When the Republican national convention came to Philadelphia in 2000, I attended every session of every day. At the time, I was working as a columnist at another newspaper here in town, and I wrote a tongue-in-cheek column mocking the GOP’s oft-repeated claim that week to be “the party of inclusion.”
Clearly that column was 12 years ahead of its time, since it’s become crystal clear this week that if there’s anything the Grand Old Party fears more than taxes, it’s being in close proximity to Black and brown people.
At the convention in Tampa, there are fewer Black people than ever, both in the audience and at the podium. Sure, they trotted out Condi Rice, Mia Love and Artur Davis in a half-hearted attempt at the illusion of diversity, but their actions spoke louder, and proved the gesture to be mere window dressing.
The real GOP was on display as well — with all its racial animosity intact. A couple of attendees were thrown out Tuesday for throwing peanuts at a Black CNN camera operator, telling her, “This is how we feed the animals.”
The offending racists were ejected from the forum, and late Tuesday night the GOP organizers issued a non-apology statement calling their actions “inexcusable and unacceptable.” What they didn’t say was that they’re sorry, or that any punishment was meted out to the peanut throwers beyond escorting them from the premises.
Organizers wouldn’t even say whether the pair’s credentials had been pulled, or if they were allowed to return the next day. The GOP, and coincidentally CNN, seemed content to dismiss the behavior as an aberration, and move on.
I wonder, though, if they’d have taken the same boys-will-be-boys attitude if there were, say, a couple of mean-looking, Black guys intimidating a white woman. Something tells me there would have been a lot more action than a hastily written repudiation, and those guys would be sitting in a cell until first daughter Malia Obama runs for president in 2036.
Then there’s Monday’s incident, in which Puerto Rican Committeewoman Zoraida Fonalledas took the stage, and was nearly drowned out by boos, catcalls and the chant of “USA! USA! USA!” It was an embarrassing moment, and one that played into the narrative of the GOP’s disdain for brown people who speak English with an accent; but event organizers were quick with another explanation.
The chants and catcalls while Fonalledas was on stage, they said, were the result of Ron Paul supporters on the floor being disruptive in their protest of rule changes which would shut down support of anyone other than the presumptive nominee in future conventions, and not directed at immigrants in general, or Fonalledas in particular.
It’s easy to see how convention organizers would be especially sensitive to hints of racism, considering that their party has become older and whiter than ever, and no longer bothers to try to convince anyone that they’d like to become more diverse.
What’s more difficult to understand is how the GOP repeatedly demonizes, animalizes and dehumanizes minorities — and blames Black and brown people for every problem in America — but then seems genuinely surprised that Mitt Romney is polling lately with zero percent of the Black vote.
Even after the draconian immigration laws and threats of electrifying a border fence across the Rio Grande; even after voter ID laws threaten to undermine the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of minority voters; even after telling women they should be forced to bear the child of a rapist; and after Romney himself is out there telling “birther” jokes, they somehow fail to understand why their policies are unpopular among anyone who isn’t white, straight and rich.
In fairness, some Republicans get it. Sen. Lindsey Graham was quoted this week as saying, “The demographics race, we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry, white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
He’s right. Of course, the constant lying about President Obama’s record, and the thinly disguised racial code words won’t help their case with minorities either. After all, if your cause is just, and you’re in the right, why would you have to lie?
For the record, Romney’s camp did address the lies and truth-stretching they’ve been doing. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at a panel organized by ABC News. Translation: The lies appear to be working, so we’re going to keep it up.
As long as they maintain their present policy of avoiding both the truth and minority voters in light of the nation’s changing demographics, the GOP knows it’s shooting itself in the foot in regard to long-term viability.
They just can’t help themselves.
Daryl Gale is the Philadelphia Tribune's city editor.
So now it’s Ron Paul’s turn to be a top-tier Republican presidential candidate? It’s about time. He deserves it. The Grand Old Party’s 2012 contest is driven heavily by tea party politics. It is appropriate that GOP voters give rise to original tea potter, even if he sounds a little cracked.
After all, as some of his many younger fans like to say, the aging Texas congressman and physician is to the tea party what Snoop Dogg is to hip-hop, an “original gangsta.” He’s got his mind on your money and your money on his mind, especially if he can keep it away from tax collectors.
But few of his supporters expect him to be elected. Like Chicago Cubs fans, the Paulistas don’t like to be disappointed, but after two other failed runs, they have grown accustomed to it.
