Some wag once said that the plural of anecdote is not data. That three teenage girls in Akron decided to shave their heads and wear giant black plastic bags to school every day means nothing much – it’s not a fashion trend. There’s no data there, just kids being kids, and it’s the same in the news. All the anecdotes about how Obamacare ruined this person’s life, or this other person’s life, say nothing much about the millions of folks who never had health insurance but have it now – and most those horror stories turned out to be not true anyway. The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity suddenly stopped running ad after ad in all the major markets that featured these devastating tales of woe.
Legions of fact-checkers kept embarrassing them. They learned their lesson. Even anecdotes should be true, and even then, they’re still not data. The ethereal pundit Peggy Noonan, once a speech writer for Ronald Reagan, found that out. She saw the lawn signs here and there, and she felt what was in the air, from all the anecdotal information, so all the polling and all the analysis Nate Silver had done was wrong, and Romney was going to win the presidency – and Romney got clobbered. Anecdotes don’t mean much, but then she had been the voice of Ronald Reagan for a time, the man who lived in an anecdotal America, a place of heartwarming stories of rugged individualism and personal responsibility, and happy generous white folks who always did the right thing, which had little to do with the America everyone else knew. It was a dangerous pleasantness, but the nation finally figured out it’s always best to know what’s actually going on. An anecdote about plucky young Jane from Peoria, and her cute little puppy and her wildly successful lemonade stand, a business she built all on her own with no government regulations messing things up, isn’t the last word on economic policy. Wall Street isn’t a lemonade stand.
That said, there’s such a thing as mounting evidence. A friend, who must remain nameless, who works at the highest levels of Wall Street and with the top regulatory agencies and often with Congress, has mentioned that in casual conversations with the most Republican of Republicans, he often hears them sigh that the party is full of folks who are simply bat-shit crazy, and a real embarrassment, and really, Obamacare isn’t that bad and was never a bad idea in the first place – but don’t tell anyone they said that. Something is up, although there’s the deadly Peggy Noonan Trap. That’s just a few people saying things.
There is, however, mounting evidence of bat-shit craziness:
Some conservative media figures are openly wondering if Hillary Clinton staged an incident during a speech in Las Vegas on Thursday in which a woman in the audience threw a shoe at her. The shoe appeared to miss the rumored 2016 presidential hopeful, who ducked and made light of it, while the reported thrower, Alison Michelle Ernst, was booked by the authorities.
A blog post published Monday at the website of Fox News commentator Bernard Goldberg speculated that Clinton probably “calculated it beforehand,” as is “almost always true” with things that happen to her.
“So it would not be stretching logic to suppose that Hillary arranged to have the shoe thrown at her,” wrote Arthur Louis at Goldberg’s site. “Remembering the Bush incident [when an Iraqi journalist threw two shoes at President George W. Bush], she may have calculated that this would make her seem presidential. This would explain why Ms. Ernst was not pounded to a pulp by Hillary’s bodyguards, and why she seems on the verge of getting off scot free. Don’t be too surprised, the next time you visit Phoenix, if you see her sitting at a table in a downtown Hillary-for-President store front, stuffing and sealing envelopes.”
Rush Limbaugh was at it too – “I don’t know why anybody would be throwing a shoe at Hillary unless maybe it’s an attempt to make the Benghazi people look like nuts and lunatics and wackos.”
“What one clearly sees in this video is that Hillary Clinton makes no effort whatsoever to actually ‘dodge’ the shoe,” wrote Sonny Bunch at the Washington Free Beacon. “Rather, she flinches after it has gone whizzing by her head. A far more accurate headline would’ve been ‘Hillary Clinton Luckily Unharmed by Her Slow Reflexes.’ Typical liberal media, covering up the truth for their favored candidates… Whereas Hillary reacts well after the danger has passed, George W. Bush preemptively sees danger coming and positions himself to avoid it.”
She’s no George Bush, but we knew that, and that may be a good thing. There’s a reason her favorability ratings are off the charts, but his is a minor matter. Matt Ford reports on the real thing that outraged the folks on the right:
Twenty-one years ago, rancher Cliven Bundy stopped paying his grazing fees.
