Friday, January 22, 2016

Tensions in the GOP

The GOP establishment believes in compromise with the Democrats but, in their self-righteousness,  the only compromise the Democrats usually accept is a complete GOP backdown.  And they get it, to the anger of the conservative grassroots

The party of the American establishment is undergoing the biggest revolt against its own establishment since at least 1964. Two ferociously anti-establishment figures are dominating the Iowa caucuses, accounting, if polls are to be believed, for half the GOP vote. The three main establishment candidates together account for only 13 percentage points. Statewide, according to the latest Fox News Poll, 57 percent of Republicans believe they have been betrayed by their own party.

In an interview the other morning, commentator Patrick J. Buchanan, who ran two insurgent campaigns for president and won the 1996 New Hampshire primary, told me "the Republican establishment is a church whose pews are empty."

In earlier Republican upheavals, the rebels were defeated in nomination fights (1952, 1992 and 1996), rejected in a brutal general election defeat (1964) or merged with the establishment (1980). This time businessman Donald J. Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas are conducting White House drives that, unlike the Barry Goldwater campaign of 1964, do not so much aim to take over the party as they seek to ridicule, repudiate and renounce its leadership.

"The civil war in the Republican Party of the United States," Theodore H. White wrote in his "Making of the President" volume for 1964, "is one of the more fascinating stories of Western civilization." If White, who died 30 years ago, were here today, he might argue that that sentence applied even more so to the 2016 race.

The difference: This time it is not a faction that is in rebellion but the majority of the party.

The Democrats, famous for their internal feuds, have not in modern times faced an insurrection remotely like the one the Republicans are experiencing right now, except perhaps at the end of the Lyndon Johnson years. But even then, the party establishment moved in rough alignment with the party base, and the rebels left the Johnson camp with reluctance and regret.

Not so this time with the Republicans. "The people I know are relishing the discomfort this is causing with an establishment they can’t stand," said Buchanan. "The base of the party is totally estranged from the establishment."

The Fox Iowa poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Republicans with no college degree feel betrayed by their party, which might lead to the conclusion that this rebellion is class-oriented and in fact fueled by new Republicans who do not fit the party’s traditional mold. But that is not the case; more than half of Republicans with college degrees feel betrayed by their party, too – – and nearly three in five of those who say they will "definitely" attend a party caucus two weeks from now share that bitter sentiment.

This reflects another important shift in the character of Republican politics. A quarter-century ago, the Republican Party had a share of issue-oriented activists who were less concerned with victory in the general election than with their own special causes, often involving social issues such as abortion.

Indeed, at the party’s 1992 convention, when Buchanan spoke of the "culture war" that was enveloping the nation, those issue activists played a key role in the platform fight at the party’s Houston convention. In a study published in the Political Science Quarterly, the Colby College political scientist L. Sandy Maisel found that their determination to shape a document that customarily is soon forgotten resulted in their successful exclusion of moderates from the platform committee.

Now these very same activists — or their next-generational legatees — are determined to prevail in the election itself, and their rhetoric, especially from Cruz, is full of disdain for the establishment candidates they say always get the nomination but never get, or keep, the presidency. Their examples are Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. Bush, who were defeated for re-election in 1976 and 1992, respectively, along with nominees Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas (1996), Sen.John McCain of Arizona (2008) and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts (2012).

The roots of this rebellion actually go back to 1976, with the challenge Ronald Reagan mounted to the nomination of Ford, an accidental president but as a former House minority leader and a creature of moderate Grand Rapids, Michigan, politics, a sturdy symbol of the Main Street strain of the Republican establishment. Ford was a Rotarian, and in fact his hometown club now bears the name Gerald R. Ford Rotary Club.

The Reagan rebellion of 1976 bore fruit four years later, when the former governor of California won the nomination and defeated President Jimmy Carter. Reagan’s appeal and political skills papered over the divisions in the GOP for his two terms and for the first half of the elder Bush’s single term. But since then the tensions have simmered and in the past several years have boiled over, fortified by a pervasive public frustration with politics.

"This is a special case of a broader sense of dissatisfaction and frustration with government," says John J. Pitney Jr., a Clare-mont McKenna College political scientist widely regarded as a leading student of GOP politics. "The anger is particularly intense on the Republican side because they have control of Congress and haven’t been able to do much."

Now the Republicans are energized with the conviction that there is much they can do. The result is a rebellion that is transforming not only their politics but the broader political system as well.



SCOTUS to Review Obama's Unilateral Amnesty

Finally, after a year of legal hurdles in the lower courts, the Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of Barack Obama’s unilateral amnesty. On Tuesday, the justices agreed to hear United States v. Texas, the subject of two executive actions. "One, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), would halt deportations and offer work permits to the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents," The Hill explains. "The other would expand Obama’s 2012 program — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative — which provides the same protections to some high-achieving illegal immigrants brought to the country before age 16. The expanded program would simply extend DACA eligibility to a greater number of people."

Twenty-six states sued to stop Obama’s amnesty shortly after it went into effect. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued a temporary injunction last February, correctly accusing Obama of exceeding his executive authority. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed in November and upheld the injunction. But the Supreme Court will ultimately have the final say.