His current surge comes partly out of desperation as the GOP’s conservative Anybody-But-Mitt faction runs out of alternatives to Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the party establishment’s favorite. A half-dozen other hopefuls soared and flamed out. Paul will fall, too, I predict, as his curmudgeonly pronouncements remind voters of why they didn’t support him sooner.
I’m not referring to the good doctor’s crackpot side, like recently revived reports of his 20-year-old newsletters, sprinkled with racist and anti-Semitic comments. Paul denounces the statements and claims he never read them. Yet they appeared in the newsletter that bears his name and funneled dollars to him from eager subscribers. Paul is not that much of a details man, he wants us to believe, yet he wants to run the White House. Fat chance.
Paul says enough these days to alienate fellow conservatives without anyone having to probe into his past. On his visit to “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno before Christmas, for example, he sparked his biggest applause with views that his own party tends to oppose.
Gay marriage? “My position on marriage,” he said, “is that the government just ought to just stay out of it totally and completely and quit arguing about it.”
Marijuana legalization? “The role of the federal government is to protect liberty,” he said, including “our right to do to our body what we want, what we take into our bodies.”
Foreign Policy? He’s an isolationist. He criticized the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, thinks Iran poses little threat to the U.S. and wants to end all foreign aid programs, even to Israel. In general, he would repudiate decades of foreign policies supported by both parties.
In his first presidential year, Paul said, “I’d like to cut spending by $1 trillion.” And how would he get Congress or the country to go along with that? Ah, well. Like a barbershop grouch, Paul has more gripes than answers.
But few of his exuberant supporters worry much about who will pay the price for Paul’s political dreams, since few actually expect him to be elected. They want to “send a message” to the GOP and the nation, they say. But even if the controversial congressman surprises us with his strength in the upcoming primaries, what message does his extremism send?
I can think of two. The first is one that the Paulistas don’t want: a short-term disaster for Republican prospects and a big boost to their nemesis, President Barack Obama. Paul’s kooky extremism only helps to reinforce Team Obama’s efforts to paint today’s Republicans as nutty enough to make Sarah Palin sound like Margaret Thatcher.
But in the long run, Dr. Paul’s outside-the-box thinking, like Ross Perot’s maverick 1992 campaign, does bring attention to serious fiscal questions that neither party is eager to take on: What should be the role of government in the new century? How big should it be? How can we modernize a social and financial system designed for an earlier industrial age to suit the new global economy?
Those are the questions that this election should be about. Beyond today’s partisan catfights and media grandstanding, we need a serious debate about the country’s future between thought leaders on the right and left. Unfortunately, winner-take-all politics keep getting in the way.
Struggling to get out their message versus wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Isaac battering the Gulf Coast, the GOP took an unusual stab at something it doesn’t have much of these days: diversity.
An entire, abbreviated week of the Republican National Convention seemed as much about its star-studded line-up of speakers than the former Massachusetts governor it was set to nominate. As strange — for the GOP — was that the party typically maligned as an all-white country club appeared pressed to choreograph more color on the Tampa Bay convention stage than was present in the audience.
It was odd and somewhat sudden behavior for a party that watched its primary candidates alienate every demographic group from women to Latinos to African Americans. Republican candidates from former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich played with caustic messaging on the very edge of deep, itchy racial tensions. Others were accused of being just as blatant, whether it was Ron Paul’s history of racially-tinged newsletters in the ’90s, or Michelle Bachmann goofing up the history of slavery.
But, as the Republican primary came to its bloody end, and candidates entered into the general election phase, observers expected a moderation in tone and image from the GOP, in an attempt to soften both message and appearance before a wider swath of voters.
Since Mitt Romney became the nominee, that goal has become problematic for Republicans in an election that is increasingly defined by the subtext of race. Many observers suggest that the 2012 election has become just as racially charged as 2008, a time when mass euphoria and shock over the epic rise of the nation’s first Black president appeared to offer a healing salve for a notorious 400-year-old wound.
In what was supposed to be a “post-racial” electoral landscape, many now point to a string of statements, slights and unspeakable gaffes on both sides of the partisan aisle, from a Romney advisor in England on “special” Anglo relationships to Vice President Joe Biden’s “chains” comment. In recent weeks, accusations of racism flew angrily from side to side, with the Romney campaign releasing what was described after fact-checking as a baseless campaign ad charging that President Obama waived the work requirements for welfare recipients.
“While that charge may seem race-neutral, there is a long-standing and strong association in white Americans’ minds between welfare and ‘undeserving’ African Americans,” observes Brown University’s Michael Tester, who recently examined the racial impact of the ad in a ModelPolitics survey for pollster YouGov. “The results from our experiment suggest that ads like the one in this post may well contribute to the growing polarization of public opinion by racial attitudes beyond the voting booth in the age of Obama.”
