Saturday, July 04, 2015

Rick Perry 2.0 - Trump's the New Palin: The Republican Clown Car Rolls On

Rick Perry at the National Press Club on July 2nd   [Photo - AP]
Of the fourteen different 2016 GOP presidential candidates, former Texas Governor Rick Perry made what I consider to be the most interesting move towards the center of the American political spectrum during a speech he gave at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C on Thursday.

The speech was a platform for Perry to share details of his economic vision, but it centered mostly on race and the GOP's need to find ways to appeal to the African-American voter base.

He made headlines on social media this week for opening the speech by talking in harrowing detail about the horrific lynching of a 17 year-old mentally disabled African-American in 1916 who was tortured and burned alive by a mob.

While it is significant that a Republican presidential candidate would cite one of the approximately 3,959 black Americans who were killed by lynchings across twelve states in the south between 1877 and 1950 (according to revised statistics revealed in a February 10, 2015 Washington Post article), given the GOP's rather sketchy track record in terms of it's relationship with and appeal to people of color in the past five decades, Perry's speech was a modest step.

And considering Republican's ongoing organized efforts to suppress minority votes on the state and national level a very tentative step at that.
But it did offer a glimpse of the kind of strategic political shift any Republican presidential candidate will have to make to realistically contend for key battleground states with large numbers of Electoral College votes (i.e California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York or Florida) if they're serious about wanting to win the White House in 2016 or beyond.

The shifting demographics of America today render the Republican's Southern Strategy essentially useless; as Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign clearly demonstrated, Republicans can't simply win less-populated red states and expect to win the White House anymore - the math just doesn't add up.

Perry's speech was a mix of idealistic optimism and stark realism, but it pointed to a directional shift the Republican party is going to have to face sooner or later. If you're interested in checking it out for yourself, the video of the speech is available to watch on

During the speech Perry insisted, “I am here to tell you that it is Republicans, not Democrats, who are truly offering Black Americans the hope of a better life for themselves and their children,” but the former Texas Governor's plan to deliver on that would be a mix taken from the same old Republican grab-bag; slashing government regulations, cutting taxes and gutting core federal programs like Medicaid, Social Security, housing assistance and SNAP. 

But in the same speech he also said, “...because slavery and segregation were sanctioned by government, there is a role for government policy in addressing their lasting effects,”

While the content of his speech was significant, it also has to be viewed in the context of Perry's own need to distance his campaign from "Niggerhead", the name of a rock located on his family's hunting campground in Texas (an issue which dogged him in the 2012 presidential race) as well as the awkward position of some of the leading GOP candidates having taken campaign contributions from white supremacist Earl Holt; who's CCC Website rhetoric partially inspired Charleston massacre shooter Dylann Roof.

Any GOP presidential candidate with half a brain had to have recognized the significance of President Obama's recent Eulogy for South Carolina Senator Clementa Pinckney; I think Perry's speech was, in part, a reaction to the substance of Obama's speech.

But even though it's far too early to tell if Perry's speech translates to an actual policy shift or a meaningful ideological shift in the Republican party, it did have the effect of portraying Perry in a more favorable light and distancing himself from the other members of the crowded Republican Clown Car on the issue of race. 

Now it's not my intention to use the term "Clown Car" to dismiss the presidential ambitions of the fourteen Republican candidates who've declared their intention to seek the GOP presidential nomination for 2016.

On the contrary, as an avid political junkie and political science major who grew up just outside Washington, D.C. I admire the chutzpah of anyone willing to throw their hats into the ring; even if I don't necessarily subscribe to their political vision for America.

That said I think it's fairly clear to most Americans that a number of these GOP candidates espouse political positions so far outside of mainstream thinking that they have zero chance of earning enough electoral college votes to be elected to the highest office in the land.

As events in the past couple weeks have shown, some of these candidates are clearly not "in it to win it", but to embellish their own respective conservative brands and take advantage of the media spotlight to sound off.

Mexican Pinata bearing Donald Trump's likeness
Take Donald Trump, who seems to have taken over the spot vacated by previous Republican presidential contenders Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman; candidates who seemed to function in an ideological vacuum so far removed from the political mainstream that the candidates themselves became punchlines.

At this point Trump has become such a reviled figure in Mexico that a Mexican artist created a Trump pinata (pictured left).
His repulsive hate-filled tirade against Mexican citizens during his recent presidential announcement was not just offensive to many Americans of different ethnic backgrounds, races and religious faiths, the public backlash has now led major corporate interests including Macy's, NBC, Univision and SERTA to sever their business ties with interests controlled by Trump.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, one of the worlds two wealthiest individuals according to Forbes, also severed his business interests with Trump; and New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio has called for the city to terminate any existing city contracts tied to companies controlled by Trump.

