Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 28, 2011

'WE LOOK LIKE CAMP CHRISTIAN OUT HERE'.... The notion of a culture war "truce" is fading fast, at least among those who'll decide the outcome of the first Republican nominating contest.

The ailing economy and the Tea Party's demand for smaller government have dominated Republican politics for two years, but a resurgent social conservative movement is shaping the first stage of the presidential nominating contest, complicating the strategy for candidates who prefer to focus on fiscal issues over faith.

Here in Iowa, whose caucuses next winter will open the campaign, social and religious conservatives are pressing the likely candidates on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion rather than on jobs, the budget deficit and other economic concerns that leaders of both parties expect to dominate the general election.

Doug Gross, a prominent Republican activist in Iowa, expressed concern that the GOP isn't positioning itself well for appealing to a broader mainstream. "We look like Camp Christian out here," he said.

There's a credible case to be made that Iowa is fairly unique, at least among the early nominating contests, with a dominant religious right presence one won't find in, say, New Hampshire.

But that realization doesn't matter much when prominent GOP candidates trip over one another to embrace "Christian Nation" claptrap, endorse reinstatement of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," condemn the existence of public schools, and argue over who hates gays, abortion, evolution, and sharia most.

And over the long haul, after these candidates have locked themselves in as culture warriors, desperate to impress vaguely theocratic activists in Iowa, it becomes that much more difficult to shift back to appealing to the mainstream.

But the key takeaway here is that fiscal issues have largely been relegated to afterthought status. That's just not what these right-wing activists -- the ones who'll largely dictate the outcome of the caucuses -- are focused on. Indeed, even Ron Paul, after pandering to a home-school crowd last week, conceded, "I haven't been asked too much about fiscal issues."

From time to time in recent years, I've bought into the notion that the culture war is losing its salience and relevance as most Americans either (a) want to move on; (b) shift to the left on the hot-button issues; or (c) both.

The passion on these issues among Republican leaders, though, including likely presidential aspirants, hasn't faded, in part because folks like these Iowans won't let it. It's why Pawlenty wants DADT back, Gingrich is pretending to take Christianity seriously again, Santorum wants to eliminate public education altogether, and the Boehner-led Congress has prioritized abortion over jobs.

The Tea Party phenomenon was supposed to mark a shift -- away from the culture war and towards an obsession over taxes and spending. As the presidential jockeying gets underway in earnest, the shift may have been more wishful thinking than fact.

Steve Benen 2:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

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SOS, different name.

Look, you can slap a brand new Oscar Meyer Hot Dog label on a dog turd, but it's still a dog turd!

And for the Christianista's out there, 'If God is all powerful, how come you don't control the USA yet?'

Better hit your knee's hard in the next 19 months.

I mean for prayer, there, homophobes.

Not for other, other white meat you so secretly crave.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 28, 2011 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

I guess thats what happens when you have Iowa first in the primary. What if a larger, more diverse state was first? At a minimum, I bet we wouldn't have all the subsidies for corn and ethanol.

Posted by: Tom Power on March 28, 2011 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

What Do They All Have in Common?

Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Ken Buck, Kelly Ayotte, Rand Paul and Sarah Palin.

All of these individuals believe a raped women should bear the baby of the rapist. This is the Theocratic state they want to impose on us. The teaparty was a mask for their real intentions, and that is to impose their religious beliefs on every day Americans who think they are just voting for some outsider that is gonna shake things up, or something.

Pay close attention.


Posted by: mikefromArlington on March 28, 2011 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

The Tea Party phenomenon was supposed to mark a shift -- away from the culture war and towards an obsession over taxes and spending.

Wolf in sheeps clothing. TP'ers were, and are still, a bunch of racist white guys trying to re-brand a tired image.

Posted by: bignose on March 28, 2011 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

All of these individuals believe a raped women should bear the baby of the rapist.

This plays well with the lib "women are victims" base, but most of America knows that there are very few real rapes, only women who didn't try hard enough to prevent them.

Posted by: Mlke K on March 28, 2011 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

"The Tea Party phenomenon was supposed to mark a shift -- away from the culture war and towards an obsession over taxes and spending."

