Michael Bennet

Amiable and Approachable Danger

U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO04) speaks at a rally in Littleton, Colorado, 29 September 2014.  (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Three paragraphs from Stuart Rothenberg to mark the date by. This could be very important:

Though I took notice of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner’s endorsement of Sen. Marco Rubio for president, I didn’t immediately think about Gardner as a possible running mate for Rubio — until a CQ Roll Call colleague dropped that pearl of wisdom in my lap.

But there are plenty of reasons why Gardner needs to be on any Rubio shortlist of possible running mates, even this early in the 2016 election cycle.

In a party full of elected officials who look and sound angry and bitter, the Colorado Republican invariably is cheerful and optimistic. That doesn’t mean that Gardner is happy with the direction of the country or defends the status quo, but it does mean he is amiable and approachable. Not surprisingly, that makes him appealing to many voters, particularly those who are less ideological and less partisan.

This is an interesting, and even potentially terrifying notion. Sen. Gardner is a proper culture warrior. Amiable and approachable is one thing, but consider the story of how he got to the Senate.

In 2010, Republicans ran a former Weld County prosecutor named Ken Buck for U.S. Senate. Mr. Buck, it turned out, suffered a vital weakness; as prosecutor he refused to charge a confessed rape, telling the victim she bore guilt in her own rape, and telling the public he did not think the good people of Weld County could convict a confessed rape. Democrat Michael Bennet won by a narrow margin.

In 2014, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall faced re-election, and Republicans feared another Ken Buck run. Instead, the Congressman from Colorado’s Fourth stepped up, and Cory Gardner became a Senate candidate. While he was not a rape abettor like Mr. Buck, Mr. Gardner faced exposure for his sponsorship of an anti-abortion bill attempting to curtail the human rights of women. So he denied his support for the bill, but refused to remove his name as a sponsor. This was good enough for the people of Colorado, and in the Fourth Congressional District they sent the rape abettor, Mr. Buck, to fill Mr. Gardner’s seat in the House of Representatives.

Amiable and approachable is one thing, but that speaks nothing to statecraft, or the quality and efficiency thereof.

As a vice presidential nominee, Mr. Gardner would simply be an amiable and approachable face of danger.

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Image note: U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO04) speaks at a rally in Littleton, Colorado, 29 September 2014. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Rothenberg, Stuart. “Cory Gardner for Veep? Don’t Laugh”. Rothenblog. Roll Call. 3 November 2015.

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Farcical

Detail of promotional image from Ark Encounter.

Some fascinating questions should not be so … er … fascinating. To wit: Can one’s equal rights be violated by the proposition that equality is not supremacy?

Catherine Thompson of Talking Points Memo frames the latest iteration of the question:

The saga that is the construction of Ark Encounter, Kentucky’s proposed “creationist theme park,” plowed on Tuesday as the project’s coordinator vowed to sue the state for discrimination.

Ironically, it was the project’s proprietor, Answers in Genesis, refusing to agree to hiring practices that wouldn’t discriminate on the basis of religion that led Kentucky tourism officials to yank about $18 million worth of crucial tax incentives for Ark Encounter in December.

Answers in Genesis said in a statement Tuesday that the decision to reject its application for the tax incentives “violates federal and state law and amounts to unlawful viewpoint discrimination.”

“Our organization spent many months attempting to reason with state officials so that this lawsuit would not be necessary,” Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham said in the statement. “However, the state was so insistent on treating our religious entity as a second-class citizen that we were simply left with no alternative but to proceed to court. This is the latest example of increasing government hostility towards religion in America, and it’s certainly among the most blatant.”

This is a theme conservatives have echoed for years. The general idea is that by some device, the very concept of equality means that some people must be allowed superiority.

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Another Look at Voters and What They Just Voted For

The U.S. Capitol is pictured at dawn in Washington D.C. on Oct. 15, 2013. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

And that’s where the confusion kicks in. The American mainstream strongly backs the same policy agenda Democrats want, but that same mainstream just elected a Congress that will make it impossible for Americans to get what they say they support.

Steve Benen

It might seem to need some unpacking, but in truth the point holds.

