U.S. Politics

An Intellectual History of Trumpism

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Getty

POLITICO MAGAZINE

For most of the last 18 months, Donald Trump has been portrayed as a clown, a showman, an opportunist, a faux conservative, a political naïf, and an egomaniac bent on nothing but power and glory—but rarely as a man with an intelligible ideology. Yet if Trump’s ideas can’t quite be said to cohere into a unified worldview, and if his legion flip-flops deny him any claim to philosophical consistency, many of his signature promises and policies do add up to a set of ideas—populist, nationalist, authoritarian—with deep roots in American history. After a year and a half of dwelling on Trump the personality, it may be time to turn our attention to Trumpism.

To the extent that analysts have discerned any new philosophy behind Trump’s rise, they have focused on the vicious, bigoted internet stylings of the so-called alt-right. But the unabashed white nationalism, anti-Semitism and misogyny of that hitherto underground movement constitute only one strain of Trumpism. The larger ideology that the president-elect represents is a post-Iraq War, post-crash, post-Barack Obama update of what used to be called paleoconservatism: On race and immigration, where the alt-right affinities are most pronounced, its populist ideas are carrying an already right-wing party even further right. On a few economic issues, such as infrastructure and entitlement spending, they could direct the party toward the political center. On trade and foreign policy, they threaten to demolish the internationalism that has governed the GOP since Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency. In each of these ways, Trumpism represents a significant break with the conservatism that has dominated the Republican Party for decades.

Where did these currents come from? Today’s populist right has its clearest origins in an early 20th-century backlash against a society that was becoming centralized, urban, cosmopolitan and interconnected with the world at large—tendencies that are still upsetting white rural America today. Just as Trump was boosted over the wall of 270 electoral votes by white Midwesterners, some of whom had previously voted Democratic, so it was formerly progressive elements from the country’s midsection that fueled the rise of a right-wing populism after World War I. That movement was never strong enough to win the White House, and it was largely discredited and marginalized by World War II. But in today’s post-Great Recession globalized world many of its ideas are suddenly reemerging with a vengeance. And now, for the first time in history we have a president, commanding all the powers of the Executive Branch, who espouses its ideas. That could mean a rollback of the core tenets of post-New Deal, post-World War II America, including the commitment to civil rights, civil liberties, and pluralism at home and to liberal internationalism abroad.

***

The conservative populism from which Trumpism derives began as a mutation of the progressivism of the early 20th century. Progressivism is the name we give to the bipartisan reform movement in the century’s first decades that called for an activist president and a strong federal government to address urgent new social and economic problems brought on by the industrial revolution. Led first by Republican Theodore Roosevelt and then by Democrat Woodrow Wilson, progressivism sought to tame corporate power, protect workers, assimilate immigrants, provide new social services, expand democracy and, on the global stage, bring order to a fractious world. Both the idea of a strong federal government and the specific goals that progressives cherished would also undergird Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and, in time, postwar liberalism more generally.

But as the nation journeyed from progressivism to New Deal liberalism, not everyone came along for the ride. After World War I, many Midwestern and western progressives of a populist bent swung hard to the right, retaining in some cases their economic egalitarianism but also taking up reactionary stands on cultural and foreign-policy issues. “Somewhere along the way,” as Richard Hofstadter wrote in his classic work The Age of Reform, “a large part of the Progressive-Populist tradition has turned sour, become illiberal and ill-tempered.”

The reasons for this swing are complicated, but they can be summarized as a form of backlash. The 1920s, though remembered as a raucous time of cultural innovation and modernization, also witnesses profound social change. Fueled by decades of immigration, America’s urban population finally overtook its rural population in size. “The New Woman” and the “New Negro” demanded equality in gender and race. But conservative forces, especially in the rural Heartland, regarded the changing complexion of America with suspicion and considered the looser morality of the cosmopolitanism cities a threat to their old-fashioned Protestantism. Reactionary movements arose. The Ku Klux Klan went mainstream and marched through Washington D.C. Fundamentalist Christians banned the teaching of Darwin. Prohibition became the law of the land. Midwestern and western progressives, previously allied with liberal goals, could now often be found fighting the liberal tides—championing, for example, the 1924 Immigration Act that all but sealed America’s borders. Economic conservatives who favored the Republican Party’s pro-business policies joined with these cultural conservatives to make the GOP the dominant party of the 1920s, through the elections of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.

