[An unfinished sketch of a post; the text file says 13 October. This is just how it goes sometimes; it’s exhausting trying to keep up―you might have noticed we haven’t. Still, herein we find a glimpse of the moment, recorded for the sake of the historical record, and, you know, not really so much my ego, since this could have afforded some better planning and writing.] (more…)
It really is hard to keep up:
• FiveThirtyEight undertakes the obvious question―“Is This What It Looks Like When A Party Falls Apart?”―and, well, the answer is about as vague as you might imagine, but the conversation is either worth your time or not.
(Maggie Koerth-Baker’s feature on “The Secret Lives Of Rocks” is probably a more enriching read while offering just as much utility in comprehending the election in general or Republicans in particular.)
• Nate Silver offers a headline that ought to be encouraging: “Women are defeating Donald Trump”.
• Jack Shafer of Politico reminds why the devastating Trump video footage is “The Least Surprising ‘Surprise’ of the Campaign”.
• Speaking of Politico that is where historian Josh Zeitz recalls Horace Greely, whose death shortly after the 1872 election represents “the last time a major-party presidential candidate was unable to make it to the actual vote of the Electoral College”, which in turn raises all manner of whispers and rumors about potential chaos, thus somehow inspiring the question, “Is a Historic Hail Mary Possible for the GOP?”
• The Associated Press, by dint of its reporting, obliges an interesting question about Rudy Giuliani: If “Giuliani says Trump is better for the US ‘than a woman'”, how much longer is society oblieged to give just how much of a damn about what Rudy Giuliani has to say?
• Phillip Bump chastises Kurt Eichenwald for missing a deleted tweet, or something, and, really, there’s nothing that could possibly go wrong with being so definitive as “The Trump-Putin link that wasn’t”.
• Also at WaPo, Aaron Blake explains, “Kellyanne Conway just demonstrated how impossible it is to defend Donald Trump right now”, which by no means should be construed as any reason to feel sorry for her; she did this to herself.
• Speaking of self-infliction, Matthew Rozsa of Salon takes a moment or three to marvel at how “The big loser in Donald Trump’s war against the GOP is Ted Cruz somehow”, and the only part of that we might contest is the last word, which seems to suggest uncertainty, though in the end the difference between Ted Cruz and the nation is a matter of priorities―some people reasonably argue that the American people are the biggest losers, but the American people also did this to themselves, and in any practical question that doesn’t render itself moot, yes, Ted Cruz is, well, a big freaking loser. Oh, right; but I digress.
• Jonathan Swan of The Hill broke an interesting headline: “Trump campaign CEO wanted to destroy Ryan”.
Image note: Donald Trump speaks to South Carolina voters in North Charleston, 19 February 2016. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
This is important:
In one important area, Pence has the advantage of being perceived as a mainstream pol. Politico published a piece yesterday that characterized tonight’s vice presidential debate as “Battle of the Normals,” and a “sane moment” in a campaign cycle that’s often seemed insane.
On a certain level, I can appreciate where analysis like this is coming from. As a matter of tone and temperament, Mike Pence is hardly scary: the governor is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken Midwesterner. Unlike the man at the top of the GOP ticket, no one would ever expect Pence to start tweeting at 3 a.m. about his disgust for a beauty-pageant contestant and encourage Americans to seek out a “sex tape.”
But to shift one’s focus from tone to policy is to see one of the most extremist politicians to seek national office in over a generation.
Steve Benen is not wrong. This has been a factor worth considering in recent years, and even more so this cycle. What counts as centrist or mainstream is, in American politics, a roving range. The msnbc blogger and producer continues:
About four years ago, Nate Silver published an interesting analysis of Paul Ryan, who’d just been named to Mitt Romney’s ticket. Nate wrote at the time, “Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. By this measure, in fact, which rates members of the House and Senate throughout different time periods on a common ideology scale, Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900.”
Nate added a chart, highlighting the fact that Ryan’s record put him slightly to the right of Dick Cheney, who was slightly to the right of Dan Quayle.
There are curious circumstances, now and again, in which the GOP hardliners leave me standing shoulder to shoulder with Republicans I generally wouldn’t get along with. George W. Bush on China, and suddenly I’m commiserating with Pat Buchanan? What was it, Jade Helm? How do Rick Perry and I land on the same side? I can tell you, though, that when Lindsey Graham is bagging points off John Kasich being described as a “moderate”, well, at least we have that much in common.
We revisit the question for Mike Pence. Benen notes the Indiana governor also has a record in Congress:
In the 107th Congress (Pence’s first, covering 2001 and 2002), for example, out of 435 members of the U.S. House, Pence ranked #428―meaning that 427 members were to his left, putting the Hoosier on the far-right-wing fringe. The results were roughly the same in the 108th Congress and the 109th.
By the 110th Congress, Pence was at #432, putting him to the right of nearly everyone in the chamber. The results were roughly the same in the 111th Congress and the 112th.
Let’s put this another way: during his congressional career, Pence wasn’t just more conservative than Paul Ryan. His voting record also put him to the right of Michele Bachmann, Todd Akin, Steve King, and even Louie Gohmert. That’s not an exaggeration. Bachmann, Akin, King, and Gohmert all had voting records less extreme than Mike Pence.
The problem is the gap between perceptions of Mike Pence and his actual record. To use Politico’s phrasing, the Hoosier is seen as “normal” and “conventional.” But on a substantive level, we’re talking about a politician whose claim to fame is an anti-LGBT law that did real harm to his state. Pence is a climate denier. He rejects the idea that cigarettes are deadly. He doesn’t believe in evolutionary biology, but he does support “conversion therapy.”
There was an embarrassing episode having to do with alleged Iraqi WMDs; something about privatizing Social Security not being conservative enough; something about government shutdowns; oh, right, and some manner of conspiracy theory about Disney film and women in the military.
Unfortunately, that last isn’t a joke.
Image note: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, 22 February 2015. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 GOP dark horse and the Hoosier State’s infamous “religious freedom” bill intended to empower discrimination. (Image credit: FOX News)
Benen, Steve. “Mike Pence saw secret propaganda in Disney film”. 18 July 2016.
—————. “Pence becomes the most far-right running mate in modern history”. msnbc. 15 July 2016.
—————. “To see Mike Pence as ‘normal’ is to grade on a generous curve”. msnbc. 4 October 2016.
Kaczynski, Andrew. “Mike Pence Argued In Op-Ed That Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Was Liberal Propaganda”. BuzzFeed. 17 July 2016.
Salter, Lamar. “‘My party has gone bats— crazy’: Lindsey Graham jokes about killing Ted Cruz and bashes the remaining GOP candidates”. Business Insider. 26 February 2016.
Silver, Nate. “A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan”. FiveThirtyEight. 11 August 2012.
“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.”
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.