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Friday, June 21, 2013

Whatcha gonna do about the haters?

by digby

For those who are interested in the internal dynamics of the GOP and how it's dealing with immigration reform, I think this piece at Down With Tyranny gives some important details. (Reprinted in full with Howie's permission.)

Threats Of Primaries By GOP Racists Make It Harder For Non-Southerners To Back Popular Mainstream Positions

As soon as Jim DeMint took over the already right-wing Heritage Foundation, he made sure it would be even more extreme and, especially, more racist. Their first big effort under his regime was to put out a phony "study" claiming immigration would cost American taxpayers gazillions of dollars-- or, to be more "exact," 6 trillion dollars. No doubt, South Carolina's former KKK senator brought the figure with him and asked the propagandists at Heritage to write a justification of it. the KKK senator from Alabama, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was so sold on the Heritage nonsense, he demanded the professional and nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office confirm it. The report, as we mentioned yesterday, didn't go the way Beauregard expected. Instead of DeMint's $6 trillion deficit, it "estimates that in the first decade after the immigration bill is carried out, the net effect of adding millions of additional taxpayers would decrease the federal budget deficit by $197 billion. Over the next decade, the report found, the deficit reduction would be even greater-- an estimated $700 billion, from 2024 to 2033."

This is bad news for Republicans who prefer to keep their racism and bigotry under cover. It's not going to matter for the real crazies-- mostly in the South-- whose overt appeal is racism anyway, your Steve Southerlands (R-FL), Patrick McHenrys (R-NC), Louie Gohmerts (R-TX), Tom Prices (R-GA), Alan Nunnelees (R-MS), Steve Stockmen (R-TX), Virginia Foxxes (R-NC), Rob Pittengers (R-NC), Steve Scalises (R-LA), Tom Rices (R-SC), Trey Gowdys (R-SC), John Micas (R-FL), or Bob Goodlattes (R-VA). But what happens to the Republicans who were looking for a legitimate fiscal excuse to vote against comprehensive immigration reform-- the ones who want to maintain a veneer of not being pawns to the racist yahoos who run their party?

It puts "mainstream" Republicans like Chris Gibson (R-NY), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (R-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Pat Meehan (R-PA), Tom Petri (R-WI), Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Mike Turner (R-OH), Tom Reed (R-NY), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Richard Hanna (R-NY), David Joyce (R-OH), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Dan Benichek (R-MI), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Jim Gerlach (R-PA)... in a bind. The immigration bill turns out to be a gigantic deficit-reduction plan-- both in the short term and in the long term! Their constituents are different from the die-hard racists in the backward parts of Texas, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. The voters in these districts may not appreciate racism as a raison d'etre for refusing the solve a pressing national problem. Of course, on the other hand, there is an overt threat to these congressmen. Either vote NO on immigration reform, or face a well-financed primary.

And if you won't think primaries by radical extremists are real enough to scare the hell out of Republicans, look what's already happening to high profile Tea Party Senator Marco Rubio. During an interview the other night on WMAL, anti-Hispanic sociopath Allen West, who has the ability to raise millions of dollars from fellow extremists, said he will look into a primary challenge against Rubio.

"That's a pretty heavy lift, because you're talking about running against a sitting senator, and then, of course, that creates that schism that the other side would love to see happen," said West, who appeared as a guest co-host on WMAL's Mornings on the Mall Wednesday. West was pressed further by WMAL's Larry O'Connor, who asked him directly if he would rule out a challenge against Rubio. 
"Chirping... chirping... chirping...," replied West with a chuckle, before elaborating with a more direct response. 
"If I see people that are not taking our country down the right path, if I see people that are not standing up for the right type of principles, and putting their own party politics before what is best for the United States of America," West indicated he might make a run.

Rubio, who rode a wave of Tea Party momentum to the Senate in 2010 in the same election that sent West to the House, has fallen out of favor with some Republicans because of his support for the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill. West told WMAL he has a "lot of concerns" about the measure himself.

...But will he attempt to make that point as a Senate candidate against Rubio?

"We'll see what happens down the pike," said West. "God will set my feet on the right path."

And if you doubt Heritage and other far right extremist groups have the clout to mount effective primaries against mainstream Republicans you've probably never heard of Heritage's venal Conservative Action Project, which Lee Fang has exposed in his new book, The Machine

