A Note on Conservative Values

Kellyanne Conway speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 March 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

This is fun. Peter Montgomery, for Right Wing Watch, the day after Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012:

Not only did Obama win big, but voters in Maine and Maryland embraced marriage equality, and Washington seems likely to join them. Minnesota voters rejected a Religious Right-backed attempt to put anti-gay discrimination into the state’s constitution. Tammy Baldwin was elected to the Senate, where she will be the first openly gay member.

Well before all those results were in, it was clear that the night was not going according to what Religious Right leaders had thought was God’s plan. At 10 pm, Tony Perkins and Jim Garlow held a phone call briefing for pastors. It was a very subdued affair, with representatives of the state marriage campaigns trying to sound hopeful about the then-uncalled outcomes in their states. Perkins and Garlow also held a Wednesday webcast on the “aftermath and aftershocks” as the scope of their Election Day drubbing sank in. “The problem in America is sin,” said Garlow. But, he said, “we have no problem that the next Great Awakening cannot solve.”

The tendency after an election defeat to avoid blame by casting it elsewhere was in full flower the day after the election. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Religious Right favorite, described Mitt Romney as “the most liberal Republican nominee in history” who had “waffled” on abortion, had passed a health care bill as governor, and had a hard time convincing conservatives on his commitments on taxing and spending. Perkins criticized Romney for not campaigning on issues of life, marriage, and religious liberty, even though Obama used them to appeal to his base. Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway agreed, saying Republicans had not done enough to draw the contrast on social and “moral” issues. Regarding the marriage wins, Perkins blamed Obama in part, saying the president’s policies have had “a shaping influence on the culture.” He and others also blamed marriage equality proponents’ financial advantage ....

.... Some Religious Right leaders sought solace in faith that God is ultimately in control. “America as we know it may have signed its death warrant tonight,” said Garlow during the pastors’ briefing. But not to worry, he said, nations come and go, but God’s kingdom is forever. Perkins said FRC and its allies would continue to stand strong in the face of “an increasingly hostile culture.”

Others looked forward to the next political fight. Pollster Conway predicted that 2014 would bring, like 2010’s Tea Party wave, a conservative resurgence and called for candidate recruitment to begin now. Perkins agreed that conservatives have never had a stronger “farm team” and touted potential conservative candidates for 2016, including Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, and Mike Pence.

Yes, indeed, a genuine Kellyanne Conway sighting, as the pollster reminded Republicans, as we hear every election, how things would go better if they would just become more misogynistic, homophobic, masculinist, Christianist, supremacist―you now, whatever counts among Republicans as family values and morality. It’s also worth noting, in addition to the farm team standouts, the presence of Tony Perkins of Family Research Council.

It’s just an interesting contrast. Kellyanne Conway, in her role as Donald Trump’s campaign manager, has undoubtedly drawn a contrast on social and moral issues. Mr. Perkins, for his part, was last heard explaining, “My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values”.


The Donald Trump Show (Total Devastation)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), at left, joins Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump during a press event at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on Super Tuesday, 1 March 2016. Christie, who suspended his own presidential campaign in February has been widely ridiculed for endorsing Trump.

“A spokesman for Christie denied he was a manservant.”

Andrew Kaczynski

Two important points:

• Do you really want to know what that sentence means?

• Okay, look, the thing I still can’t figure out about the phantom candidate conspiracy theory is why. Still, though, it occurs to wonder at the actual reason Donald Trump has every appearance of trying to destroy the Republican Party. The bizarre bits and pieces we hear about Chris Christie seem nearly emblematic. Whatever hell the New Jersey governor’s reputation had already discovered one wonders at the penance of such humiliation in Donald Trump’s shadow. That the Republican nominee apparent is so vicious is beyond doubt, but what does Mr. Christie think he’s doing? Or Republicans, for that matter? The RNC, many congressional Republicans, and various prominent voices in the conservative discourse seemed to shrug and roll, shuffling in line behind their party’s primary winner. And then what happened? Look at what Donald Trump is doing to conservatives. This is astounding. This is unimaginable. This is your Republican Party, and if it wasn’t for the fact that they were Republicans we probably ought to pity them right about now. I mean, sure, for a lot of the rest of us our diverse grievances against and disputes with Donald Trump are pretty clear, but what the hell did the GOP do to piss him off this badly?


Kaczynski, Andrew. “Scott Brown Says He Won’t Fetch Trump’s McDonalds Like Christie (Reportedly) Did”. BuzzFeed. 15 June 2016.

The Marco Rubio Show (Rookie Hijinks)

Detail of photo by Jason Reed/Reuters.

