Bill Clinton was a goofball, and smart as a whip, and sleazy, and charming, and his presidency was of little consequence. The economy soared, but that wasn’t his doing – the dot-com bubble was what it was – and he started no major wars. Kosovo doesn’t count. There were no major wars to end either. There was little high drama, and Clinton’s stab at creating a universal healthcare system, led by Hillary Clinton, went nowhere at all. He did accomplish welfare reform – no more free rides, as some work was required for the tiny benefits, and he signed all sorts of financial deregulation into law – ending Glass–Steagall and freeing all futures trading in derivatives from all possible regulation. George Bush doubled-down on that sort of thing. The economy finally collapsed into chaos, wiping out just about everyone, but Clinton was long gone by then. Bush and the Republicans caught the blame for that, mostly rightly, but not entirely rightly. In 2008, John McCain didn’t stand a chance. The economy was in shambles, Bush’s two major wars looked as if they’d go on forever, and get us nothing at all for those adventures, and the response to Hurricane Katrina and the end of New Orleans as we knew it had been incompetent and appalling and beyond callous. Did we want another four years, or eight years, of a Republican president? We didn’t. The matter was settled.
America may have wanted another caretaker president like Bill Clinton, because that’s what he was. Obama’s private mantra, used in White House strategy sessions, might be “don’t do stupid shit” – there was lots of controversy about that when folks found out (Hillary Clinton said that she hated that ad hoc approach to the world and its challenges) – but Bill Clinton had that down pat. He didn’t do stupid stuff. Actually, he didn’t do much stuff. He kept the country running along, relatively smoothly. The only stupid thing he did was have that hot and heavy affair with his intern, Monica Lewinsky, and then try to lie about it. Halfway through his second term, the Republicans impeached him for it.
This was outrageous. Finally, there was something outrageous. The House impeached Bill Clinton, the Senate tried him… and it came to nothing. He wasn’t found guilty of High Crimes and Misdemeanors. He had been a jerk, in this one matter, and most everyone agreed that this one matter didn’t matter a whole lot. The Republican outrage machine, fueled by Fox News, sputtered and died. Clinton’s poll numbers soared. The Republicans’ poll numbers tanked. Claiming something is outrageous can rally the nation, if they too believe it’s outrageous, and if they believe they’re not being jerked around by cynical opportunists. One must be careful about such things.
The Republicans decided they’d be more careful in the future. In 2000, they didn’t portray Al Gore as outrageous – Gore was just a little silly and laughably pompous. In 2004, with John Kerry, there was that Swift Boat stuff, but again, Kerry wasn’t portrayed as all that outrageous – just too careful and cautious, and he did look kind of French, didn’t he? They saved their outrage for Obama in 2008, and let it loose. Obama had been pals with that domestic terrorist, William Ayers. He was close with Reverend Jeremiah Wright and has sat through all those god-damn-America sermons without saying a word. Obama wanted to use tax money from those who were doing well to help out those who weren’t, so he was a socialist. Maybe he was born in Kenya too. McCain and Palin only toned that down when folks at their rallies started shouting out “kill him” when they mentioned Obama. Well, McCain toned it down. Sarah Palin kept at it. The outrage machine was back. It should have worked. It didn’t.
Mitt Romney gave it a go in 2012 with the little flourish about Benghazi. Obama had never called that a terrorist act, so Obama knew nothing about the real world. America should be outraged – and that fell apart. Romney brought that up at that one debate and Obama told him to proceed. Romney did, and Obama asked for a check of the record. Obama had used that word, so what are you talking about, Mitt? Oops – and the world didn’t end when Obamacare started, and there was no IRS scandal after all, and so on. It’s hard to run on outrage when no one sees anything outrageous. There’s a difference between what you don’t particularly like and what is truly outrageous – and Mitt Romney was terrible at outrage anyway. His heart wasn’t in it.
There were many Republicans who knew that all along. They had never wanted Romney to be their candidate in the first place. The wanted someone who was outraged, truly outraged, about everything Obama, and who could rally the nation to be as outraged as they were, so Obama would be good and gone after one term. This outrage thing had to work, eventually. It really ought to work, and this time around the answer is Ted Cruz. That man is all outrage, all the time. He will rouse America.
