Conservative media figures that embody messages of misogyny and hate will take center stage at a GOP candidate forum in Iowa, despite the party’s own acknowledgment that future electoral victories hinge upon the development of a more tolerant platform.
After Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee drafted a series of recommendations on how to evolve and grow the party into a force that can win consistently in the 21st century. To a large extent, the plan recommended reaching out to women and minorities, after Democrats won both groups by healthy margins that year. The RNC report recommended ”developing a forward-leaning vision for voting Republican that appeals to women.” It went on to suggest that the party needs “to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too.”
But in a move that seems in total opposition to those recommendations, the Iowa Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, as well as Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), have chosen to partner with Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, radio host Steve Deace, and The Family Leader, an anti-gay organization headed by Bob Vander Plaats, to conduct a forum for the candidates on April 25.
Despite his role as “moderator” for the event, Erickson’s far-right views on women and minorities are anything but moderate. Erickson has argued that businesses that serve gay couples are “aiding and abetting” sin, that proposed anti-discrimination laws are part of a war on Christians waged by “evil” gay rights activists, and that marriage equality is akin to incest. According to the pundit, gay people are definitely “on the road to hell.”
In fact, Erickson is scheduled to appear at an event for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on the night before the candidate forum. The ADF, whose work has been touted by Erickson, is an extreme anti-gay organization working to criminalize homosexuality. The event is billed as “An Evening with Erick Erickson,” making him a de facto spokesman for a group whose stances are so extreme even some of Erickson’s peers at Fox News have distanced themselves from them.
Erickson’s relationship with women’s issues is just as offensive — he is particularly hostile to the idea that women should help support a family financially. Erickson stated on his radio show in 2013 that “some women believe they can have it all, and that’s the crux of the problem,” and told Fox host Lou Dobbs that the recent increase in the number of female breadwinners is “concerning and troubling.” He elaborated on this point, saying, “When you look at biology, look at the natural world, the roles of a male and female in society, and the other animals, the male typically is the dominant role.”
But it’s not just Erickson. The Republican candidate forum will also feature a post-forum focus group moderated by radio host and Washington Times columnist Steve Deace.
Deace maintains strong anti-gay and anti-immigrant views. Most recently, he penned a column suggesting that President Obama and the media were using the story of Michael Sam, an openly gay NFL prospect from the University of Missouri, as an excuse to distract attention away from the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. He has also compared gay marriage to bank robbery and strongly opposes proposals like the DREAM Act that would aid longtime immigrant children in obtaining a college education.
And the forum itself is presented by The Family Leader, whose president Bob Vander Plaats has called gay people a “public health risk,” likened being gay to adultery and polygamy, and is a vocal supporter of the fringe birther movement.
If right-wing hate mongers like Erickson and Deace continue to be chosen to represent the party, GOP rebranding efforts are likely doomed.
h/t: Brian Powell at MMFA
DES MOINES, Iowa — DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says this month’s partial government shutdown and his key role in it were a success: They got people talking.
"One of the things we accomplished in the fight over Obamacare is we elevated the national debate over what a disaster, what a train wreck, how much Obamacare is hurting millions of Americans across this country," Cruz told about 600 Iowa Republicans on Friday at the Iowa GOP’s annual fundraising dinner in Des Moines.
Cruz’s crusader’s spirit was the perfect example of what longtime Republicans in Iowa and nationally say is at the root of the party’s losing ways and has sparked an intraparty fight over the way forward after consecutive losing presidential elections.
It’s a conversation that’s spilling out from backstage to behind the podium between national GOP establishment luminaries and state leaders around the country.
Although he ultimately lost, the 42-year-old freshman senator played a leading role bringing about the 16-day partial federal shutdown with his demand that President Barack Obama gut his 3-year-old health care law. He also successfully urged a core of House Republicans to follow him.
The final and perhaps most important stop of Ted Cruz’s recent public tour was less an exclamation point on a series of raucous events in Texas and more a presentation of opposite ideas for the GOP’s way forward nationally.
Immediately before the Cruz spoke, five-term Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad barely acknowledged the guest and said the way forward for the party nationally was by way of the route cleared by Republican governors.
Branstad, 66, at the heart of Iowa’s GOP establishment, called Cruz “a bright, up-and-coming senator” before turning his attention to the tangible successes of Republican governors, beginning with Cruz’s own governor, Rick Perry of Texas.
"The results of conservative governors are making a difference," said Branstad, who is preparing to seek election next year.
It was Cruz’s third visit to Iowa, which is expected to hold the leadoff GOP nominating caucuses ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Is one of the quirkiest rituals of the Republican presidential election calendar heading for the grave?
It is, if Iowa’s Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has his say.
Eyeing the wreckage of the 2011 Ames Straw Poll, which Rep. Michele Bachmannwon only to fizzle as a candidate soon after, Mr. Branstad wants to do away with the whole thing.
“I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness,” Mr. Branstad said of the 33-year-old GOP ritual. “It has been a great fundraiser for the party but I think its days are over.”
Going back to 1979, Republican presidential contenders have flocked to Ames, Iowa, in August to eat fried food, dance to country bands and wheedle votes from the party faithful in what amounts to an overblown party fund-raiser disguised as a trial run for the real Iowa caucuses early the next year.
Its track record as an anointer of GOP nominees falls far shy of impressive. Only two victors, Bob Dole in 1995 and George W. Bush in 1999, went on to win the Iowa caucus the next year and then the nomination in November. And only one, Mr. Bush, went on to become president.
Still, other top Iowa Republicans bristled at Mr. Branstad’s suggestion that the sun had set on Ames.
In an interview, Gov. Branstad pointed to Ms. Bachmann’s rapid rise and fall in 2011 as Exhibit A for why the straw poll no longer makes sense. The Bachmann campaign invested heavily in the one-day event, busing in thousands of supporters from around Iowa and hiring singers like Randy Travis to entertain them in a huge tent.
The Minnesota Republican beat libertarian Rep. Ron Paul of Texas by 150 votes, but never caught fire in Iowa. She came in a very distant sixth in the January Iowa caucuses, getting just 5% of the vote.
Late last week more than a dozen Republican governors declared that they will not build the insurance market exchanges called for by the Affordable Care Act, including prominent names like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Perry of Texas.
On Monday, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma joined them, declaring in a statementthat it “does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support and fund a new government program that will ultimately be under the control of the federal government.”
The original deadline for states to notify the Department of Health and Human Services on whether they intend to build their own exchange was last Friday, but the administration extended it to Dec. 14. About a dozen Republican governors are weighing their options, including Chris Christie of New Jersey, Rick Scott of Florida and Terry Branstad of Iowa.
The decisions carry important implications for the long-term arc of Obamacare, which supporters and opponents alike agree is here to stay now that President Obama has been re-elected. The Obama administration wants states to build the exchanges so they have an incentive to make the law work. If the federal government takes over, state-level Republicans have a scapegoat in case things go wrong.
The more states stonewall the exchanges, the more it complicates the task of the federal government. One challenge is that the law lacks an automatic funding mechanism for HHS to set up state exchanges. Enrollment is slated to begin next October, and the exchanges are scheduled to start functioning by January 2014.
Twenty-three states, mostly Democratic, and Washington, D.C. have said they’ll move forwardwith the exchanges, either on their own or in partnership with the feds.
Propelling the GOP governors’ stance is a desire to protect themselves politically from accusations of abetting a law that conservatives fervently oppose. Some governors argue that the regulations are too stifling and provide little flexibility for them to construct the marketplaces in accordance with their states’ needs.
h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM