Flake was supposed to sail through the GOP primary without lifting a finger, after which he would go on to to crush Democrat Richard Carmona, a former Navy officer and former U.S. Surgeon General, in the still right-leaning state.
But a new PPP poll out yesterday may have some Republicans worried, as Flake’s Republican opponent Wil Cardon has hacked 27 points off of Flake’s lead in just three months. Flake is still comfortably ahead by 22 points, but it’s nothing compared to the nearly 50 point lead he had back in February.
In Cardon, Flake is facing a surprisingly tough challenge from not only a political neophyte who has never held public office before, but a birther. When the Arizona Republic asked Cardon whether he believes Obama has sufficiently proven his citizen, Cardon wouldn’t say, responding only, “I think people who run for office … ought to prove that they meet those qualifications.”
The poll shows Cardon’s rise has to do with his growing name recognition in the state and while an early round of advertising certainly helped, likely nothing did as much to raise Cardon’s profile as his birther-curious comments a month ago, which captured national headlines and introduced Cardon to many people for the first time.
Flake will be a tough one to beat from the right–he voted against the TARP and he’s got a lot of right-wing support locked up. Lugar had some significant opposition from Tea Party groups but Flake doesn’t appear to have any of that. He’s certainly much more electable than Cardon. Of course, the past few years have shown that anything can happen, so who the hell knows anymore.
I actually think that there’s a decent chance that Flake could be felled, though. Not 50-50, but perhaps 1-in-5. Think of it this way: you’re a Tea Party Republican who is just sputtering with rage about Barack Obama’s plans to fundamentally transform America. You hear about two Republican Senate candidates, one who is an Obama-hating, anti-bailout, Jim DeMint-endorsed conservative who admits that Obama was born in America, and another who is just as Obama-hating, just as anti-bailout, but thinks there might be a chance Obama was born elsewhere. The choice here is between a candidate who hates Obama but basically accepts Obama’s lies about his identity, and a candidate whose hatred goes beyond those phony facts. Keep in mind that candidate number one’s longtime experience is a negative to Tea Partiers, and you start to see how it can happen. Of course, Flake has money and he will use it to undermine Cardon. Amateurs tend often not to win elections because they don’t know how to campaign, and unless Cardon’s squeaky-clean and surprisingly savvy, the money will probably work.
What is interesting about this is how the issue of birtherism has proven completely beyond the ability of elite Republicans to solve. They know it makes the party look bad, and Karl Rove has consistently tried to tamp this stuff down (out of purely self-interested motives, of course). But it’s been impossible to eradicate, and like a bad case of herpes, it seems to just flare up at random intervals. Now is not a good time for it to flare up. It turned Donald Trump into the GOP frontrunner for a week or two, lest we forget. Among Republicans it’s a powerful, if somewhat untapped, political force. I actually am surprised that we’ve seen as little of it as we have–it appears to be a considerable shortcut to shooting up in Republican polls. Perhaps it’s because it bothers Republican moneymen, but I’m not entirely sure about that. I think it’s just another installment of the Republican Party slipping out of the hands of politicians and other political actors, and into the hands of Limbaugh, FOX News, and online conspiracy theorists, and elite Republicans’ ever-increasingly desperate struggle to keep that from happening.
The authors of Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” self-defense law say George Zimmerman should probably be arrested for shooting Trayvon Martin, reports the Miami Herald. “He has no protection under my law,” former Sen. Durell Peaden told the newspaper. [...] It is the fact that Zimmerman ignored the 911 operator’s advice not to follow Martin that former Sen. Peaden says disqualifies him from claiming self-defense under the law. “The guy lost his defense right then,” Peaden told the Miami Herald. “When he said ‘I’m following him,’ he lost his defense.” Rep. Dennis Baxley, Peaden’s co-sponsor in the Florida House, agrees with his former colleague, telling the newspaper that the law does not license neighborhood watch or others who feel “like they have the authority to pursue and confront people. That is aggravating an incident right there.”It’s pretty simple. You can stand your ground and have the defense apply to you, or you can take it upon yourself to chase after the perpetrator (i.e., you are no longer STANDING your ground) and lose the defense. The cops involved in this should be ashamed of themselves.
