Are contraceptives responsible for a Holocaust of microscopic zygotes that are ontologically the same as you or me? By Ed Kilgore
As you know if you were paying attention to political news last night, David Perdue very narrowly defeated Rep. Jack Kingston in GA’s Republican Senate runoff after a nasty “who’s more conservative?” campaign ended with a low turnout event. Turnout patterns ultimately decided it, with Kingston unable to capture enough of the vote won in the primary by the defeated candidates (two of which, Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey, endorsed and campaigned with him) in the areas outside his South Georgia base. Perdue also improved his standing in middle and southwest Georgia (he did more advertising outside Atlanta than Kingston in the runoff), while winning the big metro Atlanta counties by an average of about ten points.
Beyond that mechanical explanation, it may simply be the candidates wore out the voters, with those showing up reverting to their primary preferences. That’s what the turnout—which didn’t quite reach double-digit percentages of the electorate—would suggest. The nine week runoff experiment was clearly a big mistake, leaving the winner exhausted and out of money (though in Perdue’s case we have to assume he’s not quite to the bottom of his personal cookie jar).
As for ideology, well, the constant attacks on each other by all the candidates, going back to the beginning of the cycle, for allegedly insufficient conservatism may have gotten a little old as well. But the dynamic did leave Perdue, generally figured to breath less fire than most of his rivals, not terribly well positioned for a competitive general election campaign. He’s said he’d dump Mitch McConnell as Senate Leader for insufficient conservatism; he’s taken the wild-man position of demanding government shutdowns if the debt limit is breached; he’s attacked any sort of immigration reform legislation; and he’s publicly flirted with impeachment. That’s just the stuff that got attention; Lord knows what he told activists in smaller meetings where they were demanding he come out against the New Deal as Satan’s work. Given Perdue’s tendency towards gaffes when unsupervised (e.g., his dismissal of Karen Handel as a “high school graduate” and the near-disastrous newspaper interview when he forget to rule out tax increases until the end of time), oppo research could turn up some real gems.
But I doubt he’ll have too much trouble getting other Republicans on board. Yes, Karen Handel is probably still mad at him, and it will be fun to watch the U.S. Chamber get behind the candidate whose most effective late ad (and the one that might have made a crucial difference) was attacking the Chamber itself for “buying” Kingston’s vote for “amnesty.” It’s probably David Perdue’s race to lose, and he could be just the guy to do it.
It’s Alison Krauss’ 43d birthday. As a bridge from yesterday’s Costello commemoration, here’s Krauss performing the haunting song Elvis wrote with T.-Bone Burnett, “Scarlet Tide.”
I’ve got a long (or with luck, not-so-long) night of results watching and a midnight deadline for a TPMCafe column, so I’m happy to sign off. Hope I can avoid getting into Twitter dialogues.
Here are some remains of the day:
* As always, Daily Kos Elections has a fine preview of today’s contests, and will be the place to go tonight for results.
* FAA cancels U.S. flights to Israel after Hamas rocket falls near Ben-Gurian airport near Tel Aviv.
* TNR’s Danny Vinik notes that GOP bills to pressure Fed into deflationary policies real bad sign for what would happen if Republicans get right to make appointments.
* At Ten Miles Square, Keith Humphreys examines the implications of data showing most legal pot purchases concentrated among heavy users.
* At College Guide, Jon Marcus notes poor preparation of colleges and universities for Common Core implementation.
And in non-political news:
* Robert Downey, Jr., tops latest Forbes list of highest-paid actors.
That’s it for Tuesday. Let’s close with one more tune from My Aim Is True: “Less Than Zero.”
In the comment thread after my overview of the U.S. Senate runoff in Georgia today, there was some talk about an issue I hadn’t addressed: which GOP candidate would Democrats prefer that Michelle Nunn face in November?
I’m pretty sure the official answer would be “It doesn’t matter,” and there’s some logic to that position. Against Kingston, Nunn is the “outsider” competing with an eleven-term congressional incumbent in a year when Congress is held in very low esteem. And against Perdue, every weapon used against Mitt Romney would be available, but with Nunn comparing her nonprofit experience with the Republican’s money-grubbing and worker-screwing. The polls haven’t shown a big difference; in the RCP averages, Nunn is even with Perdue and two points ahead of Kingston.
