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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Republican party, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Obama’s State of the Union Address

By Elvin Lim


Obama’s speech last week was an attempt to be as partisan or liberal as possible, while sounding as reasonable as possible. “Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks refinance?” the president asked as part of this strategy. The Republican Party continues to suffer an image problem of being out of the mainstream, and the president was trying to capitalize on this moment of vulnerability. There is broad support for preventing the budget “sequester,” on minimum wage legislation, and a path to citizenship for children of immigrants — the president knows it, and he is leveraging public support to try to secure compliance from errant members of Congress.

As he showed in his Second Inaugural Address, this is not a president willing to mince his words any more. To talk about climate change and the “overwhelming judgment of science” is to take a clear, uncompromising position. “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations,” he said, “I will.” Presidents at least since Theodore Roosevelt have painted themselves as active problem-solvers, as opposed to bickering members of Congress, in order to justify a muscular, even unilateral executive branch. Conservatives who are quicker to see this pattern in liberal presidents should remember the perils of presidential bravado in the next conservative administration; liberals who are enjoying their president pulling his weight should pause to consider if they can consistently stomach the same unilateralism in a different time for different purposes, when it is a conservative president who proclaims, “Now’s the time to get it done.”

Get it done. They deserve a vote. Send me a bill. But the Constitution doesn’t work like that. The televised address makes it look like the president is legislator-in-chief, but he is anything but that. He can only execute the law; but to make the law he wants to execute, he needs Congress. So it may be a stroke of luck that a day after Obama’s speech, the news cycle is still consumed with the Christopher Dorner story, suggesting that Americans are tired of politics and political news after the previous year of campaign mud-slinging. Obama’s supporters want him to get on the permanent campaign, but some forget that doing well on the speech circuit could well generate congressional resentment and mobilize the “party of ‘no’” against him. There is a time for splashy, public campaigns; but look out for silent strokes of executive action in the days to come. “Decision, activity, secrecy, and despatch” are and remain the hallmarks of the executive Publius defended in Federalist 70. Obama has already signaled unabashedly that he will make the tough decisions. He appears to be doing so very publicly, but there is a secret side to transformative agendas. When the going gets tough and Congress doesn’t get going, expect Obama to be traversing his agenda with much despatch. His State of the Union address this year constitutes full disclosure, if we care to parse it carefully.

Elvin Lim is Associate Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com and his column on politics appears on the OUPblog regularly.

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The post Obama’s State of the Union Address appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Similiarities between the Boston Tea Party and the Mitt Romney / Paul Ryan 2012 Presidential Race Nomination Ticket

Let’s first consider the historical setting, as any writer who wishes to make a decisive introduction to retrospective comparison should consider. In 1773 the English Parliament passed a tea act, taxing colonial merchants; and in doing so outraged the Colonists and united them in opposition. When the first small cargoes of tea consigned to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston were not allowed to be unloaded, it was a shock to England. The tax was to be enforced and paid by midnight of December 16th. The reaction was swift and nonviolent. The English put up no resistance and the ships were not damaged.

The Colonists, disguised as Indians, boarded the tea ships in Boston the night of December 16, 1773 and dumped the cargoes into the water. The captain’s log book, dated Thursday, December 16, 1773 stated:

Between six and seven o’clock this evening, came down to the wharf a body of about one thousand people, among them were a number dressed and whooping like Indians. They came on board the ship, and after warning myself and the customs-house officers to get out of the way, they undid the hatches and went down the hood, where was eighty whole, and thirty-four half chests of tea, which they hoisted upon deck, and cut the chests to pieces, hove the tea overboard, where it was damaged and lost.

The event was publicized as “the destruction of the tea” but was not recorded as the “Boston Tea Party” until the mid-30s, around 1834/5, when the new moniker was born, for opposing oppressive government control.

The tea party of 1773 united all of the Colonists under a moniker surviving today. Whether protesting as tea party members, as patriots, as occupiers, the opposition and clamor to correct abuses is louder than ever. It gives us our Republic and a Republican form of government.

The Republic is a renovation of the natural order of things, a system of principles as universal as truth and the existence of man, and combed moral with political happiness and national prosperity. It is the natural order to preserve liberty, property, and security as guaranteed rights of man. It extends the sovereignty of such rights into the political associations which comprise the nation and demands that such associations, whether individual, or as a body of men are only entitled to that authority which is expressly derived from the people.

What is called the Republic is not any particular form of government like democratic, aristocratic, or monarchy. It is wholly characteristic of the matter or object for which government ought to be instituted, and to which it is to be employed— A REPUBLIC, the public affairs, or the public good; or, literally translated, the public thing.

It is a word of a good original, referring to what ought to be the character and business of government; and in this sense it is naturally opposed to the word monarchy which encompasses arbitrary power vested in an individual person, the exercise of which is the person, and not the republic.

The REPUBLIC, public thing has as its origin the Greek “Democracy”; however, there are many strong limitations in the Democratic form of government. It ultimately leads to the failure of a true Democracy in guaranteeing the innate rights of man.The true distinction between a Republic and a Democracy is that in the Democracy the people meet and exercise the government in person. In a Republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives.

Democracy will, by necessity, be confined to a small spot. A Republic may be extended over a large region. Mitt Romney’s negative ad attacks on the Obama presidency and healthcare reform are an example of this kind of modern comparison.

