U.S. Politics

Ted Koppel Tells Sean Hannity He’s ‘Bad for America’

Screenshot “CBS This Morning”


Ted Koppel has a bone to pick with Sean Hannity, and he’s not hesitant to do it directly, on the Fox News anchor’s own show.

This very scenario unfolded in a clip from “Hannity” that aired on “CBS Sunday Morning” as part of a story about political polarization in the U.S. The former ABC anchorman, who retired from “Nightline” 12 years ago, answered affirmatively when Hannity asked him: “Am I bad for America?”

Koppel backed up his claim by pointing to the melding of hard news and opinion in recent years, adding: “You have attracted people who have determined that ideology is more important than fact.” Koppel apparently does not count his own work as potentially ideological or misleadingly blending op-ed and hard-news delivery styles.

Watch the clip in full below (Koppel’s “bad for America” comment occurs around the six-minute mark) from “CBS Sunday Morning”:

Kasia Anderson

U.S. Politics

Top Republican runs to White House to share leaked intelligence; it’s time for a special prosecutor


attribution: Getty Images


The state of the so-called House investigation into state-sponsored Russian attacks on the 2016 elections—and possible collusion from the Republican presidential campaign—just took a hell of a turn, as the House Republican who supposedly is leading that investigation just announced he was headed to the White House to brief the targets of that investigation on incendiary new details about the state of the investigation against them.

Members of the Donald Trump transition team, possibly including Trump himself, were under U.S. government surveillance following November’s presidential election, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday.

To sum up, Rep. Devin Nunes—who was himself an executive member of Trump’s transition team during the period in question—says he was tipped off that the U.S. counterintelligence investigation had resulted in “incidental” collection of conversations of Trump staffers during the transition, possibly including Trump himself. This was, Nunes himself asserted, apparently legal; under FISA rules, this would generally have occurred if those staffers were in communication, “incidental” or otherwise, with foreign targets of an investigation.

Nunes did not share this information with Democratic members of his committee, but instead announced that he will be heading to the White House to brief the administration directly on these new details about … the investigation against them.

He appears to believe that the news that U.S. investigations meant to gather information on foreign intelligence efforts have discovered links to multiple members of the campaign, possibly including Trump himself, is somehow good news for Trump. Or perhaps he’s just publicly announcing those details and briefing Trump’s team on them for other reasons.


Again, Rep. Nunes is allegedly the person leading the House investigation on Russian acts during the election and, as confirmed by FBI Director James Comey during a recent hearing, possible Republican campaign collusion with those acts. And immediately after being tipped off to new information about potential ties to foreign agents and the Trump campaign, he’s meeting at the White House to let them know the information leaked to him.

Simply calling for an independent, non-partisan investigation into the election at this point seems almost beside the point. Trump transition member Nunes continues to work to sabotage the work of the investigators; he may be at this point a target of the investigation himself.

U.S. Politics

Are Professors Too Liberal?



Are college professors too liberal? Do we need more conservative professors? Has a lack of political diversity turned campuses into centers of liberal indoctrination?

These are legitimate questions, but I think the answers are “no,” “no,” and “no.” Censorship and indoctrination are indeed serious problems on campus, but I don’t think the solution is to have fewer liberal professors or more conservatives. On the contrary, the problem is that professors are not liberal enough.

Yes, you read that right: College professors should be more liberal, not less. But notice I didn’t say there should be more liberals. One can be liberal in the sense relevant to liberal education without being comprehensively liberal in some political sense. Professors should be liberal in the academic sense, regardless of their political views.

Colleges and universities have been devoted since the 19th century to liberal education, which assumes and promotes the intellectual autonomy of human minds, including respect for rational collaboration, disciplinary methodologies, and rigorous research. This entails taking the results of research seriously, even when these conflict with traditional beliefs, values, and practices.

It is not surprising that liberal education, which is rooted in liberal principles of individual liberty and rational autonomy, disproportionately attracts and produces liberals. Liberals and conservatives differ in ways that make liberal education more attractive to liberals than to conservatives. And involvement in education, even if it doesn’t turn people into liberals, often makes them more liberal in the academic sense.

Over the past two centuries, for example, liberals have generally accepted scientific conclusions on matters such as the age of the earth, the evolution of species, the reality of global warming, and the role of human activity in climate change. Conservatives, in contrast, have a long history of resisting scientific consensus on conclusions threatening to religious tradition or corporate profits.