“In essence, not voting for it is a vote against it.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

This is the Marco Rubio Show:

For months, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio has been dogged by questions about his rampant absenteeism from the Senate. On Friday, the senator from Florida missed another vote. This one stood out more than most―for the legislation’s scope and the extent of Rubio’s criticism of it.

Rubio was one of just two senators who did not vote on on a sweeping tax and spending bill that passed with bipartisan support. His three Republican Senate colleagues running for president each cast votes.


The thing is, Mr. Rubio said on Thursday he knew “enough to say we’re going to oppose it, and I know enough to say that we should use every procedural aspect that we have to slow it down and perhaps force some changes on these things that we’ve been discussing”.

Or, as Steve Benen of msnbc put it:

But when Rubio said “we,” he wasn’t referring to himself. In fact, he did not take any steps to pursue his goal: the Republican didn’t show up on Capitol Hill to try to delay the process, and a day later, Rubio also didn’t show up to vote against the bill he wanted to kill.


The Donald Trump Show (Typing in Stereo)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015.

“On Thursday, Republican front-runner Donald Trump delivered a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition in which he essentially praised members of the organization for being a bunch of Shylocks.”

Scott Eric Kaufman

Daring openings are what they are, and Scott Eric Kaufman of Salon delivers one that might well be, according to murmur and buzz, worth its punch.

Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed chose a more sober lede that pretty much makes the point:

Donald Trump repeatedly invoked stereotypes about Jews and money during a speech to a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting on Thursday.

Zack Beauchamp summarized for Vox―

The nicest thing that you can say about these comments is that they play on ancient stereotypes of Jews as money-grubbing merchants. The meanest thing you can say is that they’re outright anti-Semitic.

―and pointed to some social media reaction, including Chemi Shalev of Haaretz, who tweeted his critique: “The time that Trump spit on a Jewish audience and everyone pretended they were in a water park”.



Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

“The truth is that Republicans are at a crossroads. What we are seeing is a surrogate battle to determine whether the GOP will be a sort of populist/protectionist party, or a more cosmopolitan and compassionate one. And if those are the two world views that will eventually clash, Cruz and Rubio are much better representatives than, say, Trump and Bush.”

Matt Lewis

Conservative stalwart Matt Lewis offers an intriguing commentary considering the real potential of a marquee showdown between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. The junior U.S. Senators from Florida and Texas respectively enjoy competitive positions in the polls, and thus stand out as leading candidates to ascend as Dr. Ben Carson tumbles and pretty much everyone else wonders when Trump will follow. The Roll Call op-ed opens:

“The two people to watch are Cruz and Rubio,” Charles Krauthammer declared on Tuesday’s episode of Fox News’ “Special Report.” Call it wishful thinking or conventional wisdom (or both), but there is an assumption that this clash of titans might eventually occur—and I, for one, am rooting for it.

And we can skip ahead to the ending, a pretense of obvious afterthought―that both Cruz and Rubio can win the general against Hillary Clinton―long enough to remember that Lewis is, after all, a conservative pitch man. Cruz can’t win; Rubio has a chance if he can overcome the deer and headlight air of youthful inexperienceα he often demonstrates so aptly when rattling through talking points that thoroughly defy his comprehension. That is to say, we can attend the pretense of afterthought long enough to dismiss it.

Nonetheless, Mr. Lewis offers an insightful analysis that includes the benefit of also sounding reasonable:

Most people I know think a Trump candidacy would be disastrous, but there is division regarding just how freaked out we should be. Some, like statistician Nate Silver, argue that we are putting too much stock in these early polls showing Trump ahead for a variety of reasons, including the fact that “the vast majority of eventual Republican voters haven’t made up their minds yet.”

Others argue that this is fantasy. All the previous predictions about a Trump collapse were premature, and besides, he’s a paradigm-shifting candidate; the old rules no longer apply.

Having said all that, it’s not absurd to believe that voters will finally come to their senses, and that Cruz and Rubio might eventually emerge as representatives of their various “lanes” to face off in a sort of championship battle to determine who will represent the GOP in the general election.


The Ben Carson Show (Phenomenon)

Source photos: Ben Carson announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, 5 May 2015 (Paul Sancya/AP). A biblical inscription is chiseled into the wall of Ben Carson's home, with 'proverbs' spelled incorrectly (Mark Makela/The Guardian, 2014).

Tom McCarthy tries to explain the Ben Carson phenomenon for The Guardian:

He is more than an American success story, brilliant brain surgeon and bestselling author of 10 Christian-themed books. He has also coined some of the most outlandish statements ever uttered on the national stage, a purveyor of bizarre conspiracy theories and a provocateur who compares abortion to slavery and same-sex marriage to pedophilia.