In foreign policy, too, nationalistic populism gripped many onetime progressives, both Democratic and Republican. After World War I, Western and Midwestern progressive senators such as William Borah, Hiram Johnson, George Norris and Robert La Follette, who were less attuned than Eastern progressives to the importance of remaining involved in Europe’s affairs, had killed Wilson’s plan for the United States to lead a League of Nations, rooting their opposition in the fear of a loss of American sovereignty. Some progressive intellectuals, such as the historian Charles Beard and the sociologist Harry Elmer Barnes, promoted conspiracy theories blaming America’s involvement in the war on bankers or the arms industry. (Barnes eventually became one of the earliest and most influential Holocaust deniers.) In 1934 Senator Gerald Nye chaired a committee that, by investigating these dubious claims, fanned popular fears.

Former progressives also fought against easing the neutrality laws that kept Franklin Roosevelt from doing more to fight fascism. Historians today tend to avoid the word isolationist, because, as its critics note, many of those who opposed the liberal internationalism of Wilson and FDR didn’t want to extract the U.S. altogether from global affairs. Still, in the absence of a pithy alternative phrase, popular habit still relies on this useful shorthand term—and there were, after all, antiwar leaders who believed America could and should steer clear of Europe’s strife, and some of them either supported Hitler or espoused anti-Semitism. (Since the original Populists of the late 19th century, those movements have been suspicious of banks, internationalism, and concentrated power and have frequently scapegoated Jews as well. Donald Trump’s anti-Semitic campaign ad featuring George Soros and Janet Yellen has roots in 19th century populist iconography.)

This populist right was a powerful force in the 1920s and 1930s. But the success of the New Deal and the Allied victory in World War II together dealt the movement a near-death blow. The open anti-Semitism that had flourished in the Depression, stoked by demagogues like the radio priest Charles Coughlin (an exemplar of this philosophy), was thoroughly discredited, giving way to a common view of the United States as home to “Protestant, Catholic, Jew.” Civil rights for black Americans moved to the center of the liberal agenda. The election in 1952 of America’s first Republican president in a quarter-century, Dwight Eisenhower, confirmed the rout of the populist right, as Ike vowed to beat back isolationism in his own party and espoused a “modern Republicanism” that acquiesced in the permanence of the New Deal order, including liberal welfare-state programs like Social Security.

***

Amid this new liberal order, activists and intellectuals on the right reconstituted themselves to try to reclaim the GOP from moderates like Eisenhower. William F. Buckley’s National Review emerged in the 1950s as the intellectual organ for what would soon be called the New Right. (The older populist-nationalist conservatism now came to be called the Old Right, or, later, “paleoconservatism.”) The New Right restored the 1920s alliance between religious traditionalists, who bemoaned the erosion of old values by the acids of modernity, and free-marketeers, who attacked high taxes, government spending and regulation as the weapons of a bureaucratic leviathan. Conveniently cementing the alliance now, too, was a militant Cold War anti-Communism—Communism was, after all, was both anti-market and anti-God. (Buckley himself, in the words of George Nash, the foremost intellectual historian of postwar conservatism, “was at once a traditional Christian, a defender of free-market economics, and a fervent anti-Communist.”) Anti-Communism also won over some old isolationists, who deemed the Soviet Union a grave enough threat to suspend their qualms about getting involved in foreign conflicts or agreements.

Within the new conservative coalition, paleoconservative voices remained. But Buckley and other political and opinion leaders policed the boundaries of their budding movement. While we think of National Review as a staunchly right-wing magazine because it assailed Eisenhower and the era’s moderate Republican leadership, it also pointedly contrasted itself with far-right rival publications such as The American Mercury and The Freeman. Buckley famously excommunicated extremists like the leaders of the John Birch Society, a radical populist-national group of the late 1950s and early ’60s that imagined Communist conspiracies everywhere (they thought Eisenhower was one) and warned against world government. He and other conservative intellectuals also warred with libertarians like Ayn Rand, whose atheistic “objectivism” had no place in his campaign against “secular humanism.” After the civil rights revolution, finally, conservatives began to reject explicit racism, too, continuing to oppose most civil-rights legislation yet accepting (or paying lip service to) the underlying liberal premise of civil rights for all.

