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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Monday, November 4, 2013

AT WAR WITH ITSELF





For the better part of 5 years the Republican Party has been involved in a civil war of sorts. After the election of Barack Obama as president in November 2008, congressional Republicans decided to pursue a strategy of flat out opposition to anything that Obama proposed.


The Affordable Care Act or "ObamaCare" was something that Republicans hated and if you mention it to any Republican suddenly they start spitting out talking points about how it will lead to all kinds of bizarre non-sense about leading to a dystrophic future. "ObamaCare" was originally proposed by the conservative leaning think tank, the Heritage Foundation, as far back as 1989. It was introduced as an alternative to then-President Bill Clinton's efforts to reform health care in the 1990s. Former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney signed a similar health care reform bill into law in 2006.

With the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, or Medicare Part D, in 2006, Rep. Joe Barton (R, BP TX-6) said that February, "This is a huge undertaking and there are going to be glitches. My goal is the same as yours: Get rid of the glitches."

But when it comes to "ObamaCare," a totally different tune.

The second Obama term for the Republican Party so far has a different tune that the first. As you recall, the Republican Party chose to side with the anti-incumbency fervor exhibited by the Tea Party combined with the economy uncertainty exhibited by voters during town hall meetings in 2009 and 2010. Combine that with the lack of enthusiasm among Democrats/Progressives/Liberals for President Obama and Democrats that election cycle and the Republican Party was able to literally flip the House from Democratic control to Republican control.

That was not limited to Congress. Republicans won control of 26 state legislatures which was the since 1952. Proof of that Republican wave was here in Texas. Governor Perry, despite allegations of graft and corruption stemming from his office, was easily re-elected to an unprecedented third full term as governor over former Houston mayor Bill White. The Texas House went from Republicans controlling the State House by a slim 4 seat margin to a supermajority. Texas Monthly Paul Burka in his post election analysis proclaimed, "After losing 22 seats in the House of Representatives, the Democratic party will not be a factor in Texas politics for a decade, at least. Not that it has been much of a factor for the past decade. This was not just a defeat; it was an annihilation bordering on political genocide."

Republicans in the states passed things like anti-abortion laws such as Texas' sonogram law, union stripping laws as seen in Wisconsin, and voter ID laws that were struck down by the Voter Rights Act but then the Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom neutered it in 2013.

Republicans believed that the 2010 midterm elections would carry them to the White House in 2012. Anger only gets you so far in politics. In the 2012 Republican Primary, the party featured a clown show deep field of candidates. Republican Primary Voters in poll after poll were favoring Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum who would have stood no chance in a general against Barack Obama before settling on Mitt Romney. Similar to the primary, Romney was willing to say anything and do anything to get elected. If you recall during one of the Republican debates, Romney suggested that undocumented persons should "self deport" which was a position to the RIGHT of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Republicans were against "ObamaCare" and they nominated the guy who signed into law a similar health care reform bill in Massachusetts.

In the general election, Republicans ran with the social issues platform that carried them to victory in presidential elections in the 1980s and most recently 2004.

That strategy backfired... tremendously. In part due to the Romney campaign
not giving any answer on the Lilly Ledbetter Act and down ballots such as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock talking about rape.... and the 47% comments... and actor Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair during when the major television networks cut into convention coverage at the 10 PM ET/ 9 PM CT hour... and the binders full of women.... and how our Navy is its smallest since 1916... and Republicans believing they were going to win despite what the polls and math was saying.

In the aftermath of Obama's re-election, the Republican Party issued their autopsy report. Among some of the proposals are to embrace Comprehensive Immigration Reform and moderate on positions regarding marriage equality and contraception coverage. So far those proposals have not been enacted.

While nationally the Republicans are engaged in a battle among potential the-election-we're-not-allowed-to-discuss-yet 2016 contenders such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio and the clash between the pro-business interests wing of the party and the willing-to-destroy-the-economy-at-any-cost Tea Party, it is interesting to see what is going on in the states.

Polls are closing in less than 24 hours for two gubernatorial elections and highlight the direction where the Republican Party is heading towards in 2014 and future elections.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is very likely to defeat his Democratic opponent State Senator Barbara Buono. While Christie is known for his stance against equal marriage, he withdrew his appeal when the New Jersey State Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples deserve equal marriage rights and recognition.