There is, for instance, the temptation to point out the Senate shift, and remind that this was the “mainstream” in places like Iowa, where voters clearly prefer uneducated, tinfoil trash and threats of sedition from elected officials. Or Kansas, where voters are cheering on the destruction of the state government. Or Colorado, where 2010 saw Sen. Michael Bennet win a narrow victory, but only because it was a statewide election, and just enough voters were offended at the idea of sending a prosecutor who aids and abets rape to the U.S. Senate; it should be noted that in the state’s Fourth Congressional District, Colorado voters had no qualms about sending the abettor to the House of Representatives. Of course, voters in the states’ Fifteenth Legislative District also sent a paranoid, homophobic exorcist to the legislature, and in the overlapping Fifth Congressional District, returned Rep. Doug “Tar Baby” Lamborn to the House in celebration of ignorance and hatred. Looking at the Senate swing, it’s easy enough to fall back to the comfort that, for the most part, Democrats lost where they were expected to lose.

But a broader picture of voters can also be found in the midterm election; Republicans made enormous gains in state government across the nation. Certes, in a state like Washington, where ballot measures were the only statewide votes, things went about as expected; we don’t match the national trend, but that in part is because we had nothing to do with the question of Senate control.

But it seems this will be the defining legacy of the 2014 midterms. Voters said they want something, and then voted against it. At this point, we cannot begin to explain the result without accounting for irrationality in the psychopathology of everyday life. A dialectic of neurosis might explain the preference of party labels over real results, but is it a twisted identity politic or something deeper, like a craven need for perpetual Manichaean dualism? Close, low-scoring contests are the height of professional sportsα, but disastrous for political outcomes.

It’s easy enough to express what just happened in the sense that Republicans just won big in an election. The harder answer is to figure just what that actually means in terms of voters. As to governance, the answer is clear: The ability of governments in the United States to function appropriately will be further degraded as Republicans move forward feeling empowered to prove their thesis that government just doens’t work.

It is, furthermore, easy enough to say we want nice outcomes. It is harder to accomplish those nice outcomes, though, and nearly impossible for voters to admit that, no, they don’t really want that stuff. And that, too, might well emerge from a dialectic of neurosis, that people only say they want good outcomes because they fret about what the neighbors would think if they came right out and admitted what they’re really after.

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α The basic principle: Offense wins games; defense wins championships. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer … you name it, the principle holds. And let’s face it, outside the SEC, most American football fans are pretty much sick of sixty-point blowouts.

Benen, Steve. “NBC poll: Public attitudes clear as mud”. msnbc. 20 November 2014.

The Future, Revealed?

Jobs, jobs, jobs ... j'abortion!

We might for a moment pause to recall 2010. Republicans achieved a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but the real story was in the state houses, where the GOP made astounding gains by hammering away at the economic instability their Congressional partners worked so hard to create.

And then they tacked away from jobs. As Rachel Maddow memorably put it, “Jobs, jobs jobs … j’abortion”. State-level Republicans passed record numbers of anti-abortion bills, knowing that most of them were unconstitutional. And it is certainly an old conservative scheme, to tilt windmills, lose, and then bawl that the sky is falling because the Constitution is Sauron and Democrats and liberals the armies of Mordor.

With many predicting a Republican blowout in the 2014 midterms, some are looking ahead to figure out just what that will means in terms of policy and governance. And some of those are Republicans.

Yet there is a week left; perhaps this isn’t the best time to be telegraphing the Hell they intend to call down upon the Earth.

Or, as Lauren French and Anna Palmer of Politico explain:

Conservatives in Congress are drawing up their wish list for a Republican Senate, including “pure” bills, like a full repeal of Obamacare, border security and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline — unlikely to win over many Democrats and sure to torment GOP leaders looking to prove they can govern.

Interviews with more than a dozen conservative lawmakers and senior aides found a consensus among the right wing of the Republican Party: If Republicans take the Senate, they want to push an agenda they believe was hamstrung by the Democratic-controlled chamber, even if their bills end up getting vetoed by President Barack Obama.

Their vision could create problems for congressional leaders who want to show they aren’t just the party of “hell no.” And while conservatives say they agree with that goal, their early priorities will test how well John Boehner and Mitch McConnell can keep the party united.

Two points: Swing voters can’t say they weren’t warned. And conservative voters complaining about gridlock should admit that’s what they’re after.

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