Democracy works well as a form of government where limited in scope of size and population it can conduct the REPUBLIC or the public business of a nation until, however, it becomes too extensive and populous. Democracy cannot work effectively as the separate parts soon become oppressive once becoming powerful.

Space and size quickly destroy the effectiveness of Democracy. Ancient Greece discovered this quickly as power shifted from Athens, and the demand for centralized power in the government arose out of strength, not voice. Under a Republic, the public voice, as pronounced by the representatives of the people, is more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves.

Our Tea Party fought not so much for sovereignty, but for the public voice to be heard by abusive powers. Their voice, being unheard, soon results in a voice demanding to be heard. They wanted representation then, most of all. And when denied, the very voice which believed in natural law, gave birth to a new nation and a new form of government: the Republican Form.

This startled the world juxtaposing a new voice within a Democracy. A people’s voice creating a Republican form of government: a government established and conducted for the interest of the public, as well individually as collectively. It did not connect with any particular form which the world understands.

It defies being subservient to another power and declares itself sovereign by divine right and by voice. And that voice declares itself by representation.Adding representation upon Democracy creates a system of government which embraces and brings together all the various interests and every extent of territory and population known.

The Republican form of government immediately concentrates the knowledge necessary to the interests of the parts and of the whole. The whole is now the nation, the parts are states, the people are also parts of the whole, yet their collective voices, by representation, become the whole.For once, government can be seen as the child of the voice of the people who created it. Every man is a proprietor in government, and has the duty to consider it a necessary part of his business to understand. The Republic concerns his interest, because it affects his property, his life, and his pursuit of happiness.And these interests have costs which derive themselves from all men being created equal.You can examine the cost and compare it with the individual or collective advantages. And your voice, alone must represent your examination before all others.

With the advent of a Constitution enumerating what you grant, you do not have to adopt the slavish custom of following what in other governments are called leaders.

As Benjamin Franklin quickly noted when asked what kind of government is formed, he answered prophetically: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

It is not easy to preserve and keep a Republic once it begins to fall away. The heart of the republic is the voice of the people and the voice of the people is expressed through its mandated representation.

How often have you heard representatives say, I voted for the “good of the country”, or for the “good of the party”, when the voice going unheard is the voice of representation which says… vote for the good of the republic within the district you represent?

Representation must represent only those constituents who exercised the sovereign right to put them in power and position to represent.

Your Congress represents elected officials representative of a part of a whole. They are not the whole, nor can they represent the nation without consent from the majority of the other parts which form that whole. The whole is the nation; however, the voice of the nation is the people collectively expressing themselves through individual representatives.

A nation is not the body, the figure of which is to be represented by the human body; but is like a body contained within a circle, having a common center, in which every radius meets; and that center is formed by representation. The representatives, too, represent themselves only as a part of their very constituency and are one voice within their collective membership when in Congress Assembled. There can be no vote taken by them for the “good of the country”.

As representatives sitting in the federal government, the “good of the country” only occurs concomitantly with the consent of the rest of the nation.What is government but more than the management of the affairs of a Nation? It is not, and from its nature cannot be, the property of any particular man or family, but of the whole community, at whose expense it is supported; and through by force and contrivance it has been usurped into an inheritance, the usurpation cannot alter the right of thing.

Sovereignty, as a matter of right, appertains to the Nation only, and not any individual; and a Nation has at all times an inherent indefeasible right to abolish any form of government it finds inconvenient, and to establish such as accords with its interest, disposition and happiness. Every citizen is a member of the collective sovereignty; and as such, can acknowledge no personal subjection – his obedience can be only to the Common Laws.

As members of the national government, the good of the country is only that under powers given by citizens, and granted to the national government, such as the management of foreign affairs wherein the states waive all rights to make a treaty, enter into an alliance, receive a foreign ambassador, or deal in any way with a foreign government.

The balance of power, conversely, and ultimately, flows from the bottom up rather than from the internationally recognized top down. Such principles of Declaration are the truths to restore our Republic. They are reserved in the declarations made by the Tea Party forefathers. What have we learned?

That man has rights, — life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. This is the legacy left us. The ideal of individual liberty, that an individual has certain fundamental and inalienable rights which municipal, state or federal government can never override without permission.Governments exist for the benefit of the governed to secure and protect those rights of man. Government is FOR the people.

And that these governments “derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Government is OF the people and BY their consent. Whenever any government usurps power and becomes destructive of the rights of man, then it is the right of the people to overthrow that government, and when necessary to do so, it is also the right and duty of the people to establish a new government on whatever principles and in whatever form will insure to them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That under law and government, and in the protection of the rights of the people “all men are created equal” and must be allowed the fullest and freest exercise and development of their natural powers.

And that these governments“derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.”Government is OF the people and BY their consent.

Whenever any government usurps power and becomes destructive of the rights of man, then it is the right of the people to overthrow that government, and when necessary to do so, it is also the right and duty of the people to establish a new government on whatever principles and in whatever form will insure to them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That under law and government, and in the protection of the rights of the people “all men are created equal” and must be allowed the fullest and freest exercise and development of their natural powers.