That's a false narrative. I've never seen any evidence that the Teabaggers aren't on board with the culture war. And their views on taxing and spending aren't any different than standard Republican operating procedure (i.e. cut taxes, whine about deficits, propose to cut spending on people not like me, avoid any coherent plan to balance the budget.)

Basically, they're just hyper-Republicans. That's assuming that they exist as a distinct and coherent movement to begin with, and are not just a marketing gimmick.

Posted by: Area Man on March 28, 2011 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

PPP has a poll out showing support for 4 of the most talked about Republican candidates has been dropping. As Huckabee et al pander to the tea party/social conservative agenda the general public likes them less and less.

Modern Republicanism shouldn't be able to muster much beyond 30% anywhere in the country. Sadly given the absence of an effective Democratic party working to organize the remaining 70% the days of a 30% majority seem to be at hand.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 28, 2011 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Since when did winning in Iowa matter?

We'd be talking about Presidents Huckabee and Dean if it did.

Posted by: JEA on March 28, 2011 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

It took Doug Gross this long to figure this out??

Posted by: bigtuna on March 28, 2011 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Watching the Iowa crowd on C-SPAN, their elderly, blue tinted heads gazing with vapid inattention towards the dais as they offered fluttering applause in response to the predicable blather, I saw a crowd of comfortably retired folks with little to concern them, save unborn babies and swarthy hordes of illegal aliens competing for their grandson's job.

Posted by: DAY on March 28, 2011 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

While it pains me personally to see this overgeneralized into a statement about Iowa, it is good for the left politically.

In fact, Iowa more broadly is not immune to the weakening of the importance of the culture wars and the demographic shift to the left. It was, after all, where Obama beat the very establishment Clinton to start his run to the nomination. What you see is a group of wingnuts who year by year get both smaller and louder (and more unified and organized).

Polls now show that most of Iowa wishes Bob VaderPlaats (who ran the campaign to vote out the justices on the same sex marriage case) would go away. Steve King couldn't get elected in 4 of the 5 Iowa congressional districts if his life depended on it. But that cadre left behind has purged all of its moderates -- long time RNC members have been voted off even their local precinct committees if they were moderate on reproductive rights, taxes, immigration or equal civil rights for gays and lesbians. The zealots (many of whom are live-in-Mom's-basement types with all the time in the world to read Roberts Rules of Order) have filled all of the positions in the party, and run all of the precinct caucuses. So candidates have to kow-tow to them, but it is not even clear how much pull they have with the broader set of registered Republicans in Iowa, especially in more urban and suburban areas.

Which can only help the Democrats in a larger-voting Preidential-year election.

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 28, 2011 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Iowans are pretty much used to this, and know it represents less than a third of the state's voters, who've grabbed control of one of the political parties. More disgusting is the sad spectacle of the Des Moines Register, "Iowa's Newspaper," crawling to these idiots and pretending they're actually sane and have a viewpoint worth listening to. Sadly, that's probably their subscription base, as well.

Posted by: ericfree on March 28, 2011 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

The problem they have is they don't look like "Camp Christian." They look like "Camp Christian Fundamentalists, Mormons and Hypocrites."

Posted by: Objective Dem on March 28, 2011 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

The Problem with these morans is that they live and breath inside the bubble of Faux Nooze and tend to put their fingers int heir ears and go NANANANA when confronted with the truth or a glimpse outside the bubble. They think their reality is everyone else's and that they are in fact in the majority.

Posted by: John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on March 28, 2011 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

If in fact no more than 30% of Americans (not to say 30% of the electorate) is onboard with the tea baggers, then they are close to taking over. Remember the Nazis won the 1933 election for chancellor of Germany with 33% of the vote.

Fanning the embers of the culture war is designed strictly to keep the base agitated enough so they vote next year. The gay issue per se is waning as a wedge issue (among the rational), the economy is improving ever so slightly, despite the best efforts of the Rethugs to keep us in the depths of a recession, and Obama's popularity, as counter intuitive as it is, seems to be holding. So what's left to stir up the base? Abortion: DADT; DOMA; family planning; evolution. These emotional touchstones of the reactionary right are basically all they have to motivate a know-nothing electorate to get their pitchforks and light their torches.