Others point out that the overtly racial dialogue taking place is becoming a major distraction at a time when African Americans need both parties to seriously address problems such as high unemployment, foreclosures and crime. Republican strategist and CNN commentator Lenny McAllister, while in Tampa, called it “junk food journalism” during a brief exchange in which he described Black media coverage as too focused on trivial sideshows amid other, more important matters. Black unemployment is twice the national average at nearly 15 percent and the Black middle class has shrunk rapidly in the wake of the recession and budget cuts. And in cities with large Black populations such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit, violent crime is on the rise with the Windy City reporting 9 homicides and 28 injuries in just one weekend.
“Let’s be honest here. If anyone on the right has a solution for Black people, and this is speaking as someone who isn’t some hardcore liberal, I haven’t seen evidence of it,” says HipHop Wired Senior Writer and NewsOne contributor D.L. Chandler. “I’ve yet to witness anyone during the RNC, replete with its fat cats and good old boys with plump wallets and plumper gullets, truly speak to the socio-economic woes of the lower-middle class and minority issues aside from Hispanics.”
“As of now, there’s no solid solution for the economic struggles of Blacks coming out the Romney–Ryan camp, and Obama’s re-election campaign has skirted the issue time and again.” adds Chandler. “All it does is add to the spinning wheel of media pull quotes, Web visits and blog hits. Nothing in the way of tangible solutions has been offered to the public.”
The polarizing temperature rose faster earlier in the Republican convention week when MSNBC host and Philly native Chris Matthews exploded on RNC Chair Reince Preibus, chiding him over Romney’s birther joke (“It just seems funny that the first joke he ever told in his life was about Obama’s birth certificate,” growled Matthews). When Preibus, clearly on the defensive, charged on about the president following European policies as a guide — injecting the “Obama-as-socialist” narrative — Matthews blasted back hard, “Where do you get this from? This is insane. [You’re] playing that race card again.”
Whether racially unhinged or not, events over the past week suggest a Republican party making slow pivots on the issue of race. Some experts suggest that the 2012 election could be the very last cycle that Republicans almost exclusively tailor their rhetoric and strategy for white voters, who constitute 74 percent of the larger electorate. In a recent and very revealing National Journal article by Ronald Brownstein, a GOP strategist is quoted as saying “[t]his is the last time anyone will try to do this,” a hint that this could be the end of the road for such gimmicks as Willie Horton ads and birtherism appeals to undereducated, working class white voters.
Former Congressional candidate, ShePAC board member and Gingrich staffer Princella Smith would take exception with that assessment. “The Republican Party is more diverse than the media and certain associations with an agenda have made it out to be,” said Smith when asked by the Tribune if a “tipping point” was taking place. “The people who spoke this week are all rising stars of the party, and they were all from diverse backgrounds.”
Using New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a main attraction was clearly timed to boost the Republican state executive’s credentials for 2016 — but, it was also a very subtle pre-season attempt at showcasing a much more moderate GOP (thereby explaining the absence of tea party luminaries such as 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin).
Christie, notably tepid in one of the more important speeches of his political life, acknowledged such by offering the crowd what many panned as a vanilla opposite to the normally bullish Jersey governor. But, it would ensure that he didn’t arouse bad feelings back home in the Garden State as reports began surfacing that Newark Mayor Cory Booker was seriously contemplating a run for governor in 2013. And it cements warm feelings from independents and stray Democrats who would look at that tape during his planned presidential run in 2016.
It wasn’t just Christie, however. Despite the obvious lack of faces of color in the convention hall, party leaders seemed to make great pains toward rolling out a thick bench of Black and Latino political stars and new flavors. There was former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis, a 2008 Obama co-chair now turned Republican, promoting a new era sans his former political boss. Others included former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez, both giving stirring and personalized speeches; Florida Senator Marco Rubio, once floating at the top of Romney’s veep list, was still the keynote introducing the governor for his official nomination speech.
Still, critics like BET.com’s Jonathan Hicks express skepticism and disappointment. “There has been little from the Republican convention, or the Republican campaign that speaks to the issues of African Americans in terms of jobs, education or anything of true importance to their lives,” said Hicks. “To his credit, the president has unveiled some initiatives regarding those issues.
When pressed about the level of racial hubris on both sides of the aisle, Hicks was guarded. “Some if it is about political gain on the part of the Democrats, of course. But when you’re campaigning against a political party that is the champion of voter suppression, you have your hands full.”
