The Susan B. Anthony List, a national organization that backs anti-abortion candidates running for public office announced Tuesday that, in partnership with Women Speak Out PAC, it had kicked off a “six-figure” effort over the August congressional recess to expose what it called “the abortion extremism” of as many as 20 Democrats currently serving in the U.S. House and Senate.
“Most Americans oppose taxpayer funding for abortion on demand, yet a majority of Democrats have no problem ignoring their constituents to vote in lock-step with the abortion industry,” Mallory Quigley, the vice president of communications for the SBA List and Women Speak Out’s national spokeswoman said.
The push to highlight the records of what organizers have labeled “The Terrible 20” began Monday with the posting of digital ads, a grassroots-driven phone call campaign, and a three-state press tour kicked off in North Carolina.
“Senators and representatives who insist on forcing taxpayers to fund abortion on demand and support barbaric, late abortions without limits must and will face the consequences of their extremism at the ballot box. SBA List’s ongoing campaign to expose abortion extremism in battleground states and districts includes a multifaceted education campaign and even door-to-door visits from our field team,” Quigley said.
The targeted Democrats – referred to by the campaign on social media as the #Terrible20 – include those who voted with the Biden Administration on initiatives to expand abortion and access to funding by ending the protections provided by “The Hyde Amendment” and other anti-abortion measures that have for decades blocked taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion-related services.
The targeted Democrats who make up the #Terrible20 are:
–Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA)
–Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ)
–Rep. Deborah Ross (NC-02)
–Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01)
–Rep. Stephanie Murphy (FL-07)
–Rep. Lucy McBath (GA-06)
–Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07)
–Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03)
–Rep. Sharice Davids (KS-03)
–Rep. Jared Golden (ME-02)
–Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08)
–Rep. Haley Stevens (MI-11)
–Rep. Christopher Pappas (NH-01)
–Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-13)
–Rep. Susan Wild (PA-07)
–Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-08)
–Rep. Conor Lamb (PA-17)
–Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15)
–Rep. Elaine Luria (VA-02)
–Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04)
All are thought to be seeking spots on the November 2022 ballot — though not all are running for re-election. Reps. Ryan of Ohio and Lamb of Pennsylvania have thrown their hats in the ring and are seeking the nomination of their party to run for the open U.S. Senate seats in their states. Sens. Warnock and Kelly, first elected in 2020 to fill unexpired terms, are expected to seek election to full six-year terms in the next election.
New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says while she is not seriously considering challenging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in next year’s Democratic Party, she also has not yet ruled it out, the New York Post reported Monday.
A race between the two would set up a battle that could affect the Democrat’s bid for outright control of the U.S. Senate. Schumer is currently the majority leader, but only because Vice President Kamala Harris is empowered, as president of the Senate, to cast a vote to break any ties that may occur in the chamber which, since January of this year has been evenly divided, with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats.
As a loud and proud progressive, AOC has worked tirelessly to drag her party to the left, creating conflicts with the more moderate members of her party who represent suburban districts held by the GOP before the 2018 election and whose interests Schumer safeguard from the other side of the U.S.
The 2020 congressional elections will be held in new districts drawn to reflect the population changes recorded in the 2020 national census. The final numbers are scheduled to be released later in August but, based on what is already known about the population shifts between the states, New York will lose one congressional seat. Mapmakers could, redistricting experts say, easily fold AOC’s current seat representing areas in the Bronx and Queens counties into one occupied by another Democrat, creating the need for a party primary that she could lose. Her efforts to keep the talk of a potential primary against Schumer alive may be a bluff designed to get the senator’s allies in Albany to make sure she gets a seat she likes and keeps.
AOC attempts to tamp down those rumors down by consistently portraying herself as a committed progressive who doesn’t think about electoral politics. “I know it drives everybody nuts. But the way that I really feel about this, and the way that I really approach my politics and my political career is that I do not look at things and I do not set my course positionally,” she said in an interview CNN aired Monday. “And I know there’s a lot of people who do not believe that. But I really — I can’t operate the way that I operate and do the things that I do in politics while trying to be aspiring to other things or calculating to other things.”
Should AOC decide to enter the Senate primary, it won’t quite be the David v Goliath battle some are suggesting it might be. Ocasio-Cortez is far stronger than she makes out, with a national fundraising network of her own that, while may not match Schumer’s would certainly allow her to be competitive. The contrast between the two would be noteworthy as it would pit the far left from the Reagan-Bush era – as represented by the Senate majority Leader – against the new Democrats who are driving the party’s agenda.
Should she win, it would have profound national implications by creating an opportunity for New York Republicans, working in concert with disaffected Democrats and traditional independents put off by AOC’s radicalism, to possibly win the seat in November – threatening national Democratic plans to win back control of the Senate. There’s plenty there to work with, especially AOC’s controversial views on foreign policy which, influenced as they are by Rep. Ilan Omar of Minnesota and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tliab, matter a great deal to voters in the area in and around New York City.
AOC has an opening only because Schumer – still learning on the job how to be majority leader – has had little success so far moving the progressive agenda through the Senate. Prominent progressives are growing grumpy that the changes they had been led to expect are coming at such a slow pace, if at all – and blame it on Schumer’s inability to keep Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Arizona’s Krysten Sinema from breaking ranks in much the same way the GOP’s ability to achieve its policy goals was constantly frustrated by the late John McCain’s independent streak.
Still, AOC has done the unexpected before, coming out of nowhere to defeat 10-term Democrat and potential House Speaker Joe Crowley in a 2018 primary in New York’s 14th congressional district. This is probably something Schumer and his political team are thinking about a lot, adding to the pressure he’s feeling from the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the sizeable progressive caucus in both congressional chambers to get their agenda through the Senate. Until she makes up her mind, he’s in for at least a few sleepless nights.
Two new independent polls on California’s September 14 recall election have a startling explanation for why Governor Gavin Newsom is in trouble. His support among minority communities is crumbling as issues such as crime, COVID restrictions, and a huge unemployment-benefits scandal dominate the race.
The Emerson College poll found that among likely voters, 48 percent favored keeping Newsom in office versus 46 percent who want him gone — a slim two-point margin. In a new poll by SurveyUSA taken for three media outlets, the recall leads 51 percent to 40 percent.
In 2018, Newsom won in a landslide based on his support among Hispanics (64 percent voted for him) and African Americans (86 percent voted for him).
Today, Hispanics in the Emerson poll support recalling the governor by 54 percent to 41 percent. In the SurveyUSA poll, the recall wins among Hispanics by six points. Among blacks and Asians in both polls, Newsom, leads but he’s down significantly from his 2018 showing.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
Overall, nearly a quarter of Democrats in both the Emerson poll and the SurveyUSA poll now back ousting their own party’s governor. In 2018, Republican nominee John Cox won only 6 percent of the Democratic vote.
Many minority voters who routinely vote Democratic have found it impossible to secure a place in the middle class. The Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says the walls against economic advancement are causing a political reassessment. “Our values are faith, family, and free enterprise. We’re entrepreneurs. We want to thrive; we don’t want to survive,” he told The Atlantic magazine.
What’s happening in California can be found in other states such as Texas and Florida. Christopher Hahn, a former Democratic consultant who hosts the Aggressive Progressive podcast, says Hispanic and Asian voters were routinely taken for granted by the Joe Biden campaign last year. “I believe they did (that) in 2020, and it almost cost him the election,” Hahn says.
