For months on end we’ve heard that the “respectable” wing of the Missouri GOP, i.e., the corporatist, country club set, have set their hopes on Attorney General Josh Hawley as the perfect candidate to fell Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill come next November. He has been the protege of no lesser Missouri Republican luminary that the august John Danforth – the very John Danforth who has publicly vilified “hateful” Donald Trump and his influence on the Republican party – a point of view about which Hawley has maintained a marked silence.
And there’s good reason for Hawley to avoid controversy. GOPland is in turmoil. The assorted racists and otherwise disaffiliated right wingers to whom the respectable Republicans have thrown a few crumbs now and then are organizing to take over the party. Steve Bannon, Trump’s would-be brain, is threatening to make good on his desire to transform the GOP into a fascist “workers” party allied to the more déclassé (i.e., racist) elements of the conservative right. The recent electoral success in Alabama of über nujtjob Roy Moore, Bannon’s candidate of choice, is giving Republican politicians a serious case of the jitters – including, evidently, the oh-so prim Josh Hawley who, in better times, would probably have run a mile from a piece of work like Bannon.
To give Hawley credit where credit is due, he’s proactive; Politico reports today that he picked up the ball and tried to lob it into Bannon’s court:
Two Republican sources said Attorney General Josh Hawley, a soft-spoken 37-year-old with an Ivy League pedigree who is expected to officially announce a run soon, called Bannon late last week, after The New York Times reported the Breitbart leader was targeting Hawley for defeat in Missouri’s GOP Senate primary. Republicans, who saw their last chance to defeat McCaskill slip away after they nominated gaffe-prone then-Rep. Todd Akin, fear Bannon’s interference could cause a similar outcome in 2018.
On the call, Hawley reminded Bannon of their mutual friends, including the Mercer megadonor family, which bankrolls much of Bannon’s political work. Hawley met with Robert Mercer last fall when he was running for attorney general, one Republican close to Hawley said. Hawley also mentioned Club for Growth President David McIntosh and conservative legal expert Leonard Leo, who advises President Donald Trump on judicial nominations.
And just who would take the role of Todd Akin this go round? Why, Politico suggests, none other than Ed Martin, sleazebag and potential spoiler extraordinaire. You can understand why Hawley and Missouri’s GOP establishment might be just a little alarmed. Martin has his adherents, but he is just too well known in Missouri in ways that might alienate votes that would be crucial in a statewide election.
Robert Kutner makes a persuasive case in The American Prospect that neither Bannon nor GOPers like Hawley are likely to fare too well in their attempt to make common cause. They’re just different kinds of beasts:
… Bannon hopes he can find outsiders who are both social conservatives and Bannon-style economic populists.
The trouble is that this category of Republican candidate is almost a null set. There are none in Congress, and that’s no accident.
For decades, right-wing Republican candidates have gotten elected by marrying social conservatism to big-business conservatism. If Bannon thinks he can break that link, he has his work cut out.
It’ll be interesting to see if Hawley can effect a political marriage of minds (or if his donors can). If he weren’t cast in the traditional conservative mold that Bannon professes to abhor, he wouldn’t be filling the role of fair-haired child for the John Danforths of the Missouri GOP. He may be fine when it comes to “guns, God, and gays,” but will he really buck the more genteel big money boys he is currently so identified with?
And while Martin is no more of a “pocketbook populist” than Hawley – at least to date – he’s also crude, dishonest, and opportunistic, and, I’d be willing to lay odds, more than willing to take on the role of populist if it advanced his personal agenda – after all, Trump is no more of a populist than Martin, but he has just enough of the vocabulary to try to claim the label. And, of course, Martin is also, with his genius for the colossal cock-up, the perfect vehicle for Bannonesque disruption.
Kutner observes that “the result of a Bannon-led civil war in the Republican Party could well be a GOP even more extremist—and more of a national minority party.” The Missouri Hawley-Martin-Bannon triangle will play out against this scenario. What does this mean for Missouri? Kutner offers a suggestion:
… . In states that have populist Democrats on the ballot, such as Senator Sherrod Brown in Ohio, it is hard to imagine a Bannon-backed social conservative getting to Brown’s left on pocketbook issues. But centrist Democrats could be vulnerable—if Bannon could truly find some pocketbook populist Republicans.
So, will the Bannon insurgency therefore help the Democrats? Maybe, maybe not. That depends on what the Democrats do.
So has the ball actually been lobbed to the Missouri Democratic party, and, more importantly to Claire McCaskill? If so, what will she and they do with it? Are they capable of claiming the bold populist mantle that seems to be the garment of choice nowadays?