Long-time Georgia political observer Bill Crane (saw him on TV the other day, and he’s aged well from the time I knew him back in the day) is sure Kingston’s the preferred Nunn opponent:
I think Michelle Nunn would prefer to run against Jack Kingston. Twenty-two year incumbent, PAC money, special interest, her preferred race is the race that I think she’s going to get.
But I dunno. Perdue’s shown a tendency to commit gaffes. He gave a huge opening to Karen Handel in the primary by mocking her lack of higher education in casual remarks that were taped and later released. And in a newspaper interview later on, he mentioned “revenues” as part of the federal budget picture without ritualistically swearing he’s die before ever accepting a tax increase, which was turned by his opponents into a dishonest but effective assertion that he’d called for a tax increase. Maybe the GOP would surround Perdue with gaffe-proofers if he won tonight, or insist he limit his entire campaign to the kind of soft-focus saturation ads that made him a contender to begin with.
But I agree with Crane that Kingston’s the likely winner tonight. However Michelle Nunn feels about it, Perdue’s children, who have been watching him spend their inheritence this year, will be very happy.
If you need further assurance of the very tentative nature of the gigantic defeat supposedly suffered by the Obama administration via the split decision of a three-judge panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals invalidating Obamacare insurance purchasing subsidies in states without their own exchanges, it arrived within hours, as a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond unanimously reached the opposite conclusion in a case revolving around the same issues.
Presumably the losing parties in both cases will appeal these decisions to the full circuit courts (the Department of Justice has already confirmed this course of action in the DC case). If the two circuits ultimately disagree, then there’s little doubt the Supremes will be called upon to resolve the matter. But there’s a decent chance the administration will prevail in both circuits.
Since I’ve been saying some less-than-laudatory things about politics in my home state of Georgia, let’s train our eyes at some hijinks in a different state. The story is interesting in part because of the courage shown by a Muslim candidate by running for office in Tennessee, which has been ground zero for Islamophobia for some time. But the greater import may be that it shows an opponent reaching levels of identity politics normally associated with the Left. Here’s a report from the Nashville Tennessean’s Jamie Page:
A Muslim candidate for a Coffee County Commission seat says his incumbent opponent is making false statements about his religious and patriotic beliefs to smear his name in an attempt to appeal to voters.
In a July 16 letter asking District 15 constituents for their vote, Republican Commissioner Mark Kelly made the following claims about his Democratic political opponent, Zak Mohyuddin:
“My opponent has expressed his beliefs publicly that the United States is not a Christian nation; that the American flag should be removed from public buildings because it is a symbol of tyranny and oppression; that public prayer should be banned because it insults non-Christians; and that the Bible should be removed from public places.”
Turns out Kelly had zero evidence for any of these allegations, saying they were based on “private consersations.” Moyuddin denies them all. But here’s where it get interesting:
Kelly, who has known Mohyuddin for 25 years and helped him move into his home, told The Tennessean he is not anti-Muslim and that he stands by his letter.
“I am a Christian and have been and will be. Zak isn’t, and he has a different faith and there are a lot of different faiths,” Kelly said. “I am standing on my values and my record. The point of the letter was to encourage the conservative base to get out and vote. It was simply to show the difference in views between two people, not that one is right or wrong, just a difference.”
It’s unusual for a conservative Christian Republican candidate to garnish a religious smear with a dash of moral relativism, but it does seem he’s saying whatever it takes to “encourage the base” is okay, whether or not it’s even true of his opponent. After all, “the base” can’t have any Muslims getting elected to public office, can it? After all, this isn’t their country, is it?
Speaking to his patriotism, Mohyuddin notes that…at a rally in Manchester last year held to increase awareness about American Muslims, he led a group of 500 people in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. He is a member of the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee, which sponsored the event.
Kelly also wrote in the letter: “I believe in the Christian values and work ethics that are the foundation of this great nation Our Founding Fathers prayed to God and established our Nation and its Laws based on the Judeo-Christian principles of the Bible. Because the Bible is foundational to understanding American history and law as well as our heritage; the Bible belongs in public places.”