This week, Carson restated his belief that the pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph to store grain, and not by Egyptians to entomb their kings. He believes that Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Abbas attended school together in Moscow in 1968. He believes that Jews with firearms might have been able to stop the Holocaust, that he personally could stop a mass shooting, that the Earth was created in six days and that Osama bin Laden enjoyed Saudi protection after 9/11.

The Carson conundrum is not fully captured by a list of his eccentric beliefs, however. He also confounds the traditional demographics of US politics, in which national African American political figures are meant to be Democrats. Not only is Carson a Republican – he is a strong conservative on both social and economic issues, opposing abortion including in cases of rape and incest, and framing welfare programs as a scheme to breed dependence and win votes.

He has visited the riot zones of Ferguson and Baltimore but offered little compassion for black urban poor populations who feel oppressed by mostly white police forces.

Even Carson’s core appeal as a Christian evangelical is complicated by the fact that he is a lifelong adherent to a relatively small sect, the Seventh-Day Adventist church, whose celebration of the sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday and denial of the doctrine of hell have drawn accusations of heresy from other mainstream Christian groups.

That last probably plays more strongly with the British audience; in the United States, Christian is as Christian does; Dr. Carson’s penchant for false witness and exclusionary, judgmental scorn are his own ad hoc iteration of faith, shot through with neurotic self-contradiction as it struggles to justify his self-centered pretense of humility. If one seeks strangeness about the SDA experience in general, it is a different phenomenon.


The Ben Carson Show (Passing)

“I personally believe that this theory that Darwin came up with was something that was encouraged by the adversary, and it has become what is scientifically, politically correct.” (Dr. Ben Carson, 2012)

The Ben Carson phenomenon might well be passing; having emerged as a social conservative frontrunner, displacing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker out of the race, as well as the perennial Pennsylvania tantrum otherwise known as Rick Santorum, and comic relief upstart Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, both of whom should consider following the Cowardly Badger off the field.

It was only two weeks ago that Rich Lowry toddled over from his corner at National Review to explain for Politico why Dr. Carson is “the superior outsider”.

Carson’s rise suggests that it’s possible to catch the populist wave roiling Republican politics and yet not be an obnoxious braggart who abuses anyone who crosses him and will say or do anything as long as he’s getting attention. Ben Carson is a superior outsider to Donald Trump.

He is more gentlemanly and more conservative, with a more compelling life story. Carson is a man of faith who, despite his manifest accomplishments, has a quiet dignity and winsome modesty about him. Ben Carson is a throwback, whereas Donald Trump is a bold-faced name straight out of our swinish celebrity culture.

Then again, this is the same Rich Lowry who wrote the now-obscure rave review of Sarah Palin’s 2008 vice presidential debate performance, and we needn’t wonder why the National Review editor would rather that one be hard to find. And there is, of course, a reason we note Mr. Lowry’s poor judgment.


The Rick Santorum Show (Spatters of State)

"It's like, if all the tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Every problem that the State Department has, the answer is diplomacy. Why? Because if it's not diplomacy, they don't have a job." (Rick Santorum)

“It’s like, if all the tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Every problem that the State Department has, the answer is diplomacy. Why? Because if it’s not diplomacy, they don’t have a job.”

Rick Santorum

This is, perhaps after all these years, the most insanely stupid thing former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) ever said:

Rick Santorum said Thursday that, as president, he would abolish the State Department.

Santorum made the comment in an interview with radio host Glenn Beck, who told the former senator from Pennsylvania that he was hoping to hear the party’s 2016 contenders call for everyone at the State Department to be fired.

“I have said that,” Santorum replied. “I said that when I ran four years ago — the first thing I’d do is abolish the State Department and start all over” ....

.... Pressed by Beck about the practicalities of firing the entire State Department, Santorum responded with a critique of the department’s single-minded focus on international diplomacy.

“It’s like, if all the tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,” Santorum said. “Every problem that the State Department has, the answer is diplomacy. Why? Because if it’s not diplomacy, they don’t have a job.


Of all the sputtering spatter we’ve heard from Santorum over the years, this is not so much offensive as it is among the most idiotic things ever said by a presidential candidate.

No, really, would anyone like a shot at trying to explain how this one works?


Image note: Source photo by Eric Gay.

Ben-Meir, Ilan. “Rick Santorum Says He Would Abolish The State Department And Start All Over”. BuzzFeed. 18 September 2015.