The new conservative coalition came to power with Richard Nixon’s election to the White House in 1968. Though true-blue conservatives always eyed the opportunistic Nixon warily, his divisive cultural populism was clear a far cry from Ike’s modern Republicanism. On drugs, crime, religion, abortion, sex, child-rearing, gay rights, patriotism and dozens of other cultural issues, Nixon and the GOP politicians who followed his lead assailed the liberal “cultural elite”—Hollywood, academia, the media, the courts—for corroding traditional American values. With Ronald Reagan in 1980, they found a populist key for expressing their anti-government ideology, arguing that Washington was incapable of responsibly spending taxpayers’ money.

But if conservative populism thrived in the late-20th century debates over social and cultural issues, in other realms it was a dead letter. On foreign policy, Republicans might quarrel over how to deal with the Soviet Union (Nixon’s pursuit of détente vs. Reagan’s renewed militarism), but few prominent leaders or intellectuals counseled neo-isolationism. Meanwhile, the conservative movement’s free-market philosophy consigned protectionist views to the sidelines in debates about trade and rendered criticisms of finance and business almost unheard of within their ranks.

Still, paleoconservative voices occasionally arose. Pat Buchanan—the most prominent apostle of Old Right ideas in the 1980s and 1990s—held influential positions in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, bestrode the TV gab shows as a ubiquitous pundit, and ran for president in 1992 on an “America First” slogan that echoed the 1940s isolationists (and previewed Trump). Phyllis Schlafly, best known for her role in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, also opposed the Vietnam War, Bill Clinton’s humanitarian intervention in Bosnia, and most international agreements since. Other fringier paleocon writers such as Joseph Sobran, a Holocaust denier, and Taki Theodoracopulos, whose anti-Semitic and racist views were presented under the thinnest of veneers, were largely ignored by policymakers and by the mainstream media but commanded significant followings on the hard right.

In retrospect, the first stirrings of a paleoconservatism comeback can be seen in the 1990s. With the fall of the Soviet Union after 1989, anti-Communism receded as a unifying principle, and paleoconservatives revived the case for isolationism. When Democrats held the White House, they rallied Republicans in Congress to oppose interventions in Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the exploding number of undocumented immigrants made border control a leading paleoconservative cause, as it had been in the 1920s, and the international trade pacts backed by both parties fueled the a new zeal for protectionism.

But paleoconservatism struggled to gain adherents, owing to the prosperity of the 1990s and the nation’s growing toleration on social issues; paleoconservatism had always been associated with the neo-Confederate, white supremacist and ideologically anti-Semitic causes that respectable conservative leaders took pains to shun. In the 1990s and 2000s, the appearance of this sort of rank bigotry provoked controversy when it surfaced in magazines like National Review, and Buckley and his successors felt compelled to banish the worst offenders. (The more moderate Weekly Standard—which surpassed National Review, at least for a while, as the preeminent conservative magazine—had never attracted many paleocons to its pages.) In 1993, Buckley fired Joseph Sobran for anti-Semitic writings. In 2001, the magazine’s young new editor, Rich Lowry, fired Ann Coulter, for writing, after 9/11, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” In 2012, Lowry fired another paleocon, John Derbyshire, for racist writings that appeared in Theodoracopulos’s webzine, Taki’s Magazine—which, not coincidentally, is now one of the favorite outlets of the alt-right. Even Pat Buchanan, for decades one of the most popular conservative pundits on TV and in print, fell into disrepute after publishing a book in 2008 arguing that going to war against Hitler was a mistake.