Mohyuddin said he also has no problem with public prayers or public display of Bibles.
But he’s a Muslim, so he must be lying.
I’m ahead of schedule on posting, so I’m doing Lunch Buffet a bit early to accommodate a family business chore that may take a couple of hours. Be back when I can.
Here are some midday news/views morsels:
* Interesting conservative appreciation of Elizabeth Warren’s specificity of views from Washington Examiner’s Byron York.
* Benjamin Wallace-Wells argues Israel is losing the American media war in its confrontation with Hamas.
* At the Prospect, Robert Waldman notes trip to Iowa forced Chris Christie out of comfortable vagueness on difficult issues.
* TNR’s Brian Beutler appropriately calls suit against Obamacare the three-judge DC Circuit panel just upheld a “fundamentally dishonest solicitation of right-wing judicial activism.” Bingo.
* At the Atlantic, Joe Pinsker argues all that anti-Obamacare advertising has simply improved awareness of the law among potential beneficiaries, boosting enrollment.
And in non-political news:
* Novelist Thomas Berger dies at 89.
As we break for lunch, here’s the best known song from My Aim Is True, “Alison,” performed in 1977. Still gives me chills.
The minute I read the headline of Molly Ball’s much-quoted piece for The Atlantic—“How Hobby Lobby Split the Left and Set Back Gay Rights”—I figured Religion Dispatch’s Sarah Posner would respond definitively. And boy howdy, she has:
This weekend, the day before President Obama signed an executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the Atlantic’s Molly Ball published a piece asserting that a “controversy” was emerging in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case that “has split gay-rights and faith groups on the left, with wide-ranging political fallout that some now fear could hurt both causes.”
That statement has slim, if any evidence to support it. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence against it.
“There is no division on the left,” Sharon Groves, Director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign, told me, referring to the overwhelming progressive religious opposition to the inclusion of a religious exemption in today’s order. Obama signed the order without a religious exemption.
If anything, Hobby Lobby has reduced divisions among progressives about “religious liberty” exemptions from non-discrimination laws by making it clear SCOTUS will use any exemption for institutions that aren’t actually churches to build much bigger exemptions. And that’s true not just of LGBT folk, but of the “religious left” as well.
As I reported two weeks ago, 100 religious leaders signed a letter to Obama unequivocally opposing a religious exemption in the order. Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, a pro-LGBT rights Catholic group, told me that letter garnered “quick, rapid support” within a day or two of being drafted. “Everyone was on exactly the same page,” she said.
That letter was followed by a letter from civil liberties and diverse pro-LGBT religious groups, initially collecting 69 signatures, and later 98.
“I don’t know any people on the left who were for the [executive order] religious exemption,” said Duddy-Burke, adding that advocacy groups may differ on questions of strategy—such as whether to drop support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act if the bill includes a religious exemption. That assessment was echoed by other leaders I spoke with, who all emphasized those differences were ones of strategy in the post-Hobby Lobby legal landscape, not over whether there should be religious exemptions to laws guaranteeing LGBT rights.
Turns out, as those who have followed this issue for some time might expect, by “the left” Ball pretty much just means Jim Wallis, the self-proclaimed leader of the “religious left” whose impulses on LGBT issues are lamentably reactionary. And Ball also cites hand-wringing from a staffer for Third Way who purports to be a honest broker between “the left” and religious folk. That’s pretty much all for evidence of a “split.”
The real news here is actually that the Obama administration for once did not listen to non-“Left” religious voices on this subject, in part because there was no “split on the Left” at all. But Ball’s piece shows the confusion that continues to reign, especially among people who don’t seem to understand religion or “the Left.”
It’s not the kind of definitive decision that should justify conservative gabbers dancing with joy at the prospect of denying millions of people of health insurance, while panicking many progressives. But no, it’s not a good thing that a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a lower-court decision against a suit to invalidate tax subsidies for insurance bought on federally-created exchanges according to a reading of the Affordable Care Act that ignores congressional intent.