Today is the Pennsylvania primary where voters get a chance to cast their ballot for a number of elective offices.
Republican voters will get to have a say on who they want to be their party’s nominee for president. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee.
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum has dropped out of the GOP’s presidential race but his name will remain on the ballot. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas will also be on the ballot.
Democrats and Republicans will vote for their party’s choice for U.S. Senate, U.S Representative, state attorney general, state auditor general, state senate and state representative.
For Philadelphians, the primary is crucial.
Philadelphia is a heavily Democratic city. Usually the person selected in the primary will get elected in November.
Most of the incumbents we support are doing a good job. In some cases the incumbent needs to improve, but the challengers are not ready. ncumbents can not continue to simply keep the seat warm or use the fact that they are in the minority party in the state legislature as an excuse not to get things done. Challengers need to do more than criticize. Challengers should offer realistic solutions and not empty rhetoric.
If you like the job the incumbent is doing it is important to show your appreciation for the job they have done by re-electing them to office. If you are dissatisfied and believe it’s time for a change support the challenger.
There are also some state representatives seats open because the current office holder has moved on to another position.
Send a message today: Either you want to stay the course and reward the current office holder or you seek change and want to support the challenger.
We encourage you to make your voice heard by voting in today’s primary.
As Iowa becomes as irrelevant as before it started, and New Hampshire now nothing more than a fading reminder of Mitt Romney’s inevitability as the Republican nominee, all eyes are peering down to South Carolina.
The Palmetto State is where it’s at — a glowing red state where Republican presidential candidates are made or broken. It’s the giveaway state that neatly describes the Republican electorate’s character: very conservative, and very Southern.
Yet, to its steaming, smoky collard green credit — evoking the state’s official vegetable and a longtime food favorite — South Carolina throws in an early primary twist with its open primary. It’s where the liberals and Democrats can vote, too.
How that all ends up is anyone’s guess, as South Carolina’s primary could end in the tossup next week. This is where the real drama begins … or perhaps ends. Iowa was a razor thin disappointment to most observers, and rocking Ron Paul faithful looking for an upset of Romney’s inevitability. What is certain is that Team Romney, heading into the state with a clear money and machine advantage, boosted by an endorsement from Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C., is looking to the end game wrap up.
That’s a very heavy lift for the former Massachusetts Governor. South Carolina, one of several deeply Southern cradles with a proud legacy of political shenanigans and mudslinging (sometimes putting others like Louisiana to shame), will not make it easy for the Northerner. Perhaps they will send a message that no blue state, Massachusetts politician with Boston as his middle name is going to dominate a primary that most observers assume would be friendly to the likes of deep fried Southerners like Texas Governor Rick Perry, who will need an upset to show he’s as relevant as he is notoriously absent-minded.
Yet, the polls don’t necessarily shake out like that. A recent Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion Research poll shows a “competitive” match-up, with Romney at 23 percent and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in hot pursuit at 21 percent. Behind is former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum at 14 percent, followed by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman is at 7 percent to Perry’s 5 percent.
“This is not good news for Mitt Romney,” argues Matt Towery, a former Gingrich campaign chair who conducted the polling. “There is no other way to put it. This means it is a dead-even race. South Carolinians couldn’t care less about New Hampshire or Iowa.”
Yet, the non-Southerners still possess solid, if not sure-to-win leads, with Romney heading up the first tier while Santorum is holding down the second tier. Even fellow Mormon Huntsman is keeping the third and dead-last tier on lock, keeping Perry far away from Romney.
In a recent Public Policy Polling survey, which is based in North Carolina and probably has a better finger on the South Carolina electorate’s pulse, the picture gets rosier for Romney, who is at 30 percent against Gingrich’s 23 percent. Santorum is edging up at 19 percent, way ahead of the insurgent libertarian Ron Paul who is only at 9. Huntsman is at a mediocre 4 percent to Perry’s barely-on-life-support 5 percent.
How is it that the no-cursing, Manchurian candidate corporate geek — now getting bombarded with negative ads from Gingrich about his days at investment equity firm Bain Capital — is able to maintain an edge in a Southern state that even surpasses his national numbers?
“Romney’s benefiting from very strong personal favorability numbers in the state — 60 percent of voters see him favorably to only 29 percent with a negative opinion, numbers that far outstrip anything he ever posted in our Iowa polling,” says pollster Tom Jensen. “And he also has the most committed support out of the leading contenders. 67 percent of his supporters say they’ll definitely vote for him, compared to only 59 percent of Gingrich and 44 percent of Santorum’s voters who say that. Among ‘solidly committed’ voters Romney’s lead expands to double digits at 37 to 26 for Gingrich and 15 for Santorum.”