And to do so, our forefathers decreed: “there shall be freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceable assembly, freedom of petition. The homes of the people shall be secure against search, seizure, or intrusion, except by legal process. No person shall be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb for the same offense, nor shall any person be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”

Continuing, “no bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it, but any one accused of crime shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime may have been committed. He shall not be arrested except by legal process; he shall be informed of the exact nature of the accusation; he shall be confronted by the witnesses against him, and shall not be compelled to testify against himself.”

Some of those who represent us now in Congress Assembled are ineligible to represent us and have lost their citizenship.

Do you know the ORIGINAL THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT was passed in support of Article I, Section 9, of the United States Constitution?

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the consent of Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

Said original Amendment is a matter of record notwithstanding it being continuously omitted in reproduction as it clearly provides the penalty for enforcement of Article 1, Section 9.

 The ORIGINAL THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT

Passed by Congress February 1, l865“If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive, or retain any title of nobility or honor, or shall, without the consent of Congress, accept and retain any present, pension, office, or emolument of any kind whatsoever, from any Emperor, King, Prince, or Foreign Power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them.”Is it any wonder, then, that the following two questions might just be answered with an emphatic: NO!

Can any attorney taking oath to any Bar association which pledges itself to the Crown of England still be a citizen?

Can any Congressman, in the House or Senate, accepting financial support from corporations or lobbyists outside their constituency and venue still be a citizen?

Thus, it is time again to restore America to its rightful place in history as that nation which first introduced the Rights of Man as being the grantor of power and privileges to uphold and defend its rights.

To do this, the Republic needs the voice of the people once more. We need to speak again as in 1773 where the real intent of the Boston Tea Party was not to just dump tea in protest of taxation. It was to demand representation and voice. Again, today, We the people, need to speak.It is our duty. Our rugged Constitution clearly gives us the Right to speak within our Bill of Rights with no less than six specifically identified amendments.

THE CONSTITUTIONAL VOICES

The only lawful constituent voices are those who can delegate representation in municipal, State or Congressional districts, and are limited to:

CITIZENS, who have been identified and are registered with district rights to vote for representation at municipal, State, or federal levels.

CORPORATIONS (like Mitt Romney‘s Bain Capital) which have only recently been identified by the U.S. Supreme Court as being persons.

Under Article XIV, Section 1, and having corporate headquarters in a specific Congressional district, they may lobby (one vote) only in their district for representation at municipal, State, or federal levels.We need now reformation of the process of creating and submitting bills for consideration and ratification. The following procedures are suggestive ballot measures to be sent via e-mail, blog, or what have you, to your representative or as a ballot measure for submission to voters on the next ballot to bring back the voice of America for the benefit of its people.

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3. Wisconsin Republicans Seek Access to Professor’s Email

History professor William Cronon (pictured, via) has written two opinion pieces criticizing Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Shortly after publicizing them, the Wisconsin Republican Party filed a request under the state’s Open Records Law for access to Cronon’s university email inbox.

The request demands copies of emails received and sent dated from January 1, 2011 to the present. Last night, Cronon responded with outrage on his blog, “Scholar as Citizen.”

Here’s an excerpt from Cronon’s post: “My most important observation is that I find it simply outrageous that the Wisconsin Republican Party would seek to employ the state’s Open Records Law for the nakedly political purpose of trying to embarrass, harass, or silence a university professor (and a citizen) who has asked legitimate questions…I’m offended by this not just because it’s yet another abuse of law and procedure that has seemingly become standard operating procedure for the state’s Republican Party under Governor Walker, but because it’s such an obvious assault on academic freedom at a great research university.”

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4. Why Wisconsin Democrats are Fumbling on their Message

By Elvin Lim


Something is afoot in American politics. There was a time when the rights of workers, even government workers, to collectively bargain, was taken for granted. There was a time when federal budget deficits were accepted as a necessarily evil but it was only a problem talked about and no one addressed. There was a time when it was political suicide to talk about extending the retirement age or reducing Social Security benefits. Whatever that is left of the political consensus of the last half-century is unraveling today into a cantankerous politics in which settled issues are now up for political re-litigation.

Democrats are on the defensive because they have never taken seriously the diversity of the Republican party, and have therefore failed to anticipate the insurgency of fiscal conservatism that began in 2009. They are fumbling to define a strategy to defend labor in Wisconsin because they have for so long been fighting a different enemy, neo-conservatism – which one might argue is a familiar cousin to liberalism in their shared commitment to budget deficits as an embarrassing but necessarily evil.

For so long relegated to second-place within the Republican fold, fiscal conservatism is today the pre-eminent breed of conservatism, sexier even than neo-conservatism. For so long presumed to be the heart of the Democratic party, labor knew not what to say when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker threw them a curveball, attacking the right to collective bargaining which had been entrenched for the last half-century. Democrats know how to protest wars, but they haven’t had to aggressively organize themselves to defend labor rights for half a century! Obviously, there are a many number of ways of making up a budget shortfall without attacking collective bargaining rights, but Wisconsin Democrats did not dive straight into articulating this odd connection. Instead, they appear to have conceded to the framing of the problem in fiscal terms (by accepting the Governor’s proposal that state employees pay 5.8 percent of their salary toward their pensions and 12.6 percent of their health-care premiums) and ended up restricting the range of argumentative exits left to them.