It’s staggering to think that there are still portions of the public that oppose interracial marriage (i.e. conservative white evangelicals from the South). By comparison, a majority of the U.S. public (or close to it) now supports same-sex marriage. That is the mainstream view in America now, not this other garbage. And in the years to come, it’s going to become more and more clear that the “silent majority” now refers to cultural liberals, not conservatives, who will no doubt spend the 2010s and ’20s being just as skreechy, out-of-touch and alienating as the left was reputed to be in the 1970s and ’80s.
I was thinking of titling this post “Why I Stopped Reading Ross Douthat In 2009″ after reading about his most recent article second-hand, which basically says that Republicans are okay and completely mainstream (what a surprise, huh, and great timing!). But that would be unfairly singling out one person when there are tons of others who deserve equal blame. I understand that Douthat and David Brooks and Peggy Noonan and the rest of that crew want to have one foot in the movement and one in the mainstream, with the ability to prod both when need be, but the simple fact is that that isn’t possible*. Around 2008 these people were all critiquing Republicans from where they were at, trying to move them a bit closer toward sanity. They all failed, and now their interpretation of straddling the divide is just endless apologism for the right-wingers of America, which doesn’t accomplish anything worth accomplishing. The simple fact is that you can’t spin these numbers: this is the GOP base, this is where it’s at. There is a minority of moderate/sane Republicans, but they’re outnumbered and appear to be okay with being marginalized. It’s just a hopeless task to try to pull the movement back from the brink, and frankly the best thing these folks could do would be to stop trying and write about something else. I actually like reading George Will’s thoughts on baseball, for example.
* I might be willing to entertain an argument that it is possible but that these particular people aren’t smart enough to do it, but I’m not sure I’d agree–Douthat at least is intelligent.
Emily Hauser has a darkly humorous response to Pete Hoekstra’s sinophobic ad:
After all of this (and the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-poor people, anti-union, anti-anyone-not-white-male-straight-and-wealthy palaver as well) clearly, the Asians were next up.
I was going to call the post forming itself in my head:
“Dear Asian-Americans – Look out, I think they’re coming for you.”
I will admit, however, that I was stymied by an inability to figure out just what the slurs might be. It’s the burden, I suppose, of being the “model minority” — you face discrimination and othering and bigotry, but it comes wrapped in words that are meant to sound like compliments. “Good at math” being one example. “Tiger mom” being another.
AND THEN THEY FREAKING CAME. And good lord, how could I have been so stupid? [...]
They are Chinese, but in a really oddly Vietnam-y way, one which will remind you that not only are they Not American, they are Inscrutable, and Peasant-y, and Very Very Dangerous.
They are also oddly interchangeable, because the scuttlebutt is that the woman featured in Hoekstra’s ad (in which she says she’s Chinese in pidgin English while bicycling along a rice paddy in a conical hat) isn’t even Chinese-American. It’s just scuttlebutt at this point, but I would be willing to bet that Hoekstra’s campaign didn’t necessarily make a point of looking for an authentically Chinese-American person to use for race-baiting purposes.
Soooo, it’s been a super long walk to get here, but:
Dear Asian-Americans: I am so sorry that I didn’t warn you about the GOP. I could see it coming — I just had no idea how fast the Racism Train was running.
What’s exceedingly strange about this is that the Asian-American community has historically been friendly to Republicans. Many of the older Japanese people I’ve known never forgot that it was a Democratic president who sent them to internment camps during WWII (and a Democratic governor who carried out the legwork, at least initially). To be sure, Asian-Americans comprise a lot of legitimately different groups who don’t all think alike, of which the Japanese are only one, but during the ’70s and ’80s, these communities were drawn to the GOP over anti-Communism, social conservatism, and a culture of frugality, which (among other things) powered Sam Hayakawa’s successful Republican Senate campaign. This book goes over all of this in much more detail for those interested.
