Catching up, Part III

Last week, we saw the brief rise and spectacular fall of the self-aggrandizing Texan believing their own delusions of grandeur. Specifically, I’m talking about Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a Tea Party favorite who launched a last-minute challenge to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the two term incumbent. Gohmert, when all was said and done, received two other votes: Congressmen Randy Weber (R-Texas) and Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma). A grand total of 25 Republicans defected from team Boehner, allowing the speaker to still be easily re-elected.

The total shellacking of the right-wing by establishment Republicans lead Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune to openly wonder if it was a harbinger of things to come for the quixotic race to topple State House Speaker Joe Straus (R-Bexar County). State Representative Scott Turner (R-Rockwall County), a Tea Party favorite, is challenging Straus for the gavel but will likely only garner two dozen votes or fewer.

Meanwhile, a great deal of attention has been placed upon the prospective 2016 Presidential candidates. Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) have already taken official steps toward running, making a mainstream victory in the Iowa Caucuses highly unlikely. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the party’s 2012 nominee, has begun assembling a new campaign team. The Washington Post reports he is “almost certain” to run for president once more. This coming the same day that Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), announced he would not run himself.

On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) continues making cacophonous rabble, but has done little to put together a real campaign. Grassroots activists continue pining for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), no matter how many times she says, in no uncertain terms, that she will not run. That contest still looks like Hillary Clinton’s to win, lose or draw…almost certainly to win.

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Let’s talk about 2016! (Republican primary, Part 2)

Editorial note: This article is the third installment in a series about prospective 2016 Presidential candidates by Noah M. Horwitz. On Saturday, he wrote at length about Democratic candidates. On Sunday, he wrote at length about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Establishment Conservatives.” This evening, he will write about Republican candidates within the “Tea Party Conservatives” subset.

I opined last evening that there are four basic categories of prospective Republican candidates for President. The “Establishment Conservatives,” “Establishment Tea Party,” “Fringe Tea Party” and “Outcast.” The main distinction between the outcast and the other categories is the presence of some semblance of political experience. The main distinction between the “fringe” and the “establishment” is how well-renowned the individual is on the national stage. Finally, Tea Party is a bit of an arbitrary descriptor, as there is no monolithic organization to which a member might belong, but I have done my best to weed out the so-called RINOs, to borrow the group’s lexicon. For example, in the 2012 Republican primaries, Herman Cain and Donald Trump would be “outcasts.” Michele Bachmann was “Fringe Tea Party,” Rick Santorum was “Establishment Tea Party” and Mitt Romney was “Establishment Conservative.” Hopefully, that clears it up.

ESTABLISHMENT TEA PARTY

1. Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas
Cruz came out of nowhere to defeat Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the 2012 Republican primary for the Senate, marking the beginning of the end for the Lieutenant Governor and the beginning of the beginning for the closest thing the Tea Party has has for a leader since its inception. A former Solicitor General of Texas with a sterling track record at the US Supreme Court, as well as a graduate (magna cum laude) of Harvard Law School, Cruz is undoubtedly brilliant. That being said, I’ve never really noticed his assumed intellectuality being used in politics. Cruz goes for the gut through soppy speeches replete with straw-man arguments and sometimes outright fabrications. But it works for him, and he is reasonably the frontrunner for this contest.

Pick a conservative issue, Cruz has put his money on it. He lacks the strange libertarian excesses of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) while still maintaining nearly cult-like following from many in those same circles. Much ink will be spilled in the next couple years asking if Cruz is the Republican version of President Barack Obama, once also a first-term Senator with higher ambitions. Both have mothers whose families have been in this country for quite long, but both have fathers who were foreigners.

I equate Cruz with Obama because of one key reason, far removed from the parallels I just highlighted. Cruz is the “Tea Party Messiah” in a way that Obama definitely was –and to a limited extent, still is– among younger crowds. I wrote at length on this subject last year up in Boston, and already see the initial effects for Cruz on the other side. If Cruz is serious about running for President, which I believe he is, he will need to move back to the center, progressively taking more and more stands on issues that will be sure to tick off his obstreperous base. But, if the “Obama effect” holds true, he will be infallible. That could be a dangerous mix for the Democrats, which is why I am confident that Cruz stands a good chance of clinching the general election against Hillary Clinton. I still think Clinton is favored, but not by that much.

2. Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky
Paul, the son of longtime Texas Congressman Ron Paul, is every bit the politician that he father was not. He backs away from conspiracy theories, but has most of the courage to take a stand on civil liberties and foreign policy issues. He is unequivocally opposed to NSA Wiretapping, the USA PATRIOT Act, and most everything going on at Guantanamo Bay. He believes in isolationism, though he may fight tooth and nail against it being characterized by that word.

On other issues, Paul is surprisingly reasonable. He was supportive of the Supreme Court’s recent decision Windsor v. United States (striking down the Defense of Marriage Act), though he remains virulently opposed to same-sex marriage on a state-by-state level. Earlier this year, he co-sponsored a bipartisan piece of legislation that would generously liberalize requirements for felons to vote. He has even come out in favor of some limited relaxing of drug laws, much like his father.

Of course, Paul more than makes up on conservative bona fides with the rest of his positions. He believes that abortion in all cases –even the life of the mother– should be illegal and a constitutional amendment to that effect should be implemented. He opposes all gun control, government intrusion in healthcare and is radically opposed to many entitlement programs. His libertarian foreign policy arguments surely will draw the ire of the neoconservative establishment.

3. Marco Rubio, Senator from Florida
Rubio is an interesting figure. His positions on many political issues are notoriously hard to get hammed down, given how fluid they are depending on the day of the week. Specifically, on immigration reform, Rubio has been on both sides of the fence more than once. Originally a vociferous supporter of comprehensive reform, even a co-sponsor of the Senate bill, Rubio infamously changed his mind once he began taking flack on the matter.

More recently, however, he reportedly was back to talk over decisive action on the immigration front. In doing so, he has effectively become hostile against both sides on the issue. Not only the Tea Party, but pro-immigration reform groups now view his word as useless.

On other issues, such as climate change, Rubio has unequivocally stated his grave doubts on the topic, making him a late-night punchline for a number of evenings. While there are plenty of specs that would make Rubio an ideal candidate on paper, he has just had a few too many stumbles in the limelight. I mention the silly little water bottle incident not because I think it marks poorly upon his performance that night, but because it showed that the rest of his speech was utterly unremarkable. If a nominal screw-up like that occurs, it is only harped upon incessantly when there is nothing else good to cover–the 24 hour media has to cover something!

4. Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsin
Ryan, obviously, was Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 Presidential election. For whatever reason, failed Vice-Presidential candidates never fare very well when they run for the top-spot the next go-round. Dan Quayle, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards immediately come to mind. Sarah Palin never even got around to running.

Now, you may be curious why I placed Ryan in the Tea Party crowd, as opposed to the establishment. After all, he is a self-described policy wonk and is Chairman of the House Budget Committee. I think Paul Krugman at The New York Times recently did a fairly swell job of dispelling that notion. Ever since the days of his Vice-Presidential campaign, he has used plenty of fuzzy math.

Ryan has what I would call “typical” views on most political issues, particularly within foreign policy, but he is far more malleable by the base than many of his colleagues. For someone who has been in Congress since the Clinton administration, I am hesitant to apply the Tea Party label, but think he has really jumped on the ship quite effectively. In that regard, he is eerily reminiscent of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial nominee.

Watch out for Ryan; that is, if he decides to run. He could easily run his campaign as a sort of successor to Mitt Romney. And say what you will about Romney, but the man has been vindicated on a number of issues since his failed campaign, particularly in the foreign policy sphere. I still do not think that Russia is the United States’ number one foe, but it is certainly more on our radar now than it was two years ago.

5. Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania
Santorum will have been out of politics for nearly a decade by this point, so I truly cannot tell why he would ever wish to take another longshot stab at the Presidency. Perhaps he is a glutton for punishment. Santorum has been making a plethora of trips to Iowa, and has publicly expressed interest in another run for the White House

I think Santorum is what I would call the “Eric Dick of the GOP primaries,” if he were to run again. The phrase, harkening back to last year’s failed Mayoral candidate, means someone who stands no chance of winning but could significantly affect the outcome nonetheless. Dick received over 10% of the vote in 2013, and I would expect him to garner a comparable percentage –much from the same people, low-information voters familiar with his commercials or amused by his surname– if he were tor run again in 2015. Not nearly enough to win, but certainly enough to have a huge impact if there were 8 candidates.

Similarly, Santorum has just enough support from evangelicals that he could win the Iowa Caucuses, even though he would be one of the last people that voters in 30+ States would ever support. This could throw a wrench into the plans of many candidates.

Hopefully, I get to the remainder of the candidates tomorrow. But for now, I’ve covered the frontrunners, as well as a couple others fortuitously mentioned in the same article despite having not a shred of a chance. As of now, the five frontunners are Bush, Perry, Cruz, Paul and Rubio. Two Floridians and two Texans.

 

Terrible, terrible poll

The Texas Tribune has released its newest poll, and the results continue to paint a bleak picture for the campaign of State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. The poll has her down 12 points to Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate. The poll also examined Statewide races up and down the ticket and found that Democrats were doing miserably bad in all of them. Most all of these polls included Libertarian and Green candidates, for what it is worth. Additionally, undecideds boasted pretty good showings in all of these races, and the number only got bigger the further down the ballot one traveled.

As many will remember, the Tribune commissioned an extensive poll in February that was not worth the non-existent paper that is was not printed upon. Among the many terrible predictions it made was that Kesha Rogers and Debra Medina led the plurality in their respective primaries. Rogers barely squeaked into a runoff and Medina came in a distant last place in a race where one candidate (Hegar) won outright. I went after the Tribune with a wrench in the Daily Texan a couple days after the preliminary primary completely discredited their polling, noting that we should not waste our breath analyzing something so unreliable anymore.  As my friend Charles Kuffner noted yesterday, the Tribune polls should be “in time-out,” meaning that we have to very look at what they have to say quite critically.

Click here to read more!

2014’s first big poll

The Texas Tribune reports on a very comprehensive poll they conducted over just about every competitive primary in the State. The poll has a fairly substantial margin of error (upwards of 6% in the Democratic primary, specifically), so that is something to bear in mind when analyzing the results.

Simply put, the results paint a bad picture for the Democrats. Back at that time, Greg Abbott lead Wendy Davis by only five points; today, Abbott’s lead has grown to Eleven points. Other polls paint a similarly bleak picture for the Democrats, especially considering that these Texas Tribune polls have historically been overly generous to the Democratic candidate. Just a few days after that original Tribune poll, Public Policy Polling (a historically very accurate pollster) estimated Abbott’s lead at a whopping fifteen points. Accordingly, I am eager to see just how bad off the Democrats are doing when PPP releases its triannual February poll any day now.

Also of note here is that these polls were largely conducted before the Ted Nugent scandal really blew over regarding Greg Abbott’s campaign. Therefore, one could plausibly assert that this poll overvalues Davis’ problems emanating from “Trailergate” while simultaneously not taking to account Abbott’s recent woes. Among other issues with this poll was a misleading discrepancy between “registered” and “likely” voters. Additionally, the polls completely disregarded the portion of the electorate still undecided. I have recreated these polls with the undecideds built into the poll, as well as only taking note of the “registered” voters.

Click here for full results and graph!

Why I am a Democrat

My Grandfather was an ardent LBJ Democrat, and my father has made the full metamorphosis from Baby Boomer Rebel Rouser to Obama Democrat (which is every bit as hypocritical and intellectually anathema as its predecessor). Needless to say, both of these men did and do hold much more liberal views than me on most static (i.e., non-social) issues.

My freshman year of High Schools I founded a club, along with two good political friends, to foster political discussion in a non-partisan manner. The year was 2009, President Obama was still riding high and the Tea Party was just something that little girls did in their spare time. We named the club the “Young Independents Club.” This idea of independence and non-partisanship became deeply ingrained into the fabric of the club. While both the leadership and membership of the organization, during its four year existence, were dominated by young, liberal Jews, it never felt like a Young Democratic club. During that time, I fervently defended myself as an Independent, albeit a liberal one.

This all begs the question of why I have been such a loud supporter of the Democratic Party in the last year. Moderates typically make the point of noting which political party they agree with “more than 50% of the time.” That logic is not applicable in the least to myself. You see, while I probably do agree with the Democratic Party a little more than half of the time, it does not mean I agree with the Republican Party a little less than half of the time. In fact, I probably agree with them roughly 0% of the time.

That is because we do not have a centre-left party and a centre-right party, we have a centre-right party and a far-right party. Adlai Stevenson vs. Dwight Eisenhower was an election between a centre-left and centre-right candidate. If I had been 21 on Election Day back then, I would have been put squarely in the middle of these two candidates. Similarly, a hypothetical election between Bobby Kennedy and Nelson Rockefeller.

I’m not afraid to admit I am a moderate, and I will defend that position all day long. I believe Capitalism and Free Markets are the greatest economic system in the world, and I get uncomfortable when Elizabeth Warren Or Howard Dean starts talking about a socialized economy. I believe that a dovish foreign policy is horrendously naive and just plain stupid sometimes. Needless to say, going to a liberal arts college in Massachusetts, it is not that rare of an occurrence for me to be the most conservative person in the room.

Simply put, I am a Democrat because I am not a Republican, and I feel very, very strongly about not being a Republican. It is a pet peeve of mine when someone politically apathetic admits that Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum is “crazy,” but the rest of the Republican Party (read: Mitt Romney) is okay. To borrow a colloquialism, the inmates have taken over the asylum, as individuals such as Bachmann and Santorum are now considered the mainstream of the Republican Party. The latter individual received a hero’s welcome when he visited the Texas Capitol yesterday.

For example, I strongly believe in the right of couples to get married, regardless of their sexual orientation. That is not a fringe opinion, by any means. 58% of Americans support gay marriage, as do over 3/4 of young people. All three major political parties in the United Kingdom have supported the position for many years (before the Democratic Party did, for that matter). The Texas Republican Party, however, couldn’t even pass a bill this session to remove an unenforceable, directly unconstitutional law that prohibits “gay sodomy.” The party’s 2012 platform declares that homosexuality “tears at the fabric of society.”

I strongly believe in gun control. That is not a fringe opinion, either. 86% of Americans support universal background checks, among other hefty regulations on firearms. This is a non-issue in every other nation in the Civilized World. Again, the Texas Republican Party lives in an alternate reality, wishing to allow college students to bring their loaded weapons on campus or criminalize enforcement of Federal Laws.

There are countless other issues like this, including reproductive rights, equal pay, immigration, education and others. In each and every one, there is only one political party that exists within reality, the Democratic Party. That, in essence, is why I am a Democrat.

Lege Update 7/11

The Legislature had quite a busy day today, in both chambers. The House has adjourned until Monday, and the Senate gavels back into play at 2PM tomorrow. Obviously, the most controversial and newsworthy item is still HB2/SB1, the omnibus anti-abortion bill. However, a number of actions were taken today dealing with the other two topics on the call, as well as a third not on the call. Let us digest the matter.

For starters, both the House and Senate concurred in a final Miller compliance bill for sentencing 17 year olds convicted of Capital Murder. The Texas Tribune reports that SB2 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Harris County) was passed 30-1 in the Senate and then 113-23 in the House. As the Austin American-Statesman noted, this is the Senate’s original bill, which places a mandatory life with parole sentence, typically meaning parole after 40 years. The House’s bill originally allowed the jury to consider aggravating circumstances and evidence that would lead them to specifically sentence the minors to life-without-parole.