***

Just when the Old Right seemed on the verge of extinction, the world changed. First, George W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq undermined conservative support for the hawkish foreign policy that had been Republican orthodoxy since Reagan. Second, the 2008 crash and the sluggish recovery that followed undercut the enthusiasm—among voters, if not elected officials—for the free trade pacts that market conservatives promoted. (The refusal of the increasingly paleocon House Republican caucus to pass Bush’s Troubled Asset Relief Program in late 2008 was, in retrospect, a harbinger of the fissures that erupted in 2016.) Third, the prospect that whites would soon constitute a minority in an increasingly multiracial, polyglot society inspired a new racial consciousness among whites—as did the election of America’s first black president, who was swiftly branded as un-American by the populist right.

For much of the Republican base these multiple shocks discredited the conservative political and intellectual leadership that had failed to deliver on promises to contain immigration, produce prosperity and make America safer. Increasingly unwelcome even in a thoroughly right-wing magazine like National Review (which devoted a whole issue during the primaries to denouncing Trump as a sham conservative), paleocons found new vehicles for their nationalist-populist ideas in The American Conservative, founded by Buchanan and Theodoracopulos in 2002, Breitbart, which evolved from a right-wing curation site into an ideological organ, and VADRE, a webzine founded by the anti-immigration advocate (and immigrant) Peter Brimelow. The resulting cluster of voices, which includes but isn’t limited to the “Alt-Right,” represented a new generation of paleocon thought that stressed its differences with the establishment right on trade, foreign policy, immigration and race.

Until Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, these profound divisions on the right drew little analysis. Even in the last year’s coverage, Trump’s insurgency was mostly portrayed as the challenge of an outsider to the establishment—an accurate but incomplete picture. The hidden history of Trumpism suggests that the president-elect may be not simply an opportunistic showman but the leader of an at least semi-coherent ideology—a new iteration of the populist and nationalist paleoconservatism that has long lurked in the shadows of American politics. Now, for the first time since the isolationist 1930s, this ideology commands real influence, and for the first time in our history, it will enjoy favor from a sitting president. The prospects could not be more ominous.

David Greenberg, a professor of history and media studies at Rutgers, is a contributing editor at Politico Magazine.

U.S. Politics

Univision chief lambasts Trump for Ramos ouster

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POLITICO – DYLAN BEYERS ON MEDIA

Univision’s Randy Falco, president and C.E.O. of the Hispanic-American news organization, had strong words for GOP candidate Donald Trump following his altercation with Univision reporter Jorge Ramos.

“The recent treatment that Jorge Ramos received at Mr. Trump’s press conference in Iowa is beneath contempt,” the statement begins.

“As a Presidential candidate, Mr. Trump is going to get tough questions from the press and has to answer them. Jorge Ramos is one the most professional, dedicated and respected journalists I have seen or worked with in my 40 years in media. He always asks hard questions of candidates and elected officials, regardless of party or issue. Mr. Trump demonstrated complete disregard for him and for the countless Hispanics whom Jorge seeks to represent through press questions that are at the heart of the First Amendment. I remain grateful for the first-rate journalistic work that Jorge and all of his news colleagues at Univision and Fusion do to bring all points of view to the 57 million Hispanics in this country.”

On Tuesday evening, Trump ejected Ramos from a press conference in Iowa after the anchor tried to ask Trump questions despite not being called on. A security guard escorted Ramos from the room, but about ten minutes later he was let back in and engaged in a five minute back and forth with Ramos over his immigration ideas.

“The only thing I wanted to do was to ask a question,” Ramos said in an interview Wednesday night with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. “I followed my turn. Two reporters before me asked their questions and then I said I have a question on immigration and no one else said anything … I followed the rules and he just didn’t like the questions.”

Ramos said Trump’s ideas and words on immigration and freedom of the press are “dangerous” and “extreme,” and noted he had never been kicked out of a press conference before.

“Those are the things that you see in dictatorships not in the United States of America,” Ramos said. “It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t like it there are questions that need to be answered.”

President Barack Obama · Sen. Ted Cruz

Obama Smacks Down a Disrespectful Ted Cruz During White House Meeting

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Maybe the POTUS said something like: “Sit down Mr. Cruz, I got this…”

TEApublicans like Ted Cruz are in for a rude awakening.  None of their antics are working and Barack Hussein Obama is still the POTUS…

PoliticusUSA

Things didn’t go well for Ted Cruz when he tried to confront President Obama at the White House today, as the president shot down his demand for changes to the ACA.