You will find the following as his self-description:
Christian, Husband, Father, Committed Conservative, GOP operative, piano player
The order is interesting: husband before father?
No wonder it is important for him what a politician’s religious affiliation is.
If you’re interested, Missouri GOP Chair John Hancock is now issuing the expected and inevitable statements denying Tom Schweich’s posthumous accusations that he spearheaded an anti-Semitic whisper campaign in order to derail Schweich’s gubernatorial candidacy in favor of the Rex Sinquefield-blessed Catherine Hanaway. Not a surprising move, although his terminology in an email sent to folks identified as “party-leaders” is interesting:
Many of you on this committee are aware of the issue, as it came up in several of our conversations during the past few months,” Hancock wrote, as quoted by the Post-Dispatch. “While those who know me understand I would never denigrate anyone’s faith, Tom had mistakenly believed that I had attacked his religion.”
This left me scratching my head. Nothing that I’ve read implied that Hancock had ever attacked Schweich’s religion. According to reports, Schweich was an Episcopalian and nobody to my knowledge is accusing Hancock of slandering Episcopalians. What folks are saying is that Hancock was falsely asserting that Schweich, who had a Jewish grandfather, was himself Jewish. And that Hancock was doing it in those Republican circles where that might make Schweich persona non grata – at least as far as raising money to finance his race against Hanaway.
There’s a difference. Maybe Hancock doesn’t understand that, or maybe he’s just a sloppy kind of guy when it comes to explaining himself. But what Schweich accused him of wasn’t attacking his religion, but of practicing the dirtiest type of very dirty politics. An accusation that derives a certain credibility from the fact that we all know Republicans are good at doing just that – as I pointed out earlier.
That impression is reinforced by Hancock’s efforts to discredit the motives of Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger who had been made privy to what was on Schweich’s mind during his last weeks of life:
“Now, some political opponents-particularly liberal Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger-are using this tragic incident as an opportunity to criticize me and to smear the Missouri Republican Party,” Hancock wrote, as quoted by the newspaper. “These attacks are not only disgusting; they are wrong.”
Hoowee! Hancock evidentaly belongs to that school of conservative thought that seeks to answer any accusation of wrongdoing by evoking that rightwing bugaboo – those damn “liberals.” Count on them to be “disgusting and wrong.”
Wrong in what sense, though? Does wrong here mean inaccurate or morally culpable? Does Hancock think Messenger made up Schweich’s claims? By his own admission, lots of folks knew that Schweich was getting hot under the collar about what he considered an underhanded and nasty effort to knock him out of the race for the governor’s mansion. So what’s disgusting and wrong, in either sense, about telling folks about the beliefs that had been driving Schweich prior to his death, especially since Messenger correctly ensured that his account of what Schweich said neither affirmed or denied the accusations. If, based on past experience, we’re inclined to take Schweich seriously, the onus should fall on those of Mr. Hancock’s partisans who paved the way for us.
By many accounts Schweich was a highly-strung individual; maybe he was magnifying a few garden-variety incidents of who knows what. But by all the same accounts, he was also a man of integrity who refused to countenance what he considered bad behavior; it is probably undeniable that if he had not taken an even more decisive action yesterday, he would have been making those accusations public himself. How is it wrong – or even “liberal” – for Tony Messenger to act as Schweich’s proxy? Wasn’t Messenger just practicing honest journalism? Doesn’t Tom Schweich, whose last phone call seems to have been an effort to arrange an interview on the subject, deserve a little respectful and honest journalism on the day of his death?
Republican Senator Roy Blunt got a big affirmation recently when the Supreme Court essentially okayed the type of big money politics that have provided the bedrock for his political career. The conservative (i.e. corporatist) majority on the Supreme Court delivered an opinion in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (McCutcheon) that was described by Garrett Epps in The Atlantic as the beginning of “legalized corruption and the twilight of campaign-finance law.” The decision did away with limits on aggregate campaign donations, which arguably opens the door to money laundering when it comes time to buy elections (give the limit to candidate a,b, and c each, who in turn pass the donations along to candidate d, the intended recipient of the largesse in the first place). Worse yet the decision was justified in terms that could be expanded to do away with all limits on campaign donations. In dissenting comments Justice Stephen Breyer noted that:
Today’s decision substitutes judges’ understandings of how the political process works for the understanding of Congress, fails to recognize the difference between influence resting upon public opinion and influence bought by money alone, overturns key precedent, creates serious loopholes in the law, and undermines, perhaps devastates, what remains of campaign finance reform.