While New Jersey has been safely in the Blue Column for presidential elections since 1992 and will probably be in that column for future elections, they elected Christie in 2009. Even though he is popular among electors with his tough guy New Jersey image, his record as governor has been mixed but again the voters will probably return him to the governor's mansion in Trenton on the wave of Soft Democratic voters (vote Democratic in Presidential and other federal offices, but go Republican in state level offices). Social issues haven't made much of an impact in the election. Again, Governor Christie is not challenging the court ruling because it could impact how much he wins by in this election which he would need if he was to run for President in 2016. If Christie does run in 2016, not challenging the state's ruling on equal marriage could put him at odds with the socially conservative voters that dominate the early primary states of Iowa and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, in another east coast state Republicans are going with the old tried and true running on social issues platform. And just like in the 2012 Presidential election, it is backfiring spectacularly. Barring a major news story, former Clinton family confidant and DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe is likely to become the next governor of Virginia. It is not just the gubernatorial that the Republicans will lose, but the lieutenant governor's race is heading towards a blowout loss and the attorney general's race has narrowed. Combined with the gift receiving scandal surrounding Governor Bob McDonnell and Virginia enacting a similar sonogram law like Texas has, it is why the Republican statewide slate of candidates in Virginia are heading towards disaster. Instead of recognizing the demographic shifts and the fact that Virginia has gone for Obama in 2008 and 2012 and voted in Democrats to represent them in the US Senate, Republicans nominated the bat crap craziest the most unelectable statewide slate in recent electoral history.

The gubernatorial candidate and current attorney general Ken Cuccinelli is trying to defend Virginia's laws that criminalize sodomy. Problem is that the United States Supreme Court ruled in June 2003 that those laws were unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas.

And then there is the Lieutenant Governor candidate, Bishop E.W. Jackson.

He tweeted this gem when the White House announced in 2009 that June was LGBT Pride Month.



And it goes downhill from there as shown in this story from Mother Jones magazine.

And my fellow football prognosticator, Monica Roberts, has no love for the bishop as shown here.... and here... and especially here.

The problem with the Virginia Republican Party stems from this one moment. If you recall, I've shared this story on many occasions. In August 2006, I was living in Virginia. I wasn't as active in politics as I am now back then, but when this story broke this changed the course of American Politics.

I am talking about former Senator George Allen and his comments.


That video is STILL up on YouTube and it was posted 7 years ago. Not only did that video make YouTube, but it shifted that US Senate race from "Leans Republican" to "Toss-Up" and gave Democrats a good chance of winning control of the Senate in 2006.


Former Secretary of the Navy and Vietnam Veteran Jim Webb won that race by over 9,000 votes.

Webb declined to run for a second term in 2012. Virginia Democrats nominated former governor and DNC Chair Tim Kaine as their candidate. Republicans.... selected George Allen.

The result... well, let's allow the good folks from WAVY-10 in Hampton Roads, VA take it from here:


So far Republicans in Virginia have lost the last 3 US Senate elections: 2006, 2008, and 2012. And it is looking very likely that Senator Mark Warner will retain his seat in 2014. According to 270towin.com's Senate map, the Virginia US Senate race is rated "Safe Democratic." The election is one year from now and many factors could influence that race, but given these three factors:

1. How far rightward the party has reached in policy making and this gubernatorial election.
2. The damage done by George Allen with his "comments."

And this is a BIG 3. The Obama campaign found a pathway to victory through the suburbs surrounding Washington, DC in the northern portion of the state. These suburbs carried Obama to victory in the Old Dominion State in 2008 and 2012. Future Democratic candidate campaigns in Virginia will follow this playbook for many years to come.

I suspect it will be a LONG time before the Virginia GOP is competitive for a statewide election.

And this brings me to the point I am making (finally).

As I alluded to in the title the Republican Party is at war with itself between many different interests. One of the battle lines is between those that demand ideological purity and those that want to win general elections.

Ideological purity, as shown with the Virginia gubernatorial election, is great for winning their party's primary but it is backfiring tremendously in the general because they are facing a very diverse electorate also known as the rest of the population. As shown as what is happening in New Jersey, Governor Christie is sticking with the strategy of being perceived as a moderate (he's not) that will not alienate those that supported him in 2009 and he will likely cruise to an easy victory on Tuesday night.

If he does chose to run in 2016, Governor Christie might be the most electable out of a primary field containing Senators Cruz, Rand Paul, and Rubio and by electable I mean won't get completely destroyed by presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. As we saw in 2010, 2012, and possibly 2014, Republican primary voters have shown in previous election cycles they are not concerned about electability. They want the most ideological pure Republican they can run in a general election despite as shown in previous elections such as the US Senate races in Delaware, Colorado, and Nevada in 2010, and the 2012 Presidential election where Mitt Romney tried to be one of the Tea Party in order to win the primary but then it came time to face the rest of the electorate he couldn't pivot back to the center.

The two gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia on this coming Tuesday are showing the current state where the Republican Party is at during the second Obama term. The question is what strategy do they purse. Will it be one that is willing to moderate on some positions and appeal to swing voters so that they can remain competitive in future elections? Or will it be one that will continues purging itself and running candidates that demonize women, LGBTs, the working poor, immigrants, religious minorities, and other underrepresented groups in politics?

My money is they will continue the purging strategy which will result in more losses and more finger pointing about how they weren't conservative enough when in reality they are facing massive demographic shifts in the voting bloc that does not favor the modern incarnation of the Republican Party.

And the Republican Party civil war with itself will continue.


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