Successful political aspirants of the 21st century must understand the tectonic shifts which are occurring with increasing regularity in our politics. And politicians who are not nimble responders to the political cleavages of the day are condemned to fight the wrong battles. The reason why John Kerry lost in 2004 was because he was cast and perceived by a sufficient majority to be a flip-flopping pacifist. 2004 was not the time to challenge the wars abroad. (2008 was.) The reason why Democrats lost so many seats in Congress in 2010 was not because the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan weren’t going well enough, but because a new faction within the Republican party was able to bring domestic politics, and in particular fiscal issues, back on the national agenda.

For Democrats to stand a fighting chance in the congressional elections in 2012, they have to take the fiscal bull by the horns, even if it means renegotiating the relationship between the party and the clients of the Democratically-sponsored social-welfare state. Similarly, for social conservatives who want to advance their cause, they must piggy-back it on libertarian issues, as advocates for the de-funding of Planned Parenthood have wisely done.

Republican primary contenders should also note that seasons have changed. Dick Cheney is out, and Paul Ryan is in. There is a new issue du jour in town – though for how long, we don’t know – but it will likely be

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5. Fissures in the Conservative Movement

By Elvin Lim


In recent weeks, factions within the Republican party have begun jostling for power within the conservative movement. This is the bitter-sweet inevitability of being more than the party in opposition, but also a party recently co-opted into power. Whether the disagreement is between Rick Santorum versus Sarah Palin, or the Family Research Council versus GOProud , or Tea Party members of Congress and moderate Republicans debating the budget, or William Kristol and Glenn Beck on democracy in Egypt, these differences are only going to grow as we head toward Republican primary season.

There are, of course, differences in priorities within the Democratic fold as well. But the source of the president’s incumbency advantage derives from the fact that these differences will not be played out during the primary season. He will likely enjoy the benefit of not being challenged. So when Republican candidates are invariably jostling for advantage, the president can simply go about his business, looking presidential (and raising money.)

The reason why Ronald Reagan’s historical legacy has been revised upwards in recent times is because the children of his revolution know of no better way to hold themselves together. Or put another way, the celebration of Reagan only reveals the dearth of leadership in the conservative movement, which is still looking to the past because they cannot yet see anyone who can take them to victory in the future.

At this time in the 2008 cycle, Barack Obama had already declared his candidacy, alongside a formidable front-runner, Hillary Clinton.

Today, there is a long, lackluster, and uncommitted list of potential candidates on the Republican side (so much so that even Donald Trump managed to steal the show at this year’s CPAC Conference), but no major candidate has taken the plunge. Why? Because whoever takes the first plunge would become the universal target of all those not yet declared, and will suffer the irony that the first-mover advantage becomes the first-victim-of-infighting disadvantage. The more potential candidates predict infighting, the later they will declare, so that they can stay above the fray for as long as they can. No one candidate feels confident enough to pull the three major strands of conservatism – the libertarians, the social conservatives, and the neo-conservatives – together, and this is why Reagan is still the godfather revered.

Watch the lesser known candidates be among the first to declare as they would be able to secure some national media attention when the Reagan Library hosts the first Republican primary debate for the season on May 2, 2011. The better known candidates have more to lose and less to gain by declaring early.

In particular, s/he who waits until the situation in Egypt as well as the budget battle between the President and Congress unfolds would better be able to pivot toward the emerging priorities of the conservative movement. If Egypt transitions into a democracy friendly to US interests, then neo-conservatives of the Kristol variety would have won the argument

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6. George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream

By Dan P. McAdams


In the spring of 2003, President George W. Bush launched an American military invasion of Iraq.  From a psychological standpoint, why did he do it? Bush’s momentous decision resulted from a perfect psychological storm, wherein world events came to activate a set of dispositional traits and family goals that had long occupied key positions in Bush’s personality. At the center of the storm was a singularly redemptive story that, around the age of 40, George W. Bush began to construct to make sense of his life.  After years of drinking and waywardness, Bush fashioned a story in his mind about how, though self-discipline and God’s guidance, he had triumphed over chaos, enabling him to recover the freedom, control, and goodness of his youth.  In the days after 9/11, President Bush projected this very same narrative of redemption onto America and the world.  Just as he had, with God’s help, overcome the internal demons that once threatened to destroy his own life, so too would America, God’s chosen nation, overcome the chaos and evil of Saddam and thereby restore freedom and the good life to the Iraqis.  Because the redemptive story had played so well in his own life, the president knew in his heart that the mission would be accomplished and that there ultimately had to be a happy ending.

I have been thinking a lot about George W. Bush’s redemptive story these days as I follow the U. S. midterm elections.  The big political story for the past few months, of course, has been the Republican surge and the rise of the Tea Party.  One of the strategies of embattled Democratic candidates has been to frame the election as a contest between them and Bush.  After all, the Democrats decisively beat the Bush legacy in 2008, and they would love to fight that fight again.  But I wonder if they have picked the right enemy.

