From Mother Jones:
When conservative activists began laying the groundwork months ago for their plan to shut down the federal government, their stated goal was delaying or defunding the Affordable Care Act, the equivalent of landing a haymaker on President Obama’s signature policy achievement. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tromped around Texas railing against the health care law, a banner proclaiming “DEFUND OBAMACARE” hanging behind him.
Yet the ultimate goal of conservative interest groups such as Heritage Action and FreedomWorks has always been the wholesale repeal of Obamacare. Some conservative lawmakers reportedly even insisted on repealing Obamacare as part of a deal to end the government shutdown that began on October 1.
But on Fox News Wednesday morning, Michael Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action, brought some reality to the discussion over repealing Obamacare:
Fox News: With a Democrat in the White House and Harry Reid with the majority in the Senate, what can you do [to stop Obamacare]?
Needham: Well, everybody understands that we’re not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017. And that we have to win the Senate and win the White House.
But right now, it is clear that this bill is not ready for primetime. It is clear that this bill is unfair. The president’s given a waiver to employers; why can’t we give that waiver to the individual people all across America?”
So there you have it.
After years of false narratives, misstated data and a remarkably successful campaign to poison the Affordable Care Act in the hearts and minds of the American public, Republicans have finally run into the one force that could improve the perception of healthcare reform in the eyes of the people….
According to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out this week, the GOP-Tea Party efforts to defund or delay Obamacare—the demand which directly led to the government shutdown—has brought about a seven point increase in popularity of the law.
Immediately prior to the shutdown, only 31 percent of Americans believed Obamacare was a good idea. Today, that number is 38 percent, just one percentage point lower than the peak approval number of forty percent that was achieved in July 2012.
Recently, the Supreme Court began its new term with a case that could further upend campaign finance laws by allowing individual donors to give millions of dollars to candidates and political parties.
McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission has been billed as Citizens United 2.0, referring to the 2010 decision that gave corporations, unions and the rich the opportunity to pour vast and often anonymous amounts of cash into outside groups for political campaigns.
Yale Law School election and constitutional law professor Heather Gerken joined Moyers & Company for an interview in which she warns us that McCutcheon will further erode campaign finance regulations and allow more cash and influence to slosh around in the system.
McCutcheon challenges aggregate caps on how much individual donors can give to candidates and political parties. The current overall cap stands at $123,200 per donor for a two-year election cycle, but McCutcheon could raise that amount to more than $3.5 million.
Gerken noted that if the court rules in favor of McCutcheon, one donor could write a check that might cover a politician’s entire election campaign. “We’re going to start to worry about the bad old days when politicians were beholden to an incredibly small group of wealthy donors … Right now when politicians want to raise money they have to talk to at least middle class voters. They have to talk to a pretty big number of voters to raise money for their campaigns.”
Michael Needham of Heritage Action: The 31-year-old Megalomaniac Who Planned the Government Shutdown
From The WSJ:
‘I really believe we are in a great position right now,” says Michael Needham, the 31-year-old president of Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the nation’s largest conservative think tank. By “we” he means the Republican Party and the conservative movement; their “great position” refers to the potential to win the political battle over the government shutdown.
Though Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is the public face of the high-risk strategy to “defund” ObamaCare, the masterminds behind it are a new generation of young conservatives, chief among them Mr. Needham. From a tactical view, the strategy has been deployed with precision. In August, only Mr. Cruz and a band of renegade tea-party Republicans in the House favored this approach, and the media collectively scoffed. But by September, House Republicans couldn’t pass a budget without attaching the defunding rider that has grounded much of government.
“We rallied the conservative grass roots across the country,” Mr. Needham says, and ran ads in more than 100 districts on the health law. It worked. During the August recess, these activists demanded that their members of Congress stop ObamaCare.
To most observers, who think the GOP is losing this fight, Mr. Needham’s optimism that Republicans will carry the day may seem astonishing. But Mr. Needham says the second-guessers are wrong.
“We just spent the last three months talking about nothing else but ObamaCare. It has been on the front page of every newspaper. The polls show ObamaCare’s more unpopular than ever. People are starting to wake up that it isn’t going to work at all,” he says. “Even Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show’ is making fun of the law.” On Monday, Mr. Stewart had Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as a guest, Mr. Needham notes, and the host “bet that he could download every movie ever made before she could log on to the ObamaCare website.”
Has the House GOP strategy gone at all awry? Mr. Needham says no. “If conservative groups like Heritage Action hadn’t raised the stakes on ObamaCare,” he says, “we’d be debating on their side of the football field talking about tax increases, gun control, more spending and amnesty for illegal immigrants.” He notes that in addition to remaining steadfast on defunding ObamaCare, he and his allies are also supporting conservative goals such as preserving the spending caps and budget sequester.
Mr. Needham is a Stanford business-school grad, conservative to the core, uncompromising and skilled in the smash-mouth politics now played in Washington. His first job was as research assistant—then speech writer and eventually chief of staff—for Heritage founder Ed Feulner, who stepped down as president in April. (Full disclosure: I worked for Mr. Feulner from 1983-88.) Mr. Needham’s new boss at Heritage is Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator whose former aides populate the staff of Sen. Cruz and other conservative groups and work closely with Mr. Needham.
It’s open warfare within the GOP – and all of America is caught in the crossfire
From Rolling Stone:
Partisan gerrymandering of 2012 locked in the Republican electoral gains of 2010. In redrawing congressional districts following the census, the GOP focused its efforts on protecting House incumbents – making their districts as red as possible. Last November, this redistricting effort produced a shocking subversion of representative democracy. In the popular vote, almost 1.4 million more Americans cast their votes for Democratic House candidates than voted for Republicans. But Republicans maintained a commanding majority in the House. “Gerrymandering saved them,” says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Today, the number of true swing districts in the House is vanishingly small. Only 17 Republicans won in districts that Barack Obama also carried. Meanwhile, the number of what elections-data savant Nate Silver calls “landslide districts” – districts that are 20-plus points more Republican than the nation at large – has swelled to 125, up from 92 just a decade ago.