Democrats don’t seem to be listening to what their most loyal voters are now saying as the 2022 midterm elections loom.
The Veep is down, the mayor is up.
It was all hands on deck last month at the home of Washington, D.C., powerbroker Kiki McLean, according to the irrefragable Jonathan Swan of Axios. Some of the Democratic Party’s most experienced and influential female political operatives—Donna Brazile, Jen Palmieri, Stephanie Cutter, Minyon Moore—gathered for dinner to discuss a germinating crisis within their party. “These were old friends getting together for the first time since the pandemic began, and celebrating a Democratic president after the Trump years,” Swan reports. “But the dinner had an urgent purpose.” Its object was to salvage the career of Vice President Kamala Harris. I hope there was plenty on hand to drink.
The brain trust arrived at two conclusions. First, Harris should emphasize her years as California’s attorney general, thereby reducing her exposure to the charge that the Democrats are soft on crime. Second, the poohbahs decided that much of the criticism of Harris’s job performance amounts to sexism. “Many of us lived through the Clinton campaign, and want to help curb some of the gendered dynamics in press coverage that impacted HRC,” a source told Swan. The problem with ascribing your candidate’s difficulties to “gendered dynamics,” of course, is that it doesn’t work. A candidate is truly “impacted” by their own attributes and competence. Sexism didn’t bury Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Clinton did—with a big assist from Robby Mook.
The subtext of Swan’s article, and much of the Harris commentary these days, is the 2024 election. President Biden is 78 years old. Professional Washington appears convinced that he will decide against running for a second term. Harris, as vice president, is Biden’s presumed successor. But the enthusiasm for her candidacy is not exactly overwhelming. Indeed, one of the most entertaining sideshows in the nation’s capital since January has been the steel cage match between Harris and her rival within the cabinet, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The prize is the Democratic Party. At the moment, Mr. Secretary can say—in seven languages—that he’s winning.
Recent months have not been pleasant for Harris. Her policy portfolio, consisting of voting rights and the southern border, has seen diminishing returns. Neither the unconstitutional “For the People Act” nor the anachronistic “John Lewis Voting Rights Act” is headed for passage. The Justice Department lawsuit against Georgia’s recent election reform is likely to be tossed out of court. Meanwhile, illegal immigrants continue to cross the border in record numbers. Immigration is Biden’s worst issue—thanks, Kamala—and the ploy to address the “root causes” of migration in Central America is diversionary and futile.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) recently teamed up with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and called on the president to install Jeh Johnson, former secretary of homeland security, as “border czar.” It is unlikely that Biden will follow their advice—the rebuke of Harris would be too obvious. But Cuellar’s desperation is impossible to ignore. “Democrats would do well to remember that public opinion polling over the years has consistently shown overwhelming majorities in favor of more spending and emphasis on border security,” writes demographer Ruy Teixeira in his invaluable newsletter the Liberal Patriot. And Democrats would do well to remember Vice President Harris’s approval rating: It’s upside down.
Buttigieg, by contrast, is cycling his way toward a bipartisan success. It’s true that transportation wasn’t his first pick: He wanted, by all accounts, to be U.N. ambassador. But there was no way Harris was going to let Biden park Buttigieg in the Ritz-Carlton in New York City, where he could spend four years burnishing his diplomatic credentials and wining and dining the financial services crowd that funds presidential campaigns. The U.N. job went to a career foreign serviceofficer instead.
As it happens, though, the transportation gig is working out for the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Buttigieg’s interviews are as gaffe-free (and as somnolent) as one might expect from someone who as a youth tested talking points in the mirror and dressed up as a “politician” for Halloween. The legislation with which he is most associated—the 2,700-page, $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework now under debate in the Senate—has a good chance of becoming law. And it’s popular.
Could Buttigieg leverage his experience managing a mid-level department into a winning presidential bid? Stranger things have happened, I suppose. What must keep Buttigieg up at night is his utter lack of appeal to the Democratic Party’s most important constituency: Recall the CNN poll from the summer of 2019 showing him with zero support among black voters. True, he tied Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucus. But Iowa doesn’t make Democratic nominees—South Carolina does. And Buttigieg placed fourth in the Palmetto State.
Then again, Harris doesn’t have much of a track record with black voters, either. She dropped out of the Democratic primary before the voting began, so it’s hard to judge her against actual results. Which raises this conundrum: How can the Biden Democrats succeed—or even exist—without Joe Biden?
Harris and Buttigieg, the two most prominent options in 2024, are gentry liberals with tenuous connections to working-class Democrats and suburban independents. It’s fun to watch them one-up each other. But Democratic professionals, including Kiki McLean’s dinner companions, must be wondering who else is on offer. Or might it be the case that President Biden has set up his heirs for failure on purpose, so that his party three years from now has no choice but to renominate his 81-year-old self? Sure, Joe Biden is a little crazy. But maybe he’s crazy like a fox.
Some questions for the national populists
The author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance was a prominent voice on the national-populist right even before July 1, when he entered the crowded primary to replace GOP senator Rob Portman of Ohio. In a speech to the 2019 National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., in appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight, and in his active Twitter feed, Vance has promoted a “realignment” of conservatism away from libertarianism and toward an agenda that uses government to defend traditional values and improve living conditions for the non-college educated voters at the base of the GOP.
Vance is a leader within that faction of the right which says the conservative movement’s emphasis on individual freedom, and its commitment to the classical liberal procedures and “norms” of constitutional government, is responsible for its apparent failure to preserve the nuclear family, and for its exclusion from mainstream institutions. He is a pacesetter for this trend, which drew energy from Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. And because Vance represents one possible future for the American right, I was eager to read the transcript of a speech he gave last weekend to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s “Future of American Political Economy” conference in Alexandria, Va. There is no doubting Vance’s smarts—he graduated from Yale Law School in 2013—or his communication skills. But his text left me with questions.
Vance’s subject was the “American dream.” This is an infamously nebulous concept. Does the American dream refer to a process—the social mobility that allows the adopted son of an immigrant to fly into space on his own rocket? Or does it signify an end-state—the single-family home with a white picket fence in the cul-de-sac occupied by 2 parents, 2.5 children, and a dog and cat? No one really knows. For Vance, the American dream “is about a good life in your own country.” But it is also about being “a good husband and a good father,” who is “able to provide my kids the things that I didn’t have when I was growing up.” It’s a dream that Vance has achieved.
Then Vance contrasts his dream with another dream, a bad dream, the “dream of Mitt Romney.” This American dream, apparently espoused by “establishment Republican politicians,” is a dream of “private jets,” “fancy businesses,” and “a lot of money.” Such an emphasis on material wealth, Vance says, makes most people’s “eyes sort of glaze over.” After all, most people aren’t rich. Most people just “want to live a good life in their own country,” with their spouse and children.
Vance must not be on Mitt Romney’s Christmas card list. Last I checked, the former Republican presidential nominee and current GOP senator from Utah has been married to his wife Ann for over half a century, and has five sons and a countless number of grandchildren. Whatever your disagreements with him—and I have a few—Mitt Romney is a decent, patriotic, and accomplished gentleman who unquestionably has lived “a good life” in his “own country.” Yes, he is quite wealthy. He owns a number of homes. One of them had a car elevator. But it’s not as though Romney made his affluence the basis of his claim to high office.