Bundy does not recognize federal authority over land where his ancestors first settled in the 1880s, which he claims belongs to the state of Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management disagreed and took him to federal court, which first ruled in favor of the BLM in 1998. After years of attempts at a negotiated settlement over the $1.2 million Bundy owes in fees failed, federal land agents began seizing hundreds of his cattle illegally grazing on public land last week.
But after footage of a BLM agent using a stun gun on Bundy’s adult son went viral in far-right circles, hundreds of armed militia supporters from neighboring states flocked to Bundy’s ranch to defend him from the BLM agents enforcing the court order. The states’-rights groups, in echoes of Ruby Ridge and Waco, came armed and prepared for violence. “I’m ready to pull the trigger if fired upon,” one of the anti-government activists told Reuters. Not eager to spill blood over cattle, the BLM backed down Sunday and started returning the livestock it had confiscated. The agency says it won’t drop the matter and will “continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially.”
This is odd. His cattle had been illegally grazing on public land for years and years, and he refused to pay the required fees for using public land for that, but he had his reasons – “I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.”
Sean Hannity and everyone else at Fox News are cheering for him, and Mike Huckabee is outraged, but Ford cites the Nevada constitution:
All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it. But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair, subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States. The Constitution of the United States confers full power on the Federal Government to maintain and Perpetuate its existence, and whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede from the Federal Union, or forcibly resist the Execution of its laws, the Federal Government may, by warrant of the Constitution, employ armed force in compelling obedience to its Authority.
Bundy is not abiding by Nevada’s constitution, but everyone on the right now, and all Republican politicians, are busily aligning themselves with the man who doesn’t recognize the United States government as even existing. There never was one. Each state is its own nation, just like we started out back in 1776-77 with the Articles of Confederation, before that stupid Constitution thing a decade later, but that explains this:
Wisconsin Republicans will vote at their convention next month on a proposal affirming the state’s right to go it alone, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Daniel Bice reported Monday.
The state party’s Resolutions Committee has voted in favor of a so-called “state sovereignty” measure stating the party “supports legislation that upholds Wisconsin’s right, under extreme circumstances, to secede,” according to the Journal-Sentinel. The resolution came out of one of the state party’s regional caucuses and was edited and adopted by the committee despite top GOP officials’ efforts to quash it.
Gov. Scott Walker (R) dismissed the unconventional proposal last week.
“I don’t think that one aligns with where most Republican officials are in the state of Wisconsin – certainly not with me,” Walker said Friday at a press event, as quoted by the Journal-Sentinel.
These folks have moved from “limited government” to “no government” in the blink of an eye, but if the folks in Texas grabbed Foot Hood and Fort Bliss and all the other military installations there so they’d have their own army, taking all our troops prisoner, and seceded from the union, so to speak, as they have often threatened, no one would miss them much. It’s just that we had that Civil War to settle the matter. States don’t have that right. Lincoln, one of the guys who created the modern Republican Party out of the wreckage of the Whigs, made sure that was so – and thus the evidence is mounting that these folks are bat-shit crazy.
And then they all got together:
The Americans for Prosperity Foundation and Citizens United labeled their inaugural Freedom Summit – held Saturday in Manchester, N.H. – a 2016 “cattle call.” However, the event proved most useful in reminding us how far away the presidential primaries are, and how much Republicans will need to decide before the Iowa caucuses.
After the 2012 presidential election, the GOP performed an audit on its electoral performance and announced it might have to change some things if it wanted to attract more votes in four years. Two years later, not much has changed. Most Republican elected officials have not softened their stance on social issues, and attempts to reach other demographics haven’t changed the party’s base.
Yep, still crazy after all these years:
The crowd laughed at jokes about Obamacare, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee noted that sometimes he feels like North Korea is more free than the United States. Donald Trump said that President Obama must have been incensed when Zach Galifianakis asked him if he were from Kenya. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz cried out about abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and was met with cheers. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte wondered what Daniel Webster would have thought of Lois Lerner and the IRS.
