Archive for the ‘Republicans’ Category
Upon learning that he had placed third in the New Hampshire Republican primary last week with 17% of the vote, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman announced that he had “a ticket to ride” and would be continuing his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Unfortunately for Huntsman, his “ticket to ride” was on a train that was heading for relatively unfriendly territory — and fast. It only took a few days in the South for the former Utah Governor to realize the crazy train that is the GOP primary was going off the rails, giving him no chance to secure his party’s nomination for President in 2012.
Considered a moderate candidate in the GOP field, Huntsman holds a number of positions that are heretical to much of the GOP rank and file. To wit, he accepts mainstream science on climate change, wants to immediately end the war in Afghanistan and supports civil unions for gay couples.
In August, Huntsman caused a stir by admitting that he agreed with the vast majority of climate scientists on the sensitive issue of climate change. “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming,” he wrote on Twitter. “Call me crazy,” he added, displaying his awareness of the extent to which he’s currently outside his party’s mainstream on the issue. Needless to say, most of his competitors in the primary were all too glad to take him up on his offer to call him crazy.
On the war in Afghanistan, which all of the other GOP candidates have expressed interest in continuing indefinitely, Huntsman again differed from his party. Just hours after announcing his candidacy, he told ABC News that he wanted to “get American troops out faster.” He maintained that position in the months that followed. “I take a different approach on Afghanistan,” he said at a debate in November. “I think it’s time to come home.” He went further, making the case that the United States has better ways to spend its limited resources. “I don’t want to be nation-building in Afghanistan when this nation so needs to be built.”
In February 2009, nearly a year before he launched his campaign for the Republican nomination, Governor Huntsman announced his support for civil unions. And despite pushback from conservatives, some of whom consider treating gays and lesbians with respect a deal-breaker, Huntsman held his ground, insisting that our society could do better. When conservative talker Sean Hannity asked Huntsman if his position on the issue was “conservative enough,” the candidate replied, “I am where I am on civil unions. Some will like it. Some won’t.” Rubbing salt in the wound, he added, “We have not done an adequate job in terms of equality and fairness where it comes to reciprocal beneficiary rights.”
On all three of these issues, Huntsman took the side he knew to be morally right but politically unpopular, so it is ironic that Huntsman ended his campaign on the holiday celebrating the life of the great civil rights Martin Luther King Jr., who said the following:
“On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”
Shunning cowardice, expedience, politics and vanity, Huntsman chose to listen to his conscience on these three issues, alienating himself from the party he sought to represent.
Indeed, on all three issues, publicly available polling showed that Huntsman’s positions earned the support of a majority of Americans, but not a majority of Republicans.
On climate change, extensive polling has shown that a majority of Republicans deny that the problem exists. Last month the Carsey Institute found that just 42% of Republicans trust climate scientists on the issue. Similarly, a recent Pew Research Center Poll found that Tea Party supporters are the demographic group that is least likely to understand mainstream climate science. To the GOP’s credit, there is some evidence that moderate Republicans are beginning to recognize the problem — with 63% telling Pew they see evidence of climate change — but they remain a minority within the party.
On the war in Afghanistan, a poll conducted by CNN in October showed that an all-time low of just 34% of Americans supported the war. Unfortunately for the Huntsman campaign, supporters were overwhelmingly Republicans, 60% of whom still thought the war was a good idea.
Likewise, a Zogby Interactive poll in July found that 70% of Americans, but just 49% of Republicans, support civil unions. Support for the practice among conservative Iowa caucus-goers was much lower.
So what made Huntsman think he had a chance?
In an interview a few weeks ago with Politico’s Jonathan Martin, Huntsman laid out the rationale for his campaign. “I believe in the ideas put forward by Theodore White, the cycles of history,” he told POLITICO. “I believe we are in one such cycle. I think that cycle ultimately takes us to a sane Republican Party based on real ideas.”