Rather than just suck it up and publicly admit that his comments were inappropriate, offensive and went way overboard, Trump seems to be doubling down on his bizarre anti-immigrant hysteria and defending his comments.

Not surprisingly Fox News chief Roger Ailes ordered his troops into battle to leap to Trump's defense.

Fox host Megyn Kelly defends Trump with Ann Coulter
As detailed by Rachel Calvert's article posted on last Thursday, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly dredged up anti-immigrant "information" from quasi-white supremacist Ann Coulter's book "Adios America!" to suggest that Trump was simply speaking the truth.

As Calvert's article states, "According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Coulter's new book cites a long list of racist and white nationalist extremists, repeatedly referencing the conservative anti-immigration think tank Center for Immigration Studies. Coulter's other sources include Peter Brimelow, the English white nationalist who founded the racist blog VDARE and Robert Spencer, co-founder of the anti-Muslim hate group Stop Islamization of America. In fact, Coulter has credited Brimelow with inspiring her anti-immigration views."

On the news analysis program Fox Five last Thursday Eric Bolling dismissed people and organizations who are cutting their ties with Trump's business interests as "economic terrorists".

Which is a rather interesting accusation coming from the right considering how the conservative Republican majority in Congress uses their control of the budget to selectively de-fund everything from voter education initiatives and access, to abortion and public education.

Fancy some Tea Dr. Carson?
Or there's Dr. Ben Carson, who is still evidently laboring under the delusion that the Republican party is actually going to nominate a black American to be their presidential candidate in 2016.

Dr. Carson may be a brilliant preeminent neurosurgeon who's rich, handsome and has honors out the yin-yang but remember he's also the guy who equated the Affordable Care Act to the institution of slavery in 2013 at the Values Voter Summit when he said, “You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control."

Control. Riiiight. Got it Doc.

The good doctor recently boasted that no other presidential campaign "will come close" to the 150,000 individual donors his campaign has garnered.

But as an article released this week by Sam Stein (the Senior Politics Editor for The Huffington Post) reports, in only two months progressive Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has raised $15 million - from his 250,000 individual donors. Sorry Doc.  

Scared of your brother's toxic legacy? Drop your last name!
Then there's former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, or "Jeb!" as he now likes to be known according to the slick new logo (pictured left) he unveiled the other week.

Jeb! still fancies himself the heir apparent to the 2016 GOP crown, but his campaign message thus far has been muddled and plodding at best.

This week he tried to shift his momentum by releasing an unprecedented number of his tax returns, and he deserves a measure of credit for learning from Mitt Romney's critical error during the 2012 presidential race of trying to hide the fact that he's a card-carrying member of the 1% who's worth millions.

During a seven year period, Bush the Younger made a whopping $29 million after leaving office as the Governor of Florida in 2007, and strategically speaking he's smart to just nullify his wealth as a potential attack issue for Democrats and other Republicans by simply releasing the information himself.

But as an interesting article posted on the by Charles Gasparino shows, over half of Bush's income made after he left public office came from his position as a "senior adviser" to both Lehman Brothers and Barclays Bank during the start of the Great Recession when the collapse of Lehman Brothers sparked the economic crisis.

As Gasparino wrote in his HuffPo piece, "In recent weeks I’ve interviewed numerous Wall Street executives about Jeb Bush, and his role at both firms. What emerges is a portrait of a bank “adviser” who operated more like a high-level investment banker. A spokeswoman for Bush declined to provide specifics about his work for the banks..." 

How his position as an insider who pocketed millions just as the nation plunged into economic crisis will affect his presidential campaign is yet to be determined, but it will limit his ability to convey any kind of populist economic message; which will be critical for any candidate seeking the White House in 2016. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what the professional talking heads have to say about how the 2016 GOP candidates fared this week on the Sunday morning news shows tomorrow.

What I do find interesting is the conundrum that these fourteen GOP candidates find themselves in as the race intensifies.

The US economy is on fairly stable footing, unemployment sits at 5.3%, Obama's approval ratings are up, the Affordable Care Act has survived a 2nd Supreme Court challenge, same-sex marriage is now legal and Democrats and progressives are mounting legal challenges to Republican voter suppression laws - what's a Republican to do?

These candidates can't simply bash the President and make vague promises about dismantling the Affordable Care Act; they're actually going to have to start to distinguish themselves based on substantive policy positions and specific stances on issues that can appeal to the mainstream.

The political winds can shift from week to week, but it's fair to say it's probably getting a little hot inside that crowded clown car right about now - and it's not even clear who's behind the wheel.

But it's becoming easier to see who's sitting up front and who's stuck in the back.

Happy Independence Day - CG 

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