Members from these über-safe districts don’t fear the challenge posed by a mainstream Democrat in the general election. They dread a well-funded primary opponent running to their right. “You’ve got very small numbers of people who vote in GOP primaries,” says Bartlett, who served in the Reagan administration. “It doesn’t take very many of these Tea Party people to show up to find out you’re on your ass.”
To keep this threat fresh in members’ minds, the Club for Growth recently launched a campaign called “Primary My Congressman!” that seeks to oust centrist Republicans from safe seats – and replace them with the hardest of the hardcore. “The Club for Growth is a cancer on the Republican Party,” said Steve LaTourette, a recently retired moderate House Republican from Ohio. “The only thing that grows when the Club for Growth gets involved is the number of Democrats in office.”
The chaos now roiling the House is, in many ways, a battle between the two most powerful GOP party bosses – Karl Rove and Jim DeMint. For Rove, the activists of the Republican base have always been useful rubes. Republicans in the Rove school campaign on wedge issues that rally grassroots Republicans to the polls. But once these politicians get to Washington, they shift to fight for the interests of the party’s financial backers. In the emerging party of DeMint, however, the base that Rove scorns is everything. Only the daily pressure of grassroots activists, DeMint believes, can force Republicans to deliver in Washington on the smallgovernment promises they make to their constituents back home.
These two schools of governing can’t, ultimately, be reconciled. The DeMint school believes in combat, and in turning every possible government choke point into a high-stakes confrontation: You win by standing on principle, refusing to yield and letting the chips fall where they may. As Cruz put it to activists in Dallas, “If you have an impasse, one side or the other has to blink. How do we win? Don’t blink.”
“The elites have different agendas than the rank and file,” says Bartlett, the former Reagan official. “Your average Tea Party people may be content to have gridlock forever, but the money people – the corporations, the lobbyists – they need stuff.” And people in that camp have a lot riding on John Boehner and Eric Cantor.
Read the full article here.
View Interactive: Who’s pulling the strings? Illustrations by Joe Fournier.
From left to right: Jim DeMint(Heritage Foundation); David Bossie (Citizens United); Ginni Thomas, Spouse of SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas (Liberty Consulting); Edwin Meese (Heritage Foundation); Chris Chocola (Club for Growth); Matt Kibbe (FreedomWorks); Michael Needham (Heritage Action for America); Erick Erickson (RedState); Koch Brothers.
Much of the coverage of the government showdown has focused on a relatively small group of hardline conservatives within the Republican caucus who have backed their party’s leaders into a fight they didn’t want.
As Ryan Lizza noted in The New Yorker, these lawmakers mostly represent very safe, heavily Republican and disproportionately white districts that don’t look much like the rest of the country. Many of those on the front lines are recent arrivals to Capitol Hill, and they’re pushing a leadership they see as having been too willing to compromise with Democrats in the past.
It’s an important angle. Yet it also obscures what should be an obvious question: Since when do freshmen senators or one- or two-term reps push their congressional leadership around? Historically, it’s been the reverse. And since when does a newcomer to the Senate such as Ted Cruz (R-TX) have the right to tell House Republicans what to do? If there’s only a relatively small group of lawmakers who think defunding the law is a dandy idea, why has every budget resolution with such a provision won more than 200 Republican votes in the House of Representatives during the showdown? Why is this supposedly silent majority of Republicans so docile? Why don’t they push back?
The answer lies in the clout wielded by an extensive web of non-governmental conservative groups supported by mountains of dark money. Those groups see the Affordable Care Act as an existential threat to their worldview and their party and have waged a multipronged campaign to kill it in its cradle. Theirs is the ultimate inside/ outside strategy: They fund primary challenges from the right by upstart candidates against incumbents they view as insufficiently pure. When those true believers get into office, these groups promote them relentlessly to the party’s activist base – filling their re-election coffers with donations by portraying them as courageous mavericks fighting against ossified “RINOS” (Republicans in Name Only). They mount “public education” campaigns and buy ad blitzes, and they coordinate messaging among friendly voices within the conservative media.
With a broad, well-funded campaign, these groups have effectively shifted the balance of power in conservative Washington away from Republican leaders on the Hill and onto a cadre of true believers who will go to any length to destroy a modest set of health care reforms that, just 20 years ago, the very same conservative movement was itself advancing.
So just looking at the rank-and-file members of the “suicide caucus” isn’t enough – it’s like focusing on the marionette rather than the puppet-master.
For an interactive look at some of the key players behind the scenes (above) and some of the key lawmakers in front of the cameras, click here.
From NBC News:
The Republican Party has been badly damaged in the ongoing government shutdown and debt limit standoff, with a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finding that a majority of Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown, and with the party’s popularity declining to its lowest level.
By a 22-point margin (53 percent to 31 percent), the public blames the Republican Party more for the shutdown than President Barack Obama – a wider margin of blame for the GOP than the party received during the poll during the last shutdown in 1995-96.
Just 24 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion about the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party, which are both at all-time lows in the history of poll.
Read the full poll here (.pdf)
And one year until next fall’s midterm elections, American voters prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress to a Republican-controlled one by eight percentage points (47 percent to 39 percent), up from the Democrats’ three-point advantage last month (46 percent to 43 percent).
What’s more, Obama’s political standing has remained relatively stable since the shutdown, with his approval rating ticking up two points since last month, and with the Democratic Party’s favorability rating declining just three points (from 42 percent to 39 percent).