That’s an interesting observation, considering the hardcore right’s disillusionment with the “establishment” candidate.
“Despite having both a 5-year-old presidential campaign infrastructure and rock-steady mid-20s polling support, former Governor Romney has not been able to lock up the 2012 GOP race with the ‘Romney Formula,’” observes conservative commentator Lenny McAllister. “A method that Mitt should have mastered by this point: displaying that he is both conservative enough to be the GOP nominee and electable enough to the masses to be the president starting in 2013.”
With that said, Jensen says Romney should look out for Rick Santorum, who more than likely is holding Gingrich back.
Gingrich may be in second place right now, but the candidate who would have the best chance of beating Romney in South Carolina is Santorum,” says Jensen. “He edges out Romney as the candidate with the best favorability rating at 63 to 21. We tested hypothetical head-to-head match ups between Romney and the other leading Republican candidates. Romney defeats Gingrich handily in such a match, 49-35.”
What could be unfolding is an acknowledgement that Romney is not only the frontrunner, but also the Republican nominee in 2012. Republican psychology dictates the need to win — at all costs — and with whatever they have at the moment. That would be Romney, who for all his Mad Men-style corporate rodeo gaffes is still an impressive campaign organizer who just raised $24 million in the last quarter. The incumbent President Barack Obama, in hypothetical match-up polls against Romney, is only a percentage or two points ahead of Romney — with the exception of CNN and Reuters polls. But, there are also recent surveys showing Romney ahead by 2 percent, which means that 2012 will be rough and tumble for Obama should Romney take the nomination.
Observers see three races within the GOP primary unfolding throughout the remaining states, even well after South Carolina is wrapped up and Romney thinks he can coast along until the Republican National Convention in Tampa. There is the one race of revenge in which Gingrich is pulling out all stops to take down Romney in a bitter, hate-filled last scrap to get back at the former Bay State Governor for ruining his chances in Iowa through an un-Republican smear campaign.
There is also the race for Romney’s running mate. Despite incessant whispers of the virtues of a Latino VP to spice things up for what would otherwise be a vanilla ticket, and that is what some observers say Santorum is angling for. Santorum could stage an upset of Gingrich’s second place standing by aggressively marketing his conservative, pro-life bona fides, thereby allowing the right to pressure Romney into a compromise: we’ll back you against Barack if you pick one of ours as a running mate. This becomes even more likely should ultra-conservative tea party Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., make a public endorsement of Santorum at the last minute. Santorum’s chances of going back to Washington may have risen substantially in just a few weeks.
There is the third and unpredictable race that is Ron Paul, the grumpy and pessimistic lone wolf of the primary pack who is commanding a sizeable chunk of enthusiastic, yet cynical, young voters. The Republican establishment may be able to work with Santorum, but Paul is dancing to his own tune, which could be extremely problematic for Republicans as they try to lock up Romney quick.
He must avoid spending too much money fending off fellow GOPers rather than raising enough to beat the billion-dollar juggernaut that will be Obama in 2012.
How has an election year that was supposed to be all about economic recovery suddenly become all about sex? Critics blame the media. They have a point. The media keep reporting what the candidates are saying.
When you have made social issues like abortion, gay marriage and reproductive rights your central issues, you should not be shocked that media cover them. Yet, when you look at the extreme positions into which social conservatives have pushed the Republican Party, it’s not hard to see why their candidates would like to change the subject.
That became harder to do as this year’s most decisive issue, the sluggish economy, has shown signs of improvement. Promising news like Friday’s report that consumer confidence was up for the sixth straight month takes at least some of the steam out of Republican anger over President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy.
What’s troubling for many Republicans is how the social issues of gay rights and reproductive rights have sprung up into the news at a time when public opinion, particularly among independent voters, is moving away from conservative positions on those old culture war issues.
Even Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator whose rise to the top tier of Republican presidential candidates has come largely on the shoulders of social conservatives, was sounding like a flip-flopper in the Arizona presidential debate on the issue of contraceptives.
In the months prior to the debate, Santorum said that, as president, he would talk about “the dangers of contraception in this country.” He also gave a lawyerly response to the question of whether he thought states had the right to ban contraceptives. That response gave listeners the impression that he wanted states to do that — and that he, as president, might ban contraceptives, too.
He has vehemently denied that, pointing out that although he personally disapproves of contraceptives, he has voted in favor of them for others. As a firm supporter of access to contraceptives, as polls show most Americans are by a wide margin, I nevertheless will allow the former senator to have it both ways on that issue. By the same logic, I forgive liberal Democrats who deplore abortion personally but defend the right of others to choose.