Last year, commenting on the case which had not yet been decided, an op-ed in the Daily Californian had this to say about the potential of McCutcheon to continue the erosion of the democratic process that was initiated by the earlier Citizens United decision:
Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon, joined by the Republican National Committee, challenges these aggregate contribution limits, claiming they are a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech in politics. In doing so, he invokes the logic that was central to the Citizens United case: that money is speech.
This idea is not only dangerous but also false.
Take Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. In March, Blunt quietly inserted the Monsanto Protection Act into a last-minute spending bill, allowing growers to plant genetically modified seeds even when they had been deemed unsafe by the courts. Who donated $79,250 to Senator Blunt over the past 4 years? None other than GMO giant Monsanto Company, making it his fifth-largest contributor over that period.
Political contributions may not be blatant bribes. As Monsanto’s ability to influence Blunt makes clear, however, these contributions are too powerful to be considered true free speech. Politicians do whatever they can to stay in power. If contributions from a few wealthy groups are keeping them there, they will no longer represent the majority. That is corruption.
It’s no accident that the piece singled out Blunt, who a few years ago was designated one of the most corrupt politicians in Washington by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). So, it’s no surpirse that Blunt doesn’t share the misgivings voiced by those who believe that democratic government should represent all the people, not just those who can afford to line the pockets of complaisant politicians. Not only does Blunt opine that the “total limit is questionable” while wondering about the distinction between aggregate and individual limits – the only remaining obstacle that remains between total ownership of government by the plutocrats that Blunt cultivates – but he also makes it clear that folks on his side of the aisle aren’t going to plug the loopholes opened up by McCutcheon anytime soon. In fact he pooh-poohs the fears about McCutcheon, pretending that there aren’t lavishly wealthy folks out there just salivating at the prospect of using their filthy lucre to buy up the political stable:
“I assume that it will have some impact, but not a lot of impact in contributing,” Blunt said. “I imagine there were several individuals out there who really are contributors at this high level of $123,000 who cringed when they found out that ‘oh no, the court says you’re going to have to mark that excuse off your list of why you can’t help an individual campaign.'”
Yeah. And how many billions has Sheldon Adelson dropped over the past few years? Or the Koch brothers? You think they and other one percenters won’t be more than willing to drown the rest of us out with more and more of their greenback “speech”? As Donna Brazile notes in a CNN opinion piece, there’s no downside for these folks:
… . The problem is that Adelson and other super-wealthy Republican donors are directing their largesse to buy elected officials who support policies that benefit their bottom lines at the expense of middle-class American families.
People like Sheldon Adelson support candidates who are in favor of lowering tax rates for corporations and the super-wealthy — people like Sheldon Adelson.
But those tax giveaways aren’t free. Rep. Paul Ryan’s House GOP budget pays for those tax breaks by gutting funding for investments in education and infrastructure, ending Medicare as we know it, and raising taxes on middle-class families with children.
The stakes are indeed big. Right now Paul Ryan’s budget – which the House just passed and which would destroy Medicare and decimate Social Security Insurance – is no more than a bit of nasty political posturing. But as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently asserted apropos the upcoming midterm election:
… . Control of the U.S. Senate is in play, due to a unique combination of geography and politics. And the result of the battle for Senate control will have an important effect on the power and influence of Missouri’s two senators, Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill.
And the big money boys are, thanks to McCutcheon, well-positioned to help shift Senate control over to their hirelings, folks like Roy Blunt – on the record as supporting Ryan’s efforts to take us back to the bad old days before there was a social safety net. Wanna guess what’s going to happen when the plutocrats are finally able to pay for a Republican takeover? Roy Blunt ought to be licking his chops for sure – looks like the good old days may roll around once again for this consummate, big-bucks player.
Early in August I wrote that among other state-level strategies to derail Obamacare:
GOP lawmakers have learned a thing or two from their “War on Women” strategy of regulating reproductive choice almost out of existence, and seem to be using the same regulatory approach to sabotage the Obamacare exchange. Otherwise religiously anti-regulation GOPers have decided that they must rigorously regulate individuals, known as navigators, hired to help Missourians use the exchanges lest they engage in “fraud.” And if they manage in the process to slow the information stream to a trickle, well, what can you do?
A recent Salon article by Brian Buetler makes it clear that this effort to keep reliable information from those who most need Obamacare has become a coordinated national-level strategy, directed toward those states with the most to loose, those that have the largest uninsured populations. Prominent among these states is Missouri which is now on the receiving end of both state-level and national-level Obamacare obstructionism:
For the most part, Republican state elected officials have undertaken the most direct efforts to stand between uninsured people and Obamacare – refusing to launch their own exchanges and expand Medicaid – while Republicans in federal office fight a more symbolic fight.