There wasn’t much new here, or much news here, save for Rand Paul:
Paul’s speech seemed to be a carefully constructed proof of how the Republican Party can “hit those who haven’t been listening” without diluting its message, a proposition that seems impossible but is essential for candidates who want to please the unforgiving tea party and far right, whose members are certain to turn out at every primary. Unsurprisingly, his prescription for how to move the party forward includes adopting his ideas on civil liberties – a renewed focus on privacy in light of the National Security Agency leaks and distance from the drug war and mandatory minimum sentences, which he told the audience would help the party appeal to the young minorities most likely to receive jail time for drug possession.
“Your kids and grandkids aren’t perfect either” Paul said. “The police don’t come to your neighborhoods. You get a better lawyer. These are some injustices. We’ve got to be concerned about people who may not be part of our group, who may not be here today.” Paul also talked about how his ideas about how to help the unemployed have resonated with twentysomethings on the right and the left.
He was met with puzzled silence, and things went as one would expect:
Ted Cruz also briefly mentioned how the party could appeal to minorities and single mothers who have suffered during the recession, and he cast his economic platform under the labels of “growth and opportunity,” the lingo now favored by Republicans who want to counter the left’s focus on income inequality. These ideas received much less praise than Cruz’s call to abolish the IRS.
Despite the gentle prodding from Paul and Cruz, much more time during the Freedom Summit was devoted to bashing Republicans who were not present for abandoning stances the tea party holds dear. When Trump blasted former Florida governor Jeb Bush for saying illegal immigration could be an act of love, the crowd booed and shook their heads. When several speakers mentioned Common Core – another policy supported by Bush, a potential presidential candidate favored by the party’s more moderate donors – the disdain grew even louder. Trump also criticized Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan for his budget proposal, which would cut Medicare in an effort to balance the federal budget.
Slate’s Jamelle Bouie, however, doesn’t see these folks as being crazy enough to ignore this third Bush:
Each speaker made his pitch. Paul focused on civil liberties and promised to expand the GOP tent with a hands-off approach to gay marriage and other issues. Cruz billed himself as an avatar of conservative orthodoxy – an economic conservative, a social conservative, and a national security conservative. Huckabee indulged in right-wing hyperbole… and Donald Trump said Donald Trump things.
But insofar that there was a rhetorical constant, it was open disdain for Jeb Bush, as candidates responded to his sympathy for undocumented immigrants and praise for federal education standards. “Get rid of Common Core and replace it with common sense!” said Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, taking a swipe at Bush’s support for the reformed curriculum standards. “I think what Jeb was trying to say was that many people come to the United States to look for opportunity,” said Huckabee, commenting on Bush’s support for comprehensive immigration reform. “I don’t personally support amnesty. I think we ought to have a secure border.”
Trump also riffed on Bush’s immigration comments, mocking the notion that immigrants come to the United States out of “love.” “That’s one I’ve never heard of before,” Trump said. “I’ve heard money, I’ve heard this. I’ve heard sex. I’ve heard everything! The one thing I never heard of was love. I understand what he’s saying, but, you know, it’s out there, I’ll tell you.” More importantly, the mere mention of Bush’s name drew boos from the crowd, who oppose the former governor’s immigration leniency.
The standard take is that Bush’s weak support among grassroots conservatives is nearly fatal for his presidential chances, and there’s no doubt that it puts him at a disadvantage. Bush has been out of the game for so long that he’s out of step with the base of the party. They want a full-scale assault on the welfare state, not compassion or empathy.
It’s the same old same old, but Jeb will be fine:
If Jeb Bush has anything on his side right now, it’s this – the establishment stamp of approval. Just read this Washington Post story from late last month, where a parade of Republican donors and officials showed their enthusiasm for a Bush candidacy. Yes, there are still arguments and divisions among Republican elites, but one thing is clear: If Bush steps into the ring he’ll begin the race with key victories in the “invisible primary,” where candidates fight to win influence and endorsements from the party’s most moneyed supporters.
That friend on Wall Street was hearing this too, that the crazies can’t be allowed to win this time, although Bouie says they’ll get something:
No, the Republican base isn’t strong or influential enough to drive a candidate to the nomination or to kill the candidacy of someone with establishment support. What it can do, however, is extract concessions in the form of policy promises and rhetorical strategies. This is what happened to Mitt Romney. Strong elite backing made him the favorite for the nomination, but he still had to appeal to rank-and-file Republican voters. After all, you still need to win primaries. So, he disavowed his previous self, condemning the Affordable Care Act as an abomination of public policy and dashing to the right on immigration. He gave his full commitment to the priorities of the Republican base, which – along with the help of the establishment – won him the nomination. In other words, for Mitt Romney the Republican presidential candidate to become Mitt Romney the Republican presidential nominee, he had to go back in time and effectively destroy Mitt Romney, the moderate Massachusetts governor.