What, then, is the problem? One concern is that lack of intellectual diversity will hinder research and education. But the sort of intellectual diversity relevant to academic work is diversity with respect to ongoing theoretical controversies, and there is no reason to think this is lacking. Biologists, for example, hold and teach a variety of views about the process of evolution; there is no need for concern about their political or religious beliefs.

Even with respect to political diversity the professoriate includes liberals, socialists, Marxists, moderates, pragmatists, libertarians, and (yes) conservatives, with many faculty claiming more than one of these categories, adding categories of their own, or rejecting any system of political categories. Those concerned about diversity of political views on campus need not worry. There is plenty of it.

Perhaps the problem is that the range of diversity on campus is skewed to the left compared to the range among the public at large. Conservatives are underrepresented and far-left viewpoints overrepresented. But there is no reason a political ideology should be represented in the professoriate in proportion to its current popularity. Universities should hire on the basis of academic merit alone and let the political chips fall where they may.

Rather than focus on the political views of professors, we should keep our focus on campus censorship and indoctrination, which are antithetical to liberal education. Professors should teach what they are hired to teach and should recognize their students’ rational autonomy by providing evidence and arguments, not just conclusions, and by encouraging students to think for themselves, seek new evidence, and reach their own conclusions.

As for the particular concern about liberal indoctrination, there’s nothing liberal about censorship or indoctrination. It may be possible to indoctrinate someone in particular liberal ideas and restrict exposure to alternative ideas but it is illiberal to do that. To reduce indoctrination we need more liberalism, not less.

But that doesn’t mean more liberals. Professors should be hired on the basis of their teaching and research without regard to their political views or activities. We needn’t worry about the representation of various political ideologies in the professoriate. Our focus should be on reminding all professors, regardless of their political views, that liberal education requires them to respect the intellectual freedom of all their colleagues and all their students.

David Moshman

U.S. Politics

George Will Jumps From Sinking Ship That Is The GOP


Longtime conservative columnist George Will is wiping his hands clean of the Republican Party.

This is not my party,” Will told PJ Media on Saturday. The Washington Post writer said a Democratic presidency would be better than the alternative offered by Donald Trump — who once called Will a “major loser.”

“Make sure he loses,” Will said of the presumptive GOP nominee. “Grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”

His voter registration in Maryland has now changed from Republican to “unaffiliated,” PJ Media reported. The final straw was House Speaker Paul Ryan‘s (R-Wis) endorsement of Trump, he said.

In the meantime, Trump continues to fumble over himself. Just this week, he fired his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski before setting off to Scotland to promote his golf resorts.

“He had one good day because he didn’t vomit all over himself and gave a decent speech,” GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak said of Trump.

Sebastian Murdock

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

U.S. Politics

Reminder: The Right-Wing Owes Us 25 Billion Dollars

Mark Wilson via Getty Images


Rest assured, Bobby Jindal (R-LA). Republicans are not the stupid party. They are the evil party.

Democrats are the stupid party. With the havoc that could be wreaked by the Zika virus, the right-wing feel they must “find” money in the budget to offset the research and development necessary to be ready for it.

But, $25 billion to shut down the government? Not a problem.

The Democrats are genetically incapable of calling them on it. A statement here or there, and that is it. Or, as Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) once told me about another subject, “didn’t you see my press release?”

Like Katrina and 9/11, we know it is coming. And yet, like Katrina and 9/11, Republicans sit on their hands.

After all, how much more fun to blame Obama for Zika, as Donald Trump will certainly do. And, while they are at it, they will make it more and more difficult for mothers who are carrying the microcephalic babies to have abortions.

This, Secretary Clinton/Senator Sanders/Senator Reid/Congresswoman Pelosi, could not be an easier case to make to shape public sentiment.

Republicans owe the country $25 billion from a shutdown so absurd that their own Speaker, John Boehner (R-OH) lashed out at it, and the architects said they they knew in advance it would fail.

$25 billion.

U.S. taxpayers will, thank you very much, take the first $1.9 billion of that back to protect unborn children and mothers from the Zika virus. (Unborn children? Who, pray tell, pontificates their love for them?)

A little clue on how to make this happen. Speak about it from all quarters. Have Hillary and Bernie call into morning news programs, just like Trump does, to talk about it. Repeat-repeat-repeat-repeat-repeat. Keep making the distinction. Demand the first “credit” from the $25B the right-wing owes the country is protection against the Zika virus.