Posted by: rrk1 on March 28, 2011 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Steven Benen wrote: "The Tea Party phenomenon was supposed to mark a shift -- away from the culture war and towards an obsession over taxes and spending."

The "phenomenon" did indeed mark a shift -- away from a corporate-sponsored, pseudo-ideological cult-for-hire of brainwashed mental slaves who called themselves Ditto-Heads, and towards a corporate-sponsored, pseudo-ideological cult-for-hire of brainwashed mental slaves who call themselves the Tea Party.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 28, 2011 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

In the retail political market that is the Iowa Caucuses, it has always been true that you have to kiss a lot of babies and talk a lot of $h!t to come out on top. It has also been true that most of the worst of it won't make it into the news beyond some local papers. But not any more. Every coffee klatch attended by a certified candidate will be recorded and published somewhere where everyone outside the state can easily access it.

The way things are right now, any GOP candidate who can win in Iowa will probably leave behind a digital trail so damning that they will be all but unelectable in a general election where they will have to get some reasonable percentage of independents. The Iowa Caucuses will turn into a true mugs game this round. The smart candidates will make a few major events in Iowa, staying away from the coffee klatches, and concentrate on NH, where they can win without having to pander to the most extreme elements of the party.

Posted by: majun on March 28, 2011 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

What always surprises me is the remarkable stupidity of the Christian right. Voting for Newt "Three-time-loser" Gingrich? They certainly are easily fooled, and year after year, too! They vote for GOP candidates despite the lack of any movement towards their goals on the national level. They've even lost ground, since gays and lesbians in the military won't be going back in the closet any time soon. You'd think the Christians would get a clue and start their own party, the way they used to threaten to do so.

Posted by: Six on March 28, 2011 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

There's a credible case to be made that Iowa is fairly unique, at least among the early nominating contests, with a dominant religious right presence one won't find in, say, New Hampshire.

I'd say it's the other way around: on the GOP side, Camp Christian is the norm, and New Hampshire is the secular outlier.

After Iowa and NH, where are the next battlefields?

South Carolina and Nevada.

No trouble to find "a dominant religious right presence" in SC. And Nevada is where Sharron Angle recently won a statewide primary.

'Nuff said.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on March 28, 2011 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

God Says "thou shalt love thy Lord thy God with all the mind , soul and strength. The 2nd commandment is Love Thy neighbor as thyself." Where is this noted in the Republican party who is voting rights away for Americans to please the KOCH BROS fascist government takeover; reducing education equality of all Americans, health care for the vulnerable and loss of jobs to keep big corporations in BIG $$$$ and American workers in rags with no benefits; Promoting INTRSUVE GOVERNMENT via abortion and women's reproductive rights and CARE that is non of the male dominated politicians business. The REPUBLICAN party is working hard to have one party rule with oligarchy, military control ; is hiding their greed through social issues that are really not political but moral.

Posted by: ML Johnston on March 28, 2011 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

"We look like Camp Christian out here," he (Doug Gross) said.

Plenty of opportunities to screen "Jesus Camp" for them :)

Posted by: exlibra on March 28, 2011 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

this seems to surprise you, but they can only hide their stripes for so long. these people are 27-30% of the US population and have been the driving force in GOP politics since Reagan allowed them in. The teabaggers only talked about fiscal things to deflect their racism, acknowledged or not. Now that they are feeling good after the mid terms, they are letting their masks slip...it was inevitable. and those people who weren't fundamentalists before and just got caught up with the fiscal parts will run away the closer the election comes. It will blow up one way or another, I just hope there aren't any innocents around to get caught in the crossfire. if Trump stays in and Bachmann joins, the crazy is only going to get worse....hopefully sanity and civic duty will overcome the majority of Americans who can't be bothered to pay attention. hopefully the continued craziness of the teabaggers and the greediness from the top 2% will be enough to wake people up.......

Posted by: veralynn on March 28, 2011 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK



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