Sticking to a mindless reading of the statutory language (one of those flaws that could have been fixed had not Scott Brown won a 2010 special election and narrowed the path to final enactment of ACA), two of the three judges on the panel argued that the explicit authorization of purchasing subsidies for policies bought on state exchanges excluded any other unenumerated subsidies, even though it reduces the whole structure of ACA to an absurdity (as the dissenting judge forcefully argued).
The administration, however, will appeal the decision to the full DC Circuit, where the composition of the bench is more balanced. And even if the full Circuit agrees with the three-judge panel, the case will wind up at SCOTUS, since a Virginia suit with identical intent has already been dismissed.
The Supremes upheld ACA once, albeit while striking a damaging blow by making the Medicaid expansion a state option. Will they do so again? Expect a lot of talk about that in the coming months.
If you wanted a pretty good laboratory experiment of the “Year of the Republican Establishment” narrative, it might be in today’s three Georgia U.S. House GOP runoffs, all occurring in districts easily carried by Mitt Romney in 2012. There’s a clear-cut “constitutional conservative” in all three. And while their opponents aren’t exactly anybody’s idea of a “moderate,” they do tend to howl at the moon a bit less and also treat conservative ideology more in transactional terms (10th district “Establishment” candidate Mike Collins, for example, seems to think he only needs to represent his fellow business owners) than as an eternal edict of Jesus Christ and Thomas Jefferson.
The easiest call, and perhaps the most revealing contest, is in Phil Gingrey’s GA-11, where con-con state senator Barry Loudermilk ran comfortably ahead of former congressman Bob Barr in the primary, and should win today. I’ve written about Loudermilk for a good while; he’s in many respects a calmer version of Paul Broun. It tells you a lot that in his desperation Barr, the 2008 presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party, has staked his runoff campaign on arguing Loudermilk can’t be trusted to bring home the military-industrial complex bacon for Dobbins Air Force Base and Lockheed-Martin.
Speaking of Paul Broun, the runoff to choose his successor features the aforementioned Mike Collins, a trucking company exec, and the fiery Baptist minister and radio talk show host Jody Hice. Hice narrowly ran first in the primary, and more importantly, was recently endorsed by Broun. His whole act is very much a freak-show in the Broun tradition, and I’d be a bit surprised if he didn’t win.
The hardest runoff to call is in Kingston’s GA-01, where turnout will likely be higher than elsewhere thanks to Kingston’s own GOTV effort. The top primary finisher and presumed “Establishment” favorite is state senator Buddy Carter. But con-con Bob Johnson (who styles himself “Dr. Bob—Christian conservative”) has gotten generous help from the Club for Growth (which has run attack ads on Carter with the tag-line “Hey Buddy—You’re Liberal!”) and an endorsement from Sarah Palin. I’d pick him to win if turnout in the 1st was a low as it’s likely to be elsewhere.
As I noted after the primary, the general assumption that Georgia’s visibly nutty GOP congressional delegation would lose some of its lurid character with the unsuccessful Senate candidacies of Broun and Gingrey might have been premature.
No doubt about it: there’s something almost biblical about Rick Perry’s sudden return to the national limelight in GOP politics (though it’s not clear which angelic or demonic role he’s playing). Less than three years ago he announced a presidential campaign that briefly blotted out the sky. In the early states he’d trot out his signature walk-the-stage swagger (sort of an Aggie version of a Mick Jagger performance) and the conservative faithful would swoon at all the testosterone in the air. Then he took the wrong position on how to deal with the DREAMers, and got the humma-hummas, and fell off the national stage with a sickening thud.
Via the very same issue that wrong-footed him in 2011, Perry’s back, as conservative audiences want to hear him bellow about defending the border and the American Identity from all those brown children. WaPo’s Phillip Rucker catches his return-to-Iowa act:
He came here for redemption. At the Clear Lake Evangelical Free Church, Rick Perry held his arms across his torso and swayed as the choir sang during last Sunday’s morning service. He bowed his head while the pastor preached about “God’s perfect plan of salvation….”