Every time you are on a Sunday morning yapping show, talk about it. Bring every question back to Zika, right-wing obstruction, hypocrisy over protecting the unborn, $25 billion they blew on the government shutdown.

Of course, the above scenario will never happen. After all, the Dems are indeed the stupid party.

Paul Abrams

U.S. Politics

The Next Fox News? Why Facebook Is Sucking Up To Conservatives


Facebook is in the middle of a charm offensive targeted at conservatives, and is hosting a meeting between company founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg and conservative media figures like Glenn Beck and Fox News host Dana Perino.

The meeting is happening just six months before a presidential election and in the first election where social media sites like Facebook (and Twitter) have become more influential than ever.

After accusations of anti-conservative bias began to burn Facebook last week, the social media giant quietly reached out to Republican Party leaders to douse the brush fire.

It contacted the Republican National Committee, whose chairman, Reince Priebus, had publicly demanded that Facebook “answer for conservative censorship” — and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which had blasted out a fundraising email lumping the ostensibly neutral tech company in with the “liberal media,” according to a GOP source. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the GOP’s main House campaign arm, also heard from Facebook, the source added.

The firestorm began after a story on the tech site Gizmodo used an anonymous conservative who claimed to be a former Facebook employee as the source for a story alleging that Facebook was excluding conservative news sources from its trending topics area, a valuable source of traffic for news outlets.

Soon after the piece came out, Facebook denied the allegations and revealed its internal rules for what sites are featured in trending topics, but the damage has been done.

As they have done for years complaining about the “liberal media,” conservatives are now targeting the “liberal bias” at Facebook. Certainly, Zuckerberg appears to personally lean left, and most employees of a modern tech company are not going to be Rush Limbaugh style right-wingers, but the allegation doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. Conservative sites like Fox News have been shown to trend on Facebook.

What this ends up being is an influential media outlet who now feels they have to curry favor with the right wing, bending over backwards so that very loud conservatives don’t attack them in the same manner they attack the New York Times and MSNBC.

Then, as often happens in conservative media, when false stories and lies about the left surface, Facebook will be obligated to trend them and send traffic and aid in the spread of false information – as long as they aren’t attacked for “liberal bias.”

It’s an excellent strategy for the right to get what it wants in yet another form of media.

Oliver Willis

Featured image via Flickr

U.S. Politics

Donald Trump’s supporters are so fanatical that now they’re sending threats to other conservatives

Donald Trump's supporters are so fanatical that now they're sending threats to other conservatives

AP/Matt Rourke


A Daily Beast article highlights the role of right-wing news site Breitbart in agitating the abuse of Trump critics

As Donald Trump rolls around in the heap of delegates he won on Tuesday, let’s all break out the world’s tiniest violins for the conservative political and media figures who opposed him, and whose opposition resulted in their suddenly noticing that their movement attracts vile racists and anti-Semites. Welcome to the party, folks!

Even while being disgusted by the abuse targeting conservative critics described in this Daily Beast article that dropped on Tuesday, one has to also feel just the tiniest bit of schadenfreude. Or maybe not even a tiny bit. Maybe you’re swimming in a vast ocean of satisfaction as the chickens that liberals have been talking about for years have finally come home to roost.

The piece in question examines the role of the right-wing Breitbart news websites in fluffing Donald Trump’s candidacy and defending the tangerine-shaded mogul from other conservatives who have questioned his right-wing credentials. In doing so, Breitbart has unleashed (wittingly or unwittingly) mobs of anonymous, angry wingnuts spewing such vitriolic threats that one writer mentioned in the piece, Bethany Mandel of the Federalist, recently bought her first gun.

Savor that irony for a minute. A card-carrying member of a political movement that often espouses unfettered gun ownership for protection from the scary hordes of (implicitly dark-skinned) haters and knockout gamers and members of ISIS who might invade Miami has had to buy a gun to protect herself and her family from fellow conservatives. Other conservatives profiled by the Daily Beast article mention death threats and promises to gang-rape family members.

Here’s a thought for conservatives: Maybe next black president, you won’t spend eight years telling the mouth breathers who make up your audience that his agenda revolves around destroying America by handing out food and healthcare to people with darker skin. Of course you’ll all deny you’ve done this, but liberals have spent years watching the right pump up every vaguely racialized trope it could to dog-whistle at its adherents.

