Comment at Virginia Right

Ellwood Sanders is a regular contributor to Virginia Right, a conservative blog edited by Tom White.  Yesterday he posted an article criticizing Leslie Cockburn and Chuck Schumer for having “perverted legal questions into political ones.”  It seems Cockburn tweeted that the Trump Administration demonstrated its “lack of respect for states’ rights and Virginians’ health.,” and Schumer pointed out that the Bret Kavanaugh nomination “would put a dagger through the heart” of Democrats’ belief that health care is America’s number one issue. Continue reading

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Sunday Morning Coffee

A few articles I’m reading over coffee this morning (Trump Will Never be President Edition):

Now that Clinton and Trump have more or less locked up their respective party’s nominations, the horse-race coverage will turn to the general election contest.  Since the media has an incentive to make it look like a close one, get ready for the “Donald Trump can win” and “Trump’s path to the Presidency” articles.  We’ll hear more about what an awful candidate Clinton is and all the baggage she’ll bring to the campaign.  Trump can pivot back to the center, they’ll say, and look more “Presidential” (whatever that means).  Much will be made of his record number of GOP primary votes. Continue reading

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Guns, the Second Amendment, and Politics in Virginia

It appears that guns and gun control could become a hot issue in next year’s state level elections here in Virginia.  Attorney General Mark Herring started the hue and cry when he ended concealed carry permit reciprocity with 25 states on the grounds that they don’t meet Virginia standards.  Gun rights activists objected one the grounds that it would hurt tourism and that no one can point out a case where someone from a state with lower standards had committed a crime in Virginia.  One blogger called it “slavery.”  They complained that Herring just wanted to go around the General Assembly to achieve a liberal result using an executive action.

This of course ignores the plain fact that Herring did nothing unilaterally. Virginia code – in a section passed by a Republican-controlled General Assembly – requires periodic State Police audits of concealed carry laws in other states. It then mandates an end to reciprocity with those states whose laws don’t include prohibitions Virginia’s law bans, or don’t have a system for rapid verification that an applicant should not be kept from carrying a concealed weapon.  Whether or not he liked the result, Herring had to take this action once the State Police reported that the laws in those 25 states don’t pass muster. Continue reading

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Elections as Popularity Contests

I just read this post at Bearing Drift and posted a comment.  The author, Brian Shoeneman, is a Virginia GOP activist who has run for local office on old-school conservative policies.  He comes across to me as an establishment conservative who reveres the past and finds himself annoyed that Donald Trump, Tea Party activists, and other extremists have hijacked his Republican Party.  In the old joke about how many Virginians it takes to change a light bulb, Brian Shoeneman is the one holding the ladder and waxing eloquently about how great the old light bulb was.

Here Shoeneman complains that elections come down to popularity contests, and rational voters, who “make decisions based on things like policy, ideology, and electability” don’t exist.  As examples he uses Trump of course, but also Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  To be sure, he has named three popular politicians (though I would say that Trump appeals to a much more limited constituency), but he says nothing about the reason why people like them so much.  Charisma matters, but I point out in my comment that policy matters as well.

Since the comment is rather long and makes what I think is an important point about why some Americans seem to like Donald Trump so much I thought I would repost my comment here:

This is an interesting, but in my view rather superficial, take on the election campaigns so far. A couple of thoughts.

First, let me challenge your assertion that voters don’t “make decisions based on things like policy, ideology, and electability.” For starters, the chief hermeneutic voters use to select a candidate is party identification. Those without the free time to spend conducting detailed research start by assuming that Republicans and Democrats differ in certain fundamental ways. This is why the core attack made on Trump is that he’s not really a Republican, and he’s not a “conservative.” His opponents try to tell voters not to apply this hermeneutic to Donald Trump. So yes, ideology makes a lot of difference.

I would also respectfully suggest that your Clinton and Obama examples do not support your claim. Bill Clinton won the Presidency on some very specific policy proposals – raise taxes on the wealthy to fix the budget and health care system, energy conservation and environmental protection to name two – against a very popular incumbent President. Barack Obama also ran on a specific policy platform that included higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for economic stimulus and ensuring better access to health care and ending needless war in the Middle East, among other ideas. To the extent these elections were “popularity contests” it’s because the policies these candidates proposed made them…popular.

Donald Trump is popular for another reason: he has tapped into residual white (especially male) anger at changes in American society that threaten their power. He appeals to the Warmac9999s of the world by suggesting that American is no longer great because we’ve let in too many brown people and given to much voice to women. These people are pissed because they can no longer express racist, bigoted, and sexist opinions without someone calling them out. This explains the emphasis on “political correctness” and the fact that evangelicals support Trump – note that a key reason his supporters like him is that he “speaks the truth.”