On the contrary: It was former president Trump who grounded his appeal in 2016 on his “private jets,” “fancy businesses,” television celebrity, and considerable fortune. It was former president Trump who took kids for rides on his helicopter during the 2015 Iowa State Fair, who turned a campaign press conference at Mar-a-Lago into an infomercial for various Trump-branded products, and whose personal life, let us say, could not be more unlike Mitt Romney’s. Yet Vance casts Romney as the bogeyman in this contest of American dreams, and says he regrets voting for someone other than Trump in 2016. What gives? Not only did I end this section of the speech without a clear idea of what the American dream is or who best represents it, I was left wondering what factor other than his opposition to Trump actually prevents Romney from meeting the criteria that Vance sets out.
Vance says that “to live a good life in your own country, you have to actually feel respected. And you have to be able to teach your children to honor and love the things that you were taught to love.” No problem there; I couldn’t agree more. The danger of the culture wars, he goes on, is that the left will force Americans into a posture of regret and shame over their history. The left imposes costs on individuals—de-platforming, ostracization, cancellation—to police retrograde thought and behavior. “That is what the culture war is about.” And he’s right.
Then Vance says that because the only institution conservatives control, on occasion, is government, we ought to use political power to impose costs of our own on “woke capital,” “woke corporations,” and academia. Vance neglects to mention the various counter-institutions that the conservative movement built since World War II to address the problem he describes. Nor does he explain, exactly, how “breaking up the big technology oligarchy” would help men and women like his Mamaw. Even so, the idea that conservatives should use policy to further their conception of the public good is something of a truism. Everybody thinks they are furthering the good. The question, as always, is the means we employ to that end, and whether those means actually work. Government bureaucracy and regulation, for example, are not known for their contribution to human wellbeing (see: Centers for Disease Control). No matter who’s in charge.
At this point, however, Vance makes another statement that left me befuddled. “I’m going to get in trouble for this,” he says, but he goes ahead anyway and asks, “Why have we let the Democrat Party become controlled by people who don’t have children?” Now, he acknowledges, somewhat, that what he is saying is not strictly true: Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi all have kids, and Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi control the Democratic Party and, at present, the national political agenda. Nevertheless, Vance name-checks Kamala Harris (who has two stepchildren), Pete Buttigieg (who, according to the Washington Post, is trying to adopt), Cory Booker, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who’s 31 years old). Vance understands, he says, that “there have always been people” who, “even though they would like to have kids, are unable to have them.” He has no problem with this population, he hastens to add, though he never stops to ask whether any of the four Democrats he singled out fall into it.
What bothers Vance is “a political movement, invested theoretically in the future of this country, when not a single one of them actually has any physical commitment to the future of this country.” He says, without supplying any evidence, that the reason the media are “so miserable and unhappy” is that “they don’t have any kids.” The collapse in American fertility, he goes on, is a crisis “because it doesn’t give our leaders enough of an investment in the future of their country.”
I agree that the decline in American birth rates is troubling, that “babies are good,” and that raising children is an indescribably worthwhile, utterly exhausting, and often infuriating experience (I have two). Children join us in that intergenerational compact which Edmund Burke described as the essence of traditionalist conservatism. No kids, no future.
But you know who else doesn’t have children? A lot of conservatives and Republicans. Maybe they can’t have them, maybe they’ll adopt, or maybe life just brought them to a different place. That doesn’t in one iota reduce their dignity as human beings, or their potential to contribute to America’s public life. And that goes for Democrats and independents, too.
William Rusher, the longtime publisher of National Review, never had children. Does his contribution to American politics count for less? Condoleezza Rice doesn’t have kids. Did that stop her from serving her country for eight years as national security adviser and secretary of state? Lindsey Graham has no children. Has that prevented him from unswerving loyalty to President Trump? Pat Buchanan is childless—yet he formulated the arguments that define so much of national populism today.
Indeed, until a few years ago, the 53-year-old billionaire who donated $10 million to Vance’s super PAC had no kids. Should his contributions to political candidates and philanthropic causes during that time be retroactively judged suspect? The assertion that parenthood is somehow a prerequisite for effective statesmanship is nonsensical. It’s also insulting. Great parents can make terrible leaders—and great leaders are often terrible parents.
Vance says that the “civilizational crisis” of declining fertility requires providing additional “resources to parents who tell us the only reason they’re not having kids is because they can’t afford it.” How should we do this? “We can debate the policy details.” But the only specific proposals Vance mentions are Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s subsidized loans to married couples who promise to have kids, and the completely fantastical idea of demeny voting, whereby parents vote on behalf of their children. What he doesn’t mention, as one of those sullen, devious, childless journalists pointed out, was either the child tax credit the Biden administration is sending to families as we speak, or the various other child credit plans advanced by Senate Republicans, including—wait for it—Mitt Romney.
How can it be that the same “establishment Republican” who represents such an unattractive version of the American dream also wants to make life easier for the working families in whose name Vance speaks? And while I am asking questions, What evidence is there that government spending can arrest, not to say reverse, a demographic process hundreds of years in the making? What special clarity and insight into the workings of politics do parents possess, and on what basis shall we implement the radical ideas that a Hungarian demographer came up with 35 years ago? What does the substance of Vance’s remarks actually have to do with the everyday concerns of Ohio Republicans? I found it noteworthy, for example, that immigration, crime, and “election integrity” don’t come up until the final paragraphs of Vance’s remarks. The word “inflation” does not appear at all.
Such is the confusion that arises when a movement anchors itself to the personality of one former president, when a movement neglects the principles of political and economic freedom that guided it for so many years. It seems to me that for national populism to have a viable future, it needs to avoid straw men, see its political antagonists not as alien enemies but as fellow Americans, concentrate on the issues voters care about, and clarify its thinking on the relation of economics and culture. Can J.D. Vance accomplish this formidable task? He has until primary day—May 3—to try.
National Republicans have spent much of the last few months confounded by a challenge. Their opponents are attempting to compel them to choose between embracing Donald Trump and rejecting him. The former president’s shadow looms over everything—and will, until he announces his intentions for 2024.
A lot can happen between now and then. GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) need to go to the American people now with alternatives to what the Democrats are offering. Waiting on Trump to make up his mind or worrying about what he will say is a big mistake.
The Republicans came out of the last election in a much stronger position than many commentators are willing to acknowledge. They gained seats in the U.S. House and, were it not for Trump’s post-election temper tantrum, would have maintained their majority in the U.S. Senate instead of losing two seats in Georgia they should have easily won.
Trump’s campaign autopsy put the blame for the president’s defeat on a failure to manage the COVID crisis effectively. That may have been more perception than reality—since his inauguration, Biden has done little more than stick to the plan already in place regarding what to do after a vaccine was developed. Yet, having voted for the “moderate” Democrat who would “fix” the pandemic, many Republicans and Independents now find themselves incredulous at the speed with which he’s moved to the hard left.
Biden hasn’t been able to get his agenda through, but not because the GOP has pushed back persuasively. The GOP is benefitting from an ideological split among their Democratic opponents who, with the narrowest of majorities in both chambers, are led by two spectacularly unimaginative leaders. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are intent on getting everything passed in one or two bills. With the slim majority they have, that’s a bad strategy.