But now a group of House Republicans has crossed that line – by attempting to bog down Obamacare enrollment specialists in states with the highest uninsured populations, according to a new Salon analysis.
Last week, as several other outlets reported, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to state agencies and nonprofit groups that received Obamacare “navigator” grants – organizations that will help educate people about the law and facilitate their enrollment – seeking an incredibly broad and difficult-to-compile range of information.
In order to do the most harm, the House Republicans directed their inquiries to organizations in 11 states with larger uninsured populations than in other states – including Missouri. As Beutler notes, claims that the inquires are meant to protect the privacy of those using the exchanges ring hollow since the Committee members seem unconcerned with protecting the privacy of Obamacare exchange users in any of the remaining 39 states, instead, he writes, the “targeting scheme was meant to maximize bang for their buck.” Supporting this contention is the timing of the inquires; Beutler quotes Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA):
“The timing of these letters is particularly suspect,” Waxman wrote in a letter to Upton protesting the investigation. “You are insisting on voluminous document productions by September 13, just when these groups need to be focused on their mission of helping uninsured Americans enroll for coverage. Indeed, it appears that these requests may have been sent solely to divert the resources of small, local community groups, just as they are needed to help with the new health care law.”
This latest bit of flim-flam is only the most recent in a long string of efforts to derail the healthcare delivery reforms we democratically authorized in the election of 2008 and reaffirmed in 2012. The Republicans who were sent to do the people’s business in Washington D.C. have even descended to the level of trying to intimidate national sports franchises to keep them from helping publicize Obamacare benefits. This level of opposition is beyond cynical; it’s truly vile.
I am a cancer patient. Last Friday, I learned that I am, after a lengthy and complex treatment process involving two surgeries and seemingly endless chemotherapy, in remission. I happen to have access to good insurance and received truly excellent care. I cannot imagine what would have happened if I had been uninsured – although one thing I am sure of, given the nature of my particular cancer symptoms, is that I would have been diagnosed at an even later stage of the disease and I would likely be dead now, rendering questions of my ongoing care moot.
From this perspective, I not only want to know what is being done to counteract this disgusting effort to hurt real, actual people in the name of a trumped-up, long-discredited, rightwing ideology that sees efforts to use collective resources for public benefit as some type of suspect “socialism” that must be stopped at all costs. I also want to know who is going to publicize the evil perpetrated by Republican Obamacare fraudsters during the past few years. I want their names and their crimes on a publicly accessible list.
I want the Republicans in Missouri who have participated in these and other Obamacare charades, who have promulgated disinformation and outright lies to be held accountable in a way that hurts them as much as they have hurt the citizens of the state. I have never been an eye for an eye kind of person. I have always scoffed at the whining of crime victims who carry on as if they and they alone have the right to determine what punishment is adequate to the crimes carried out against them, but this time I want to know that Republicans who have participated in GOP’s descent into evil will have to pay.
The fallout from the 2013 legislative session ought to give Missourians pause. To date, Governor Nixon has vetoed 23 bills that made it out of the session – and he still has 10 days in which to increase that total. And given that the infamous gun bill that seeks to nullify all federal gun legislation is still outstanding, we can only cross our fingers and hope that our governor will go for at least one more veto.
Some of these bills are truly, horrendously dangerous and the governor had no other option but to veto them. I’m mainly thinking here of the corporate tax cut bill that aimed to take us down the same road as Kansas – which just had its economic development credit rating downgraded as a result of its tax “reform.” Others, while potentially harmful, are little more than exercises in fantasy. Here I’m referencing bills like those that sought to ban Sharia law or Agenda 21, you know, major threats that keep us up at night – at least those of us who’re both brain dead and paranoid.
Some bills, however, failed the smell test because they were, as the Governor noted, “shoddily drafted.” In other words, the whiz kids we sent to Jefferson City can’t manage to write legislation that doesn’t overshoot its goals or isn’t so carelessly crafted that it could withstand a legal challenge. I guess it’s just too hard to write laws when you don’t have some outside lobbyist or the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) handing you model legislation you can crib off of.
So far, I’ve just been describing what the Republican majority in the legislature actually did. What they didn’t do is equally remarkable. Transportation infrastructure funding, tax credit reform, the state’s outstanding education needs, you name it, they couldn’t deal with it effectively – and given their favored solutions, we should all probably hold our tongues and hope the stalemate continues.