The timing is interesting to say the least. The Hill notes, "If the justices had declined to [take up Obama’s amnesty] in the next round of cases, it would have solidified the Fifth Circuit’s injunction through the end of Obama’s White House tenure." Since a Republican president could undo these actions as early as next January, the justices' decision to take up the case leaves open the possibility that they have enough support to uphold Obama’s amnesty. The administration’s track record in cases regarding executive overreach, however, suggests otherwise. We’ll find out by June.



Establishment support for Trump?

How did it come down to Trump vs. Cruz? And what about the framing of Establishment versus Outsider? Trump has never held elective office, so he is perceived as an outsider. But he has long been a backer of Democrat politicians and has held a number of progressive views (New York values, one might say) that don’t match the conservative base of the party. So does that make him Establishment?

Cruz is a senator in Washington, so by comparison to Trump, is he Establishment? Hardly, considering that Cruz has made his name by tweaking the nose of the GOP establishment (including calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor) and generally taking on what he calls the "Washington cartel." He is arguably the most resolutely conservative of all the Republican candidates, and his voting record and his public stance on the issues bears that out.

Take Cruz’s stance against ethanol subsidies. He refused to pander to Iowa power brokers, while other candidates dutifully bowed to King Corn and the mandates and subsidies that undermine the free market and exceed the government’s constitutional role. Trump on Tuesday called for increasing the ethanol blended into gasoline.

If there are any other questions as to whether Cruz is indeed the outsider candidate, just take a look at Iowa Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s words on the subject: "Because as Iowans learn about his anti-renewable fuel stand, and that it will cost us jobs, and will further reduce farm income, I think people will realize that it’s not in our interest. I don’t think that Ted Cruz is the right one for Iowans to support in the caucus."

Traditionally, Iowa governors, regardless of party affiliation, have steered clear of offering opinions of the caucus. But Branstad’s son runs a group that’s part of the ethanol lobby, so he couldn’t remain silent.

The establishment’s rejection of Cruz is due to his solid conservatism and his combativeness with his fellow Republicans in Washington. In fact, there are reports that the establishment is beginning to coalesce around Trump — not because he represents the establishment GOP, but because he is the leading Not-Cruz. The establishment would rather have a dealmaker who boasts of having bought politicians and, more importantly, a moderate-to-liberal candidate, than a principled conservative.

Republican donors and consultants now don’t seem so quick to write off a Trump nomination. Is it because his momentum now makes him more viable than originally perceived? Is it because of the staunch support of his base? Yes, on both counts.

Trump’s supporters are an important asset that cannot be underestimated if Republicans want to win the White House this year. They are motivated because they are fed up with the establishment in Washington. But if that is truly the case, then who would better serve those voters' interests: Trump or Cruz?

Sarah Palin chose Trump, endorsing him Tuesday. The former vice presidential candidate has been a standard-bearer for the Tea Party movement since she emerged on the national stage in 2008, so her endorsement of Trump is important.

At first glance, it’s also a puzzling move, though it shouldn’t be. On April 15, 2009, a big day in the early life of the Tea Party, Trump said, "I don’t march with the Tea Party." He also said Obama "really has made a great impact on people," and, "I think he’s doing a really good job."

But Palin says, "Enough is enough. These issues that Donald Trump talks about had to be debated. And he brought them to the forefront. And that’s why we are where we are today. … We are mad and we’ve been had."

Given Palin’s supposed conservative bona fides, she should have endorsed Cruz, particularly when one takes into account Trump’s previous progressive stances on some issues. And Cruz rightly credits Palin with helping secure his Senate seat. Yet Palin went with The Donald, signifying that she has been more populist than conservative from the beginning. Nevertheless, perception is everything, and her endorsement will only help Trump and hurt Cruz, especially in Iowa.

Republicans are highly motivated to win the White House this year. After eight years of Obama, and a potential four years of Hillary Clinton, the GOP needs to be prepared to do whatever it takes to win. However, the party needs to guard against leaving the bedrock principles of conservatism to be trumped by nationalistic populism. Otherwise a White House win will be a pyrrhic victory.



Hidden Costs of Obamacare’s Slacker Mandate

Obamacare’s so-called "slacker mandate"—which requires that health plans include dependent children up to age 26 on their parents’ policies—has had an unintended but predictable consequence: it has raised unemployment for young adults by eliminating the need for their own health coverage. The mandate has, as the Washington Post puts it, "helped millennials chill out." A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research has even estimated how jobless young adults are spending their extra time: about 10 minutes more are spent exercising, 20 minutes sleeping, and 30 minutes socializing (for 23-25 year olds). The slacker mandate also has other unintended consequences, explains Independent Institute Senior Fellow John R. Graham.

Parents pay for the mandated coverage for adult dependents through higher premiums. But parents are not the only ones who pay. Another study from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that "the slacker mandate reduced wages among workers without children by $210 a month," Graham writes, "but it did not reduce wages among workers with children (either minor or adult) by a statistically significant amount."

"The latter result makes sense, because the working parents simply paid higher premiums to keep their adult dependents on their employer-based plans," Graham continues. "The former result is shocking. How to explain it? I suspect it is easy in the short term to impose these costs on workers without kids because of the high information and friction costs to those workers of learning and responding to the cost of the mandate." Indeed, the cost shifting may have been a prime reason behind the political push for the mandate, Graham concludes.



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