The GOP leadership needs to reflect on how long it can go before it must posit substantive alternatives to the Democrats’ radicalism. It needs to pivot and refocus the conversation on the most important issue: jobs and the economy.
While the economy is adding jobs, it’s not as many as most economists predict it should be. Republicans should find it galling that Biden claims the credit when his initiatives are job killers. The jobs we’re seeing the economy add were created under Trump after the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act but eliminated because of the lockdowns that governors—most of them Democrats—kept in place far too long.
Instead of focusing on Washington, McConnell, McCarthy, RNC Chairman Ronna McDaniel and the rest of the GOP leadership should direct the American people’s attention to the states. That’s where the contrast between the two parties really shows.
It’s the Republican states where jobs are coming back the fastest. The five states with the lowest unemployment rates in June 2021 have Republican governors and at least nominal GOP legislative majorities. The eight with the highest unemployment rate are led by Democrats. Republican leadership in the states is succeeding first because their economic fundamentals were sound to begin with. And second because the governors of those states, unlike their Democratic counterparts, had the good sense to suspend the unemployment bonus payments that allowed people to stay at home drawing checks rather than look for work.
In Arizona and Ohio, for example, GOP governors Doug Ducey and Mike DeWine just signed off on tax cuts that will improve the business climate and the outlook for family budgets already being squeezed by “Bidenflation,” with consumer prices already up by more than 5 percent over last year. In Mississippi, GOP leaders like House Speaker Philip Gunn are pulling together a plan to increase competitiveness and attract jobs by phasing out the state income tax. All this is happening at the same time that Joe Bidenand his administration are trying to raise taxes through the roof in the U.S. while getting the industrialized nations of the world to agree to adopt a growth-killing minimum global corporate tax.
The GOP has a compelling tale to tell. It’s a story of how one political party will, if given the chance, take the American people down a path leading to limited government, more personal choice in key areas of life like health care and education, lower taxes, incentives to grow the economy and new jobs while the other party is primarily concerned with making government bigger and then feeding its unending hunger through higher taxes. The choice could not be clearer, so why not talk about it?
An overwhelming number of Americans likely to vote in the November 2022 election said they were troubled to one degree or another by the problem of “fake news,” a survey released Friday said, likely prompting them to view the information they are getting from traditional media outlets with a degree of distrust.
The poll conducted by the firm Rasmussen Reports found a vast majority of the 1,000 likely voters questioned – 83 percent – called “fake news” was a serious problem. A clear majority – 55 percent – defined it as “very serious.”
“Only 37 percent of voters say they trust the political news they’re getting, while 43 percent say they don’t trust political news,” the polling firm reported, calling it a “slight improvement” since April 2021 when a similar survey found only 33 percent of respondents said they “trusted political news.” That same poll had 54 percent of those participating saying they thought “most reporters, when they write or talk about President Joe Biden, are trying to help the president pass his agenda.”
Distrust of media, the poll showed, is widespread across all demographic categories, with 54 percent of whites, 56 percent of black voters, and 60 percent described as “other minorities” believing “fake news” is a “very serious problem in the media.”
Alarming as those numbers might be, even more shocking – but perhaps not unsurprising – is the number of respondents in agreement with the characterization of the media as “truly the enemy of the people,” an accusation made by former President Donald J. Trump that was widely criticized even by some journalists who are not considered members of the media elite.
The Rasmussen Reports survey found a majority of those surveyed – 58 percent — saying they agreed “at least somewhat” with Trump’s description including 56 percent of whites, 63 percent of blacks, and 60 percent of other minorities considered likely to vote in the next election.
“As might be expected, Republicans are more likely to agree with Trump’s description,” the firm said of its findings while cautioning that “37 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of voters not affiliated with either major party also at least somewhat agree.”
The poll finds members of the GOP also more likely to identify “fake news” as a problem but, incredibly, 74 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of unaffiliated voters also thought it was “at least a somewhat serious problem in the media.”
The numbers concerning Democrats and independents are surprising considering that, as Rasmussen Reports found, it’s President Joe Biden’s strongest supporters who “have more trust” in the media than those who are not satisfied with the direction his presidency is taking.
“Among voters who strongly approve of Biden’s job performance as president, 72 percent trust the political news they’re getting,” Rasmussen Reports said. “By contrast, among voters who strongly disapprove of Biden’s performance, 74 percent don’t trust the political news they’re getting.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man many consider to be the public face of the U.S. government’s fight against the COVID virus, now stands accused of violating a federal law prohibiting certain government employees from engaging in activities and making statements intended to influence the electorate.
Protect the Public’s Trust, a government watchdog organization, said in a June 30 filing that Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, ran afoul of Hatch Act restrictions during an October 30, 2020 interview with The Washington Post in which he “intimated that the state of the nation’s public health outlook could be directly linked to the two candidates’ diverse approaches” to combating the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The virus, which some allege was created in a bacteriological research facility in the People’s Republic of China, spread rapidly around the world and is believed to be responsible for the death of more than 600,000 people in the United States alone. A recent Rasmussen Reports national survey of registered voters found 46 percent did not believe Fauci had not been truthful about U.S. financial support for the “gain of function” research — defined as “taking a virus that could infect humans and making it either more transmissible and/or pathogenic for humans” — conducted by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, who is also a physician and has aggressively called for a full investigation into the origins of COVID has said repeatedly that emails sent and received by Fauci and uncovered by a Freedom of Information Act request show that Fauci was aware American taxpayer-funded grants were at least partially underwriting the Wuhan lab’s research that may have produced the virus.
Asked by The Post about the differences between the plans of the two 2020 presidential candidates for dealing with the pandemic, Fauci praised then-former Vice President Joe Biden for “taking it seriously from a public health perspective” while stating simply that President Donald J. Trump was “looking at it from a different perspective.”
The group’s complaint also singles out Fauci’s call for an “abrupt change” just days before voters headed to the polls. It could be inferred from his remark that he was advocating for Biden to replace Trump in the White House though, in the context of the interview it appears he was talking about the national strategy for stopping the spread of COVID.
The collection of issues related to COVID has a major impact on the 2020 election. They were, Protect the Public’s Trust recently wrote, a “paramount concern for voters entering the 2020 general election.” An August 2020 pre-election Pew Research poll cited by the group found, “62 percent of voters say[ing] the outbreak will be a very important factor in their decision about who to support in the fall.”
Post-election surveys as well as Trump’s own campaign team’s analysis explaining why he lost suggest strongly the public’s perception he’d mishandled the pandemic drove many voters — even some who typically vote GOP — to cast their ballots for Biden.
“The timing of (Fauci’s) statements, combined with the circumstances of the interview and post-election comments celebrating the outcome,” The Federalist wrote about the complaint when it broke the story in June, “illustrate further intent in Fauci’s remarks that violate the Hatch Act.”
The election, The Federalist pointed out, was decided by less than 43,000 votes across what it called “three tipping-point states” despite Biden’s popular vote total having exceeding trump’s by more than 7 million. The narrowness of the actual result could, some election professionals say, be interpreted as lending support to the argument made by the watchdog group that Fauci’s remarks assisted Biden politically even though that would be hard to prove.
The federal Hatch Act dates back to the New Deal period and is the result of allegations some connected to the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt had played politics with funds intended to alleviate the economic impact of the Great Depression to the benefit of local Democratic Party political machines. In its current form, it also prohibits members of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service – of which Fauci is part – from engaging in political activity while on duty and from using their official authority to interfere with an election.