Like such Tea Party darlings as Sarah Palin and Rand Paul, George W. Bush was a died-in-the-wool conservative.  Throughout his political career, he pushed for lower taxes, less government regulation, strong defense, and other favorites of the political right.  Like Glenn Beck and many other social conservatives, furthermore, he was emotionally in tune with an evangelical Christian perspective on human life and social relationships.  At a Tea Party rally in Anchorage, Alaska, Mr. Beck recently confessed:  “If it weren’t for my wife and my faith, I don’t know if I would be alive today.”  As governor and president, George W. Bush often expressed the very same sentiment.

But Bush was really different, too.  In tone and sentiment, George W. Bush was less like the angry Republicans who are fighting to take over the House and Senate on November 2 and more like, well, President Obama.  Both Bush and Obama embrace an unabashedly redemptive narrative about life and about America.  Bush’s life story channels the well-known American story of second chances and personal recovery.  Obama tells the quintessentially American tale of upward mobility and liberation, the black boy who grew up to defy all the odds and become president.  In both narratives, the protagonist overcomes early suffering to reach the Promised Land in the end.  Both men project the theme of redemption onto America, though in different ways.  Bush wanted to restore small-town American goodness and spread democracy to the Iraqis.  Obama wants to catalyze human potential and improve Americans’ lives through progressive government.  Both appeal to the discourse of hope.

And what about the Tea Party?  It is difficult to generalize, but most conservative candidates who have won the backing of Tea Party activists in this election season do not seem to be telling a redemptive narrative about American life.  Their political rhetoric instead has a harder edge.  Let’s take the country back from the evil forces who ar

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7. Oprah Winfrey & Matt Lauer to Interview George W. Bush on Memoir Release

bushbook.jpgAlthough book tour dates have yet to be announced, former President George W. Bush will be interviewed by Matt Lauer and Oprah Winfrey when his memoir arrives next month.

Lauer will air his interview November 8th. Winfrey will air her interview on November 9th, the day of the book’s release. The regular hardcover will cost $35, but 1,000 copies of it will be signed and specially cloth-bound with a $350 price-tag.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair received a reception of shoes, eggs, and protests during his book tour this year. Would you go to a book signing by former President Bush? Let us know in the comments section.

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8. Horseflesh in midstream…


(Palin as beauty queen, 1984)

How many days until Palin “realizes she needs to decline the nomination so she can pay more attention to her family”?

Ahem.

“With deep apologies.”

This entire fisaco is really an astounding argument for the incompatibility of  conservative politics and feminism.  The party comes across looking bad bad bad.

Let’s hear it for abstinance-only education! Let’s hear it for secrecy and shame!  Let’s hear it for absurd assumptions about the easy emotional manipulation of women voters!

(not to mention killing wolves and polar bears)

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9. Does Rush Limbaugh Lead the Republican Party?

Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below he looks at who the leader of the Republican Party is. Read his previous OUPblogs here.

To answer this question, one must first ask: what is the Republican party and who leads it?

There are three possible answers to these questions. Here is a helpful distinction political scientists invented a while ago. There is the party in the electorate consisting of rank-and-file Republican identifiers, there is the party as organization instantiated in the DNC,and there is the party in government, which is the sum of elected Republican officials in government. So here are the potential leaders of the Republican party:

Leader of the party in the electorate - Rush Limbaugh, or so he hopes.
Leader of the party as organization - Michael Steele, or so he tries.
Leader of the party in government - future nominee, or so s/he plots.

Rush Limbaugh’s recent elevation in the political limelight was a result of the fact that the Republican party in government is in shambles after a stinging defeat in the 2008 elections. (It wasn’t just because President Obama mentioned him in a speech.) John McCain has been sidelined, and no one (not even Bobby Jindal, especially after his much derided reponse to the president’s message to a joint session of Congress) has emerged to fill the political vacuum on the Right. The party in the electorate are yearning for a shepherd and since they are not finding it in government, they are looking to a talk-show host.

The recent tussle between Limbaugh and Michael Steele was only to be expected in the light of this threefold characterization of the Republican party. They were merely jostling for power as the party in government is regrouping.  But it also tells us how weak parties have become as personalities (in the media and in politics) have trumped organizations in the running of American democracy.

None of this is good for the Republican party (as organization). When the party in the electorate has to turn to a talk how host for a potential leader, it spells disenchantment at their elected representatives in DC. The organization - its fundraising and voter turnout machine - was what gave the Republicans the electoral edge up till 2006. But now the party appears to be left only with personalities - like Joe the Plumber (still around), Aaron Schock (the youngest member of Congress), and Limbaugh. Personalities flit in and out of political life, and at best can only temporarily bring together a a diverse coalition of interests. They are not the way back to a competitive two-party system.

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10. The Republican Party is Not the Conservative Movement

Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below he looks at the Republican Party. See his previous OUPblogs here.

A political movement is not the same as the party that claims to represent it.  And the disconnect between the Republican party and the conservative movement is sharper today than it has ever been since the heyday of the Reagan revolution. Consider the rising star of Glenn Bleck – as if one Rush Limbaugh isn’t enough – and the marginalization of Michael Steele, who wasn’t even invited to speak at last weekend’s march in Washington and who was denied the opportunity to speak at a Chicago Tea party in April. The angry voices in town-halls and the national mall are not evidence that the Republican party has found its voice, but that it hasn’t. When citizens feel that elected officials don’t speak for us, we take up arms ourselves (sometimes, literally).