After church on Sunday, Perry spoke about the influx of young immigrants in front of about 100 conservative activists, who sat rapt inside a hot and steamy airplane hangar here. When the governor said the words “securing the border,” he clenched his left fist, flexed his bicep and leaned his body forward. He paced side to side with a wireless microphone and no notes, bending his knees for emphasis. He looked like a Texas A&M football coach giving the Aggies a pep talk.
“I’ve walked into the facility where these young kids are being held, and the look in their eyes — the lack of hope, they’re scared,” Perry said. “They’ve been lured here by policies put into place that basically said, ‘If you will come here and you cross that river, you can stay here in America.’ That’s a siren song that has to stop.”
Perry’s found the rhetorical sweet spot on the refugee crisis, all right: wrapping a raw and ugly nativist sentiment in soft Christian solicitude. It’s necessary for the National Guard to force “these young kids” back across the border at gunpoint, you see, because the Evil Stranger With Candy, Barack Obama, has “lured” them here, presumably to put them on welfare and then harvest their votes.
What makes this approach especially effective for Perry is that it echoes the tough-love approach of his signature economic message: anyone needing a job who is willing to be humble and take whatever meager wage the Almighty Investor offers and forswear sissy-pants priorities like safe working conditions and clean air and water and public education and reproductive rights can by come to Texas and prosper. Rick Perry will even slip the Boss Man some subsidies to make sure he doesn’t take his hard-inherited capital to some other public-policy brothel where labor and those who supply it are respected even less. It’s all of a piece of Rick Perry’s persona of Christian Stewardship, which just happens to coincide with the needs of the most powerful and reactionary interests in the country.
I don’t know if Perry’s redemption will last beyond the current crisis, or if he’ll again fall off the stage. But he’s sure got his swagger back.
I’ve been saying this for a while, but The Upshot’s Nate Cohn says it better: if there’s going to be some sort of Republican “wave” election this year, it’s going to have to start showing up pretty soon in the polling of major races. And so far it really hasn’t:
The race for the Senate, at least right now, is stable. There aren’t many polls asking whether voters would prefer Democrats or Republicans to control Congress, but the Democrats appear to maintain a slight edge among registered voters. Democratic incumbents in red Republican states, who would be all but doomed in a Republican wave, appear doggedly competitive in places where Mitt Romney won by as much as 24 points in 2012.
The same could not be said for Rick Santorum or Blanche Lincoln in 2006 or 2010. The light-blue Democratic states and purple presidential battleground states, like Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and New Hampshire, all seem to be heading toward tight races or Democratic wins, as one would expect in a fairly neutral year.
Cohn concedes things could still change. But waves don’t just appear out of nowhere on Election Day:
[A]s July turns to August, the G.O.P. is now on the clock. If there is to be a wave this November, the signs of a shift toward the G.O.P. ought to start to show up, somewhere, soon. Every day that goes by without a shift toward the G.O.P. increases the odds that there will not be a wave at all.
Lest Democrats get too excited while watching that clock, Cohn also reminds us that Republicans could most definitely retake control of the Senate without a wave lifting its candidates. That’s how bad the landscape for Democrats is this cycle: a “normal” election with no real national push or pull could still produce the six net GOP wins it needs to create the nauseating spectacle of Mitch McConnell in charge of the Upper Chamber (assuming Mitch himself survives).
It’s a rainy, humid runoff election day in Georgia, being held an unusual nine weeks after the primary, which has confused some voters. The mid-summer Vacation timing, the weather, the nasty tone of the marquee Senate contest, and the absence of much happening on the Democratic side, have combined to encourage projections of a very low turnout—perhaps in the single digits percentage-wise (which means percentage of total registered voters, since there’s no party registration here).
Low turnout in a Republican primary, especially in the Deep South, usually means Wingnut Paradise. If so, the table is set for a bad night for the Republican Establishment, with there being a reasonably clear Movement Conservative favorite in the Senate and three House runoffs. But local factors and the simple reality that pretty much every Republican candidate here would have been considered wild and crazy twenty years ago make predictions difficult.
In this post I’ll focus on the Senate runoff and deal with the House races later today.