After having qualified for the UEFA European Championship 2020, Hungary finished last in its group that included France, Germany and Portugal too. The two ties, 1:1 and 2:2 respectively against France and Germany were celebrated as actual victories, while the 0:3 defeat to Portugal in Budapest was hailed as a quasi-triumph on the account that the match stood 0:0 until the 84th minute. The Prime Minister Viktor Orban, members of his cabinet as well as top functionaries of his FIDESZ party, and the more excitable fans celebrated the actual elimination of the national team from the most important European competition as a clear sign that Hungary’s redemption from domestic and international oblivion has taken a decisive step forward.
Contrary to the one-party rule propaganda, the grim reality is that the Viktor Orban-led Hungary is in multiple crises. Since 2010, when the Hungarian voters in their boundless naivete rewarded Viktor Orban with two-thirds majority, the country has gradually reverted to the pre-1990s one party rule. As in the old Communist times, a single individual controls everything, from all three branches of the government, through the nation’s economy, to the written and electronic media.
Indeed, as during the Soviet occupation, the fear of the despotic powers has overcome the population. Life, property and personal freedoms have been subject to arbitrary decisions. Ownership of lands and successful businesses have been unsafe from well-connected greedy individuals who have enjoyed impunity from illegal acts by the FIDESZ-controlled police and prosecutorial authorities. Corruption has been pervasive, systematic and thus out of control. The well-educated have been leaving Hungary in droves. Young people have seen no future for themselves and their children in a country that does not value knowledge, experience and merit-based accomplishments. Nepotism and loyalty to Viktor Orban have been the new symbolic “little red Communist party membership cards” to professional and financial success.
Meanwhile, investments in the productive sectors of the economy, in education and in health care have been almost non-existent. Yet, monies have been poured unaccounted into erecting an irrational number of soccer stadiums, building other sport-related facilities and attempting to secure the rights to organize a variety of European and World competitions in Hungary. Under Orban, soccer has become the great political unifier of the Hungarian nation. In the government propaganda, Viktor Orban has reminded Hungarians incessantly that the country’s national soccer team represents more than a team. According to him, it embodies Hungary with its past, present and future. His slogan “We are bound together by the Red, the White and the Green” references the national colors of Hungary. To add an oversized enthusiasm to this absurd and existentially meaningless political hype, Viktor Orban also claims that “Together we are the greatest team.”
All this should serve as a spooky reminder to the morbid practices of the East German and the Romanian Communist leaders. Erich Honecker, the long serving Communist leader in East Berlin sank huge sums of money into a wide assortment of sports to prove the superiority of his political regime vis-a-vis the truly democratic Federal Republic of Germany. In the same spirit, the other Communist despot in Bucharest Nicolae Ceausescu feverishly built soccer stadiums, the majority of which was never used during his lifetime. East Germany disappeared from the map following the successful unification of the divided Germany on October 3, 1990. Nicolae Ceaușescu was summarily tried and executed immediately thereafter with his wife by a firing squad on December 25, 1989. Today, heirs to these dead Communists are Viktor Orban and his pal on the crossroads of Europe and Asia Recep Tayip Erdogan. However, as in East Germany and Romania of the not so distant past, only the mentally handicaped think in Hungary and Turkey that their respective countries’ general situation would improve because of the progressive performance of their soccer teams.
In addition to expediting the erosion of the nation’s value system, Viktor Orban’s self-serving and narcissistic psychopathy has contributed to the disintegration from within the post-Communist Hungarian society. Having been a Dopey Ignoramus by nature, Viktor Orban reminds Hungarians of their past and present miseries and their innermost feelings that their country historically has constantly been under siege by external enemies. For this reason, he has suggested that the present hostility from NATO and the European Union toward Hungary must be countered domestically by a pervasive government oversight and vigilant interventions in every aspect of the citizens’ lives.
Under the current structure of the one-party state, in which Viktor Orban’s utterances cannot be challenged, his exaggerated and aggressive chauvinism has created a thriving cult of paranoia. Thus, during the 2018 national election campaign, posters went up, warning people to watch out for foreign enemies, such as the financier George Soros, the liberal establishment in Brussels, as well as the allegedly unpatriotic machinations of his domestic opposition. In rural backwaters, he and his party warned of Western-backed “destructive influences” and “anti-Christian infiltration.”
No wonder that Hungary’s authoritarian turn has reverberated far beyond the borders of the country. As Viktor Orban has sought to eliminate foreign and domestic challengers, his ruthless efforts have sparked mistrust in Brussels and Washington, D.C. As Viktor Orban’s personal despotism faces another electoral test in the spring of 2022, his ambivalence about the durability of his over a decade long reign shows the fundamental uncertainties and even failures of his soccer symbolized political project. Accordingly, less than a year before the next elections, Hungary is more an underdeveloped country than a developing one with an insignificant geostrategic value for the United States of America as well as NATO. Yet, this relative insignificance does not mean that Viktor Orban’s Hungary cannot pose a serious threat to the unity of NATO and the European Union by the way of emerging Chinese and Russian penetrations.
The United States of America in particular has the opportunity to take an active and effective stand against what Viktor Orban has been doing and would attempt to do in the future. The Biden administration could convey to the Hungarian government its objections to the hardening of authoritarianism, its shameless corruption and its demonization of the opposition. Moreover, the Biden administration could communicate its displeasure over the Hungarian situation internationally. In this context, the White House and the State Department could utilize the written and electronic media to expose Viktor Orban’s destructive, irrational and immoral regime in its entirety. Finally, President Biden should warn Viktor Orban in no uncertain terms that the continuation of his anti-NATO as well as anti-European Union policies would further perpetuate his status as an outcast within both organizations.
Time is of the essence. The White House must take the lead to state unequivocally that the member states of NATO and the European Union will not stand for Viktor Orban’s anti-Western political vandalism. Viktor Orban’s vaingloriousness aside, Washington, D.C. and Brussels cannot afford the kind of disruption to their core interests and fragile unity that he and his regime represent. The threat of Chinese and Russian penetration of NATO and the European Union, coupled with a burgeoning regional instability by Viktor Orban’s destructive chauvinism, makes the Hungarian situation absolutely untenable for the West. For this reason, the situation in Hungary must be met now with an urgent coordinated response from the community of free nations. In closing, Viktor Orban must be shown the soccer’s red card by the leaders of NATO and the European Union that stands for the sending-off from the field of players who exhibit violent and illegal conduct or purposeful obstruction of a goal scoring opportunity for the opposing team. By doing so, the Free World could demonstrate its resolve to assist every member state that lost its way to full democracy to find its path back to political, economic and moral well-being.
Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signed into law Friday a bill that would make the Silver State the first in the nation to hold a presidential primary during a general election year.
The measure, which passed both chambers in the Nevada state legislature last month, changes both the manner and date of the Nevada contest. Previously a caucus, delegates to the national nominating conventions would be chosen in a primary held on the first Tuesday in February, The Hill newspaper reported.
Despite Sisolak making the move law with his signature, the major national political parties will still have to approve the calendar change. A refusal by either party to agree to the move puts the state at risk to lose its delegates to the 2024 national nominating conventions.