The Reagan coalition is fraying, because the libertarian faction of the conservative movement has had enough of sitting at the back of the movement’s bus. For too long, they bought Ronald Reagan’s and George Bush’s argument that expensive and deficit-increasing wars are a necessary evil to combat a greater evil, but the bailout of the big banks last Fall was the last straw for them. If Irving Kristol once said that neoconservatives are converted liberals (like Ronald Reagan himself) who had been “mugged by reality,” Tea Partiers are conservatives who have woken up to the fact that neoconseratives are no different from pre-Vietnam-era liberals chasing after utopian
dreams.

The reason why Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are the heroes of the movement, and Michael Steele is persona non grata, is because fiscal conservatives no longer trust the Republican party who for too long has placed their agenda on the backburner. This, in turn, has been brought on by the fact that neoconservatives have lost their privileged status within the movement because of the delegitimation of the adventure in Iraq and the onset of the economic recession. While the end of the Cold War vindicated neoconservatism, the events of September 11 gave it a new lease of life. Together, these two contingent facts of history contributed considerably to the longevity of the Reagan revolution, even as the botched and expensive adventure in Iraq put a screeching halt on the neoconservative ascendancy.

Americans today face a crisis in their pocketbooks and not with foreign nations. Tax-and-spend liberals are a worthy enemy, but they are nowhere as scary or as unifying as the “Evil Empire” or the “Axis of Evil.”

This is why Republican public officials are doing a lot of soul searching these days as they try to make sense of the disconnect between their ideology and party that has been brought on by neoconservatism’s decline. The lack of coordination and indeed the widening chasm between the party and the movement can be evidenced in Arlen Specter’s cross-over to the Democratic aisle, Senator George Voinovich’s complaint that his party was being “taken over by Southerners,” and in Olympia Snowe’s and Susan Collins’ overtures to Barack Obama.

Most people will agree that we know exactly what Barack Obama is up to, politically. The right-wing talk-show hosts will be the first to tell us. But we really do not know what the Republican party stands for or who could possibly lead it in 2012. This is because the party has lost its synthesizing logic and lacks a unifying hero. This weekend, a straw poll conducted at the Values Voters Summit put Mike Huckabee on top, with 28 percent of the vote, because the straw pollers are Values Voters, who constitute yet another faction within the conservative movement. But what was more telling is that even though Sarah Palin did not even turn up for the event, she nevertheless garnered the same endorsement as Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Pence, at 12% each. This is conservatism in
search of a leader.

Because it is parties that win elections and not movements, Republican members of congress should not be taking any comfort from the passionate protests of the Tea Partiers. Instead, they should be embarrassed about the fact that they have been trying to play catch up with a movement that has lost hope in its elected officials. More importantly, the Republican party must find a new way to unite the neoconservative, libertarian, and traditionalist factions of the movement to have any chance of standing up against a president and party, who in 2010, could well be riding the wave of an economic recovery to electoral success.

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11. Sarah Palin Goes Rogue in New York

Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below he looks at Sarah Palin. See his previous OUPblogs here.

Last Thursday, former Governor of Alaska endorsed Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, over Republican Party candidate, Dede Scozzafava, in New York’s 23rd Congressional District’s special election. This is a pre-book launching publicity stunt, leaving no doubt that Sarah Palin is Going Rogue. She has now erased all remaining speculation that she retains personal political ambitions, at least within the Republican Party. Ironically, it is not Barack Obama who has become a self-centered celebrity, but Sarah Palin, who is wowing the conservative crowd with her personal, anti-party appeal. Celebrities are most popular when they stand beyond and outside party – consider the sharp dip in Oprah Winfrey’s popularity when she campaigned for Obama – and this is exactly what Palin has done. On Facebook, she explained her endorsement of Hoffman: “Political parties must stand for something. When Republicans were in the wilderness in the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan knew that the doctrine of “blurring the lines” between parties was not an appropriate way to win elections. Unfortunately, the Republican Party today has decided to choose a candidate who more than blurs the lines, and there is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race. This is why Doug Hoffman is running on the Conservative Party’s ticket.” Palin must know that her support of the Conservative candidate will split the Republican vote, and could end up giving the election to Democrat Bill Owens. If she had wanted to play the endorsement game without stepping on anyone’s shoes, she could have thrown in her support for the Republican candidates in the NJ and VA gubernatorial races, but she hasn’t. Instead, she has become the Frankenstein maverick the McCain campaign created, biting the very hand that fed her. Here is how she concluded her Facebook note: “Republicans and conservatives around the country are sending an important message to the Republican establishment in their outstanding grassroots support for Doug Hoffman: no more politics as usual.” Palin doesn’t so much stand for Doug Hoffman as she stands against “the Republican establishment,” fanning the conservative sentiment that the Republican Party performed poorly in 2008 not because it had become too conservative but because it wasn’t conservative enough. Hers is the anti-median-voter theory of elections, better read as the ideological theory of losing elections. Palin is going to drive the legitimacy crisis of conservatism if she continues on this road. Harold Hotelling and Anthony Downs have showed us that in single-member districts moderate parties targeting median voters win elections. This is a mathematically provable proposition. That is why Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty are not weighing in on the New York race, because they are trying to do exactly what Sarah Palin is accusing the Republican Party of doing – blur the line between conservatism and Republicanism so that they can appeal to as many potential primary voters as possible should they choose to run in 2012. Ideologues (and celebrities) do not care about winning elections, and Huckabee and Pawlenty want to keep that option open. There was a time when liberals were proud to be liberals, and that spelt the beginning of liberalism’s end. Pride and ideological purity drove liberalism’s legitimacy crisis, as will be the case for modern conservatism’s demise. Democrats, folllowing the lead of the “third-way” Bill Clinton, learned after the excesses of the War on Poverty not to stand on ideology alone – which is always extreme and uncompromising – but also on programmatic commitments that could appeal to the median voter. Sarah Palin would not remember it, but there was a time, at the turn of the 20th century, when “conservatism” was a bad word coterminous with “stand-patting.” She is in danger of recycling history, not that she cares, because she has a personal agenda, not an institutional one. When a party allows those who do not care about winning elections to speak for its base, it courts trouble. Behind every anti-Republican establishment hurrah Palin provokes is a voter ready to Go Rogue on election day. Republicans, beware.