Which is how you find yourselves needing guns to protect from people who are now angry to find out you are not their ideological allies.

But back to Breitbart. Conservatives seem to have only noticed in the last year or two that the website is a sewer filled with racist neo-Nazis. If you have followed the site’s falling out of favor with other right-wing media organs, you might have seen conservatives lamenting the ruination of its “good name,” or moaning about how far it has fallen since the death of Andrew Breitbart four years ago.

But Breitbart has always been a purveyor of the worst kind of reactionary, racist, dog-whistle politics, since long before Trump declared his candidacy. No, scratch that. The site didn’t send out dog-whistles. It blasted full-on air-raid sirens. Anyone with half a brain noticed this years ago, which I guess explains how the conservatives quoted by the Daily Beast missed it.

Two easy examples from the early years of the Obama administration tell you all you need to know. The first was the scandal over the ACORN videos made by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles. As the videos allegedly showed ACORN employees giving a pimp advice on how to hide the income his prostitutes were bringing in, O’Keefe spiced them up by filming himself dressed like a pimp right out of a Blaxploitation flick from the 1970s. He even appeared on Fox News to promote the videos while wearing the costume. Since ACORN was devoted to helping low-income, often African-American people, the dog-whistle was hard to miss.

The videos were later found to be heavily edited, but by that time it was too late to save ACORN from being shut down. The footage was first acquired, shown and heavily promoted by Andrew Breitbart, who let the story that he was a sort of mentor to O’Keefe float around. They were the first exclusive of Breitbart’s Big Government website, and helped launch the organization into the stratosphere, making it a major player on the conservative side.

Breitbart followed this up with the infamous Shirley Sherrod incident, in which he also presented video to “prove” that an African-American employee of the Department of Agriculture was actually a reverse racist who hated white people. This smearing cost Sherrod her job and her reputation, even though it quickly became clear the video, like those of ACORN, had been misleadingly edited, leaving out important context that negated the central thesis that the mild-mannered Sherrod was some sort of Foxy Brown cosplayer. She later sued Andrew Breitbart for defamation, eventually reaching a settlement with his widow.

Were Mandel, John Podhoretz or any of the other conservatives cited in the Daily Beast worried in 2010 that these kinds of bullshit stunts were creating a danger to the party by fueling the racial resentments of white conservatives, playing to their innate fears that the homogenous America they knew was being replaced by a multicultural, multiethnic society where previously marginalized people gained power and agency? Or were they perfectly happy to have Andrew Breitbart and his site out there feeding this monster because it meant more elected Republicans and more engaged conservatives reading not just Breitbart, but their own work as well?

I know which of those possibilities I’m betting on.

The ACORN and Shirley Sherrod events were only two of the highly racialized events the right wing has played up for years. Who can forget the New Black Panthers, or the constant demonization of Eric Holder and his Justice Department as being some sort of racial justice squad primed to get revenge on white people for centuries of oppression? Who can forget the smearing of Debo Adegbile or all the new voter ID laws that disproportionately prevent minorities from casting ballots?

Breitbart made its name by hyping and promoting these incendiary racial politics. It played up every single one of these events, and more, and heard nothing from conservatives beyond Attaboy! Now those who ginned up the voters by pushing this kind of garbage are finding out that the wave they have been riding is too big to handle, that it threatens to drown the GOP, and all they can do is blame other people when it was they who ignored the warnings of rough surf.

U.S. Politics

Make them talk about evolution: Why won’t a single Republican presidential candidate admit that Darwin’s right?

Make them talk about evolution: Why won't a single Republican presidential candidate admit that Darwin's right

(Credit: AP/Reuters/J Pat Carter/Brian Snyder/Chuck Burton/James Lawler Duggan)


They don’t believe in science, and pander to evangelicals — as a result, the Republicans remain a party of stupid

“You say man evolved from an ape . . . but if we evolved from an ape, why is an ape still an ape and a person still a person?”

It’s a question often asked by religious critics of the theory of evolution. To answer it Brown University Professor Kenneth Miller reached back to expert-witness testimony he delivered in a Harrisburg courtroom a decade earlier. Miller was speaking at a three-day symposium celebrating the 10th anniversary of the December 2005Kitzmiller decision, which dashed evangelicals’ hopes that “intelligent design” could be taught in public schools as a counter-theory to evolution.