The move also sets up a fight with New Hampshire, which traditionally and by state law is currently home to the first-in-the-nation primary. At the time this story was written, Gov. Chris Sununu had yet to comment but it is unlikely he and the members of the state legislature will allow its historical role to be eclipsed. Legislation moving the New Hampshire primary to an earlier date so that it would come before the new date set for Nevada is likely.
The Nevada move would also likely push the Iowa Caucus back to an earlier date. Voters there traditionally meet to show support for nominees before the New Hampshire primary. Any contest between these three states (and others that might wish to move their nominating dates toward the beginning of the process) has the potential to move the first balloting for the next presidential race back into 2023.
The Hill reported the initiative to move to a primary in an early position on the calendar was pushed by state Democrats including former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid who, despite his retirement remains a powerful force in state politics. To justify the move they cite at least in part problems with the Iowa caucuses in 2020. In his first and thus far only televised White House press conference, President Joe Biden affirmed he plans to be a candidate for re-election in 2024.
There are certain words one never associates with former President Donald J. Trump. One of them is “coy.” Yet there he is, dancing around the question of whether he’ll run for president in 2024 like a young girl who is asked out for the first time.
Trump remains a power in the GOP, but it’s not certain he’ll run again. In 2016, his carefully crafted image as an outsider bent on shaking things up tapped into the public’s frustration over the way government continually fails to solve problems and, in the process, makes many of them worse.
The Republican presidential field in 2016 was fertile ground for the seeds he would plant. But 2024 is not 2016. Trump’s pathway back to power is not as straight as his overwhelming popularity among likely GOP primary voters makes it appear to be.
Before getting to that, however, it’s useful to review how he originally became the GOP nominee in 2016.
First, because just about everything he said made heads explode at the headquarters of the elite New York media, Republican primary voters immediately concluded he was a trustworthy conservative.
Second, coverage of Trump being outrageous and combative sold papers and generated ratings. Promoting his candidacy became an issue of financial self-interest among the media conglomerates who make and break American presidential candidates.
Third, a cohort of media stars supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bid to become the first female president helped Trump along because they thought he was the Republican it would be easiest for her to beat.
Fourth, no other Republican running in 2016 could have taken down Trump without ending his or her own candidacy. Rather than alienate the voters warming to his message, the large field of Republicans mostly took the punches he threw without punching back. They let him define them. “Little Marco” and “Low-Energy Jeb” worked because Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) were too timid to push back hard enough when it still might have mattered.
Trump has had a good week. His recent speech to a statewide gathering of North Carolina Republicans was generally well-received. And the release of a government report exonerating him of charges that he ordered demonstrators occupying Lafayette Park in May and June of 2020 tear-gassed and dispersed so he could stage a “photo-op” gives his supporters one more media lie to point to.
The other Republicans who want to be president already understand that winning the nomination requires going through Trump. They’re going to have to play rough like him—which, in a much smaller field than the one in 2016, changes the calculation in their favor, not his.
Consider former Vice President Mike Pence, who’s already out making speeches and will soon visit the critical early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. He’ll never say so publicly, but most everyone in GOP circles knows his relationship with Trump is currently frosty and only likely to grow colder. Trump is an anchor around Pence’s neck, whether he runs or not. It’s in the former veep’s political interest to start drawing distinctions early.
If he does, other potential GOP candidates like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will also have openings to differentiate themselves from Trump. Former Trump-era Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley already tried, but did it too early, got slapped for it politically and has had to keep her head down while she repairs the damage.
The thing most likely to keep Trump from winning the nomination is his need for vindication. He keeps talking about voter fraud being responsible for his loss in 2020 without offering verifiable proof that it occurred on the scale he claims. There probably was some fraud—there always is—and the vehemence with which the Democrats try to shut down any discussion of it is puzzling. Nonetheless, it’s an old story that’s getting older by the day. Americans like to look and go forward. They aren’t that much interested in backing up if Bidenflation has wiped out their savings accounts and sent their job overseas.
If Trump wants to be the next GOP presidential nominee, he needs to talk more about what he’ll do to win in 2024 than why he lost in 2020. The chances of that happening, say many GOP insiders, is minimal.
Presidents who misremember history are doomed to repeat it
President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress underscored this administration’s left turn. The speech was a laundry list of progressive priorities in domestic, foreign, and social policy with a price tag, when you add in the American Rescue Plan, of some $6 trillion. Biden’s delivery, heavy with improvisation, only slightly enlivened a prosaic and unoriginal text. Biden repeated lines from both Bill “the power of our example” Clinton and Barack “the arc of the moral universe” Obama. But it wasn’t just the words themselves that made me think of Biden’s most recent Democratic predecessors. The scope of his plans, increasing government’s role in just about every aspect of American life, also brought to mind the Democrats who tried to govern as liberals after campaigning as moderates.
I’m old enough to recall the last president who vanquished Reaganism. Obama spoke of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” and came to Washington in 2009 with the aim of changing the trajectory of the country just as Ronald Reagan had done three decades earlier. Shortly before his one hundredth day in office, he delivered a speech at Georgetown University where he promised to lay a “new foundation” for the country. His friends in the media hailed him as the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “Barack Obama is bringing back the era of big government,” historian Matthew Dallek and journalist Samuel Loewenberg announced in the New York Daily News.
We know how that turned out. The GOP captured the House in 2010. By the time Obama left office, Republicans had full control of Washington and were dominant in the states. Reaganism survived. And now, 12 years later, the cycle is repeating. This time it’s President Biden who is likened to FDR. It’s Biden who is said to have interred the idea of limited government. It’s Biden who is marking his first 100 days in office with plans to spend trillions on infrastructure, green energy, health care, and elder and child care. The political setbacks of the Obama years didn’t temper Biden’s ambitions. They intensified his desire to leverage narrow congressional majorities into sweeping expansions of the welfare state.
Why does Biden think he can avoid Obama’s fate? Like a good lawyer, he has a theory of the case. It goes like this: Neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama spent enough money to ensure a strong economic recovery. They didn’t emphasize jobs above all else. Their caution was responsible for Democratic losses in the midterm elections. And all it takes is GOP control of one chamber of Congress to spoil a liberal revival. By opening the floodgates of federal spending, Biden hopes to deepen and extend the post-coronavirus economic boom. Growth and full employment will prevent a Republican takeover. And a second Progressive Era will begin.
The problem with this theory is its selective misreading of history. It wasn’t just the economy that sank the Democrats in 1994 and 2010. It was independent voters who turned against presidents who campaigned as moderates but governed as liberals. Nor did rising unemployment stop Republicans from picking up seats in 2002. And an economic boom didn’t save the House GOP in 2018. In every case, assessments of the president—among independent voters in particular—mattered more than dollars and cents. By committing himself to the idea that massive spending will safeguard the Democratic Congress, Biden may be inadvertently guaranteeing the partisan overreach that has doomed past majorities.
Biden doesn’t give enough credit to the record of his Democratic predecessors. The unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in January 1993 when Bill Clinton was inaugurated. By November 1994, it had fallen to 5.6 percent. Meanwhile, the economy grew by 4 percent in the third quarter of 1994. Nevertheless, the Republicans won control of the House for the first time in 40 years and the Senate for the first time in 8 years. Why? Because Republicans won independents 56 percent to 44 percent. Voters who had backed Ross Perot in 1992 swung to the GOP. Voters’ top priority in the exit poll wasn’t jobs. It was crime. And the failure of Clinton’s unpopular health plan didn’t help.