“Jeb Bush, former Florida governor” is much more conservative than Romney was at the same stage of his career, and he won’t have to shift gears on health care reform or abortion. Still, if Bush has appeal to Republican elites, it’s because of his moderate affect – he’s not a fire-breather – and pragmatic approach to immigration and education, legacies of his tenure in Florida.
And that’s the “Jeb Bush” that has to go. To win the invisible primary and prevail with voters, Bush will have to sacrifice the most moderate aspects of his persona and commit to the main concerns of the rank and file. Or, put another way, there’s a good chance that any Jeb Bush who represents the entire Republican Party will be a Jeb Bush who opposes comprehensive immigration reform, shows strong skepticism for federal education programs, and adopts the usual bromides against President Obama and the Democratic Party.
It’s a Jeb Bush who – if he truly wants to win the nomination – may have to disavow his brother and father, too.
He may not want to do that, and the evidence is mounting that the crazies will get crazier, so it’s back to them:
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Sunday insisted that even though Republican Senators blocked the Democrats’ equal pay bill last week, her party is fighting for women’s rights.
“I find this war on women rhetoric just almost silly,” she said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” when asked if Republicans opposed equal pay for women. “It is Republicans that have led the fight for women’s equality. Go back through history, and look at who was the first woman to ever vote, elected to office, go to Congress, four out of five governors.”
When asked why she opposed the most recent equal pay legislation specifically, Blackburn said the bill would merely increase litigation, the line that most Republicans have been touting.
“The legislation was something that was going to be helpful for trial lawyers and what we would like to see happen is equal opportunity and clearing up some of the problems that exist that are not fair to women,” she said. “We’re all for equal pay.”
That must be why Blackburn voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, so Salon’s Joan Walsh lowers the boom:
Blackburn, you’ll recall, became the public face of the House GOP’s 20-week abortion ban last year when Rep. Trent Franks said the bill didn’t exempt cases of rape because “the incidence of pregnancy from rape is very low.” She had earlier become a GOP hero for insisting on NBC’s Meet the Press that women “didn’t want” pay equity laws. “I’ve always said that I didn’t want to be given a job because I was a female, I wanted it because I was the most well-qualified person for the job,” she told David Gregory. “And making certain that companies are going to move forward in that vein, that is what women want.” In fact, women overwhelmingly want pay equity, and they support laws to achieve it, according to public opinion polls.
Now that pay equity is back in the news, thanks to Democrats pushing the Paycheck Fairness Act, Blackburn is in demand again. She told CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday that “we’re all for equal pay.” But the GOP supports neither the Paycheck Fairness Act nor the minimum wage, which would hugely help women, who make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers. “I would love for women to be focused on maximum wage,” Blackburn bizarrely explained. She went on to insist “I have fought to be recognized with equality for a long time. A lot of us get tired of guys condescending to us.”
Walsh is not pleased:
This is what Republicans hope they can reduce this debate to: complaining about “guys condescending to us,” not guys being paid more, or guys paying less for insurance (as they did before the Affordable Care Act) or guys making laws that tell women what they can do with their bodies.
Okay, okay – Marsha Blackburn is just one woman, not all Republican women, or all Republicans. They’re not all this bat-shit crazy. They just seem to have chosen her as their spokeswoman, and the anecdotal evidence keeps piling up. Hillary arranged for someone to throw a shoe at her so people would forget Benghazi, and the guy who says the federal government doesn’t even exist finally said what everyone already knew, and states can secede any old time they’d like, and talk of compassion is for losers, and women really don’t want equal pay for equal work, they want to prove they deserve that, slowly, over the years, if they can, with no law guaranteeing it. And at some point all the evidence piles up, in a smoldering wreck on the side of the road. Don’t trust one odd item here and one odd item there. Those could be anomalies, until they’re not, and then you have your data. That’s where we are now.