I was further encouraged by Santorum’s professed support for Title X, the federal program that provides contraceptive services for low-income women. In past statements and in his 2006 book, “It Takes a Family,” Santorum touts his support for Title X.
This record offered him a convenient defense when he was embarrassed by his own mega-donor Foster Friess, who notoriously suggested in a television interview that women practice birth control by holding an aspirin between their knees. If Friess never heard about political correctness before he told that old wheeze of a joke, he knows about it now.
But days after Santorum cited his support for Title X in a CBS interview and again on Fox News, he stated flatly at the presidential debate in Mesa, Ariz., debate that he was against it.
In response to his rival Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, Santorum said, “As Congressman Paul knows, I opposed Title X funding. I’ve always opposed Title X funding, but it’s included in a large appropriation bill that includes a whole host of other things, including. ...”
He was interrupted at that point by booing from the crowd and by frontrunner Mitt Romney as the former senator tried to explain that he opposed Title X and only voted for it as part of larger pieces of legislation.
“I think I was making it clear that,” he sputtered somewhat defensively, “while I have a personal moral objection to it; even though I don’t support it, that I voted for bills that included it. And I made it very clear in subsequent interviews that I don’t — I don’t support that. ...”
More booing. In moments like that, Santorum’s reputation for consistency was shattered against the pragmatic realities of compromises that are a part of legislating. Unfortunately for him, they are the sort of retreats from principles and ideological purity that his party’s populist tea party wing regularly condemns.
As long as the party’s right wing seeks perfection in mere mortal politicians, they will be disappointed, especially when they’re talking about matters as touchy as sex.
Dear voter: Are you dissatisfied with the possible presidential choices facing you in November? How about, say, a Ron Paul–Hillary Clinton ticket?
I put that question to the top officers at Americans Elect, the innovative alternative website project that is gearing up now for a political “convention” on the web in June. If all goes as planned, the online convention’s nominee will be on the ballots in all 50 states.
But don’t call Americans-elect a “third party,” explained CEO Kahlil Byrd, a Republican who used to work for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. “We’re a second nominating process.”
Indeed, Americans-elect pride themselves on a blue-ribbon list of prominent, independent-minded participants from both parties. If they belong to any party, by my reckoning, it is the Washington Establishment party. If anything, they tell me, their experience in and around political circles only makes them more frustrated with partisan gridlock over how best to answer thorny issues like deficit reduction, immigration or job creation.
“We’re creating a content-neutral platform for political expression in American politics,” said chief operating officer Elliot Ackerman, a decorated Iraq War veteran and son of the group’s chief funder, investment banker Peter Ackerman. “No ideology, no platform, but the delegates craft a platform out of their questions to the candidates.”
Fine. I wish them luck. Their idea has wide appeal at times like these when, as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee recently put it, approval of our Washington leaders is “just barely above a pedophile.”
But I am skeptical that adding another candidate selection process will solve more headaches than it creates, although from a journalist's standpoint, it could be fun to cover.
That’s why I was not joking with my Paul-Clinton ticket question. A Web-based alternative nominating process is almost tailor-made for Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s army of web-savvy supporters if he loses his Republican presidential bid, as widely expected. A groundswell of support for him already is beginning to appear among Americans Elect delegates.
So is a similar push for Secretary of State Clinton. The former first lady also came out the winner of a mock balloting by the website POLITICO in an October imitation of Americans Elect. Maybe her victory indicates buyer’s remorse among some disappointed Democrats or mischief by some desperate Republicans. Either way, she has big appeal across partisan lines, which Americans Elect says is the sort of candidate they seek.
A Paul–Clinton pairing also would fit Americans Elect’s rule that the top vote getter must choose a running mate from another party or “political sphere,” as Ackerman put it. Considering that Paul is a Republican who supports libertarian ideas that most of the Grand Old Party does not support, like cutting defense budgets and legalizing marijuana, he arguably sits outside just about everybody’s political sphere but his own. That’s why his supporters love him.
And after years of diplomacy with exotic regimes overseas, Secretary Clinton should be well-suited to bipartisan work here, even with the exotic Paul’s following.
So, when I posed the possibility to Byrd and Ackerman, they chuckled and asked, “Who’d be on top?”
Indeed, with those two strong personalities, it would be hard to imagine. Besides, I take Clinton at her word that she’s pulling out of political life after Obama’s first term. If she’s drafted by Americans Elect, I expect her to graciously decline. But, well, anything’s possible in politics, right?