The 2010 midterm had similar results. The economy, while nothing to brag about, was nonetheless improving. Unemployment had been falling since October 2009. Growth, though anemic, had also returned. Republicans gained 63 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate because independents rejected President Obama’s governance. They backed Republicans 56 percent to 37 percent—an 8-point swing against a president they had supported in 2008. Why? Part of the reason was the economy. But the Affordable Care Act was also significant. Health care was voters’ second priority in the exit poll. A 48 percent plurality called for Obamacare’s repeal.
Biden’s theory also omits the contrary examples of recent Republican presidents. In November 2002 the unemployment rate was higher, and growth lower, than in November 2000. But the GOP had a good year anyway thanks to President Bush’s high post-9/11 approval ratings and a tough but effective campaign on national security.
The 2018 midterm is further proof that campaign results are not a direct function of economic performance. Democrats won control of the House despite full employment and sustained growth. Independents, who had narrowly backed President Trump in 2016, turned against him and voted for Democratic candidates by a 12-point margin. No mystery why: A 38-percent plurality of voters said they were voting to oppose Trump, whose strong disapproval rating was at an incredible 46 percent in the exit poll. Health care ranked as the top issue, with voters recoiling at the prospect of an Obamacare replacement that failed to cover preexisting conditions.
Not only do the data show that the economy is less important to the midterms than many assume, they are also a reminder that the first hundred days do not define a presidency. The fate of a president and his party depends more on his ability to maintain popularity and on his performance during unanticipated crises. While Biden’s approval ratings continue to be positive and his disapproval low, there are some warning signs: His approval among independents ranges between the mid- to high-50s, and a majority of voters disapproves of his handling of migration along the southern border. Focused on his grand plans for the economy, Biden might dismiss voter concerns over immigration, crime, and inflation until it is too late.
Sure, Biden might avoid making Barack Obama’s mistakes. But he has plenty of time to make mistakes of his own.
Former vice president Mike Pence announced Thursday the formation of Advancing American Freedom to promote “the pro-freedom policies of the last four years that created unprecedented prosperity at home and restored respect for America abroad.”
To lead the group, he’s chosen Dr. Paul Teller, a highly regarded former congressional staffer and member of his vice-presidential staff. Teller’s policy chops and conservative contacts are hard to match. Pence has also attracted other conservative heavyweights—like former Heritage Foundation presidents Dr. Ed Feulner and Kay Coles James, Arizona governor Doug Ducey, Ambassador Calista and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former senior Trump advisers Larry Kudlow and Kellyanne Conway and important organizational leaders like Lisa Nelson, Penny Nance and Marjorie Dannenfelser—to serve on AAF’s advisory board.
If you think this looks like a presidential campaign in all but name, you’re not wrong. Pence says he wants AAF to blend “traditional conservative values with the Make America Great Again policy agenda that propelled the nation to new economic heights, and unprecedented strength and prosperity.” That’s a fancy way of saying “take the best of Trump, jettison the baggage and create an agenda the American people—especially the formerly reliable Republican suburban voters who helped put Joe Biden in office—can embrace.”
It’s a smart formula that relies on addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division. As GOP political consultant Roger Stone used to advise, anything a campaign does that isn’t focused on growing its share of the vote is a waste of time.
The question is whether Pence can pull it off. As a House member, he was a GOP star, perhaps in line to be speaker someday. As Indiana’s governor he was a solid, if not exactly inspiring, chief executive who on the ideas front could never quite outshine his immediate predecessor, Republican Mitch Daniels—who is now president of Purdue University.
Pence has a chance to shine now, to step into the spotlight and show America what he’d do and how he’d inspire voters to embrace conservatism redefined. He could bring back the sunny optimism and hope that defined Reaganism—strong and not defensive but also not obnoxious.
On paper that sounds easy. In real life, it will be hard. The media elite already have their guns out for Biden’s potential 2024 challengers. Look at the hatchet job CBS‘s 60 Minutes just tried to do on Florida GOP governor Ron DeSantis, another possible presidential candidate, by alleging that in exchange for campaign contributions he let the Publix supermarket chain dispense the COVID-19 vaccine. The story landed with a thud—but it’s likely just the first of many drive-bys the media will try.
Let’s face it; the elite media helped put Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in office and have a vested interest in seeing them stay there. That means the knives are out for Pence, DeSantis, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and any other Republican who wants the nomination. This will make it especially tough for the former vice president as The New York Times, CNN and others try to tie him to the former president.
The challenges Pence faces on his way to the White House are threefold. First, he must separate himself from Trump enough to allow the Never-Trumpers to consider voting for him while not alienating the MAGA movement. Second, he has to come up with a bold agenda for growth and reform that will get the country moving again to counter what the Democrats offer during Biden’s term. Third, Trump has to decide not to run.
Since the third point is out of his control, Pence would do best to concentrate on the other two. The team he’s assembled so far represents a top-tier mix of MAGA conservatives and Reaganites, meaning that when he runs, Pence will be a force to be reckoned with.
A favorite Republican catchphrase deserves higher scrutiny
“We are now the party supported by most working-class voters,” congressman Jim Banks of Indiana wrote to House minority leader Kevin McCarthy in a six-page memo this week. Banks, head of the Republican Study Committee, said the lesson is clear: It’s time to act like a working-class party. “Our electoral success in the 2022 midterm election,” he concluded, “will be determined by our willingness to embrace our new coalition.”
The Banks memo, first reported by Axios, is part of a trend. Influential Republicans have embraced the notion that Donald Trump transformed the GOP into the vehicle of the proletariat. “We are a working-class party now,” Josh Hawley tweeted on election night. “The future of the party is based on a multiethnic, multiracial, working class coalition,” Marco Rubio said a week later. “The future of the Republican Party is as a party that defends the social, economic, and cultural interests and values of working American families of every race, color, and creed,” Trump toldCPAC in February. Last month, Rubio announced his support for Amazon employees in Alabama who want to form a union.
Banks doesn’t go that far. The word union appears nowhere in his memo. He mentions “labor” only once, in a derisive reference to a Democratic special interest group. The lacuna is a reminder: Despite the emerging consensus that the GOP is a working-class party, there is little agreement on what such a party should stand for. Industrial policy? Trust busting? Family subsidies and financial transaction taxes? Banks sidesteps these trendy measures on the intellectual right. He suggests instead that Republican candidates adopt Trump’s posture of opposition to illegal immigration, offshoring of manufacturing jobs, COVID-19 lockdowns, Big Tech censorship, and political correctness.
It might take a second—or longer—to see how the issues Banks highlights relate to the material interests of Republican voters. What they have in common is an adversarial attitude toward the votaries of managerial liberalism. Indeed, Banks’s dichotomy isn’t between working class and capital, but between populism and elitism. Republicans, Banks writes, must “highlight the cultural and economic elitism that animates the Democrat Party.” It’s “Democrat elitism” that has driven working-class voters to the GOP. And “nothing better encapsulates Democrats’ elitism and classism than their turn towards ‘wokeness.'” Taxes, spending, welfare, and entitlements do not come up.