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12. On the Republican Politics of Reaction

Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below he looks at the Republican party. See Lim’s previous OUPblogs here.

American presidents do not have the luxury of savoring victories, but this is also an asset because they have a multitude of areas to prove their worth to the American people. Following the House’s historic vote on health-care last Sunday, President Barack Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, and made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Sunday. Next month, he will attend a summit on nuclear security with 40 heads of state. The President is attempting a pivot to show that he is the president on domestic policy and health-care, and he can also be a president abroad.

And this is why the Republican campaign strategy of repealing the Democrats’ health-care bill for this November cannot be enough. Republicans have been playing catch-up all year, reacting to events rather than creating them. For a while, the Republican message-of-the-day was that the Democrats were tone-death on the jobless rate and misdirecting their energies on the health-care debate. But the jobless rate isn’t the central concern of politicians or economists as it was last year. Now the Democrats have passed health-care reform, Republicans have shifted their focus to wanting to repeal it. Not only is this a mere politics of reaction, it is also the politics of delusion. Republicans running on repeal are running on something that can never happen – because President Obama will wield his veto against 67 Senators should it come to that – and when Republicans fail to do what they promised to do, their base would only become disenchanted.
At the heart of the Republican search for a positive and not merely a reactive agenda for campaign 2010 is the search for its soul. And even in this, Republicans have been reactive, for many were too slow to recognize the phenomenon called the Tea Party Movement. This movement has the potential of making or breaking Republican dreams this November. Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman didn’t merely force Republican Dede Scozzafava out of the race in the special election in NY23, but he ended up splitting the vote on the political right and giving the election to Democrat Bill Owens. Similarly, Sarah Palin may be the brightest political star of the Tea Party Movement, but she polls poorly with moderate Republicans. To decipher what they are for, Republicans need to sit down and think about what to make of, and what to do with, the Tea Party Movement.

If Washington Democrats know what they are for, Republicans haven’t settled yet on anything other than what they are against. “Hell no” will give a Republican primary candidate the Tea Party Movement’s vote, but it doesn’t guarantee anything come the general election, not least because major provisions

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13. The White House’s “Quid Pro Quo” with Sestak

Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below he looks at quid pro quo. See Lim’s previous OUPblogs here.

A quid pro quo refers to a relatively equal exchange of goods and services. In the emerging controversy over whether or not the White House had attempted to bribe Congressman Joe Sestak, the quid would be the White House job offer and the quo would be the return favor that Sestak drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Primary.

The White House has four ways of getting out of the legal trouble of having potentially offered a bribe. The first two are inconsistent, the third is persuasive, and the fourth is circular, but an utterly unassailable argument.

1. There was no quid.

The White House has centered its response on saying that there really was no quid offered, because only an uncompensated board membership was offered. White House Counsel Robert Bauer issued a memo on the Joe Sestak “job” talks on Friday, saying “Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board … The advisory positions discussed with Congressman Sestak, while important to the work of the Administration, would have been uncompensated.
What is interesting is that while the White House is admitting that a quo was suggested, a quid was never offered. An uncompensated advisory position, according to the White House, is not a job or at least no one that rises up to being a premise for a quid pro quo.

2. There was no pro quo.

In contrast, Congressman Sestak has acknowledged that while a job offer was made, he has thus far not claimed that attached to it was an explicit and directly connected White House request which he was bound to honor should he accept this job.
The Congressman realizes that he has spoken out of line and angered many Democratic Party leaders, because he has given fodder to the Republicans to create a potential Obamagate. That is why, he felt compelled to justify himself. On Meet the Press last Sunday, he said, “I felt that I needed to answer that question honestly … I was offered a job, and I answered that.” Importantly, he did not say that he was offered a job in return for not running for the Senate. If no quo, then no quid pro quo.

3. Quid pro quos are not illegal.

US Code Section 600 reads:
“Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party in connection with any general or special election to any political office, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”
The fact is no

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14. The Tea Party movement and Elections 2010

By Elvin Lim


For Republicans to take over 10 seats to gain control of the Senate, 2010 Republican voters must not see themselves as voting the Bush/Rove Republicans (who were kicked out in 2006 and 2008) back in, but for a new type of Republican newly infused with Tea Party sentiments. The question then is, can the Tea Party be synergistically incorporated into the Republican electoral machine?