Either way, with the November elections expected to be close, it is not surprising that both parties are worried about a third party bid that could hurt their party’s chances.
Conservative consultant Dick Morris said on Fox News, for example, that a Ron Paul bid with Americans Elect would be a “disaster” for the GOP. The same could be said by Democrats about a credible liberal of Clinton’s stature.
But if the goal of Americans Elect is to respond to public frustration about too little getting done in Washington on behalf of the voters, it’s hard to imagine that a Paul or a Clinton would have any more luck getting legislation passed than Obama does now. We would only have some new names to blame for it.
The Republican National Convention released its platform in Tampa with House Speaker John Boehner, who is arguably the most prominent member of the party, admitting out loud that his party’s strategy for winning in November doesn’t include Black and Latino voters. As a matter of fact, he hopes they won’t vote at all.
“This election is about economics. … These groups have been hit the hardest,” Boehner said. “They may not show up and vote for our candidate, but I’d suggest to you, they won’t show up and vote for the president either.”
On Tuesday, the Republican Party approved their 2012 platform, which seeks to undo years of legislation protecting reproductive choice, marriage equality, disability rights, affirmative action, education, immigration reform and voting rights.
The platform takes the following positions:
On abortion — “We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” Such an amendment would ban all abortion in the United States.
On same-sex marriage — “We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of States which have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other States to do so.”
On women’s rights and disability rights — “It is all the more important that the Congress ... shall reject agreements whose long-range impact on the American family is ominous or unclear. These include the U.N. Convention on Women’s Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty ...”
On affirmative action — “... we reject preferences, quotas and set-asides as the best or sole methods through which fairness can be achieved, whether in government, education, or corporate boardrooms... Merit, ability, aptitude, and results should be the factors that determine advancement in our society.”
On education — “We support options for learning, including home schooling and local innovations like single-sex classes, ... We renew our call for replacing ‘family planning’ programs for teens with abstinence education, which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior.”
On immigration reform — “Illegal immigration undermines those benefits and affects U.S. workers... we oppose any form of amnesty for those who, by intentionally violating the law, disadvantage those who have obeyed it. State efforts to reduce illegal immigration must be encouraged, not attacked. The pending Department of Justice lawsuits against Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina and Utah must be dismissed immediately.”
On voter identification laws — “For the same reason, we applaud legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud, particularly with regard to registration and absentee ballots. We support State laws that require proof of citizenship at the time of voter registration to protect our electoral system against a significant and growing form of voter fraud.”
The new platform calls for the reshaping of Medicare as well, to give fixed amounts of money to future beneficiaries so they can buy their own coverage. The many calls to shrink the size and scope of government shows just how far to the right the party has shifted in both tone and substance since Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980.
Subtitled “We Believe in America,” the platform keeps its focus on the party’s traditional support for low taxes, national security and social conservatism. And it delves into a number of politically charged issues. It calls state court decisions recognizing same-sex marriage “an assault on the foundations of our society.” It salutes the Republican governors and lawmakers who “saved their states from fiscal disaster by reforming their laws governing public employee unions.”
Mitt Romney, like most recent Republican nominees, has noted that he supports certain exceptions to his party’s proposed sweeping ban on abortion: he told CBS News that he favors exceptions in cases of rape, incest and when the health or life of the mother is endangered. And this week Boehner pointedly asked, “Have you ever met anybody who has read the party platform?”
But some political scientists say that party platforms do matter. Gerald M. Pomper, a professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers University, studied meaningful platform pledges from 1944 to 1976 — and later updated his work by looking at the 1990s — and found that winning political parties try to redeem roughly 70 percent of their concrete platform pledges. Pomper said his work found that party platforms should not be casually dismissed as meaningless.
“It seemed strange to me that people would have fights over platforms and would put in a lot of effort to try to influence them if they didn’t mean anything,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “If they didn’t, why were practical people fighting over this? Putting something into the party platform is a pledge that you’re going to do something about it.”
This year’s Republican platform contains several planks that were sought by supporters of Representative Ron Paul of Texas, whose insurgent Republican presidential campaign energized a new generation of libertarians. It calls for an annual audit of the Federal Reserve, and for forming a commission to “investigate possible ways to set a fixed value for the dollar” along the lines of a commission that was established three decades ago to study — and wound up opposing — a return to the gold standard.
The proposal to reshape Medicare, as Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, have proposed, is now enshrined in the party platform.