For all of the “working class” rhetoric in conservative discourse, few Republican politicians have adopted the economic measures put forth by Oren Cass at American Compass, Samuel Hammond at the Niskanen Center, and Julius Krein at American Affairs. Rubio and Hawley are political entrepreneurs willing to push the boundary of conventional GOP policymaking. But they are outliers. A figure like Banks, who has to win reelection every two years, is more cautious. He perceives that Republican voters are more interested in aggressive prosecution of the culture war than in technocratic manipulation of the economy.
The “class war” mentioned so often in conservative discourse is in fact the continuation of the half-century-long war over which values and social roles should be authoritative in American culture. Imposing a class framework on this struggle leads to confusion. After all, according to the 2020 exit poll, President Biden won voters making less than $100,000, while then-president Trump won voters who earn more than $100,000 by 12 points. And Biden won union members by 16 points. The AP Votecast results were more closely divided, but just as muddled: Trump lost voters who earned less than $50,000, barely won voters who made $50,000-$99,999, and narrowly lost voters who earned more than $100,000.
If you read class through the lens of educational attainment, you see that the GOP leans ever more heavily on white voters without college degrees. But that trend long predates Trump. And the white voters without bachelor’s diplomas are a large and diverse group. They encompass a variety of ages, life experiences, occupations, and net worth. The successful contractor who attended college for a few years before starting his own business has a different set of economic concerns than the restaurant server or grocery store clerk. Does muscular labor define membership in the working class? Perhaps. But not every voter without a college degree works with his hands. And agriculture and industry constitute a narrow base for a political party in an economy where 79 percent of jobs are in the service sector. Conservatives like to position themselves as the representatives of the rural heartland against the cosmopolitan metropolis. True enough. But what about the majority of Americans that lives in the suburbs?
Ideology, partisan affiliation, and religiosity mark one’s place in the culture war far better than income or education. Liberals went for Biden 89-10 in the exit poll, and conservatives backed Trump 85-14. Both candidates won 95 percent of their respective parties. And the gaps between voters without a religious affiliation and all others, and between white evangelical voters and all others, were huge.
Ideology also explains the Republicans’ surprisingly good performance among minority voters. There’s evidence, for example, that black Protestants are moving toward the GOP. “What happened in 2020 is that nonwhite conservatives voted for Republicans at higher rates,” election analyst David Shor recently explained to New York magazine. “They started voting more like white conservatives.” Why? Revulsion at the far-left messaging of radical elites on immigration and policing.
When the pollsters at Echelon Insights asked Republicans what they want from a candidate, the answer was someone who would “fight” for the conservative cause, support the Trump agenda, and speak out against cancel culture. The most important issues for Republicans are illegal immigration, law and order, taxes, and liberal media bias. The Echelon data have been replicated elsewhere. My AEI colleague Ryan Streeter writes, “Large national surveys conducted by the American Enterprise Institute suggest Trump’s supporters are actually quite content with American economic life but highly reactive to elite dominance of American culture life.”
Calling Republicans “working-class” is a self-flattering way to put the party on the side of the “forgotten American.” But it risks reducing voters to factors of production. And it flirts with an economic program actual Republicans don’t seem to want. The new class consciousness is another example of the Europeanization of American politics: For decades, the two parties competed for the loyalties not of the working class but of the middle class, and public policy experts devoted themselves to improving the condition of the urban poor or “underclass.” Now, Republican communicators are beginning to sound like the leaders of European parties whose anti-bourgeois romanticism often manifests itself in ugly ways.
Maybe less has changed than people think. Remember that Barry Goldwater first identified himself with the “forgotten American” back in 1961. The GOP remains a populist conservative party whose voters are incensed at the values, directives, and rhetoric of the men and women who occupy the commanding heights of American culture. It’s the party of married parents, of the small business owner, of the journeyman who aspires for a better life for his family. It’s the party of peace through strength, low taxes, safe streets, legal immigration, national pride, and traditional pieties. And what it needs most in 2022 are strong candidates who inspire the grassroots without terrifying independents.
The Democrats don’t plan to run on their record in the 2022 midterm elections. They plan to go to the voters and argue that Republicans are too crazy and too outside the mainstream to be allowed to return to power in Congress.
Whether that will be enough will depend in part on the health of the U.S. economy. If the Biden-Pelosi-Schumer spending binge and planned tax increases don’t hamper the post-COVID recovery, that might be enough. However, if the economy tanks and the Republicans pull together a realistic program for bringing growth and jobs back and getting spending under control, a GOP-led majority in both chambers is not only possible but likely.
Before you snicker, remember the Republicans came within a hair of winning back control of the House in November 2020 even as Donald Trump was losing. GOP congressional candidates ran ahead of Trump in about 180 of more than 210 winning races, and Republican House candidates won more contested races than Democrats did. A change in control isn’t out of the question by any means, which is why the progressive campaign machine has to do all it can to discredit its opposition in the minds of the electorate.
Enter QAnon, the internet-based wellspring of conspiracies ranging from the sublime to the outrageous—and all of them ridiculous. Unfortunately for the GOP, a few folks who’ve lately been their voters (not to mention a newly elected member of Congress or two) have been caught on social media spreading the conspiracists’ tales.
Up until it filled a narrative need, QAnon was a little more than a curiosity among the relatively few people who were aware of it. The intrigues it promulgated did produce a few notable and even tragic events but, in the main, it drew the attention of the fringe. That is, until its usefulness in painting a picture of the GOP as controlled by radical insurrectionists became clear. After that, the legacy media became the biggest outlet for its tall tales under the guise of reporting.
Up to a point, the strategy of elevating QAnon been a success in that it left GOP leaders in the difficult position of defending their own while repudiating the insanity. It’s a tight rope to walk. What the Democrats must do now is determine whether they can sustain these attacks over two years, and whether they’re insulated enough to avoid serious blowback.
You see, it’s not just the GOP that has a problem with conspiracy kooks. The Democratic Party is full of them too—and they’ve got the reins of power now. Consider that Rep. Maxine Waters, who now chairs an important congressional committee, was first heard of across America when she accused the CIA of being behind the crack epidemic in the nation’s inner cities.
She’s a problem, not that people bring that up much anymore. Maybe the GOP should. Republican leaders might also want to talk a bit about the Democrats who said George Herbert Walker Bush flew to Paris in 1980 to negotiate a secret agreement with the Iranians to keep the hostages until after the election. (Spoiler alert: He didn’t, but it took a congressional investigation to knock that rumor out).
Remember all the things the Democrats said about the Trump campaign colluding with the Russians and the allegations contained in the Steele dossier. They didn’t remain inside the confines of cyberspace; no, they became front-page news and were treated seriously for months until poof, nothing.
In the last few weeks, prompted by another tirade by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a guy who could have given the late Joe McCarthy some lessons on tactics, social media was abuzz about the supposed “real” circumstances leading to Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to step down from the U.S. Supreme Court with a cast of characters including his son, officials of Deutsche Bank, and others appended to numerous tweets.
It’s undeniable, as historian Richard Hofstadter famously wrote back in 1964, that there is a “paranoid style in American politics.” What he and others miss is that it’s not confined to the Right. It’s at least as prevalent on the Left, if not stronger. The difference is that while the GOP’s crazy sometimes becomes unpleasant, the Left’s progressive crazy sometimes becomes law, which is much harder for all of us to deal with. If you doubt me, read the text of H.R. 1 closely.