That’s a nice theory, but that prissy and sour conservative pundit, George Will, thinks Cruz is doomed:
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was born in 1970 – six years after events refuted a theory on which he is wagering his candidacy. The 1964 theory was that many millions of conservatives abstained from voting because the GOP did not nominate sufficiently deep-dyed conservatives. So if in 1964 the party would choose someone like Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, hitherto dormant conservatives would join the electorate in numbers sufficient for victory.
This theory was slain by a fact – actually, 15,951,378 facts. That was the difference between the 43,129,566 votes President Lyndon Johnson received and the 27,178,188 that Goldwater got on the way to winning six states.
George Will argues that was actually the plan, maybe a secret plan, but sensible in its way:
As Goldwater understood, Americans still recovering from the Kennedy assassination were not going to have a third president in 14 months. The realistic reason was to turn the GOP into a conservative weapon for a future assault on the ramparts of power. Hence in September 1964, William F. Buckley told an audience of young conservatives to anticipate Goldwater’s defeat because he had been nominated “before we had time properly to prepare the ground.” The candidacy had, however, planted “seeds of hope, which will flower on a great November day in the future.” Sixteen Novembers later, they did.
Goldwater made Reagan possible, but that was then and this is now, and no one needs Cruz to force the Republicans to be true conservatives:
Cruz sits in a Senate that has no Republicans akin to the liberals Goldwater served with – New York’s Jacob Javits, Massachusetts’s Edward Brooke, Illinois’s Charles Percy, New Jersey’s Clifford Case and California’s Thomas Kuchel. When Jeb Bush, the most conservative governor of a large state since Ronald Reagan (by some metrics – taxes, school choice – Bush was a more conservative governor than Reagan), is called a threat to conservatism, Republicans are with Alice in Wonderland.
The problem isn’t there, as it’s outside the party:
By disdaining “the mushy middle,” Cruz evidently assumes that the electorate’s middle – lightly partisan and only mildly ideological – is too minuscule to matter. But even if it were small, all cohorts count when in only three of the past six elections has the winner received a majority of the popular vote – and the highest percentage was Barack Obama’s 52.9 in 2008.
Actually, the middle is not small, least of all in the Republican nomination process. Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center identifies “four faces of the Republican Party” – evangelical Christians, very conservative but secular voters, somewhat conservative voters and moderates. He says the largest group, about 35 percent to 40 percent of the national party, are the somewhat conservatives. And in presidential years, moderates are the second-largest (25 percent to 30 percent). The somewhat conservatives “are found in similar proportions in every state” and “always back the winner.”
If so, Cruz did precisely the wrong thing:
Announcing his candidacy with characteristic fluency before the Christian students and faculty of Liberty University, Cruz noted that “roughly half of born-again Christians aren’t voting” and imagined “millions” of such voters surging into the electorate. Cruz, like Shakespeare’s Glendower (“I can call spirits from the vasty deep”), hopes his rhetorical powers can substantially change the composition of the Republican nominating electorate. Skeptics of Cruz’s summoning respond like Hotspur: “But will they come when you do call for them?”
That is a bit pretentious, but George Will can drop the Shakespeare:
Cruz, and all other Republican aspirants, must be measured against Pennsylvania. It is one of the 18 states that have voted Democratic in six consecutive elections and that, with the District of Columbia, total 242 electoral votes, and Pennsylvania was redder in 2012 than in 2008. Which Republican is most apt to flip Pennsylvania by accumulating large majorities in Philadelphia’s suburbs?
This is followed by a lot of statistical analysis, but it comes down to the fact that if you don’t get the vote of those very conservative but secular voters, and those somewhat conservative voters, and moderates, you don’t get the presidency. You’ll never scare up sufficient numbers of severely conservative evangelical Christian voters. You have to scare the crap out of just plain ordinary Christians, which led to this:
In an interview with Dana Loesch on Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz praised Indiana’s new “religious liberty” law, which goes even further than similar measures in other states to allow businesses to discriminate against customers in providing services. .. Cruz claimed that Democrats have recently “decided that religious liberty is disposable, that it is unnecessary” and “accordingly, we have a vilification of people who are engaging in acting out their faith.”
