I have a confession. As much as I disagree with, and am appalled by, most of the views of the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, or Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., or Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, I respect them.
They stand up for what they believe in; they are honest about their beliefs, and they don’t pretend to be something that they are not. For nearly a decade, I sparred weekly with Pat Buchanan on television – we had different political perspectives but I respected Buchanan’s intelligence, his perspective and his humor. He, like Cruz, Paul and King, told it as he saw it.
What we are witnessing in this year’s campaign in a number of states is a collection of candidates who don’t want voters to know their real views. It is silly for Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., not to admit she voted for Barack Obama. She is clear about why she is running and her views, why get called out on this?
But there are a lot more insidious campaigns being run by several Republicans. Joni Ernst in Iowa is doing her very best to convince voters she has a moderate bone in her body.
Still, the ultimate fraud this year is GOP Rep. Cory Gardner in Colorado who is challenging Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat. This guy makes a chameleon look consistent in color. Gardner smiles as he lies to your face. He is trying his very best to bob and weave through the final weeks of this campaign to convince voters that he is not extreme and does not hold extreme views or cast extreme votes.
Folks, there are 435 members of the House of Representatives, and based on his 2012 voting record, National Journal rated Gardner the 10th most right-wing member of the House. With all the Tea Party Republicans in that body, being named more extreme than 425 of your colleagues is not easy.
It is not easy to run from that record, and yet Gardner is doing his very best. Gardner is waging the ultimate “Trojan Horse” campaign – he is desperately trying to get through the gates into the U.S. Senate by dressing up as something he is not. He is doing his best to pull the wool over the eyes of Colorado voters.
And Colorado women should be extremely concerned. This isn’t some run-of-the-mill conservative on women’s issues. Gardner is a radical. He wants to outlaw all abortions.
Let’s look at his record. For the past eight years, he has consistently supported federal and state “personhood legislation” that would make abortion a crime and even outlaw various birth control measures. Last year, he co-sponsored the “Life at Conception Act.” Back in 2007, Gardner signed on to a Colorado Senate bill that would make abortion a Class 3 felony, outlawing it even in the cases of rape and incest. In 2010, he supported Colorado’s Amendment 62 and reportedly said at a candidate forum: “I have signed the personhood petition. I have taken the petitions to my church and circulat[ed] it in my church.” Personhood USA President Keith Mason stated that Gardner has “built his entire political career on support of personhood.”
Now, in 2014, comes the Trojan Horse campaign. He puts up ads saying he supports over-the-counter contraceptives and says he isn’t supporting Colorado’s personhood referendum this year, though he still supports the federal legislation. Never mind the cost of the contraceptives or the issue of insurance coverage. If you believe Gardner, I have a mountain in Colorado to sell you.
The radical Colorado Right to Life group had called Gardner a “standout legislator” but even they are dismayed by his political opportunism, calling it “a cynical choice to give up on principles so he would be more attractive to moderate voters.”
Gardner has consistently opposed equal pay for equal work for women. He stands in the way of efforts to prevent violence against women. He was an original cosponsor of legislation to redefine rape. Gardner even opposed a bill in 2007 that required hospitals to inform sexual assault survivors of the availability of emergency contraception.
But his radical views and votes do not stop there.
Gardner has opposed gay rights consistently, even benefits and health coverage for gay couples. He has voted to cut Pell Grants by $6 billion. He voted five times in September/October 2013 to produce the government shutdown. He voted 16 times against opening the government, and this cost the taxpayers $24 billion.
Gardner is a supporter of transferring Colorado’s public lands, which would lead to their sell-off. The “No Trespassing” signs would go up. The “No Hunting” and “No Fishing” signs would prevent Coloradoans from enjoying their unique way of life. But during this campaign, Gardner has tried his best to convince the voters that his stands, his beliefs and his votes are not his – the ultimate Trojan Horse campaign.
Just the Facts
Republicans can’t disagree with the president’s latest speech on the economy.
By Peter FennOct. 3, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. EDT+ More USNEWS & WORLD REPORT THOMAS JEFFERSON STREET BLOG
This is for my Republican friends: What would you disagree with in Obama’s Northwestern University economic speech?
Would it be that unemployment has gone from 10 percent in 2009 to 6.1 percent? (Oh, and since his speech yesterday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the creation of another 248,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate is 5.9 percent, the lowest in six years.)
Would it be that the economy has created 10 million jobs, the longest uninterrupted stretch in U.S. history? Maybe that America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan and every other developed country combined?
Would it be that the American manufacturing sector, including car sales, is back, and 700,000 manufacturing jobs have been created?
Would it be that the stock market has doubled since 2009, and that health care increases have slowed dramatically, while the number of uninsured Americans has dropped by 26 percent?
OK, I could go on with more statistics, more facts, but what Obama really was saying is that, despite this progress, we have more to do to help the middle class, which has not felt the improvements, has not seen family incomes rise, and has not been a big part of the upturn.
So here is where I really want my Republican friends to weigh in: the solutions.
How about rebuilding infrastructure here at home? Repairing roads, bridges, and investing in light rail? How about reform that cuts taxes on businesses here at home and also closes wasteful loopholes? How about high quality preschool, enrolling 6 million children in the next decade? How about making it easier for first time homebuyers to purchase a home, speeding up construction and the economic recovery?