The Senate runoff offers an interesting microcosm of the superficiality of the national narrative of a “pragmatic” and even “moderate” Republican Establishment seeking to crush the Tea Party once and for all. In the original field, U.S. Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, two of the zanier hard-core conservative Republican House members, were thought to be struggling for the all-important mantle of Most Conservative candidate. Both led some early polls. A third candidate who decided to go all out for the ideological vote was former Secretary of State Karen Handel, whose campaign was handicapped by the fact that her major patron, former Gov. Sonny Perdue, was backing his own cousin, David, a career corporate manager and first-time candidate.
Perdue ran a classic Romney-esque “outsider businessman” campaign, which he largely funded from his own resources. He took conventionally conservative issue positions but mostly talked about his business resume. A fifth candidate, ten-term House incumbent and appropriator Jack Kingston, enjoyed a rare regional base (he represents the coastal 1st District, whose citizens often feel left out of Atlanta-centric Georgia politics) and the ability to raise big money from lobbyists, but seemed almost a parody of the kind of pol the Tea Party had arisen to smite.
In the end, Broun and Handel were crippled by money shortages; Gingrey campaigned like a wino (never did figure out how he spent his large budget; seemed to be on very slick mailers); and Perdue and Kingston cruised to the two runoff spots, with 31% and 26% of the vote respectively. But Kingston had managed an unlikely ideological makeover during the primary. He used a stupid National Journal rating to proclaim himself “the most conservative House member” in the field; ran ads attacking The Welfare and describing himself as a good-old-boy skinflint. Most interestingly, Kingston also attacked Common Core (calling it “Obamacare for education”), supposedly a huge priority for his major financial backer the U.S, Chamber of Commerce (this tells you something about the Chamber’s actual priorities).
In any event, when Kingston edged Handel for a runoff spot, she instantly endorsed him, as did Gingrey, and his campaign has had something of the “Viva! Ole!” atmosphere of a real wingnut crusade. He immediately surged into a lead in the polls, and until the last week or two, seemed a lock.
Perdue, however, has dipped back into his own wallet, and made his own effort to outflank Kingston on the right, mainly via an ad tying his opponent to the Chamber’s support for “amnesty” (i.e., the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill), a very dirty word in GA Republican circles. Coincidentally or not, the last couple of polls have shown a tightening race, and Kingston himself seems to be running a bit scared.
Geography is the big imponderable. On primary night Kingston Country didn’t much extend beyond his First District, where he got 75% of the vote with elevated turnout. Perdue, on the other hand, has no real base, unless it’s low-information voters who watch a lot of television—not the most likely runoff participants. Tonight if Kingston starts winning metro Atlanta counties (and that’s where he spent most of his runoff ad money), he’s likely going to win.
But no matter who wins, the real winner is True Conservatism, the golden calf all five GOP candidates in the original field have worshiped with the fervor of a religious order, filling the air with supplications to its power and glory each and every day. And that’s why even though the “Establishment” supposedly vanquished the “Tea Party” in this race, you’d never know it from how the remaining candidates sound, and that’s why Democrat Michelle Nunn has a fighting chance in November.
On this day in 1977, Elvis Costello’s first album, My Aim Is True, was released. I first heard it at a party in Athens, GA, soon thereafter, and from the first few notes I knew it was something I’d be listening to for years.
Here’s one of the cuts from that album, “Waiting For the End of the World,” performed in New Jersey in 1978.
Spent the whole day being startled by every glance at the clock. Adjusting to EDT not as easy as getting to sleep in.
Here are some remains of the day:
* Kevin Drum weighs in with his own critique of Tom Frank’s latest attack on Obama.
* Hospitals are struggling in states that rejected Medicaid expansion.
* And speaking of Obamacare, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine has prepared and published a report suggesting an even higher level of insurance coverage via ACA than previous estimates: 20 million.
* At Ten Miles Square, Mark Kleiman dissects and explodes study concluding “socialism” causes dishonest government.
* At College Guide, Jill Barshay discusses research showing traditional, teacher-directed math instruction still works best with first-grade students, especially those struggling with math.
And in non-political news:
* Shakira voted most likable celebrity on Facebook.
That’s it for Monday. We’ll close with a tune from Yusuf Islam’s relatively recent return to musical performance: the highly didactic devotional, “I Look, I See:”
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