According to Politico, Sen. Cruz told President Obama:

I told the president exactly the same thing I have told you here today: That we need to work together and fund the government and at the same time provide substantial relief to the millions of people who are hurting because of Obamacare, who are losing their jobs, being forced into part-time work and losing their health insurance,” Cruz said. “If the outcome doesn’t impact people who are struggling, who are hurting because of Obamacare, then I don’t think it would be a good outcome.

I’m glad that we are finally having discussions. That is an improvement. There was an awful lot of talk but then, at the end of the day, the president still said he wouldn’t negotiate,” Cruz said. “We began talking, that was good today. But he continued to maintain that he will not negotiate or compromise on anything.  And if that is the position, that’s not going to lead to a resolution.

Ted Cruz had the nerve to try to make demands to the President of the United States in the White House, and was immediately shot down. Ted Cruz thought that his grandstanding ACA lies would work on Obama, and by his own admission, was swatted away by the president.

Cruz is supposed to be the new leader of the Republican Party, but he couldn’t hold a serious discussion without resorting to his same old debunked Obamacare talking points. Ted Cruz isn’t a leader. He is an empty suit. President Obama must have had a difficult time keeping a straight face while Cruz claimed that the ACA was killing jobs, full time employment, and healthcare.

Obama isn’t going to be bullied by Ted Cruz. The difference is that Ted Cruz is pretending that he is a leader with power, while Barack Obama is the twice elected President of the United States. President Obama has the numbers on his side. The American people are clamoring for Obamacare. Thanks to the Cruz led government shutdown, the ACA is getting more popular each day.

Foolish Ted Cruz believed all the nonsense that tea partiers like to think is true about President Obama, but the man he met today wasn’t some weak kneed socialist. Sen. Cruz met the real President Obama, who looked him in the eye, and told him no.

Ted Cruz better stick to fooling gullible Republicans with Obamacare lies, because he doesn’t have what it takes to challenge President Obama.

Affordable Care Act · Gov. Rick Perry

Rick Perry Seeks Obamacare Funding For Texans – While Continuing Attack On Obamacare

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry continues his strident attack on Obamacare as he seeks funding under the law for Texans. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)

Ooops

The Huffington Post

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), a longstanding Obamacare critic, is negotiating a $100 million health care deal with the Obama administration, Politico reported on Tuesday.

The Community First Choice Program, aimed at improving the quality of health services for the elderly and disabled, was approved by the Texas legislature earlier this year. Perry health aides are now looking to the Obama administration for funding.

Perry has been a strident Obamacare critic from the beginning, but his spokesman explained that the funding pitch is about aiding people with disabilities, independent of a health insurance mandate.

“Long before Obamacare was forced on the American people, Texas was implementing policies to provide those with intellectual disabilities more community options to enable them to live more independent lives, at a lower cost to taxpayers,” Havens said in a statement. “The Texas Health and Human Services Commission will continue to move forward with these policies because they are right for our citizens and our state, regardless of whatever funding schemes may be found in Obamacare.”

According to Politico, 12,000 Texans are expected to benefit from the program in its first year, beginning in September 2014.

 

2nd Amendment · NRA

Police Chief Calls Out Armed Protest Threat In Washington DC

Think Progress

A July 4 march encourages gun advocates tocarry loaded rifles into Washington, DC and knowingly break the law. Although described as a nonviolent “act of civil obedience,” organizer Adam Kokesh implied a threat of violence if “the government chooses to make it violent.” He encourages participants to peacefully submit to law enforcers but underlines that point with, “We are truly saying in the SUBTLEST way possible that we would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.”

Since Friday, more than 2,000 people have RSVPed to the march to “put the government on notice.”