And, of course, there are issues like comprehensive immigration reform, raising the minimum wage and ensuring equal pay for equal work for women, which most Republicans have already voted against. Fine, we should debate those and bring them before the voters.
But my central point is that politics and government is about solving these problems, not being obstructionists and producing roadblocks. It is about producing compromises that move the economy forward. Fundamentally, right now, it is about raising up the middle class, whose wages have been stagnant since 1999, according to the Washington Post. In fact, the top 1 percent took in 95 percent of the income gains during the recovery.
For Republicans and Democrats, it should be about solutions that lift up working families. That is really what Americans want to hear leading up to this November’s elections. Obama’s speech hit it. What is the Republican Party’s response?
USNEWS & WORLD REPORT–THOMAS JEFFERSON STREET BLOG
A Republican-controlled Senate isn’t likely to deliver the immigration reform we need.
An issue that isn’t going away.
By Peter FennSept. 25, 2014 | 3:00 p.m. EDT+ More
This is an LOL moment. Republicans are now arguing, six weeks before the election, that a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate would result in serious immigration reform. In fact, they have the gall to contend that there is a better chance that Congress will overhaul the immigration system with the Republicans in charge than the Democrats.
Hello? Who could possibly not see through this outrageous claim? Is this supposed to entice Hispanic voters? Is this supposed to give Hispanics confidence that everything the GOP has done to scuttle immigration reform for the past decade will magically – presto chango! – change if Republicans win the Senate majority?
To call this a cynical ploy would be a gross understatement.
The Democratic Senate, led by the bipartisan “gang of eight,” passed a very reasonable reform bill that included many things the Republicans wanted on enforcement: 40,000 border agents, a 700-mile fence and verification of employees’ legal status. It also included a compromise path to citizenship. What did the House do under total GOP control? Not a darn thing. No vote. No debate. No alternative legislation. Nada.
So, sure, we will really get things moving when Republicans have total control of Congress.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, may believe, as he says, “It needs to be fixed … the sooner we do it, the better off the country would be.” But, under intense pressure from his caucus, he deep-sixed reform when he had the chance.
Of course, the real question may be what the meaning of “reform” is?
For a large number of Republicans, a comprehensive bill is dead on arrival. For those who cry “amnesty” their definition of reform is to shut down the border and deport as many people as possible. Some Republicans say we should do this piecemeal: Dribble it out, bill by bill. Nothing comprehensive. It is hard to imagine that would solve the problem. It would probably only make it worse and anger the Hispanic community and those who truly want to see a solution.
So it is a mystery, sort of, why Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., says: “I think the likelihood is better if Republicans take the Senate.” As a leader on the issue of immigration reform, Diaz-Balart surely knows the strength of his own party’s vehement opposition. He couldn’t get a discussion or a vote in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.
Sadly, this claim of the clouds opening and the sun shining on immigration reform with a Republican Senate just doesn’t pass the laugh test.
This Isn’t Your Father’s Midterm Election
In the past, the Democrats’ current poll numbers would spell doom, but no longer.
Turnout will be key.
By Peter FennSept. 16, 2014 | 4:15 p.m. EDT+ More—-USNEWS & WORLD REPORT, THOMAS JEFFERSON STREET BLOG
If this year’s midterm elections, with their current polling numbers, had been held 15, 20 or even 30 years ago, the Democrats would be toast. Any incumbent who was polling near 40 percent in a matchup – with a president whose job approval was also in the low 40s and where the mood of the country was abysmal – would be dead, done, stick a fork in ‘em. The election would be called for the Republicans and barely after Labor Day.
But times have changed. Turnout models have changed. The amount of money in politics has changed. Voters’ expectations for their office holders have changed. Campaign dynamics have changed.
In the past, if you were tied with your challenger in September, it was probably over. If you weren’t at 50 percent going into Election Day, it was doubtful you would get there.
Now the situation is vastly different. There is no question Democrats are at a distinct disadvantage – having to protect seven vulnerable seats in states that 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried – but consider the following: Republican negatives are as high or higher than Democrats’. There is no positive “change” message for the Republicans as there was in 1994 with the “Contract with America” slogan; there seems to be only a message of gridlock. Most of the current Senate races are not organized around a national movement as they were in 1980 but are individualized. Issues like Obamacare are in the rearview mirror.
Democrats still own issues like equal pay for equal work, birth control access, gay and lesbian rights, the minimum wage, college affordability and the middle-class squeeze. But there is a lot to play out in the next month and a half. Lots of ads, lots of money, lots of campaign time and, of course, lots of polls. And, in 2014, turnout will be key for these races. Can Democrats upend the traditional predictions of a Republican advantage in off-years?
If I were looking at the current poll numbers in the 1980s and 1990s, combined with the high “depression index” of many Americans now, I would declare a whole host of Democratic senators DOA in 2014. But that’s not how we assess these kinds of races any more, and the campaigns are still playing out with a fight to the finish. The old political rules have been altered, and the old-style campaigns no longer exist.
Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a wild seven weeks.