Their plan would change the program for those under 55 so they would receive a fixed amount of money to purchase health coverage from private insurers, or a traditional Medicare plan. “While retaining the option of traditional Medicare in competition with private plans, we call for a transition to a premium-support model for Medicare, with an income-adjusted contribution toward a health plan of the enrollee’s choice,” the platform states.
The platform also suggests raising the age at which people can receive Medicare. “Without disadvantaging retirees or those nearing retirement, the age eligibility for Medicare must be made more realistic in terms of today’s longer life span,” it says.
President Obama and his policies are critiqued at length in the platform, which calls for repealing his health care law and criticizes his administration for leaking details of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.
“We give the current president credit for maintaining his predecessor’s quiet determination and planning to bring to justice the man behind the 9/11 attack on America, but he has tolerated publicizing the details of the operation to kill the leader of Al Qaeda,” the platform reads.
GOP Platform 2012 and The New York Times contributed to this report.
Zack Burgess is an enterprise writer for The Tribune. Contact him at zackburgess.com, and follow him on Twitter: @zackburgess1.
GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Bowing to the inevitable after an improbably resilient run for the White House, Rick Santorum quit the presidential race on Tuesday, clearing the way for Mitt Romney to claim the Republican nomination.
"We made a decision over the weekend, that while this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign today, we are not done fighting," he said.
Santorum, appearing with his family, told supporters that the battle to defeat President Barack Obama would go on but he pointedly made no mention or endorsement of Romney, whom he had derided as an unworthy standard-bearer for the GOP.
The former Pennsylvania senator stressed that he'd taken his presidential bid farther than anyone expected, calling his campaign "as improbable as any race that you will ever see for president."
"Against all odds," he said, "we won 11 states, millions of voters, millions of votes."
Santorum signaled his intention of maintaining a voice in the campaign to come, saying: "This game is a long, long, long way from over. We will continue to go out and fight and defeat President Barack Obama."
Santorum spoke with Romney before the announcement, a Republican source close to the campaign said, and Romney asked to meet him sometime in the future
The delegate totals told the tale of Santorum's demise. Romney has more than twice as many delegates as Santorum and is on pace to reach the 1,144 needed to clinch the nomination by early June. Still in the race, but not considered a factor: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Santorum had hoped to keep his campaign going through the Pennsylvania primary on April 24, but decided to fold after his severely ill 3-year-old daughter, Bella, spent the weekend in the hospital.
Santorum, a feisty campaigner who took everyone by surprise with his win in Iowa's leadoff caucuses, ran on his conservative credentials and his experience in Congress — he was a House member for four years and senator for 12 — but was hobbled by a lack of money and organization.
He said that while Romney was accumulating more delegates, "we were winning in a very different way. We were touching hearts" with a conservative message.
In a statement, Romney called Santorum "an able and worthy competitor" and congratulated him on his campaign.
"He has proven himself to be an important voice in our party and in the nation," Romney said. "We both recognize that what is most important is putting the failures of the last three years behind us and setting America back on the path to prosperity."
Santorum said the campaign had been "a love affair for me, going from state to state. ... We were raising issues, frankly, that a lot of people did not want raised."
He spoke almost nostalgically of the race, and of his trademark sweater vest, a pointed visual contrast to his suited rivals.
"Over and over again we were told, 'Forget it. You can't win,'" he said.
Eventually, the improbable had to bow to reality: Santorum would have needed 80 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination before the party's national convention in Florida in August. And that couldn't happen as long as Romney was in the race because most upcoming primaries use some type of proportional system to award delegates, making it hard to win large numbers of delegates in individual states.
In most states, Santorum's delegates can now support any candidate they choose.
Gingrich, who has been splitting the votes of those who questioned Romney's conservative credentials with Santorum, made an immediate play for his supporters.
He said the former senator's campaign was "a testament to his tenacity and the power of conservative principles.
"I am committed to staying in this race all the way to Tampa so that the conservative movement has a real choice. I humbly ask Senator Santorum's supporters to visit Newt.org to review my conservative record and join us as we bring these values to Tampa."
Paul also congratulated Santorum for "running such a spirited campaign" and called himself "the last — and real — conservative alternative to Mitt Romney."
Suspending the campaign allows Santorum to keep paying off nearly $1 million in debt, according to recent Federal Election Commission filings. Those debts include about $500,000 for media consulting and tens of thousands more for telemarking and online advertising, records show.
Other presidential candidates have eventually extinguished their debt and terminated their campaigns. Former Minnesota Gov. Tom Pawlenty officially shuttered his campaign committee on Tuesday, owing as much as a half a million dollars last fall but slowly whittling that figure down. -- (AP)