First, he said, man didn’t evolve from an ape, but man and the other great apes share a common ancestor.

The proof? The great apes most closely related to humans have two pairs of 24 chromosomes while humans have two pairs of 23, so if Darwin was right about common ancestry, where did the 24th chromosome go? The answer, the biology professor said, is found in the head-to-head fusion of two chromosomes, unique to human lineage and evidence that our predecessors had two pairs of 24 chromosomes.

It’s one of those findings that leaves you bedazzled with the beauty and elegance of science, if you go in for that sort of thing.

Not everyone in the standing-room-only crowd in the York College auditorium was buying it.

A man in his sixties sitting at the end of the third row stood up, asked a question, then turned to face the audience. Waving a Bible held high above his head he shouted, “All the answers you need are right here in this book! All the answers!”

The crowd began to jeer as Miller leaned toward the microphone and said the man with the Bible was doing a perfect impersonation of Captain Robert FitzRoy, the British vice-admiral who sailed Charles Darwin halfway around the world on the HMS Beagle, only to regret it. After Darwin published The Origin of Species, FitzRoy confronted him at an Oxford debate, “raising a heavy Bible above his head and imploring the audience to believe in God rather than man.”

This latter-day Admiral FitzRoy was Larry Reeser. I first encountered him (and Miller) 10 years ago in pre-trial depositions filed in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Districtcase. When Reeser was working at Dover High School during summer break, he had ripped a student’s “ascent of man” mural from a biology classroom wall and burned it. His act of pious vandalism got him name-checked in a 139-page legal opinion that prohibits the teaching of any form of biblical creationism in public school science classrooms.

“In the midst of this panoply, there arose the astonishing story of an evolution mural that was taken from a classroom and destroyed in 2002 by Larry Reeser, the head of buildings and grounds for the DASD,” Judge John E. Jones III wrote.

I covered the six-week trial in Harrisburg in 2005. It’s worth returning to because Judge Jones (a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench) wrote a magisterial opinion, which, while binding only in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, serves as a deterrent to any public school official who would introduce biblical creationism into a science curriculum anywhere in the country.

More important, as the Republican presidential campaign caravan turns toward Iowa, and shortly thereafter South Carolina, the lawsuit is a window into the world of fundamentalist Christians, who dominate the primaries in both states and without whom Republicans cannot win a presidential election.


In brief, a fundamentalist majority of the Dover (population 1,999) School Board threatened to block the adoption of a biology textbook that one board member described as “laced with Darwinism”––unless the district purchased a companion set of Christian biology texts (Of Pandas and People). The board majority also required teachers to read an evolution disclaimer to all students enrolled in ninth-grade biology. School board members secretly solicited donations to purchase the Christian biology textbooks, required teachers and students to watch a video produced by a religious advocacy group opposed to Darwin’s version of evolution (there is no other), and ignored the chairwoman of the science department who warned that what teachers were required to do was illegal. It was; and the board’s conduct made them ideal defendants in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, Americans for Separation of Church and State, the National Center for Science Education, and a half dozen courageous parents and teachers in Dover.

The board had retained the Roman Catholic Thomas More Law Center to advise them at no cost in textbook selection and to defend them if they were sued. The quality of the pro bono defense provided by Thomas More attorneys suggests that board members got what they paid for. The fundamentalist majority was voted out of office after Judge Jones handed down his December 2005 decision, but not before saddling the small, rural school district with $1 million in court costs and attorneys’ fees.

The judge could have enjoined the teaching of intelligent design in Dover’s schools, assigned responsibility for legal fees, and headed for the golf course. Instead, he wrote an opinion that defined intelligent design as creationism masquerading as science, and upheld the teaching of evolution in public schools. He criticized the “breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision” and observed that it was “ironic that several of these individuals who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”

He referred his findings to the U.S. attorney, because it was evident that some members of the board had committed perjury.

Here’s the thing: every decision the fundamentalist Christians on the Dover School Board made, in public or behind closed doors, was rational. To adopt a biology textbook “laced with Darwinism” was to expose children to a “theory” that contradicted biblical teaching that God created man in his image at exactly the same time he created “fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings”––all beings exactly as they exist today.

For a biblical literalist, allowing a teacher to expose a child to Darwin’s scientific findings is to risk consigning that child to hell. Exploring the diverse speciation of finches on the Galapagos Islands might be acceptable; teaching that man shares a common ancestor with chimps, orangutans, and bonobos is a threat to a belief system grounded in a literal reading of the Book of Genesis.