In a local news channel interview pointed out by Politico, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier explained that this is an open disregard for DC law:

[W]hen you cross with firearms and you’re not in compliance with the law now you’re talking about a criminal offense and there’s going to be some action by police. Obviously there has been no permit filed by the organizer and we’ve not made contact with the organizer yet. But we will, and we’ll make sure they understand that if they want to pass through the District of Columbia with loaded firearms as long as they are in compliance with the firearms laws for transportation of firearms to the District, we’re all for it. But passing into the District of Columbia with firearms is a violation of the law and we’ll have to treat it as such.

Whether Lanier’s warning invigorates or extinguishes the protest remains unclear.

Kokesh’s plans, along with a series of other open carry protests, undermines arguments made by the National Rifle Association against gun violence prevention. The NRA claims that it is unfair of the government to strengthen background checks or ban assault rifles for law-abiding citizens. Yet this protest plans to purposely break the law.

That point is missed by Kokesh. Open carry is illegal in the District, but Kokesh wants to aim his message at the federal government for attempting modest background checks supported by gun owners and non-gun owners alike.

 

GOP · Mark Sanford

Republicans pull plug on Mark Sanford

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. ..

Politico

National Republicans are pulling the plug on Mark Sanford’s suddenly besieged congressional campaign, POLITICO has learned — a potentially fatal blow to the former South Carolina governor’s dramatic comeback bid.

Blindsided by news that Sanford’s ex-wife has accused him of trespassing and concluding he has no plausible path to victory, the National Republican Congressional Committee has decided not to spend more money on Sanford’s behalf ahead of the May 7 special election.

“Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections. At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election,” said Andrea Bozek, an NRCC spokeswoman.

Sanford is facing Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a Clemson University administrator and sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, in a race that has grabbed the national spotlight.

The NRCC’s move comes hours after Tuesday night’s report by the Associated Press that Sanford’s ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, filed a court complaint accusing him of trespassing at her home in early February – which would be a violation of the terms of their divorce agreement.

Republicans said they were caught off guard by news of Jenny Sanford’s complaint. They worry other damaging revelations about Mark Sanford’s personal life that they aren’t aware of could come out in the coming weeks.

The NRCC has spent a nominal amount on the race on polling and other activities. But officials determined that devoting potentially millions more — which was under discussion — isn’t worth it.

“This is an unfortunate situation but this is what happens when candidates aren’t honest and withhold information,” said one GOP operative.

Continue reading here

Gun Control Legislation · Gun Lobby

Rand Paul and Ted Cruz threaten filibuster on guns

Rand Paul (left) and Ted Cruz are pictured in this composite photo. | AP Photos

Is this really about the libertarian values of ‘smaller government‘ or is this the directive of the NRA via a couple of “campaign donations”?

Politico

Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are threatening to filibuster gun-control legislation, according to a letter they plan to hand-deliver to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office on Tuesday.

“We will oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions,” the three conservatives wrote in a copy of the signed letter obtained by POLITICO.

Reid plans to bring up a gun-control measure that focuses on broadening background checks and cracking down on interstate gun-trafficking after the current Senate recess.

Conservatives are concerned that once that bill reaches the floor, amendments could stiffen restrictions on gun control.

Moreover, they understand that Reid intends to allow liberal amendments that would limit clip capacity and ban certain assault weapons to be offered — even though they would be defeated — to give Democrats a chance to vote on them. For moderate Democrats in competitive states, that amounts to an opportunity to vote no and show allegiance to gun rights.

Though they don’t use the word “filibuster” in the letter, the conservatives are leaving no doubt that they would filibuster on an initial procedural question — the motion to proceed.

Lee staged a test vote on the issue during consideration of the Senate budget last week. He tried to amend a point of order against gun control legislation to the budget but fell short. It needed a three-fifths supermajority and failed 50-49, needing 60 votes to pass. But the final tally emboldened Lee, Paul and Cruz because they were so close to a majority and a filibuster takes just 41 votes to sustain.

 

 

Gun Violence · Mayor Bloomberg · Michael Bloomberg

Bloomberg takes gun fight to Chicago

Michael Bloomberg is pictured. | AP Photo
Michael Bloomberg is pictured. | AP Photo

I truly hope Mayor Bloomberg’s super-pac will run powerful ads against the gun lobby…

Politico

A Chicagoland special House election to replace disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has suddenly become Ground Zero of the national gun control debate, courtesy of anti-gun crusader Mike Bloomberg.