Finally, in addition to what the legislators did that they shouldn’t do, and what they couldn’t do, there are the things they wouldn’t do. Foremost in that category is make sure that over 260,000 uninsured Missourians get health care. In order to keep these folks uninsured, our brilliant lawmakers had to turn down big wads of federal money – money that Missouri tax payers send to the federal government that would have been returned to the state. And that money would not only have helped the uninsured, but would have boosted the health care industry and created jobs.
To be fair, House Speaker Tim Jones has appointed some study groups to consider “Medicaid reform” prior to the next session. There are those who think that this action may be a ploy to escape the possibly very bad consequences of not taking the Feds’ Medicaid offer. What these groups will manage to produce, though, remains to be seen and if there’s a way to punish those who have to rely on Medicaid and to pare benefits to the minimum, I’ll bet Jones’ pals will manage to find it.
So all this leaves us with the question: Why do you suppose that our lawmakers are working to destroy the quality of life in our state? Why do they want Missouri to be a laughing stock? Do you think it might have something to do with the Republican majority in Jefferson City? Michel Cohen of the Guardian, speaking of the national level GOP, suggests that there could be some truth to that answer:
What is the single most consequential political development of the past five years? Some might say the election (and re-election) of Barack Obama; others might point to the passage of the most important piece of social policy (Obamacare) since the 1960s; some might even say the drawing down of US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in reality, it is the rapid descent of the Republican party into madness.
Never before in American history have we seen a political party so completely dominated and controlled by its extremist wing; and never before have we seen a political party that brings together the attributes of nihilism, heartlessness, radicalism and naked partisanship quite like the modern GOP. In a two-party system like America’s, the result is unprecedented dysfunction.
Add comically ignorant and it sounds like Missouri’s GOP to me.
Today Ed Kilgore summarizes Sean Trende’s analyses suggesting that the GOP can forget minority outreach, deep-six the immigration bill with impunity, and win elections from now until 2040 with the white vote alone. However, if the GOP does decide that more rather than less racial polarization is the way to go, they’ll need every white vote that they can get. Sadly, there’s evidence that their policy positions on social issues are turning off younger white voters and white women, two groups with whom they’ll need to do a little better if they’re to realize success with the whites-only strategy.
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Reince Priebus seems to have decided to work on roping those wandering female voters back into the GOP corral. Evidence? Today marked the announcement of the formation of a Women on the Right UNITE project:
This Friday, six Republican committees will come together to launch “Women on the Right UNITE” – a joint project to promote the recruitment of and support for Republican women and women candidates – at a press conference in Washington. The committees include the Republican National Committee, Republican Governors Association, National Republican Senatorial Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, Republican State Leadership Committee, and College Republican National Committee. Each committee will announce substantive plans to promote the role of women within the party and encourage more women to get involved and run for office.
According to the Atlantic Wire, Republicans claim to be concerned that only 8% of the GOP members in the House of Representatives are women – and, of course, they also want to figure out how to present “a more streamlined and packaged message about why Republican policies are beneficial to women.” Don’t laugh. After all, if the GOP and its corporate allies can persuade a significant number of Americans that man-made climate change is a hoax, they just might pull this off.
Among the nine elected women from the House of Representatives who will be talking up women in the GOP as part of the project will be Rep. Ann Wagner (R-2). Wonder why not Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-4)? Could it be that she and some of the remaining ten GOP women in the House might not have mastered the “nicer language” with which the GOP hopes female officials like Wagner will cloak the party’s anti-women policies? Could it be that she cuts a little too close to the fringewing home to be a safe participant in a PR effort to disguise the GOP war on women? I am assuming that the candidate for the “new Michele Bachmann” is not what Priebus wants out front.
It is worth noting, though, that women have actually been out front in the GOP for awhile and it hasn’t done the party much good when it comes creating distance from the war on women rhetoric:
In fact, Republican women have been involved in lots of controversies that helped portray the GOP as anti-woman. Reps. Diane Black and Marsha Roby have sponsored legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. Rep. Michele Bachmann portrayed Texas’s requirement that teens get an HPV vaccination – it prevents cervical cancer – as some kind of weird sex thing: “And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong.” That famous Virginia bill that would have required transvaginal ultrasounds before abortions last year? It was sponsored by a woman, Del. Kathy J. Byron. Byron defended the transvaginal ultrasound requirement, saying, “if we want to talk about invasiveness, there’s nothing more invasive than the procedure that she is about to have.”
While it will be interesting to see if the GOP can obfuscate and confuse women about what they really stand for, Republican women are still Republicans – and that includes Ann Wagner. When push comes to shove, there won’t be a hair’s breadth between the way Wagner and Hartzler perform.