Cruz declared that a “partisan leftist group” is now “demonizing the state of Indiana for acting to protect religious liberty there.”
Harkening back to the Pilgrims, who he said wanted “a land where every one of us could seek out the Lord God Almighty free of government getting in the way,” Cruz said that “we really have gone through the proverbial looking glass that there is now a concerted effort targeting people of faith.”
Yes, this is outrageous:
“Nobody in their right mind would force a Catholic priest to perform a Protestant wedding. Likewise, nobody in their right mind would force a Jewish rabbi to perform a Christian wedding or, for that matter, to violate kosher and go consume pork,” he said. “We have long had a tradition from the beginning of this country of respecting religious liberty and accommodating and respecting the good-faith religious views of our citizens.”
“And it is only the intolerance of the current day of the far-left that views with which they disagree – the far-left is such a radical proponent of gay marriage that anyone whose faith teaches to the contrary, anyone whose faith teaches that marriage is a sacrament of one man and one woman, a holy union before God, the far-left views that religious view as unacceptable and they’re trying to use the machinery of the law to crush those religious views. And I think it is wrong, I think it is intolerant, and I think it is entirely inconsistent with who we are as a people,” he added.
Yes, Indiana and now Arkansas have passed bills that are nothing like the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act or like the subsequent religious freedom restoration acts in many other states – which exist to keep the government from unduly burdening the harmless eccentricities of this religion or that. Indiana and Arkansas decided their versions should set up protections for any party, not just religious organizations and certain corporations, to claim they don’t have to follow any law that makes that party uneasy. Everyone saw the implications. Anyone could claim the right to not provide goods and services to gays, or maybe black folks, or maybe Muslims, or maybe Jews, and the right to fire them now and never hire another, and these two new religious freedom restoration acts gave them automatic standing in court. The government would have to prove, on a case by case basis, that there was a compelling and overwhelming public interest in forcing these folks to follow the same laws as everyone else. It was a license to discriminate, not that anyone would, but it was official state permission to do so, with specific protections for anyone who said the law didn’t apply to them.
Every Republican who wants the party’s nomination has now come out and said they see it that way, but without the Ted Cruz fire, and this is about more than pandering to their anti-gay base. A majority of Americans now support gay marriage. No one under thirty has a problem with gays at all. Even a slim majority of Republicans just don’t give a damn. Gay folks aren’t an issue to them. Every Republican who wants the party’s nomination knows the gay issue is over, but these religious freedom restoration acts actually change the issue. This is about everyone picking on good Christians just trying to do the right thing – casting out and humiliating sinners. What would Jesus do? He’d do that.
Now it’s time to be outraged, about the government’s war on Christians, and corporations’ war on Christians, and Hollywood’s war on Christians. The secularists are out there trying to wipe out Christianity. They’re everywhere, and this calls for heroic resistance. That’s the narrative that will win back the White House. There are a lot of Christians out there. Make ’em worry.
Under public pressure those bills have been modified to say that all this doesn’t apply to public accommodations or employment practices or housing or general commerce, because discrimination is bad, very bad, and so there’s this:
Georgia’s session came to a close at midnight Friday morning without a vote on a controversial religious freedom bill under consideration. One of the state’s top businesses, Coca-Cola, spoke out against the measure this week, saying it would “not only violate our Company’s core values, but would also negatively affect our consumers, customers, suppliers, bottling partners and associates.” The bill’s Republican sponsor told Insider Advantage he would try to pass similar legislation next year.
“I think we all understand that this is a difficult decision,” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, told reporters Thursday. “I hope that if and when it comes to my desk in the future that it will not have the same kind of divisiveness associated with it that has been experienced in those two states [Indiana and Arkansas.]”
That’s not all:
Georgia wasn’t the only state that saw its religious freedom hopes dwindle this past week. In Nevada, Republican Assemblyman Erven Nelson walked away from a religious freedom measure that he sponsored because of fear the legislation would draw boycotts. And in Michigan, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder issued an unusual pronouncement that he would veto a RFRA measure that had not even had a chance to go through a committee hearing in the state Senate yet. According the Detroit Free Press, Snyder has never taken such a definitive position a bill this early on in the legislative process.