Conservatives have spent the last 45 years demonizing government and any effort to create an egalitarian society. They did this mostly in the service of corporations by enlisting religious leaders and disaffected white men using dog-whistle messages (e.g., “welfare queens”). As wealth inequality has grown, women assert themselves more, and the country becomes demographically more diverse these disaffected white men seek a hero. Donald Trump is popular with this constituency not because he’s famous. He’s popular with them because the believe he agrees with them that Mexicans cause their economic woes, Muslims cause their security fears, and no one can say the truth about this because “political correctness.” Warmac9999 and his ilk like Trump because they think he’ll “make American great again” by giving them the specific policies they want: a wall to keep Mexicans out, deportation of Muslims, and government support for rhetoric that accepts racist and sexist attacks on people they don’t like. He’s not popular because he’s famous and on television a lot. He’s popular because he gives angry white Americans license to express their racism and bigotry openly.

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Sunday Morning Coffee

It’s difficult to overstate how much the Select Committee on Benghazi hearing on Thursday helped Hillary Clinton.   Republicans on the panel came across as defensive, dishonest, and disrespectful.  Secretary Clinton looked…Presidential…while withstanding a total of about 11 hours of interrogation.  She appeared to be in control of the facts, the proceedings, and herself.  Conservatives by and large agreed.

Republicans held this hearing because they wanted to showcase their attacks on Secretary Clinton.  The problem is that their attacks have no real factual basis – they cannot show that Clinton did anything wrong.  That they refused to back off – and instead gave her a golden opportunity to prove it – showcases the poor political judgement of the people Republicans send to Congress these days. But if you think Trey Gowdy is an amateur, wait until the new special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood.starts holding hearings.  This Committee will attempt to use demonstrably fake videos to make a case for withdrawing federal funding from the organization.  Like the Benghazi Committee hearings on Thursday this will backfire by giving those they’re out to get a prominent platform on which to defend themselves.

Check out this post attacking Congressman Dave Brat on immigration at Bearing Drift, self-described as “Virginia’s Conservative Voice.” This blog provides a broad range of conservative voices and sometimes even offers valid and well-reasoned challenges to liberal thought.  But the real fun comes in the comments when the more…activist…wing of the Republican Party stops by to show its bigotry. As an example take a look at this comment from “mpolito.”  To this person blacks and Hispanics “are more prone to crime [and] welfare use…emphatically, unequivocally, and consistently.”  And the only way to stop them is to put them all in jail.  As of right now this post has 231 comments, all too many of them in this bigoted vein.

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Cloward-Piven, Saul Alinsky, and Right Wing Fever Dreams

On Election Day I met a gentleman named Tom White, a local Hanover County Virginia IT consultant and insurance salesman who runs a conservative blog called Virginia Right!  He seemed a nice enough man whose knowledge of local politics suggested connections to the Hanover County conservative political machines that I thought might be interesting.  We chatted for a few minutes about local and national politics.

Intrigued, I took a look at his website hoping for new insights into conservative thought and perhaps some discussion of local Tea Party strategy.  Sadly, Mr. White’s blog reproduces the misreading of reality found at NoVATownHall but with none of the intellectual/insider take offered at Bearing Drift. Continue reading

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Gillespie challenges Warner

Washington lobbyist and Republican political operative Ed Gillespie made Virginia political news last week with this video announcement that he plans to challenge Mark Warner for Senate this year. This decision apparently pleases Virginia GOP political activists: state Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins, for example, called Gillespie a “good candidate” in this Bearing Drift op-ed (intended more to frame Jeff Shapiro as a Warner supporter than to call for a Gillespie run).

Some think Governor McAuliffe’s success offers reasons for optimism despite Warner’s popularity (57% total approval rating according to this poll).  Bearing Drift columnists Norm Leahy and Paul Goldman argue in a Washington Post editorial that Gillespie’s lobbying background won’t hurt him given the way McAuliffe overcame his own political fundraiser history.  And Shaun Kenney, also at Bearing Drift, makes a case that Warner should fear Gillespie’s candidacy, mostly because he believes the challenger will be able to mobilize conservatives in the state while painting Warner as responsible for the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

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Virginia Political Blogs

Over at Bearing Drift a few weeks ago Shaun Kenney said this about MSNBC:

“Let’s be very honest about it.  MSNBC caters to probably the most hateful, unintelligent, mean-spirited, and closed minded of the American left.  The smugness and arrogance of the blathering idiots are perhaps only punctuated by the occasional bright light offered by Rachel Maddow, but beyond this are nothing but the vapid darkness of a fanatic who won’t change their mind and rarely changes the subject.”

“They really do hate us,” says Mr. Kenney (emphasis in the original), and it’s this hate that irks conservatives.  This makes MSNBC a “perfect caricature of what liberals think Fox News must be” (emphasis again from the original). Continue reading

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