He was confusing White’s theory with Arthur Schlesinger’s, but on the big picture, he was right. I have no doubt that the Republican Party will eventually return to a traditionally conservative foreign policy, rationality and respect for science and civil rights. Huntsman’s problem — which is shared by all Americans, due to our dysfunctional two-party system of government — is that his timing was off.
As the consequences of climate change become increasingly apparent, the war in Afghanistan continues to drag on with precious little progress and a new generation of more open-minded Americans reaches voting age, the positions held on these issues by today’s Republican Party will become entirely incompatible with electoral success on the presidential level. As that process unfolds, and as GOP moderates experience a backlash against the Tea Party’s overreach, the party will inevitably moderate itself, drifting back toward the center. Once that happens, and not a moment sooner, the GOP will again be ready to nominate a moderate candidate like Jon Huntsman.
Huntsman undoubtedly knows his ideas are ahead of their time in today’s Republican Party. And perhaps the true purpose of his 2012 run was to set himself up for a moderate run in the future, once his party realizes that accepting science, choosing military engagements judiciously and advancing civil rights are wholly consistent with conservative values.
But ultimately, as Dave Weigel notes, “You work with the party you have, not with the party you may wish you had.” Only time will tell for certain whether Huntsman’s version of conservatism was a futile pipe dream or whether it was just ahead of its time. My sense and sincere hope is that it is the latter, but I think candidate Huntsman may have been off by a few Presidential election cycles in his timing.
Wait, this guy wants to be President?
Last fall, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) sought to kill the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution rule, one that requires coal-fired power plants to curb smog and particulate-forming pollution in 27 states. Known as a “good neighbor” protection, the rule ensures that air pollution created in an upwind state doesn’t add to unhealthy pollution levels in downwind states — like New Hampshire.
Thus, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH), along with five fellow GOP senators, joined with Senate Democrats to defeat Paul’s effort to overturn the rule.
At the NBC/Facebook GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire today, Mitt Romney was asked whether he sides with his endorser Ayotte or believes that the rule is another example of “job-killing regulation.” Following his non-committal playbook, Romney suggested, “I’m not familiar with the specific regulation as it applies to New Hampshire.”
I’m glad he generally supports the concept, at least while in New Hampshire, but unfamiliarity with one of EPA’s most important rules should automatically disqualify a candidate from the Presidency. We had eight years of a President with no clue what was going on in the country and it didn’t work out so well. Let’s not make that mistake again.
In September, the Public Religion Research Institute conducted a survey that included a fascinating question to get at the salience of climate change in voting decisions:
Thinking about candidates for President, please tell me whether their views on the following issues would make you more likely to vote for them, less likely to vote for them or whether it would not make a difference to your vote. First, if a candidate for President does not believe climate change is caused by human activity. Would this make you MORE likely to vote for them, LESS likely to vote for them, or would it not make a difference?
There’s good news and bad news. The good news is, four times as many respondents said they’d be less likely to vote for a candidate who denies climate change. The bad news is, more than half of all respondents said a candidate’s climate change denial would not make a difference to them:
Within the 9% who said they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who denies climate change, there are some pretty significant partisan differences:
Among other partisan groups, and among all survey respondents (American adults), the findings are much more encouraging. Just 5% of Democrats, 9% of independents and 16% of all Republicans (including Tea Party members) are more likely to vote for a candidate after learning they don’t believe in climate change.
Overall, these findings indicate that climate change denial among presidential candidates is a losing issue with about 45% of Americans, and a non-issue for the other half of the population.
Here’s Mitt Romney’s latest ad campaign:
Kate Sheppard explains the problem with this line of attack:
The irony, of course, is that Mitt Romney actually did more to address global warming in his time as governor of Massachusetts than Gingrich ever did. All Newt did was spend some time on the couch with Pelosi, sell a few books on the subject, and then run off and start a pro-drilling front-group funded by big oil.