Some Democrats, led by Rep. Terry Canales (D-Hidalgo County), objected to the bill because it prevented juries from considering any mitigating circumstances and evidence that would lead them to impose a lighter sentence, such as 25 years. The only Senate objector was Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso County). Rodriguez objected because of his belief the bill is unconstitutional. For what it’s worth, I wrote an entire Law Review article on this exact topic last semester, so I beg to disagree. But that’s a discussion for a different day. Anyways, both Houses passed the identical SB2, which now heads to Governor Perry’s desk.

The Senate also passed SJR1, the Transportation funding bill, which you may recall is having some trouble in the House. All eyes go there at this point. The SJR1 approved in the Senate is identical to the Committee’s bill, which simply diverts a portion of the rainy day fund into highway maintenance funding.

In other news, the Tribune also reports that the House Appropriations Committee has passed HB5, known as the “Campus Construction Bill.” The bill would issue, according to the Tribune article, “bonds for 62 campus construction projects.” The bill passed unanimously, 18-0, and now heads to Calendar. All looks good. The only problem is that the Governor has not added the issue to the call of the Special Session, though this is a bipartisan inkling to Perry that he should do so immediately. Most locally, the bonds would include $95 Million in bonds for UT-Austin.

Finally, there was significant action on the omnibus anti-abortion bill. Most pressing, the Tribune reports that the Senate Health & Human Services Committee has passed HB2 along party lines, 6-3. Further, the Tribune article states that Dewhurst has promised to bring the bill up on Friday at 2PM. This is it, folks. Please see my inspirational charge “Remember the Alamo,” about where to go from here. The twitters and facebooks of Democratic Senators are lighting up about the final protest being held tomorrow. It will be interesting, to be sure.

In other news, Rick “frothy mixture” Santorum made an appearance at the Capitol today, further proving the bill is not about women’s health. Speaking of women’s health, the Statesman proves that abortions in Texas are notoriously safe. Last but not least, Greg Abbott will be giving his own “new and exciting plans” speech in San Antonio on Monday. He will be announcing his gubernatorial intentions, obviously.

Senate hearing and Huckabee rally

The Texas Tribune reports that the big SB1 hearing has lasted into the middle of the night. The omnibus anti-abortion bill was brought up for public hearing in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee nearly a week after the House State Affairs Committee approved the measure after a controversial hearing.

Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Tarrant County), the Chairwoman of this committee, decided to deal with the public hearing quite differently than Chairman Cook did last week. 3,800 people registered positions on the bill, mostly against it.

Testimony included everything one would expect from such a hearing, including a “vagina poem” and the phrase “forced birthers.” My good friend Luis Fayad (another one from my years at City Hall) live-tweeted most of the hearing (warning, he is NSFW or really any type of wholesome, family environment). 

From what I understand, the hearing went on until about 2 in the morning, when the witness list was finally exhausted. There was no vote that took place on the legislation. I suppose this is good news.

The full Legislature gavels back into session this morning, and the House will hit the ground running and take up HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill. We’ll see what happens.

Off the Kuff and Burnt Orange Report have more on the hearing itself.

In other news, BOR also covered the big anti-abortion rally that took place at the Capitol yesterday. 2000 people showed up, mostly bused from across the nation. This is compared to the 5000-8000 local who showed up against HB2/SB1 last week. BOR has a great comparison picture to illustrate this point.

The normal non-normal people one would expect were all there, including the Dew, Governor-designate Greg Abbott, Mike Huckabee and the Duggars–you know, those bible thumpers with like 20 children. There weren’t many verbal gaffes or goofs, but it was very interesting to see how old and White this crowd was compared to the pro-choice crowd. But I suppose that’s about as obvious as the fact that it rains in Seattle.

The rumour this morning is that Rick Santorum is at the Capitol. Oh boy.