There is no doubt that the Tea Party movement has been a force to reckon with this primary season. Consider the fact that there are 37 seats in the Senate up for election this year, 18 of which are currently occupied by Republican incumbents. Of this 18, seven candidates backed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (two of whom, Bennett  and Murkowski, are incumbent senators) have lost to Tea Party candidates in the Republican primaries:  Lee (UT), Miller (AL), Buck (CO), Angle (NV), Paul (KY), O’Donnell (DE), Rubio (FL). We have not seen the Tea Party movement and its influence at a higher point than where it is today.

This has been reflected in the rising fortunes of the movement’s star. Of the 36 primary races the most prominent Tea Party personality, Sarah Palin, has supported, 25 have been victorious. This King-maker is newly revisiting the idea of making herself King in 2012, when she re-opened opened the doors to speculation that she would run in 2012 when she visited Iowa last week. Right now, Palin’s future looks good. But this could be because we are just done with primary season, where the most conservative also tend to be the most likely to turn-out. Check back again after November, and things could be looking very different. What is clear is the Tea Party movement is ideologically committed to bottom-up, grassroots politics. As a result, it is even more in need of a unifying figure than previous third party movements (almost all of which coalesced around charismatic figures like Theodore Roosevelt or Strom Thurmond).

Whatever happens this November will dramatically affect the composition of the Republican party and its thrust in 2012. Here are the best and worst case scenarios for the Tea partiers.

Best case: If Christine O’Donnell wins in Delaware, Sarah Palin’s fortunes will be looking even brighter for 2012 (for she would have repudiated the prediction of the Cardinal of the Republican establishment, Karl Rove, who has publicly criticized O’Donnell’s candidacy.) If she doesn’t win, establishment candidates will do better. (Mitt Romney, ever the opportunist covering his bases, sent an endorsement and a maximum contribution of $5,000 to the O’Donnell campaign the day after her victory.)

Worst case: Lisa Murkowski, competing as a write-in candidate in Alaska could keep Joe Miller from winning. Miller only beat Murkowski by 1,600 votes in the primary, so doing so was by no means a conclusive test of electability come November. If Miller and Murkowski end up splitting the Republican vote and giving the election to Democrat Scott McAdams in Palin’s own backyward, civil war could erupt in the Republican party because the Tea Party movement would no longer be credited for bringing energy to the party, but dark matter.

What Palin and the Tea Party movement have done, however, is shake up the Republican party’s modus operandi of typically always having an heir-apparent waiting in line. The GOP is going to be much less orderly in the years to come because the mavericks have infiltrated, and are now reconstituting its soul. What is undeniable is that 4 million more Republicans turned out than Democrats did in this year’s primary contests (and this is the highest Republican turn-out since the 70s), so the complexion of these primary results will  permeate at least some of the general election results.

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15. A Pledge to Do Nothing

By Elvin Lim


The Republican “Pledge to America” is an attempt to show that the Republicans are more than a Party of No. The Pledge to America, however, is just a clever way to disguise a set of promises to undo or not do; but it is not ultimately a pledge to do anything.

Party platforms make a little more sense in the British parliamentary system, from whence they developed, because parliamentary sovereignty there does not have to contend with the separation of powers. But the Republican’s watered-down platform is a stunt if only for one reason alone. It’s called the presidential veto, and the Pledge exaggerates what Republican takeovers in one or both chambers of Congress in November could achieve.  This is a Pledge of faux intentions because Republicans know full well that it would only take a stroke of a presidential pen and almost every one of the proposals contained in the Pledge will not see the legislative light of day. If Democrats think they had it tough in the last two years trying to get 60 senators on board with each of their proposed bills, wait till the Republicans try getting 67.

The Pledge, then, is not even governing by campaigning, because it is pretend-governing by campaigning. How the Republicans are going to deliver, for example, on their promise that they will allow any lawmaker (Democratic or Republican) to introduce an amendment that would cut spending on any spending bill boggles the mind. What if the likes of Dennis Kucinich introduces amendments to reduce defense spending in every bill and the Congress grinds to a procedural halt? And if that’s the intention (as John Boehner flirts with the idea of  shutting down the government), there is a problem there too.

At root, there is something fundamentally inconsistent about the Pledge. A philosophy of Government against Government is rather more self-defeating than the far Right admits. Not many people and certainly not many independents want to send representatives and Senators to Washington to sit there and do nothing or merely to undo something (like Obamacare). And Tea Partiers should realize that no politician is going to endure the campaign trail and finally get to DC only to make his/her job and reason for existing perfunctory. There is a built-in bias for government in the very notion of elections, and the far Right’s desire to starve the beast called the federal government cannot be accomplished for as long as the American people support Medicare and Social Security (neither of which are given much attention in the Pledge.) The beast is here to stay, so we might as well learn to tame it.

The GOP plans to unveil this Pledge at a hardware store in suburban Virginia on Thursday. The ceremony and hoopla may look patriotic, and heart-felt, and in keeping with our highest founding ideals. But the Pledge to America is little more than a publicity stunt revealing the danger of pretend-governing via campaigning in America. The solution to our troubles is not no government, but better government, and this nuance appears to be lost on the poll-tested slogans of this election year.

Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at

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