The Heritage Foundation’s most audacious move to harness the conservative movement has been its role in crafting the Conservative Action Project-- a strategy committee that meets at the Wednesday morning breakfast hosted by the Family Research Council. This is the same meeting that rivals Norquist’s Wednesday morning planning meeting and is closely connected to the aggressively ideological Weyrich Lunch. The Conservative Action Project is actually part of a broader plan set forth by Heritage vice president Becky Norton Dunlop, a point person for Heritage’s sprawling external affairs program. Throughout her career, Dunlop had spun through the revolving door of working in various Republican administrations on both the state and federal level, a corporate PR firm, and multiple conservative nonprofits, including Heritage, the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute, and the Virginia Institute for Public Policy. A committed conservative, Dunlop was once asked how to spread conservative ideas at a panel discussion hosted by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. “How do you maintain liberty?” Dunlop replied, “Well, at the end it’s at the cartridge box if you can’t win at the ballot box.” She then smiled and said that her response was probably too “extreme” for her audience of international right-of-center donors. 
As the Heritage Foundation’s “chief ambassador” to the movement, Dunlop helps the American Conservative Union plan its annual CPAC convention, the largest annual gathering of conservatives. Philanthropy Roundtable, Dunlop and her external affairs team also organize multiple events to bring corporate donors and conservative foundations together, and she organizes regional and President’s Club events. Dunlop sits on the boards of over half a dozen other organizations, from the Phillips Foundation, which disburses grants to young right-wing journalists, to the Family Foundation of Virginia, a religious right powerhouse in the state, to the American Conservative Union itself. 
Despite Dunlop’s impressive set of official responsibilities, her most important duty is not revealed on her profile page on the Heritage Foundation website. Behind the scenes, Dunlop serves as the president of the Council for National Policy (CNP), a secretive right-wing committee that has brought together key Republican officials, Christian right eaders, and wealthy right-wing donors to set the conservative agenda since 1981. Although she had been a director for the CNP for many years, according to tax disclosures filed with the IRS, Dunlop appeared to take the reins of the organization in 2008. Called the “most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of” by ABC News, the CNP is still critical to the conservative movement, and deeply entwined with Heritage and other prime players of the conservative movement. 
Initially organized by fundamentalist preacher Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind Rapture-genre series, the CNP is credited with cementing the role of the religious right within the modern Republican Party. The CNP initially hosted Pat Robertson, the televangelist owner of a network of different Christian media companies, Moral Majority Founder Jerry Falwell, LaHaye, and theologian Cleon Skousen, an influential thinker within the religious right who wrote that white slave masters were the real victims in the antebellum South. Some of the first wealthy businessmen included in CNP were Amway’s Richard DeVos and oilman Charles koch. Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese eagerly embraced the group and served as a direct link between the CNP and the Reagan White House. 
In addition to Republican Party officials, the religious right, and wealthy donors, CNP members include representatives from the conservative media infrastructure, libertarians, and many neoconservatives. Although the CNP has never allowed the press access to its events, it is widely known that the group hosts several meetings a year to allow Republican leaders to consult with movement conservative types. According to Bob Barr, the Republican lawmaker who spearheaded the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, Barr met with the CNP to hone “our message and focus” around the impeachment effort at a CNP meeting in 1997, well before Clinton made his claim that he did not have “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky. In his memoirs, Barr said the CNP members were in “near universal agreement” that impeachment was necessary because of Clinton’s “abuses of power” concerning “national security.” However, CNP continued to support the impeachment when it transformed into a crusade against Clinton’s claims about his sexual improprieties. 
In 1999, George W. Bush reportedly gave a speech to the CNP promising to only appoint pro-life judges, which in turn helped guarantee the support of CNP members and solidify Bush’s nomination in the Republican primaries. Although little is known about the activities of CNP events, many have speculated about the degree to which CNP used its influence within the Bush administration. Salon’s Ben Van Heuvelen has noted that the rise of the private military contractor Blackwater, now known as Academi, might have stemmed from the fact that Blackwater CEO Erik Prince’s parents Edgar and Elsa Prince were prominent donors to the CNP and its affiliates, especially the Family Research Council. Prince family members met regularly with prominent Bush administration war planners, like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Bremer, through the CNP. 
John McCain kowtowed to the CNP in a speech shortly after locking up the GOP nomination in 2008, but still struggled to gain their trust. “I want to look you in the eye and tell you that I won’t let you down,” pledged McCain to the group of evangelicals and donors in his March 2008 address to the group. According to the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick, several audience members in the CNP crowd said that McCain made “little impression” despite his pandering. James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and many social conservatives simply did not trust McCain, and viewed his acclaimed “maverick” streak as a liability to the movement. According to the New York Times and The Nation’s Max Blumenthal, CNP officials finally pledged their support to the McCain campaign-- and in turn the support of tens of thousands of evangelical churches organized by CNP members, various right-wing front groups owned by CNP members, and other conservative organizations-- only after McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Heritage can put a lot of resources behind targeting mainstream Republicans who are looking towards independent swing voters. The GOP base is still predominantly racist, bigoted and unable to think beyond the latest rants on Hate Talk Radio. But in many districts outside of the South, that's not enough to win elections. Look at the report from the new Iowa Poll for example.

Steve King, one of the most viciously anti-Hispanic xenophobes in Congress spent Wednesday lying about immigrants and about the reform bill. And King is backed by Iowa's increasingly senile Senator Chuck Grassley. But 54% of their state's voters approve of the Senate bill with a path to citizenship. 68% of Democrats approve and 54% of independents approve. True, just 44% of Republicans approve but only 48% of Republicans are opposed. The only demographic group that is against immigration reform are the elderly-- 65 years or older-- and even in that case, 48% approve but only 40% oppose. The rest are unsure.

They've got a problem. TPM reported yesterday that a fairly large rump is pushing back hard on the idea that the Republicans must embrace some kind of immigration reform (and soften their tone when talking about women) because it's a buncha crapola:

“What an idiot,” Washington state Republican Chairman Kirby Wilbur said Tuesday of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s recent comments on the matter. Graham, R-S.C., said that without “immigration reform” along the lines the Senate is weighing, “we’re in a demographic death spiral as a party.”

“The pathology report of the death of the Republican Party is grossly overstated,” Wilbur said. Republicans must do better jobs of messaging and finding voters, but they should not overreact to Romney’s relatively narrow loss to Obama, he said. Obama won 51 percent of the popular vote to Romney’s 47 percent but defeated the Republican by a wide margin in the Electoral College, 332-206.

I think there really is a passing chance they may tank immigration reform. They are certainly setting it up as a huge challenge to their dominance. If millions of lives weren't at stake it might even be fun to watch.