“Given all the events that are happening in Indiana, I thought it would be good to clarify my position,” Snyder said Thursday. “I would veto RFRA legislation in Michigan if it is a standalone piece of legislation.”
It seems you can’t scare plain ordinary Christians into being jerks, so Jonah Goldberg resorts to this:
The war for gay rights has been won, and that’s basically fine by me, but there are a few holdouts – most famously devout Christian wedding planners, florists, photographers and bakers – who don’t want to be part of such things. Why a gay couple would want a photographer who is morally opposed to their wedding to snap pictures of it is a mystery to me.
But we live in an age where non-compliance with the left’s agenda must be cast as bigotry. Everyone is free to celebrate as instructed. This is what liberals think liberty means today.
And then there’s Ann Coulter:
Where are the Christians? And where are the Republicans? I’m glad this Mike Pence isn’t running for president. They are falling like toy soldiers. The one thing every Christian should have is courage. The most important thing in your life, eternity, is already taken care of. Go out and fight. You’re afraid of being sneered at by the New York Times? That’s the one thing every Christian should have and most of them don’t.
Digby (Heather Parton) is puzzled:
I don’t remember the “get out there and fight, dammit” Biblical homilies but then I’m no expert. It doesn’t sound like Jesus though. I thought he was big on forgiveness and turning the other cheek. Assuming that you’re all set for eternity so it’s time to start cracking some heads, just doesn’t strike me as particularly Christian. But hey, maybe it’s one of those lost books in the Bible…
But Digby is heartened:
A bright light is now shining on the cleverly framed “Religious liberty” movement and it’s going to be politically risky in the future for any officials to use the Supreme Court’s “Hobby Lobby” invitation to social conservatives to use a religious liberty doctrine to allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians. This is very good news. The Big Money Boys decided that it was bad for business and the only people to whom conservative leaders listen more closely than the members of the religious right are the leaders of corporate America.
Unfortunately, as you will undoubtedly recall, the Hobby Lobby decision, which for the first time granted religious status to a corporation, wasn’t actually about gay rights. It was about denying female employees health insurance coverage for contraception due to the employer’s religious objection. (The employee’s beliefs were not deemed to be relevant.) So far, there hasn’t been much outcry against that in Indiana or elsewhere. Indeed, in Indiana the clock has been turned so far back on women’s rights that they are now imprisoning women for having abortions. Yes, you read that right.
She goes on to discuss a Chinese immigrant living in Indiana in 2011 who was charged with murder under the states “feticide” law when she attempted suicide while pregnant. She’s going to jail for a long time, but these things happen. This is war, folks. Bill O’Reilly says so:
Kenya, Africa – five radical Muslim killers murdered at least 70 people at a college at that country. At least another 75 were wounded.
Gunmen burst into a Christian prayer service, proceeded to shoot down the innocent worshipers. That comes after a mid-March suicide bombing in Pakistan killing 14 Christians, wounding 70 others. A few weeks before that, Libya – ISIS killers beheading 21 Egyptian Christians. So you can see Christians are being slaughtered all over the place.
Here in the U.S.A., verbal attacks against Christians are the headlines. As we reported yesterday, some far-left people aided by a sympathetic media are now smearing Americans who oppose things like abortion and gay marriage. No question it is open season on Christians.
And this last week proved that:
A public religion research institution poll asks: in America today do you believe that the right of religious liberty is being threatened or not? Yes, it’s being threatened 54 percent; no, 41 percent; don’t know, 5 percent.
So, most Americans get it even though the secular progressives have succeeded in putting people of faith on the defensive. Perhaps the best example of this is the pizza shop in Walkerton, Indiana. The media went to the store. The owner said they wouldn’t feel comfortable catering a gay wedding — a theoretical question as pizza, not usually on the menu at wedding receptions. Well, all hell descended on the store as secular zealots threatened all kinds of things. …
It’s an outrage! Yep, they’ve found the outrage that will rouse America – unless it doesn’t. They’ve been at this sort of thing since they impeached Bill Clinton. One day they may get it right, but this isn’t that day. Perhaps a bit of religious liberty is being threatened, in the cause of common decency and fair play. There are far worse things. There’s Ted Cruz.