacks on Women…” Press Release, September 2015.  D. Townshend, “Abortion: The New Wedge Issue,” American Prospect, August 2012.  Pew Research Center, “Trends in Party Affiliation,” April 2015.  The Polling Report, “Problems and Priorities,” July 2015.

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Filed under abortion, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics, Reid