The billionaire New York City mayor’s super PAC is poised to dump at least $2 million into the race, sources told POLITICO — a staggering sum for a single House race that’s meant to thwart a National Rifle Association-aligned Democrat who was cruising along as the frontrunner until a barrage of Bloomberg-financed attack ads hit the airwaves.

The massive independent expenditure by Independence USA PAC dwarfs what any of the 17 Democratic candidates have raised themselves. It’s a none-too-subtle statement of Bloomberg’s intention to take on the NRA after the Newtown, Conn. school shooting — though it’s debatable how much of a test case it is since the NRA is staying out of the race.

(PHOTOS: An interview with Michael Bloomberg)

The bulk of Bloomberg’s cash has financed an air war against Debbie Halvorson, a former one-term congresswoman and longtime ex-state legislator with an “A” rating from the NRA. The lone white candidate in the Democratic field, she’s hoping that her base of suburban and rural voters in the southern outskirts of the district — who by and large favor gun rights — will be enough to give her the small plurality it will take to win.

The Democratic primary is on Feb. 26. The general election is all but irrelevant given the district’s heavy Democratic makeup.

“I believe that substantial expenditure by the forces doing battle with gun violence will likely send a real … loud warning to a lot of members of Congress that it’s no longer safe to side with the NRA — that’s really what’s going on here,” said Robert Creamer, a partner at Democracy Partners who has followed the race.

Indeed, gun control advocates believe that defeating Halvorson would send a message nationally that the climate has changed in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in December.

With the NRA steering clear, the air waves are awash in Bloomberg’s millions without any significant response. Still, Bloomberg’s ad onslaught comes as a number of Democrats have urged him to become a counterweight to the NRA when it comes to political spending, and as his aides have met with President Barack Obama’s advisers about coordinating on gun control efforts.

(Also on POLITICO: Obama: Chicago gun toll ‘Newtown every 4 months’)

A Bloomberg adviser said he made the decision to spend the money “without blinking.”

“The fact that it’s a special election, the fact that it’s in the middle of a national debate over the president’s plan … [there is an] understanding that it’s both a bellwether and a harbinger.”

Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the PAC, said the group is trying to seize “distinct window of opportunity” to make headway on gun control while the public is paying close attention.

“We must and we will continue to be aggressive in informing voters across the country about the necessity of electing leaders who will stand up to the NRA and help pass the president’s gun reform package,” she said.

An NRA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg, who until this week had only gone after Halvorson, is now backing Democratic state lawmaker Robin Kelly. A number of other members of the Illinois congressional delegation are also rallying around Kelly, who released internal data showing her inching ahead of Halvorson in the wake of the Bloomberg ads.

(Also on POLITICO: Bloomberg’s D.C. footprint explodes)

Bloomberg also backed a handful of candidates last year in general elections in House districts, largely over the gun issue. But that was before the schoolhouse massacre.

Continue reading here…

Jimmy Carter · President Barack Obama

Obama meets 47% video guy

AP Photo

The POTUS was in my neck of the woods today, that is…if you count 15 miles northeast of Decatur, GA as part of my neck of the woods.

When I first moved to Georgia, I remember folks always used the term “up the road”.  I assumed, coming from New York City, that the term meant about 4 or 5 blocks.  That was not a correct assumption.  “Up the road” could mean as far as 1 to 5 miles.

So using the term “my neck of the woods” is not a far stretch, down here.

Politico

DECATUR, Ga. — President Obama on Thursday met the man who made “47 percent” part of Mitt Romney’s legacy.

Obama and opposition researcher James Carter, who released the infamous Romney fundraiser video, met backstage before Obama’s education event here, Carter’s cousin, Georgia state Sen. Jason Carter, told POLITICO.

Upon being introduced and told of James Carter’s role in the 47 percent video, Obama jumped forward to embrace him.

“Thank you, thank you so much,” Obama told James Carter, his cousin said.

Both Carters are grandsons of former President Jimmy Carter.