Really, though, Asian-Americans are some of the most natural Republican voters outside of their base that you could possibly imagine. It’s amazing that they’ve lost them. California has one of the highest concentrations of Asian-American voters in the country, and Meg Whitman only managed to win 39% of them in a really, really good Republican year (in context, she won about 1/5 of Black voters too, so that 39% is undoubtedly inflated by a fair amount from normal circumstances). That their political support for the GOP has eroded is probably why Republicans are feeling free to lash out as they have, but what’s worth remembering is that Republicans have typically not really tried much Asian racebaiting. It’s much harder to run a Lee Atwater sort of strategy against a generally prosperous minority group, after all, and one whose stereotypes resist being wrongly labeled as lazy, stupid bums. Honestly, the more natural bigoted approach for that would probably be some kind of ersatz anti-Semitism, which is basically I think what Hoekstra’s ad is, with the sneaky foreigner who’s also portrayed as ignorant and foolish (but mostly moneygrubbing). I think that’s the hidden resonance here. Nothing is ever new in this game, my friends.
Not that it matters much in the long term. Hoekstra is a marginal political talent who was a punchline in Congress and lost a gubernatorial primary in 2010 to a complete unknown, and I fully expect him to lose again this year. He’s one of those candidates that Republicans repeatedly try to foist on blue-state electorates that want no part of them, like three-time loser Dino Rossi (remember him?) in Washington.
The Guardian has a great article on the successful rebranding of the French National Front under its new young leader, Marine Le Pen:
The French political elite was given a short, sharp lesson in not underestimating the FN in 2002. In a completely unexpected scenario, Jean-Marie Le Pen knocked the Socialist candidate out. He lost in the second-round run-off, but the incident provoked a bout of national shame and self-loathing that left deep scars.
Jean-Marie Le Pen’s hectoring antisemitism and bullying rhetoric could not sustain the success. But in January 2010 Marine Le Pen was elected the FN’s president and overhauled the party.
She dumped the shaven-haired bully boys nominally responsible for “security” at FN rallies for fresh-faced girls in jeans and crisp T-shirts, and abandoned the neo-Nazism and outdated references to the second world war. She even voiced support for homosexual marriage.
There were flashes of Le Pen senior in her railing against Muslims praying in the streets – which she likened to the Nazi occupation – “corrupt” politicians, European technocrats, and that old FN chestnut, immigration. And while it was generally agreed that she was softer and cleverer than her father, the fundamental ideology of the FN seemed to have changed little.
“She’s a young woman and she plays on that softer image. She’s also good at getting her message across, much, much better than her father,” said Nonna Mayer, who is an expert on France’s far right and a professor at the Paris Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
“But it’s the same politics of scapegoating that it always has been. It’s still the extreme right. There’s no getting away from it.”
I used to think that Europe was way ahead of us. But these days, I’m starting to think we’re ahead of them. Our innate multiculturalism forced us to grapple with what everyone else will have to in the wake of globalization, and countries that once seemed like forward-looking, tolerant, and progressive are seeing the rise of sentiments that have been commonplace here for a long time. But the thing is, I’m actually relatively hopeful for America. Our young people just have little conception (for the most part) of race-based grievances, and the younger you get, the less there is. In the medium term, we should be fine. But a lot of these European countries are going to have to reckon with this stuff, and I have no idea how long it’s going to take. Hopefully shorter than it’s taken us.
In any event, let’s just hope Ms. Le Pen doesn’t get anywhere close to power this year.
Just when you think that HRH Newtie McNewt, Creator of All He Surveys, has hit a low point, he comes up with a gem like this.
“I will go to the NAACP convention, and explain to the African-American community why they should demand paychecks instead of food stamps.”
He must have been chatting up Rick Santorum recently:
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