Underlying the venality, thuggishness, and dishonesty of the fundamentalist majority on Dover’s school board and the constituents who supported them was a genuine fear that science education would undermine the faith of their children. Like the janitor who burned the mural, they cannot change. And they are 36 percent of the Republican Party nationwide, according to the Pew Research Center. Evangelicals will account for 60 percent of Republican voters in the Iowa Caucuses, says Pew. They will make up from 50 to 70 percent of South Carolina’s Republican primary voters, according to political scientist and pollster Larry Sabato.


U.S. Politics


Erick Erickson (Credit: Fox News)


Republicans know how bad a government shutdown over abortion would be, but Ted Cruz and Erick Erickson DGAF

The big news in conservative media land over the past couple of weeks has been a series of undercover “sting” videos released by a shady antiabortion rights activist group claiming to show that Planned Parenthood sells tissues procured from aborted fetuses. As is nearly always the case with videos such as these, they’re edited to make them look far worse than they actually are. Planned Parenthood maintains that any money it receives for procuring those tissues – which have long been used in medical research – is just reimbursement for the costs associated with the procedures. None of the videos that have been released actually show Planned Parenthood doing anything illegal, but they do show representatives of the organization speaking somewhat cavalierly about a grim topic. Many of the people promoting these videos are hoping that the emotional reaction they elicit will stoke a public and political backlash against the nation’s leading provider of reproductive health services.

Conservatives in the media and some hard-line Republicans in Congress believe they’ve come up with a plan for dealing with Planned Parenthood: shut down the government again.

“Shut down the government. Now,” demands Erick Erickson. “The budget and appropriations fights are forthcoming,” he writes. “If Barack Obama is willing to risk a government shutdown because he demands our tax dollars continue funding an organization that kills our children and sells their organs, we should have that fight.” This line of reasoning appeals to legislators like Sen. Ted Cruz – auteur of the last shutdown crisis – who is agitating for Planned Parenthood funding to be stripped as part of the upcoming appropriations battle. “I would support any and all legislative efforts to defund Planned Parenthood,” Cruz says. He has sympathetic ears among some of the more conservative members of the House.

This plan isn’t quite so appealing to the Republican leadership in Congress. Republicans went into the 2014 elections promising voters that they’d be effective stewards of power and competent agents of governance. They haven’t lived up to those promises yet (a partial shutdown was narrowly averted just two months into their reign) and picking a fight over government funding, even when it’s related to a controversial issue like abortion, promises to make them look even worse. They shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act – which was quite unpopular at the time – and they paid for it in the polls. So while the GOP leadership is certainly sympathetic to the complaints of the base over Planned Parenthood, they’re not willing to resort to extreme measures and risk serious political blowback.

This is now a familiar dynamic of the relationship between Republicans in Congress and activist conservatives. When it comes time to make new appropriations and keep the government’s lights on, hard-line conservatives in the media and elsewhere insist that Republicans go nuclear and threaten a government shutdown in pursuit of their preferred policy outcome, whether it be defunding Obamacare, defunding President Obama’s executive actions on deportations, or stripping Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. And they make these demands even though the chances winning these fights are slim to nonexistent – Democrats still retain filibuster authority in the Senate, and even if legislation were to get through, Obama would veto it.

Twice now, on Obamacare and immigration, the Republicans have either completely caved or partially caved to these demands. Both times it blew up in their faces. At this point they are painfully aware that government shutdowns don’t work as a matter of policy or politics. So if they believe they have a political advantage when it comes to Planned Parenthood, then really it makes more sense to not pursue a shutdown strategy that would strip that advantage away.

But once again the Republicans in Congress find themselves in a position in which the simple act of governing is made difficult by the extreme positions of their influential hard-right flank. The Republican leadership opposes abortions rights and does not support Planned Parenthood, but if they’re not willing to drive off the edge of the political cliff to cut funding to the group, then in the eyes of people like Erick Erickson they’re no better than pro-choice Democrats. “Friends,” he writes, “if Republicans in Congress will not stop giving tax payer dollars to the American Joseph Mengele, we should show the party violence in the polling booth.” Reactions like these scare Republicans in Congress. The question is whether they will (once again) be pressured into another shutdown fight they won’t win.